wise-beginnings

The first verse of a song, the first few lines of a story, the opening scene of a show, those are the most crucial moments of my career. The same happens in my dining room. Whether you are preparing for casual visit, a formal dinner or a daily meal with the family, a wise beginning is everything. Call it an arrival snack, a starter, a first course, call it anything, the small bite that explodes with flavour, the gesture that shows your care and the fear of foolishness because of alcohol on an empty stomach, these things determine the success of any event.

CHAMPANGE RISOTTO

CHAMPAGNE RISOTTO

In the world of food recipes or chefs often insist on certain very specific ingredients because this or that happens and nothing else will do. And then I follow their instructions like a puppy and when it comes to the eating I cannot FOR THE LIFE OF ME taste the difference! This recipe sounds like one of those, but I promise you, the use of real French Champagne (Yes, it’s not Italian, the world has shrunk) turns this simple risotto into a light and elegant dish that will crown any table, taste bud, occasion or guest. I serve this as a first course, summer, winter, formal or informal.

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 cup Arborio rice

500ml organic vegetable stock

pinch of salt

400ml excellent champagne

4 tbs finely grated parmesan

1 tbsp butter

3 chives, chopped

extra chives

 

Heat oil, onion and garlic in saucepan

Stir for 1 minute

Add rice and stir until rice is coated

Add 100ml stock and pinch of salt

Stir over medium heat until liquid has been absorbed

Add stock – and later champagne – in small quantities and stir until rice is cooked and creamy

Stir in parmesan

Stir in butter

Remove from heat and stir in chopped chives

Serve with extra chives

BUTTERNUT PANCAKES

BUTTERNUT PANCAKES

These can be served hot or cold, with or without all kinds of dipping sauces, at the table or the picnic, as snacks, starters or lunch box essentials. Or fry them on the spot at the local bake sale.

 

Caramelize onion and garlic with butter in small saucepan over low heat,

about 40 minutes

Cut butternut into squares and arrange on oven tray

Drizzle lightly with oil and bake in oven at 165˚C (fan)

Cover loosely with foil if butternut browns too much

Let cool and mash in mixing bowl

Stir in onion and egg

Stir in flour

Chop chilli finely (remove seeds if preferred)

Stir into butternut with parsley and coriander

Grate 1/4 tsp nutmeg, stir into batter

Season with salt and pepper

Stir in parmesan, cover and let stand until ready to fry, at least 15 minutes

Heat enough grapeseed oil to cover bottom of pan

Spoon batter into pan, enough for 4 pancakes at a time

Fry over medium heat until golden brown on both sides

Serve with small bowls of chutney, sweet chilli sauce and/or barbeque sauce

 

 

 

GREEN SALAD WITH HALOUMI

GREEN SALAD WITH HALLOUMI

Years ago, when I used to do long runs at the Centurion Theatre, my friend Mia ran the kitchen and everything else at the restaurant next door. Unlike these days, I NEVER went home after the show, Mia would be waiting with chilled white wine and one of my favourite after-show dishes, one of which was grilled halloumi. In all the years since then, I never had halloumi. Until melancholy recently made me put together this salad!

grapeseed oil

180g young spinach leaves

100g fresh rocket leaves

4 slices country bread, cut into squares

400g halloumi, cut into strips

seasalt

freshly ground black pepper

juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsp honey

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

 

Heat 2 tbsp grapeseed oil in pan

Add bread and fry until golden brown, transfer croutons to kitchen cloth, wipe pan

Arrange spinach and rocket on large serving plate

Arrange croutons on top

Heat 2 tbsp grapeseed oil in pan

Fry half the halloumi over medium until golden on both sides

Season very lightly with salt and pepper, keep aside, fry remaining halloumi

Add 1 tbsp oil to pan and fry tomatoes over high heat until skins burst

Arrange halloumi and tomatoes on top of salad

Add 4 tbsp grapeseed oil with the honey and lemon juice to warm pan

Whisk with rubber whisk over medium heat for 30 seconds, season with salt and pepper, drizzle over salad

Sprinkle with parsley

CITRUS SALAD WITH PANROASTED CARROTS

CITRUS SALAD WITH PAN ROASTED CARROTS

Forgive me, everytime I find I can use something to create a pattern, I do it, it's an addiction. Then it ends up looking really old-fashioned and people think I cannot afford to buy new cookbooks. But I am tired of stacking food and I like symmetry. By the way, this salad is delicious.

1 red onion

2 tsp sugar

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

240g small carrots

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

1 tbsp honey

pinch of salt

4 oranges

2 grapefruit

100g soft goat cheese

80 fresh rocket

3 tbsp mixed peppercorns, crushed

 

Slice onion into thin rings or strips

Mix with sugar and vinegar, let stand for at least 30 minutes

Slice carrots lengthwise into quarters, then into lengths of 6 cm

Heat carrots with oil and honey in pan over high heat

Stir for 1 minute until carrots start to brown

Lower heat and let simmer for 3 to 4 minutes

Season lightly with salt and let cool

Peel oranges and grapefruit and cut into slices

Arrange 6 slices each on 6 individual plates

Arrange onions and carrots on top

Break goat cheese and place on top

Place small bunches of rocket in center of each plate

Drizzle with Dressing and sprinkle with peppercorns

 

DRESSING:

 

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tbsp honey

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp French mustard

seasalt

freshly ground black pepper

 

Whisk first 4 ingredients together

Season with salt and pepper

SMALL ROTI WITH GARLIC CREAM SAUCE

This recipe is for 12 small roti, a wonderful snack for 4 to 6 guests. I often double the amounts and serve these as a first course.

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 spring onions, chopped

3/4 cup boiling water

grapeseed oil

 

Mix flour, salt and spring onions in bowl

Make a well in the center of the mixture and add boiling water

Dust work surface with a little extra flour and kneed dough for 1 minute

Form 12 balls and roll out into 12 small roti

Heat enough oil in pan to just cover bottom (medium heat)

Place 2 or 3 roti in pan, press down with spatula

Fry until golden brown on both sides, taking care not to let roti burn

Serve lukewarm or at room temperature with Garlic Cream Sauce

 

 

GARLIC CREAM SAUCE

 

1 garlic bulb, wrapped in oil and oven baked at 170˚C (fan) for 45 minutes

250g cream cheese at room temperature

2 tbsp sour cream

freshly ground black pepper

6 small sprigs of fennel

6 whole spring onions

 

Mix cream cheese and sour cream in mixing bowl

Cut off top of garlic bulb and squeeze out flesh

Mix into cream cheese mixture

Spoon into 6 small bowls, season with pepper and garnish with fennel

Place bowls on 6 large individual plates

Cut roti in half and arrange next to bowls

Garnish each plate with a spring onion

 

 

GOLDEN CAULIFLOWER BLINIS

GOLDEN CAULIFLOWER BLINIS

600g cauliflower

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

3 large brown mushrooms, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup self raising flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground paprika

1/2 tsp nutmeg, grated

1 tsp ground turmeric

3 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped

extra grapeseed oil for frying

1 cup Greek yoghurt

3 tbsp fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, coriander leaves, basil)

finely grated zest of 1/4 lemon

 

Steam cauliflower until cooked, keep aside

Heat 2 tbsp grapeseed oil in pan

Fry mushrooms and onions until cooked

Place cauliflower in mixing bowl and mash with fork

Stir in mushrooms and onion

Beat in eggs

Add flour, salt, pepper, paprika, nutmeg and turmeric, mix well

Stir in 3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

Heat 3 to 4 tbsp grapeseed oil in pan

Spoon 1 heaped tablespoons batter into pan

(It is best to make no more than 3 to 4 blinis at a time)

Fry 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown, add oil if needed

Place on kitchen towel

Season yoghurt lightly with salt and pepper, stir in chopped herbs and zest

Serve with blinis

JEWEL SALAD

JEWEL SALAD

This salad is a complete meal, but also perfect as a beginning to a long, leisurly lunch with many small courses. This is also great to take to work, school or any outing. The vegetables look like tiny, colourful jewels, a playful visual feast!

1 1/2 cup quinoa

3 cups water

1 aubergine

6 small or 4 medium zucchini

1 yellow bell pepper

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

12 cocktail tomatoes

1 tbsp olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

seasalt

freshly ground black pepper

6 fresh mint leaves

3 spring onions

 

Heat quinoa and water in saucepan

Let simmer until all liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes

Remove from heat, cover with lid and let stand for 15 minutes

(This is the most important step for perfectly cooked quinoa!)

Cut aubergine, zucchini and bell pepper into small cubes

Heat grapeseed oil in pan and fry vegetables until just cooked and still brightly coloured

Spoon quinoa into mixing bowl and add fried vegetables

Cut tomatoes into quarters and add to quinoa

Stir in olive oil and lemon juice

Season with seasalt and black pepper

Roughly chop mint and spring onions and mix into salad

Serve at room temperature

NUT AND SEED LOAF

MUCH LOVED NUT AND SEED LOAF

For years, when you walked into Topsi Venter’s Franschhoek restaurant, a small plate with a few slices of bread was the first thing brought to your table. This was the best bread I have ever tasted and I begged Topsi to let me have the recipe, but never got it. There was a recipe for a similar bread in her cookbook and between that one and my memory of the one I tasted hundreds of times, I arrived at this recipe. To this day, this is the only bread I bake.

2 cups brown bread flour

1 cup Nutty Wheat (3/4 cup plain flour plus 1/4 cup Wheat Bran)

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups mixed nuts, chopped

2 tbsp sunflower seeds

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

2 tsp sesame seeds

2 tsp poppy seeds

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

2 cups plain yoghurt

2 eggs, beaten

2 tbsp honey

 

Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl

Work into a sticky dough

Divide between two lightly greased medium bread pans

Bake in oven at 165˚C (fan) for 50 minutes

Cover loosely with foil if breads start to brown too quickly

 

(I usually serve one loaf immediately and freeze one for later.)

 

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

SPICY OMELET SALAD

SPICY OMELETTE SALAD

This is a robust, picturesque, mouthwatering, satisfying experience that everybody enjoys. Nobody has ever refused this salad.

DRESSING:

 

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tbsp honey

juice and finely grated zest of 1 small lemon

1 tsp strong mustard

1/2 tsp paprika

seasalt

freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

Whisk ingredients together

Cover and let stand for 1 hour

 

SALAD:

 

2 red bell peppers

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

3 eggs

2 tbsp milk

seasalt

freshly ground black pepper

pinch of chilli powder (1/8 tsp)

pinch of nutmeg

1 small red cabbage

2 heads of gem lettuce (about 200g)

140g large corn chips

Cut bell peppers into strips

Toss with 1 tbsp grapeseed oil

Arrange on oven tray, bake for a few minutes in oven at 170˚C (fan),

keep aside

Whisk eggs and milk together

Season with seasalt, black pepper, chilli powder and nutmeg

Heat 1 tbsp grapeseed oil over medium heat in non-stick pan,

move pan to cover surface with oil

Pour eggs into pan, bake until top starts to set

Fold over and slide onto a plate or cutting board

Let cool and cut into strips

Cut cabbage and gem lettuce into thin strips

Transfer to serving plate or large shallow bowl

Arrange bell pepper strips and corn chips on top

Arrange omelette slices on top

Drizzle dressing over salad just before serving

Soft-egg-cocktail-bites

SOFT EGG COCKTAIL BITES

PANFRIED BREADS:

 

3 small square ciabattas (9cm x 9cm)

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

Cut each ciabatta into 4 slices (keep ends to make salad croutons!)

Heat oil in pan over medium heat

Fry 12 slices until golden brown on both sides

Wipe pan with cloth

 

SOFT SCRAMBLED EGG:

 

3 eggs

seasalt

1 tbsp grapeseed oil

1 tsp butter

12 chives, chopped

3 tsp green pesto

freshly ground black pepper

6 extra chives for garnish

 

Whisk eggs and and season lightly with seasalt

Heat oil and butter in pan

Add eggs

As soon as bottom of eggs start to set, push spatula through eggs

Add chopped chives

Remove from heat while 1/3 of eggs are still liquid

Keep moving spatula slowly until eggs are cooked but soft

Spoon teaspoons of egg on top of each slice of bread

Place very small amounts (about 1/8 tsp) of pesto on top of each slice

Season with black pepper

Cut extra chives in half and place on top

Arrange on serving plate

Serve at room temperature

GEISHA-POTATOES

GEISHA POTATOES

500g baby potatoes with skins

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

1 tbsp chopped fresh dill

1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper

250g cream cheese, at room temperature

fresh chives, tied in knots

 

 

Cook potatoes and let cool

Stir parsley, dill and pepper into cheese

Halve the potatoes and cut a sliver off the bottoms

Spread cheese mixture over bottom of each potato

Garnish with knotted chives

Season lightly with extra black pepper

PLATE-WITH-CREAMY-CHEESE

PLATE WITH CREAMY CHEESE

Delicious, creamy, dreamy, unusual and simple! Use your best plate!

250g soft cream cheese

250g ricotta

3 tbsp crème fraîche

1/4 tsp seasalt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

40g pistachio nuts, lightly roasted

40 pomegranate seeds

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp olive oil


Mix cream cheese, ricotta and creme fraîche together 

Season with salt and pepper

Spoon onto serving plate

Sprinkel with nuts and pomegranate seeds

Drizzle with honey and oil

Serve with small toasts, biscuits, crackers or sliced fresh vegetables

BLUEBERRY-SALAD

BLUEBERRY SALAD

4 large wholewheat tortillas

75g pecan nuts

50g baby spinach

70g fresh rocket

70g fresh watercress

240g blueberries

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

juice of 1 lemon

seasalt

freshly ground black pepper

 

Cut tortillas into strips and arrange on baking sheet

Bake in oven at 170˚C (fan) until golden brown, this happen very quickly

Coarsely chop nuts, roast in a dry pan

Arrange greens on a large serving plate

Sprinkle nuts and berries over

Arrange tortilla strips on top

Whisk olive oil, syrup, vinegar and juice together

Season with salt and pepper

Sprinkle over salad just before serving

PUMPKIN SEED + PARSLEY PESTO

PUMPKIN SEED + PARSLEY PESTO

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, coarsely chopped

1 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup Parmesan, grated

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp seasalt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

 

Place pumpkin seeds, parsley, basil, garlic and Parmesan into food processor

Pulse a few times until ingredients are finely chopped and mixed

Season with salt and pepper

Add olive oil slowly while food processor runs at a low speed

Cover and store in refrigerator

Serve with mini toasts, sliced vegetables or french fries