Tuesday 29 May 2012

The cover of my Scrumptious new cook book!

I'm fizzing with excitement about my cook book, which will be published by Random House Struik at the beginning of July 2012. At last I can show you the cover.

Shooting the cover. On the left is Kirk, Michael's assistant. Plus an
 interested  (interested in the steak, that is)  onlooker, my basset
hound Madame Velvet.
What do you think of the cover? I couldn't be happier with it because it sums up the mood, style, tone and content of my book. What I really love is its simplicity and elegance, and for that I have to thank the book's designer and creative director Beverley Dodd, and Cape Town food photographer Michael Le Grange, both of whom worked closely with me to come up with this image.

(For the back blurb of the book, scroll down to the end of this blogpost.)

We considered many shots from the inside of the book for a cover, but none quite fitted the bill. We wanted the cover to look simple, sophisticated, modern and inviting, but it also needed to reflect the book's theme:  good, accomplished home cooking and polished entertaining. For weeks we mulled over a location, but it was Michael who spotted this natural stone wall outside the front entrance to my home, and I slapped myself on the forehead several times for not having thought of it earlier.

When I planned the styling of this image, I chose a round table because these are so convivial, and 'ghost' chairs because they're unobtrusive. The plain white linen and worn silver cutlery echo the simplicity of the food-styling inside the book. I also wanted an indigenous flower on the table to give the cover an African stamp, and we tried several blooms before settling on a single hot-pink protea.

It took a little longer to decide what to put on the plates, and in the end I was guided by one of my children: 'It's easy, Mom,' he said. 'Just put your favourite special-occasion dish on the cover.'  So I did just that, because fillet, mash and rocket is just what I'd make if you came round for lunch at my house.

Only one individual in my family didn't enjoy this shoot. Scroll down to find out who.

 Here's our little basset Akamaru, sorely aggrieved about the steak situation. (Photograph by Michael Le Grange.)

Back blurb of my cookbook:
Creating memorable feasts for family and friends is one of life's great pleasures: how better to celebrate life and love than to gather at a happy table laden with scrumptious home-cooked food? You do not need to be an expert cook to produce heart-warming dishes that sing with flavour - all that's required is passion, patience and smart preparation well in advance. 
Jane-Anne Hobbs has created over 90 original, triple-tested recipes designed to take the fuss out of home entertaining and bring smiles to the faces of the people you love. Whether you’re planning a relaxed get-together over a homely dish of soup, stew or salad, or a lavish spread with all the bells and whistles, you’ll find plenty of inspiring new ideas here, plus top tips for planning and preparing a meal to remember.
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Wednesday 16 May 2012

Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Chops with Citrus Couscous Salad

This dish of spicy lamb chops and citrussy couscous salad is one of my favourite happy-hybrid inventions. It’s largely Moroccan in its spicing, but it also contains a popular and versatile Middle Eastern ingredient: pomegranate concentrate. This delicious elixir (also known in its many forms as pomegranate syrup, reduction and molasses) is made by simmering fresh pomegranate juice down to a tart-sweet syrup filled with fruity flavours. This is the sixth in a series of recipes for Woolworths South Africa, pantry sponsors of MasterChef South Africa.

Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Chops with Citrus Couscous salad. Plate by David Walters

Cooks are often told on MasterChef and other reality shows to exercise caution when mixing ingredients from different regions, or indeed from diverse flavour ‘families’. I think this is advice worth following. Honey doesn’t go with mashed potatoes or fresh linefish, for example, and nutmeg and rocket are sworn enemies.

But, if you’re an adventurous cook, it’s worth keeping your mind open and trying out interesting flavour combinations. If you want to experiment, the best advice I can give you is to choose ingredients from regions that are geographically adjacent.  For example, because of the influence of the Moors, the cuisines of the Iberian Peninsula are compatible with the cooking of North Africa. Israeli cooking has much in common with Lebanese, Greek and Turkish food, and so on.

And all of the above are compatible with pomegranate, that most lovely and ancient fruit. (Although I do think that the seeds must be used judiciously. I see these "rubies", as magazines like to call them, scattered over everything but the cat these days. Pomegranate seeds strewn prettily across a salad  or dessert may improve the look of the dish, but - like the ubiquitous micro herbs so loved by chefs - they don't necessarily add much to its taste.)

My other recipes for Woolworths #wooliespantry:

Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Chops with Citrus Couscous Salad

12 small lamb chops
4 Tbsp (60 ml) lemon juice
4 Tbsp (60 ml) pomegranate concentrate
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) cumin
½ tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon
½ tsp (2.5 ml) cayenne pepper, or more, to taste
1 tsp (5 ml) dried mint
black pepper
1½ cups (375 ml) couscous
2 cups (500 ml) very hot water
a tin of chickpeas, drained
100 g slivered almonds, toasted
½ cup (125 ml) finely chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup (80 ml) finely chopped fresh mint
the seeds of a pomegranate [optional]

For the dressing:
finely grated zest of a large orange
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
6 Tbsp (90 ml) fresh lemon juice
5 Tbsp (75 ml) fresh orange juice
1 tsp (5 ml) cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) dried coriander
½ tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon
½ cup (125 ml) olive oil
salt and pepper

Place the lamb chops in a non-metallic dish. Whisk together the lemon juice, pomegranate reduction, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and mint. Pour the marinade over the chops and toss, using your hands, so that each chop is coated. Season with black pepper, cover and set aside for two or three hours.

In the meantime, start the couscous salad. Put the couscous in a deep bowl and pour in the hot (not boiling; see Cook’s Notes) water. Immediately cover the bowl with clingfilm and set aside to steam, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk well.

Uncover the couscous and, using a fork, gently scratch at the surface, lightly fluffing the grains so they separate. Add the chickpeas and dressing to the still-warm couscous and toss to coat. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Cover and set aside at room temperature while the chops are marinating.

Heat your oven’s grill.  Season the chops with salt and place in a roasting pan. Grill the chops, not too close to the heat, for about 4-5 minutes on either side (or until done to your liking), basting with the pan juices and leftover marinade now and then. Watch them closely, as the sugar in the pomegranate syrup may cause them to scorch.

Stir the toasted almonds, parsley, mint and pomegranate seeds into the couscous and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve the chops piping hot with the couscous on the side.

Serves 4. 

 Try this couscous salad with other ingredients from the Mediterranean region: crumbled feta, green olives, chopped preserved lemon, pistachios, and so on.

 Leave the dried mint out of the marinade if you can’t find it. It’s easy to make your own dried mint – place a bunch of leaves in a very low oven, with the fan on, and leave them until they’re completely dry.  Crumble and store in a sealed jar.

 Most ‘instant’ couscous recipes specify boiling water, but I’ve found that hot water produces the best result.  If you’re not confident about preparing couscous, follow the instructions on the packet.

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Friday 4 May 2012

Spicy Chicken, Tomato and Sweetcorn Soup

When I read the theme of this week's Woolies Pantry recipes, I gave a happy little snort. I have teenagers, you see, and feeding them (and the other ravenous students who swarm through my kitchen) is not unlike cooking for an army. If I were a millionaire, I'd give them their favourite food - slabs of steak and triple cheeseburgers - but I'm not, so I have resorted over the years to more economical ways of feeding young people with hollow legs. This is the fifth  in a series of recipes for Woolworths South Africa, pantry sponsors of MasterChef South Africa.

A big pot of richly flavoured soup, served with a mountain of bread, makes excellent teen fodder, and this recipe is one I make often in winter. It's packed with filling carbs - potatoes and sweetcorn - and really is a square meal in itself. What's more, it stretches one chicken across eight or more mouths, whereas if you had to roast a chicken, it would feed only four (and that's being optimistic).

If you're in a hurry, you can make this with shop-bought liquid stock and a ready-roasted chicken, but a proper home-made chicken broth adds wonderful depth of flavour. This is a mildly spiced soup, so feel free to give it extra heat with chopped fresh chillies, dried chilli flakes or lashings of Tabasco.

My other recipes for Woolworths #wooliespantry:

Spicy Chicken, Tomato and Sweetcorn Soup

For the stock:
1 large free-range chicken
3 litres cold water
3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, skin on, quartered
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, thickly sliced
6 stalks flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
1 tsp (5 ml) black peppercorns
2 whole cloves

For the soup:
3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
4 big carrots, peeled and cubed
6 big potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-cm cubes
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 red chilli, seeded and finely minced (optional)
2 tins Italian tomatoes, finely chopped, and their juice
3 Tbsp (45 ml) tomato paste
500 g frozen sweetcorn kernels
1 Tbsp (15 ml) cumin
1 Tbsp (15 ml) dried oregano
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
1 tsp  (5 ml) sweet paprika
1 tsp  (5 ml) chilli powder, to taste
salt and milled black pepper

To serve:
chopped fresh parsley
chopped spring onions
sour cream or natural yoghurt

Place all the ingredients for the stock in a large pot and bring to gently to the boil. Turn down the heat, cover with a tilted lid, and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the stock, strip the flesh from the bones and set aside, covered. Return the bones and skin to the stock and simmer, partly covered, for another 45 minutes. Strain the stock into a bowl and discard the bones and flavourings. Pull the reserved chicken into strips. At this point, if you are planning ahead, you can put both the stock and the chicken into the fridge for a few hours, or overnight.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion, celery, carrots, potato cubes, garlic and chilli and fry over a medium heat for five minutes. Skim any fat from the top of the stock and pour the stock over the vegetables. Bring to the boil. Add all the remaining soup ingredients, except the reserved chicken, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the potato cubes are tender. Skim off any foam, tip in the chicken strips and cook gently for a further 35-45 minutes, or until the chicken has fallen apart into shreds. Check the seasoning, stir in the chopped parsley and serve at once, topped with spring onions and sour cream.

Cook's notes:
  • For an even more substantial soup, add a cup of split orange lentils, and cook the soup for 10-15 minutes longer, before adding the chicken.
  • If you’d like a thicker texture, give the soup a quick whiz with a stick blender before you add the chicken.
  • You can use tinned sweetcorn in place of frozen sweetcorn.

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