Category Archives: Main courses

Roasted butternut, feta and baby spinach salad

Baby Spinach and Roast Butternut Salad
We often buy butternut (or as the Americans would say, butternut squash) in bulk on special and then run out of ideas on what to do with it because, let’s face it, there are only so many ways you can cook a butternut before getting sick of it. This recipe, however, has changed my outlook on butternut for good – it is the yummiest salad I have eaten in a very long time, and I’d even venture to say it was more delicious than similar salads I’ve eaten at restaurants. This recipe is adapted from Gina’s skinny recipes.

Ingredients

  • 1 large butternut, peeled and diced
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp golden syrup / honey
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar / white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp minced baby green onion
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and fresh black pepper
  • 2 cups baby spinach, washed and spun dry
  • 1/4 cup raw chopped almonds
  • 12 fresh cherries, quartered and pitted
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the butternut with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon syrup, salt to taste and fresh ground pepper.
  3. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the centre of the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until tender, turning half way.
  4. Remove from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.
  5. Meanwhile combine the vinegar, onion, 1 tablespoon syrup, mustard, oil, pinch of salt and black pepper to make the vinaigrette.
  6. Toast the almonds in a pan on medium heat, being careful not to burn them
  7. Divide the spinach on 4 plates and top each salad with the roasted butternut, cherries, crumbled feta cheese and the toasted almonds.
  8. Drizzle the vinaigrette over each salad and serve immediately.

Note
This salad can be served as a main meal, as we did, or a side salad alongside a main.

Moroccan style mince with couscous

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After visiting Morocco earlier this year and receiving a tagine as a Christmas gift, we felt like something Moroccan inspired for our post gammon and turkey hangover. This dish is extremely simple to make and ready in about 30 minutes.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 500g beef mince
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 2 t ground turmeric
  • 100g dried apricots, chopped
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 cup couscous
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • knob of butter
  • 4 T fresh mint, chopped
  • 50g unsalted cashews, toasted

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan, add onions and cook gently for 5 minutes until soft.
  2. Stir in the spices, coating the onions, then add the mince and fry till brown.
  3. Add the apricots and stock and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and cook gently for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add couscous into a bowl and cover with just boiled water. Once it has absorbed all the water, fork through a knob of butter, lemon zest and mint to give it a nice fluffy texture. Season to taste.
  5. To assemble, spoon couscous onto serving plate, pile the mince mixture on top and scatter with the cashews.

Note
We have some Ras-el-hanout spice from Morocco which gives the dish a bit more complex flavours where up to 30 or more different spices could be in the mix, so you could use that instead of the cumin, cinnamon and turmeric suggested in the recipe. Ras-el-hanout can now be found at most good Pick-n-Pay stores.

South Africans may also have noticed some slight similarities in flavour between this Moroccan dish from North Africa and the traditional South African bobotie recipe. The kids therefore asked that we add some slices of banana and sprinkle some coconut on their portions. Nothing wrong with adding a dollop of chutney too while you’re at it.

Traditionally, Moroccans serve their couscous with seven vegetables, so if you want to bulk up the dish with some oven grilled veggies such as courgettes, red peppers, aubergines, red onions, butternut, carrots, parsnips and leeks then just chop them up, drizzle some olive oil, coat with harissa (chili kick), salt and pepper and pop them into an oven at 180 C for 30 mins or until cooked and caramelised.

Balsamic caramelised onion and blue cheese tart

Balsamic caramelised onion and blue cheese tart

A quick recipe for caramelised onion and blue cheese tarts. We normally make this on a Friday for our weekly pizza night, but this time I wanted to use light and crispy puff pastry. I served this as an accompaniment to the beetroot gazpacho. The sweetness of the balsamic caramelised onion and the creaminess of the blue cheese was a great contrast to the vinegary gazpacho.

Ingredients

  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 6 large red onions, sliced
  • 30ml thyme
  • 4 tbs brown sugar
  • 4 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 packet puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg
  • wedge of blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup roasted cashew nuts

Method

  1. Heat oil in a large frypan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, thyme, a pinch of salt and pepper and cook slowly for 20 minutes. The onions cook down quite a bit, therefore the amount of onions required.
  2. When onions are softened, add sugar and balsamic. Cook over low heat for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sticky and caramelised. Set aside.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C and roll out the puff pastry to fit a baking tray. Fold over the edges to make a wall and brush with beaten egg. Pierce the base of the pastry with a fork.
  4. Spread the onions, crumbed blue cheese and cashews evenly to cover the base of the pastry.
  5. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until golden.

As mentioned, this complimented the beetroot gazpacho, but you can serve this with a rocket and tomato salad.

Crispy chicken goujons

You’ve watched the Food Network a number of times and heard some of the chefs mentioning goujons? What are goujons? These are basically small strips of fish or chicken, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried – a cheffy way of saying nuggets, but much tastier and healthier. The kids love them.

Ingredients

  • 3 or 4 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1/2 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 100g fresh breadcrumbs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Method

  1. Cut the chicken into fingers or chunks, not too thick.
  2. Mix the yoghurt, lemon juice, zest, coriander, garlic and mustard together.
  3. In a separate dish mix the breadcrumbs and salt and pepper.
  4. Mix the chicken into the yoghurt mixture and let stand in the fridge for 30 minutes. If you can’t wait, don’t worry.
  5. Take out the chicken pieces, allowing the excess to drip off, then coat in breadcrumbs, pressing them on lightly with your fingers. Put on a plate. Repeat until all the pieces are coated.
  6. Pour a few teaspoons of oil into a non-stick frying pan and place over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the pieces to the pan (you’ll may need to do this in batches).
  7. Fry for about four minutes each side until golden.
  8. Drain on kitchen paper.

I served these with a fresh garden salad and a selection of dips, aioli for the adults, All-gold tomato sauce for the kiddies or even some mustard or sweet chilli sauce goes down a treat.

Beetroot gazpacho – a summer treat

Beetroot gazpacho

South African’s will know that summer can become incredibly hot. While it’s only spring time, the temperature is already soaring in the mid 30 degrees C.

Of course this poses some challenges for dinners and meals. I hardly feel like having something heavy during summer. So light, vegetarian meals come in to play. Also, since we try to get as much veggies into the children, we’re always looking for ways to incorporate these into our meals.

I recently got some beetroot, with the idea of making beetroot chips, but completely forgot about it. So when Victoire asked about our dinner plans earlier this week, I immediately thought about soup. Then she mentioned the beetroot. It was 35 degrees outside and I felt like something cool and refreshing. I remembered seeing beetroot gazpacho on the Food Network once. The perfect dinner. A combination of sweet and sour, slightly chilled and packed full of veggies.

The recipe is incredibly easy and a real purse pleaser, considering we had all the ingredients in our cupboards.

Ingredients
6 small to medium sized beets
1 small cucumber, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 small onion, quartered
1 garlic clove,
4 teaspoons olive oil
5 sprigs of coriander
1.5 cups of vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of vinegar
Few tablespoons of low-fat greek yoghurt

Method

  1. Cook the beetroot in the oven at 220 C until and tender. It took around 45 minutes. Set aside to cool down. Then peel and quarter.
  2. Place all the ingredients, except yoghurt, into a blender and blend until smooth. It shouldn’t be too thick like oats, just smooth enough so you don’t have to chew.
  3. Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes while you make a balsamic caramelised onion and blue cheese tart. More on that in the next post.
  4. Taste again and adjust seasoning as required. Pour into bowls and top with 2 tablespoons of the yoghurt and a sprig of coriander (I forgot to put that on in the above photo)

Enjoy!

Stuffed roast chicken for Sunday lunch

Sundays are for family. There’s nothing better than having the entire family around the lunch table. In South Africa this tradition normally involves a braai (barbeque), roast leg of lamb or as our family often does, a roast chicken with all the trimmings (think potatoes roasted in garlic and rosemary or candied thyme carrots).

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 5 rashers of bacon, diced
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 8 sun dried tomatoes in oil
  • 2 tablespoons mixed herbs
  • smoked paprika
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup water

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C
  2. Fry the bacon in a little olive oil till brown. Add the onion, garlic, herbs, sun dried tomato and chickpeas till hot.
  3. Drizzle the chicken with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika.
  4. Stuff the chicken with the chickpea mix.
  5. Pour the wine and water in a roasting pot, add the chicken and cover with the lid.
  6. Cook at 200 for 1 hour.
  7. Uncover and transfer the chicken to grill for a further 25-30 minutes, until the juices run clear.
  8. Make a gravy out of the pan juices.
  9. Rest the chicken for 15 minutes.
  10. Cut the chicken up and pour over some of the gravy.
  11. Serve with the stuffing, some garlic and rosemary roast potatoes, candied carrots or a tomato, leafy green salad.

Chickpeas with bacon & sun dried tomato.

Note

I used a rose wine instead of white wine which made the gravy a tad too vinegary. If the wine is not cooked off enough to your taste, add a tablespoon or two of brown sugar and cook the gravy a little longer. The longer it cooks, the more the wine will cook off. The sugar definitely balances out the wine/vinegar taste.

Tre gli spaghetti pomodoro – Three tomato spaghetti

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This is a very quick dinner and full of tomato goodness. It is basically spaghetti tossed with three types of tomatoes – whole peeled, cherry and sundried with crispy bacon, sweet basil, garlic and topped with corriander.

Ingredients

  • Spaghetti pasta
  • Can of whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 6 sundried tomatoes
  • 4-6 slices of back bacon diced or slices
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Handful of basil leaves chopped finely or (1 tablespoon dried sweet basil)
  • Couple of sprigs corriander leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chilli flakes (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Method

  • Cook the pasta in boiling water per packet instructions
  • Heat up some oil in a pan and fry the bacon with some finely chopped garlic and half the basil
  • When almost crispy, add the cherry tomatoes and heat till they start to blister
  • Remove from pan and keep warm
  • Add the can of whole tomatoes to the hot pan and roughly break into pieces
  • When the sauce starts to bubble, add the rest of the basil, sundried tomatoes and the cherry tomatoes back to the pan
  • When heated through, take off the heat, add the bacon, season to taste and top off with the corriander.

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By now the pasta is also ready, drain and serve with the tomato sauce. Add some chilli flakes and grated parmesan (optional).

Thai chicken curry and white chocolate cardamom mousse for dessert

Thai chicken curry

A few weeks ago we visited the Fourways Farmers market, curious to see and sample some fresh local produce and home made treats.

Victoire was looking for cardamom pods for some time and as luck would have it, managed to not only find a vendor that had cardamom, but also a smörgåsbord of other fresh herbs, spices and tidbits for our cooking endeavours. He even made up some barbeque spice for us. Watch out though, if you don’t pay close attention you’ll end up with some really hot spices and a huge dent in your pocket.

Inspired by the cardamom find, I happened to recall a recipe for white chocolate cardamom mousse from Nigel Slater’s Real Food cookbook – something I wanted to try for a long time. So this weekend, I finally got all the ingredients together for the decadent dessert.

Check out this quick Vine video of me whipping up the white chocolate cardamom mousse.

Read more about this recipe here.

With dessert sorted, I decided to continue on the fragrant Asian theme and make a Thai chicken curry for a change.

This one is very simple and is quite adaptable to whatever vegetables you have in your fridge.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Thai curry paste (I used panang curry paste – only 15% chilli)
  • 4-6 skinless boneless chicken thighs, cubed
  • can coconut milk
  • 10 baby sweetcorn, halved lengthways
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, halving the florets
  • 1/2 head broccoli, halving the florets
  • 1/2 punnet of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 packet medium rice noodles
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
  • small handful fresh coriander leaves

Method

  1. Heat oil in saucepan. Stir in the curry paste and cook for a few seconds. Add the chicken pieces and fry gently.
  2. Add the coconut milk, baby sweetcorn, cauliflower and mushrooms and bring to the boil. Partly cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Bring a pot of water to the boil with a little oil to prevent the noodles from sticking and add the rice noodles. When it reaches boiling point, switch off the heat and let it stand for 4 minutes.
  4. Drain the noodles and add to the pan. Add the broccoli stems on top and simmer for 4 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Add the lime zest and juice, fish sauce, coriander and stir well.
  6. Serve in a bowl, garnishing with fresh coriander, lime wedge and some red chilli (optional).

The dish turned out deliciously fragrant with just a hint of heat. The family gobbled it all up with no left-overs for a snack or work lunch. That to me is a sign of a successful dish.

We ended the meal off with the white chocolate cardamom mousse – a very rich, velvety finish to a delicious meal.

Fun Fish Finger Wraps

Fun fish finger wraps

It’s the middle of the month and the pennies are tight. Our fridge has all kinds of leftover bits and pieces from the weekend and we were stuck for quick 15-minute dinner ideas.

In the fridge we had a handful or two of baby spinach leaves, a bunch of coriander leaves, half a green pepper, some alfalfa sprouts, an avocado, parmesan cheese and a small jar of dressing left over from the polenta crusted chicken caesar salad I made over the weekend.

So I went scratching through the freezer and found some tortilla wraps. These would go perfectly with all the vegies. Now I just needed a protein that was quick to defrost and that the kids would still enjoy. My eyes fell on a half a box of fish fingers. A perfect light-bulb moment.

So without further ado, fun (for the kids) fish finger wraps done in 15 minutes.

Ingredients (for those who like lists)

  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • 4 sprigs (or a small bunch) of coriander leaves
  • half a green pepper
  • 4 pinches of alfalfa sprouts (more to taste)
  • 1 diced avocado
  • 8 slices of parmesan cheese
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • dressing of your choice or some sweet-chili sauce
  • about 12 (or more) frozen fish fingers
  • 4 tortilla wraps

Dressing – leftover from an earlier dish

  • 2 tsp garlic-infused olive oil
  • 2 lemons
  • 40g parmesan cheese
  • 4 anchovy filets
  • 4 tbsp fat-free natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp red vinegar
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander
  • Squeeze the juice from the lemons and place everything in a food processor and process.

Method

  • turn the oven on full whack and set to the grill and bake setting
  • spread out the fish fingers on a baking tray and place in the oven for 5 minutes
  • meanwhile roughly chop your baby spinach leaves
  • dice your avocado, tomatoes and green pepper and divide into four equal heaps
  • heat up each individual wrap on a plate in the microwave for 30 seconds (45 if you like it hot)
  • 5 minutes would have passed by now, so turn your oven down to 220 degrees C and set to bake
  • slice the parmesan cheese into 8 shavings
  • after 5 minutes, turn the oven on to the grill and bake setting and turn it down to 200 degrees C
  • add the parmesan shavings to the baking tray (with the fish fingers) to melt until golden crisps (it will crisp up while cooling down)
  • start assembling your wraps by spreading about a tablespoon full of the dressing, sweet chili sauce or any other sauce (mayo works well too) in a strip on the wrap
  • top with the shredded baby spinach leaves, avo, tomato and green pepper as well as a sprig of coriander,
  • sprinkle with some alfalfa sprouts
  • by now the fish fingers and parmesan crisps are done (15 minutes total), line 3 fish fingers on top of the veggies and place 2 of the parmesan crisps on top
  • roll and fold tightly, slice each wrap in half and marvel as the kids devour everything and ask for seconds

This recipe served 2 adults and 2 kids and can be prepared as a lunchtime snack or a fuss-free dinner. Works equally well with chicken or beef.

Roast leg of lamb – Heston Blumenthal style

I’m a huge fan of Heston Blumenthal‘s food, oft for the shear entertainment factor as for the ability to recreate his recipes at home. Imagine my delight then when I stumbled on Heston Blumenthal at Home at the local Exclusive Books store. The How to cook like Heston TV series also had us glued to the television on Thursday evenings.

Hands up if you’ve ever wanted to perfect the art of poaching an egg or making melt in your mouth steak. Then this cookbook is for you.

Fast forward to today, a cold wintery and misty day in Johannesburg. Real comfort food weather.
I already had a roast leg of lamb in my mind, but wanted to try something different. Perhaps not the recipe as such, but the cooking method. So I paged through Heston’s book and found his roast leg of lamb with anchovy, garlic and rosemary recipe.

At first most people may think anchovies with lamb? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. The anchovies don’t bring a fishiness to the lamb, but rather a nice salty depth to the overall dish.

Unfortunately for me, I used up all our anchovies about two weeks ago when I made an anchovy butter for our pasta. I opted to replace the anchovies with some smoked streaky bacon. Also something that brings a smoky saltiness to the dish.

So on with the details.

Notes before you begin

  • The recipe serves 4 hungry people
  • You will need a meat thermometer
  • Cooking time: 4 hours + 30 mins for resting
  • Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1.8 –2.2kg whole leg of lamb
  • sea salt
  • 3 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 12 anchovies, sliced in half lengthways – I substituted this with 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled, halved and de-germed
  • fresh rosemary (4 sprigs)
  • 400ml milk (semi-skimmed / 2%)

For the sauce

  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 500g lamb or chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 80 degrees Celsius. Yes, this is right, low and slow.
  2. Season the lamb with salt. Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan over a high heat. When the oil is smoking hot, sear the lamb until golden brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and place in a roasting tray.
  3. Blanch the garlic in 100ml milk four times, using fresh 100ml milk each time.
  4. Cut the blanched garlic into slivers.
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut slits in the surface of the lamb at regular intervals. Use a small spoon to enlarge the holes and stuff them with the anchovies (or bacon), garlic and the rosemary.
  6. Place the lamb in the oven for approximately 3-4 hours until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 55 degrees Celsius.
  7. When cooked, remove the lamb from the oven, wrap it in foil and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.
  8. While the meat is resting, make the sauce. Place the roasting tray over a medium-high heat. Add the wine and use a spatula to scrape all the delicious bits from the bottom of the pan. Allow the liquid to reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and mustard and reduce to a sauce consistency.
  9. Strain and pour into a warm jug to serve with the lamb.

Tips for carving the lamb
Grip the knob of bone that juts out of the meat with your left hand (reverse if left-handed). Keeping the joint flat on the board, rounded side upwards, cut into the meat from the top downwards, until the knife meets bone, in slices of whatever thickness you prefer, all the way along the top of the meat. Then, while still gripping the bone, run the knife horizontally across the meat, just above the bone, separating the slices. Turn over and repeat on the other side.

This method of cutting across the grain actually makes the meat seem more tender as you’re biting into the grain as opposed to across the grain which will be more chewier and tougher.

Heston explains it best by comparing it to chopping a log of wood. Trying to chop the log horizontally will be all near impossible. However, standing the log vertically and chopping into the top following the grain, the log will split more easily and naturally.

Courgette lasagne

Re-post of the recipe that appeared on Aquilaonline, my other blog.


Zucchini or otherwise courgette lasagne
View Zucchini or otherwise courgette lasagne on Instagram.

Ingredients

  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can tomato and onion mix
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 3 medium courgette
  • 2 cups mozzarella or cheddar cheese, shredded

Bechamel sauce (makes about double than what is required)

  • 60g butter
  • 1/3 cup plain flour
  • 4 1/2 cups milk
  • 75g parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • good pinch ground nutmeg

Method
In a medium sauce pan, brown meat and season with salt. When cooked drain in colander to remove any fat. Add olive oil to the pan and saute garlic and onions about 2 minutes. Return the meat to the pan, add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for at least 30-40 minutes, covered. Do not add extra water, the sauce should be thick.

Meanwhile, slice courgette into thin slices. I used a cheese slicer that had the perfect thickness. Lightly salt and set aside or 10 minutes. Courgette has a lot of water when cooked, salting it takes out a lot of moisture. After 10 minutes, blot excess moisture with a paper towel.

On a griddle pan, grill the courgette on each side, until cooked, about 2 minutes per side. Place on paper towels to soak any excess moisture.

Preheat oven to 180° Celsius.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes or until bubbling. Remove from heat. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth. Return to heat. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 10 to 12 minutes or until sauce comes to the boil, thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in parmesan, salt and nutmeg.

In a medium casserole dish spread some sauce on the bottom and layer the courgette to cover. Then place some of the white sauce mixture, then top with the mozzarella/cheddar cheese and repeat the process until all your ingredients are used up. Top with sauce and mozzarella/cheddar.

Bake 45 minutes. Let it stand about 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

Tuna Fishcakes with Paprika lemon mayonnaise

The inspiration for this meal came from a Pick n Pay Fresh Living booklet titled “Dinner time: 7 Quick & easy family meals for under R350″, the mayonnaise recipe was found via Epicurious. These are delicious and really simple fishcakes, with a great flavour. Our two year old loved them!

Ingredients:

Fishcakes

  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 3 cans (170g each) light meat tuna chunks in salt water
  • 2 tsp fish spice / fish rub
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 extra-large eggs, beaten
  • Cake flour, for dusting
  • Canola oil for frying

Mayonnaise

  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • Dash cayenne pepper

Method:

Fishcakes

  1. Mix all the fishcake ingredients together in a medium bowl
  2. Shape 1/4 cupfuls of the mixture into patties
  3. Dust with the flour just before frying
  4. Heat a generous glug if oil in a pan
  5. Fry fishcakes for 1-2 minutes per side or until golden
  6. Drain on paper towel
  7. Serve with fresh coriander, a fresh salad (we had ripe mango on a bed of mixed baby salad leaves), chips, and the mayonnaise

Mayonnaise

  1. Whisk together all mayonnaise ingredients in a small bowl until smooth

Lamb chops with balsamic reduction

Tonight we had absolutely no idea what to make for dinner. We’ve had our fair share of fish, chicken and vegetarian the last few days and I was craving some read meat.

The problem of course is that it was getting late (food shopping after 6pm) and I wasn’t feeling like building a braai or smoking out the house by grilling meat in the oven.

Then I remembered a quick and easy method for a balsamic reduction, which would go nicely with some pan fried rosemary lamb chops.

A quick meal in 15 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 6 lamb chops
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Method

  1. Sprinkle rosemary, salt and pepper over lamb chops.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and cook lamb chops for about 3 1/2 minutes on each side (medium rare).
  3. Remove lamb and set aside to rest. Add onion to pan and sautee until slightly browned.
  4. Add the balsamic vinegar and chicken stock.
  5. Allow mixture to cook until reduced by half, this takes about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter.
  6. Pour sauce over lamb and serve with some seasonal veggies and couscous.

rosemary lamb chops with balsamic reduction

This seemed to be a roaring success. Our 18-month old son even grabbed some of the balsamic reduction off my plate by the handfulls and helped himself to a chop too.

Of course I complety forgot to take a pic of the end result. I hope the one of the uncooked chops, is not too gnarly for some folk. I may have to do this again soon.

Spinach lasagna al forno

spinach lasagna al forno

Nothing quite beats the winter chill like a good lasagna or lasagne if you feel like saying it in Italian.

Growing up my mom always made “green” lasagna, leaves of spinach lasagna with a rich bolognese and béchamel (white) sauce. It was only years later that we found out lasagna also came in a non-green version. Hmm…I think my parents wanted to make sure we got some extra vegetables in. That said, when there wasn’t a lot of meat in the house, I remember my mom adding more grated carrot and other veggies into the dish to “bulk” up the dish.

Either way it was super yum.

Fast forward to today, a cold and blustery winters day in Johannesburg. The only thing that could satisfy a hungry family – a hot and hearty meal. Lasagna fit the bill perfectly. I also like to make lasagna, mac-and-cheese, bobotie etc. in bulk so I doubled up the recipe below. Except for the mince, for which I bulked up with extra veggies. This yielded about 3 freezer tins of lasagna, each tin enough to feed a family of four.

Ingredients for the bolognese sauce

  • 350g minced beef
  • approx 10 sheets of spinach lasagna
  • 80g tomato paste
  • 100g grated cheddar cheese / or parmigiano if you prefer
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 onion
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Ingredients for the béchamel sauce

  • 1lt milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 50grams flour
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • nutmeg (to taste)

Method for bolognese sauce
Melt the butter in a pan and add the finely chopped celery, carrot and onion. Fry for about 5 minutes. Add the mince and cook till browned. Add the cup of wine and cook till evaporated. Add the tomato paste and stock. Cook uncovered on a medium heat for 40 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Method for béchamel sauce
About 20 minutes into the cooking time of your bolognese sauce, start making your béchamel sauce. There are few steps, but you have to take this part easy to make sure you don’t burn the milk.

Heat up the milk in a pan – the hot milk combines better with the flour and minimises lumps forming.

In another pan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and make sure all of it combines with the butter. Now add about 2-3 ladles of hot milk at a time to the flour mixture. Whisk rapidly. Keep on adding ladles of milk and whisking. The sauce should be nice and thick. Take off the heat before it boils and add salt and pepper to taste.

Building your lasagna
Spread a ladle of béchamel on the bottom of the foil tin or a buttered ovenproof dish. Add leaves of spinach lasagna to cover the tin, taking care not to overlap too much. Cover the sheets with a layer of bolognese, followed by béchamel and some grated cheese. Continue to build up your dish alternating the layers of lasagna, filling and cheese. You should end up with a top layer of cheese.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Your dish should be golden brown on top and the pasta cooked through. Serve with a side salad and a glass of wine in front of a fire.

Tuna casserole bake

I had some leftover canned tuna the other day and decided to make a nice warm tuna bake to ward off the wintery chill in the air. A quick Google search later, and I had a basic recipe and some ideas to start with. The recipe is mainly adapted from About.com’s Tuna Casserole Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 packet pasta screws, cooked al dente
  • 1 splash olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 packet soup (I used garden vegetable soup), prepared according to instructions on packet
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables or peas, precooked
  • 2 cups grated cheese
  • 1 or 2 cans tuna, lightly drained

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius
  2. Saute the onion and celery in a medium pot until softened
  3. Add the soup, milk, precooked frozen veggies, 1 cup cheese and black pepper to the pot
  4. Simmer, stirring, until all the ingredients are combined and the cheese has melted
  5. When it begins to boil turn off the heat and gently fold in the tuna
  6. Add the precooked pasta and toss to coat
  7. Pour into a casserole dish
  8. Top with remaining cup of grated cheese
  9. Bake in the oven for 15 min
  10. Grill the top for a few minutes until the cheese is lightly browned

The About.com recipe suggests using buttered breadcrumbs or potato chips as a topping instead of the cheese. This sounds yummy, I’ll definitely give it a try sometime! You can also check out the many interesting variations on this dish listed after their recipe.

Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the dish before we tucked in! Everyone enjoyed it, including my one year old who usually avoids tuna. A winner in my books.