Tag Archives: fruit.

Chewy Fruit and Nut Muesli Bars

28 Feb Chewy Fruit & Nut Muesli Bars

Chewy Fruit & Nut Muesli Bars

This is the next recipe in my Sweet & Healthy series. I used to buy muesli bars all the time, I took them to work and college to snack on in the afternoon, you know when you get that craving for something sweet. The companies that make these spend millions on packaging and marketing to make you believe that they are the healthy alternative and are actually good for you.

So no true.

Chewy Fruit & Nut Muesli Bars

Nearly all of them are packed with sugar and oil or butter so that any goodness you might be getting from the fruit, seeds and nuts is completely irrelevant. You might as well buy a toffee apple with a side order of candy floss.

Fruit & Nut Muesli Bars

Making your own is really quick and easy, you have complete control over what goes in them and you aren’t paying for fake organic looking packaging and advertising campaigns with sunny farms in them. If you don’t like raisins leave them out, prefer hazelnuts to almonds then put them in instead.

Chewy Fruit & Nut Muesli Bars

Chewy Fruit & Nut Muesli Bars Recipe

Makes 8-12 depending how you cut them. Vegan, Gluten-free

  • 1 large very ripe banana
  • 90 g (1 cup) oats (gf)
  • 5 Tbsp grated coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 Tbsp (1/2 cup) flax meal
  • 1 Tbsp honey/agave syrup
  • 4 Tbsp oat milk (or your choice of milk)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 50 g (1/3 cup) raisins
  • 50 g (1/3 cup) sunflower seeds
  • 50 g (1/3 cup) dried cranberries
  • 50 g (1/3 cup) flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 175C and line a baking sheet with baking paper brushed with a little oil.

Put the chopped banana, oats, coconut, vanilla, flaxmeal, cinnamon and honey in a food processor and pulse together slowly. Add the milk a tablespoon at a time until it comes together. Add in the rest of the ingredients and pulse together again. You can blend it really well or leave some bits chunky.

Tip the mixture out onto the lined baking sheet and shape it into a flat, even square about 1/2 cm thick with a spatula. It takes a bit of time & patience to make it even but they will be easier to cut into squares or rectangles later. Top with a few more flaked almonds and sunflower seeds and press them down a bit.

Bake for 11-13 minutes until the edges are just starting to brown. Cut into 12 squares or 8 rectangles while still warm. Leave to cool and store in an airtight container.

Chewy Fruit & Nut Muesli Bars

It is my first Healthy Baking with Chocolate Workshop this Saturday 2nd March 5pm-9m. We will be making and tasting:

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Filling

Dark Chocolate & Orange Almond Torte

Chocolate, Date & Walnut Energy Truffles

Chocolate, Hazelnut & Date Caramel Tart with an Almond Crust

Wholemeal Chocolate Chunk & Hazelnut Cookies

All of these recipes use wholemeal spelt flour or ground almonds rather than processed flours. We use coconut oil or olive oil instead of butter and use honey, maple syrup or miel de cana instead of refined sugars.

Here’s a preview of the cookies. If you are lucky I might have time to share the recipe with you next week…

Vegan Wholemeal Chocolate Chunk & Hazelnut Cookies

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Sweet Quince, Fennel Seed and Pistachio Sambousek Pastries

29 Oct Sweet Sambouseks

I made these little pastries using the Persian Quince Jam from last post but you could use any jam you like. I have used this lovely fig & honey compote before too which is great if you don’t like using sugary jams.

Sambouseks are little samosa-like pastries that are normally savoury and filled with meat or cheese. I made these savoury Fig & Feta Sambouseks before, so this is just a little step in a sweeter direction. The picture below is of the savoury sambouseks and demonstrates the folding technique.

Sweet Quince, Fennel Seed & Pistachio Sambousek Pastries Recipe

Makes 16-20 pastries. Vegetarian/Vegan.

  • 225 g (1 1/2 cups) white spelt flour (or normal)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil plus extra for brushing
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 110 ml (1/2 cup) warm water
  • jam/compote/carne de membrillo
  • feta cheese or ricotta or queso fresco (optional)
  • honey or agave syrup
  • a handful of pistachios, very finely chopped

Sieve the flour sugar and salt into a large bowl then stir in the fennel seeds. Add the olive oil, mixing it in with a fork then make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the warm water. With your hand, fold the flour into the water, turning the bowl as you go until you get a sticky dough.

Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky, 1 or 2 minutes. Wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking sheets with parchment brushed with a little oil.

Flour your work surface and rolling-pin and roll the dough out until it is about 2mm thick. Cut out small circles about 3 inches in diameter (use a floured cutter or a glass). Lift the excess pastry away from the circles  and re-roll it and cut out more circles. Keep doing this until you have used most of the dough. You should get 16-20 in total depending on the thickness of your dough.

Put the circles on the lined baking tray and, using a teaspoon place a small amount of jam in the centre of the circle and top with a little cheese (if using). Lift up the two opposite edges and seal them above the filling. Seal the two other ends by pinching them together to create a four-cornered sambousek. (See picture above). They can be refrigerated at this point if necessary.

Brush the tops of the sambouseks with a little olive oil and bake for 15 -25 minutes until golden and cooked. Leave to cool slightly then brush the tops with honey or agave syrup and dip them in the finely chopped pistachios.

Serve the sweet sambouseks warm or at room temperature with a glass of fresh mint tea or Turkish coffee.

Enjoy!!

Persian Quince Jam with Cardamom and Rosewater For Breakfast

27 Oct Persian Quince Jam

Quince are  large yellow knobbly apple-shaped fruits that have a slightly floral flavour and ripen in the Autumn. On the tree they have a white furry layer over their skin that will probably be rubbed off if you see them for sale. You see old Spanish ladies buying  bags full at the market. They will be boiling up huge pots of them to make Carne de Membrillo, a sweet quince paste that is traditionally served with a nice cured Manchego cheese. Chica Andaluza has the recipe if you are interested.

I fancied making something a little different with my very modest single kilo of the fragrant fruit. It’s a very similar thing but comes via Persia to this table.

As I have mentioned before, in the summer we were cooking lunch for an Iranian family for a few weeks. We used to arrive every morning at about 11am  after shopping for the day’s food. As we were unpacking the shopping they would still be finishing off their breakfast. Breakfast was a long and luxurious family occasion that I found fascinating. The table was generously laid with breads, cheeses, fresh fruit, dried fruits, nuts, honey, yoghurt, tahini and cinnamon pancakes that one of the husbands made every day. A bowl of Bran Flakes and a quick cup of coffee it was not.

The family live in different cities all over the world but meet up once a year for a holiday together. On the first night, the Grandma arrived from Paris on a very late flight carrying a huge jar (like 5 litres) of something that looked like homemade chutney or jam. How on earth did she get that through customs? The daughters and granddaughters were very pleased though, it was obviously a family favourite that no holiday would be complete without.

I found out the next morning, when they let me taste some, that it was a very special quince jam that their Grandma had always made that they all loved. It took pride of place every morning on that amazing breakfast table. A perfect match for the cheese, like our very own Dulce de Membrillo.

She didn’t speak any English and my French is very rusty but I managed to get that there was cardamom in there, I could see the little black seeds too. The recipe is obviously a very closely guarded family secret because she always very politely managed to avoid telling me anything more. It was delicious, I can see why she was so protective of it.

So this is a recipe I found on the internet, it tastes very similar but not as good as Grandma’s obviously. The quince flesh turns from a very pale yellow when raw to a bright coral or even a rich ruby-red when cooked. It depends how long you cook it for and how often you open the lid. If you cover the pot with a tea towel and then put on the lid while cooking (and don’t peek) it goes darker like mine. I may have overdone it slightly I think.

Persian Quince Jam Recipe

Makes about 1 large jar, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Turmeric & Saffron

  • I used 4 quince (about 900 g), washed, cored & cubed or sliced (you can peel it too if you like)
  • 250 g sugar
  • 500 ml water
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 cardamom pods, bashed to open them
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 or 2 tbsp rosewater

Remove any dark bits in the fruit and squeeze half the lemon over the chopped pieces to stop discolouration.

Put the water and sugar in a large saucepan, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered for 5-7 minutes.  Add a splash more water if it is drying out.

Add the ground cardamom, the bashed cardamom pods and the quince to the sugar syrup, stir well, bring back to the boil and add 2 tbsp lemon juice. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the top with a tea towel then put on the lid. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until reduced and jam-like. Check it very occasionally and stir gently.

Add a tablespoon of rosewater and simmer for another few minutes. Carefully taste and add more rosewater if you like.

Pour or spoon the hot jam into sterilised jars, seal and leave to cool. When cool store in the fridge.

Serve for breakfast with a creamy smooth cheese or yoghurt on toasted bread. Or go for the whole breakfast feast and fill the table with fresh fruit, gorgeous breads, a selection of cheeses, dried fruits, nuts, honey, yoghurt and cinnamon pancakes.

Take the time to sit down and enjoy a long leisurely weekend breakfast.

Fresh Fig and Almond Fumble

2 Oct Fig Fumble

A fumble, just in case you were wondering or being smutty, is a cross between a fool and a crumble. The best bits of two classic British desserts brought together to create something beautiful and simple to make. It is extremely versatile too. You can basically use whichever fruits are in season. Strawberries, apples, plums, mangoes, pears, rhubarb, gooseberries, you get the idea.

A fool is traditionally made with a fruit puree or compote stirred (or marbled) through whipped cream. I used goat’s yoghurt instead of cream, the sourness is fantastic with the sweet sticky fig compote. You could use Greek yoghurt or a mixture of yoghurt and whipped cream if you like.

My crumble is made with olive oil and honey rather than butter and sugar so it is all round a really healthy dessert. The crumble  is given extra flavour and crunch by adding flaked and ground almonds to the mix. I chose almonds because I saw  families picking their almonds at the same time as picking their figs today and the figs at the market looked beautiful.

I made a compote with the figs just by cooking them with some honey and a bit of water until it resembled runny jam. I left it to cool while I made the crumble mix. You just spread out all of the crumbly lumps on a baking sheet and cook it until it is browning. When it’s cool you can store it in an airtight container and use it to top ice creams, stewed fruit, yoghurt and anything else you think could do with a sweet crunch. This recipe makes more than you need so you should have some left over, unless you keep picking at it of course.

Fig & Almond Fumble Recipe

Makes 2, vegetarian. No butter, no sugar, no cream. Adapted form Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

  • 200 g soft ripe figs, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp water

Put the figs, honey and water in a sauce pan, bring to a  boil then lower the heat to medium and simmer until it resembles a jammy compote. About 3-5 minutes. Leave to cool.

  • 3 tbsp ground almonds
  • 6 tbsp wholemeal spelt flour (or any flour)
  • 3 tbsp oats
  • 3 tbsp flaked almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp honey

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking sheet with parchment. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Using a fork,  mix in the olive oil and honey the using your fingers make it resemble crumble. You should make lots of  clumpy crumble lumps. Spread the crumble out in one layer on the baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes but keep an eye on it incase it burns. It depends how big your clumps are as to how long it will take. It should be nicely browned. Now leave it to cool.

  • 2 pots or 250ml goat’s/Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • about 4 large tbsp fig compote in each serving
  • a large handful of crumble mix for each

When the compote and crumble mix have cooled, mix the yoghurt and vanilla in a bowl and swirl through the compote. Taste it and add some honey if you think it needs it but remember the crumble is going on top.

Pour into serving dishes and top with a generous handful of crumble mix. You may have to crumble it more if you have large clumps.

Enjoy!!

Pink Lychee Bellini Cocktail

7 Sep Lychees

I had never tried fresh lychee before I bought these. I thought I didn’t like them because the ones I had tried out of a tin tasted, well like tin, and syrup. Not a good combination.

So I bought these because they were cheap mainly and because The Washer Up kept trying to persuade me that they were lovely. And he was right. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before, that he was right I mean. He will be pleased.

It turns out that underneath that pink prehistoric armoured shell there is a delicately perfumed, lightly floral tasting, opalescent jewel of a fruit that is elegant, cool, sweet and delicious. Nothing at all like tin, which is nice.

I was going to make Lychee Martinis as that seems to be the lychee cocktail of choice but I saw Jamie Oliver doing Venice the other day and he was explaining the history of the Bellini that was invented in Harry’s Bar in Venice (something to do with the delicate peach colour resembling the golden glow in Bellini’s paintings) and he showed how to make an authentic one.

He used white peaches with their red skins still on (to get the light peachy colour) and he crushed the whole thing in his hand  through a sieve into a jug. He then mixed the pulp with Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) and poured it into the glass.

I tried to crush a lychee through a sieve, (there’s a first time for everything) but it didn’t work so I just pureed the fruits (without the seeds) with a stick blender. The puree is a milky white froth that I poured into the bottom of each glass and I topped it up with pink rose cava (Spanish sparkling wine) because I wanted it to echo the beautiful colour of the lychee skins. You could use normal sparkling instead for a more frosty effect.

Salud!!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Watermelon Agua Fresca

9 Jul Watermelon Agua Fresca

Just a little something to quench your thirst if you are suffering like me in this unbearable heat. Sorry if you are in the rain somewhere but you can pretend it’s sunny and cheer yourself up with this refreshingly tropical drink if you like.

When it is this hot all I seem to do all day is drink water. Water is good but I do get a bit bored of it after a while. Agua Frescas are fruit based non alcoholic punches popular in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is basically just pureed fruit with water, lime juice and honey to sweeten. This is a non alcoholic version because I wanted something refreshing to drink during the day but I’m sure a little vodka or rum would make it into a lovely cocktail.

I kept the watermelon rinds to make watermelon pickle. The recipe will follow in my next post.

Watermelon Agua Fresca

Makes 1 big pitcher/jug. Vegan, gluten-free

Prep time: 20 mins

  • 2 kg (4 pound) watermelon (1 small/med)
  • 250-300 ml (1+1/2 cups) cold water
  • 1 +1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 +1/2 tsp honey
  • ice cubes, lime slices & mint sprigs to serve

Cut the watermelon into quarters then slice into inch wide triangles/wedges. Cut the flesh from the rind leaving a little pink on (if you would like to make watermelon pickle with them). Blend the flesh in four batches with about 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) of water each time until smooth.

Carefully pour the blended watermelon through a sieve into your pitcher/jug and press out any extra juice from the pulp collected in the sieve with a spatula. Continue with the rest. You may want to add a little more water to the finished juice.

Add the lime juice and honey, mix well and taste. Add more lime/honey as required. Store covered in the fridge. Serve over lots of ice with lime slices and sprigs of mint as garnish.

Keep the rinds for the watermelon pickle recipe that follows in my next post.

Salud!!

Rustic Plum and Lavender Galette

4 Jul Plum & Lavender Galette

This post is dedicated to my Auntie Pat who left us unexpectedly on Monday night.  She was an amazing woman who lived life to the full and was always there for everyone no matter what. She has left a huge void in all our lives and no one really knows what to do next.

A Shining Star

She was like the sun

And we were all little planets floating around in her orbit

Some  near, some far away

But all held together by the magnetism of her warmth and love

They say the sun is just a huge star

And that the stars died millions of years ago

But we can still see them at night

So as long as there are stars up in the sky

She, the sun, will never die

I used the same wholemeal olive oil pastry recipe that I used for my Fresh Fig & Goat’s Cheese Quiche but added a few tablespoons of sugar, reduced the salt and added some dried lavender instead of the rosemary and oregano.

I’ve been wanting to make a galette for a while now but when I saw this recipe with stunning pictures on Cafe Fernando I knew I had to copy it. Arranging the plums like this is not as difficult as it looks but slicing them is a little fiddly, you need quite firm plums if you pardon the expression.

This amount of pastry made enough for one large galette and two mini individual ones. I cut around a large dinner plate for the large and two bread plates or saucers for the mini ones. I made a mini fig galette a mini plum. You could use nectarines, peaches, apples, pears or apricots too. Just try to keep them in one layer so the fruit doesn’t get too wet and make the pastry soggy.

Rustic Plum & Lavender Galette

Makes 1 large plus two mini individual galettes. Vegan.

Pastry recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini. Filling from Cafe Fernando

Prep time: 35 mins Cooking time 45 mins

  • 250 g wholemeal or spelt flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp chopped dried lavender (optional)
  • 2 tbsp raw or soft brown sugar
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) cold water

Mix the flour, salt, sugar & lavender (if using) in a large bowl then slowly add the oil mixing/mashing it in with a fork until crumbly. Add an ice-cube to the water and slowly pour it (not the ice-cube) into the flour and mix it in with the fork until just absorbed then bring it together with one hand kneading a little just until it forms a cohesive ball. Do not over work or it will be tough.

Roll it out on a lightly floured surface, turning it quarter turns as you go to stop it sticking, to the correct size about 2-3 mm thick. Flour your largest dinner plate, turn it onto the pastry and cut around it so you have a large circle. Carefully remove the circle to a piece of baking parchment and put in the fridge for 30 minutes while you prep the filling. Make mini ones with the leftover pastry using small bread plates or saucers.

  • plums (I used about 8 or 9 small ones and a couple of figs for the mini galette)
  • 2 tbsp or more raw or brown sugar (depending how sweet, or not the plums are)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp ground almonds (optional) I used this with the figs to soak up their juices
  • olive oil
  • apricot or plum jam
  • water

Prepare your fruit by halving, removing the stones and slicing them into 3- 5 mm thick pieces. They don’t have to be perfect, it’s easier if the fruit is underripe.

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Place the pastry circle on the baking paper on a baking tray. Leaving a border around the edge of about 1+ 1/2 inches clear, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar (plus the tablespoon of ground almonds for juicier fruit) evenly over the base of the pastry circle.

Overlap the fruit in a circle all around the outside edge inside the border. Then make another circle of overlapping fruit, going in the opposite direction, just inside the first one. Finish off with a mini circle going the same direction as the first one in the middle of the circle. (see pictures above).

Start to carefully roll up the edge of the pastry towards the fruit turning the tart (or paper) as you go around until it’s all done. Brush the edges of the pastry with olive oil and sprinkle the sugar all over the fruit. Use more if you think the fruit is very tart.

Bake for 40 -45 minutes (25-30 for the minis) until the pastry is golden and the fruit cooked. Leave to cool for 10 minutes. Make the glaze by melting a few tablespoons of seedless jam in a pan with a few tablespoons of water until it forms a smooth syrup. Paint this all over the fruit and serve the galette warm. Some vanilla ice cream or  creme fraiche would be nice to go with it but it is good on its own too.

I just wish she could be here to enjoy it.

For you Auntie Pat

With Lots of Love

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad with Pistachio and Parsley

5 Jun Watermelon Salad

I know it may be a little early in the season for watermelon where you are, or it may even be getting on for winter but I got a baby watermelon in my organic veg box this week. Look how cute it is.

Look, I put it next to a lemon for you so you can see how small it is. Watermelon is one of the ingredients in my favourite summer salad and it is definitely feeling a lot like summer here so this is what I made with it.

Watermelon, Feta & Mint Salad with Pistachio & Parsley

Serves 2, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from Nigella Lawson

  • 1/4 small red onion, very finely sliced
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 400 g watermelon, rind & most of the seeds removed then cut into approx. 4 cm triangles
  • 100g Greek Feta cheese
  • a handful of fresh parsley leaves, left whole
  • 5 or 6 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 8 black or purple olives, halved & stoned
  • black pepper
  • extra virgen olive oil
  •  a handful of shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • lemon wedges to serve

Put the finely sliced red onions in a small bowl and cover with the lemon juice. Leave to soak while you make the rest of the salad. This makes the flavour less harsh and turns them a pretty magenta colour.

Place the watermelon triangles in a beautifully random arrangement on your serving dish/plates. Cut or break  the feta into similar sized pieces as the watermelon and scatter them amongst the watermelon. Tear off sprigs/leaves of parsley and do the same. 

Tip the bright pink onions and their juices over the salad, add the olives, drizzle with a little olive oil and top with the chopped pistachios and a grinding of black pepper. Serve with extra wedges of lemon if you like.

This is me sending some much needed sunshine in the form of this beautiful salad to all the people in the UK celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee in the cold and rain.

This is my 93-year-old Grandad at a Jubilee garden party yesterday. He is wearing ski gloves, a shawl and a blanket over his legs. This is the 4th of June by the way, a typically English summer’s day!!

Sending you some sunshine Grandad, Enjoy!!

My Weekend Inspiration….

21 May Baby Persimmons

A lot of people ask where I get my inspiration and ideas from. It’s usually the first thing they ask me if they know about my blog. Apart from being influenced by all the amazing restaurants we visited in Cape Town recently, I get inspiration every day when I go out running with Rufus (the dog) and occasionally The Washer Up comes too.

It’s when I get time to think about ideas and things come together somehow. I’ll try to explain: on Saturday I saw this apricot on the ground as I was running past a field that normally has a Shetland pony in it. The pony is not there anymore but we always look to see if he’s come back.  I noticed that there were two apricot trees laden with fruit that were just about ripe. One had fallen on the ground so I took some pictures of it. I wanted to take some more close up pictures of the tree with the fruit on it but I am a bit short and would have to climb on a fence to get the shots. A job for The Washer Up definitely.  He was coming running with us on Sunday, I would have to wait.

Further on I saw these roses and had to stop to photograph them. The coral one is so beautiful I can still smell it now when I look at the picture, can you?

These apricot roses caught my eye aswell. It must be an apricot thing. So now we have apricots and roses, in my head I mean, not physically. I didn’t steal them, honest.

Next I noticed that the almond trees have started to bear fruit (or nut) and you can see little furry green pods all over the branches. These protect the young green almond inside. So almonds join the apricots and roses in my head. What does apricot, rose and almond say to you? To me it says, Moroccan, Middle Eastern exotic, floral, sweet pastries. Or even slow-cooked fragrant tagines sweetened with dried fruits and topped with crisp, toasted almonds. Or lightly aromatic Tabbouleh or couscous salads studded with jewel coloured fruits and crunchy nuts and flecked with bright green fresh herbs. So that is where my mind is going on that one. Watch this space, I am getting apricots in my organic veg box this week.

Oh and he got the apricot tree shots by the way….

Sunday was all about photographing baby fruits and getting excited about future summer recipes. The creative process begins now. There are baby persimmons to think about.

Watching pomegranate flowers turning into fruit before your eyes.

Baby quince with their furry skin just beginning to show.

And tiny little bunches of grapes peeking out from under the vine leaves. Lots to think about.

We also saw a farmer harvesting his red potato crop on the way round.

Very exciting, we had been watching them grow for a while but had no idea that they were red until now. Aren’t they lovely? He also had some enormous spring onions growing next to the potatoes. So I’ve now opened a new file in my head that contains red potatoes and spring onions.

There are also some beautifully vibrant green lettuces that are desperate to be included somewhere too.

On the way back home we went to a new organic farmers market that is held every Sunday morning in Coin. My friend Judi had told me about it, so we went to have a look. It’s a local initiative to encourage people to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from their neighbours rather than supermarkets. All the stallholders live in Coin and have private small holdings. Some are organic and some are not but it is all clearly marked.

And guess what the first organic stall we came across was selling?

Oh yes, red new potatoes. It’s the little things that make you happy isn’t it. We bought a kilo, I have no idea what I am going to do with a kilo of new potatoes but they were 50 cents, so I couldn’t ask for half could I?

They also had some young garlic at the back there. So this file now contains, baby new red potatoes, spring onions and spring garlic. It has got to be a potato salad with those ingredients. But not a rich mayonnaise heavy potato salad, I’m thinking more of a light wine and stock cooked potato salad with olive oil, herbs, spring onions and garlic. It’s a French thing, I’ve seen it on Barefoot Contessa. I may have to try roasting some too as I have bought so many….

It’s only a small market but there was a local potter doing his thing and we also bought some of these deliciously sweet little organic strawberries.

They have a special destiny in a separate mental folder that I will share with you tomorrow…….

Indochine Melon Coconut Curry, Lemongrass, Coriander, Rice Noodles

26 Mar Indochine Melon Curry

This was one of the five different vegetarian curries we had the pleasure of trying at Indochine restaurant on the Delaire Graff Wine Estate. The whole experience was out of this world but this curry was the best I have ever had. And I’ve had a lot. I’d even go so far as to say it is one of the best dishes I have ever tried from anywhere in the world.

It’s unusual, elegant, fragrant, well-balanced, exotic, beautiful and totally delicious. It’s not actually on the menu, the chef on the evening that we were there, Virgil prepared a special selection of vegetarian curries for us to try. If anyone is listening from Indochine, you should definitely put it on your menu. It is really fantastic.

The drive up to the Delaire Graff Wine Estate has stunning views of the surrounding mountains and when you drive up through the shady tree-lined drive to see the well-manicured lawns and row upon row of parallel vines, you know you have arrived somewhere special.

And if you thought that the exterior was beautiful you have to see the interior to believe it.  The entrance lobby is flooded with light and filled with huge exotic flower arrangements. Bronze sculptures and water features punctuate the space, creating a modern African glass jungle.

Contributing to the theme, the lounge areas are decorated with gold and ebony pieces that transport you the colonial luxury lodge of your dreams. Or is it just me? I could definitely get used to this.

The restaurant has floor to ceiling glass doors opening out onto a terrace that takes full advantage of those spectacular views.  The copper and blue theme mirrors the red earth and blue sky of the surroundings bringing the outdoors in.

The curved banquette seating, facing the view is perfect for an intimate dinner for two.

A lovely detail, they have little pots of microherbs on the tables. Should you need a little more coriander.

Let’s get onto the food. First a bamboo basket arrived filled with pickled cucumber, black rice crackers (amazing), sweet potato crisps and a trio of sauces to go with them. Passionfruit, cucumber and pineapple & chilli. We chose a bottle of the Delaire Sauvignon Blanc as recommended by our excellent waiter. It had a hint of passionfruit which made it the perfect wine pairing with the spicy, fragrant dishes to come.

The amuse bouche was a little mouthful of tofu, mushroom, edamame and coconut sauce. Beautifully presented on a piece of slate. You may have noticed that I am plating some of my food on a slate tile at the moment. This is where the inspiration came from.

Our starter was an Indian Spiced Makhani Tofu Croquette, cinnamon confit tomatoes, pickled root vegetables, raita, beet leaves and tomato chutney. Presented on a slate tile again. You can see how all the colours stand out so beautifully.

We also ordered a Green Mango Salad with lime juice, chilli, ginger, coriander, mint. This classic Asian dish is refreshing, light, crisp and fresh. It makes a great side dish because of the contrast in textures. The cold crunch of the unripe mango with the hot spicy sauces of the curries. You can see why it is a classic all over Asia.

We were then presented with a palate cleanser. Apple and Ginger Sorbet with a sake shot. Oh alright then.

The sous chef Virgil came out with our main courses to explain the selection of curries he had made for us.

Tapioca Pearls with Curried Squash and Tofu Tom Yam, never has tapioca tasted so good or looked so beautiful.

Thai Green Pak Choi Curry with broccoli, sugar snaps, edamame, spring onions, light, fragrant and spicy

Melon Coconut Curry with lemongrass, ginger, coriander, chilli and fresh mint. Mind blowing honestly.

Lychee Red Curry with pickled cabbage, coconut, ginger and sprouts. This fruit in curry thing is going to catch on.

Burmese Aubergine Curry, tomato, garlic, cumin, coriander and turmeric. Aromatic and spicy.

For dessert we ordered the Trio of Creme Brulee because why wouldn’t you?

White Chocolate & Chilli, Ginger & Lime, Coconut. Heaven on a plate.

This restaurant has some of the best food I have ever tasted. It is daring, exquisite and mouth-wateringly good. If you live in SA and you haven’t been, you need to go. Exceptional food and service in luxurious surroundings.  Go on, treat yourself you know you want to. For more details and menus check out their website here.

For those of you that don’t live in South Africa, you need to try this recipe. And if you’re saying “Eww melon in curry, that’s gross” you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. The cool sweetness with the spicy, aromatic sauce is an unbelieveable combination that deserves some recognition. Do it.

You will have to make your own curry paste and coriander puree but don’t let that put you off it is not difficult and it is so worth it. You will also need to get a melon baller if you haven’t already got one leftover from the Seventies. You can serve it with plain rice or some thick rice (stick) noodles like I did.

Indochine Melon Coconut Curry with Rice Noodles

Serves 4, Vegan, Gluten-free. Adapted from the Indochine recipe

Prep time: 25 mins Cooking time: 20 mins

For the curry paste:

  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 5 white peppercorns
  • 1 pinch grated nutmeg
  • 4 small green chillies, deseeded and chopped (depending on the chilli)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped/minced lemongrass
  • 1/2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic (about 3 cloves) finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lime/lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped coriander stalks
  • a big pinch of salt

Blend everything together in a mortar and pestle or food processor until you get a smooth- ish paste. Set aside.

For the Coriander Puree:

  • a bunch of fresh coriander leaves(or a mix of coriander & basil), roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1 bowl of iced water

Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the bicarb. Plunge the coriander into the hot water and leave until the water starts to turn green. Drain off most of the water and blend to a smooth puree in a measuring jug. Cool down by putting the measuring jug in the iced water.

For the Curry:

You can use which ever melon is available, two different colours is nice.

  • about 500 gr (rind on weight) watermelon
  • about 500 gr (rind on weight) green melon
  • 2 cans coconut milk (do not shake before opening), I used low-fat
  • 2 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • coriander puree (see above) I used about 2 or 3 tbsp
  • salt
  • thick rice (stick) noodles for 4 people (or rice)
  • fresh mint leaves, rolled up & finely shredded for garnish
  • toasted coconut for garnish
  • vermicelli rice noodles deep-fried for garnish (optional)

Scoop out balls of melon flesh with the melon baller but leave the excess on the rind. Scrape out the excess flesh into a food processor and blend to a smooth puree.

To a large pan over a medium high heat, add the tops of the coconut milk (the thick cream bit) and cook until bubbling and starting to reduce. Add the curry paste and stir for 3 minutes until fragrant. Add the rest of the tins of coconut milk, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

Cook the rice noodles according to the instructions on the packet.

Add the palm sugar, lemon juice and salt to the sauce then stir in the coriander puree and melon puree and taste. Adjust salt, lemon juice as required. Then add the melon balls, stirring to coat them in the sauce and heat through.

To make the vermicelli garnish, heat some oil in deep-frying pan until it sizzles when you test it with a dried noodle. Carefully drop a bunch of the dried rice vermicelli into the oil , it will puff up straight away. Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen paper.

Serve the curry over rice noodles, garnished with the shredded mint leaves, toasted coconut and fried vermicelli (if using).

Thanks Indochine for a fabulous evening and for introducing us to the genius of fruit in curry. I am desperate to try the lychee one next…

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