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Italian Courgette Crostata with Goat’s Cheese, Garlic and Basil

11 Oct

There is a whole field of courgette plants that I pass every morning with the dog. I have been watching the vegetables grow out of their delicate sunshine flowers and waiting for the day that I arrive and they have  all been harvested. I really hope they don’t leave them too long. They do that a lot here. Leave the courgettes to get too big before they pick them. I know if you grow your own that it is difficult to keep up with the mountain of courgettes that the plants produce but on a farm there is no excuse.

There is nothing worse than big, fat, watery courgettes. You really need them when they are young, firm and still squeaky. Like these ones I found at the market on Sunday.  These were only a euro for a kilo so I had to buy a kilo obviously.

Then you get home and realise you have a load of courgettes. One of my favourite things to cook with them at the moment is this crostata, we have it for dinner about once a week. A crostata is a freeform tart, an Italian version of a French galette. You cut a big circle of pastry, leave an inch or two border spread the base with some ricotta or yoghurt mixed with garlic & herbs, then make pretty concentric circles with courgette slices and brush with some herby garlic oil. You then roll up and crimp the edges and bake. It’s as easy as that, especially with this quick olive oil pastry recipe.

Courgette Crostata with Goat’s Cheese, Garlic & Basil Oil

Serves 4-6 as part of a meal. Vegetarian. Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the spelt olive oil pastry:

  • 250 g spelt or wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried herbs (I used 1/2 thyme 1/2 oregano)
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) cold water

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and herbs, drizzle in the olive oil mixing/mashing it in with a fork until well combined (a bit like crumble mix). Measure out the water then add an ice-cube to it. Slowly pour the cold water (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. shape into a flat disc, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge until ready to use. It doesn’t need long but will keep well for a few days like that.

For the filling:

  • 2 firm small/med. courgettes, sliced into 1/2 cm coins on a slight diagonal
  • 1 pot goats yoghurt (about 100ml) or ricotta or greek yoghurt
  • a handful of grated manchego cheese (or parmesan/cheddar)
  • 25 gr crumbled goats cheese or feta
  • grated lemon zest 1/2 tsp
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1+1/2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • fresh basil leaves, finely sliced (plus extra for garnish)  or 1 tsp basil pesto
  • salt & black pepper

Lay the courgette slices on kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt and leave to sit while you prepare the pastry & filling.

In a small bowl mix (or blend) together the olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes, basil (or pesto) & lemon zest. Mix 1 tbsp of this in another bowl with the yoghurt (or ricotta), and cheeses. Season with salt & black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.  Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, turning it quarter turns as you go to stop it sticking, to a very rough circle about 2-3 mm thick.  Take your largest dinner plate or serving plate,  place it lightly on the pastry and cut around it, remove the excess pastry and keep it in the fridge if there is enough for another small tart. Remove the plate with a sharp knife and lift the circle carefully, on a floured rolling pin, onto the lined baking tray.

Leaving a border round the edge of about an inch or two, spread the cheesy mixture out evenly over the pastry. Dry the tops of your courgette slices well with kitchen towel and then start laying them, overlapping slightly, around the edge still leaving the border clear.  When you have finished the outside circle start another circle going in the opposite direction just inside the first. Then overlap a few slices in the middle. See pictures above for these stages.

Drizzle and/or brush the rest of the garlicky herb oil all over the courgettes and then start to fold up the edges by turning the paper and folding and pleating as you go. Brush the pleated border with a little olive oil and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until bubbling and golden. Leave to sit for 5 minutes then scatter over a few fresh basil leaves and serve.

Serve with a simple lemon & olive oil dressed green salad or this delicious White Bean Mash. This is a very versatile recipe, you could easily switch up the herbs and cheese to use whatever you have in the fridge.

I know I said I bought a kilo of courgettes and I only used two of them in this dish and I also know that a lot of you are overrun with courgettes at certain times of the year so maybe, like me,  you could have a go at making this deliciously light Zucchini Green Chilli Cornbread or these very moreish Baked Zucchini Fries as well.

Have a Great Weekend!!

 

Green Fig and Goat’s Cheese Bruschetta with honey, basil and black pepper

22 Aug

It’s green fig season here……

I bought a kilo at the organic market on Sunday…..

I also bought a jar of local goat’s cheese spread. You may have already noticed that one of my favourite food combinations is fig and goat’s cheese from this Dried Fig & Goat’s Cheese Pizza and this Fresh Fig & Goat’s Cheese Quiche.

But this gives all the fabulous flavour in a fraction of the time. It literally takes 5 minutes to make and the ingredients are local. To me anyway… The figs and goat’s cheese are from Coin (next village).  The honey I used is not actually honey, it is called Miel de Cana (cane honey) which is molasses from Malaga, a delicacy used liberally in this local recipe for Berenjenas con Miel (fried aubergines with honey).

I finished it off with a grinding of black pepper, some flakes of sea salt, a drizzle of Andalucian extra virgen olive oil and some baby basil leaves from our terrace. Andalucian sunshine on a plate, sending it your way if you are in need of some….

Green Fig & Goat Cheese Bruschetta Recipe with honey, basil & black pepper

Serves 1 as a snack, vegetarian

  • 1 large ripe green fig, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 piece of wholemeal/brown/rustic bread
  • goats cheese
  • black pepper
  • miel de cana or honey
  • sea salt
  • small fresh basil leaves
  • extra virgen olive oil
  • salad leaves to serve (optional)

Toast the bread under a hot grill (or in a toaster) on both sides. Spread the goat’s cheese on the toast and top with the wedges of fig. Generously drizzle over the honey and grind over the black pepper.

Put under the grill for a few minutes until bubbling and hot. Serve sprinkled with flakes of sea salt, baby basil leaves and drizzle over some olive oil. Add a handful of salad leaves to the plate if you like.

Serve this as a luxurious breakfast, brunch, lunch, snack or supper. Even as a starter/appetizer it works very well. Easy, impressive and it takes minutes. Which is always a good thing.

Buen Provecho

Savoury Cherry Tomato Clafoutis with Basil, Goat’s Cheese and Courgette Blossom

7 Jul

I have been wanting to make a clafoutis for a while now. The traditionally sweet French dessert is made with fruit, usually cherries, cooked in a batter made with eggs, ground almonds, sugar and flour. Cherries are in season here now and are very cheap but it is impossible to find a cherry pitter/pipper/stoner or whatever it’s called, in this town. Apparently you can make it with the stones left in the cherries but I live with the most accident prone man in Andalucia and can’t be doing with the Heimlich manoeuver in this heat.

Thankfully our cherry tomato plant has just decided to produce a large amount of ripe fruit at the same time that the basil plants (purple and green) are growing like weeds. I say thankfully because I found a recipe for a savoury clafoutis in  The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo that my friend Rhian bought me for my birthday. There are lots of lovely things in the book but the savoury clafoutis was top of my list of things to try especially with our little baby tomatoes.

I saw these courgette blossoms still with the little courgettes attached at the market and bought a load of them. I used some as a topping with some portobello mushrooms on a pizza but still had a few left so I sliced the mini courgettes into the clafoutis filling and topped them with a flower.

I made two individual clafoutis in mini loaf tins with this recipe but you can double it and make a big one in a baking dish or tin that should serve 4-6 as part of a lunch or picnic. Or use little ramekins.

You could change the cheese to a Manchego, Cheddar or Gruyère, switch up the herbs and use leftover roasted vegetables as an alternative filling. I served it with this French Potato Salad.

Cherry Tomato Clafoutis with Goat’s Cheese, Basil & Courgette Blossom

Serves 2-3 (easily doubled), Vegetarian. Adapted from The Little Paris Kitchen

Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time: 15-20 mins (small) 30-40 mins (large)

  • 50g goat’s cheese/feta
  • 50g cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 2 or 3 courgette blossoms (stamens removed) baby courgettes finely sliced (optional)
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • salt & black pepper
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 50g goat’s yoghurt (or greek yoghurt)
  • 50 ml milk (I used oat milk)

Preheat oven to 180C and lightly oil and flour your dishes. Scatter the tomatoes, crumbled/torn goat’s cheese and sliced baby courgettes, if using, evenly over the base(s).

Whisk the eggs well with the salt & pepper then gently fold in the ground almonds and flour until just combined. Stir in the yoghurt, milk and fresh herbs.

Pour the batter over the filling and top each one with a courgette flower. Bake until golden brown and set. 15-20 minutes for small, 30 -40 minutes for larger. Tip them out of the moulds or serve from the large dish, warm or at room temperature.

Things That Made Me Smile Today………

Our new lavender plant, a beautiful magenta colour.

Huge, bright and blousy squash and pumpkin flowers, the first sign that autumn will arrive and along with it relief from the unbearable heat.

Enjoy your weekend..

Fig, Goat’s Cheese and Caramelised Red Onion Quiche with Easy Olive Oil Pastry

2 Jul

I was clambering up slopes trying to get some good pictures of the early season figs, brevas, yesterday morning while walking the dog. On the way back we went to the Sunday morning organic market and found a box of gorgeous looking specimens that I couldn’t resist. Brevas are larger and darker than the small green figs that ripen later in the year and have a very short season. If you see any you have to buy them, well I do anyway.

I love the combination of figs and goat’s cheese, it works so well. The contrast of the sweetness of the figs with the sharp salty goat’s cheese is heaven. You can just chop them up and put them both in a salad with an olive oil and sherry vinegar syrup dressing if you like but it’s been a while since I posted a quiche recipe and this one is special.

I’ve found a foolproof (yes even for you dad) olive oil pastry recipe. It’s quick and easy. You make it, roll it out straight away (no hour-long resting) put it in your tart/quiche tin and leave it in the fridge for half an hour while you prep the filling. Love it.

I blind baked it for about 10 minutes before putting the filling in because I was worried about getting a soggy bottom. Nothing worse than a soggy bottom. With a drier filling I wouldn’t bother. This amount of pastry made enough for my 9 inch/23 cm quiche dish with some left over for a little individual 4 or 5 inch/12 cm tart tin. It is the right amount for a large 11-12 inch/28-30cm tart tin.

Fig, Goat’s Cheese & Red Onion Quiche with Olive Oil Pastry Recipe

Makes a 28-30 cm quiche. Vegetarian. Pastry recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini

Prep time 35 mins  Cooking Time: 35 mins

  • 250 g spelt or wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried herbs (I used 1/2 thyme 1/2 oregano)
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) cold water

Lightly oil & flour your tart tin. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and herbs, drizzle in the olive oil mixing/mashing it in with a fork until well combined (a bit like crumble mix). Measure out the water then add an ice-cube to it. Slowly pour the cold water (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 rolling-pin and roll the pastry onto it lifting it gently over to the tart tin and unroll the pastry onto the tin. Push the pastry into the tin (do not stretch it) and trim off the excess. Keep it to make a little one if you have enough. Put it in the fridge for 30 minutes while you make the filling.

  • 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, finely sliced
  • salt
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary & oregano mixed
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 fresh figs, sliced or chunked
  • 100-150 gr goat’s cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 pot (125 gr) goat’s yoghurt (or greek yoghurt)
  • milk (goat’s milk preferably, I used oat milk)
  • salt & black pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium high heat and cook the onions and herbs with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes until starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile heat the oven to 200 C. Prick the base of the tart all over with a fork. Blind bake the tart case (with baking paper & beans) for about 8 minutes for the large quiche (5 minutes for individual). Remove the paper & beans and put back in the oven for 3 minutes (2 minutes for small) to set the pastry.

Spread the red onions evenly over the base, crumble/break the goat’s cheese and scatter all over then fill in the gaps with the chopped/sliced figs.

In a measuring jug, beat together the eggs then beat in the yoghurt until combined. Add enough milk to take it up to about 450 ml beating again and season well with salt & black pepper.

Open the oven, put the tart on the middle oven shelf, pull it out and then pour the egg mixture into the tart, gently push the shelf in and close the door. This stops the mixture slopping everywhere hopefully.

Bake until the quiche is just set and slightly browned about 20-30 minutes, less for a small one. Leave to cool slightly and serve warm (not hot) or at room temperature.

This is perfect picnic food, best served at room temperature it really is delicious. Goat’s cheese, figs and caramelised red onions how could that be anything other than lovely. Just serve it with a peppery, crunchy green salad. and a glass of chilled rose maybe. Summer is here. Well it is here anyway!

I am really pleased with this pastry recipe, definitely going to try a sweet version next. I’m thinking a rustic fruit galette, can’t wait. This time of year it all about fruit and there is a lot of it. Plums, peaches, nectarines, figs the list goes on. Dessert for breakfast, lunch and dinner, sound good to me!

Buen Provecho!

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad with Pistachio and Parsley

5 Jun

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!!

Piccolo Tesoro Goat’s Cheese, Fig and Rocket Spelt Pizza

29 Apr

This is my adaptation of a really excellent pizza we had at Piccolo Tesoro in Montagu. Montagu is a picturesque village  about 200 km outside Cape Town on Route 62. We stayed in a pretty little hotel called Four Oaks Guest House.

We had an excellent evening meal there and the breakfasts were lovely too. Piccolo was also the name of  the really cute chihuahua who stole the show at the hotel.

 After breakfast we had a walk around the village. We saw ibises nesting, weaver birds’ nests hanging over the river and some beautiful flowers.

Traditional architecture, churches and quaint cottages surrounded by white roses.

 We wandered around the Saturday morning market with people selling  homemade jams, chutneys, breads, cakes, pestos and freshly made take-away foods, but we couldn’t stay long.

We were booked on a river boat cruise at Viljoensdrift before lunch. We had a lovely bottle of the Viljoensdrift rose while drifting down the river enjoying the views. You can also order a picnic but we had lunch already booked at the beautiful Reuben’s in Robertson. You can see my full review of lunch here.

We were very full after our fabulous lunch so we had a lie down and went out quite late for a light dinner. Pizza seemed like the best option as we had gone gourmet for lunch. Arriving at Piccolo Tesoro it seemed like everyone else had the same idea. It was packed, they had actually run out of chairs. My dad had to sit on a stool for the first half hour until somebody left!!

 To be honest we were only expecting a quick pizza and a beer. Isn’t it sometimes the way, that when you are least expecting it a little gem (or piccolo tesoro) turns up out of the blue.

We did have to wait a while because they were so busy and we were the last table but we didn’t mind at all. We had enjoyed an enormous lunch remember and The Washer Up discovered his new favourite beer while we were waiting thanks to our friend Paul. Jack Black is the best South African beer now according to him.

The pizzas were excellent, some of the best I have ever had actually. The “Sophia” was my favourite, it was topped with Gorgonzola, green fig preserve and rocket. The bases were thin and crispy and not overloaded with toppings, which is exactly how I like them. Green fig preserve is used a lot in South Africa, we also had it at our picinic at Bramon Wine Estate with the baked camembert. It is made with unripe figs.

My version of this fantastic pizza is made with a spelt flour dough. I have just found a new supplier of spelt flour actually in Alhaurin (where we live). El Amasadero supplies all different types of flour including spelt, quinoa, oat, wholemeal and strong bread flour. He also supplies baking accessories and utensils, including pizza stones which I could definitely do with. He ships all over Spain and Europe or you can buy from him directly in his office/warehouse in Alhaurin just in front of the Policia Local.

He can also get Teff flour, which I am really excited about because I have been trying to get hold of  it for ages. It is used to make the Ethiopian flatbread Injera.  Injera is a flatbread made with yeast and the runny batter is poured into a hot pan and cooked a bit like a thick crepe. I have made it before with spelt flour and have been quite happy with the results. Now I can try it with the proper flour I will be posting an Ethiopian recipe soon.

Unfortunately figs aren’t in season here yet and we don’t have the green fig preserve so I used dried figs soaked in boiling water to soften them up a bit. Gorgonzola is also quite difficult to get hold of here so I used goat’s cheese instead, you could also use a blue cheese if you like.

Goat’s Cheese, Fig & Rocket Spelt Flour Pizza

Makes 2-3 pizzas, vegetarian, Dough recipe adapted from vegrecipesofindia

Prep time 25 mins (plus 1-2 hours resting) Cooking time 5 -10 mins

For the dough:   

  • 375g – 450 gr (2.5 to 3 cups)  spelt flour (or plain)
  • 220 ml (1 cup) warm water
  • 25gr fresh yeast, finely chopped or 1 sachet quick action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • olive oil for brushing
  • polenta/cornmeal for rolling

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • a pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tin (400 gr) chopped tomatoes     
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • a squeeze of honey
  • 1/2 tsp basil pesto
  •  1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the topping:       

  • 100-150 gr goat’s cheese/gorgonzola/blue cheese
  • 10-12 dried figs halved (or 4-5 fresh figs, sliced) or some green fig preserve       
  • 3 handfuls of grated mozzarella or other cheese 
  •  fresh rocket leaves to garnish

Dough…

Whisk the honey into the warm water until it dissolves then add the yeast, whisk again and leave for 10-15 minutes to become frothy.

Add 150 gr (1 cup) flour, salt and olive oil to a large bowl, stir together then add the frothy yeast mixture. Stir again and add another 150 gr (cup) of flour until combined.  Add another 75 gr (1/2 cup) flour and combine. It should be quite a sticky dough.

Use some of the remaining flour to dust the board and knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic adding more of the flour as necessary if it sticks. Put the dough in a bowl and rub some olive oil over it. Cover and leave in a warm place for up to 2 hours or until doubled in size. 

Meanwhile make the tomato sauce….

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over a medium high heat and cook the onion, herbs and chilli flakes with a pinch of salt for about 4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

Tip in the tinned tomatoes, add the tomato paste, honey and pesto. Season with salt & black pepper, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until reduced.  Taste and adjust seasoning. Leave to cool. You could puree it if you like but I left mine chunky.

To cook:

Preheat the oven to its highest setting, with the baking tray (or pizza stone) in there too. Make sure the oven is clean or you will have a smoking kitchen (just saying).

Punch the dough down and divide it into 2 or 3 equal balls. You can refrigerate it at this point if you like. Sprinkle some polenta (or flour) on your worksurface and start to roll or push out your dough to a kind of circle about 3-5 mm thick.

This stage is optional but this is what Piccolo Tesoro do to keep the dough crispy. They put it in the oven for one minute before they put the toppings on. That’s what I did and it worked, no soggy base.

Take it out after 1 minute and smear some of the tomato sauce on the pizza (not too much) then add your goat’s cheese slices (or chunks), your chopped/sliced figs and cover with a layer of grated cheese. Put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes (depending on heat of oven) but keep an eye on it and take it out when you are happy.

Scatter over some fresh rocket leaves and serve immediately, with a Jack Black if you can get one…

 Enjoy!!

Rosemary and Garlic Baked Camembert with Honey Glazed Pear and Almonds

17 Apr

This dish was inspired by a picnic lunch we enjoyed at the Bramon Wine Estate just outside Plettenberg Bay. Bramon Wine Estate is a boutique vineyard and it is the first and only Estate that far East of the Western Cape.

Their flagship Sauvignon Blanc wine is called The Crags which is the name of the “town” where the Wine Estate is situated. You couldn’t really call it a town though. It consists of a petrol station and a shop. Which is why it is such a pleasant surprise to find this beautiful place just off the main road. They also have two sparkling Sauvignon Blanc Cap Classiques. I went for the 2008 sparkling ” a  refreshingly clean palate with vibrant mousse and an exciting, limey, zesty lingering finish”. It was one of the best sparkling wines I have tried in a long time.

So I had another glass. As you do.

In the summer they offer a picnic lunch amongst the vines. It is a really special feeling to be drinking the wine that is growing all around you. It is a relaxed, informal dining experience (in a really good way). You order your drinks and then get a list of the foods available. You trick the boxes next to what you would like to order and then give it back to the very capable waiting staff. Sit back relax, enjoy your drink and the beautiful surroundings while your picnic is freshly prepared for you.

We chose the mini baked camembert with honey figs and nuts, a beautiful plaited bread with rosemary and sea salt, green fig preserve, avocado and parmesan crisp salad, fresh pesto with mixed herbs and almonds, sundried tomatoes and a creamy hummus.

There is a monkey park and a bird sanctuary very near to the Wine Estate, so in a very organised fashion we went to Bramon in the morning to book a nice table in the vines for lunch at 1pm and then went off to Monkeyland for the rest of the morning. You get a guided walking tour around the forest that is very informative for kids and adults. More than 450 primates live and free-roam around the forest. It is an amazing feeling to be that close to so many different types of monkeys and lemurs that are living in a natural habitat. 

After lunch we went to Birds of Eden which is the largest free flight bird aviary in the world. It is a great way to spend a a couple of hours, there are 3500 birds out in the open. You walk up wooden walkways that snake their way through ruins and waterfalls up into the canopy of the trees. It is a stunning place.

And again you get so close to them.

Monkeyland and Birds of Eden are next to each other so you can buy combination tickets for both, which is what we did. With an excellent lunch at Bramon in between of course. Which brings me back to the food.

I contacted Bramon to get the recipes for the baked camembert and the rosemary plaited bread. The gave me the camembert but then told me that the bread recipe was a secret! I can understand it of course, it was very good.

So I made my own version of the bread using spelt flour which I flavoured with roasted garlic and rosemary. It was lovely, especially dipped into the oozing  baked camembert.

I will give you the bread recipe in my next post but for now here’s the baked camembert. I used pears rather than figs because figs aren’t in season here yet and I had some in my fruit bowl.

 I also studded the cheese with sliced garlic and rosemary sprigs before baking it because we used to serve it like that when it was on the menu at the restaurant. It’s something I saw Jamie Oliver do somewhere that makes such a difference to the flavour.

Rosemary & Garlic Baked Camembert with Honey Glazed Pear & Almonds

serves 2, vegetarian, gluten-free

Prep time: 5 mins Cooking time: 30-35 mins

  • 1 boxed camembert (250 gr) wooden box is best but card is fine
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • a few tops of fresh rosemary
  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180C, remove the paper wrapping from around the cheese and put it back in the box. Make little slits all over the top of the cheese with a sharp knife and push in the slices of garlic and rosemary tops.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake for 30-35 minutes until soft and melting inside. Meanwhile make the honeyed pear and almonds.

Honey Glazed Pear & Almonds

serves 2, vegetarian, gluten-free

  • 1 pear, cored and sliced into 12 wedges
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • a handful of whole toasted almonds (I used salted)
  • salt & black pepper
  • about 1 tbsp honey (rosemary honey if possible)

Toss all the ingredients apart from the honey together in a small bowl until evenly coated. Heat up a small frying pan over a medium high heat and throw in the pear & almond mix. Brown/caramelise slightly on both sides before adding the honey and stir to coat the pears.

Cook until the pears are soft but not mushy and remove from the heat.

Serve the warm honey glazed pear and almonds with the baked camembert and a nice bread for dipping. Or wait for my Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Braided Spelt Loaf in my next post…

For more information about the Bramon Wine Estate visit their webste here.

Enjoy!!

Mushroom Goats Cheese Ravioli, Butternut Sauce, Confit Tomatoes, Pine Nuts, Basil

9 Apr

This recipe is inspired by a couple of dishes we tried at Reuben’s restaurants in Franschhoek and Robertson. For those of you that don’t know, Reuben Riffel is the Chef Patron of the, now very successful chain of Reuben’s restaurants in South Africa. The first restaurant opened in Franschhoek seven or eight years ago and put the town well and truly on the map as a culinary destination. Reuben’s food is all about flavour and freshness of ingredients and has a definite world influence. His consistency has kept this popular award-winning restaurant at the top of the ever-increasing number of fine-dining establishments in the town. Which is why, I presume they decided to open another one.

Reuben’s at The Robertson Small Hotel is an oasis of calm, serenity and cool styling. I had to physically restrain myself from diving (dream on) into the pool that lies adjacent to the suites as we arrived at the restaurant. Our table overlooked the pool area but luckily the menu was enough to take my mind off of that view.

The menu is typically Reuben. For starters we chose the water, summer & sweet melon salad with poppy-seed dressing, light & refreshing. The marinated mixed tomato, artichoke salad, olive caramel, deep-fried boconccini, pesto, tomato chutney. The deep-fried boconccini mozzarella balls were beautiful (must try at home soon) and came with the best tomatoes I’ve had for a long time. The Washer Up had the double baked gruyere souffle, waldorf salad, raisin puree, vanilla citrus vinaigrette. The souffle was light and flavourful, excellent with the sweet raisin puree which I recreated to go with this tart.

The main courses that lead me to this recipe came from both restaurants. Goat’s cheese ravioli, yellow pepper essence, pine nuts, confit tomato, spinach and olives from The Robertson and Butternut Ravioli, melting goat’s cheese mousse, pine nuts, tomato, yellow pepper essence from Reuben’s in Franschhoek. Mine is a mash-up of both.

Oh, and the desserts are to die for. Bon Courage white muskadel creme brulee, poached plum, plum ice cream.  Heaven.

Vanilla Panna Cotta, lemon thyme poached peaches, apricot sorbet, enough said.

Affogato: vanilla ice cream, Klipdrift gold brandy, hazelnuts, hot espresso shot. I’m going to try this at home but with frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) next time

The thing about Reuben’s food is the flavour. Every dish has a small amount of chilli in it. You don’t really notice the heat it just enhances all the other flavours. I love it. Oh, I forgot about the side dishes they do a Parmesan Truffle Oil Mash which is the most comfortingly addictive thing I have ever tasted. I didn’t get a picture because we ate it too fast.

This is my version of a Reuben dish. I made a wholemeal pasta dough with spelt flour rather than 00 flour. It actually worked really well. I’ve had disasters with wholemeal pasta before but the spelt flour seemed to be better. I did leave the dough in the fridge to rest overnight as well though. This may have helped it firm up more.

I contacted Reuben’s for the recipes and they, very kindly, sent me  a few different ones. The mushroom filling is from one dish (I added the goat’s cheese) and the Cape Malay butternut sauce is from a completely different dish. It may sound odd but it all balances out well and tastes great. The only thing I may do differently next time is trim some of the “skirt” of the raviolis (above) so that there isn’t so much double layer dough, or even use more filling to reach nearer the edges.

The confit tomatoes are intense little balls of flavour that burst in your mouth. I will definitely make these again, for pasta or salads or anything really. You may think life is too short to peel cherry tomatoes and I do kind of agree with you but, it means they soak up all of the garlicky herb oil they are soaked in. You could just saute them in a pan to save time.

Mushroom Goat Cheese Ravioli

Serves 2, vegetarian. Adapted from the Reuben’s recipe

  • 200 gr ’00’ flour (I used spelt flour)
  • 2 large eggs

Mix together in a processor until it forms a dough. Bring together, knead for a minute, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours. I left mine overnight.

  • 12 chestnut (or mixed) mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 small sprig rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp soy sauce + 1 tsp sugar (or 2 tsp kecap manis)
  • 2 tsp Worcester sauce
  • about 30 gr goat cheese, cubed
  • 1 egg, beaten for sealing raviolis

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in  a pan over a medium high heat and cook the mushrooms and rosemary for a minute. Add the soy, sugar and Worcester sauce and saute until the mushrooms are dark, soft and the liquid has all been absorbed. Leave to cool completely before filling the raviolis.

Roll out the pasta dough, on a well floured surface with a rolling-pin or pasta machine until 1mm thin. Cut out circles about 7cm in diameter. Take a tablespoon of the (cooled) mushroom filling and place on one side of the circle. Top with a piece of goat cheese. Brush the edges with the beaten egg and fold it over to cover the filling. Press down around the filling to get rid of any air bubbles and make sure the edges are sealed and there are no holes in the dough. You can cut off some of the excess skirt of the ravioli if you think there is too much. Place on a tray on a piece of baking paper until ready to cook. Store in the fridge if necessary.

To cook: carefully lower them into a large pan of salted, boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes. They should float and look softer. Drain and serve immediately with your choice of sauce.

Garlic & Herb Confit Tomatoes

Serves 2, vegan, gluten-free

  • about 175 gr cherry tomatoes
  • 25 ml white balsamic vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced finely
  • 1 shallot, sliced finely
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • sea salt & black pepper

Put a cross in the bottom of each tomato, put in a bowl and pour over boiling water till covered. Leave for 20-30 seconds, drain and then shock in iced water for 30 seconds. Peel immediately.

Warm the oil, vinegar, herbs, garlic and shallot over a medium heat for 3 minutes. Pour this over the peeled tomatoes and leave for at least two hours at room temperature before serving. Reheat in a pan with some of the oil. Season with sea salt & black pepper just before serving.

Cape Malay Butternut Squash Sauce/Soup

This makes a lot of sauce so I used it as a soup for lunch the next day as well.

  • 600 ml veg stock
  • 1 tbsp Cape Malay spice mix (see my recipe here)
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 celery leaves & tops, chopped
  • 750 ml grated butternut squash
  • 400 ml milk/cream (I used oat milk)
  • 1 tsp palm sugar/brown sugar
  •  a squeeze of fresh lemon
  • 1 tin (400 ml) coconut milk (optional)
  • salt to taste

Put the stock, squash, Malay spices, onion, garlic and celery leaves in a large pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat slightly and cook for about 10 minutes until the squash is soft. Add the milk, season with the salt, sugar and bring to the boil again. Cook for a few minutes to reduce slightly.

Remove from the heat and carefully blend with a stick blender until smooth. You can serve as it is or add a tin of coconut milk to make it more soupy. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and taste for seasoning.

I used a potato peeler to make some courgette ribbons which I heated through with the tomatoes and toasted off some pine nuts. Some baby basil leaves and fresh rocket look pretty for a garnish too.

For more information about Reuben’s restaurants and The Small Hotel visit their website here

Babel Roasted Artichoke Goat’s Cheese Tart, Rocket Pesto, Raisin Puree

29 Mar

We have found a new organic veg supplier, which is really cool. In this weeks box we had some beautiful young artichokes and a bunch of fat peppery rocket leaves (as well as other stuff obviously).  Artichokes are stunning looking thistle-type vegetables and it always seems such a shame to rip all their leaves off and throw them away. I did it though, using this tutorial.

To be honest preparing an artichoke is a complete faff. Such a lot of work for little return. Is that controversial?

That’s why they sell them already prepped and cooked in delis or in jars in supermarkets. So, if you are impatient (like me) or they are not in season where you are, save yourself some time and buy them. Use the whole vegetable as a table decoration instead with some lavender maybe, or even some fat rocket leaves as an alternative bouquet….

The artichokes reminded me of the delicious tart we had at Babel restaurant at Babylonstoren. The pastry was the amazingly crumbly and I managed to get the recipe from the Chef Simone. This tart came with the best chips in the world that I have recreated too. I will share the recipe in my next post.

I have already written about our day at Babylonstoren in another post . They have a huge farm on site that supplies the restaurant with fresh fruit and vegetables. There is also a beautiful greenhouse that houses the more exotic plants where you can sit and enjoy a fresh from the garden herb tea.

The interior of the restaurant is effortlessly chic.

Even the menus are gorgeous.

Their version of the tart came with tamarillo (a cross between a tomato and a passionfruit), onion marmalade and pesto. I made a rocket and walnut pesto with the gorgeous rocket and a sweet raisin puree to cut through the sourness of the goat’s cheese. After preparing the artichoke hearts I roasted them with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and fresh thyme to enhance their delicate flavour.

You could also buy the tart cases if you are short of time but this pastry recipe is definitely worth the effort.

Roasted Artichoke & Goat’s Cheese Tart

Makes 4 x 10 cm tarts, Vegetarian. Adapted from the Babel Restaurant recipe

For the pastry:

Prep time: 35 mins (including resting)  Cooking time: 15 mins

  • 100 g  chilled butter, cubed
  • 125 spelt flour (or plain)
  • 65 ml sour cream/creme fraiche
  • a pinch of salt

Pulse the cubed butter, flour and salt in a food processor until it resembles crumble mix. Add the sour cream and pulse again until it just comes together. Do not over mix. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling:

Prep time: 40 mins (if using fresh artichokes) Cooking time: 15-25 mins

  • 3 young artichoke hearts, quartered (to prepare artichokes read this)
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • a sprig of fresh thyme, leaves removed & chopped
  • 4 small garlic cloves unpeeled
  • 150 gr soft goat’s cheese
  • 75 ml sour cream/creme fraiche
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • fresh thyme, rosemary leaves, very finely chopped
  • pinch salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 180C and toss the uncooked artichoke hearts (you can leave this part out of you have bought cooked artichoke hearts) with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and the whole unpeeled garlic cloves. Roast for 20-30 minutes until slightly browned.

Whisk together the goat’s cheese, sour cream, herbs, egg, salt & pepper until combined.

Butter and flour your tart tins. Quarter the pastry and roll out each piece between two bits of floured cling film to about 3mm thick. Lift the pastry and carefully push it into the tin, do not stretch it, until fairly even. Trim off the excess with a sharp knife. Put in the fridge while you do the rest.

Prick the bases all over with a fork, cover with a square of greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans or any dried beans.  Bake at 180c for about 10 minutes then remove the paper and beads and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Pour in the cheese, but not to the top, then add in the artichoke hearts and peeled roasted garlic cloves so the filling now reaches the top and bake for 15 -25 minutes, until puffed and golden.

 Rocket & Walnut Pesto

serves 4, vegan, gluten free

  • a bunch of fresh rocket leaves
  • about 100 gr walnuts (toast them in the oven for 4 minutes) then chop
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • a squeeze lemon/orange juice
  • a pinch of sugar

Put all the ingredients except the oil in a measuring jug (or food processor) and start to puree with a stick blender drizzling in the oil until you get a nice consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.

 

 

For the Raisin Puree:

serves 4, vegan, gluten-free

  • about 100 gr raisins
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp balsamic/sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp miel de cana (molasses)

Put the raisins and sugar in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Reserving some of the liquid blend the raisins with the rest of the ingredients and a splash of the cooking water if necessary to a smooth puree. Taste for sweetness.

Serve the tart hot or warm with the rocket pesto, raisin puree and some fresh rocket leaves if you like. The perfect accompaniment though would have to be these chunky chips.

Crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy in the middle, sprinkled with sea salt, cracked pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Perfect.

I’ll give you the recipe in my next post, I promise….

Sweet Potato Brulee Tart, Lemon Asparagus, Pea, Mint and Feta

20 Mar

Haute Cabriere’s Chardonnay Pinot Noir blend is my favourite white wine in the whole world. The first time we came to Cape Town my Dad ordered a bottle with lunch in Manna. That was it, I was smitten. No wine has ever come close since. It has a slight apricot blush and creamy finish that I just love.

On our next visit to Franschhoek a few years later we had the pleasure of dining at The Cellar Restaurant on the Haute Cabriere wine estate. My Dad, again ordered a bottle (or maybe two) of their Pierre Jourdan Cap Classique sparkling rose. That was the beginning of my love affair with pink sparkling wine. That’s pretty amazing, don’t you think? Two of my favourite wines come from Haute Cabriere.

Ok, now make that three. They have recently added the first Unwooded Pinot Noir to the collection. It’s a light, fruity red that is served chilled. It’s a great summer drink, like a dark rose and it’s easy to drink in the sun. I can vouch for that, very easy!

This year we arrived at the restaurant to find the new outside dining terrace open with spectacular 180 degree views of the Franschhoek valley below. The chef, Ryan had prepared a special 5 Course Vegetarian Tasting Menu for us.  The marriage of food and wine is very important to them, each dish was especially designed to complement a different one of their wines. Normally it is the other way around, the wine is chosen to compliment the food.

We started with  Tomato Gazpacho, tomato pineapple sorbet, peppers, pineapple, cucumber garnish which was served with the crisp sparkling Pierre Jourdan Brut.

Then came a Smoked Cheddar & Green Peppercorn Souffle, ratatouille puree, apple crisps, sweet roasted cherry tomatoes, served with the Unwooded Pinot Noir.

Next was a Summer Vegetable Risotto, peas, parmesan crisps, asparagus, corn served with the Pierre Jourdan Tranquille.

Then the Sweet Potato Brulee Tart, asparagus, tatsoi, pickled artichoke, labneh, basil, sweet potato puree, served with my favourite, the classic  Haute Cabriere Chardonnay Pinot Noir blend.

For dessert we had Banana Parfait, liquid chocolate centre, chocolate vodka sorbet, dried banana, tuille, served with the Pierre Jourdan 100 % Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc.

I apologise for the lack of photos of the food but it was a very hot day and we were sitting under a red umbrella. Consequently all the pictures have a distinctly scary pink hue that was near impossible to get out when I was editing them. Hence the pictures above have a slightly dayglo appearance or I gave up and went for black and white instead!

All of the dishes were beautiful, well-balanced and delicious with the wines. The service was also exceptional. When it came to selecting a dish to recreate at home I had a hard time choosing but in the end it had to be the tart. It goes with my favourite wine after all. I changed a few things adding feta, peas and mint instead of artichokes, labneh and basil and made a spelt flour pastry instead of plain.

Sweet Potato Brulee Tart, Lemon Asparagus, Pea, Mint & Feta

Makes 3 x 10 cm tart tins, Vegetarian. Adapted from the Haute Cabriere Cellar Restaurant recipe

Prep time: 1 hour Cooking time: 25 mins

For the filling:

  • 1 large sweet potato (375 gr), scrubbed & roasted at 200 C for 1 hour (or until soft)
  • 150 ml oat milk (or any milk/cream)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 sprig rosemary or thyme
  • 1 egg
  •  a few teaspoons of sugar

While you are roasting the sweet potato make the pastry and put it in the fridge to rest.

Scrape the soft cooked flesh out of its skin into a sauce pan. Add the milk, salt and sprig of rosemary/thyme. Bring to the boil , stirring to combine then remove from the heat and take out the rosemary sprig.

Puree the sweet potato with a stick blender until smooth.  Add in the egg and mix together well. Check seasoning.

For the pastry:

  • 65 gr spelt flour (or plain flour)
  • 35 gr olive oil spread (or butter)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • iced water (?)

All the ingredients must be cold. Put the flour and diced spread/butter into a food processor and pulse until it resembles crumble mix. Add the egg yolk a bit at a time and pulse until the dough just comes together. You may (or may not) need to add a little iced water to bring it together. Do not over work or it will be tough.

Wrap it in cling film and put in the fridge for at least 30 mins to firm up.

When rested, cut into 3 equal parts and roll them out between two bits of clingfilm to rough circles around 2 mm thick.

Butter and flour you tart tins and lift the pastry circles into the tins, do not stretch the pastry. Press it into the tins evenly. Put back in the fridge to firm up again if you can.

Preheat oven to 180 C.  Prick the bases of the tarts all over with a fork. Place a square of parchment paper in each tart and fill the base with baking beans (any dried beans or rice) to stop it puffing up. Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the paper and beans and put back in the oven for 5 minutes until lightly cooked.

Pour the sweet potato mix into the tart cases and smooth the tops (you should have some puree leftover to serve with the tarts if you like).

Put back in the oven for 10 minutes. Then sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over the tops and brulee with a blow torch or put under the grill until bubbling and slightly browned (optional).

For the Lemon Asparagus, Pea & Mint Vinaigrette & Feta:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • juice of a lemon
  • salt
  • feta crumbled

Trim the woody ends off the asparagus and cut in half. Bring a small pan of salted water to the boil, squeeze in the lemon juice, lower the heat slightly and cook the asparagus for 3 minutes. Drain and run under the cold tap to stop the cooking, or serve immediately.

  • about 50 gr frozen peas, cooked in boiling salted water
  • 5 or 6 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped, small leaves reserved for garnish
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • a pinch of sugar
  • salt & black pepper

Run the cooked peas under a cold tap to stop the cooking. Squeeze the peas out of their outer casing and mix the bright green pods with the rest of the ingredients and taste.

To serve: Top the tart with the cooked asparagus, crumble over the feta cheese and drizzle the pea & mint vinaigrette around the plate. Garnish the plate with a smudge of the sweet potato puree,  watercress leaves and some small mint leaves.

 

Now all you need is a glass of the Haute Cabriere Chardonnay Pinot Noir to go with it, and so do I…..

For more information about Haute Cabriere wines and The Cellar Restaurant visit their website here.

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