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Tomato and Saffron Risotto with Basil, Pine Nuts and Parmesan

24 Aug

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe inspired by our trip to Cape Town. This one is a version of the Tomato Risotto I had at Sand at The Plettenberg Hotel in Plettenberg Bay.

Sand is one of the restaurants in the Liz Mcgrath Collection of three hotels overseen by the Grand Chef, Peter Tempelhoff. I have been lucky enough to have eaten at all three. I had an unforgettable passionfruit souffle at The Marine, Hermanus a few years ago that I must remember to have a go at with my next  lot of passionfruit.

I had one of the best meals of my life, a 7 Course Vegetarian Tasting Menu at The Greenhouse , Cellars Hohenort, awarded restaurant of the year and number 1 in South Africa, this year. More of that in a future post, I am still trying to get close to replicating one of the recipes from that memorable meal, but failing miserably at the moment. I can see why he is a multi award-winning Grand Chef.

Above are some pictures of the beautiful meal I had at Sand prepared by the very capable sous-chef , Tronnette. We were presented first of all with some Baked Rosemary & Sea Salt Lavash with Aubergine Puree and a Melon Shot with Cucumber Salsa Bruschetta. For a starter I chose the Double Baked Underberg Cheese Souffle with Chive & Parmesan Veloute which was light, fluffy and creamy, the best  savoury souffle I have ever had. A Tomato & Artichoke Risotto was prepared especially for me (being vegetarian). It had an intense tomato flavour (from the stock I think) that made it particularly special. The dessert was a Madagascan Vanilla Creme Brulee, Coconut Foam, Marshmallow Compresse and Pineapple Almond Biscotti, this was totally amazing!

They very kindly sent me the recipes for both the souffle and the risotto. So, with it being summer here now and with tomatoes being at their cheapest and best at the moment, I had to make the risotto first.  I added some saffron for colour and for that extra Spanish touch and topped it with my favourite tomato friends: basil, pine nuts and parmesan. They were meant for each other.

The first part of this recipe is making a tomato fondue (or sauce) to add into the risotto when it is cooked. You could skip this part if short on time and replace it with some shop-bought tomato pasta/marinara sauce.

Tomato & Saffron Risotto with Basil Pine Nuts & Parmesan

Serves 4, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from Sand at The Plettenberg recipe

For the tomato fondue (sauce)

  • 2-4 ripe tomatoes, I used 2 huge Spanish ones that hardly have any seeds
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • salt & pepper

Drop the tomatoes in boiling water for about 20 seconds, drain and remove the skins, seeds and chop the tomato flesh. Cook the onion in olive oil for a few minutes with a pinch of salt then add the garlic & oregano and cook for another minute. add the tomatoes and cook until softened. Add the ketchup, sugar and season with salt & black pepper. Cook until reduced and thickened. Taste and adjust sugar/salt as required. Set aside.

For the Risotto:

  • 350 g risotto rice
  • 1 litre vegetable stock (I made my own recipe here using lots of tomato to intensify the tomato flavour)
  • a big pinch of saffron
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 150 ml sherry or white wine
  • about 120 ml (1/2 cup) tomato fondue/pasta sauce (see recipe above)
  • 200 g cherry/baby tomatoes (on the vine if possible)
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • 30 gr grated parmesan or manchego (vegetarian) plus shaved for garnish
  •  a hand ful of basil leaves juliennned, plus leaves to garnish
  •  a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 40 gr toasted pine nuts

Put the veg stock and saffron in pan over a medium low heat to warm up but not boil.

Meanwhile, cook the onion in the olive oil with a pinch of salt over a medium heat for 3 minutes then add the garlic, oregano & chilli flakes and cook for another 2 mins.  Add in the rice stirring to coat in the oil and cook for 2 minutes before adding the sherry/wine and cook until it is dry.

Start by adding 2 ladles of the hot stock to the rice and swirl the pan until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add another ladle of stock, wait for it to be absorbed, swirling  and continue like this until the rice is cooked and you have used all of the stock. If you run out of stock you can add hot water. Then stir in the tomato fondue/sauce.

Stir in the grated parmesan, sliced basil, lemon juice and season with salt & pepper. Remove from the heat and put the lid on.

Preheat a griddle pan (or frying pan if you don’t have one), season the cherry tomatoes in a bowl with salt, pepper and drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat. Cook them on the griddle pan until you get black marks and they start to soften.

Taste the risotto for seasoning and serve topped with a pile of  cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan, toasted pine nuts and basil leaves.

Buen Provecho!

 Sand at The Plettenberg

Look-out Rocks, 40 Church Street
P. O. Box 719
Plettenberg Bay 6600
South Africa

+27 44 533 2030
 
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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!!

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

Mushroom Risotto Spring Rolls, Manchego Thyme Crisps, Roasted Garlic Watercress Mayonnaise

22 Mar

This recipe is inspired by an amazing meal we had at La Colombe in Contantia Uitsig. La Colombe has always been very special to us ever since the first time we visited about five years ago. We had such a great time that we both agreed that it was the best restaurant we had ever been to.

The thing is that it had reached such an iconic status in our memory that I was secretly worried that it wasn’t going to live up to our very high expectations this time. I was actually preparing myself for disappointment.  Silly me, this time actually exceeded my expectations by quite a long way.

The food is, well you can work it out for yourself. This was how it went….

Amuse Bouche: caramelised onion tart with goat cheese, parsnip soup (in an egg-shell), pea salsa

Starter: Beetroot Cannelloni, beetroot mousse wrapped in pickled beetroot, toasted olive brioche, roasted golden baby beets, fromage blanc, poached raisins, 12 yr old balsamic drizzle

Palate Cleanser: Granny Smith Sorbet, pimms foam, cucumber, mint

Main Course: Wild Mushroom Risotto Spring Roll, butternut puree, sous vide butternut, caramelised onion, smoked garlic veloute, thyme foam.

Desserts: Coconut & Rosewater Panna Cotta, rose meringue, rose foam, turkish delight, cashew nut streusel  

Chocolate Peanut Butter Terrine, candied cranberries, apricots, peanuts, chocolate, pistachio nut dust

And if that is not enough for you, they bring around a wooden trough filled with petits fours. Okay it’s not a trough but that’s what we called it. Bring me the trough!!!

Petits Fours: Rose Turkish Delight, mini citrus madeleines, maple meringues, cinnamon marshmallows and espresso pistachio dusted chocolate truffles filled with salted caramel.

Yes, that was espresso pistachio dusted chocolate truffles filled with salted caramel. They didn’t last very long, someone at our table may have stuffed his face with them before I could stuff mine. Not mentioning any names but you know who you are…

I don’t think I need to say that the food was outstanding do I? The beetroot cannelloni was light, elegant, sweet and exquisitely made. The mushroom spring rolls were rich with truffle butter and earthy morels, the pastry was perfectly crisp, I didn’t want it to end.

The desserts were a complete triumph. Everything a dessert should be, playful, sweet and nostalgic with a grown up twist.  The attention to detail is what makes this an unforgettable dining experience. From the amuse bouche (very amusing), the palate cleanser (I mean Pimms!!), all the way through to the petits fours (bring me the trough and leave it please).

Speaking of attention to detail I have to mention that the level of service we received was actually on another level to anything I have ever experienced before. Jennifer and her highly knowledgable team made our evening a complete joy from start to finish. The waiter actually explained each dish on the menu FROM MEMORY! All those foams, purees and veloutes without reading from a notepad. That deserves a mention by itself.  And it is not at all stuffy, that’s what makes it so enjoyable, it is proper fine dining without the squeaky chairs and pretension.

Can you tell that I loved it?

I managed to acquire the recipe for the Mushroom Risotto Spring Rolls from the very talented chef, Scot Kirton. Mine is a simplified version as you can see from the description. I don’t have  a syphon thingy to make foams but I wouldn’t mind if anyone out there wants to send me one. I made some Manchego Thyme Crisps instead.

You could use spring roll wrappers to make these, I used a double layer of filo and Scot uses a special Asian pastry that I am desperate to get hold of. Either way you roll them like this:

I couldn’t get any truffle butter or morels so I used a mix of dried mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for about 20 minutes and some fresh chestnut or cremini mushrooms. The advantage of using dried mushrooms is that you can use the mushroomy soaking liquid with the stock to give the risotto a deeper colour and flavour.

Mushroom Risotto Spring Rolls

Makes about 12 rolls, vegetarian. Adapted from the La Colombe recipe

The risotto needs to be chilled before you roll it so it is best to make it the night before and refrigerate overnight.

Prep time: 45 -60 mins (not including chilling time) Cooking time: 15-25 mins

  • 150-200 gr fresh mushrooms, chestnut/cremini/portobello/morels roughly diced
  • 25 gr dried mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 20 mins (reserve soaking liquid) then chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • 30 gr white truffle butter (optional)
  • a bunch sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
  • 250 gr risotto rice
  • 250 ml white wine
  • about 1 litre veg stock plus the mushroom soaking liquid
  • 50 gr parmesan/manchego, finely grated
  • 1 packet filo pastry/spring roll wrappers defrosted
  • olive oil for brushing

In a large pan, fry the chopped fresh mushrooms and thyme in a tablespoon of hot oil until nicely browned. Tip them into a bowl. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan over a medium heat and cook the onions for about 4 mins until translucent then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the rice and stir to coat in the onions for a minute.

Put the stock and mushroom soaking liquid in a small pan over a medium heat and keep hot but not boiling.

Add the wine and soaked mushrooms and cook until most of the liquid has disappeared. Add a ladle full of the hot stock to the rice and swirl the pan until all the liquid is absorbed. Add another ladle full swirl until it is absorbed and continue on like this until the rice is cooked.

Stir through the cooked mushrooms and truffle butter (if using). Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir through the grated cheese, remove from the heat. Leave to cool then chill in the fridge, overnight if possible. What I did was make the risotto for dinner, reserved about half for spring rolls for lunch the next day.

Cut a double layer 20 cm square of filo pastry (or use spring roll wrappers) and lay in a diamond shape on a board in front of you. Mound 2 or 3 tbsp of risotto onto the pastry and roll up following the pictures above brushing with olive oil to make them stick.

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, place the spring rolls on the tray, brush the tops with olive oil and bake for 15 -25 minutes depending on size. You can also deep-fry them.

Roasted Garlic, Watercress Mayonnaise

Enough for 2 people, vegetarian

  • 2 tbsp good mayonnaise
  •  a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a handful of fresh watercress (or parsley)
  • 1 large garlic clove (unpeeled)
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Roast the garlic clove in its skin in a hot oven for about 15 minutes (I did it with the spring rolls). Put the peeled roasted clove with the rest of the ingredients in a measuring jug and puree with a stick (immersion) blender until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning/lemon.

Manchego Thyme Crisps

Makes about 6, vegetarian

  • 50 gr manchego or parmesan, finely grated
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Mix together the cheese & thyme. Put a heaped tablespoon of the cheese on to the baking tray and flatten & spread out slightly. Leave about 1/2 inch between each circle.

Cook for 3-5 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Leave to cool if you want flat discs and remove carefully with a metal spatula.

If you want you can mould them gently around a rolling-pin while still hot to make them curved.

Enjoy!!

 For more information on La Colombe and Constantia Uitsig visit their website here.

Thanks to everyone at La Colombe who made our evening so special. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the next time…..

 

 

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.

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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Ile de Pan – a Knysna Epidemic

29 Feb

Arriving in Knysna on a quiet Tuesday morning and driving over the bridge to Thesen Island we wondered where all the people were. It looked like a bit of a ghost town to be honest. We wandered around for a while thinking that there had been some sort of viral epidemic that had claimed the lives of all the inhabitants overnight.

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Then we spotted Ile de Pain, our main reason for visiting Knysna. It was packed with people eating at the wooden tables or queueing to buy the fabulous bread and cakes. It was like the whole of the town and a fair few tourists were sharing in the joy that the the Ile de Pain experience brings.

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We had reservations for lunch and it was only 11 am. You have no idea how much I wish we had booked for breakfast too. I had to get a blow dry just to waste some time before lunch. We also had a look around a new boutique hotel called The Turbine which is a converted wood fired electricity power station. Its industrial past combines with chic comfortable design pieces to create a contemporary space with a relaxed vibe.

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But back to the food. We arrived at Ile de Pain hungry and excited. For lunch the vegetarian choices are excellent. I went for the Butternut Squash and Chickpea Cakes with tomato salsa, tzatziki and fruit chutney. The Washer Up ordered the Halloumi Bruschetta with rocket and a lemon caper vinaigrette. Other options that looked equally good were the Wild Mushroom Tart with roast tomatoes, leeks and a shitake mushroom pesto or The IDP Pissaldiere, a thin crust french style pizza topped with caramelised onions, mozzarella, olives and rocket.

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Both dishes were delicious. The squash & chickpeas cakes were light and spiced with cinnamon. Too often any cakes made with pureed chickpeas can be dense and heavy. The bruschetta was amazing – I can see why their Companio bread is so popular. It’s chewy, crunchy, airy and has fantastic flavour. The dressing was zingy to contrast with the salty Halloumi and the heirloom tomatoes and peppadew peppers were sweet and spicy.

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Stuffed as we were from cleaning our plates, I was still powerless to resist when they brought around a two tiered cake stand filled with all the different cakes and pastries they had on offer that day. The difficult thing was which ones to choose.

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We made our decisions though. A sticky, chewy walnut slice and a peach and blueberry cake.

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Both stunning…..

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They very cleverly put the lunch and breakfast menus on the same sheet so you get to see both. I couldn’t think of leaving Knysna without trying out the breakfasts too so we decided to come back the following day.

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I ordered the Green Envy, scrambled eggs, basil pesto, rocket and parmesan on wholegrain toast which was lovely but The Washer Up made me green with envy when his choice arrived at the table. “Como” is delicious steamed vegetables, mushrooms, poached egg and tomato shitake pesto. It has a slightly Asian flavour from the vegetables and is the best breakfast dish I have ever eaten. Yes I had to help him eat it, for research purposes only, you understand. The poached egg was perfect too.

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We were meeting up with my Dad on the next leg of our tour later that day so I thought it was only right that we buy some of the beautiful tarts as a gift. He has never been to Ile de Pain and loves a little cake with his afternoon coffee. We chose the Portuguese custard tarts Pasteis de Nata (pictured above) which also happen to be The Washer Up’s favourite, a creme brulee tart…..

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And a mini lemon and passion fruit meringue pie……

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They were all beautiful, even though everything got a little bit squashed in the box on the back seat of the car when my suitcase slid along the seat on a sharp bend. We saved them though. It was hard to chose a winner, but I think the custard tarts just made it. Not eggy or bouncy at all, just creamy and ever so slightly burnt, which is a good thing. And that pastry…..

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Ile de Pain is a must on any trip to Knysna or Plettenberg Bay. They only open for breakfast and lunch and you will want to try both. It gets very busy especially at weekends so make sure you book. You really wouldn’t want to miss out believe me, this place is special and so is the food.

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Oh and Liezie very kindly gave me the recipe for the Butternut & Chickpea Cakes so I will be making them soon. Watch this space…

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