Friday 29 June 2007

Everybody-Loves-It Beef Stir-fry with Coca-Cola

This recipe contains an unlikely ingredient – a generous glug of Coca Cola - which adds a wonderful toothsome stickiness. Admittedly, Coke isn't the most wholesome of foods (even though I think it's one of the best tastes ever invented by man - sweet, acid, fizzy, zingy and totally addictive) but somehow it just makes this recipe. If you have time, let the beef strips soak in the marinade for an hour or so.

I serve this tucked into warmed split pitta breads, with a choice of crunchy fresh toppings: shredded lettuce, finely chopped spring onions, alfalfa sprouts and cucumber relish. Chopped coriander, parsley or mint will add extra pep.

Everybody-Loves-It Beef Stir-fry with Coca-Cola

For the marinade
2 T (30 ml) balsamic vinegar or rice vinegar
juice of one fat lemon
1/2 cup (125 ml) Coca-Cola
2 T (30 ml) dark soy sauce
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh garlic, finely grated or chopped
freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste

For the stir-fry
750 g lean beef, cut into slim strips
2 T (30 ml) sunflower or olive oil
2 T (30 ml) sesame seeds, raw or roasted
2 T (30 ml) smooth peanut butter

Put the beef strips into a shallow dish. Combine the marinade ingredients and pour over the beef strips. Toss well. Allow to marinate for 10 minutes (an hour would be better).

Drain the beef strips and reserve the marinade.

Put the oil into a wok or deep frying pan, set on a high flame and heat until the oil is smoking. Stir-fry the beef strips, in small batches, for just a few minutes, until lightly browned but not cooked through. Put the cooked beef onto a warmed plate while you stir-fry the rest. Tip any excess fat out of the wok and pour in the marinade. Turn up the heat and allow to bubble furiously for about 3-5 minutes. Add the peanut butter, stirring well to 'melt' it into the mixture. Now tip the cooked beef into the wok, stir well to coat the strips, turn down the heat and allow to bubble for a minute or so, or until the beef is cooked through but still tender. Stir in the sesame seeds and grind over plenty of black pepper. Check seasoning - you might need to add salt.

Serve in warm pitta breads.

Serves 4.
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Tuesday 26 June 2007

Warm Grilled Aubergines with Chilli and Pesto: good for gunshot victims

Last night we had some friends over for dinner, and I made this to go with slow-cooked lamb shanks and roast spuds. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, looking at the cheerful faces of my dear old friends as they sat around the table. One of them was shot, just a week ago, through the arm and chest, in a garden in the Northern Suburbs of Jo'burg, by a gang of armed robbers who 'gatecrashed' a Father's Day family lunch. That he survived is a miracle; that he was eating a hearty supper a week later is astounding. Another man at the table, who has been a dear friend of mine since my school days, also took a bullet (in a more intimate spot) a few years ago, also in Joeys, in drive-by shooting. A third guest, another dear school friend, was hijacked a few years back at gunpoint. And all of us feasting and making merry, as if this is a perfectly normal way to live. Only in South Africa.

Back to the recipe. I'm far too lazy to stand at the stove frying aubergine slices, so I grill/bake them instead. Provided that the oven is hot enough, they turn out beautifully browned, but aren't sodden with oil.

Warm Grilled Aubergine Slices with Chilli and Pesto
4 large, shining aubergines
3/4 cup olive oil
milled black pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
juice of 4 lemons
2 anchovy fillets
5 tablespoons basil pesto
1 tsp red chilli flakes (or more, to taste)
a handful of chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the grill of your oven until it's blazing hot. Remove the tops of the aubergines and slice, vertically, into pieces about 1 cm thick. Rub the base of two baking sheets with a olive oil. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the baking sheets (it doesn't matter if they overlap slightly here or there). With your hands, rub the uppermost surface of each slice with a film of olive oil. They should be evenly coated, but not soaked. Grind over plenty of black pepper. Put the aubergines in the oven and grill for ten minutes, or until they're golden brown and beginning to char on the edges. Now turn the oven down to 180 C and cook for another 10-20 minutes, or until the slices are soft and unctuous.

In the meantime, make the dressing. Put the garlic, lemon juice, anchovy fillets, pesto and chili flakes into the goblet of a blender, and pulse until the mixture is smooth. If you don't have a blender, mash the garlic with the anchovies until you have a very smooth paste, and stir in the remaining dressing ingredients. Taste the dressing and add salt if necessary (the anchovies are usually salty enough in their own right).

Remove the hot aubergine slices from the baking sheets (use a palette knife if they stick). Put a glug of the dressing on the bottom of a nice flat dish and spread it out. Add a layer of brinjal slices, and drizzle over more dressing, using your fingers to make sure that every slice is coated. Continue alternating layers of dressing and brinjal, ending with a good drizzle of dressing. Grind over some more black pepper and sprinkle with parsley. Serve warm, with lemon wedges.

Serves 6 as a side dish. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Sunday 24 June 2007

Rooibos Tea Ginger Beer

This is a scrumptious variation of old-fashioned ginger beer. The idea of adding rooibos came to me while I was waiting for my ginger beer to cool while drinking a cup of rooibos tea. It has a delicate rooibos taste (add more teabags if you like a strong brew) and a wonderful apricot-orange colour.

Rooibos Tea Ginger Beer
Make the ginger beer according to this recipe, but add 4-6 teabags of rooibos tea (or 4-6 tablespoons of loose rooibos tea) along with the lemon juice and rind. Leave the teabags to steep in the mixture while it ferments, and remove only just before bottling the mixture. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Old-fashioned, home-made South African ginger beer

A delicious taste of childhood: lemony, gingery and fizzy. It's so refreshing and so easy to make that I have now resolved to make a batch every two days. It's the taste of dusty summer days, burbling swimming pools, country fêtes and beaming grannies.

Click here to go straight to the recipe.

Old-fashioned, home-made South African ginger beer
Wonderfully refreshing home-made ginger beer from South Africa.
My mom used to make this often when I was a child: I have wonderful memories of hearing a ka-pow! as a glass bottle exploded (they were matured on the veranda for this reason) and a lovely yeasty, gingery perfume came drifting through the house.

Home-made South African Rooibos or Earl Grey ginger beer
This is a variation using Earl Grey tea. It's also delicious made with
 Rooibos tea - scroll to the end of this page for details. 
This is my mother's recipe, which I have altered and tweaked over several years until I've got the proportions just right for my liking. (You can tinker freely with the amount of sugar, lemon juice and ginger, according to your taste.)

It's a great drink for kids (although it's called 'beer', it's not alcoholic because it's not fermented for long enough). It's packed with Vitamin C (from the lemons and ginger), Vitamin B (from the yeast). Also excellent for nausea and general queasiness.

It's really a doddle to make, but I have given quite detailed instructions so that your batch turns out perfectly every time.

Note: To make a Rooibos Tea or Earl Grey Ginger Beer, scroll down to my Cook's Notes at the end of this page.

Old-fashioned, Home-Made South African Ginger Beer

grated rind of 2 lemons
2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger
250 ml (1 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice (see Note 2, below)
3 grape-sized knobs of whole dried ginger (optional, see Note 3)
6 raisins
750 ml (3 cups) white sugar (if you prefer a dry beer, use 650 ml)
5 litres water
a 10-gram sachet of instant (active dry) yeast

Using the fine teeth of a cheesegrater, grate the lemon rind directly into a large, very clean plastic bucket (or a plastic bowl capable of holding 5 litres of water; see Note 1, below). Be sure not to grate in any any bits of white pith, which will make the beer bitter. Now grate in the fresh ginger, using the coarse teeth of the grater. Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice, the whole dried ginger (optional), the raisins, and the sugar.

Old-fashioned, home-made South African ginger beer
Pour 1 litre of hot water into the bucket and stir well for about 3 minutes, or until the sugar has completely dissolved. Leave to cool for 5 minutes. Now pour another 4 litres of warm water into the bucket, keeping a finger in the bucket to monitor the temperature of the water. The mixture should be warm - a few degrees above blood temperature - but not so warm that your finger thinks it's having a nice hot bath.

Sprinkle the dried yeast over the top of the water and leave for five minutes, or until it's dissolved. Now give the bucket of liquid a good stir with a wooden spoon or similar implement.

Cover the bucket with cling film and put it in a warmish place (not in direct sunlight). Leave for about 4-5 hours, stirring once or twice. During this time, you'll see the raisins begin to spin in the water and the mixture will burble softly. When the raisins float to the top, the ginger beer is ready to bottle.

Scoop out the floating ginger pieces and lemon rind with a sieve and discard. Now strain the ginger beer, through a sieve, into a large jug with a pouring spout (you may have to do this in batches, if your jug is small). Put a towel or some newspaper on the counter while you do this, because there will be spillage.

Decant the strained ginger beer into clean, rinsed plastic bottles (see Note 4, below), filling each bottle to about 7 centimetres from the top. Put a single raisin (taken from the raisins you added earlier) in each bottle, screw on the lids tightly, and set the bottles on a counter-top, at room temperature. They shouldn't be in a warm place, or in direct sunlight.

Leave overnight (or for at least 8 hours). During this time, the mixture will develop a lovely fizz. (See Note 5, below).

Now open each bottle very carefully: unscrew the lid gingerly (excuse the pun), in small increments, so that the gas escapes in little puffs. The liquid inside should fizz satisfyingly. When you've released the excess gas, screw on the lids tightly again, and put the bottles in the fridge. (The cold will all but stop the fermentation process).

Leave to chill completely. Serve with a slice of lemon and plenty of ice. Or try it with a stiff glug of gin.

Makes about 5 litres. Keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.


Note 1 A 6-litre plastic bucket with pinched rim/pouring nozzle and a tight-fitting lid is perfect. You can use an ordinary bucket, or a very big bowl, but there will be a bit of splashing.

Note 2 Measure the amount of lemon juice exactly. It takes about six lemons, depending on juiciness, to make a cup of lemon juice. If you don't feel like squeezing lemons, ask your green grocer to squeeze out a litre of fresh lemon juice on his orange-squeezing machine. You can use the rest to make lemonade or use in dressings. If you'd like a tarter ginger beer, add a teaspoon of tartaric acid along with the lemon juice.

Note 3 Dried whole ginger was used in my mom's recipe because fresh ginger wasn't available in the Sixties. It's not essential, but it does add a special something to the taste of the ginger beer. You can still buy it in those little orange boxes in the supermarkets. If you can' t find it, try adding two teaspoons of powdered ginger.

Note 4 Sturdy plastic 1- or 2-litre fruit-juice bottles (like Woolies or supermarket fruit-juice bottles) are perfect. One- and 2-litre cooldrink and mineral-water bottles also work well, but be very careful when you open them to release the gas, because the narrow necks of the bottles almost always result in a fizzy volcano. Don't use glass bottles (they might explode) or plastic milk bottles (the lids aren't air-tight).

Note 5 If the ginger beer is flat, and has no bubble, you will need to discard the batch and start again. There should be an audible release of gas when you open the bottle. There are two main reasons why a batch goes flat: 1. The yeast was stale, and 2. The water was either too hot, or too cold, for the yeast to thrive.

Here is a scrumptious variation of old-fashioned ginger beer. The idea of adding rooibos came to me while I was waiting for my ginger beer to cool while drinking a cup of rooibos tea. It has a delicate rooibos taste (add more teabags if you like a strong brew) and a wonderful apricot-orange colour.

Rooibos Tea or Earl Grey Ginger Beer:

Make the ginger beer according to the recipe above, but add 4-6 teabags of rooibos tea (or 4-6 tablespoons of loose rooibos tea) along with the lemon juice and rind. Leave the teabags to steep in the ginger beer mixture while it ferments, and remove only just before bottling the mixture.

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Friday 22 June 2007

Potatoes and kids: needn't be a match made in McDonald's

I am in awe of potatoes. What I mean is that I think that, with their skins on, they are a most fantastical family food: wholesome, filling, comforting, cheap, easy to prepare and crammed with good things (Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and, believe it or not, almost double the potassium content of a banana).

Kids don't automatically like potatoes (unless, of course, they're skinned, deep-fried and come in a red box emblazoned with a yellow double arch) and it takes a bit of low cunning to convince them to eat them, skin and all, every day. Over the next few days, I'll be offering some wily strategies for potatofying your children.

Baked potatoes
They always turn out okay if they're slashed, tossed onto the rack of a hot oven and baked for an hour or so, but they're indisputably crispier and tastier with a lick of oil and some salt. After many years of experimenting, I've settled on this clean-hands method. Cut a cross in the top of each potato. Place on a baking sheet (a muffin tin works even better; stand the spuds up in the muffin tins and they'll bake very quickly). Spray with a light film of olive oil, from a spritzer or aerosol** can. (I keep a can of olive oil in my cupboard specifically for baked potatoes; you don't get your hands oily and you use only a tiny bit of fat). Dust with a pinch of salt. Bake at 200 C for an hour, turning and tossing the spuds once.

** I am reminded of a wonderful joke. You need to tell this in a thick Swedish accent:

A man walks into a chemist in Sweden.
Man: 'I'd like a can of deodorant, please.'
Chemist: 'Ball, or aerosol?'
Man (cheerfully): 'Neither! I'd like it for my armpits.'

Tomorrow: Perfect mash from unpeeled potatoes. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Avocado, Feta and Garlic Whip

What is it with pears? Have you noticed that avocados and pears stay stubbornly hard for days and days, then all ripen simultaneously, stay ripe for precisely 15 minutes and then go vrot? I bought a whole box of avos that did this, and to prevent a terrible waste of R45, turned them into this zingly, garlicky all-purpose avocado dip/sauce/baked-potato topping.

Avocado, Feta and Garlic Whip
8 big ripe avocados
6 cloves garlic, chopped
juice of 4 lemons
100 ml olive oil
1/2 cup thick white yoghurt
2 tsp Tabasco sauce (a green chilli would be nice too)
2 big handfuls fresh coriander, chopped
2 discs feta cheese
salt and milled black pepper

Put all the ingredients except the feta and half the coriander into the bowl of a food processor. Whizz to a very smooth, soft, whippy texture. Check seasoning. Crumble in the feta and the remaining coriander and press the pulse button again so that the cheese and coriander stays a bit chunky.

A thin film of oil poured over the top of the dish, or clingfilm pressed directly onto its surface, will keep it nice and green for days. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Thursday 21 June 2007

Beer-can chicken on a braai

Tony Park, a reader of my other blog Salmagundi, sent this recipe. I haven't tried it, but I will, as soon as it warms up outside.

'Can't cook to save my life (except for barbies - braais to you - a skill which australian males learn from birth). Here's my only variation on sticking stuff on the fire - and I learned it from a South African psychology professor, in Kruger.'

Beer Can Chicken on a Braai
1 can of Castle
1 cardboard box lined with aluminium foil, and with four pen-diameter holes punched in the top.
1 braai with hot coals
1 chicken

Drink two sips from can of Castle, insert it up chicken's bum. Stand the chicken on the braai, using its two drumstick bones and the can as a kind of tripod, to hold it upright. Braai grid should be about 20cm over the coals.

Place cardboard box lined with foil (held in place with strategic use of duct tape) over the chicken. Make sure the foil overlaps the sides of the box so it doesn't catch fire.

Wait one hour.

Eat perfectly roasted, tender chicken.

Do not drink contents of can.

This recipe reminds me irresistibly of that wonderful scene in Withnail and I when the boys try to kill a chicken.

Withnail: What are we supposed to do with that?
I: Eat it
Withnail: Eat it!? Fucker's alive
I: Yeah, you've got to kill it.
Withnail: Me!? I'm the firelighter and fuel collecter.
I: Yeah I know but I got the logs in. It takes away your appetite just looking at it.
Withnail: No it doesn't, I'm starving. How can we make it die?
I: You've got to throttle them. Withnail, I think you ought to kill it instantly in case it starts trying to make friends with us.
Withnail: All right, you get hold of it. I'll strangle it.

They try stuffing it into a kettle, and then give up and sit it upright on a brick, with a wet boot on either side to keep it upright. Wonderful movie (I saw it again a few weeks ago, and it hasn't dated a bit). Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Tuesday 19 June 2007

Lemony Chicken Strips: my family's all-time top-rated supper

It's a nice recipe, I admit, but not so tasty it sends me into raptures. So why do my kids beg me on bended knees to make this week after week? Is it the lemonyness? Is it the chickeniness? You tell me: make it yourself, try it out on the kids, and send me some feedback.

This is a simple recipe with just a few ingredients. It's a bit too much work for my liking - I detest having to stand in front of a stove frying things - but I admit that it's worth the effort. I can't remember where I read this recipe - I seem to remember that it was in an article about the favourite dishes of famous chefs.

Lemony Chicken Strips
8 deboned, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup (125 ml) white flour
salt & freshly milled black pepper
2 T sunflower oil
2 T butter
1 skinny clove garlic, crushed
the juice of 3 lemons
1 cup (250 ml) white wine or stock
a generous handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

Lay the chicken breasts flat on a board. Cut out the fillet and slice vertically into two strips. Now cut horizontally through the breast, to make two thin leaves. Cut the leaves lengthways to make thin strips about 5 cm long.

Put the flour into a plastic bag or bowl and add a few pinches of salt and a generous grinding of black pepper. Now add the chicken strips and toss well to coat.

Heat the oil and butter in a large, flat-bottomed pan or frying pan, over a high flame. When the fats stop foaming, turn the heat down to medium. Remove the chicken strips from the bag or bowl and shake off any excess flour - they should be lightly dusted. Fry the chicken, in batches, until it's golden brown on the outside (don't worry if the strips are not cooked through). Put the cooked chicken strips onto a plate while you fry the rest. Add more oil to the pan if necessary, but don't let any dark, burned bits develop. (If they do, wipe out the pan with some kitchen paper, and start again with fresh oil and butter).

Remove the last pieces of chicken from the pan. Tip the frying pan over the sink to remove any excess fat, then replace on the heat and add the lemon juice, the garlic and and the wine (or stock or water). Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir and scrape to release the golden-brown residue on the bottom of the pan. Turn down the heat, and allow the mixture to bubble for a minute. Now put the chicken and its leaked juices back into the pan and stir gently. As the flour is released from the chicken strips, the sauce will thicken slightly. Allow to simmer for a few minutes, or until the strips are cooked right through, but still meltingly tender. Turn off the heat, season with salt and black pepper, stir in the chopped parsley and toss well.

Serve with lemon wedges, a green salad and boiled new potatoes.

Serves 5.

Recipe rating:

My rating: 7/10
Teenagers' rating: 10/10. 'Don't finish it all, you pig. I want some in my lunch box tomorrow.'
Small-daughter rating: 10/10. Not one complaint. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Fettucine with Warmed Tomatoes, Garlic and Rocket

Four out of five members of my family think rocket rocks, so we eat it every day, if it's in the shops (in summer it grows like a weed in the garden). I don't know what made my teens start liking a leaf as strong and peppery as rocket (taking them to Italy last year where pizzas arrived piled with fresh rocket helped), but I'm determined to convert my seven-year-old too, as Google tells me it's full of vitamins C, A and K, and that it's a superfood for bones

This is a winter version of that lekker summer pasta dish which involves tipping cold chopped tomatoes and crushed garlic into hot pasta.

Fettucine with Warmed Tomatoes and Rocket
1 box fettucine (fresh is better, from Woolies)
5 T olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
5 ripe tomatoes, chopped
3 large handfuls rocket leaves
1 cup finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
salt and milled black pepper

Boil the fettucine in plenty of salted water. Heat the olive oil in a large deep saucepan and stir in the crushed garlic. Saute the garlic very gently (it shouldn't brown) for five minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir to coat, and simmer very gently for another few minutes so that they are warmed through but nowhere near collapsing. When the pasta's cooked, drain well and tip it into the warm garlic and tomatoes. Add the whole rocket leaves and chilli flakes and toss well to coat. Turn off the heat, toss in the grated cheese and season well with salt and pepper.

Top with fine shavings of Parmesan and another lashing of olive oil.

Serves 5.

Recipe rating:

My rating: 8/10
Teenagers' rating: 8/10
Small-daughter rating: She didn't try it. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Buttery Parsnip Mash

The Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa).
 Image: Wikimedia Commons
Parsnips are very well named, don't you agree? The word sounds like a parsnip looks: a big bulbous beginning tapering to a skinny little snippy-snappy bit. To me they look a little like goblins' legs, which is maybe why my kids have never worked up any enthusiasm for them.

This dish, however, received guarded approval from my taste team. The parsnips  I used were getting on for elderly, which is perhaps why this mash was so voluptuous.

You could add some orange juice and finely grated orange rind, or perhaps a pinch of ground cumin and coriander, or nutmeg, but I think it's just right tasting only of parsnip and butter.

Buttery Parsnip Mash

8 large parsnips, peeled
3 Tbsp (45 ml) butter
water, to cover
a pinch of salt
3-4 Tbsp (45-60 ml) cream
salt and milled black pepper

Cut the parsnips lengthways into quarters. If they have tough-looking fibrous cores, ease these out using a sharp knife, and discard.  Cut into small chunks.

Heat the butter in a saucepan, add the parsnip pieces and fry gently for five minutes. Now add just enough water to cover the parsnips.

Boil briskly until all the water has evaporated and the parsnips are very tender (top with with more water if necessary). Add the cream and mash to until smooth and fine. The amount of cream you use depends on the size and age of the 'snips - I suggest you start with two tablespoons, and keep adding more until you're satisfied with the consistency.

At this point, you can push the mash through a sieve to make a silken purée, but usually can't be bothered.

Serves 6 as a side dish.

My rating: 10/10
Teenagers' rating: 7/10
Small-daughter rating: 5/10 ('Nice, but a bit sticky and hairy')

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Sunday 17 June 2007

Creamy Lemon Tarragon Chicken, a la Nigel Slater

What do you do if you're feeling cold, forlorn and demotivated? You head off in the direction of the kitchen with a copy of your favourite recipe book of the moment (Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries), rummage around in the fridge, and see what's mouldering there.

I happened to have a bag of fresh tarragon (a herb I have never succeeded in growing) , which I'd bought at the Dunkeld veggie shop, Johannesburg, because it looked so fresh and crisp. I also had a cut-up chicken, so I decided to make Nigel's chicken dish with Vermouth (which I didn't have: who does?) and cream (which I did have.

I took my time making this dish, and followed his instructions to a tee. (Except that he forgot to say whether the chicken pieces should be turned over during the browning proces; I turned them over).

It was just delicious: the chicken was tender, and the sauce was gorgeous, even though I added a scant tablespoon of flour to thicken and stabilise it (sorry Nigel), and substituted fresh lemon juice and white wine for the Vermouth and vinegar.

Creamy Lemon Tarragon Chicken
3 tablespoons butter
1 tsp olive oil
salt and freshly milled pepper
8 pieces free-range chicken (4 thighs, 4 breasts)
1 tablespoon flour
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup (250 ml) white wine
a handful of fresh tarragon (use parsley if you can't find tarrgon)
1 carton (250 ml) fresh cream

Put the butter and olive oil in a deep frying pan and heat it until it stops bubbling. Don' t allow the butter to brown. Season the chicken top and bottom with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin side down, in the hot pan, and fry gently until the chicken skin is a golden brown and crispy. Turn the chicken pieces over and fry for another 3-4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and set aside.

Tip the frying pan over the sink and drain off all but about one tablespoon of the fat. Now put the pan back on the heat, and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over the bottom. Stir and scrape, then tip in the lemon juice and wine, stirring briskly to loosen the brown bits on the bottom. Allow to bubble for 1 minute, then add the carton of cream. Roughly chop the tarragon and add it to the pan. Now put the chicken pieces back in the pan, together with their juices, skin side up. Cover the pan with a lid or tin foil.

Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and allow to bubble gently for 25-35 minutes. Shake the dish now and then to prevent the cream from sticking.

When you think it's ready, take a sharp knife and cut to the bone on one of the thighs. If the juices are running clear, and have no trace of pinkness, the chicken's ready.

Serve with mashed potato.

Serves 6 -8

Recipe rating:
My rating: 8/10
Teenagers' rating: 6/10
Small-daughter rating: 4/10 (she didn't like the chicken skin, which she said was 'slimy'.) Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Seven-hour lamb: fall-apart, sticky, garlicky, lemony heaven

This, like all the recipes below, is an archived copy of a recipe originally posted on my other blog, Salmagundi.

Feck, but it's cold outside. My jeans harden instantly into frozen blue cardboard when I open the front door to let the pup out for a poo. A black frost has withered every plant in the garden. Dogs and cats are piled outside the front door, looking suspiciously rigid, like a pile of hairy frozen logs. (Only joking: they're snoozing by the hearth, in front of the feeble glow that passes for a fire).

Anyway, all I can think about is soft, tender, fall-apart, garlicky roast lamb, even though it's half-past ten at night and I've already sconed, while having a drink with my friend Nina, half a ton of olives and 200 discs of garlicky, olivey, capery marinated mozzarella discs (from the Cheese Factory Shop in Strydom Park - one of the Seventeen Shopping Wonders of Johannesburg; watch this space!).

So this is what I'm going to make my family tomorrow night:

Seven-Hour Lemon & Garlic Lamb

1 big shoulder of lamb (ask your butcher for this), or a large leg of lamb
10 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons good dried oreganum
Finely grated rind of 2 lemons
1 tsp coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thickly sliced
Juice of 5-6 lemons
2 cups (500 ml) white wine

Pre-heat your oven to 220 C.

With a sharp knife, stab inch-deep cuts into lamb joint, at an angle. Ten stabs top and bottom will do. Now crush together the garlic cloves, the lemon rind, the oreganum and the sea salt, using a mortar and pestle, or a blender. Add the olive oil and mix to a paste. Using your fingers, stuff this mixture deep into the cuts you've made in the lamb. Rub any remaining mixture over the joint.

Arrange the onion slices in a deep roasting roasting tin, or oven-proof casserole dish, and place the lamb joint on top of them. Now put the dish in the oven, which should be blazing hot. Leave it for 20-30 minutes, or until the meat is nicely browned and the fat is starting to blister and bubble. Now turn the joint over, pour over half the lemon juice, and half the wine, and turn the heat down to 140 celsius. Leave to roast for another half hour, then turn the lamb skin-side up, cover tightly* with tin foil or a lid, and turn the oven down to 120 celsius. Cook for another four or five hours (depending on the size of the joint), topping up and basting frequently with lemon juice and wine. Don't allow the juices in the pan to boil dry - you want about 1 cm of juice at all times. After a total of seven hours cooking time, check the meat: you should be able to pull it off the bone with a fork.

Remove the lamb from the baking dish, put on a plate, cover, and allow to rest for five minutes. Skim the fat off the juices left in the pan. Now pull the lamb from the bone, using two forks, and toss it in the skimmed pan juices. Season with salt and pepper, and squeeze over the juice of half a lemon. Serve with roast potatoes** and veg.

* Note: There is a school of thought that says that lamb should not be covered during this slow-roast period (thanks, Michael-the-Greek). If you don't cover it with foil, it will have a lovely, sticky, lemony glaze, and a fantastic flavour, but it will be a bit dry on the inside.

** Note: Don't put the roast potatoes in the same dish as the lamb. An hour and a half before you're going to serve the lamb, parboil the pots in salted water for 10-15 minutes, or until they are soft and fluffy on the outside but still slightly 'cucumbery' on the inside. Drain off the water and toss the spuds well so they get fluffy and ragged on the edges. Now heat some fat (preferably the fat you've skimmed off the lamb, but olive oil if you're health-conscious) in a roasting tin or baking sheet, on top of the stove, until it's spitting. Add the parboiled potatoes, toss well to coat them in the fat, and put into a very hot oven (at least 190) for an hour or more.

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Couscous, Feta & Pea Salad with a Naartjie Dressing

This spicy winter salad is perfumed with the wonderful zest of fresh naartjies, which is what we call tangerines or clementines here in South Africa. Pour the dressing over the couscous while it is still quite warm, and the heat will release all its aromatic flavours.

 If you like big warm spicy winter salads, try my Moroccan-Spiced Carrot & Chickpea Salad, or my North African Chicken & Couscous Salad.

Couscous, Feta & Pea Salad with a Naartjie Dressing

For the dressing: 
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
juice of two naartjies [tangerines]
juice of half a lemon
3 Tbsp (45 ml) white wine vinegar
½ tsp (2.5 ml) dry mustard powder
½ tsp (2.5 ml) paprika
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) coriander powder
¾ cup (180 ml) olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad: 
3 cups (750 ml) couscous
2 Tbsp (30 ml) concentrated chicken or vegetable stock, or similar
boiling water for the cousous
1 x 400 g tin chickpeas, drained
finely grated zest of two naartjies
2 cups (500 ml) frozen peas, microwaved or boiled until just cooked
6 courgettes, thinly sliced
4 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
a big handful fresh parsley, chopped

To garnish:
½ cup (125 ml) finely chopped mint and/or coriander
salt and pepper
3 'wheels' (about 210 g) feta cheese
2 Tbsp (30 ml) toasted sesame seeds, or a handful of toasted flaked almonds

 Place all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk together well. Set aside. Make up the couscous according to the packet instructions, adding the stock to the boiling water. Fluff with a fork to separate the grains, and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Tip into a large mixing bowl, and add the all the remaining salad ingredients, reserving half a cup of grated carrot. Pour over the dressing and toss again. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now tip the salad onto a big, flat platter. Crumble the feta in a ring around the edge of the bowl, pile the remaining grated carrot in the middle and scatter generously with parsley and sesame seeds.

Serves 6-8

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Muriel's gorgeous Israeli Chocolate Pudding

My friend Muriel has been kind enough to share a treasured family recipe with me (a real Family Feast, KFC). She says this baked chocolate pudding (called, for no reason that Muriel can discern, an 'Israeli' pudding) is brilliant when you're expecting a crowd.

'It's easy and impressive and amazingly delicious,' she says, and you can take her word for it - she's a killer cook.

Israeli Chocolate Pudding

2 cups (500 ml) sugar
½ cup (125 ml) Muscadel
½ cup (125 ml) water
5 tablespoons (75 ml) cocoa powder
250 g butter, cubed
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla essence
1 cup (250 ml) sifted self-raising flour
4 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Put the sugar, Muscadel, water and cocoa in a saucepan and stir well to combine. Place over a medium heat and bring to a brisk boil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter cubes and stir until the butter has melted into the mixture. Set aside and leave to cool.

When the mixture has cooled, whisk in 4 egg yolks and the vanilla essence.

Pour 1 cup (250 ml) of this mixture into a bowl or jug and set aside.

To the remaining mixture, add the sifted flour and stir well. Now gently fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites.

Pour into a greased pudding dish and bake at 180 C for about 30 minutes, or until it doesn’t wobble when you shake it and the top is spongy. (It shouldn’t be well cooked – a knife inserted should come out a teeny bit gooey.)

Remove from the oven, and pour the reserved mixture over the hot pudding. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

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Light Potato Salad with Garlic, Lemon and Yoghurt

A light, bright potato salad made with tender baby potatoes and a dressing that includes garlic, Greek yoghurt and plenty of lemon juice.  The only important watch-point is to avoid 'tangy' mayonnaise or 'salad cream', which ruins the flavour.

Light Potato Salad with Garlic, Lemon and Yoghurt

For the salad:
2 kg new potatoes

For the dressing:
2 cups (500 ml) thick Greek yoghurt
1 cup (250 ml) mayonnaise (Hellman’s or home made)
finely grated rind of one lemon
juice of 2 lemons
2 Tbsp (30 ml) white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated
1 onion, very finely chopped, or grated
1 tsp (5 ml) Tabasco sauce (optional)
½ cup (125 ml) fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ cup (125 ml) fresh mint, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To garnish:
5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
freshly chopped parsley and mint
A handful of capers (optional)

Put the new potatoes, unpeeled, in a saucepan of cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Boil gently until just tender (but not falling apart).

Put all the dressing ingredients into a bowl and whisk well to combine. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Drain the potatoes and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Cut into thick slices (about 5mm), peel and all, and place in a deep mixing bowl. If the potatoes are very small, cut them in half.

Pour the dressing over the warm potatoes and toss very gently to combine. Now tip the salad into a wide, flat dish, arrange the quartered eggs on top and scatter with capers, parsley and mint. Allow to cool and serve at room temperature.

You can make this well in advance, but add the boiled eggs at the last minute, or they will dry out.

 Serves 6-8.

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Halloumi Salad with Lemon-Caper Dressing

The trouble with being on a diet is that food cravings appear out of nowhere. All I can think about at the moment is hot halloumi cheese, fried to a nice crusty golden colour, with a squeeze of lemon. Luckily there's none in the fridge. This reminded me of a wonderful salad. This is quite delicious and a brilliant dish if you're expecting a crowd. Serves 12 as a starter.

Halloumi salad with Lemon-Caper Dressing

3 blocks halloumi cheese
salt and pepper
sunflower oil
rocket, watercress or salad greens

For dressing:
juice of 3 lemons
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
½ cup olive oil
¼ tsp sugar
1-2 tsp powdered cumin
salt and pepper to taste

To garnish:
a generous handful of capers
fresh coriander, finely chopped (mint and parsley are nice too)
lemon wedges

Cut the cheese into slices about 4 mm thick and pat very dry on a paper towel. Put the cornflour onto a plate and grind over some salt and pepper. Dip each slice into the cornflour and shake off the excess (they should be very lightly dusted). Heat some oil in a frying pan until very hot, but not smoking, and quickly fry the halloumi until it is golden brown and crispy. Drain on a paper towel.

Arrange the greens in a big flat serving dish and top with the fried halloumi. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and pour it all over the salad. Scatter over the capers and coriander. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve warm.

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Archive: Perfect Microwave Popcorn

I always seem to burn popcorn cooked in oil in a pan, and I hate the soapy taste of shop-bought microwave popcorn. After several disastrous experiments, I figured out how to do it.

Microwave popcorn

a paper bag

Put a handful of popcorn in plain white or brown paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over twice. Put it on its side and microwave on high for about a minute at a time, or until you stop hearing popping noises. Season with salt and, if you're feeling wicked, top with melted butter.

That's it. No oil, no butter, and NOT ONE burnt or unpopped kernel.

I bought a stash of white paper packets from the fabulous factory shop Merry Pak & Print when I was last in Cape Town. If you love paper, packaging, boxes and wrappers (don't laugh; some of us do) this shop is not to be missed. You can even buy new flat-packed popcorn boxes to give your microwave popcorn a bit of movie-house cachet. (Great for kids' parties too). Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Archive: Currying favour: four-tin, ten-minute curry soup

18 April 2007

Often I get a craving for a piping-hot curried soup. Try this ridiculously simple and quick recipe, which I invented on a rainy Sunday afternoon while suffering from an extreme snifter-face*. It's thick, spicy and fragrant, and so tasty that it's difficult to believe that it comes mostly from tins (don't mention that when you serve it, or the lentil-heads** might get you). It takes less than 10 minutes to make (measured from the time you haul your sorry arse off the couch, to the time you carry your bowl of soup back to the couch). To achieve this record-breaking time, you will need a food processor or liquidiser. Do use good, recently ground cumin and coriander, not ten-year-old dried-up crap.

Four-Tin, Ten-Minute Curry Soup
Serves 2 greedy people as a meal, or four as a starter

For the soup:

1 tin chickpeas and their liquid
1 tin tomato and onion mix, or good tinned tomatoes
1 tin coconut milk or cream
1 tin sweetcorn (creamed or normal)
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp Tabasco sauce (optional)
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper or red chilli flakes, to taste
juice of 1 lemon

water or white wine to thin
salt and milled black pepper

fresh coriander (or parsley), finely chopped
plain thick white yoghurt

Chuck all the ingredients for the soup in a blender or liquidiser and pulse until the mixture is fairly smooth (but not too smooth - there should be a few chunks in it) . Don't over-process it: you don't want bubbles or foam. Tip into a saucepan, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for six or seven minutes. If the soup seems too thick, thin it down with a little water or white wine. Ladle into warmed bowls and add a blob of yoghurt and a handful of fresh coriander.

* Snifter-face: what your face looks like the morning after you've had too many snifters. A snifter, in my tribe, is any sort of alcohol you go looking for after you've had way too much to drink. In other words, the last drop of whisky, the dregs of the Tia Maria, the last inch of Old Brown Sherry in the bottle. Also, old bottles of Schnapps you have lying around that you think you might as well finish before the bell goes.

** Lentil-heads: Also known as mantra-catchers, these pesky health freaks are lactose-intolerant, gluten-avoidant, acid-sensitive, and allergic to everything except brown rice and bottled water. Invite them to dinner at your peril.

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Friday 1 June 2007

About this Blog

Talk to me on Facebook, where I share my
kitchen adventures.  Ask me anything about cooking,
and I'll do my best to help you! 
Greetings! My name is Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner. I'm an award-winning social media strategist, a cook, a food writer, a recipe developer and professional freelance journalist & editor with over 25 years' worth of experience in print & digital media.

I'm the author of three books, and I live with my husband Philip Rayner and our three children in Hout Bay, not far from Cape Town, South Africa. My first cookbook was published in hardback by Random House Struik in July 2012.

My site Scrumptious, which pioneered recipe blogging in South Africa seven years ago, is an independent food blog all about careful, patient home cooking, and about how to prepare excellent food for family and friends.  

The recipes on this blog are, with a few early exceptions, my original work: I have devised, developed and thoroughly tested them myself. Of course, there are very few recipes these days that can be called truly original: every recipe builds on the work and patient testing of many generations of talented cooks, chefs and alchemists. Where I've adapted an existing recipe, or drawn on the work of other cookery writers, or found inspiration in someone else's recipe, I always say so.

I've been cooking since I was nine or so, but it's only in the last 20 years or so that cookery has turned from a hobby into something of an obsession. And no, I'm not going to say, like TV cooks, celebrity chefs and Master Chef contestants, that I am 'passionate' about food, fresh local ingredients and punchy flavours (Duh! Doesn't every cook feel that way?).

I'm enthusiastic, yes, but I think the word 'passion' should be reserved for activities that involve reading books or removing your knickers.

I can say that I do love food, especially good home cooking that warms your heart and makes your tastebuds sing.  All I want from a plate of food is that it tastes really good, feels lovely on your tongue and fills your stomach with joy. Sure, a plate of food should look good too, but not so exquisite and dainty that it fills you with terror.

I don't like arty-farty or silly fusion food, I can't bear foams, spooms, smears and skidmarks of sauce, and the sight of ingredients pointlessly stacked in a tower - or arranged in microscopic portions on a black slate roof-tile - makes me want to jab a stick of lemongrass in my eye.

Home cooking is all about old-fashioned craftsmanship, and I place a great deal of emphasis on flavour, precision and patient preparation.  I also strive to provide clear, detailed, consistent instructions and exact measurements in every recipe, so that it turns out perfectly for you every time.

Pea and Pea Shoot Salad with Bacon and Eggs
My cooking/eating style? I love fresh crunchy salads, home-made soups and vegetables. I adore roast meat - beef, lamb, pork  and chicken, in that order - and would like to eat fish every day: fresh, smoked, pickled or tinned.

 I have a particular passion for the warming spices of Indian cuisine. In recent years, I've featured a variety of easy low-carb recipes, and stepped that up since being diagnosed early in 2014 with Type II diabetes.

I collect cookbooks and brochures from the fifties, sixties and seventies, and have a fondness for ring-bound recipe books compiled by school-mommy committees, church groups, and so on. (These are a rich source of wonderful recipes, not least because, in my experience, a women who contributes a recipe to a book that's going to be circulated among her peers will contribute the very best recipe she has in her arsenal, and chances are she got it from her mother, who got it from her mother, and so on. Some of the recipes you'll find in cookbooks of this sort are hundreds of years old.)

This is an ad-free, freebie-less zone 

My blog is not sponsored by anyone and I don't accept freebies or samples for review (so please don't send me them - it embarrasses me no end to turn couriers away at the gate). I never write blog posts (or endorse products or services) in exchange for publicity or exposure. I don't mean to sound stern, but it's my belief that you can't be an independent voice in this business if you're constantly stuffing your pockets with free goodies.

If I mention a brand or an ingredient or service or outlet on this blog, it's because I think it's excellent and worth recommending to my readers (and I always pay for it myself). You're welcome to send me interesting press releases, and I do appreciate invitations to launches, lunches and so forth, because they give me a chance to shmooze with people who love food keep me in touch with what's going on in Cape Town's culinary scene.

Where I reproduce a recipe or article for which I've been paid a fee in my capacity as a professional writer and recipe developer, I always say so.

I take all the photographs on this blog myself, snapping the dishes on my kitchen counter as I'm testing recipes. I admit I'm not particularly interested in food photography (my burning interest is writing accurate, trustworthy recipes) but I do make an effort to produce images that are appealing, crisp and informative.

I try to illustrate my recipes with simple, clear, close-up pictures that convey the essence of each dish, and which offer reliable visual information about its components.

You can be assured that my food pictures are wholly authentic: I snap them as soon as possible after I make the dish, when the food is still hot (or cold, depending on the recipe and season!).

Recently I sold my Nikon camera: I found it bulky, annoying and useless in low light.  These days, I use my phone - a Samsung Note - for taking pictures, because its images are so atmospheric.  

Copyright notes
Please note that the recipes, photographs and concepts on this blog are copyrighted, and that you may not use them without my express permission. You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work (and that includes rewording or reworking one of my recipes, and presenting it as your own).

I assert my moral rights over all text, ideas, photographs and innovations on this blog.  (Sorry to sound so fierce, but you will not believe how much time I have to waste sending polite emails to people/bloggers/websites/newspapers, reminding them that they're not allowed to nick my stuff at will.)

If you'd like to use a photograph or recipe, please drop me a line and ask! I never say no to a reasonable request.

Want to contact me? Send an email to hobray at (use the @ symbol instead of 'at'). PLEASE don't send me freebies and samples: I can't accept them.

Find me on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook by clicking on the images below:

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Book reviews and Scrumptious in the media
For articles, book reviews and sound clips about this blog and my new cookbook, visit this page: Scrumptious Blog in the Media

All text, concepts and photographs © Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner 2007-2014. Want to contact me? Send an email to hobray at (use the @ symbol instead of 'at')

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