Google Ziets' Ramblings

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

On Being A Food Snob



Often-times, one hears about a person being a food snob. Specifically food bloggers. I never cared much for such talk, being rather laid back about criticizing other people's efforts. Everyone has a right to do as they please, including preparing food.

Until a recent dining experience made me think again about my norms regarding food and dining. The missus and I went out to celebrate an anniversary and decided to splash a bit and have a proper meal without having to clean up afterwards. We had some pre-dinner drinks, then ordered food. I decided on a rare steak. This time around, the establishment got the dish sort of right on the third try. The first one was overdone and the second one was raw. By round three there was no veggies on the plate, only the steak. The worst part was that the missus had finished her food by that time, so I dined alone. Not good.

I was about to complain bitterly, then held my thoughts in check. My reason said that the dish could be difficult to make, and perhaps before complaining I should try my hand at the same dish before passing comment.

The dish in question was a pan fried fillet, so that set the scene for an experiment at home. The requirements were easy: fifteen minutes time lapse from order to serving a pan fried fillet, rare, complete with side dishes.


Now everybody and their mate here in South Africa pride themselves on being able to produce such a dish on the braai. This one had to be cooked in a pan, which makes it slightly more tricky if you are not used to using a pan. I perused the internet via Google, a wonderful  source of information. And who better qualified as the Braai Master champions. In this case they actually won the competition by preparing a similar dish to what I had in mind.


Steak can be cooked in the oven, in a pan or grilled over coals. All of these methods have their own intricacies and there are tomes written about each. My book on basic methods is quite old, but still has a paragraph or two about preparing steak.

The Braai Master winners had a different approach to the cooking process, which I since used in several experiments using other cuts of steak. Needless to say, they all worked very well. The method involves searing the outside of the cut to seal the juices in, then allowing the meat to rest before completing the cooking process. In this way, hardly any juices are lost and the meat cooks in its own juices, making for a very juicy steak. This makes a sauce really superfluous.

In my experiments with other cuts, I found that one needs to get a rather thick steak, of about 40 mm/1½ inches thick. The method also works for a thinner steak, but the thick cut makes things easier. Of course, this means that the cut is too large for a single portion. No problem. You cut the meat into 12 mm thick slices before serving. Then guests may choose how much meat they really want. Makes life at the table a bit easier. There is a caveat, though. Sirloin and rump has so much juice, you need to be careful when cutting the meat, as the juices will run all over the table if your cutting board does not have a furrow around the edges.

Back to the fillet. For this one I decided on a home-grown rub. Whole spices are ground in a mortar and pestle, after which some coarse salt is added. The coarse salt will be ground to a powdery consistency if ground with the whole spices. This will make the steak too salty, so take care with the sequence of the work.

The steak can be fried in real butter and herbs in the pan, which will make the dish really rich. The choice is yours.


Sear in a very hot  dry pan
Before the time we prepared spicy rice, garnished with onions, sweet pepper, carrots and mushrooms fried together to serve as the main side to the steak. This was accompanied by steamed cauliflower and broccoli with a Hollandaise sauce. All prepared while the steak was resting. Bear in mind that the experiment was about preparing a dish similar to what one would expect in an upmarket restaurant, in the same time frame.


Searing bonfire
So here goes.


Pan fried beef fillet with vegetables and Hollandaise sauce

Ingredients

500g fillet steak
Dollop of olive oil
Dollop of butter

For the rub

1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
½ teaspoon whole cumin (jeera) seeds
1 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
some coarse salt to taste

For the Hollandaise sauce

1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
2 dessert spoons water
2 dessert spoons real butter
small pinch of salt
1 dessert spoon chopped fresh parsley

Cauliflower and broccoli rosettes for two servings (About 300g)
Juices sealed in, resting away from heat

Process

Take the meat out of the refrigerator and allow to settle to room temperature. Pat the cut completely dry, else the meat will not brown. Heat a dry pan to very high heat.

Make the rub by grinding all the whole dry spices in a mortar. When the spices are ground fine enough to your taste, add the coarse salt. I used Malden salt. Roll the meat in the rub. When the pan is sufficiently hot, sear the steak in the pan all around for thirty seconds. Not longer. Then dab a dollop of olive oil on the meat, making sure that the cut is covered all around. Hold the meat over the open flame to cause the oil to flame. This will sear the outside of the meat and seal in the juices and flavours. This should last for about fifteen seconds only. Quite fast.

Now remove the steak from all heat and set it aside to rest while you prepare the Hollandaise sauce and the veggies. It does not matter if the steak goes stone cold during this time. It will cook and the temperature will settle while still hot. You have now shocked the meat, not cooked it. The final cooking comes later. Turn down the heat and allow the pan to cool to medium heat.


Cut the large steak into thinner strips
The veggies are steamed in a colander over a little water in a saucepan. While this is on the go, you make the Hollandaise sauce. Add the egg yolk, butter, water and lemon juice to a small saucepan. You can use vinegar instead of lemon juice, but then the sauce is called Bearnaise sauce, so I am told. Heat this very slowly while stirring vigorously. The sauce must not be lumpy. I don't have a double cooker, so this is how I prepare the sauce. Take the pan away from the heat if things seem to get too hot. If this sauce boils, you start over. 

By the time the sauce is ready the steak would have rested sufficiently. You now put the steak back in the frying pan and gently fry it to your taste. This may be tricky, as the meat is now sealed and hardly any juice will come out to give an indication of how far it has cooked. The meat will also be quite stiff and my look bloated as a result of the steam trapped inside. Here is where one may add some butter and herbs if you prefer a different flavour. This should not take more that five to eight minutes.

We are still within the restaurant time frame.

Allow the meat to rest again before cutting it into strips. You may need to warm it again slightly if the weather is cold. Or use a heated plate.

Now dish up and enjoy the fruits of your efforts. This dish goes very well with a full bodied red wine and a loved one to make a romantic dinner.



Then, the next day, come tell me all about being a food snob...

Bon Appetit!





Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2016-04-06

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Real Men Don't Eat Quiche



Real men don't eat quiche. Indeed. This was the title of an article in a girlie magazine of way back when. The idea was reiterated recently in a local beer ad here in South Africa that had it that real men don't drink pink drinks.

The idea probably rides on the macho image of South Africans as serious meat eaters. I tend to agree, but certainly took this magazine article as a challenge. The same sort of challenge that our English language teacher posed to us in class on the subject of essay themes.

He would set us a theme, then add that it stands us free to rather write an essay under the title “My Dog Spot” instead. He offered to then mark such essay accordingly. I often toyed with the idea of writing such essay in addition to the regular set theme, then hand it in, marked as my entry to his challenge. Sadly, I never did. It would have been a great opportunity to write something extraordinary and creative on such an inane subject. A chance to really think up something with a twist.

On a recent upcountry road trip we chanced to stop for lunch in the delightful town of Senekal in the Free State province. It was a balmy day and we were on our way to the stopover at Colesberg, still some distance away. At the bottle store we made enquiries as to a quiet place for a light lunch and was directed to a local coffee shop where we had the most delicious quiche imaginable.

The old magazine article immediately sprung to mind and the idea of a challenge was born. Busting some myths, no less.

Real men don't eat quiche. Yea, right.

So, having taken up the challenge, I did some searching on the internet and found, as usual, a myriad of recipes. There are plenty examples of quiche using various vegetables as well. Having taken bold the step of going outside of manly machismo, I decided to make a classic quiche, just because of the value of the challenge. Perhaps also because it is the festive season and holiday weather here in the Cape. And, after all, it is some form of culinary adventure. The recipe is adapted from several on the internet, with a view of having a classic rich version that is easy to make.

Here is my humble attack on the myth of real men not eating quiche.

Quiche Lorraine a la The Hungry Sailor.


Ingredients

For the crust


1 cup cake flour
1/3 cup real butter or shortening
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 dessert spoons water as required.

For the filling


250 ml cream
250 ml full fat cottage cheese
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
Sprig of parsley, chopped
½ of a medium size onion, grated
1 cup bacon, diced
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon smoked paprika

Process


We start with the crust. I made this one in an aluminium foil pie dish, as I do not possess a porcelain or stoneware version. Dice and chill the butter. Mix the flour and salt, then rub the butter into the flour. Add just enough water to make it the consistency of dry wall plaster or dry-ish plasticine. It should not be runny at all. Spray the pie dish with a suitable release agent or butter the dish. Line the pie dish with the dough, pressing it down and making sure it has an even thickness all around. Roll it out flat if you want to. Park this in the refrigerator while the oven heats up.

The oven should be heated to 200ºC/400ºF. Bake the cold crust for ten minutes, then remove from the oven. Allow the crust to cool. Remember that it is now very brittle, so don't bump it.

The filling is prepared as follows: Fry the bacon lightly until almost done, then drain on a piece of paper towel. Grate the onion and drain it on some paper towel as well. You don't want too much of the onion water in your filling. If you have reservations of grating the onion, just chop it finely, like I did. The onions go into the filling raw, so you don't want large pieces.

Mix the cottage cheese and cream thoroughly. Add in the eggs. You may beat the cream beforehand till it just goes slightly stiff. Now mix in the onion and parsley and add some nutmeg to taste.
Building the final product is easy. Spread the bacon in the bottom of the crust, then pour in the cream and cheese mix. Sprinkle some grated cheddar cheese on top, along with a whiff of smoked paprika.

Carefully put this assembly into the oven at 180ºC/350ºF. If you think you may have a mishap and break the crust or spill the filling, assemble the quiche on the oven rack itself. It may make your life easier. Use an oven pan under the dish, as it may spill as it cooks. Now bake this for about 20-25 minutes. Allow the quiche to cool down properly before attempting to cut it. It is good when warm, but it will be quite brittle and soft when you take it out of the oven.

This quiche was easy to make, my first one. It is quite tasty and not nearly as rich as one would imagine. Goes well with a fresh garden salad. This dish can be eaten cold as well.

Bon appetit!





Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2015-12-02

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Poor Man's Roast

Having a small family is sometimes a hindrance to a food blogger. With just the missus and myself, things get tricky when thinking up new ways to prepare food, given the small quantity required.

The normal way around the problem is to invite friends or family over for dinner. However, that avenue has its own dangers, not the least of which is the cost of having a weekly “Come dine with me” episode playing off in your humble abode.

After some thinking and taking into account that I am under orders not to make another stewed dish, I came up with the idea of a slow roast. This one conjures up visions of a piglet, complete with apple in the mouth and so on. My humble budget does not stretch that far and I have this suspicion that most people do not have an oven that big anyway.

So, after some more reasoning, the idea formed that one can make a roast without having to buy a whole leg or shoulder cut. Chops will do if you stack them in a solid pile. One is then able to purchase only enough for the guests in the house, as you can buy chops in individual portions. Having said this, one should realise that the stack of meat  should be sufficiently bulky to resemble a whole shoulder, for example.

In my case I opted for the cheapest lamb or mutton chops I could lay my hands on. Shoulder and leg chops will do just fine. The reasoning is that  the slow roasting process will take care of any toughness anyway.

Having decided on the process and the cuts, the world is open for deciding on the style and flavours. If you have a tagine at hand, that will work brilliantly, the lid keeping the juices inside and allowing for a slow steaming process. I do not own such equipment, so I used a ceramic baking dish of suitable size. The dish has no lid, so I just covered it with some aluminium foil. A cast iron pot or saucepan will also do, as these come with a lid.

That takes care of your cooking utensils.

As for flavours, I decided on a Persian style spicing. I like the spicy flavours, but again I am under orders to prepare some less spicy dishes. This one has a perfumed spicing, very flavourful and quite rich. It goes well with the fatty meat cuts. The recipe is adapted from the book Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour. A welcome birthday present and addition to my library from my son and his fiance.

I was not able to find all the spices listed in the recipe, so I substituted some after some discussion with my local spice merchant. The lime powder was substituted with dried citrus peel.  This dried citrus peel is of my own making, being mandarin orange and satsuma peel that I dried in the oven, then blitzed in the blender.

Edible dried rose petals are also not really a part of the local cuisine, so I substituted rose water, which most larger grocers sell here in South Africa.


Sumac was something new to me, not having heard of it before. It turns out to be ground-up berries of the Anacardiaceae family of plants in the Rhus genus. Check it out on Wikipedia and on the Spice House web site.

This dish was served with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. I kept the portions medium to small, as the meat came out very rich. You may want to make this dish when the neighbours are all at home; it will count as psychological torture! The  flavours emanating from the kitchen are really something special, as is the taste.

Spice Perfumed Poor Man's Roast


1 kg lamb/mutton shoulder or leg chops
1 heaped tablespoon sumac
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried & ground citrus peel
2 tablespoon rose water
some salt flakes
some cooking oil

Process


Mix the spices thoroughly, then add some oil to make it into a paste. Add the rose water and mix well. The spices will ensure that the rose water/oil mix does not separate. Cut the sinews and fat layers of the chops to stop them from curling up during the cooking process. Coat each piece of meat thoroughly and stack them tightly in the baking dish. Add some salt flakes between layers. Cover the dish with aluminium foil or put the lid on. Allow this to marinate for and hour or so. In this case you have lots of thin layers, so it is possible to overdo the marinating time.


Set the oven to 160°C/320°F and pop the roast in the oven for three to four hours. By this time the meat should be almost falling off the bones. No need to use a knife here, you flake the meat using two forks.

This I served with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables steamed over the boiling potatoes. A simple dish  with lots of flavour and very little work in the kitchen. It gave me time to enjoy a glass or two of red wine with the missus.

Bon appetit!


Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2015-07-29

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Flavours of Africa: Oxtail And Samp


Winter arrived properly here in the Cape yesterday, along with the associated rain and cold. Today we have had some thunder and lightning already, with heavy clouds over the Helderberg.

Time for a real winter stew.

For a while now I have been thinking of traditional African stews. A search on the internet revealed very few local recipes. Those that are listed vary from having very simple ingredients to some exotic spicy versions.  Mostly the dishes are from outside of Africa.

So I decided to have yet another version. A stew with an East African slant, if you will. This means that there needs to be a hint of the Middle East in there, with some exotic flavours, but not too spicy. Having reasoned thus far, the ingredients started to settle in my mind.


Lots of cumin, smoked paprika, mixed Madagascan pepper, some garlic, a hint of cinnamon, then some sage and coriander leaves at the end. Coarse sea salt. A dollop of soy sauce. Done. To give  this dish an African flavour, I added red kidney beans as well. My reasoning was that the dish will be served with samp, the broken cooked maize kernels that are so traditional in Africa. Mixed samp and beans is quite popular too, but I decided against this as there was beans in the main dish anyway.

Samp is soaked in salt water for two to three hours prior to cooking. The kernels will soak up some water and wash off some starch. This is discarded and fresh water added for the cooking, which also takes one and a half to two hours. At the end the kernels are nicely swollen and quite chewy. To this I added a dollop of fresh cream and a knob of real butter. This makes for a rich creamy flavour to soak up all the juices from the oxtail.

Oxtail tend to be very tough and has lots of fat. You may not want all the fat in your dish, but do not despair. There is no need to cut the fat off, the process will take care of this. The beauty of oxtail is that one cooks the meat to a very gelatinous consistency, giving the dish an almost creamy texture. In this case I patted the meat quite dry, then fried the pieces in butter and cooking oil until it turned a nice toast colour of brown. The meat is done in batches to not have juices soaking up the heat and causing a cooking, rather than frying process.

The meat is then set aside to rest while you prepare the sauce. Discard the contents of the skillet, that is where most of the unwanted fat will be. This leaves the meat less fatty and nicely caramelised on the outside.

There is another angle to this dish: I made it the day before. This allowed the flavours to develop overnight. When cooking with spices, the flavours tend to be on the sharp side as a result of the frying which lets the oils out of the spices. Allowing the dish to rest will get rid of the very sharp essential oils and leave the basic flavours to marry. The meat also gains some texture, as it relaxes and is therefore a bit more tender.

On the cooking process there is much argument and debate. Some people use a pressure cooker, others like me don't. Some people will have the dish on relatively high heat, while others will use only the barest minimum. I follow the slow route. I believe that cooking any meat fast will cause some chemical changes and the meat will turn out like rubber if you are not careful. Also, I am told, the meat needs to be at room temperature before you start cooking or frying, otherwise it may go tough anyway. Oxtail specifically is quite tough and I have had some very rubbery meat served to me on the odd occasion.

Prepare your food with care and your efforts will be rewarded by the flavours.

So here goes.

East African Oxtail And Samp


Ingredients


750 g oxtail at room temperature
1 large onion, chopped
½ green pepper, chopped
½ cup chopped celery sticks
½ cup chopped carrot
½ cup of carrot, cut into sticks
1 small hot chilli, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped and mashed
1 can whole peeled or chopped tomatoes
2 medium sized fresh tomatoes
1 sachet tomato paste
1 can red kidney beans
some coarse sea salt
some freshly ground pepper
30 ml soy sauce
1 cup strong beef stock
4 bay leaves
small piece of cinnamon bark
3 teaspoons ground cumin
1 heaped teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
small sprig of fresh sage
sprig of fresh coriander leaves
50g butter
oil for frying
1½ cups dry samp

Process

For the oxtail


Heat up a knob of butter and a dollop of oil in a skillet. Fry the pieces of oxtail until they are nice and brown outside. Fry them in batches if needs be. They must be brown, not grey.  Set them aside to rest. Discard the juices from the skillet.

The sauce is started by heating up some butter and oil in your saucepan. Fry the onions, green pepper, celery and carrot until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, chilli and the coriander seeds and fry for another twenty seconds. Now add all the tomato and the rest of the dry spices. Add the dollop of soy sauce and the beef stock. Bring this lot to the boil, then add the meat back in. Ensure that the meat is covered in the sauce. Add some water if necessary.

Turn the heat down and allow the dish to simmer for three hours. Then turn the heat off and allow the dish to rest overnight.

On day two,  bring the dish to the boil and add the carrot sticks,some chopped coriander leaves and the chopped sage leaves. Allow to simmer for another one and a half to two hours, then add the beans. Wash the beans of its juice before adding it to the dish, this will probably cause the dish to burn. You don't want that at this stage of the proceedings.  The sauce may be allowed to reduce some at this stage, making for a thicker sauce. Check for the saltiness after the beans have been added. The meat should be falling off the bones by this time.

Bring to the boil, then turn the flame off and allow the dish to rest again for fifteen minutes.

For the samp


Soak the samp for two hours in salty water. Drain the starchy water and replace with fresh water. Add some salt, then bring to the boil and boil slowly for two hours or until the maize kernels are nicely puffed and chewy. Drain the excess water and add a good helping of butter and two to three dessert-spoons of cream. Mix this thoroughly. The result should be a very rich smelling and creamy tasting chewy maize dish.

Now dish up. This dish goes well with a full bodied red wine and good company.

Bon appetit!




Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2015-06-24

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

A New Life, A New Beef Dish

I recently seemed to have lost my zeal for cooking. Perhaps I lost my muse, as authors and artists would have it.

Or perhaps the two major surgical procedures and the large amounts of anaesthetic in my body had something to do with this loss of muse. Or it could have been the scare of finding a large cancerous tumour on my kidney and having it removed.

Whatever the case, after a two month sabbatical from cooking and from sailing, I am back. The recent spell of cold weather in the Cape triggered a primordial urge for a hearty stew. It is as if the cold weather creeps into your bones and your body tells you this cold will only be chased away by a hearty stewed dish.

After a short internet search, I had the idea. Osso buco. That very Italian dish that warms the cockles of your heart with the meat almost melting in your mouth.

The internet search was short, simply because I was very hungry. So I searched for stewed beef dishes. The standard recipe calls for veal. I summarily dismissed the idea and went and bought beef shin. Here in South Africa beef shin is relatively cheap. The cut need not be very tender, as the stewing process will see to that.

The process is what makes the dish. Spices are very simple. On one of the myriad web sites quoting a recipe, the author remarked that there appears to be an ongoing, raging debate on whether to use tomato or not. Then some recipes call for fennel, some not. Some require sage, others not. And so on.

Being of a somewhat eclectic bent, I decided that my recipe will be a fusion version. There will always be some chilli in my stewed dishes and mostly not any wine. I use soy sauce instead. The soy sauce has a slightly richer texture and a fuller flavour.

Dial Rock, Saldanha bay. It is good to be out on the water again.
Osso buco is basically beef shin or veal stewed in a bed of vegetables. Notably celery and carrot. These hard vegetables do not cook away, so you have some chewiness at the end of the cooking. Again, allow the dish to rest for at least half an hour before dishing up. This will allow the initial sharpness of the ingredients to calm down and allow the more subtle flavours to come out.

As for cooking, most recipes will have you simmer this dish in the oven for a long time at reasonably low temperature. I chose to cook the dish in a cast iron casserole on the burner. Again at low temperature for a long time. I used the same dish for the initial frying of the meat and the subsequent cooking. This will have the caramelised bits of the frying as part of your dish. The dish then makes its own stock, thereby enhancing the flavours.

The Milanese version of the dish serves it up on a bed of saffron risotto. I chose stock standard mashed potatoes. There is something earthy in mashed potatoes don't you think? This mash was made with milk and real butter, making it rich and creamy.


Osso buco needs a gremolata as well. I have never made this, so all was a bit new. Gremolata is quite simple. Mashed raw garlic mixed with finely chopped parsley. A no-brainer. However, this one has some trick to it to make the flavours come out. I use a little table salt with the chopped garlic when mashing it. The salt prevents the garlic from splattering all over the place. The salt also draws some juices out of the garlic. Add the finely chopped parsley and the salt keeps on doing its magic. For this recipe I added some very finely chopped up citrus peel to the gremolata. Make the gremolata while the meat is cooking. This will allow the gremolata's flavour to develop as well. The gremolata is served as a garnish on top of the plated food. I put half of the quantity into the casserole when I turned off the flame.

So here goes.

Osso Buco alla the Hungry Sailor

Ingredients

For the osso buco

500-600g beef shin with bone in
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery sticks chopped. You need about ¾ cup of chopped celery.
½ large carrot finely chopped. Again about ¾ cup of chopped carrot will do.
1 small hot chill, finely chopped
3 buttons garlic, chopped
2 medium fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 400g can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 50 ml sachet of tomato paste.
Dollop of soy sauce
dollop of olive oil
50 g butter
1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock.
4 fresh sage leaves
sprig of fresh fennel
Some oregano
Some hot water
25 ml of fine flour
pepper
salt

For the gremolata

2 buttons fresh garlic.
Sprig of fresh parsley
Zest of half a lemon. I used some dried citrus skin, finely chopped.


Process


Pat the meat as dry as you possibly can, then dust the meat with the flour. Make sure than all the surfaces are covered. Get the casserole up to heat and add the olive oil. The casserole should be of such a size that the meat can lie flat inside without being bundled up. Now fry the meat both sides until it is nice and brown. Take c are not to burn the meat. The flour may burn earlier than the meat, so your close attention is required.

Remove the meat from the pot, then add the butter. Turn the heat down if required. The butter must not burn. Allow the butter to melt, then add the chopped onions, celery and carrots. Fry these gently until the onions go translucent. Then add the garlic and chilli. Fry these for fifteen seconds or so. Now add the chopped tomatoes, the can of tomatoes and the dollop of soy sauce. Allow this lot to reduce to about half the volume, then add the stock. Mix through thoroughly.

Now place the pieces of meat on top, making sure that the meat is covered in fluid. The parts that stick out will not cook properly. Add the juices that oozed out of the meat while resting. At this stage I added some small onions whole, just for garnish. Add the tomato paste now. Add the sage and the fennel, tearing them by hand. Sprinkle some oregano over the lot.

Turn the heat down to minimum on your smallest burner and put the lid on. Check every half hour for sufficient fluid in the pot and ladle some of the juices on top of the meat. Now make the gremolata.


Chop up to buttons of garlic, using some table salt to keep the bits together during mashing. Add the chopped parsley and the lemon zest. Mix this thoroughly. The quantity should be around three table spoons.

The test for readiness is the tenderness of the meat. The meat should be marrow soft. This will take about two to three hours. Turn off the flame and sprinkle half of the gremolata on top. Close the lid and make the potato mash. Remember to add some real butter to the mash.

Then dish up. Sprinkle some gremolata on each serving as a garnish. This one goes very well with a full bodied red wine and low lights. Like candles.

Bon appetit!



Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2015-05-27

All images taken with LG G3 smart phone and processed with Photoshop Express.




Sunday, 29 March 2015

Traditional Easter Fare



It is that time of year again. Easter. For some reason Easter is celebrated in South Africa almost like Thanksgiving in The United States; Lots of family gatherings and lots of food.

Perhaps it has much to do with being the end of the harvest season. Us city- and seaward oriented folks tend to get somewhat dislodged from Mother Earth and the seasons. But the religious festivals help to keep us in line with the seasons.

For one, I know this festival is very close to the first equinox of the year which falls on 21-22 March. That is when the sun crosses the equator on its way to the northern hemisphere for their summer. It is also the first star gate of the year for some religions.

But here it is Easter. Time for wonderful celebrations and always accompanied with good food and wine. The Cape is no exception and Mother Nature played along very nicely this year and provided lots of good fishing recently. This played magnificently into the tradition to have pickled fish and bread for a picnic lunch in the balmy autumn weather here in the Cape Town area.

I am not a fisherman, so I went to the local fish market by the jetty and bought a fish. Pickled fish appears to be like South African potjiekos, a very personal dish with jealously guarded recipes.

Luckily for us, not all recipes are so closely guarded and we have the famous Cass Abrahams, who published her recipe for pickled fish. This one is special also because it is one of the very traditional Cape Malay dishes, steeped in history.

For me, this was the perfect opportunity to test the Cape Malay style spiciness. The spice mix is simple, the preparation easy and the waiting time forever. I did not even bother doing an internet search, as I had a proper reference handy right on my bookshelf: Cass Abrahams cooks Cape Malay, by Cass Abrahams. The book is available from Amazon books. This recipe is adapted from this book.


This dish is normally made using cheap fish.  The book calls for snoek, which in other parts of the world is called queen mackerel.  However, any fish will do. Especially game fish as they have firmer flesh. The recipe may be made by frying the salted fish in butter or in a light batter. It does not make a difference. I opted for the plain frying in light oil as per the recipe. The dish also calls for vinegar, for which I used apple cider vinegar. This gave a very fruity taste to the dish and I had to add a little regular vinegar to get the acidity levels up. The sugar is added to your own taste, so take care. It is easy to have too much sugar. You can always add some later when the dish has cured for a day or two.

The solid ingredients need to be submerged in the pickle. If not, add a little vinegar and turn the whole lot around. This will get the bottom pieces to the top and allow the top ones some better soaking and curing. Be careful not to break the pieces of fish, else you end up with flaked fish in brine.


Very important: The skin needs to be taken off game fish. The brine or pickle will not penetrate the skin and thus leave your fish not cured and tasting bland. I tend to always skin the fish. You may do this by soaking the cuts in boiling water for a minute or so. The skin will then come off easily. The size of the cuts does not matter. However, I like to have all the cuts with at least one dimension under my control. This means I cut all the pieces to the same thickness, which, in my case, is about 20mm or ¾ inch. This will ensure a similar curing time for all the cuts. Over-curing does not matter, but under-curing does. And make sure the onions are properly cooked, otherwise you end up with very crunchy bits! The onions may be fried in butter before adding to the pickle, if one so prefers.

So here goes.

Ingredients


1 kg game fish. I used yellowtail
2 large onions, sliced into rings
5 thumbs garlic, mashed
250 ml vinegar
125 ml water
10 ml coriander powder
10 ml cumin powder (jeera)
15 ml masala
5 ml turmeric
2 bay leaves
4 pimentos
4 cloves
1 ml peppercorns
Sugar to taste. I used brown sugar


Process


Salt the fish and fry until done. I did mine in batches. Keep these to the side and keep the frying oil. Add the fluids and the dry ingredients, except the sugar, to a saucepan and set to boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes until the onions are translucent but still firm. Add sugar to taste.

Pour the hot sauce over the fish and ensure that every piece is properly coated with the pickle. Allow to cool and set into the refrigerator for three to four days. This will allow the flavours to develop and help the fish and onions to cure. Turn the lot every day to get the pickle soaking in properly.

Simple.

This dish goes well with an artisan loaf of bread, real butter and an off-dry white wine.

Bon appetit!



Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2015-03-29






Friday, 20 March 2015

Bread And Butter Pudding? Not Again!




Yes, again. One of the simplest puddings in the world. Not Banting style, for sure. But this is a dessert after all.

The idea for this dessert came up recently with small cold fronts reminding us that the summer is over and that it is time for some hearty winter fare again.

This one started, as usual, with an internet search. I was certainly not going the traditional way of using slices of bread, buttered and some apricot jam spread over, all squashed in a suitable dish, egg batter added and baked.

The internet search revealed a myriad of recipes. After surfing this mass of information for about five minutes I was salivating all over the keyboard! Never did I think that this humble dessert would attract so much attention. The ingredients vary from simple to intricate and exotic. Fillings vary from jam through dried fruit and frozen fruit to fresh fruit and nuts. There are some versions that resemble more of a main dish than a dessert, using some meaty filling.

Mine was going to be a dessert, simply made, but with some deviation from the very staid traditions.

Some versions use baking powder to get some fluffiness into the dish. I opted for going the traditional way to keep it simple and away from all kinds of chemicals. The bread itself is sufficiently refined. Speaking of the bread, most recipes call for stale bread. One blogger stated firmly that there is no such thing as stale bread, just another opportunity to creatively use bread with character. I agree with him. And did you know that you cannot make a decent hamburger using fresh bread? The crumb is simply too soft. You have to let the bread mature for at least a day before it will be firm enough to make a hamburger.

Mash the blueberries
So here I am in this creative mood, salivating already just from the thought of a deliciously warm and hearty dessert.

Use butter liberally
My design instincts told me that the pudding needs to be as light as possible. I was slightly snookered here, as I did not have three day old bread and had to buy a fresh loaf. I scoured the fruit shelves of my local vendors, but no obvious fruit came into view. In the end I opted for some blueberries. These may be found year round on supermarket shelves nowadays. I also had dried fruit in the form of fruit cake mix. My packet of cake mix is quite old and the fruit had crystallized. This would be useful as well. And then I topped the list of ingredients off with real vanilla from pods I bought in Madagascar while on my last ocean voyage.


The saucy part of the dish needs sufficient egg to bind the lot. Some recipes use about one egg for every two slices of bread. This seems a bit over the top and I settled for three eggs for the eight slices of bread I used. For the milk I used a mix of fresh cream and milk, mixing this into the stirred eggs and adding in the vanilla seeds from one pod.

The blueberries were mashed in a mortar and pestle. I use one from le Creuset as it has the right size for my needs. Save some of the blueberries for garnish.


This recipe is sufficient for about six servings. I used a small stoneware dish, also from le Creuset, for the baking. The dish comfortably holds eight slices of bread.  Bear in mind that the dish does rise a bit during baking, so use your common sense in the choice of dish for the baking.

Cut into small triangles
So here goes.

Ingredients

8 slices stale bread
3 large eggs
100 ml fresh cream for the sauce
200 ml fresh full cream milk
butter for the bread
150 g fresh blueberries. This is about a cupful
3 dessert spoons dried fruitcake mix
1 pod vanilla or one teaspoon vanilla essence


Build the pudding in layers. Add garnish.

Process

Spread the butter liberally on each slice of bread. Arrange the slices in the dish, butter side down. Add a dash or two of blueberry mush on each layer  of bread, along with some of the dried fruit. The last layer of bread may be arranged in some artistic way to enhance the appearance of your dessert before serving.

Add the egg batter
Mix 100 ml of the fresh cream with the milk. Add in the seed from one vanilla pod or use a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Pour this lot over the bread. Do it slowly to allow the bread to soak up the fluid.


Now pop this into the oven at 175°C/350°F for twenty minutes. Then turn the oven up to 200°C/400°F for another ten minutes. This will bake the top of the dessert to a nice brown caramel state. I then switched off the oven, leaving the dish inside to sweat a little before I removed it to cool down. Remember. The dish may very well be soggy after the baking. You need to allow the boiling juices inside to finish boiling and for the steam to evaporate. The dish will then solidify and the consistency would be that of a juicy cake.

Serve this up with a dash of the remaining cream and enjoy. This one came out much better that I expected, with the blueberry juices nicely dispersed by the cooking.


And remember, above all, use real butter.

Bon appetit!


Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2015-03-20