Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Down to Earth Farm Feast at Babaroots

The herb tunnels at Babaroots and the fabulous Down to Earth food truck.

A few weeks ago the husband and I, along with a group of friends, attended Farm Feast 11 hosted by Down to Earth. The concept behind these pop-up events is to host a lunch or early dinner on a property that produces something special – cooking the entire meal in their fabulous mobile kitchen truck. From fresh herbs to farmed trout, they take inspiration from the land and the season and produce a menu that is simple, honest and simply delicious. "The goal of Down to Earth - Farm Feasts is not only to reconnect people to the origins of the food that we eat, but also to realize the importance of the quality of produce and appreciate and support the individuals and organizations that embrace this philosophy." 

 One long table was set up in between the herb tunnels.

From delicious welcome drinks to a variety of wines from small vineyards and beers from microbreweries (The Dog & Fig Brewery were at our feast, and their beers were fantastic!), there was boozy goodness in abundance. We lazily ate and drank the Sunday away amongst the herb tunnels at Babaroots, a fresh herb farm near Hartebeespoort Dam just outside Jhb. The menu kicked off with beer batter roosterkoek, one topped with mature gouda, kumquat preserve, roasted pine nuts & fennel, and the other with crushed herb mayo, braised blue wildebeest and smoked salt (these canapés were my favourite dishes of the day.) We then had some delicious curried tomato soup with herb filled vetkoek as a starter and for mains the table overflowed with herbed baby chickens, baby potatoes, sweet chilli creamed spinach and butter braised spring onions (yum!). The sweet ending was a Riesling poached pear tart with chai-spiced custard - what a way to end a fabulous day.

I absolutely love the concept and the relaxed way Danielle and Dany host the occasion, and I’m certain we’ll be attending another Feast soon.

PS Thanks to Babaroots for the box of herbs and veggies – we had delightful meals the whole week :)

Read more about Down to Earth – Farm Feasts here: and Babaroots here: and The Dog and Fig Brewery here

 Welcome drinks and wine & beer in abundance.

The feast.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Freshly Blogged: Challenge 8

Click HERE to vote for this recipe.
PS. In order to keep voting fair they have introduced a login system, so you'll need to register your details if you want to vote. A terrible inconvenience, but at least it keeps it honest :) 

This week we had to use art as inspiration for our dish and photo, using Sedgwick's Old Brown Sherry chicken, garlic, potatoes, chorizo and a lemon... This is what I came up with:


I just love the cubism art movement, especially the works by Pablo Picasso. The way he simplifies and lineates organic flowing forms into strict shapes is inspired. I drew inspiration from his cubist artworks by constricting food that naturally comes in different shapes and sizes with various curves, into linear straight lines – even forcing a liquid into a cubed shape by using a linear serving vessel.

The flavours also play on the theme of contrast. By serving a subtle salty chicken consommé with a sticky and sweet sherry chorizo sausage alongside spicy potatoes, different levels of taste are experienced through items that are very similar in shape.

What a fabulously interesting starter this could be!

Chicken consommé, spicy garlic fried potatoes & zesty sherry glazed chorizo
Serves 4
Cooking Time: 1 hour

You will need
For the chicken consommé:
100g white free range chicken meat, cooked
2 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped
½ brown onion, skinned and quartered
½ garlic clove
½ Tbls Salt
1 egg white
1 Tbls water
3 cups chicken stock, cold (preferably home made)

For the spicy garlic fried potatoes:
2 potatoes, skinned and cubed
4 whole garlic cloves, skin on
2 – 3 cups vegetable oil
Chilli flakes

For the zesty sherry glazed chorizo:
2 Chorizo sausages, cubed
2 Tsp lemon rind, cut into mini cubes
¼ cup Sedgwick’s old brown sherry

How to make it
For the chicken consommé:
Combine the chicken, thyme, onion, garlic, salt, egg white and water together in a food processor.
Process the ingredients to a fine pulp – but not pureed.
In a deep pot, combine the chicken stock and chicken meat mixture. Mix well.
Bring to the boil, stirring constantly.
Once it comes to the boil, stop stirring, and reduce the heat to a simmer.
Watch as the chicken mixture forms a raft and rises to the surface.
With a spoon, create a whole in the middle of the raft to allow steam to escape.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Scoop out the raft with a slotted spoon.
Line a sieve with cheese cloth and pour the consommé through it, allowing it to drain gently – don’t force the liquid through.
Return it to a clean pot and season with salt to taste.
Heat before serving.

For the spicy garlic fried potatoes:
Steam the potato cubes for 15 minutes, or until soft.
Drain and dry.
Heat the oil in a small deep pan.
Once hot, add the garlic cloves (skins still on) and fry for 3 – 4 min.
Add the potato cubes and fry for another 3 – 5 minutes until the potatoes are crispy and browned.
Remove from oil, drain on paper towels and season well with salt and chilli flakes.
Remove the skins from the garlic, and cut the soft flesh into mini cubes.
Scatter over the potatoes.

For the zesty sherry glazed chorizo:
Fry the chorizo and lemon rind in a hot pan until the chorizo becomes brown and crispy.
Add the Sedgwick’s old brown sherry to the pan to deglaze.
Cook until it reduces and forms a sticky layer over the chorizo.

To plate:
Serve everything warm. Serve the chicken consommé in a small square jar, and the potatoes, garlic, chorizo and lemon rind around it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

To salt or not to salt? Aubergine tips.

Image via here.

I just love aubergines! Sliced thickly and grilled for your salad, 
roasted and puréed for a delicious dip or quartered in a fabulous curry.

Most recipes that contain aubergine/eggplant/brinjal call for salting the slices before cooking to extract some of the bitter juices.  Personally I don't really think this is necessary - loads of effort with little effect. But I recently found out that the salting not only extracts (some of) the bitterness, but also helps  to minimise the oil absorption by the eggplant - because as we know, eggplants are like sponges! 

How to salt:
Cut the eggplant into the desired shape.
Arrange on a tray and sprinkle with salt.
Allow to 'sweat' for 30 minutes.
Rinse well in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.
Grill, bake, fry or add to a sauce. 

- Buy aubergines that are firm and heavy for their size.
- To test if it's ripe gently press the skin, if it springs back it's ripe, if the indent stays, it's not.
- Cut eggplants with a stainless steal knife, carbon blades will cause the flesh to turn dark.
- Because of its meaty texture, it's the perfect 'Meat-Free Monday' ingredient.

Read more about aubergines here, here and here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Spring & Secretary's Day Gifts

Brighten someone's day on Spring or Secretary's Day
with gifts from LekkerBek.

for gift ideas.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Freshly Blogged: Challenge 7

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I've made it to the top 20! The competition is getting harder and more challenging each week, and the other contestants are doing amazing things with the ingredients we get challenged with. 

For week 7 rice was the feature ingredient (along with butternut, leek, thyme and chopped tomatoes.) Rice seems like such a simple ingredient, but with a few twists (and a little bit of stuffing) it can be made into a fabulous dish. Here is my entry:

Calamari stuffed with Butternut, Leek & Feta Rice
Serves 4 as  
Cooking Time: 2 1/2 hours

You will need
For the rice:
1/2 cup Spekko long grain rice
1.5 cups cold water
2 tsp salt

For the leeks:
1 ½ cups leeks, finely sliced
1 Tbls olive oil
½ Tbls butter

For the butternut:
150g butternut, diced into mini cubes
2 sprigs thyme
Olive oil

For the rice stuffing:
120g feta
1 jumbo egg
Salt and black pepper

For the tomato sauce:
1 can Pnp chopped tomatoes
1 Tbls sugar
1 ½ cups vegetable stock
Black pepper
4 sprigs thyme

For the Calamari:
400 – 500g Falklands Calamari tubes, cleaned
Olive oil

How to make it
For the rice:
Bring the rice, cold water and salt to the boil.
Reduce heat and simmer with the lid tilted for 15 – 20 minutes until the rice is tender and the water has evaporated.
Set aside and allow to cool.

For the leeks:
Melt the butter with the olive oil.
Fry the leeks on a low heat until soft.
Set aside.

For the butternut:
Pre-heat the oven to 150°C.
In an ovenproof dish, combine the butternut and thyme.
Season with salt and drizzle with olive oil.
Cook the butternut until tender (about 15 minutes).
Remove the thyme and set aside.

For the rice stuffing:
Combine the rice, butternut, leeks, feta and egg.
Season well with salt and pepper.

For the tomato sauce:
Bring the chopped tomato, vegetable stock, thyme and sugar to the boil.
Simmer and reduce for about 20 minutes.
Remove thyme twigs.
Season well with salt and pepper.

For the Calamari:
Using a very small spoon (like an espresso teaspoon) stuff each tube with the rice mixture.
Secure the open end with a toothpick.
Heat a griddle pan to very hot.
Pre heat the oven to 100°C.
Brush the calamari tubes with olive oil.
In batches, grill the stuffed tubes (without moving them) until grill marks appear.
Keep the cooked tubes warm in the oven.

To plate:
Scoop some of the tomato sauce onto a plate and top with either sliced calamari tubes or whole tubes.
Garnish with fresh thyme and serve immediately.

TIP: If it’s too much trouble to stuff all the tubes, simple grill them and serve them won the tomato sauce with the rice on the side.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Freshly Blogged: Challenge 6

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I’ve never made Macaroons before, so this really was a challenge! I’m not very fond of taste of almonds (marzipan specifically, yuk) so I used less ground almonds in this recipe. After a few failed attempts and some rock hard meringues, I finally made some passable samples. But if you are proficient at making these delicate treats, do try the spiced white chocolate filling – it’s delicious!

The French have a flair for producing small beautiful dishes that are packed with flavour. With the Robertson’s spices I could give these two classic canapés a spicy twist with some warmth and depth of flavour.

Spiced French Duo. Spiced chicken liver & exotic mushroom tartlets and Macaroons with spiced white chocolate filling.
Serves 12 as canapés
Cooking Time: 2 1/2 hours

You will need

For the macaroons:
80g vanilla white chocolate, broken into shards
60ml fresh cream
¼ tsp Robertson’s cinnamon
1/8 tsp Robertson’s cayenne pepper
70g egg white
100g Castor sugar
50g ground almonds
100g Icing sugar

For the tartlets:
Spiced chicken livers:
400g fresh chicken livers
¼ tsp Robertson’s cinnamon
1/8 tsp Robertson’s cayenne pepper
1 punnet exotic mushrooms (if you can find fresh porcini, use 250g)
1 Tbls butter
½ Tbls garlic, chopped
Fresh thyme
¼ cup cream
1 Roll puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge overnight
1 egg, beaten

How to make it

For the macaroons:
Bring the cream to the boil. Remove from the heat.
Add the white chocolate to the cream and allow it to melt.
Mix the cayenne pepper and cinnamon into the creamy chocolate.
Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Sift the ground almonds and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl.
In another mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites till frothy with an electric beater.
Slowly start adding the castor sugar bit by bit, whisking on high until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is glossy. Then beat for another 2 minutes.
Gently fold the egg mixture into the almond mixture with a silicone spatula until well combined.
Scoop the mixture into a piping bag, and carefully pipe 24-26 rounds onto a silicone baking mat (about 4cm rounds), 2 cm apart.
Dry at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 150°C (fan) or 170°C (standard).
Bake the macaroons for 8 minutes.
Turn the tray around in the oven and bake for another 8 minutes (or until light golden)
Turn the oven off and leave it open for 10 minutes (use a wooden spoon to keep the door open).
Remove the macaroons and cool completely on a wire drying rack.

Once the macaroons are cool, generously smear the spiced chocolate filling on a flat side of one of the macaroons, and top it with another.

For the tartlets:
Spiced chicken livers:
Clean and trim the chicken livers into 2 x 2cm pieces.
Coat with the cayenne pepper and cinnamon and marinade for 10 – 15 minutes.
Trim the mushrooms to thin 3cm slices.
Heat a heavy based frying pan and add the mushrooms (without oil). Dry fry the mushrooms until they start becoming golden around the edges and make a squeaky sound when you stir them around.
Add the butter, fry for a minute then add the garlic.
Strip about 4 thyme twigs and fry the leaves with the mushrooms for about 2 minutes.
Add the spiced chicken livers and fry for 3-5 minutes (the livers should still be pink on the inside.
Add the cream and season well with salt.
Set aside and warm again once ready to serve.

Pre-heat oven to 200°C.
Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface.
Using a cookie cutter (round or shaped) cut out 24 rounds.
Gently press down in the center of each round (don’t cut through) with a smaller round cutter.
Place pastry rounds on an oiled baking tray and brush with the egg wash.
Bake until puffed (like little towers) and golden.
Remove from the oven and with a small spoon, break the pastry in the middle of the tartlet inside the round shape to form a casing.

Scoop the warm chicken livers into each tartlet, garnish with thyme and serve immediately. 

Women's Day Spoils

Myself, my mom (Wirie) and my sister-in-law (Willemien) were spoilt rotten on Women's Day, just thought I'd brag with some of the highlights of the day :)

Arné (my brother), André (my dad) and Wiets (my husband) in their custom aprons.

 The menu and Smoked Salmon starter.

 Learning the art of Flambé.

Wiets and I fell in love with the Spritz during our trip to Italy, 
and I predict it will be our drink of choice this summer.

Perfectly cooked medium rare fillet steak, smothered in a pepper sauce, served with fries.

What a fabulous day, you guys are amazing! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Freshly Blogged: Challenge 5

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Dessert is the grand-finale of a meal. It needs to be something special & beautiful. With this Amarula Cream inspired recipe, I wanted to create something with loads of different textures and layers of flavours – that also looks beautiful on a plate. From the sweet caramel cup to the subtle poached pear and the creamy Amarula custard to the crunchy chocolate nut gravel, I think this dessert hits all the spots.

Amarula custard caramel cups with dark chocolate & sugared almond gravel and Amarula poached pears
Serves 4

You will need
For the caramel cups:
½ cup castor sugar
4 Silicone cup cake molds

For the poached pears:
4 very small pears (about 7cm high, if not, cut larger pears to size)
½ cup Amarula Cream
1 cup low fat milk
1 Tbls castor sugar

For the gravel:
8 cream crackers
Half a slab (45 – 50g) Bourneville dark chocolate
½ Cup blanched almonds, chopped into tiny pieces
1 ½ Tbls castor sugar

For the custard:
1 cup Amarula Cream
1 cup milk
1 Vanilla bean
4 egg yolks
1 Tbls Cornflour
1/3 cup castor sugar

How to make it
For the caramel cups:
Melt the sugar over a gentle heat until liquid – keep an eye on it, it burns easily.
Carefully pour the liquid sugar into one cupcake mold at a time.
Swizzle it around  to cover the sides equally. Repeat with all four.
Set aside to cool and harden.

For the poached pears:
Peel the pears and slice off their rounded bottoms so that they stand upright.
Bring the Amarula, milk and sugar to a simmer.
Lower the heat and poach the pears until soft - about 10minutes.
Remove from heat and allow the pears to soak and cool in the liquid for at least 20 minutes.
Drain just before serving otherwise the pears will brown.

For the gravel:
In a food processor, finely chop the cream crackers – almost to a powder.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate over a bain-marie.
Pour the melted chocolate into the cracker crumbs and blitz the food processor until well combined.
Set aside to cool and become crunchy.
Spread the finely chopped almonds over a baking tray and sprinkle with the castor sugar.
Toast the nuts under a hot grill in the oven until they are golden.
*Keep a close eye on the nuts, they can burn easily.

For the custard:
In a small saucepan, combine the Amarula and milk. Cut the vanilla pod in half (lengthways) and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and pod to the Amarula mixture. Set aside.
Combine the egg yolks, castor sugar and cornflour in a medium saucepan. Beat well (use an electric whisk if you can.) Set aside.
Heat the Amarula mixture over a medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. *Don’t allow it to boil. Remove the vanilla pod.
Slowly pour the hot Amarula mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until well combined.
Return to the heat and cook the custard for 10 – 15 minutes over a low heat, stirring in a figure of eight constantly.
Once the custard coats the back of a spoon it’s ready.
Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Create a little mound with the chocolate gravel.
Sprinkle the sugared almonds over the gravel and over more of the plate.
Place the poached pear on top of the gravel mound.
On the opposite side of the plate, place the caramel cup.
Fill the cup with Amarula custard and serve immediately.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Freshly Blogged: Challenge 4

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Canned fish is such a convenient and healthy pantry staple. The inspiration behind this recipe was to take an old favourite (the fish cake) and glam it up by stacking it with other healthy ingredients. This dish is the perfect fish course for dinner party. Tasty, pretty and super nutritious! (Not to mention dead easy to make!)

Healthy Pilchard, Brown Rice and Crunchy Salad Stack
Serves 4
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

You will need
For the fish cakes:
1 400g Tin Lucky Star Pilchards in Tomato Sauce
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup brown rice, cooked
½ cup spring onion (white only), sliced
1 Tbls plain flour
Salt & Pepper
Vegetable oil

For the salad stack:
1 cup brown rice, cooked
Green beans
Feta cheese (plain)

How to make it
For the fish cakes:
Drain the pilchards of the tomato sauce, set the pilchards aside and discard the sauce.
Mash the pilchards finely and add the beaten egg, mix well.
Add the brown rice, flour and spring onions, mix well.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Brush you hands with some oil, and roll the pilchard mixture into golf ball sized balls.
Flatten each ball to form a fish cake.
Cover and set aside in the fridge until ready to fry.
When ready to fry, heat some oil (about 1 cm deep) in a heavy based frying pan.
Shallow fry the fish cakes in batches until browned and crispy on both sides.
Drain on paper towels.
Serve warm on the salad stack.
(These fish cakes are flaky, so handle them with care.)

For the salad stack:
Blanch the green beans in boiling water until tender, drain and plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking and retain the fresh green colour.
Once cool, drain again and finely slice, set aside.
Slice the cabbage and fennel (white part only) into very fine slices.
Crumble 1 – 2 wheels of feta.
To compile:
Place a cookie cutter the size of the fish cakes in the centre of a small plate.
Take a 1/4 cup cooked room temperature brown rice (season with salt & pepper), and press it down firmly into the cookie mould to form a round shape. Gently remove the mould.
Gently place a warm fish cake on top of the rice.
Layer some finely sliced cabbage onto the fish cake.
Place another warm fish cake on top of the cabbage.
Layer with finely sliced fennel.
Garnish with sliced green beans, crumbled feta and a sprig of fresh green fennel.

Serve with a wedge of fresh lemon.

Visit for more info on the competition.