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As a young boy I was surrounded by remarkable women, including my legendary grandmother, two eccentric sisters in a magical house, an unusual art teacher who carried the world in an embroidered bag and two ladies who paid no attention to those who neglected dessert. These wizards taught me that here was no ordinary life and no ordinary meal. The simplest of foods could and should be served at the most festive tables, every bite is a grand occasion and success is a happy guest. Everything has a history, ideas come from the garden, eternal youth comes from candle light, skill comes from understanding, joy comes from confidence and every meal is a small coronation.

CANTEEN TOAST

CANTEEN TOAST

When my career started a million years ago, the theatre in Cape Town - now the Artscape complex - had a staff canteen run by an army of angels, preparing the most heavenly toasted cheese and gherkin sandwiches. During rehearsals I had the same sandwich every single day until my waistline forced me into avoiding the canteen for months. I think a lot about the magic of those days and then treat myself (and whoever is around) to this version of that toasted sandwich.

(2 servings)

 

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk

seasalt

freshly ground black pepper

4 thick slices country bread

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

6 large sweet & sour gherkins

80g grated Cheddar (Yes, it’s a lot!)

about 3 tbsp balsamic reduction

handful of fresh rocket leaves

 

Beat eggs and milk together

Season generously with salt and pepper

Heat grapeseed oil in pan over medium heat

Dip bread into egg mixture

Place bread in pan, a few seconds on each side

Remove bread from pan before it starts to brown, place on work surface

Remove pan from heat, lower heat

Slice gherkins lengthwise in half

Arrange on two slices of bread

(Cut gherkins to size to cover bread completely)

Place Cheddar on top

Season with black pepper

Place rocket leaves on top, drizzle with balsamic reduction

Cover with remaining two slices of bread

Return pan to heat, place sandwiches in pan, press down

Turn over as soon as bottom sides turn golden brown

Remove from pan when other sides have browned

Cut into halves and top with extra rocket leaves 

Lightly drizzle with more balsamic vinegar

FRIED RICE

FRIED RICE

I use different kinds of rice, different vegetables, different herbs and a variety of spices and oils each time I concoct this bowl of comfort and joy. Whatever you find in the house can go into a rice dish, here the secret lies in a perfectly fried egg.

(4 servings)

 

3 tbsp grapeseed oil

300g zucchini, cut into thin coins

3 tbsp pecan oil

4 shallots, cut into thin slices

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp honey

2 pickled red chillies, cut into strips

1/2 cup cashew nuts

2 cup cooked brown rice 

juice and grated zest of 1/2 lemon

handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

4 eggs

extra grapeseed oil

3 spring onions, cut diagonally into thin slices

 

Heat half the grapeseed oil in a pan and fry half the zucchini over medium heat until golden brown

Repeat with rest of oil and zucchini, keep aside

Heat pecan oil in same pan and fry shallots and garlic until golden brown

Add soy sauce, honey, chillies and nuts, stirfry for 1 minute

Add rice, lemon juice and zest, stir until rice is heated through

Remove from heat, add zucchini and cilantro, spoon into 4 bowls

Wipe pan, add a little oil, place 4 cooking rings in pan and carefully break an egg inside each

Cover and let fry until white is set and yolk is still runny

Season with salt and pepper and place an egg on top of each bowl of rice

Use slices of spring onion to create a leaf or flower on top of each egg

Serve immediately

CHOC CHIP COOKIE COOKIES

CHOC CHIP COOKIE COOKIES

Many years ago every theatre I loved and worked in, had a coffee shop or foyer counter where gigantic choc chip cookies in white paper bags were sold. To bring back even more memories, I added Romany Creams to this recipe, one of the definitive smells of my childhood!

(12 large cookies)

 

150g soft butter

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp balsamic reduction

6 Romany Cream cookies, crushed

2 cup self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

100g dark chocolate, chopped

100g milk chocolate, chopped

100g white hocolate, chopped

 

Cream butter, sugar, vanilla and balsamic vinegar together in mixing bowl

Add crushed Romany Creams

Stir in flour, baking powder and salt,

Add chocolate and mixing into cookie dough

Use hands to shape into a ball, cut ball into quarters

Divide each quarter into 3, shape into balls

Flatten balls and place 3 cookies on a lined baking tray

Bake in oven at 170˚C (fan) for 9 tot 10 minutes

Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes

Transfer to wire rack to cool completely

SALMON POTATO CAKES

SALMON POTATO CAKES

These are basically old-fashioned croquettes, but I do not have the time on this earth to try and shape these into perfect little logs, so now they enter the dining room as cakes.

500g young potatoes, 

cooked or steamed with skins

2 tbsp fresh cream

2 tbsp self raising flour

3 eggs

150g salmon, oven roasted or tinned

pinch of nutmeg

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

seasalt

freshly ground black pepper

3 tbps plain flour

3 tbsp fine breadcrumbs

grapeseed oil

 

Remove half the potato skins

Mash potatoes, mix in cream

Whisk one egg and add to potatoes

Mix in self raising flour

Add salmon, nutmeg, basil and oregano, mix well

Season with salt and pepper

Roll into 2 to 14 balls

Whisk 2 eggs in small bowl

Place flour and breadcrumbs in two more separate bowls

Roll each ball in flour, dip into egg and roll in crumbs

Refrigerate for 30 minutes

Heat 4 to 5 tbsp grapeseed oil in pan over medium heat

Flatten each ball just a little, fry in oil until golden on both sides

DRUNK MILKTART

DRUNK MILKTART WITH BLUSHING PEACHES

My emergency dessert with fresh peaches, perfect for unexpected guests. Plus my method of saving even the worst supermarket milktart

PEACHES:

 

2 cups blush champagne

2 tbsp sugar (not heaped)

1 cinnamon stick

2 cloves

1 star anise

2 cardamom seeds

3 ripe blood red peaches (nectarines), halved and pitted

 

Heat first 6 ingredients in pan and let bubble over high heat for 1 minute

Place peaches cut sides down in pan

Lower heat and let simmer for a few minutes until syrup thickens

Turn peaches around for a few seconds halfway through cooking,

turn back around with skin sides on top

Remove from heat, keep aside

 

 

MILKTART:

 

1 milktart, delicious, average or depressing

6 tsp sugar

6 tsp Cognac (I actually use much more)

 

Use 6,5 cm metal ring and cut milktart into 6 circles

Sprinkle 1 tsp sugar over each portion

Drizzle each circle with Cognac

Use blow torch and caramelize until golden brown

Serve one portion of milktart and one peach half (skin-side up) together on large dessert plate

GASCOGNE COOKIES

GASCOGNE CITRUS COOKIES

This is an adaptation of a French recipe. The French use a much finer corn meal, but made with our traditional courser maize meal, these cookies have a great texture. After a much too hard first effort, I reduced the original amount of corn meal and added some coconut. For those without a really sweet tooth, these cookies are also delicious with a little less sugar.

(about 24 cookies)

 

2 eggs

300g sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g soft butter

100g maize meal

50g desiccated coconut

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp lime juice

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

finely grated zest of 1 lime

200g selfraising flour

 

Cream eggs, sugar and vanilla together

Add butter and mix until smooth

Mix in maize meal and coconut

Stir in juice and zest 

Add flour and mix

Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes

(On a really cool day this is not necessary)

Line baking sheet with baking paper

Roll dough into balls of 3,5 cm

Arrange 6 at a time on baking tray

Bake in oven at 180˚C (fan) until edges start to brown, about 9 minutes

Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes

Transfer to cooling rack