Monthly Archives: March 2013

For the love of ham…

My friend Wisaal took this photo of hams in El Corte Ingles, Portugal. She doesn’t touch the stuff but, knowing of my deep & enduring love affair with pork, tweeted me this photo:

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This is what you call breakfast!

Zizwe ordered this delectable aubergine roulade stack from 2B Cuisine at Epsom Downs shopping centre last Sunday. She doesn’t eat eggs so finds it difficult to order breakfasts, and declared this eggless delight the best breakfast she’s ever had.

(I tasted it. It was absolutely sensational.)

Try 2B Cuisine next time you’re in the Bryanston area 🙂

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Oh Sherbet!

Oh Sherbet!

Keeping me going this morning – Woolworths hand crafted lemon & orange sherbet. I’m really picky about my candy but this is hitting all the right spots 🙂

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I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, but…

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A couple of weeks ago when I was off climbing Kilimanjaro I succumbed to altitude sickness (which alas means that I did not summit). I didn’t know it was altitude sickness – my sister Zizwe had to break it down for me – I just thought I was being lazy and grumpy so on top of everything else I was berating myself for not appreciating what an amazing opportunity it was to be climbing Kili.

On day 4, as I was stumbling from the Karanga Valley up to the Karanga Camp, I did the only thing I could do to keep my spirits and motivation up – I started thinking about all the things I’d do when I got off that darned rock. I started writing in my head – writing has always been able to calm me, to center me, and since I was too weak to hold a pen I’d commit my words to memory and transcribe them when I was back at a normal altitude.

I vowed to cancel my gym membership as soon as I got back to Johannesburg; I only had a gym membership because it was the expected thing. We all have to keep healthy and the way to do it is to join a gym. But it didn’t make me happy and I would thereafter only do things which make me happy.

Which got me to mulling over what it is that does make me happy. The answers were simple, and immediate: writing, cooking, eating, art, music, dancing, giving to others.

So this morning when I walked into a friend’s/colleague’s (and generally all-round-great-guy’s) office and he handed me a dish of food that he’d made based on a recipe I’d posted on this blog, it made me happier than I can say. He gave me an animated recap of exactly what went down in his kitchen as he cooked last night and I’m pretty sure our laughter echoed down the corridors. 

I just had my plate, and it was delicious. It didn’t taste exactly like what I made, but it shouldn’t. The joy of cooking is looking at a set of ingredients or a recipe, getting inspiration from them, and making from that what represents you and what you enjoy eating. The fun of cooking is in experimentation. Sometimes things go wrong but they are rarely unsalvageable.

Cooking is about joy, and laughter, and love, and giving of yourself. I’m so glad I’m able to give something of myself to you though my little recipes. Thank you for giving of yourselves through reading, sharing, and cooking.

live•love•laugh

 

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Love is…

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Yesterday was my first day back at work after a week’s break climbing Kilimanjaro and a further week recovering from climbing Kilimanjaro.

I had hundreds of emails to wade through, demands to answer, people to placate, and by the time I got home I was exhausted.

But as I stood at the kitchen counter, chopping ingredients, perking up leftover rice, assembling dinner, sipping a glass of white, everything evaporated. Everything disappeared. My feet didn’t ache, my shoulders were relaxed.

All was well with the world as I stood in my kitchen and created.

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Happiness is home-grown herbs :)

Happiness is home-grown herbs :)

I finally got my behind in gear and am growing some of the herbs I use most often. I got the herbs and stand at my local garden centre, and made sure to re-pot them into larger pots (which was absolutely necessary as many of their roots were already constricted). I’ve already started cooking with them and couldn’t be happier 🙂

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Om nom nom: Sirloin Steak with Green Peppercorn Sauce. And a flambé!

I looooooove me a good steak. Sometimes a girl just needs a big ole hunk of red meat, you know? I’m very picky about my steaks and I always love them with pepper sauce.

So a couple of weeks ago, when my usual partner in culinary crime Zizwe (someone has to eat all the stuff I cook) was off in Durban for work, I took some steaks I’d been marinating for a few days out of the fridge and cooked ’em up.

OK, let’s begin. I started with some aged sirloin steaks which I marinated for at least two days. Lord knows I can barely remember what I put in my salad this afternoon, but I probably tossed in some olive oil, sesame oil, crushed garlic and ginger and loads of ground green peppercorns. I rarely add salt to my steaks before cooking because I once watched on some cooking show that it dries steaks out, and if I cast my mind back to primary school science and the definition of “osmosis”, that makes sense to me. You can’t argue with science.

So I served the steaks with the wonder that is fried gnocchi. I was first introduced to this glorious invention by the marvelous Nigella Lawson; I remember when Zizwe and I first saw her making them. It was Christmastime 2011, we were watching a host of Christmas cooking specials, and we were mesmerised.

I got a pack of pre-made gnocchi from my usual supplier, and stuck it in a wok full of mixed bacon-and-duck fat.

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Yes! You can fry gnocchi! They aren’t just made to be boiled! I fried them up until they were a lovely happy golden brown…

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Isn’t that a happy sight? 🙂

I tossed them in my pink Himalayan salt:

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…and some fresh basil pesto, again from my usual supplier.

No, I don’t have a photo of that. 😀

Next, the steaks. I took them out of the fridge and allowed them to come up to room temperature before slapping them into a pan and frying them up:

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They look overdone, don’t they? Don’t they? Well, they’re not! On yet another TV cooking show I learnt how to tell when steaks are done rare, medium, and well without slicing them open.

Take your forefinger and squish it against your forehead, where your third eye would be. You feel that squishiness? If you squish your steak and it feels like your forehead, your steak is rare. Do the same with your chinny chin chin. That is how a medium steak feels. And your nose? That, my friends, is the squishiness of a well done steak.

Take your perfectly-cooked steak out of the pan and allow to rest on a plate:

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Now take the same pan you made the steaks in (the little stuck bits at the bottom of the pan are the best flavoring you can get), throw in some olive oil, and fry up some finely chopped shallots:

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You don’t want to brown them; just fry them up until they go translucent. Next, throw in some ground and whole green peppercorns (go on, be generous, more, more!) and a generous knob of butter:

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I think this is the point where I need to explain that cooking on this particular Shrove Tuesday was completely unplanned. I had naturally wanted to make pancakes, but just couldn’t be inspired to mix up pancakes for just me. So I barely ate lunch, didn’t start on dinner for a good couple of hours after I got home from work, and had consumed two glasses of wine by the time I got to this point.

So when I looked at the bottle of sherry ready to splash some into the sauce, and I was tipsy enough to be bold but not quite tipsy enough to burn the house down, a flambé seemed like a good idea. I threw in a generous amount of sherry, grabbed my candle lighter, and…

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yaaaaaaaaaay! Flambé success! And my house is still standing!

Next I threw in a generous dollop of creme fraiche and allowed the whole lot to cook down.

While the sauce was reducing I sliced up my rested steak:

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(told you they were perfectly done)

Before plating up the whole delicious lot:

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This is really easy, tastes really good, and I promise anyone can make it. But if you’re the accident-prone sort, I’d recommend skipping the bit where you light the pan on fire.

So try it, enjoy, and let me know how it works out 🙂

 

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Restaurant Review – Red Rabbit, Nicolway

Late last year I was invited to a year-end lunch at Thomas Maxwell, Parkmore, and it absolutely lived up to the hype. Everything they served was absolutely magical. I remember I opted for the steak frites and not only was my steak perfect, but they kept the frites coming as any good brasserie would. So when my sister Zizwe, my friend Sharon and I decided to get together for dinner last Thursday, it seemed like a great idea to try Thomas Maxwell’s little brother, the Red Rabbit French Grill in Nicolway Shopping Centre.

Red Rabit with logs

We started off with the fried camembert starter which was much to tempting to pass up. Deep fried cheese? Oh yes, yes, yes! Decadent? Absolutely. Sinful? Without a doubt.

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It almost seems like the art of deep frying has been cheapened; sticking something in a deep fryer seems like an unsophisticated way of dealing with ingredients. I must confess; whenever I watch Chopped and some exotic or difficult ingredient is unleashed, my usual reaction is “I’d deep fry it”.

At Red Rabbit the crumbed the camembert before frying it, and got it perfectly golden on the outside with a deliciously gooey inside. Served with a light salad, fresh strawberry slices and a strawberry reduction on a wooden plank, it was rather tasty. I think the magic of the camembert came out best when eaten with a slice of fresh strawberry (rather than with the reduction) and the crisp bread was to me, unnecessary, but overall, it was pretty good.

Now, I love a good steak. Thomas Maxwell delivered on my need for steak in December 2012. Before that, the last really memorable steak I’d had was in May 2012 at the marvelous Le Steak Frites St Paul in Montreal. So, with a craving for some red meat I opted for the steak frites over the moules frites on the menu…

IMG_2635…and I was disappointed.

My steak was overdone and dry. The tarragon butter on top was flavourless and thin. The frites were great, but the inattentive waiters didn’t top me up when they were finished, and everyone knows that the fries in steak frites are meant to be unlimited.

And when I asked for some mayonnaise to dip my frites in… they brought me store. bought. mayo.

It takes a minute to make mayonnaise! It is possibly the easiest sauce to hand make! I just made one today as a base for my caesar dressing! I was very, very disappointed.

I took most of my steak home and doused it in my home-made peppercorn sauce and at last it was edible.

Now, I would end this on this sadly negative note, but the following day, searching for something to eat, I found Sharon’s leftover pork bolognese penne from Red Rabbit in the fridge. I heated up a few forkfuls and plopped myself on the couch, not expecting much. Until I took my first bite and flavour exploded on my tongue.

It was magnificent. It was what I’d been hoping for when I made the dinner booking! Penne is my least favourite pasta, and I’m always rather suspicious of pork mince, but it was delicious. Perfectly made, not to dry, not to saucy, with a herby thyme-y explosion. I went right back to the kitchen and heated up the rest of the pasta, and gobbled it all down.

In all, would I go back to Red Rabbit? Alas, no. Will I try and recreate that pork pasta? Absolutely. So watch this space for my experimentations 🙂

live•love•laugh

 

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