Archive | July 2011

CHEAP AND CHEERFUL

Mandy’s ‘Getting to know you’ quiz:

1. What is your favourite non-alcholic drink?

Pomegranate juice.

2. What is your favourite alcoholic drink?

Wine. I am currently favouring Shiraz among the red varietals, but I am also revisiting old world-style white wines like Riesling.

3. What is your favourite food?

Probably prawns, they’re pretty on the plate and palate, whichever way you cook them.

4. What is your least favourite food?

I’m not mad about macaroni cheese.

5. What do you eat that others think is really weird?

My overseas friends think oxtail is very odd. A lot of people don’t understand my love for rollmops and chopped herring.

6. What is your favourite thing to cook/bake?

I love making different curries and also enjoy experimenting with different prawn starter dishes.

7. If you could only chose one, would it be sweet or savoury?

Savoury.

8. What time do you usually eat your dinner during the week?

Usually at 6pm, we’re early-to-bed-early-to-rise people.

9. What kitchen item/s have you never owned?

A pizzelle. I saw one here and my heart is set on owning one.

10. What tip would you give to a newby cooker / baker?

Don’t ever try to take on a 6-tier cake!

11. What is the best vegetarian dish you have eaten?

Mie goreng. Recipe can be found here.

12. What is the easiest meal you can cook?

Spaghetti carbonara. Recipe can be found here.

13. If you could only grow 3 herbs in your garden, what would you grow?

Basil, coriander, parsley. (And my Bay Tree, of course!)

14. What would you use as a substitute for salt?

Soy sauce (ditto Mandy!)

15. What 5 items would you pack for a quick and easy picnic or day out?

Crusty bread, taramasalata, hummus, cheese, Obikwa Shiraz.

 

Of the 165 wines entered into this year’s Shiraz Challenge, OBIKWA was the top scoring Best Value Shiraz once again on a value scale which takes into account the quality of the wine in relation to its selling price. – winebiz.co.za

This is the second year in a row that this wine has won the award. The recommended retail price is R27 per bottle, but I bought a case at Checkers yesterday and paid R19.99 a bottle. It’s a simple, young wine; perfect for an unpretentious picnic or a lazy supper of curried mince and toast. The wine is sold in 43 countries.

“The question of elitism versus populism in wine drinking is an ongoing debate – and one that will no doubt be roused again with this award – but Obikwa winemaker Michael Bucholz isn’t deterred.

There’s no doubt that this commodity wine achieves exactly what it sets out to do: to be quaffed by the bottle loads. And that in itself speaks of clever winemaking.” Winemag.co.za

SWEET&SOUR, RETIREMENT AND MIDNIGHT SNACKS

I spotted these giant chicken espetadas at Checkers earlier in the week and bought them, mainly because I wanted the skewers, which are not sold separately in the store. I seem to be having a Malaysian moment this week and have been hankering for sweet and sour sauce, although espetadas are a Portuguese dish and the skewers are usually cooked over a wood fire. As there are no resident food police in my kitchen, I felt free to break the rules and made up a quick sauce:

3 Tablespoons All Gold tomato sauce
1 Tablespoon sambal oelek
1 Tablespooon smooth apricot jam
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
3 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon Maizena (corn starch)
1 Tablespoon sunflower oil

I was quite surprised to learn that the oldest wine company in Malaysia was only established in 1979. It seems beer is more popular, although the majority of Malaysians are Muslim and not allowed to drink. Interestingly enough, the top result for my search for ‘beer in Malaysia’ yielded an advert to ‘Retire in Penang’. Google can be so insulting sometimes, as if I am that old!

And the foodreference.com trivia of today in history?

1977 Buffalo,New York declared this day ‘Chicken Wing Day’ in honor of the famous Buffalo Chicken Wings, created by Teressa Bellissimo in October, 1964. Buffalo Wings were created by Teressa Bellissimo at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo,New York, for her son and some friends for a midnight snack.

Seems I have to go off and buy some chicken wings; O Bunn has a weekend sleepover party and I am sure the girls will forage for a midnight snack.

Apropos of all the chilli I’ve used in the kitchen during the past week and Side View’s weekend challenge, I found Thys le Roux’s latest cartoon especially funny:

EASTERN TEMPTATIONS, VERY TEMPTING

I’ve probably been to five different supermarkets in my search for galangal, to no avail. Even store management don’t know what I am talking about when I ask for it. Earlier this week, I decided to try the newly revamped Checkers in Emmarentia, thinking they may have it because the suburb has a large percentage of affluent Indian residents. I was, again, disappointed at not finding the elusive rhizomes and did the other items on my shopping list in a mild huff. I left the store and, as I rounded the corner going home, I spotted this little shop:


Impulsively, I pulled over into a parking bay, causing the man behind me to toot his horn and shake his fist at me. Very excited, I went into the shop. I could have kissed the lady who mans the shop when, unfazed, she handed me a jar of galangal.


Entranced, I wandered around the store, its shelves loaded with things I’d never seen before, like betel nut shavings.:

Aren't the patterns beautiful?

Had I not been committed to fetching my mother-in-law from her hairdressing appointment, I’d have spent the rest of the day there.
I came away with a small bag of treasures and immediately set to making a chicken biryani. A proper one, for the first time in my life. You see, I have never had green cardamom powder in my larder before now …


I have a feeling my little car is going to know the way to Eastern Temptations blindfolded in the near future!

Eastern Temptations is at 35 Greenhill Road, Emmarentia.
Tel: 011 646 8429

RED FACED AND BEEF RENDANG

So, after my humiliation at my dreadful cake on Tuesday, I thought it best to get right back into my kitchen, back in the saddle as it were, before my confidence waned completely. I needed comfort food and Merlot, and a good bout of weeping. I was doubtful that I should be in any sort of close proximity to knives, but soldiered on without any injuries.


Beef Rendang: (serves 4)
First make up your paste by blending the following until smooth:
1 large onion, finely diced.
2 Tablespoons of crushed garlic
2 Tablespoons of crushed ginger
1 Tablespoon of galangal
2 sticks of lemon grass, bashed with a mallet
2 or 3 chopped fresh chillies
A teaspoon each of cumin, ground coriander and tumeric
Other ingredients:
1kg lazy aged rump steak, cut into bite sized cubes
Olive oil for frying
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves of crushed garlic
3 whole star anise
3 cardamom pods
5 chopped coriander leaves
1 tin of coconut milk (about 400 ml)
1 cup of water
1 tbsp of brown sugar
Grated zest of two limes (for garnish)

METHOD:
Heat oil in a wok or other cast iron pot and add blended paste, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and fry, then add the steak, sugar and salt and stirfry until your meat is well coated with your paste.
Add coconut milk and 1 cup of water and bring it to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and let it to simmer for about 1 ½ hours, stirring regularly. The liquid will reduce and you will left with a fairly dry meat that is tender and full of flavour.
Add additional salt and sugar to taste.
Garnish with coriander leaves and lime zest.
Serve with brown basmati rice.

Note:. You can add some seasonal vegetables to the pot to add some visual interest, but this is generally not done in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, where the dish’s origins lie.

FAIL, FLOP AND FITZGERALD

Just once it might be instructive to pretend you’re accepting an award for failure, just to see who you would thank. Robert Brault, http://www.robertbrault.com
I failed yesterday. Massively, not only for myself, but for my friends. Phoned on Saturday afternoon with a request by a client, I agreed to make a 6 tier cake. When the creative director emailed the proposed design, I almost died.
I like baking and am fairly confident about it, but I favour rustic cakes, a good sponge or chocolate base, with fresh cream or fromage frais; drizzled with nuts or fresh fruits; the kind of cake a farmer’s wife would bake.
I said their design was out of the question, but I could try to match their colours. And try I did. I was covered in technicolour splatters.

A massive anxiety attack made my hands shake and the piping went all wonky. The end result was a contender for the ugliest cake on earth.


The idea was that the cake would stand at the entrance to the event, with lots of goodies (sprinkles, candy, glitter, flowers etc) and the guests, on arrival, would contribute their bits of decoration to the cake.
Quite hysterical, I sent the CD a photo of the cake and followed up with a phone call. There was no way of salvaging the cake, I thought. She suggested I remove all the icing and simply supply them with a vanilla and chocolate tier cake. After much manhandling, it looked better, But still ugly, very ugly.


Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. F. Scott Fitzgerald
Go and jump in the lake, Mister Fitzgerald, my defeat in tiered cakes is final, I am never trying something like that again …

SOMETHING I ALWAYS HAVE IN MY FRIDGE

It’s George Bernard Shaw’s birthday today. He was born in 1856 You will find many food related quotes from his works on the Food Reference Website. Quote: “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”
I spoke too quickly about the weather yesterday; in the afternoon a cold spell descended on us, it is snowing in several parts of the country, snow was predicted for Johannesburg too, but – if it happened – I must have slept through it after an exhausting day of baking my 6-tier cake. When it’s assembled, it will actually only be a 3-tier cake, I needed 6 to give it the right height.


It is for a re-launch event a client is hosting tonight. The icing has to be specific pantone colours and the air in my kitchen was blue with curses as I tried to match the shades with food colour.


I will post a photo of the final product tomorrow, but first onto Tandy’s weekly ingredient challenge, which is to cook something you always have in your fridge.
In my fridge you will always find a variety of cheeses, a roast chicken and fresh cream. The roast chicken is a handy standby when I don’t know how many people I will have in the house at lunchtime on any given day. O Bunn frequently pitches after school with one or more friends in tow. My husband may unexpectedly take the afternoon off work, and then there are the school lunchboxes to prepare every morning. Roast chicken is just the thing.


It’s also perfect for a quick and easy pasta dish for my own lunch, as was the case yesterday. So simple; shredded chicken, a sprinkle of NoMU tomato & chilli stir, a good glug of cream and lashings of parmesan cheese over piping hot rotelle. After all, a girl has to keep her strength up, right?


Oh, and I couldn’t resist another piece of food history on today’s foodreference.com calendar:
1989 Leslie Merry was hit with a turnip thrown from a passing vehicle in London. He was knocked down and suffered a broken rib and a ruptured spleen. He died of respiratory failure, due to the accident.
Not going to let O Bunn see that, she’ll make a case for vegetables being dangerous to your health …

A MONDAY NEAR THE END OF JULY

Firstly, a very happy birthday to my dear friend, Tandy, who makes my life so rich with her loyal friendship. I wish I was close enough to bake her a birthday cake, but a virtual one will have to do … until I see her again in August.


We’ve had a windfall of unusual vegetables recently.

I was thrilled to find some Mexican blue fingerling potatoes, madumbis and some strange calabashes that taste just like gem squash. The flowers are from Sidey, when I was ill. Isn’t it amazing how well they are lasting?


After Saturday’s catering stint, I was quite exhausted and did an easy lunch; a roasted eisbein and veggies in tin foil. There’s a local restaurant that offers a free third eisbein if you can eat two. I don’t think it’s humanly possible, we share one among the three of us and there is still a big chunk of meat left; pea soup later in the week.


I’m really loving the warmer weather, our sun this morning was full of the promise of spring, but I expect we’ll be hit by another cold spell in August.


I’m to bake a six-tier cake today, I’ve done the first two, but I’m going to a spa for a massage before I tackle the rest.
Have a good week, my friends. I leave you with this, from Schott’s Food & Drink Miscellany:
The hierarchy of gastronomy:
Gastronome
Gourmet
Friand (epicure)
Gourmand
Goulu (glutton)
Goinfre (Greedy-guts)

Gourmand: one whose chief pleasure is eating.
Gourmet: a connoisseur of food and wines.