Archive | March, 2012

Asian Mushrooms and Pak Choy in a Crispy Noodle Basket with a Poached Egg

6 Mar

This recipe was inspired by a dish we had at Kitima in Hout Bay. Kitima was given the award for the best Asian restaurant in the South African Eat Out Awards this year. I can see why.

Behind its traditional Cape Dutch facade hides a series of beautiful lounges, secluded private dining rooms, bars and terraces. All opulently decorated with gold and brocade. It has that real “East Meets West” feel that many fail to acheive.

The large menu and extensive wine list is accompanied by knowledgeable staff and excellent service. The food is more reasonably priced than you would expect from this level of service and surroundings.

We ordered the Veggie Gau, steamed rice paper dumplings filled with carrot,water chestnut, pickled Chinese radish, shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots. They came with a dipping sauce and some lovely crispy fried garlic to sprinkle over the soft dumplings.

And some Vegetable California, “Inside out” sushi rice rolls filled with cucumber, carrot, pickled radish, avocado & Japanese mayonnaise. They came with the usual wasabi, soy and sushi ginger.

We also ordred a Thai Green Vegetable Curry, Pad Thai Noodles and my favourite dish of the night, Kitima’s Mushroom Basket. This had fresh mushrooms wok-fried with cashew nuts, onion, carrots and water chestnut nestled in a crispy potato basket. Everything was full of flavour and authenticly spiced. By which I mean it was hot. Which is a good thing.

So, you will have probably noticed from the title (and the pictures) that I did not make a crispy potato basket. Well, I tried! They very kindly let me have the recipe and I gave it a go unfortunately without success. My excuse is that you need an industrial sized fryer (and an experienced chef) to make it work.

You finely julienne the potatoes, toss them in corn flour and line them on the inside of a stainless steel bowl. Then you submerge the bowl in the hot oil using a metal ladle to hold the bowl under and keep the basket shape. I didn’t have a metal bowl small enough to be able to submerge it in the oil (I used a wok as a fryer) so The Washer Up suggested that I line the potatoes in a sieve so that the oil could get in and cook them. Genius, I thought, it cooked the potatoes and held the shape.

But then I couldn’t get it out of the sieve, it was stuck! Fail number one…

Fail number two involved lining the potato matchsticks around the inside of my stainless steel hand juicer bowl. It was small enough, I thought to submerge it in the oil in the wok. But no still no go. So then he suggested that I should put the oil in a smaller pan so that the oil would be deeper. You see this is why we are together, I would never have thought of that. My mind doesn’t work like that.

It worked, the potatoes fried and it (kind of) held its shape. The problem came when we tried to turn it out of the bowl. They all fell out in a pile and they were soggy, not crispy at all.

By this time I was totally losing the will to live and starving hungry. Not a good combination.

The Washer Up to the rescue again, looks at the left over cooked soba noodles from last nights dinner and chucks them in the hot oil. They bubble and splutter a bit but they stick together and cook. Lifting the whole lacey noodle disc onto some kitchen paper to drain he moulds it, while still warm, into a basket shape. Success at last. We have a crispy basket. And soba noodles are so much better for you than potatoes anyway. Even if they are deep-fried.

I adjusted the mushroom recipe slightly too by adding some dried chinese mushrooms and using pak choy instead of water chestnuts because I didn’t have any. The poached egg and watercress were inspired by the gorgeous breakfast we had at Ile de Pain in Knysna. So this is really a hybrid of two of the best dishes we ate while away. It makes the perfect brunch or lunch dish and you don’t have to worry about the potato basket because I’ve already been there…

Asian Mushrooms & Pak Choy in Crispy Noodle Basket with a Poached Egg (optional)

Serves 2, vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from the Kitima recipe 

Prep time: 20 mins Cooking time: 10 mins

  • 50 gr dried soba noodles, cooked according to packet instrustions, drained, rinsed under cold water
  • oil for deep frying
  • 200 gr mushrooms, wiped & finely sliced
  • 25 gr dried chinese mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 20 mins or more (reserve the soaking liquid)
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1 large spanish spring onion (or 4 scallions) green & white parts
  • 2 heads of pak choy, rinsed, leaves whole, white parts chopped
  • 50 gr cashew nuts
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp chilli bean paste
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • white pepper
  • a handful of fresh coriander, stalks & leaves chopped seperately
  • sesame seeds to garnish
  • raw carrot & red pepper julienne to garnish (optional)
  • watercress
  • 2 eggs (optional)

Remove the dried mushrooms from their soaking liquid (keep the mushroomy stock for later) and slice.

Heat the oil to about 180 C. Take a handful of the cooked, drained noodles (they should be dry) and drop them carefully into the hot oil. It will bubble up. After a minute or so, using a metal slotted spoon, check that the noodles are crispy and browned. Remove with the slotted spoon to drain on kitchen paper and, while still warm, gently mould into a basket shape. Repeat to make a second basket. Set aside.

Heat a tbsp oil in a frying pan or wok over a medium high heat. Add in the garlic, ginger, coriander stalks & chilli paste and cook fro about a minute. Then add the carrots and the white parts of the spring onions. Stri fry for 30 seconds then add both types of  mushrooms, the white parts of the pak choy and the cashew nuts (save some for topping).

Stir fry until barely cooked then add a splash of the mushroom soaking liquid. Season with the soy sauce, sugar, white pepper, sesame oil, rice wine & rice vinegar. Throw in the green parts of the spring onions, pak choy leaves, most of the coriander and cook for another minute.

Taste and adjust sugar and soy sauce as required.

For the poached eggs. Bring a medium pan of water to a boil and squirt in a little vinegar. Crack the eggs into separate teacups. When boiling turn off the heat, stir the water to create a little whirlpool and carefully slide the eggs into the water. Put the lid on and leave them for 3-4 minutes.

Remove them with a slotted spoon to drain on kitchen paper.

Put a handful of watercress on each plate and top it with the noodle baskets. Fill the baskets with the mushroom stir fry, topping with a few carrot & pepper juliennes. Carefully place the poached eggs on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds and a few coriander leaves.

Serve immediately.

For more information about Kitima visit their website here.

Enjoy!!

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Cakes with salsa, raita and red onion maramalade

2 Mar

It’s so good to be back in the kitchen after three weeks of eating out every day. The first recipe inspired by our trip to South Africa is for these beautiful Butternut and Chickpea Cakes that we enjoyed at Ile de Pain in Knysna. You can read my review of this fantastic place here.

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Light, spicy and delicious they are fantastic with the trio of sauces. The spicy tomato and chilli salsa, the cool and creamy cucumber and coriander raita and the sweet red onion maramalade. They all compliment each other so well to create a perfectly well balanced combination of flavours that really dance in your mouth.

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You can use any sweet fruit chutney you have knocking around instead of the marmalade if you don’t have the patience, time or inclination to make you own. But if you do have the time it is a great thing to have in your fridge. Serve it with any burgers or patties, with a grilled goat’s cheese salad or transform a cheese sandwich into a gourmet experience by topping it with a spoonful of red onion marmalade and a handful of rocket or watercress leaves.

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Butternut Squash and Chickpea Cakes Recipe
Serves 4 (12 patties), vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free. Adapted from the Ile de Pain recipe.
Prep Time: 30 mins (plus 1 hr in the fridge if possible) Cooking Time: 10 mins

400 gr butternut squash, peeled & cut into 1-2 cm cubes
1 tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp olive oil

1 tin/jar (400 gr) cooked chickpeas, rinsed & drained
40 gr (1/3 cup) polenta/cornmeal (or breadcrumbs) plus extra for coating
1 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic (about 3 cloves)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 egg
a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 190 C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Tip the squash cubes onto the tray and drizzle with the olive oil. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together and sprinkle it over the squash. Toss it all together with your hands so it is evenly coated. Roast for 15-20 minutes until golden and soft when pierced with a knife.

Meanwhile, put the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl then tip the cooked squash into the bowl as well. Mix everything together well with your hands, squishing the squash and chickpeas to create a mushy but still a bit chunky mixture. Squish until the mixture comes together and holds it’s shape.

At this point you can cover the surface of the mixture directly with cling film and refrigerate for an hour or until needed. It will firm up in the fridge and be easier to work with but you can make them straight away if you can’t wait. Meanwhile make the sauces (see recipes below).

Divide and shape the mixture into 12 equal patties (about 60 gr. each). Pour some polenta (or breadcrumbs) onto a large flat plate and lightly dip the patties into the polenta on each side as well as rolling the sides in it too.

Heat about 1/2 cm of olive oil in a frying pan until hot then turn it down to medium and cook the patties for 4-5 minutes on each side until golden and crispy.

Serve immediately with the trio of sauces and some salad leaves.

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Red Onion Marmalade Recipe
Makes 1 big jar (about 500 ml), vegan, gluten-free.
Prep Time: 10 mins Cooking Time: 90 mins

1.25 kg red onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
65 gr raw cane sugar (or white sugar)
185 gr brown sugar
280 ml cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped

Put the onions in a large pan on a low heat, stir occasionally and cook gently for 30-40 minutes until soft.

Add the sugars and cook for another 10 minutes.

Add the vinegar and cook, stirring occasionally until thick and jammy (about 45 mins).

Stir in the salt, pepper and thyme and spoon into sterilised jars. Leave to cool then store in the fridge.

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Cucumber, Coriander & Lemon Raita
Serves 4, vegetarian, gluten-free. The Washer Up’s recipe.

Prep Time: 5 mins

250 ml Greek yoghurt (2 pots)
about 10 cm cucumber cucumber, deseeded & finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, finely grated (or to taste)
4 tbsp finely chopped coriander
the juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt & black pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl and taste. Adjust salt & lemon juice as necessary.

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Tomato & Chilli Salsa
Serves 4, vegan, gluten-free. The Washer Up’s recipe.

Prep time: 5 mins
2 small tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2-1 chilli, finely chopped (depending on you and the chilli)
2 spring onions, green & white parts, finely chopped
2 or 3 tbsp olive oil
a squeeze of lemon juice
salt & black pepper

Mix everything together in a bowl and taste. Adjust seasoning as required.

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I hope you enjoy these as much as we did, they’re really good, thanks Ile de Pain!

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My Interview with ELLE Magazine in South Africa

1 Mar

Just a quickie to fill you in on what’s been going on. Very excitingly, since returning to Spain I have had an interview published online in the South African ELLE magazine. Here’s the link if you want to see the whole article with pictures of some of the food and places I mention in the interview

EAT YOUR VEGETABLES

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Introducing Natalie Ward, food writer, Cook Eat Live blogger, photographer and stylist, who specialises in delicious vegan and vegetarian cuisine. Natalie lives in Andalucia, Spain, but recently visited Cape Town where she compiled a list of the best restaurants for vegetarian and vegan food. We asked:

Why do you prefer a vegetarian lifestyle?

When I was younger the reason I didn’t want to eat meat was because I didn’t want to eat animals. It didn’t make sense to me. Now it is more to do with the health benefits of a meat-free diet. In 2009, aged 36, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. It made me change my lifestyle completely. I gave up all cow’s milk products, sugar (including fruit), caffeine, alcohol, smoking and all processed foods. By the time I was operated to remove the 2x3cm tumor, it had shrunk to almost nothing.

How would you describe ‘whole foods’ eating?

I see whole foods as real, unprocessed foods – local and organic where possible, and not messed about with. No preservatives, additives or chemicals. It’s just about being more aware of what you put in your body and where it has come from, buying fresh ingredients and cooking them from scratch, rather than buying ready meals and heating them up in a microwave.

Is the whole foods/vegetarian lifestyle a challenge when eating out?

Definitely, but it’s getting better. I moved from England to Spain 11 years ago and it was basically impossible to eat out. The only thing I could eat was tortilla (Spanish omelettes) or a salad. And even that would have tuna in it. The Spanish think fish is vegetarian! I find it a lot easier to eat out here in South Africa.

Have you developed any of your own recipes?

Yes, for my blog, Cook Eat Live Vegetarian. I get inspiration from books, TV programmes and restaurants, but mainly from what I see growing in the fields where we walk the dog in the mornings. I create seasonal vegetarian recipes with a world flavour.

What brought you to South Africa?

My dad lives in Cape Town. We came on holiday here for the first time four years ago and fell in love with it. The food here is amazing. The quality and choice of restaurants and cafes is unbelievable. In Europe we still have a preconceived idea of what Africa is like. I am making it my mission to change that.

How do meat-loving South Africans fare in terms of vegetarian dishes and restaurants?

For a nation of meat eaters you do veggie exceptionally well. Most of the restaurants I have visited or contacted have had a choice of vegetarian options on their menu. A few have even created a vegetarian tasting menu especially for me with wine pairings. I could definitely get used to that!

Which dishes/restaurants/dining experiences have you enjoyed the most?

So far we loved Babel at Babylonstoren. There is a beautiful fruit and vegetable garden that you can have a guided tour of before enjoying a delicious lunch made from the produce you have just seen growing. Planet at The Mount Nelson has a five-course vegan tasting menu, which is unheard of. The Greenhouse prepared a wonderful seven-course vegetarian tasting menu which was a definite highlight. Peter Tempelhoff has made the balance of flavour and texture an art form. Ryan at Haute Cabriere also prepared a special five-course vegetarian tasting with wine pairings for us. Each one of the dishes was created especially to compliment a different one of their gorgeous wines rather than the wine being matched to the food. A real experience. The Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz has a refreshingly modern outlook; the place is absolutely stunning, leading the way in new informal wine farms. It also has a fabulous spa and guesthouse. Ile de Pain in Knysna makes some of the best breads and cakes I have ever tasted. The Portuguese custard tarts (pasteis de nata) are to die for. And finally Reuben’s. We ate at two of his restaurants and I have to say that his flavours stand out for me. His use of fresh herbs and spices is genius.

What makes a restaurant a winner for you?

It’s about the all-round experience for me. It’s a real art to get everything right and to create a positively memorable dining experience.

If you’re interested in the health benefits of eating a whole-foods plant-based diet, Natalie suggests reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. Click here to explore Cook Eat Live or follow Natalie on twitter @Foodblogdog

Can you see me smiling and jumping up and down from where you are?

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