Posted in Best Find, Good Food, Recipe

Dragon Fruit for the Year of the Dragon

I was born in the year of the dog, so I am not very well aligned to this dragon year. Anyway, decided the other day to literally eat my “dragons” that has been plaguing me so far this year when I saw these beautiful dragon fruits at my local fruit shop. I served them as part of a cheese course with a Dolce Latte Gorgonzola with a variety of other cheeses and fruits as well.

Some background about Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit is a beautiful fruit grown in Southeast Asia, Mexico, Central and South America, and Israel and most of the fruit in South Africa comes from Israel. The plant is actually a type of cactus, and the fruit comes in three colors: two have pink skin, but with different colored flesh (one white, the other magenta), while another type is yellow with white flesh. Dragon fruit is low in calories and offers numerous nutrients, including Vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, plus fiber and antioxidants. So go for it and eat your dragon fruit, it is good for you.  The fruit tastes wonderful! – sweet and crunchy, with a flavour that’s like a cross between kiwi and pear and it is extremely attractive.

My recipe for dragon fruit is simple and easy. Cut them with the skin on in quarters, stick them onto little bamboo forks or sticks, sprinkle liberally with a good vodka (I used Absolut Vanilla) and serve with a delicate Dolce Latte Gorgonzola as part of a cheese course. The sweet melon made such a wonderful contrasting accompaniment and it went well with the Fontal cheese that I served also as part of my cheese course.

Advertisements
Posted in Good Food, Recipe

Marvellous Pomegranate Sorbet with Brûleé Pistachio Rice Paper

100_4504

It is pomegranate season in South Africa and when I see these ruby beauties appearing on the fruit shelves at my local fruit shop, I get all excited and feel like a little child again! I can’t wait to get home and to just break open one of them and eating those sweet pips, feeling them bursting in your mouth and with each bite there is this sweet and tart flavour explosion in your mouth. South Africa is a major pomegranate producer and our fruit is exported to the Middle East, Far East and Europe mainly. Fortunately a small quantity reaches to the local market, so when you buy them in SA, you can be assured that you will be supporting a local farmer somewhere in our beautiful country. And as a bonus they are dirt cheap this year, R4 for one very large (250-300g) pomegranate.

Im love making a sorbet from the arils as they lend themselves so well to be a sorbet and here is my marvellous pomegranate sorbet recipe with brûleé pistachio rice paper. The crispy crunch of the rice paper and burnt sugar mixed with the aromas of the cardamom and pistachio makes this just such a pleasant dessert to eat after a heavy meal as it is light. I like to serve it as a simple dessert on its own, no frills and fancy tarting up. Or as in this recipe you can really go all out and dress it to impress your guests. However you serve it, it is just pure pomegranate enjoyment on your dessert plate and it is always a winner with my guests.

You’ll need for the Sorbet:

  • 3 large pomegranates (250-300g each)
  • 500ml water
  • 75ml Castor Sugar
  • 175ml De Krantz Pink Port
  • 3 cardamom pods crushed
  • 1 ml Coarsely grounded Black Pepper
  • 1 Ice Cream Machine

You’ll need for the Brûleé Rice Paper:

  • 2 Rice Paper Sheets
  • 30g Pistachio Nuts
  • 80ml Castor Sugar
  • 1 Kitchen Blow Torch

Method:

To make the Sorbet:

  • Follow the normal instructions to freeze the bowl of your ice cream machine.
  • Remove all the arils (pomegranate seeds) from two of the pomegranates. In a large pot add the water, castor sugar, cardamom pods, black pepper and 125ml of the pink port and all the pomegranate arils. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down for at least an hour before you proceed to the next step.
  • Pour the sorbet mix into a liquidiser and liquidise for about a minute or until you are sure all the arils have been crushed to release their juice. Pour the juice mixture over a bowl through a fine sieve using a soft spatula to press all the juices out of the seeds. Discard the seeds. You should have now about a 800 – 1000ml of sorbet mixture. Allow to cool down in the refrigerator for about 8-12 hours before you churn the mixture in your machine.
  • Once cooled, transfer the sorbet mixture to your machine and churn for about 30 minutes or until it has reached that soft slush stage. Once at this stage add the remaining 50ml of the Pink Port, churn another 5 minutes and transfer to a freezing tub and freeze in the fridge for another 5-6 hours before serving.
  • Place your plates (4-6 depending on how many guests you’ll be serving) with the sorbet in the fridge now as you really need cold plates for this dessert.

To make the Brûleé Rice Paper:

  • Cut eight 6x6cm squares of rice paper. Place them on a baking tray.
  • Put the pistachios with the castor sugar in the coffee mill attachment of your food processor and blend it on high-speed until the pistachios and sugar has blended together to form a fine light green sugar.
  • Use a tea sieve and liberally dust each rice paper square with the pistachio sugar. Once nicely coated use your blow torch and literally burn the sugar mix on each piece of rice paper. Remember it is paper so be careful not to heat the paper too much as it will catch fire and burn up.
  • Once all eight papers have been burned it is time to start plating up.

To plate up:

  • Remove the seeds from your third pomegranate and set aside to sprinkle onto each plate.
  • Remove your plates from the fridge and dust each plate well with the remaining pistachio sugar.
  • Place one rice paper square in the middle of the plate and one scoop of sorbet.
  • Place your second rice paper square onto the scoop of sorbet and onto that another scoop of sorbet.
  • Sprinkle with pomegranate arils and serve immediately.

If you like your sorbets and ice creams, here is totally new flavour (Olallieberry) to me and a lovely recipe from love and cupcakes.

Posted in Good Food, Recipe

Fresh Autumn Salad with Melba Toast

Autumn is setting in South Africa and in Pretoria the nights are cold, but the days are still lovely and perfect to enjoy a delectable lunch out in the garden. In the fruit and vegetable markets there are a marked decline in the summer fruits and veggies that are available and they are replaced by bags of lovely oranges, grapefruits and naartjies. I love that heavy zesty smell of the fruit market when these fruits make their appearance after a long absence from the summer shelves. To still the craving in my body for those first fruits of the winter season, I like to – at least once before the heavy winter sets in – make my fresh autumn salad. It is easy, quick and you can make it well in advance. I usually invite a bunch of friends and I serve it as a starter with one of my favourite Rosé wines, the Groot Constantia Blanc de Noir. This attractive Rosé with its grapefruit pink hues,  is made from 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. The refreshing floral hints compliments the individual components on the plate very well.

You’ll need:

  • 2-3 Grapefruits
  • 2-3 Oranges
  • 2-3 Naartjies
  • Bunch of Chives
  • 6 Lemon Verbena Leaves
  • Zest of one Orange
  • 1ml Crushed Garlic
  • 1ml Black Pepper
  • 250ml Cream Cheese
  • 250ml Goat’s Cheese (Chevré)
  • 12 Slices White Bread Toasted
  • Balsamic Cream

For the Dressing:

  • 75ml Olive Oil
  • 15ml Sesame Oil
  • 30ml Runny Honey
  • All the juices of the fruits

To make:

  1. Prepare the Fruit: Peel and segment all the fruits and over a bowl, ensuring that you catch all the juices from the fruits. Set the segmented fruit in a separate bowl from the juice aside.
  2. Make the Cheese Quenelles: Mix the cream cheese, goat’s cheese, garlic, black pepper, orange zest and the chopped lemon verbena leaves in a bowl. Once mixed, use two spoons to make six large quenelles, cover and put in refrigerator until needed. If you don’t have lemon verbena, you can leave it out of the mix.
  3. Making the Melba Toast: Toast your slices of white bread until they are golden brown. Use a large round cookie cutter and cut 12 rounds from your slices of bread. Half an hour before you plate, put the rounds on an oven tray and place in the oven at 100°C. This will dry the bread a bit more and give it a healthy crunchy texture with all the other smooth components on your plate. 
  4. Make the Dressing: In the bowl with the juice of the fruits, put in all the components for the dressing and mix well. Pour the dressing over the fruit, mix well and allow to marinate for at least an hour before serving.
  5. Dressing the plate: Start by placing your cheese quenelle toward one edge of the plate. Use a squeeze bottle and squeeze three balsamic cream drops that spiral from the centre of the plate toward the edge. On the left of the quenelle, heap some of the fruit on the plate in that open spot and on the other side, stack two Melba toast rounds. Sprinkle with some chopped chives and more of the dressing and enjoy with your friends and good wine!
Posted in Uncategorized

My Journey into Food

Today I feel nostalgic. And instead of reminiscing about my mom’s cooking or my grandmother’s favourite recipe here, which every other food blogger does, I thought I will tell you about my journey into food. Yip, and I shall highlight those people and places who had a profound influence on my journey into food. The people who had and still have an influence on me is easy, but to start, I will have to begin my journey in Koffiefontein where I was born and grew up, as I strongly belief that your environment plays a large role in how one appreciate food.

I grew up in a very small mining town called Koffiefontein in the Free State province of South Africa. Situated in a geographical area called the Falsche Karoo. I remember it for the most amazing lamb and mutton meat, the distinctive Karoo vegetation of that area gave a very thyme like flavour to the meat and it was most enjoyable. Apart from the café on the corner that would sell the necessities like bread and milk and more important for me as a four-year old at that time, chips, cool drinks and sweets, there were no other shops. Each family had to be fairly self-sufficient in terms of vegetables, fruit, milk, eggs and meat. Fortunately there were many amazing farmers around the town who were more than willing to supply the town with excellent produce. Our family was one of the very self-sufficient ones, we had a large vegetable patch, a number of fruit trees, a grape-vine, chickens, ducks and geese and got lamb and pork on a regular basis from farmers in the region. Twice a week we would get our milk in a steel cannister from a farmer and I remember my mom removing the thick yellow cream from the top to be used either for butter or dessert on Sunday.

This is where I grew up and apart from all of this we had a large property with this lovely red clay ground, which according to my mom I used to bake the most elaborate and amazing mud cakes. I can’t remember much of this (I was 4 or 5 years old, 1974 – 1975) and trust my mom’s information on this time of my life and as cameras were a rare luxury in those days, unfortunately there are no photos to show as well. Anyway, apparently according to mom, I used to bake these mud cakes and would decorate them with fresh flowers and ribbons and would then invite her for tea later in the afternoon. My mom is until today totally dumbfounded by my creativity with these cakes, because as she explained, we had very limited access to magazines and books from the library, she doesn’t bake, so where did I got my ideas from for these cakes had her totally puzzled. This was my earliest food experience and as my mom recently commented she always thought that I would be good in a food career, it was there since a young age. And I am slowly get over my fear of sweet pastry now, perhaps I was a pastry chef or baker in a previous life!

The most important aspect of this time is that I saw where my food came from. I witnessed how my father would slit the throat of a lamb, quickly and efficiently, without any suffering to the animal. Collecting eggs in the morning for breakfast, still warm from being laid a few minutes ago and that same hen would become Sunday lunch a few weeks later when she was knocked unconscious and unceremoniously her head was chopped off with a sharp axe. And no, I have no psychological issues and scars due to this “violence” I witnessed as a child, in fact I think I was very lucky to know where my food come from and how it reached my table.

When I turned 13 my maternal grandmother died and my grandfather came to live with us in 1983. He had green fingers beyond belief. My grandfather could cultivate the most amazing vegetables and fruit and it was part of my household duties to assist my grandfather in the garden everyday for an hour in the afternoon after school. From him I learned to appreciate what the season gave us and that it was good for us. When other children didn’t know what eggplant or fennel bulb was, we ate it on a regular basis. I learned from my grandfather the difference is between a shop-bought tomato and one that has really ripened on the vine! And most important, I learned from him that there is always enough for everybody, both man and nature and that organic cultivation makes sense from that point of view. He died in 1987 and with it any further journey until 2002.

I went to the army and then onto university and worked for a short while before I started my own graphic design business in 1997. During this time I met two persons who had a profound influence on my food re-awakening and subsequent food journey.

In 2002 I was invited by a good friend, Darren for dinner at a new restaurant in Pretoria called Zest Bistro. Chef and owner Sidney Cousins soon became one of my food heroes and inspirations! From him I learned that there are wonderful stuff such as a velouté, a jus, a puree and that food and dining can be a refined experience. Strange combinations can be exciting and they open a new taste sensation and this was all under one roof. Credit must go to Sidney for inspiring me to educate myself as much as possible in food and eventually studying further in the culinary arts. After every dining experience at Zest, I would go home and read and practice whatever I had experience in his restaurant. This is still my favourite restaurant and I still enjoy the food and the experience there very much!

2006 marks the next major development in my final decision to change from graphic designer to food, when I met Regina Calitz who came to me as a client. She started a new restaurant called “f” and needed a logo and marketing material. From Regina I learned that food is drama and that drama can be on a plate as well. What a dramatic pleasure it was when she came out of the kitchen with your plate of hot chicken curry singing an aria from Carmen! Just plain good food, no frills, no pretense, it was a pity when she had to close her doors about a year ago! But I will always remember her as the one person that finally helped me to make the transition.

By 2009 I knew I have to change my career and 2010 was the year to do so! Since then, I haven’t looked back. I recently secured the necessary funding for a little deli/eatery and I am looking for a suitable space to open Taste Café – the next leg of my journey!

Posted in Best Find

Garlic Confit – Best Food Find

Life without garlic? Too ghastly to even contemplate such a thing.  The tiny cloves –  of the humble Allium Sativum –  are pungent, intensely aromatic and packed with an impressive flavour – an irreplaceable and unique ingredient that will lift and add dimension to any dish, even macaroons!

I find it marvelous what one tiny little garlic clove can do. Whether sautéed, roasted or raw, its presence already predicts that said dish will be delicious, dramatic and transformed. 

But have you ever tried using garlic confit? If you haven’t then you’re in for a wonderful treat.

The term confit is used to describe anything that has been cooked slowly in fat or oil into a rich, succulent texture. Most recipes call for the garlic to be poached in oil, however at Taste Café we have decided to slowly bake ours in a clay dish in the oven, baked this way the slow baking process adds a tremendous depth of nutty flavour, marrow like texture and a sweet and pleasant aroma. These tender little morsels are bottled and can last for up to 6 months as long as they are covered by the olive oil in the refrigerator. 

The confit cloves can be used to flavor soups, sauces, pastas, vinaigrettes, marinades or mashed potatoes. For a quick but sublime nibble, spread them on a crusty slice of ciabatta, as Jamie Oliver will say – Happy Times!

To add extra flavour we add a few sprigs of thyme to the baking process. Extra Virgin Olive oil is my preferred oil to confit garlic, since the temperature of the oil doesn’t get too high, its natural flavour is preserved and then slowly imbued with the delicate garlic flavour as the cloves slowly bake in the oven.

And the confited garlic is not the only thing that will add zing to your recipes. Every drop of the oil will, too. Use the oil in salad dressings and marinades, drizzle it on veggies, or dip some bread in it.

On the health side various garlic health benefits have long been claimed and the “stinking rose” treatment has been used extensively in herbal medicine (phytotherapy) down the centuries. It’s been considered by many to be a herbal “wonder drug”, with a reputation in folklore for preventing or treating everything from the common cold and fluto the Plague!

Amongst the most interesting potential applications are suggestions that garlic might be able to assist some people in the management of blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Modern science has shown that garlic is a powerful natural antibiotic, albeit broad-spectrum rather than targeted. The bacteria in the body do not appear to evolve resistance to the garlic as they do to many modern antibiotics. This means that its positive health benefits can continue over time rather than helping to breed antibiotic resistant “superbugs”.

Whichever way you use your garlic confit, you’ll be astounded by its subtle yet rich flavour. I can only hope that it’ll become a favorite pantry item in your household too. And remember Garlic Confit is available from Taste Café at R30 for a 110ml bottle packed full of great flavour.

Life of a Food Blogger is all about Sacrifice!

In the name of good food and advancing the adventure of enjoying your food to a greater extend, food bloggers sometimes have to make things and then eat it to proof their point and to sing the wonderful properties of the food they prepare. Well, it is a beautiful early autumn Friday in March in South Africa, when I decided to make the toast, spread the garlic confit for the photographs to this article and eat it for breakfast. Usually after eating that much garlic as in the photo, I won’t even be thinking of going out, however, I decided to do a little experiment to proof my point that the garlic confit don’t have that terrible smell traditionally associated normally with garlic. 

I ate the toast covered with the garlic confit and then made a point to ask those I came into contact with if they could smell garlic on my breath and most had to take a third sniff to realise the soft smell of the garlic confit. So garlic lovers, feel free to spread it!

Here is my easy and quick toast with garlic confit. You’ll need a ciabatta or any other fresh-baked bread, try The Bread Gypsy on the Pretoria Farmer’s Market, their bread is amazing and goes well with most of the Taste Café products. Get yourself a bottle of Garlic Confit from the Taste Café stall on the Farmer’s Market. Cut thick slices of bread, toast them, spread the garlic confit and serve it with freshly toasted sesame seeds and organic flaky salt. If you serve it as a lunch, a glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc really accompanies the garlic well. Enjoy the good life!