Dinner prep

Dinner prep – Woolworths thick-cut mature sirloin steaks marinated in lemon-infused olive oil, soy sauce, whole coriander seeds, dried tarragon, dhania jeera and, of course, freshly-ground black pepper. Talk about fusing food cultures! We’ll see how it works out.

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Did I Do That?

If there’s one kitchen task I’m utterly hopeless in it is baking. And yet, somehow, I managed to create this:

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It’s a super chocolatey chocolate cake with a dark chocolate ganache filling (and a touch of Nutella), frosted with vanilla and Pomegranate buttercream.

This is the first time I’ve successfully baked and decorated a cake.

I’d like to thank Martha Stewart for the cake recipe, random websites for the crumb coating and buttercream recipes, my ingenuity for the idea to add pomegranate concentrate to some of the frosting, the Internet for its support, and my loyal dog Biscuit for keeping me company through this process. *bows to humbly accept award before thrusting said award skywards in celebration, silent tears rolling down face*

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Risotto!

I made risotto for the first time this week! It turned out great, especially for a first attempt. Here it is bubbling away:

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I sautéed spring onions, sweet peppers, dried tarragon, mixed mushrooms and crushed garlic in a mix of Parmesan-infused olive oil and butter. To that I added my rice, and gradually ladled in simmering lamb stock. When the rice was almost done, I stirred in a tablespoon of double cream, a knob of butter, and grated some Parmesan liberally over the lot. Then right at the end I tossed in a healthy glug of white wine.

It was a meat-free meal, so I served it with tomatoes roasted with pesto, feta, black pepper, and lemon-infused olive oil.

Quick, simple, tasty. Bon appetite!

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Dinner with Friends = Happiness :)

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Dinner with friends. As you can see, my dinner last night was a rehearsal. Tonight’s meal is fillet steak on bone marrow on a bed of mashed sweet & nicola potatoes. The steak is topped with a home-made chicken liver and duck pâté. I’ve done assorted mushrooms in cream, port, butter and black pepper. The sauce is shallots, tarragon, port wine, cream and green peppercorns.

I’m just bummed I forgot to take photos while I was cooking. I guess I’ll have to do it all over again.

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Dinner for One – 19 June 2013

Dinner last night was a pork steak seasoned with a dukkah-inspired dry rub, served atop marrow bones, drizzled (drenched) with a port wine sauce. It hit the spot!

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Five Days With a Philips Airfryer – Day 5: Back to Basics

I know this post is late. I know this post is almost a full week late as I really should have put it up last Friday. However I’m the kind of person who can turn denial and procrastination into an art and come up with an unassailable justification for said procrastination and denial. For instance, I could say that I undertook to blog on five days with an Airfryer, not five consecutive days with an Airfryer.

Ah, language, I can always twist you to suit my needs.

What was I in denial about, you may ask? Well, quite simply that my time with the demo Airfryer was coming to an end. That thing made my life so much easier, it really did. Dinner was as simple as shoving some ingredients into it, and by the time I’d put down my handbag and kicked off my shoes there was that “ping!” letting me know my dinner was ready.

So, for my final meal with the Airfryer, I went back to basics and cooked bacon.

Let me explain – bacon and I have what you might call a special relationship. Bacon loves me, this I know. If scientists are to be believed that fat, sugar and salt in the right quantities make food addictive, then bacon is nature’s perfectly addictive food. Yes, yes, I know it was helped along by people curing pork belly (don’t worry, I’m not going to pull a Chrissy Teigen and try to make my own bacon). But my point is this: bacon is perfection. Unless you cook it wrong.

So while having bacon as my final challenge seems like a deceptively simple task, it was the one I was going to judge most strictly.

Making the bacon was ridiculously simple, though. I stuck some rashers in the Airfryer and ground some black pepper over them:

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Let them cook at 200* for 3 minutes before flipping them over:

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Then cooked them for a further 2 minutes at 180*:

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Before serving the bacon atop English muffins with scrambled eggs:

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The bacon. Was. Perfect.

Absolutely perfect. The fat was perfectly rendered without my having to use a bit of oil to do so, the bacon was crisp without being overdone or chewy. There was absolutely no grease on the bacon rashers, and looking at the drip tray that made perfect sense as the amount of fat in there was disgusting.

I will confess that I’m salivating a little bit right now at the memory of the bacony goodness.

The only problem is the Airfryer could only comfortably accommodate four rashers, although in my case, this is probably a good thing cos I could easily eat a whole pack of bacon singlehanded. Yes, you read that right – a whole pack. Even though it occasionally fails me, self control is a beautiful thing.

And that’s it, good people. Looks like my week with the Airfryer managed to convert me so I’ll need to get myself one ASAP. Thanks to Thandeka for arranging for my loan and introducing me to the Airfryer; it was plenty of fun.

Until next time, yours in baconness,

L

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Five Days With a Philips Airfryer: Day 4: Challenge!

I just gobbled down a ribbon of smoked trout like a penguin ingesting a sardine whole, then clapping its flippers in appreciative applause. That doesn’t really have anything to do with this blog post but that was a confession I felt I had to make. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Today I deliberately set out to challenge my loan Airfryer. I felt I had to do something vegetarian, but I don’t believe I’ve ever consumed fried vegetables unless they’re tempura (in which case deep-frying is sort of mandatory), so I settled on chickpea patties.

I’ve made chickpea patties before but I’ve never really been happy with the outcome. Apart from my first attempt which was a total success:

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I am good, aren’t I?

I wasn’t going to be completely happy with some healthy, vegan lumps so I decided to top today’s patties with a yoghurt-based sauce (I wanted to use creme fraiche but my local Woolies was all out) and smoked trout ribbons, on a bed on baby lettuce leaves dressed in lemon olive oil and Parmesan, served with grilled prawns.

Phew!

Let’s start win the patties. I broke out my food processor and whizzed up one shallot, half a green-pepper, and a jalapeño from my garden:

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I then drained a can of organic chickpeas and tossed in the contents:

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(How gross does the brine the chickpeas were preserved in look?)

I blitzed the whole lot then started rooting around on my cupboards for some semolina to act ad a thickening agent and add texture, when I found this:

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I had completely forgotten that I had for some chickpea flour intending to make bhajias. I tossed a load of the flour in and blitzed it again. Chickpea flour has a rather strong flavour so I then added some semolina and regular flour to thicken the mixture. I also added salt, black pepper, garlic, dhania jeera, crushed chillies, dried tarragon and whole coriander seeds:

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Once I had mixed up the whole lot I made up the patties. It helps to moisten your hands with some olive oil prior to forming the patties, as this stops the mix from sticking to your hands. I tossed the patties into the Airfryer and baked at 180° for 10 minutes on either side. Remember that you need to bake the insides of the patties as well as the outsides:

While the prawns were cooking, I deveined and cleaned the prawns that I had found in my freezer. I must confess that I started singing “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid out of sheer delight at finding the prawns in the “treasure trove” of my freezer. In hindsight, singing a tune from The Little Mermaid while slicing prawns open, ripping out their guts and hacking off their heads was a touch macabre. Perhaps I should have sung “Les poissons” instead.

Digression. I used a simple marinade of olive oil, Tabasco, a splash of lime juice and black pepper:

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I’m going to go a bit faster cos I’m really sleepy right now. I took the cooked chickpea patties out, and while they didn’t look particularly appetizing they tasted AMAZING :

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They kind of look like cookies, don’t they?

I then slid the prawns into the Airfryer at 200* for 4 minutes before serving:

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So, how did it all work out? While the patties were delicious they were dry, and so I feel would benefit from frying in actual oil.

Conversely, prawns were made for Aifrying…or is that the other way round? It was quick, easy, effective, and I can’t imagine any other cooking method would work as well.

And with that I must bid you my adieus; join me tomorrow for the final Airfryer test!

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Five Days With a Philips Airfryer: Day 3 – Nyama, Nyama, Nyama? Nyama!

When I was a kid growing up in Nairobi we used to play this game that was all about meat.

There would be a group of us, and the challenge was to name types of edible meats, and also to sneak in types of meat which were, to our minds, not edible. The game would go something like this:

    caller: Nyama, nyama, nyama, nyama? (“meat, meat, meat, meat”)
    all: Nyama! (“meat!”)
    player 1: Nyama ya nguruwe! (“meat of a pig!”)
    all: Nyama!
    player 2: Nyama ya ng’ombe! (“meat of a cow”)
    all: Nyama!

And this would carry on until someone got confused or repeated a meat type that had already been called, or, as was often the case with me, ran out of Swahili words for animals whose meat commonly ends up on our dinner tables, and called something outrageous like:

    player 52: Nyama ya panya!” (“meat of a mouse!”)

At which point all the other players are meant to remain quiet as calling out “Nyama!” affirms that this is a type of meat which can be eaten. The player who responds and/or the one who dared insinuate that one could eat a mouse would be out, and the game would continue without them.

This game would keep us endlessly entertained. Oh, how easy we were to amuse!

Anyway, the point of all that was to explain that “nyama” means “meat” in kiSwahili (if you hadn’t deduced this by now please stop reading immediately as this is not a blog to be read by intellectually compromised individuals) as well as many other Bantu languages. Also, this was a sort of meaningless, rambling introduction to today’s Airfryer challenge: carne!

Ooooh, a challenge! This feels like Kitchen Stadium! I feel like I should scream something incoherent and claim it’s a saying passed down from my uncle!

I digress. Meat, or specifically in my case, lamb (“nyama ya kondoo”). So I had yet another super busy day (I spent my morning kicking legal butt) and was worn out when it came to cooking time. I was craving red meat so I pulled some lamb chops out of my freezer intending to marinate them simply, airfry, and get my meat fix.

I loathe meat that has been microwave-defrosted so I left the chops out by my sink for about three hours by which stage they were defrosted enough to separate. I then rubbed them with olive oil, salt, garlic & herb spice mix (I almost never use pre-mixed spices which shows just how lazy I was being!), cumin and chopped garlic:

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You will note a few things from the photo above:

  • My impeccable style and taste extend even to my choice of apron
  • I should probably eat those bananas
  • I shouldn’t still have the sesame seeds from last nights’s meal out on the counter
  • I’m in the photo!!!!
  • Yes, I had Zizwe and Sharon drop by today! Zizwe gobbled down the last of yesterday’s chicken wings while Sharon had dinner tonight and provided a second opinion on the lamb.

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    After marinating I stuck the lamb in the Airfryer and cooked at 180* for 8 minutes, then took the chops out and turned them.

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    I then slid them in again, same temperature, same duration.

    And this is where I went wrong: at this point the lamb had cooked for the appropriate duration as per the sticky-on-guide-thingy on the front of the Airfryer, but it didn’t look all glisteny like TV food. So I stuck the chops in again so they’d turn lovely and brown:

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    I served the lamb chops with coconut basmati rice:

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    If there’s anyone reading this asking, “well, what about vegetables?” in a smug “I’m so healthy!” voice, see those green and yellow bits in the rice? Peas and sweet corn. Vegetables.

    So, the eating. I reeeeeeally loved the flavour of the meat, but that’s because I seasoned it and I’m a really good cook. As my special guest pointed out, though, the meat was really difficult to cut. Whether this was due to my plonking the chops in when they were still partially frozen, or because of my decision to stick them back in for extra cooking so they’d glisten in my blog photos, or even because I just need to invest in a set of steak knives I do not know.

    What I do know, though, is had I pan fried my chops, I would likely have been happier with the end result.

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    Five Days With a Philips Airfryer: Day 2 – Gallus Gallus Domesticus

    I don’t know what it is about my people and chicken. Yeah, I said it – my people. Black people. Brown-skinneded people. Africans. No chicken in Africa is safe, least of all on Christmas Eve night. For all we know there could be a chicken out there which holds the gene for the next evolutionary jump but we’d never know cos the bird’s been eaten. Or will be eaten as soon as the drumsticks get juicy enough. I’ve heard a statistic that holds that out of the top 10 best selling products in South Africa annually, SIX of those are chicken products. And just like Shakira’s hips, statistics don’t lie.

    I decided to add to that stereotype by making up some chicken wings. Now, it’s been a long day at work. I’m exhausted. I didn’t even feel like eating but I had marinated the chicken wings this morning so the hard work was all done.

    Ok, so I marinated the wings in a Korean-inspired marinade of garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, a splash of lime juice, a healthy sprinkling of chilli flakes and a dollop of honey:

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    I stuck the wings into the basket and sprinkled them with sesame seeds and cornflour mixed with salt (the cornflour is good for crispy skin and adds something that makes the chicken irresistible):

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    I stuck them in the Airfryer at 180* for 8 minutes, took them out, dunked them back in the marinade then tossed them back into the basket, sprinkled with the cornflour mix (shook it through a sieve which made it really easy to get a light, even coat), then stuck them in for a further 8 minutes at the same temperature.

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    I shook them up one last time then slid them back in for a final 5 minutes at 200*, before serving them up with some naan I happened to find in my fridge:

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    I’d had grand ideas of serving them with coriander rice but by the time I got round to cooking that just wasn’t going to happen.

    Verdict: were they as good as proper double-fried Korean chicken wings? In a way, no. They didn’t have that super thin yet almost glutinous skin you get from double frying chicken coated with corn flour.

    But on the other hand, there’s something about the deep fried version that makes me feel uncomfortable and somewhat sick to my stomach, and I didn’t get that with these.

    Add to that the convenience of not having a vat of used oil to deal with afterwards, or a whole load of dishes or stove-side grease splatter to tackle, and I think I’ll go for the airfried version any day!

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    Five Days With a Philips Airfryer: Day 1 – Frozen

    Nothing makes good taste better than fat. This truth has a sound scientific basis – fat makes food taste better because most flavours are fat soluble. Just think about it – butter, bacon, duck cat… fat is flavourful! But, alas, my consumption of fat-laden foods is limited by the need to fit into my clothes.

    I’ve been lusting after the Philips Airfryer for a while now, but it doesn’t come cheap. I’m generally very skeptical about foods that claim to taste as good with less fat, so I ever got round to getting myself an Airfryer.

    I mentioned this to a friend who happens to work at Philips, and she kindly organized a loan demo Airfryer for me. Wooooohoooo! I have a limited amount of time with the machine, so for the five days I have the Airfryer, I’ll blog my experiences with it. Good? Let’s go!

    Now, you can’t claim to test food which should be fried unless you start with, well, fries. There are few things in this world that can bring a person as much joy as deep-fried potato strings. Being as busy as I am at work right now, I sadly didn’t have time to slice and fry the gorgeous yellow potatoes I have in my veggie tray right now.

    So I decided – what better way to test the health benefits of the Airfryer than to “fry” up some convenience foods? Frozen fries out of a pack, frozen salmon out of a box, served with a lovely fresh salad.

    This is really quick and really simple so pay attention. Dump the frozen fries and fish in the frying basket thingy:

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    Slide the basket into the Airfryer, time it for 6 minutes at 180* (there are pictures on the front of the Airfryer that tell you how long and at what heat to cook different types of food):

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    When it pings, take the basket out and shake the contents before sliding it back in for more cooking:

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    After a further 6 minutes it’s ready to serve:

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    I had mine with a salad of baby butter lettuce dressed with lemon olive oil from the tap at Food Lovers Market, Hillfox, balsamic vinegar and pomegranate concentrate. Oh, and a healthy dollop of All Gold tomato sauce.

    So, verdict? I honestly could not tell that the fries had not been deep fried. Granted frozen chips are pre-cooked in oil so they weren’t completely fat-free, but they tasted waaaaay better than ghastly oven fries. In all – delicious, guilt-free fries. Happiness 🙂

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