Sunday 30 May 2010

Spicy Chickpea, Sausage, Potato and Tomato Stew, with Tzatziki

Spicy Chickpea, Sausage, Potato and Tomato Stew, with TzatzikiYou've been there, I'm sure: a houseful of hungry teens, and the cupboard is virtually bare. So is the fridge and freezer, apart from a pack of pork sausages, which are not enough to feed two thin cats, let alone six long-limbed late-night revellers.

 Here's how to stretch a few ingredients into a warming rib-sticker of a stew that takes just half an hour to prepare. If you don't have chickpeas to hand, use tinned beans.  If you don't have any of the veggies I've listed, use whatever you find languishing in the bottom of the fridge.

If you don't have teens, use every ingredient I've listed here to make a most delicious and satisfying quick supper. For this dish, I used gorgeous pork, garlic, white wine and parsley sausages from Open Veld, which are made using organic, free-range meat, and are available at Cape Town's Neighbourhood Goods Market. (My fellow blogger Jamie Who recently posted a lovely recipe using these sausages - check out his Wholewheat penne with pork sausage, blistered tomatoes and chilli.)

This dish is enhanced by adding a sliced chourizo sausage (fry it along with the onions) and is doubly good topped with cool Greek tzatziki.

Quick Supper Dish: Spicy Chickpea, Sausage, Potato and Tomato Stew

6 medium potatoes
3 T (45 ml) olive or sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 sticks celery, sliced
4 carrots, scraped and diced
1 red pepper, sliced [bell pepper]
1 red or green chilli, finely chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp (2.5 ml) salt
6 pork sausages
1 T (15 ml) vinegar
3 T (60 ml) tomato paste
a tin of chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tsp (10 ml) Tabasco sauce, or similar hot sauce, to taste
1/2 cup (125 ml) wine, white or red
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) paprika
2 tins chickpeas, drained
milled black pepper

To serve:
chopped fresh parsley or coriander [cilantro]
a tub of tzatziki (cucumber, garlic and yoghurt dip)

Cut the potatoes into chunks and cook, in plenty of boiling salted water, until just tender.  While the potatoes are boiling,  heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion, celery, carrots and red pepper and cook, over a brisk heat, until just softened. Add the chilli, garlic and salt and cook for another minute, without allowing the garlic to brown. Tip onto a plate and set aside. Add the whole sausages to the same pan and fry for five minutes, or until their skins are browned.

Cut the sausages into short lengths using a pair of scissors or a sharp knife. Tip off any excess fat and return the vegetables to the pan. Add the vinegar, stand back, and stir briskly to loosen any sediment on the bottom of the pan. Now stir in the tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, Tabasco, white wine, cumin, and paprika.  Allow to bubble for two minutes, then tip in the chickpeas.

Drain the potatoes and add to the pan,  along with a ladleful or two of boiling water in which you cooked them - just enough to create a rich gravy.  Turn down the heat and simmer for five minutes, adding more boiling water if necessary.  Season with pepper and  add a little more salt  if needed.  Serve hot, topped with chopped fresh parsley or coriander, and a dollop of tzatziki.

Serves 6-8
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Tuesday 25 May 2010

Henna-Patterned Spiced Cream Cheese

A stencil designed for applying henna to hands and feet is what I used to create the pattern on this block of cream cheese, which is spiced with sumac and fragrant curry powder, with a little turmeric and paprika for colour. Doesn't it look beautiful and whimsical?

Cream cheese stencilled with spices.
The idea for this came to me in the middle of the night, as I lay awake thinking - as I usually do - about food and recipes. In particular, I was mulling over the Four-Pepper Cream Cheese I posted recently on this blog. It was tasty enough, with its four stripes of different peppers, but it just didn't look as pretty as I'd envisaged.  So I set my sleepless mind to this task: how could I create a delicate and interesting design of spices on a cheese?  I knew a stencil of some sort was needed, but the only ones I had were big acetate wall stencils from the 1980s - do you recall that era of ragrolling, sponging, stippling and stencilling? -  and my treasured stash of old-fashioned paper doilies.

Then I remembered - hallelujah!- that I'd bought a pack of henna stencils, from one of Johannesburg's Chinese markets, a year or so back.  They were perfect for the job, being light, flexible, slightly sticky and cut with great precision.

You can use any cream cheese for this, provided that it comes in a block firm enough to be stencilled. I used Lancewood's Superior Cream Cheese; if you can't find this, use Philadelphia Cream Cheese.  Any combination of your favourite spices will do, as long as they are ground finely enough to create even coverage: I used a slightly darker blend of spices on the edges of the cheese.  Ask for henna stencils at your local Asian market or spice shop, or order them online.

Before I put the stencils in place, I smoothed the top of the cheese with a warm knife to erase the brand name, which is - annoyingly - embossed on top. The top was stencilled first, and then I turned the cheese on one long edge and stencilled the sides one by one.

I imagine these stencils would be lovely to use, with cinnamon, on top of an unbaked cheesecake.

I served this with salty crackers, crunchy little gherkins and some sweet chilli sauce. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Monday 24 May 2010

Salad of Smoked Chicken, Persimmons and Cashews, with a Cumin Vinaigrette

This salad features that rather rare and old-fashioned fruit, the persimmon, or sharon fruit. Have you ever tasted a persimmon? It's not the most perfumed of fruits, but it has a nice fresh astringency and, with its glowing orange tones, looks beautiful in salads.

Here, I've combined it with shreds of smoked chicken breast, cos lettuce, spring onions, baby corn, chives, cashew nuts and balls of spiced cream cheese to make a substantial winter salad. A vinaigrette warmed with cumin and smoked paprika gives this salad a poke in the eye.

I always buy persimmons when I see them, because they're so exotic, and because I so love their melodious name.  Please read my post about what a lovely word 'persimmon' is, and about poetic food names in general.

If you can't find smoked chicken in your local shop, how about making your own? It's really easy to smoke chicken breasts in a wok. Here's a great recipe for tea-smoked chicken from my pal Nina at My Easy Cooking, using, as a smoking agent, South African Rooibos tea.  If you can't find Rooibos tea, use ordinary tea, or wood chips sold for smoking purposes.  And if you can't find persimmons, try this with cubes of mango or peach.

Salad of Smoked Chicken, Persimmons and Cashews, with a Cumin Vinaigrette

cos lettuce, enough for six people
4 smoked chicken breasts
4 ripe persimmons
4 spring onions, finely sliced [scallions]
8 baby mielies, finely sliced into disks [baby corn]
150 g block of full-fat, firm cream cheese
a little paprika or chilli powder
a handful of  roasted, salted cashew nuts
a bunch of fresh chives, finely snipped

For the dressing:
a small clove of garlic, peeled
4 tsp (20 ml) fresh lemon juice
4 tsp (20 ml) white wine vinegar
½ tsp (2.5 ml) Dijon mustard
a pinch of sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) powdered cumin
½ tsp (2.5 ml) smoked paprika
90 ml olive oil
2 tsp (10 ml) water
a pinch of salt
freshly milled black pepper

First make the dressing. Crush the garlic and place in a small bowl. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, sugar, cumin and paprika, and stir to combine. Now whisk in the olive oil and water. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside.

Arrange the cos lettuce leaves on a large salad platter. You can leave them whole, if they are small and neat, or if they are large you can tear them into bite-sized pieces. Pull the smoked chicken breasts into large shreds and scatter over the lettuce. Remove the stalks from the persimmons and cut into small cubes.  Sprinkle the cubes over the salad, along with the spring onions and finely sliced 'daisies' of baby corn.

Pinch marble-sized pieces off the block of cream cheese and roll them into balls between your palms. Now roll them in paprika or chilli powder. Arrange the cream cheese balls on the salad, and scatter over the cashew nuts and snipped chives.

Just before serving, stir the dressing and pour it over the salad.  Dust the salad with a little more smoked paprika and serve immediately.

Serves 6. 

Like this recipe? Try my Fresh Persimmon Salsa. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Sunday 23 May 2010

Scrumptious Soccer Snacks: Sweetcorn Chilli-Bites with a Mint Yoghurt Dip

Sparked with fresh green chilli and served with a cool minty dip, these deep-fried spicy fritters contain kernels cut straight from fresh ears of sweetcorn.  Welcome to the sixth recipe in my series of delicious, easy football snacks with a South African flavour.

Scrumptious Soccer Snacks: Sweetcorn Chilli-Bites with a Mint Yoghurt Dip
Super-crunchy Chilli Bites with a Mint Yoghurt Dip

Cape-Malay chilli-bites or 'daltjies', made with chickpea flour, are a popular snack in South Africa, while corn is a staple food, eaten mostly in the form of pap or phutu, a traditional porridge made from ground maize.

These are delicious served piping hot, and they're not bad cold, either. You can add any combination of spices to this basic mixture, as well as other chopped vegetables: spinach, cauliflower, and so on.  If you can't find fresh sweetcorn, use tinned kernels that have been very well drained, but these really are best with fresh, poppy, sweet kernels. Chickpea (gram or channa) flour is available in Indian spice shops and in health stores. If you can't find it, use ordinary flour.

Please don't be put off by the fact that these are deep-fried.  (Look, I know deep-frying isn't healthy, but heck, how often is the World Cup played in South Africa?)  I find it easiest to deep-fry food (not that I'm the expert, but for what it's worth) in a small, deep saucepan over a gas flame. You can use a pan over an electric plate, or a domestic deep-fat fryer, but a naked flame is better because it allow you to regulate the heat with ease. For perfect results, I can recommend using a thermometer - I use a jam-making/candy thermometer - to keep the oil at a constant temperature of between 160°C and 170°C. If you don't have such a gadget, have a look at these tips for checking whether the oil is hot enough.

Sweetcorn Chilli-Bites with a Mint Yoghurt Dip

4 ears fresh sweetcorn
2 green chillies, very finely chopped, or more, to taste
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1½ cups (375 ml) chickpea [gram or channa] flour
½ cup (125 ml) plain flour
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) mild curry powder
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) turmeric
1 cup (250 ml) thick white yoghurt
a little water
milled black pepper
750 ml sunflower or canola oil, for frying
lemon wedges

For the dip:
1 cup (250 ml) thick white yoghurt
the juice of half a lemon
4 Tbsp (60 ml), loosely packed, chopped fresh coriander [cilantro]
3 Tbsp (45 ml), loosely packed, chopped fresh mint
salt and milled black pepper

Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cobs (hold the cob vertically, and slice downwards, cutting close to to the fibrous core).  Place in a large bowl and add the chillies and spring onions.  Sift the channa flour, plain flour, salt and spices over the vegetables. Now add the yoghurt, mix well, and add just enough water to make a thick batter. Season with pepper and a little more salt, if necessary (this batter needs more salt than you would think). Set aside for half an hour.

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan. When the oil is hot enough, drop in large spoonfuls (30-45 ml) of batter (it's easiest to do this using two spoons).  Fry until golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on plenty of kitchen paper. If you find the fritters relentlessly sticking to the bottom of the pan, your batter is too thin: add a little more flour.

To make the dip, combine all the ingredients in a bowl.

Serve piping-hot with lemon wedges and the dip.

Makes about 30.

Like this soccer snack? Try some of the other recipes from this series:

Mini Pita Breads with Spicy Meatballs and Hoummous
Mini Bunny Chow with Butter Chicken 
Cape-Malay-Style Curried Lamb Kebabs with Apricots
Potato, Cheese and Chilli Phyllo Triangles
Steak Kebabs with a Monkey-Gland Dipping Sauce

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Tuesday 18 May 2010

Glitter Pizzas: Introducing the Glitzer

All you need for a Glitzer is a pizza base, all the
toppings, and a star-shaped cookie cutter for
stamping out the salami slices.
'Isn't that a bit camp?' asked my teen son when I handed him the pizza in this photograph.

'Well, of course it is,' said I, crustily. I was cheesed off that he didn't find my Glitzer beautiful and frivolous.

This is such a silly idea that I can't resist sharing it with you.

At my daughter's birthday sleep-over party a week ago, the girls assembled their own pizzas, using my home-made dough and a selection of interesting toppings.

In a last-minute burst of inspiration, I reached for the tube of edible cake glitter I'd bought to decorate Ellie's cupcakes.

The pizzas looked so festive and twinkly by lamplight, as did the girls, who had sparkles all over their faces and hair.

I'm frustrated that this daylight snap doesn't capture the flash of the finished product.

Edible cake glitter is expensive, but a little goes a long way.

By lamp- or candle-light, these pizzas look as if Tinkerbell has flitted from olive to olive, swishing her wand to share the twinkles.

Glitter Pizzas: introducing the Glitzer
How to do this: Make your pizzas in the normal way, but use a star-shaped cookie cutter to stamp out salami shapes. Cook the pizzas, then sprinkle the glitter over the toppings as soon as they come out of the oven.

Postscript, 8 May 2012: The UK Food Standards Agency has recently issued guidelines about the use of about edible glitter, in response to consumer concerns.

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Monday 17 May 2010

Four-Pepper Cream Cheese with Green Olives

I love pepper; I really truly adore the stuff.  Even the word 'pepper' is delightful, isn't it?  Such a frisky spark of a word. I have all sorts of peppers in my cupboard, and one of my favourites is white pepper, which  is a fine-tasting spice, and so curiously unfashionable these days. I'm also a big fan of dried green peppercorns, which you never see in a supermarket but which you can buy, at a very reasonable price, in most Indian spice shops.

Four-Pepper Cream Cheese with Green Olives
Anyway, here's how I indulged my love of pepper. For this snack, I used a great new product from Lancewood: their Superior Cream Cheese, which has a lovely taste and creamy texture and comes in a demouldable (is that actually a word?) tub. All you need to is tip it out, top with with interesting flavourings - some sweet chilli sauce, perhaps, or a variety of toasted seeds - and then serve it with a flourish. What's more, it's just over half the price of Philadelphia cream cheese, which is so expensive these days that I just cannot bring myself to buy it.

 Do you like my beautiful red leaves, which come from the grapevine on my veranda? Their colour is glorious, especially when the late afternoon sun shines through them and lights them up like stained glass windows.

Four-Pepper Cream Cheese with Green Olives
1 block of cream cheese
2 T (30 ml) white peppercorns
2 T (30 ml) dried green peppercorns
2 T (30 ml) Szechuan peppercorns
2 T (30 ml) dried pink peppercorns

Unmould the block of cream cheese and place on piece of waxed paper. Crush each type of pepper, one by one, using a mortar and pestle. How finely you crush them is up to you.  Use a knife to mark four 'stripes' of equal width across the cheese.  'Mask' three of the stripes with a piece of waxed paper, aligning the straight edge with the first knife mark on the cheese, and pressing the paper down the sides of the cheese.  Pat the first lot of peppercorns onto the top, sides and edge of the cheese.  Blow away any excess. Now turn the cheese around, and press another pepper into the other end.  Repeat the process with the middle two stripes. Place on a clean plate and serve with green olives and crackers.

Serves 6 as a snack. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Sunday 16 May 2010

South African Steak Kebabs with a Monkey-Gland Dipping Sauce

Steak Kebabs with a Monkey-Gland Dipping Sauce
Steak Kebabs with a Monkey-Gland Dipping Sauce
'I'm chasing monkeys round the garden with a meat cleaver as we speak,' I wrote on my Facebook page as I was busy making this dipping sauce. But of course that was a lie.

I was frying onions and combining them with ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, chutney and all the piquant relishes that go into making this South African steakhouse classic.

This sauce has a disgusting name, and I have always found restaurant versions of it vile.  But I could not leave this iconic South African recipe out of my series of my series of delicious, easy football snacks with a South African flavour, so here it is.

Let's get the name out of the way first.  There are many theories about why this sauce has such a grisly name, many of them involving French chefs and Johannesburg's old Carlton Hotel.

After having read many of these theories, I reckon Eric Bolsmann, writing in The Times, has the most plausible explanation.

In his interesting article 'The Secret History of Monkeygland Sauce', Bolsmann says that the sauce was brought to South Africa, and the Carlton Hotel,  in 1935  by a man called Cavaliere Fiorino Luigi Bagatta, who had worked as a waiter at the Savoy in London.  It was at the Savoy, Bagatta told Bolsmann, that this dish of flambéed steak was born, and it was named in honour of one of the Savoy's patrons, the Russian-born French scientist Dr Abrahamovitch Serge Voronoff.  Vonoroff, says Bolsmann, 'had caused a sensation by grafting monkey testicle tissue onto the testicles of men, believing that this was an effective treatment to induce rejuvenation.'

But enough of monkey testicles. Bolsmann gives Bagatta's original, rather elegant recipe for the sauce in his article, and it contains neither chutney nor tomato sauce, nor garlic, soy sauce, sugar, wine, port or the many other ingredients that you will find in dozens of 'classic' monkey-gland sauce recipes. This, in its many variations, is a basic barbeque sauce, and can be as piquant and spicy as your tastebuds demand.  This may be a brash and - dare I say - somewhat trashy concoction, but it is part of South Africa's culinary landscape, and its fans do not appreciate any sort of derision, as you will see if you read these comments.

I have toned down the aggressive taste of this sauce by adding coconut milk, which may cause great offence to purists. (Then again, if you're a monkey-gland-sauce purist, may I suggest that you do some soul-searching about the purpose of your life?)

If you can't find a braai [barbeque] to cook these on, place them under a blazing hot oven grill.   Do use well-hung, mature rump steak or fillet steak so you end up with chunks of beef as tender as a monkey's wrinkled ...  oh, never mind.

Steak Kebabs with a Monkey-Gland Dipping Sauce

1.2 kg fillet or rump steak

For the marinade:
4 Tbsp (60 ml) vegetable oil
1 Tbsp (15 ml) soy sauce
1 Tbsp (15 ml) white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp (45 ml) tomato sauce [ketchup]
1 tsp (5 ml) Tabasco sauce
freshly milled black pepper

For the sauce:
2 Tbsp (30 ml) vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 Tbsp (60 ml) white wine
4 Tbsp (60 ml)  tomato sauce [ketchup]
3 Tbsp (45 ml) thick fruit chutney (Mrs Ball's Original, if you can find it)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp (15 ml) soy sauce
2 tsp (10 ml) chilli powder
½ cup (125 ml) water
90 ml coconut cream
salt and black pepper
fresh parsley, finely chopped

Cut the steak into large cubes and place in a bowl.  Combine all the marinade ingredients, pour over the beef cubes and toss well to combine. Cover and set aside for an hour or two.  To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onions over a brisk heat for a few minutes, or until beginning to turn golden. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute, without allowing the garlic to brown. Now add the white wine and allow to bubble until almost all the wine has evaporated.  Stir in the tomato sauce, chutney, Worcestershire sauce and chilli powder. Cook, over a low heat, for five minutes, or until you have a thick, glossy paste. Stir in the water and the coconut cream  and simmer for another three minutes. Season with plenty of pepper and add a little salt, if necessary.  At this point, you can purée the sauce using a stick blender; I think it's nicer when it's chunky.  Cover the sauce and set aside until you need it.

Fire up a braai or barbeque (or preheat the oven grill to its maximum setting). Remove the steak from its marinade and thread it, two or three pieces at a time, onto slim satay sticks that have been soaked in cold water for 15 minutes. Cook the kebabs over medium-hot coals for 6-10 minutes -  turning frequently and basting with any remaining marinade - or until nicely crusted on the outside, and just pink within.  In the meantime, warm the dipping sauce.  Serve immediately.

Makes about 20 little kebabs

Like this soccer snack? Try some of the other recipes from this series:

Mini Pita Breads with Spicy Meatballs and Hoummous
Mini Bunny Chow with Butter Chicken 
Cape-Malay-Style Curried Lamb Kebabs with Apricots
Potato, Cheese and Chilli Phyllo Triangles Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Saturday 15 May 2010

Salad of Warm New Potatoes, Smoked Trout, Celeriac and Watercress

Celeriac is one of those veggies I don't see often on supermarket shelves, and when I do see one I fall on it like a starving wolf.  It's particularly delicious raw, and is lovely in salads. I made this salad today using the beautiful piece of smoked trout from Harty's that I bought yesterday at the Cape Town Food and Wine Show, and what a winning combination: the smoked trout is beautifully offset by the earthy crunch of celeriac matchsticks tossed in  in a remoulade-style dressing of crème fraîche, lemon and a little horseradish.

If you can't find watercress - in my opinion a hugely underrated salad ingredient - use any small green leaf, but avoid rocket, which will overpower the delicate flavour of the trout.

Salad of Warm New Potatoes, Smoked Trout, Celeriac and Watercress
1 kg new potatoes
a big (grapefruit-sized) bulb of celeriac
2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
4 spring onions, finely sliced
2 fillets of smoked trout
a bunch of watercress
salt and milled black pepper

For the dressing:
juice of a lemon
finely grated zest of half a lemon
1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely chopped fresh dill
½ cup (125 ml) crème fraîche
1 tsp (5 ml) creamed horseradish [optional]

Boil the potatoes in plenty of salted water for about 15 minutes, or until they are just tender. In the meantime, make the dressing. Put all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl and whisk lightly until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Peel the celeriac (use a knife to cut off any knobbly bits, and then a potato peeler to remove the rest of the skin). Cut vertically into thin discs (this is easiest using a mandolin). Now stack the discs in a pile, six at a time, and cut into matchsticks. Add the celeriac to the bowl (do so immediately, to prevent it from browning) containing the dressing, and toss well to combine.

Drain the potatoes and cut them in half. Put them back in the pan, add the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Arrange the warm potatoes, in a circle, in a large flat platter. Sprinkle with the spring onions. Tip the dressed celeriac into the middle of the salad platter. Pull the smoked trout into chevron-shaped pieces or big shreds and pile on top of the celeriac. Tuck sprigs of watercress all the way round the the edge of the potatoes. Serve immediately. Note: don't leave the celeriac strips to languish in their dressing for more than about 30 minutes, or they will lose their snappy celery taste.

Serves 6.

Like this? Try my Roast Beef Fillet with Creamy Celeriac and Horseradish Cream Salad. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Friday 14 May 2010

Good Food & Wine Show: the good, the bad, and the Gordon

I never miss a Gordon Ramsay show on TV if I can possibly help it, so there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to see the world's most famous chef in action at Cape Town's Good Food and Wine Show. At R750 (about $100), the 'VIP' tickets were staggeringly expensive, but my husband surprised me by presenting me with one as my early birthday present.

Ever since I read Ramsay's fascinating autobiography, Humble Pie, a few years ago, I have greatly admired him, and have followed his career with interest. Yes, I know he swears like a sailor and can be unspeakably rude to colleagues, minions and foes, but I dig Gordon anyway. Not only because he's knee-wateringly sexy (let's get that one out of the way, shall we?) but also because he's tenacious, talented, kind-hearted, hard-working and -  most important of all -  utterly fearless.

Fearlessness is a quality I desperately admire in people who have it. I'm not a fearful person (fearlessness is not the opposite of fearful) but I would love to have total conviction, and an unswerving faith, in my own abilities. 'Only with absolute fearlessness can we slay the dragons of mediocrity that invade our gardens,' design icon George Lois once said, and that is a sentiment that rings very true for me. I would also love to have big enough balls to tell annoying people to fuck right off (I am getting better at this, the older I become).

It's Ramsay's loathing of mediocrity that is his greatest asset, and I have no doubt that this is why he has become, in the culinary world at least, a global super-star.  Both my teenage sons (who usually read only encyclopaedic fantasy epics) raced through Humble Pie and regularly watch his shows with relish and a lot of guffawing. I heartily endorse their admiration of Ramsay because I would like them, both kind-hearted and clever boys, to be fearless in their adult lives.

So, that's why I wanted to see the man in action.  And his show this morning was great: he was funny, warm and polite.  But, my goodness, he had to work hard to get a belly laugh out of a rather subdued Cape Town audience.  Half his rude jokes went right over their heads, and when he asked how the audience liked the T-shirt he was wearing (our national soccer team's official jersey) he raised - disgracefully - only a feeble cheer from a mostly pale-skinned housewifely audience.

I wasn't blown away by Ramsay's humdrum choice of demo dishes - a potato-and-haddock soup, sticky chicken and tarte tatin - and would have loved to have seen him demonstrate something more edgy and challenging, and something we haven't seen made on TV a hundred times.  But this was a minor disappointment, compared to what came next.

When the show ended, we VIP-ticket-holders were told to stay in our seats, while the rest of the audience - the cheap seats - filed out.  Oh, goody, I thought.  Now for the expensive part of our tickets!  What would this be?  Another short demo? A Q&A session?  Perhaps - gasp - a free stream of expletives?  But it turned out that we were held back in class only to receive our  'free', pre-signed copies of Ramsay's book Easy.  By the time we got outside, the queue for book-signing queue was 150 deep.  At this point, I wandered away to sample a few goodies at the nearby stalls.  When I rejoined the queue, some time later, I stood patiently in line and eventually found myself in a band of infuriated VIP ticket holders who'd been told they couldn't meet Ramsay, or have their books personalised, because they were 'too far behind' in the queue.  The security guards were heckled, feet were stamped, fists were shook and I enthusiastically joined the fracas, because I wanted to ask Ramsay to sign my copy of Humble Pie. Eventually some organiser or manager pitched up, reluctantly peeled her cell phone away from her ear, and snottily told the people who'd parted with R750 to 'calm down'.  Standing next to a sign saying 'VIP Book Signings' she said, without a trace of irony, 'You got what you paid for'.

The long and the short of it?  If you'd bought a cheap seat (and let this be a lesson to me my husband) you got the long end of the stick, and a face-to-face meeting with His Ramsayness. If you were rattling your jewellery in the prime seats, you got a poke in the eye.

But what of the rest of the show?  I don't mean to sound like a grumbler, but I am always disappointed by big food events like these, because of the dearth of really interesting, innovative food producers. I see that my sentiments are shared by my fellow blogger, Sam of Drizzle and Dip, who posted this about the event.

I'm not interested in stalls peddling knives, gimmicky vegetable turners and expensive casserole dishes, and I cannot understand why bath salts, soaps and crappy powdered stocks are featured at a good food show.  There is always a surfeit of stalls selling olives, olive oil, tapenade, chilli sauces and pickles, and never enough emphasis on small producers of excellent artisanal cheeses, sausages, breads and the like.

Having said that, there were a few stalls that really stood out for me, and I came back with two bags laden with some outstanding local produce.

Though I'm not mad about bottled sauces, I have to applaud Pesto Princess for their delicious, knock-your-socks-off pastes and pestos.  One of the best products in this show, in my opinion, is Pesto Princess's gorgeous fresh Chimichurri, a zingy Argentinian paste of coriander, parsley, chilli, garlic and lemon.  Their fresh chermoula and berebere pastes are as fresh, sparky and delicious, I bet, as anything you'll taste in Morocco or Ethiopia.   In second place is an exceptional, award-winning hand-made camembert by La Petite France. With its velvety skin, melting texture and exquisite creaminess and flavour, this is a cheese worth lying under a train for.  I also bought a side of a most beautiful and delicate smoked trout from Harty's of Somerset West, and several packs of excellent home-made sausages -  Toulouse, Swedish, Chourico and a devilish 'Diablo' -  from Rudi's of Gordon's Bay. And I was delighted to see tasty, tender pork neck on sale at the Ranch Meat Centres stall. I've been hunting for a good supplier of pork neck since I moved to Cape Town, spurred by the fact that recipes for pork neck are by far and away the most visited pages on this site.

I wish I could give you details for all these producers, but most of them are so small that they don't have websites.  The official website for this show doesn't list suppliers' details (the dragons of mediocrity have invaded that garden) but I did collect some cards, and will happily send you email contact details for these suppliers if you want them.  (I'm not going to post them here, for fear of their email addresses being harvested and spammed). My email address is hobray at gmail dot com.

PS I did request an interview with Ramsay, but all the slots were taken.  The invitation to the media briefing, promised to me by the reigning pee-ar, never arrived.  Those pesky dragons again.

POSTSCRIPT: I see that visitors who paid big money to attend the Gordon Ramsay event at his Maze restaurant were also upset.  Read the organisers' response, and comments from readers. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Thursday 13 May 2010

Scrumptious Soccer Snacks: Potato, Cheese and Chilli Phyllo Triangles

These are a cross between Indian samoosas (which is what we call samosas here in South Africa) and Greek tyropitakia: little phyllo-pastry triangles filled with feta cheese bound with egg. The potato, onion and chilli filling is rather Indian; the phyllo pastry, feta and egg very Greek. I feel no compunction about fusing two culinary cultures into one tasty snack - if ever there were a melting-pot of a cuisine, South Africa is it. Welcome to the fourth in my series of delicious, easy football snacks with a South African flavour!

Scrumptious Soccer Snacks: Potato, Cheese and Chilli Phyllo Triangles

It is said that South Africa has the largest number of people of Indian descent outside India (about 1.15 million people), and there is also a large Hellenic community in this country. So, you might call this 'Grindian' food.

The first Greek and Cypriot immigrants came to South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century; the first Hellenic association was formed in Cape Town in 1903. Recently I've been rereading my treasured collection of Lawrence Green books, and have loved his recollections of the food he enjoyed as a boy growing up in Cape Town in the early decades of last century.  Green was a gourmand of note, and often bemoaned the disappearance of the great kitchens of Cape Town: 'Cape Town was for centuries the gastronomic capital of Southern Africa and I record with sorrow the fact that it has lost that distinction,' he lamented in his 1971 book A Taste of the South Easter.  'Cape Town has become a city of steak and chips.'

In several of his books, he reminisces at length about the artistry of the Dutch, Malay, French, Italian and German cooks who plied their trade in the city's hotels, taverns and restaurants; he had a particular fondness for Greek food. In Growing Lovely, Growing Old (1951), he devoted two pages to a glowing description of  the various Greek dishes he enjoyed 'every week': pastitsio; avgolemono; local squid stuffed with rice and braised in tomato, onion and wine; roast lamb and venison; pickled octopus; mussel fritters, taramasalata; dolmades; stuffed peppers and brinjals; and shortbread and spiced cake, all washed down with ouzo, produced locally by 'Greek wine farmers in the Kuils River District'.

In A Taste of the South Easter, Green talks about a friend, Peter ('he had an unpronounceable surname like Chrystikopolous') who ran a fruit shop and cafe in Kloof Street. 'Peter used to bake bread, coarse bread, and put it in front of his fellow countrymen steaming hot.  They would tear off hunks, dress it with pepper and salt and olive oil and eat it with white cheese and black olives as an appetiser. Then I watched them going into the kitchen to see what was cooking... I soon decided to abandon the steak and chips and join the Greeks.'

Peter's fish dishes were splendid, adds Green. 'Crawfish, which the Greeks call astakos, was grilled in the shell over the charcoal fire. Peter also concocted a fish stew, filling a cauldron with several varieties of fish, herbs and onions, tomatoes and olive oil. Once he dropped a whole octopus into the cauldron amid cries of approval from his Greek patrons.'

But back to the snackage. You can flavour these with anything you like: some ground cumin and coriander for a more Indian flavour, or nutmeg and a little lemon zest if you're in a Greek mood. If you don't like an oniony flavour, omit the onion juice.

Potato, Cheese and Chilli Phyllo Triangles
5 medium potatoes, peeled
a small onion, peeled
3 T (45 ml) white yoghurt
1 cup (250 ml, loosely packed) grated Cheddar
1 cup (250 ml) crumbled feta cheese
2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped [optional]
salt and milled black pepper
an egg, lightly beaten
a pack of phyllo pastry
melted butter or olive oil for brushing
poppy seeds
paprika or chilli powder

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut the potatoes into cubes and boil in plenty of salted water until quite tender. In the meantime, grate the onion on the fine teeth of a grater (this is not as painful as it sounds, if you do it very quickly and look away while you're doing it). Tip the pulp into a sieve set over a bowl, squeeze out all the onion juice and reserve. Discard the pulp (or add it to the mix later, if you want a double-oniony punch). Drain the potatoes, stir in the yoghurt and mash until smooth. Mix in the grated Cheddar and feta, while the potato is very hot. Add the onion juice and chillies, to taste, and season with salt and black pepper. Set aside to cool slightly until lukewarm, and then stir in the beaten egg.

Scrumptious Soccer Snacks: Potato, Cheese and Chilli Phyllo Triangles
Place a sheet of phyllo pastry on a piece of waxed paper on the kitchen counter, short side towards you. Brush generously with melted butter or olive oil. Place another sheet on top, and brush again. Cut the rectangle into strips about 10 cm wide. Repeat with the remaining sheets of phyllo (cover the buttered strips with a damp tea towel so they don't dry out). To make the triangles, place a strip, short side towards you, on the paper. Place a dollop of potato mixture (about a tablespoon and a half) on the end of the strip. Bring one corner up to the opposite edge to enclose the filling in a triangle. Flip the triangle over and up (click here for photographic instructions) and continue folding until you reach the end of the strip. Tuck any excess underneath the triangle. Brush the triangles with butter and dust with poppy seeds and a little paprika or chilli powder. Place on a baking dish and bake at 180°C for 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden.  Serve hot, but beware of the molten filling, which can blister your tongue.

Makes about 30.

Like this soccer snack? Try my Mini Pita Breads with Spicy Meatballs and HoummousMini Bunny Chow with Butter Chicken and Cape-Malay-Style Curried Lamb Kebabs with Apricots Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Cape-Malay-Style Curried Lamb Kebabs with Apricots

A sosatie (so-sar-tee) is what South Africans call the full-size version of this succulent and highly spiced lamb or mutton kebab.

Drenched in a turmeric-yellow, sharp-sweet marinade, sosaties of this sort are usually threaded with chunks of raw onion, dried fruit and fresh bay or lemon leaves; traditionally they contained chunks of sheep fat, which helped keep the meat juicy.

My bite-sized version contains little fat, and the lamb is tenderised by a long marinating time and a small amount of plain yoghurt.

Welcome to the third in my series of delicious, easy football snacks with a South African flavour.

This is the sort of recipe that can bring tears to the eyes of a South African living away from home, so evocative is it of the lazy, woodsmoky scent of a traditional braai [barbeque].  This is one of the classics of South African cuisine, and is certainly - along with bobotie - the best-known of all Cape Malay dishes.

Some claim that the name 'sosatie' is derived from a combination of the words 'saus' [sauce] and 'sate', but the authoritative Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principles tells me that the Afrikaans/Dutch name 'sasaatje' comes from the Javanese word 'sesate', which means 'meat on skewers'.

The word first appeared in print, says the dictionary, in 1833.  So popular were these kebabs in the early days of the Cape, says that wonderful raconteur Lawrence Green in his book Tavern of the Seas, that many of the taverns of old Cape Town were known as 'Sosatie and Rice houses'.

Hildagonda Duckitt's "Where is it?" of Recipes, first published in 1891, gives a recipe for 'sasaties or kabobs' that does not differ substantially from a sosatie you might be offered at a family braai today, 120 years later.  As is the case with any hallowed recipe, every cook has his or her own closely guarded formula.

Sosaties are always cooked over hot coals. If you don't have access to a barbeque, you can cook them under a fiercely hot preheated oven grill. For an authentic taste, put the meat very close to the grill at first so that the edges of the meat and fruit just begin to catch and blacken. Then move the sosaties to the middle of the oven, turn down the heat and bake until the lamb is cooked through.

If you can't find lemon or orange leaves, use bay leaves (but citrus leaves are best, as they infuse the lamb with a wonderful perfume as it cooks). Ask your butcher for lamb from the leg or shoulder, or for some nice fatty mutton, if he has it.  You can add petals of raw onion to these kebabs, but be warned that they will retain a bit of raw crunch.

You will find all the ingredients below in a good spice shop.

Cape-Malay Style Curried Lamb Kebabs with Apricots

750 g lamb from the leg or shoulder, cut into large cubes
fresh lemon or orange leaves
24 dried apricots
melted butter for brushing

For the marinade:
40 g dried tamarind pulp
1 cup (250 ml) boiling water
4 Tbsp (60 ml) vegetable oil
2 onions, peeled and very finely chopped
3 cardamom pods
1 thumb-length quill of cinnamon
1 red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 Tbsp (30 ml) grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) ground cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
1 tsp (5 ml) red chilli powder
3 Tbsp (45 ml) white wine vinegar
80 ml thick fruit chutney (Mrs Ball's Original, if you can find it)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sugar
2 tsp (10 ml) mild curry powder
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) turmeric
½ cup (125 ml) water
salt and milled black pepper
the juice of half a lemon
½ cup (125 ml) plain white yoghurt

Put the tamarind in a small bowl and cover it with the boiling water. Set aside. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and onion. Cook, over a brisk heat, for 5 minutes, or until the onions take on a golden colour.

Add the chilli, ginger and garlic and cook for another minute or so, without allowing the garlic to brown. Stir in the cumin, coriander and chilli powder and allow to sizzle or two minutes, or until you have a rich golden paste. Now add the vinegar and chutney, turn down the heat and allow to bubble for three minutes.

Using your fingers, break up the tamarind pulp in the water. Tip the lot into a sieve set over a bowl, pressing down on the pulp to extract the juice. Discard the pulp. Pour the tamarind water into the pan and add the sugar, curry powder, turmeric and water.  Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.  Stir in the lemon juice and yoghurt.

Tip the marinade into a deep plastic or ceramic dish and add the lamb cubes. Stir well to coat, cover and place in the fridge for at least 24 hours, or longer if possible (you can make these three or four days in advance).

Pour some boiling water over the apricots and allow to soak for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Soak some slim satay sticks in water for 10 minutes. Cut the lemon, orange or bay leaves into pieces the size of a postage stamp.

Thread a piece of lamb onto a satay stick, then add a slice of lemon leaf, then an apricot, then another piece of lemon leaf, and finally a piece of lamb. Brush a little extra marinade over the sosaties. Grill, over hot coals, turning frequently, for 6-10 minutes, depending on the heat of your fire, or until the lamb is cooked right through (see my notes, above, about oven-cooking).

Brushing the kebabs with melted butter as they cook will give you a nice glossy finish. Serve piping hot. If you like, you can bring the remains of the marinade to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes and serve as a dipping sauce.

Makes about 24 snack-sized kebabs.

Like this soccer snack? Try my Mini Pita Breads with Spicy Meatballs and HoummousMini Bunny Chow with Butter Chicken and Potato, Cheese and Chilli Phyllo Triangles

Kebab Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Sunday 9 May 2010

Scrumptious Soccer Snacks: Mini Bunny Chow with Butter Chicken

A classic of South African cuisine, the splendidly named bunny chow is a hollowed-out half- or quarter-loaf of white bread, filled to the brim with a hot, spicy curry of mutton, beef, chicken, beans, vegetables, or a combination of the above. Welcome to the second in my series of delicious, easy football snacks with a South African flavour!

Scrumptious Soccer Snacks: Mini Bunny Chow with Butter Chicken
Little rolls stuffed with butter chicken.
Durban is the home of bunny chow: a hot 'bunny' is a favourite lunch-time meal for labourers, office workers and surfers, and for late-night revellers.  And tourists too: if you're planning on visiting Durban during the Fifa World Cup, please don't leave without trying this delicious, inexpensive rib-sticker of a meal.  You'll have no problem finding where to buy one: ask any local, and you'll be pointed in the direction of a curry outlet claiming to make 'the best bunny in Durbs'.

There is much debate about the etymology of the name 'bunny chow'; you can learn more about this at Wikipedia, which has an interesting entry on the topic. What is certain is that the dish originated among Indian indentured labours, mostly Hindus, who came to South Africa in the 19th century to work on the sugar-cane fields.

Scrumptious Soccer Snacks: Mini Bunny Chow with Butter Chicken
An authentic bunny chow must use a white Government loaf (that is, an inexpensive, fluffy square loaf), and should be filled to the brim with a Durban-style curry which - whether meaty or vegetarian - is generally highly spiced and very hot.

In this recipe, I've taken the idea of a bunny chow and adapted it (or, okay, corrupted it) to create a light, bite-sized snack that I think will blow your socks off.  I've used one of my all-time favourite curries, based on the classic butter chicken formula.  There are many variations of butter chicken (in a nutshell, tandoori chicken tossed in a rich tomato-based sauce, enriched at the last minute with butter), but this formula is one that I've settled on after many attempts at coming up with the perfect taste and texture.

 This recipe is delicately spiced, which is the way I like it, but you are free to add more heat to it - some fresh chopped green chilli, perhaps, or red chilli flakes -  if you prefer a tongue-blisterer of a curry.

I've miniaturized this recipe to make the bunnies easy to pop into your mouth, but there is no reason you should not use normal sized breadrolls or, indeed, cut a loaf of white bread in half and fill it to the brim with the mixture.

 This is a complicated and long recipe, I admit.  The chicken is marinated twice, and the same spices are added at different times. But follow the recipe to the letter, and I promise you won't be disappointed by the succulence and subtle spicing of this lovely dish.

You can make the chicken and its sauce in advance (see recipe) but the cold butter must be added to the hot gravy at the very last moment, and cooked for no longer than three minutes, or it will separate into a greasy muddle.

All the spices in this recipe can be bought from an Indian spice shop. Butter chicken is usually made with powdered dried fenugreek leaves (methi), but as these aren't that easy to find, I've used whole fenugreek seeds in this recipe.  If you can lay your hands on ground methi, used 2 tsp (10 ml) in place of the teaspoon of seeds.

For this recipe in Afrikaans, see: Maklik en eg Suid-Afrikaanse 'bunny chow'

Mini Bunny Chow with Butter Chicken

8 deboned, skinned chicken breasts

Marinade 1:
2 fat cloves garlic, peeled
2 T (30 ml) grated fresh ginger
the juice of a large lemon
1 tsp (5 ml) chilli powder
½ tsp (2.5 ml) salt

Marinade 2:
1 cup (250 ml) thick white yoghurt
1 tsp (5 ml) powdered cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) garam masala
½ tsp (2.5 ml) powdered coriander
½ tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon
½ tsp (2.5 ml) turmeric
½ tsp (2.5 ml) salt
1 T (30 ml) vegetable oil

750 g ripe, juicy tomatoes
1 tsp (5 ml) fenugreek seeds
2 T (30 ml) vegetable oil
2 T (30 ml) tomato paste
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) chilli powder
1 tsp (5 ml) garam masala
½ tsp (2.5 ml) turmeric
1 cup (250 ml) cream
50 g cold butter
salt and milled black pepper

To serve:
30 cocktail rolls
melted butter
sprigs of fresh coriander [cilantro]

Cut three or four deep slashes into the chicken breasts and place in a bowl. Crush the garlic and add it to the bowl along with the ginger, lemon juice and chilli powder. Using your hands, rub the marinade into the chicken, pressing it well into the slashes. Set aside for 20 minutes.

 In a separate bowl, combine all the ingredients for the second marinade. Pour this mixture over the chicken breasts, mix well, cover and place in the fridge for one to two hours. Don't allow it to marinate for more than 3 hours, which will make the chicken mushy.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Remove the breasts from their marinade and, without wiping off the marinade, place in a flat ceramic dish. Discard any marinade left in the bowl. Bake at 200°C for seven minutes, then turn down the heat to 170°C and bake for a further 10-12 minutes, or until there is no trace of pinkness when you cut into the flesh of the chicken. Set aside.

In the meantime, make the gravy. Cut the tomatoes in half and grate by pressing the cut side of the tomato against the coarse teeth of a grater and vigorously grating until the skin flattens out under your palm. Discard the skin. (Alternatively, you can dip the tomatoes in boiling water for a few moments, peel of the skin, and then chop them finely). Coarsely crush the fenugreek seeds using a mortar and pestle. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the tomato pulp, tomato paste, crushed fenugreek seeds, cumin, garam masala, turmeric and salt. Cook over a brisk heat for about seven minutes, or until the pulp has thickened slightly (when you pull a wooden spoon through the pulp, it should leave a gap that closes reluctantly). Stir in the cream, reduce the heat, and simmer for another five minutes. (At this point, the sauce can be set aside for reheating later).

Heat the oven to 200°C. Cut the tops off the rolls and hollow out the insides, leaving a 5mm 'wall'. Brush the cut edges, lids and sides of the rolls with a little melted butter. Place the rolls and their lids on a baking sheet and bake for a few minutes - watch them like a hawk - or until the edges are golden and beginning to crisp. Keep warm.

Cut or pull the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and add to the tomato sauce. Stir well to combine. Heat, over a medium flame, and allow to bubble gently so the chicken is heated right through. Cut the cold butter into little pieces, add it to the sauce and cook, for no more than three minutes, stirring gently. Add the pepper, and more salt, if necessary.

Pile the butter chicken into the warm rolls, top each one with its lid, garnish with a sprig of fresh coriander and serve immediately.

Makes about 30, depending on the size of your cocktail rolls, or 8-10 servings if served in normal bread rolls.

Like this soccer snack? Try my Mini Pita Breads with Spicy Meatballs and Hoummous. Coming soon: mini South African Lamb Sosaties, marinated in a spicy sauce and cooked with apricots and lemon leaves. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Monday 3 May 2010

Mini Pita Breads with Spicy Meatballs and Hummous

With the kick-off to the 2010 World Cup less than 39 days away, my home town Cape Town is all abuzz, and South Africa is polishing her biggie boots and laying out the welcome mat for the hundreds of thousands of visitors who'll soon be winging our way. 

Mini Pita Breads with Spicy Meatballs and Hummous
My thoughts have naturally turned to soccer food, and so for the next couple of weeks I'll be focusing on fan fodder: delicious snacks with a South African flavour, ideal for stadium food, or for serving to your mates as you gather round the TV set to enjoy the greatest show on earth. ('What do you mean by soccer food?' snorted my husband when I told him about this project. 'The only soccer food you need is beer.' )

South African cuisine is often dubbed 'rainbow food' because of its myriad cultural influences, but I imagine it as a many-textured crazy-patchwork quilt, stitched together with shining thread that is anchored in the soil and unfurls northwards through Africa to Europe, and west to the Middle East and Asia.

There's no space here to give justice to the diversity of dishes you'll find in South Africa: if you're interested, take a look at Wikipedia's entry on the subject, which is a reasonable (though disappointingly incomplete) summing-up of what we 'Saffers' eat, and why.  Suffice to say that you will find delicious indigenous food in South African villages, towns and cities, and that the culinary heritage of various immigrant communities - from Greece to Ghana, from Mozambique to Malaysia, Nigeria to the Netherlands, India to Israel to Italy - bubbles with great vigour in kitchens all over our country.

So, where to start?

Among South Africa's most beloved snack foods are meatballs, also known as frikkadels or - enchantingly -   'frikkies'. These spicy nuggets are quintessential padkos (this means, literally, 'road food', but is so much more than that) and no car, bus, train or taxi journey is the same without them. The best ones are home-made, always to grandma's secret recipe, and are eaten cold out of a lidded plastic container (known, in Afrikaans, as a blikkie), or from a crumpled nest of tin foil. Finding a decent frikkadel in a shop is not easy: I'd rather chew a gallstone than one of the gnarled, over-peppered bullets produced, for example, by our swankiest food retailer, Woolworths.

Frikkies are easy and inexpensive to make, and are great for feeding a crowd. Here, I've made marble-sized frikkadels, and stuffed them into toasted mini-pita breads with lashings of hummous and some fresh coriander. If you like, you can add a lick of garlicky tzatziki to the inside of each pita bread. If you can't find mini pita breads, cut big ones in half.  And if almost-raw onion isn't your thing, you can fry the onion in a little olive oil before you add it to the mixture, but I just love the crunchy onioniness of these frikkies. My instructions presume that you have such a food processor, or a similar appliance: if you don't, you'll need to chop everything finely by hand (or grate the ingredients).

The dusting of chickpea (channa) flour and turmeric gives the meatballs a lovely golden crust, but you can use ordinary flour instead. The yoghurt helps prevent the meatballs from toughening as they cook.

Mini Pita-Breads with Spicy Meatballs and Hummous

For the meatballs:
3 slices fresh bread, white or brown
a large handful of fresh coriander leaves (125 ml, loosely packed)
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
2 large free-range eggs
4 Tbsp (60 ml) thick natural yoghurt
750 g minced beef (or half-and-half beef and pork)
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
a finely minced green chilli (optional, and to taste)
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) salt
milled black pepper
½ cup (125 ml) chickpea [channa] flour (ordinary flour will do)
1 tsp (5 ml) turmeric
3 Tbsp (45 ml) vegetable oil

To serve:
pita breads (40 mini ones, or 10 big ones)
a tub (about 250 ml) hummous
sprigs of fresh coriander
1 tsp (5 ml) paprika
lemon wedges

Tear up the bread, place the pieces in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and whizz to a fine crumb. Add the fresh coriander and press the pulse button a few times, until the coriander is finely chopped. Tip the mixture into a large mixing bowl and set aside. Now put the chopped onion, garlic, eggs and yoghurt in the food processor and blitz until you have a gritty slush. Tip this mixture into the bowl containing the breadcrumbs and add the minced beef, cumin, coriander, chilli, salt and several generous grinds of the peppermill. Using your hands, squish and squeeze all the ingredients until well combined. Now test the seasoning: take small piece of the mixture, flatten it to a disc and fry it quickly in a lick of oil. Add more salt or spices, if necessary. Once you're satisfied with the taste of your mixture, pinch off pieces the size of a large marble and roll them into balls. Place on plate, cover with clingfilm and put them in the fridge for 30 minutes so they can firm up.

Heat the oven to 100°C. Put the chickpea flour on a plate, season with a little salt and pepper and stir in the turmeric. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high flame. Dust the meatballs, eight or ten at a time, with the seasoned chickpea flour. Fry the meatballs in batches in the hot oil, turning them often, until they are golden brown and crusty on the outside and cooked through inside. Place the cooked meatballs in the warm oven while you fry the rest.

When you've cooked all the meatballs, heat the pita breads on a baking sheet in the oven. Using a pair of scissors or a sharp knife, cut a 5 mm slice off the top edge of each pita bread. Use a knife blade to open a pocket in the bread (this has to be done while they are piping hot: if you allow them to cool off, they will tear). Add a generous dollop of hummous to each pita, then fill the pocket with a hot meatball. Tuck in a sprig of fresh coriander. Pile into a bowl and serve immediately, with lemon wedges.

Serves 10 as a snack. Makes about 40 marble-sized meatballs. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly