Tag Archives: lunch

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!

Spiced Chickpea Falafel Cakes with Tahini, Yogurt and Mint Sauce

22 Jun

It may surprise you to find that this is the first time I have posted a falafel recipe. Falafels are emergency vegetarian food, especially when out and about. Wherever you are there is normally a Turkish kebab shop that can save your life when starvation takes hold and you need something quick and tasty.

I have a theory though. A falafel conspiracy theory, if you like. I think that the falafels you buy in most Turkish or Lebanese restaurants or cafes are made out of a packet mix. I know, controversial. My reason for this slanderous outburst is sound and based on personal experience. Theirs hold together and mine, do not. See the picture below for an example of a very lovely falafel we bought from an Israeli vendor at the market.

 Along with a delicious tabouli salad, spicy tomato dip, broad bean dip and cheese and potato puffs. Perfect picnic food. For when your friends have very kindly allowed you to spend the day by their pool while they are away.

I also some bought some gorgeous gladioli and a big box of irresistible looking plums at the market. I see plum recipes coming up. Anyway back to the falafels.

Correct me if I am wrong, and I am sure you will, but aren’t falafels made from chickpeas? The ones you buy seem to be made from bulgur wheat or couscous. They have a distinctly grainy inside that looks and tastes nothing like a chickpea, cooked or uncooked. Am I the only person that has noticed this? Don’t get me wrong they taste great and I love them but pureed chickpeas they ain’t.

That’s my excuse anyway. I’ve tried with cooked chickpeas and dried, soaked overnight chickpeas. Whatever, I have always had a disaster. Either too dense, hard and chewy because I’ve added so much chickpea flour to make them hold together or too sloppy and they fall apart and disintegrate as soon as I start to cook them in the oil. Until now that is…..

…actually that is a little bit of a lie. The first lot of these I cooked in oil and they disintegrated as usual. Tasted good but had to be scooped into a flatbread and eaten.

My success came about through baking them rather than frying. Mould them into patties, dust with a little polenta or cornmeal, brush with a tiny amount of oil and bake for about 30 minutes. They are still not the most stable of snacks, you couldn’t throw one at someone from the other side of the pool, for instance but they are soft, delicious and a little crumbly.

And they taste of chickpea. Enhanced with a few herbs, spices and harissa. Perfect. You just need a little tahini yoghurt sauce and a squeeze of lemon.

Spiced Chickpea Falafel Cakes with Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

Serves 3, makes about 9, vegan, (without the sauce) gluten-free.

Prep time: 15 mins Cooking Time 30 mins

  • 1 tin/jar cooked chickpeas (400 gr), drained, rinsed & dried
  • 50 g of fresh peas (not frozen too wet) optional
  • 25 g hazelnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  •  a big handful of chopped fresh herbs, I used, mint, coriander, parsley & oregano
  • 1/2 tsp or more harissa paste
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sumac (optional)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • the juice of half a lemon plus wedges to serve
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • polenta or cornmeal fro dusting

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smoothish and it has come together. If you need to, add a bit more lemon juice to get it moving but not a lot. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mould into cakes and put in the fridge to firm up for a while or overnight.

When ready to cook preheat oven to 200 C. Put the polenta on a flat plate and roll the patties in it to lightly coat all sides. Line a baking tray with baking paper place the patties on the tray and brush very lightly with a tiny bit of olive oil. Bake for 30-35 minutes until slightly browned and serve with the tahini yoghurt sauce.

Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

  • 1 pot (125ml) Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp tahini paste
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a handfull of fresh herbs, chopped I used mint, coriander, parsley & oregano
  •  a drizzle of olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • a pinch ground cumin
  • a pinch sumac (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust lemon & salt as necessary.

Serve the falafel cakes with the tahini yoghurt sauce, lemon wedges and some salad leaves. In a flatbread/pita or not, it’s up to you.

I might have to buy a packet mix for falafel just to find out if that’s what they use. Just to prove to myself really. If it’s not I can’t understand it, any ideas?

Warm Roasted Red Onion Salad with Spicy Walnut Pickle Dressing

14 Jun

As most of you will already know, I am a huge fan of Yotam Ottolenghi. Obsessed would be an appropriate word for it. His Mediterrasian recipes (a mix of Middle Eastern & Mediterranean) combine all of my favourite ingredients and flavours in a way that is impossible to resist. This is one of said recipes. It came up on my Twitter feed from The Guardian food section a few Sundays ago and I knew that I wanted to make it straight away.

Don’t you love it when that happens? You are pondering what to make for lunch with the (sometimes) minimal contents of your fridge. You stumble across a recipe that you are desperate to make and you actually have all the ingredients in the house. Food Serendipity I like to call it, and it makes me smile.

Warm Roasted Red Onion Salad with Spicy Walnut Pickle Dressing

Serves 2, vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi at The Guardian

  • 2 medium red onions
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt and black pepper
  •  rocket/watercress or mixed leaves
  • a handful of coriander/parsley leaves
  • some crumbled Greek feta or goat’s cheese (optional)

For the Walnut Pickle Dressing:

  • 30g walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 0r 1 red chilli (depending how hot) deseeded & finely chopped
  • 1/2 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 3 tsp sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Peel the onions and cut off the tops and bottoms. Cut each onion widthways into two or three slices about 2cm thick (see pic. above) and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush with olive oil, season with salt and black pepper, and roast for about 20 minutes, until cooked and golden-brown on top. If they haven’t browned much you can pop them under the grill for a few minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

While the onions are cooking, put all the ingredients for the walnut pickle in a small bowl, season with salt & black pepper, stir and set aside. It gets better the longer you leave it.

To serve, put the salad leaves and most of the coriander/parsley in bowl, tip over about half of the walnut pickle and toss to coat evenly. Divide this between your serving plates, arrange the onion slices on top, tip over some more walnut pickle, crumble over the feta and finish with some more coriander/parsley leaves.

This spicy, robust salad is perfect as a lunch dish on its own but would also be a fantastic accompaniment to a spring/summer Sunday roast (especially beef), if you can’t be bothered with all those potatoes and vegetables. It’s a lighter and easier option for this time of year and is equally good served warm or  at room temperature. The onions could even be done on the barbecue and served as a side dish alfresco if the weather is being kind to you…..

Back By Popular Demand…..

Things That Made Me Smile Today 

Rufus enjoying our favourite hill walk, a treat for all his fans out there epsecially you Greg.

While we enjoyed the wild flowers too…..

Have a great weekend!

Smashed Broad Bean Dip with Fresh Mint, Garlic, Manchego and Lemon

27 May

This is just a quick and easy recipe that I wanted to share with you because it is perfect for this time of year. When you can’t be bothered to cook anything complicated but want something fresh and delicious to munch on. This is it.

I found the recipe in a pile of newspaper and magazine clippings that The Washer Up’s dad, Jim had sent me from England. He cuts anything food and drink related out of the Sunday papers and saves them up to send over. It’ s very handy for keeping up with what’s going on over there.

The original recipe used 500 grammes of podded broad beans, I didn’t have anywhere near that many so I have adjusted it to suit. It’s one of those things where you can taste it as you go and add more garlic, lemon or mint to your taste. 

If you have young broad beans that are still very small and bright green you can use them raw. If not you can blanch the podded beans for two minutes then squeeze the bright green peas out of the pale jade skins and you’re good to go. I know that squeezing broad beans may sound boring bit it’s actually quite a therapeutic thing to do sitting outside in the early evening sipping a glass of mint tea or even a Mojito. It’s worth it just to see that beautiful bright green paste when you’ve done.

Smashed Broad Bean & Mint Dip

Serves 2-3 as a snack, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from Eat Your Veg

Prep time 15 mins

  • about 200 gr broad beans (podded weight)
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or more)
  • 50 gr grated manchego (or pecorino/parmesan)
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • bread to serve, toasted flatbread/baguette/ciabatta or wholemeal toast

Blanch the broad beans (unless very young, tiny & bright green) for two minutes in boiling salted water, drain and then squeeze the bright green peas out of the pale green cases.

In a mortar & pestle, crush the garlic and 1/2 tsp salt to a paste. Add the mint leaves and pound again to a paste. Add a handful of the broad beans and grind to a paste. Add more beans and continue pounding until you get a slightly chunky textured puree.

Drizzle in the olive oil and mix well then add the cheese, lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust lemon, mint salt as necessary. Serve on/with toasted bread and drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Sit back and enjoy this fresh and delicious seasonal treat, I’m off to make some more, it’s addictive. Thanks Jim.

15 on Orange Blossom and Strawberry Custard Slices

22 May

Following on from yesterday’s post about inspiration and where I get my ideas from, this recipe illustrates perfectly the combination of factors that come together to create something nice to eat. Because that is what we are talking about here. Food that you (and I) want to eat. And you want to eat these, I can tell. You’re dribbling.

Strawberries are at the peak of their season here at the moment, so they are cheap and bursting with flavour. Well these ones are anyway, so they need to star in a recipe.

Every morning for the past month or so I have been running with the dog surrounded by the intoxicating scent of orange blossom. I know, I’m lucky. It is such a beautiful smell that hits you as soon as you walk out of the front door. Well I do live in Andalucia. Anyway the past couple of days it has been noticeable in its absence. We are coming to the end of the orange blossom season and I realised that I haven’t used its aromatic orange blossom water in a recipe this year.

On our last day in Cape Town we went for Sunday lunch at the 15 on Orange Hotel. Every Sunday they have a buffet lunch for 265 Rand that includes endless bubbly. Yes, endless bubbly. Are you mad? Have you met my Dad? And me come to that if you’re talking about bubbly. It’s not cheap stuff either, we really enjoyed quite a few glasses of the Graham Beck Brut Rose.

The hotel is elegant, modern, luxury designer chic . An enormous Murano glass chandelier with a staircase inside leading to a private lounge dominates the luxurious bar area. The lighting is actually really impressive throughout the hotel.

Now when you talk about buffets in hotels what springs to my mind is elbowing your way around a table filled with wilting salad, crusty under the lights sandwiches, dried up slices of meat hidden by a slimy gravy and suspect piles of defrosted prawns. Not my thing, at all. This couldn’t be more different. The restaurant is bright, modern and in no way does it smell of boiled meat.

The standard of the food is unbelievable. It’s the best looking buffet I’ve ever seen.  Beautiful feta salads, mozzarella & tomato Caprese with basil pesto, roasted vegetable terrine, beetroot tian, a cheese selection with chutneys. That’s just the veggie starters by the way. For main course I had an excellent Eggplant Parmigiana but it was the desserts that impressed me the most.

The selection was mind-blowing. Chocolate cherry tortes, blueberries & cream violet syrup shots, cape gooseberry madeleines.

A cake stand full of chewy meringues, chocolate or caramel & cinnamon, white chocolate sacher torte, and enormous pink marshmallows. The keep bringing out new things too. It’s amazing.

It is seriously worth coming here just for the desserts and bubbly. You want to try them all because they look so good. They are all quite dainty so you don’t feel like such a pig for eating more than one. I had the cinnamon caramel meringue, the chocolate cherry torte and one of these strawberry custard slices.

So when I got home and strawberries came into season here, I started badgering them for the recipe. And here it is. The only thing did differently was add some orange blossom water to my custard. I cut my puff pastry into fairly small rectangles 3 x 9 cm so they are quite ladylike and afternoon tea-ish. You can make yours bigger if you like.

Strawberry & Orange Blossom Custard Slice

Makes 30 -36 3 x 9cm slices. Adapted from the 15 on Orange recipe

Remember to defrost the puff pastry in the fridge overnight before you need it.

Prep time: 15 mins Cooking Time: 10-15 mins Assembly time: 15 mins

  • 1 block/roll puff pastry (defrosted in the fridge overnight)
  • about 500 gr fresh strawberries
  • 2 or 3 tbsp clear seedless fruit jam/jelly for glazing (I used apricot)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp water

For the Creme Patissiere (custard or pastry cream)

  • 200 ml milk
  • 55 gr sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 25 gr cornflour/cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1+1/2 tsp orange blossom water (or to taste)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp milk to finish

Preheat the oven to 190 C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

On a floured board, roll out the pastry to a large rectangle about 2 mm thick and trim the edges so they are straight. My rectangle was 27 x 36 cm so I cut it into 36 mini rectangles 3 x 9 cm. (9 columns 4 rows). But you can cut them whatever size you like.  Put them on the lined baking sheet, dock them well with a fork (this stops them rising too much) and put them in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Bake  for 10 to 15 minutes until puffed, golden and cooked all the way through. Some will rise a bit wonky or too much but you can ignore those there’s still loads left. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile make the creme patissiere.

Carefully bring the milk to the boil with the vanilla extract and orange blossom water, then turn it off before it boils properly.

Meanwhile whisk the yolks with the sieved cornflour and sugar to a smooth paste. Add a splash of the hot milk to the egg mixture and whisk to loosen. Add this back into the pan on a medium high heat and whisk continuously until it starts to thicken. Remove from the heat when it is thick and taste it. If it still tastes of flour or needs loosening up add a splash of milk, return to heat and whisk it in. When it is ready cover the top of the custard directly with cling film to stop a skin forming.

Hull the strawberries by pulling out the green stalks and removing the stalk area with a small knife. Thinly slice them from top to bottom.

To assemble: pipe  or spoon a small amount of creme patissiere along the pastry rectangles from front to back. Then top with three (or more if bigger rectangles) slices of strawberry, start at the back and position the pointy end up.

To glaze: heat the jam/jelly in a small pan with the water until it is a liquid. Brush the glaze over the positioned strawberries.

You will now realise that you have quite a few custard slices. Obviously you will have to eat a few just to see how they taste but beware, they are addictive. My suggestion is to do what I did and donate them to friends (thanks Rhian & Jeanne) because they will love them and so will their husbands.

And you won’t end up the size of a house and blame it all on me. Hopefully.

For more information about 15 on Orange Hotel and their menus visit their website here.

Spiced Cauliflower and Red Onion Savoury Picnic Cake

23 Apr

Gourmet picnics are big news in Cape Town, espsecially in the winelands. Well it makes sense doesn’t it? Most of the wine estates have beautiful grounds, so why not make use of them. While we  were in South Africa we enjoyed three picnics. The first at The Roundhouse overlooking the stunning coastline around Camps Bay. The second at Bramon Wine Estate just outside Plettenberg Bay where our table sat amongst the Sauvignon Blanc vines. And the third at Boschendal, one of the oldest traditional Cape Dutch wine estates in Franschhoek, dating back to 1685.

We sat under ancient trees enjoying the view, while our picnic was prepared.

Ordered the wine, one of my favourites: the Boschendal Chardonnay Pinot Noir blend a lovely wine with a slight apricot blush.

They actually offer a Vegetarian Picnic option which is a first. It included a duo of potato salads, quiche, salad, sweet chilli vinaigrette, sundried tomato & spinach wraps, red pepper pate, caramelised onion pate, chocolate & macadamia nut brownies, cheese & biscuits, red onion maramalade and a french stick. We had trouble finishing it all.

Le Pique Nique, as it is called, is very good value, you get a lot of food and can enjoy their fine wines surrounded by Agapanthus, my favourite plants. I am a little obsessed with them actually.

So, inspired by the picnic food idea and eating outside. I came across an Yotam Ottolenghi recipe for a Cauliflower Cake. Ottolenghi is another one of my obsessions, I love his food and find it endlessly inspiring. See this post and this one for proof of his influence over my recipes.

He makes a big round cake in a 24 cm cake tin, I halved the recipe and cooked mine in a loaf tin. I also added some more spices because I can’t help myself. It’s kind of like a quiche without the pastry.

Spiced Cauliflower & Red Onion Savoury Picnic Cake

Makes 1 loaf, vegetarian. Can be doubled to fill a 24 cm cake tin.

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi Prep time: 20 mins Cooking time 45 mins

  • about 400 gr cauliflower broken into medium florets 
  • 1/2 large red onion, peeled
  • 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 5 medium eggs
  • a handful of fresh chopped coriander
  • 90g spelt flour (or plain)
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 80-100g grated manchego or vegetarian parmesan
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Heat the oven to 180C. Put the cauliflower florets in a large saucepan, cover with water, add a teaspoon of salt, bring to the boil then lower the heat and and simmer for 10 -15 minutes, until quite soft. Strain, and leave to drain in the colander.

Meanwhile prepare the batter. Cut a few 1/2 cm rings off one end of the onion, set aside to decorate the top of the cake and roughly chop the rest. Heat the oil in a pan and on a medium heat sauté the chopped onion and rosemary for about 6 minutes, until softened and slightly caramelised. Remove from the heat and leave to cool down.

Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl, and add the parmesan, one teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper.

Add the eggs and coriander to the cooled onions and whisk. Then add the egg mix to the flour mix and whisk to eliminate lumps. Add the cauliflower and fold in gently, trying to keep some florets whole.

Use baking paper to line the inside of the loaf tin. Brush any visible sides of the tin with oil and dust with flour. Tip in the cauliflower mix, even out the top with a spatula and arrange the onion rings on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 40-45 minutes (for both sizes of cake), until golden brown and set. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The reason I called this a picnic cake is because it is equally good served warm with a lemon & olive oil dressed cucumber salad with fresh mint as a light evening meal or served room temperature the next day as part of a picnic lunch, wherever you happen to be, office, lawn or beach.  Just cut yourself a slice and relax.

A very nice glass of wine always helps too….

For more information about Boschendal Wine Estate visit their website here.

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

Avocado Tomato Tian, Tempura Peppers, Sweet Chilli, Basil Coriander Sauce

17 Mar

The last of the hass avocados are being harvested at the moment where we walk the dog. They are stored in piles of crates ready for market. The farmers are cutting back the trees and making bonfires out of the mountains of branches.

This was the first thing we ate when we arrived in Cape Town. Just off the plane and straight to lunch at Harbour House at The Waterfront. The shape of things to come. Lunch and dinner booked every day for three weeks, well nearly. In the end I worked it out as 29 meals out in 19 days. This does not include breakfasts or the meals we had at the Game Reserve. Heaven or hell? You decide…….

Their version was with tempura prawns, I changed it to red peppers because you can cut them in a similar shape to prawns (they have that natural curl) and they look sort of pink in the tempura.

The original recipe uses fresh basil to infuse an olive oil and a mayonnaise as two of the three sauces that are used to dress the plate. I didn’t have any fresh basil so I used some basil pesto and lots of fresh coriander to increase the vibrancy of the green. I blended these together in the oil and mayonnaise with a stick blender.

Basil and coriander actually work really well together. I was a bit worried about the Italian/Indian (con) fusion of flavours. But hey it tastes good.

Avocado Tomato Tian, Tempura Peppers, Sweet Chilli, Basil Coriander Sauce

Serves 2, Vegetarian (Vegan without the mayo). Adapted from the Harbour House recipe

Prep time: 40 mins Cooking Time: 5 mins

  • 1 medium red pepper, cut in 1 cm slices
  • 2 small avocados, mashed with lemon juice
  • 2 small tomatoes, peeled, deseeded & chopped
  • 1 small aubergine, cut into 1 cm rounds
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • salt & pepper
  • sweet chilli sauce, see my recipe here if you want to make your own
  • fresh basil leaves (or I used basil pesto and fresh coriander), save some for garnish
  • 1 heaped tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/2 lemon
  • olive oil
  • 2 or 3 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch, maizena)
  • 100 gr flour (I used spelt flour)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 200 ml iced fizzy water (or beer)
  • vegetable oil for deep/frying

Drizzle the aubergine slices with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, minced garlic and chilli flakes. Roast in a 200 c oven for about 30 minutes until softened. You won’t need the whole aubergine for this dish but you can keep the rest for salads, wraps or whatever.

Put the pepper strips on a plate and sieve over the cornflour until the peppers are coated on all sides.

Mash the avocados with a big squeeze of lemon and season with salt & black pepper, taste.

Cut a cross in the base of each tomato. Plunge them into a bowl of boiling water and leave for about 30 seconds. Drain then refresh them in a bowl of iced water for another 30 seconds. Then you can peel them easily.

Half or quarter the tomatoes and remove all of the seeds. Chop or dice the tomato flesh, season with salt & pepper and set aside.

Add one heaped tablespoon of mayonnaise into to a measuring jug with one teaspoon of basil pesto and/or a big handful of basil/coriander leaves for a greener colour. Add a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, salt & pepper. Blend with a stick blender adding a splash of water to loosen it if necessary. Taste.

Ina separate measuring jug add another teaspoon of pesto and/or a big handful of basil or coriander leaves. Drizzle over a good glug of olive oil and blend. Add more oil until you get a good drizzling consistency. Season.

Sieve the flour, baking powder & salt into a large bowl. Whisk in the ice-cold water/beer until just combined. Do not over whisk.

Heat the oil to about 180 c in a wok. Add the peppers (in two or 3 batches) to the batter and coat completely. When the oil is hot, carefully lower the first batch of peppers into the wok. When the peppers have come to the surface, if you like you can sprinkle over some more batter from a height with your fingers. This gives it an extra, light crispy coating. Use chopsticks or a metal slotted spoon to move the peppers onto the bits of batter so it sticks  to the peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Drain in a sieve over kitchen paper and keep warm while you cook the rest.

Using a mould or chef’s ring on your serving plate, place two slices of aubergine into the base. Top with with a layer of the diced tomatoes then add a layer of the mashed avocado. Smooth the top and press down lightly.

Drizzle the mayonnaise, sweet chilli sauce and basil oil around the plate. Place the tempura peppers evenly around the tower/tian. Then slowly lift of the ring and serve garnished with some fresh basil or coriander leaves and a drizzle of the basil oil. Some toasted ciabatta slices would be good with this too.

Now try to get someone else to clean up the mess in the kitchen!!

For more pictures of our lunch at Harbour House check out  this post.

Have a great weekend…

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

6 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prep time: 20 mins Cooking time: 10 mins

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

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

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

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

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

Taste and adjust sugar and soy sauce as required.

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

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

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

Serve immediately.

For more information about Kitima visit their website here.

Enjoy!!

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

2 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add the sugars and cook for another 10 minutes.

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

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

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

Prep Time: 5 mins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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