Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Beef Braciole: A Classic Italian Dish

The holiday and festive season being upon us again, boredom sets in.  Rather quickly, once the office year-end parties and club end-of-year functions have taken their toll.  In South Africa, this is the time of rich dishes and too much food.  And afterwards everybody goes: “ugh, I had too much to eat.  Again.”  Perhaps then it is time for a not-so rich, but flavourful and wholesome dish that is easy to prepare, yet classier than mac and cheese.

Beef braciole is a classic Italian dish of this nature.  It requires some effort but is reasonably quick and easy to prepare.  The dish consists of an Italian version of what we here in South Africa know as beef olives, stewed in a wholesome tomato-based sauce.  The internet abounds with various versions of the sauce.  I chose a standard standby, this time adding a little red wine to deglaze the pan.  This may be substituted by a little apple cider vinegar.  

The dish is usually made using a whole flank or a round cut.   You may opt for a large roll or several small ones.  I went for the small rolls, rather like the beef olives.  The beef may be substituted by mutton or pork of a suitable cut.  The rolls always have a savoury filling.  I chose prosciutto and breadcrumbs inundated with garlic, some grated hard cheese like parmesan and some finely chopped parsley.  I also added a drop of olive oil, as the filling looked a bit dry.  The breadcrumbs will soak up the sauce, so be sure to make a sauce that will penetrate.  The prosciutto may be substituted for any smoked flavour meat.

As for the cut of meat, I opted for beef topside, which I sliced across the grain.  This gave me several narrow pieces, in addition to some small offcuts.  The slices of beef are then rolled out using a rolling pin to get thin slices, rather like carpaccio. 

The sauce is made from peeled tomatoes.  I made my own variation by frying some onions, grated carrots and chopped celery, before adding the tomatoes.  I also added a dollop of cayenne pepper/dried chilli powder and a bay leaf.  For the main flavour I pounded two small sprigs’ worth of oregano leaves from the garden in a mortar and pestle and added this to the sauce.  Oregano is a hard herb, normally used in larger quantities.  This time I decided on a little experiment, which worked beautifully.  The oregano flavour came through, but not overpoweringly.


400 g topside beef
120 g prosciutto ham
½ cup breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sprig of parsley, chopped
½ cup finely grated hard cheese
1-2 cans whole peeled tomatoes (my shortcut)
1-2 bay leaves
2x fingers celery, thinly sliced
1 carrot, coarsely grated
Leaves from two small sprigs of oregano, mashed
½ cup red wine or apple cider vinegar
Some salt to taste
Some pepper to taste
Some olive oil for frying
500 g pasta for serving


Slice the meat in thin slices across the grain.  This is always a good idea.  Use a rolling pin to roll the slices even thinner.  Arrange the slices flat on the work area and top each with a slice of the prosciutto.  Top this again with a layer of breadcrumbs, chopped parsley and the mashed garlic.  Then roll up the olives into small rolls and stick a toothpick through to keep each one together for frying.   Heat up a frying pan and fry the olives in light olive oil.  The meat needs to caramelise and there should be some caramelisation in the pan.  The offcuts from the cut of meat may be chopped finely and fried with the last batch of olives.  Remove the olives from the pan and fry the onions, carrots, and celery, but leave the small meat grits, they add to the stock.  When the onions are translucent, add the wine to deglaze the pan.  Then add the tomatoes.  Mash them with a potato masher.  Add the mashed oregano and the bay leaves.   Salt to taste.  This is where you add the cayenne pepper or dried chilli.   Bring to the boil and allow the sauce to reduce a little.   When the sauce thickens a little, add the olives back, turn the heat down and simmer for at least forty minutes.  

This dish is served with pasta of your choice.  As it is a chunky dish, I opted for penne.  These I cooked separately, then strained and added it to the main dish as a mix.  Garnish with some more grated cheese and serve hot.  A hearty and delicious family meal.  It goes well with a medium bodied red wine.

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last edited on 2019-12-24

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Jewelled Rice and Tandoori Chicken

These two dishes together must surely be the epitome of a reasonably easy, but special course for a special occasion.

Recently, I had the chance of such an occasion, being Mother's Day. This also fell on the eve of a planned and long-outstanding knee-op for myself.  So Mother's Day offered a suitable opportunity to experiment in the kitchen, with my long suffering wife as the guinea pig.

In this instance the experiment was not eclectic in any way, as the preparation of either dish appeared to be reasonably simple, if involved.  And so it turned out to be.

The recipe started yet again with a brief search on the internet for jewelled rice recipes.  I eventually settled for ingredients which I had in hand or easily available.  Again, what struck me is that the eventual flavours are determined more by the process of preparation, than the ingredients themselves.

The rice part was completed by basmati rice.  As for the rest of the ingredients, I had to be somewhat more creative.  The nuts part were filled by some almonds and cashews.  The dried fruit contained raisins and dried cranberries.  I toyed with the idea of adding some fruit cake mix, but decided that doing so would be stretching my luck.  The carrots were coarsely julienned, the onions finely chopped.   The spice contingent was made up of cinnamon sticks, saffron, turmeric, some sugar and dried citrus peel. 

The dried citrus peel I made myself some time ago.  This is a very Cape Malay spice, widely used in sweet dishes.  This is made by drying citrus peel.  Especially the soft citrus peel, which does not have the bitter white inside of lemon and orange peel.  You dry the fresh peel in the microwave oven, taking care not to fry the fresh peel.  The dried peel is then blitzed in the blender or coffee grinder until the required fine-ness.  Very personal taste, I guess.  This dried powder may then be used in rice or any sweet dishes to enhance the flavour.  This Cape style food habit of drying fruit and making a pesto or paste for curries stems from the intermittent supply of suitable ingredients in the old days, giving rise to a whole fusion of culinary styles.  For which I am eternally grateful.

So here goes:

Jewelled Rice with Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken

6 Chicken drum sticks/thighs

250 ml plain or double cream yoghurt
1 tablespoon masala paste
Some salt

Jewelled Rice

3/4 cup basmati rice, soaked and rinsed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, coarsely julienned
3 cinnamon sticks
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
pinch of saffron
4 green cardamom pods, whole
some sugar
1 tablespoon dried citrus powder
1/2 cup raw almond shavings
1/2 cup unsalted cashews
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
some oil for cooking


The chicken is thawed properly, then cut through the skin to allow the marinade to penetrate.  The marinade is the yoghurt, add some salt and add the masala paste.  The chicken is thoroughly bedaubed with the marinade and then left to marinate until the rice is done.  I cooked the chicken over medium coals on the griddle outside, while the rice was resting, before dishing up.   The chicken on the braai griddle was a culinary adventure on its own, providing suitable psychological torture to the rest of the neighbourhood.

The jewelled rice was a new adventure altogether.  I had these ghosts of past experiments in the back of my head, where I was confronted afterwards with bitter resentment of the many dirty dishes and a dirty kitchen.  Jewelled rice calls for several ingredients to be cooked and prepared before final assembly, so some thought about sequence are in order.  The nuts provide much more flavour when they are freshly roasted, so this happens first.  The nuts were ground coarsely in a mortar and pestle, then roasted in a dry pan until they started to caramelise, then set aside until cooled.

The cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods were fried in a lightly oiled pan until the flavours come out, then the carrots added.  To this lot I added some sugar and the dried citrus peel and fried until the sugar caramelised, then came the dried fruit.  This was also set aside as soon as the dried fruit and citrus peel started to show flavours.

The rice was soaked and rinsed during all this preparation.  The next thing was to start the final assembly of the dish.  The onions were fried until they started to caramelise, after which I added the turmeric.  This was fried until the turmeric was taken up by the onions, about fifteen seconds or so.  The soaked and rinsed rice went in next to pick up some of the flavours.  While this was going on, the pinch of saffron got ground along with some sugar in the mortar and pestle, then boiling water added to steep the flavours out.

As soon as the rice was sufficiently fried to my taste, I added some boiling water to the pan and started the dish in pulao style.  I deemed this an appropriate way of getting flavours into the rice.  Once the first dollop of water was absorbed, the saffron water went in.  Check for salt.  Add some water as the rice dictates, little by little.  When the rice is almost cooked, the carrots, raisins and nuts are added.  Then no more water goes into the pan.  The lid goes on the pan and the burner turned low for a few minutes, then off.  This dish has to go fluffy with the steam inside.

While this went on, I started a fire and cooked the chicken outside. 

Then we had dinner.

Having read a lot about the Persian style dishes and their sweetness, I had some idea of what to expect.  However, my wildest dreams could not reach the flavour profiles we experienced during this meal.  The chicken provides a salty but soft angle, while the saffron and the cardamom puts the rice in a different category altogether.

A recipe to keep. For sure.

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2019-05-19

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Tropical Pilaf With Chicken

Living here in the Western Cape we are surrounded by the Cape Malay style cooking, in a geo-culinary way. Which means that we literally have access to all the ingredients that make up the Cape Malay menu.

And we are not really expanding our domestic menu. Not very clever, one would venture.

So, with this realisation in mind and having the creative urge again, I did some brief research. Meaning I actually opened two of my cook books and perused the contents in a scholarly fashion, rather than a drooling hungry sailor fashion.

In our home we have regular curries with plain rice. But also we make biryanis, risottos and paellas, not forgetting stir fried rice with veggies. All of these are dishes that contains some form of sauce, making them on the juicy side. From my brief research the missus and I then decided to broaden our scope of rice dishes by trying a drier variety of rice dish and specifically pilaf. This dish has a myriad of variations and flavours and can be served as a side with just about any main by just varying the spices. The dish also has different styles and names, depending on where in the world you are. Wikipedia has some interesting facts on this dish.

We decided on a version with chicken, where the chicken is steamed in the rice. This makes it a complete one pot main. No extra cleaning up required! And just for fun I decided on a sweet and fruity version. Complete with coconut milk and mangos.

This dish will go very well with any fried or barbecued fish as a side dish. Especially in a tropical setting. The ingredients are simple and the process is almost a no-brainer. Preparation and cooking time is about half an hour.

The standard pilaf consists of raw rice fried in a flavoured oil, then slowly simmered in a stock till done. The rice comes out fluffy and loose, with all the flavours blended in. I chose to use coconut milk and some chopped dried mangos as main flavours to enhance the nutty flavour of the basmati rice.

Part of the stock for this dish comes from the caramelised meat sticking to the pan in the beginning.

The ingredients for this dish are simple and few, which is what makes pilaf so popular, I guess.

So here goes:

Tropical Pilaf With Chicken


400g chicken breast fillets, diced
1 to 1¼ cup basmati rice
¾ cup fresh peas
400 ml (1 can) coconut milk
3-4 slices dried mango, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp whole cumin seeds (jeera)
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
3 pods cardamom (elachi), seeded
1½ tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
ghee, butter and oil for frying


Pat the chicken quite dry, then fry the cubes in a dry pan until they are brown. Set aside. Now add some ghee or butter and a small amount of oil to the pan and fry the onion until at least translucent. Add the whole spices and fry them until the fragrance fills the kitchen. Now add the raw rice and stir fry until all the kernels are coated with oil. This will help with flavour and with the separation of the kernels. The flavours of the rice should begin to fill the kitchen too.

Now add the coconut milk and the chopped mango and the turmeric. Check for salt and add as required. Mix through and check again. This will be the last of stirring the pan. Add back the chicken and cover the pan.

Turn the flame down to a minimum, the lowest it will go on the smallest burner.

The rice will swell out and absorb the fluid, so you will need to check that the dish doesn't burn. Add some boiling water as required. The peas are added when the rice is almost done. Peas cook quite fast and you want them not to be soggy and lose their flavour.

The most important part comes now. Once the rice is done, turn the stove off and leave the dish to rest for at least fifteen minutes. Some recipes even call for covering the pan with a dishcloth before putting the lid on. The dishcloth will absorb the steam and not allow the condensed water to drip back into the pan. This all is designed to allow the rice to turn fluffy.

Now dish up in bowls and garnish with some fresh coriander leaves.

And then understand why pilaf may just be the prince of rice dishes.

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2017-05-25

Monday, 6 March 2017

Soul Food on A Cool Night: Chicken Korma

I had the privilege recently of  having a long discussion about good food. Almost as good as eating the same.

This time around it was a lively discussion around food on board. A passion of mine. The company consisted of myself and a bunch of sailors from India, no less. These sailors were asking questions about food on board and provisioning. This after they had just completed the Cape to Rio Yacht race and brought the boat back via the notorious southern Atlantic ocean. A feat not to be sneezed at.

After some time, during the discussion, I came to the realisation that they sailed the boat from India to Cape Town, then participated in the Cape to Rio race, then sailed the boat back to Cape Town, all without a refrigerator on board. Around ten thousand nautical miles across the sea. Now they have to sail the boat back to India. Another voyage of around thirty-five days at sea, non-stop. It took a moment or two for me to realise the enormity of the provisioning problems on hand. A very interesting exchange of ideas, especially for a relative novice like me.

The conversation went around dried meat and other dried provisions, pickling of fish, baking bread and growing sprouts, amongst other things.

Of course, then we got hungry from the talk and the topic morphed to recipes. Why am I not surprised?

We discussed at length the merits of the various spices and their uses, and then I struck gold. We exchanged recipes.

Chicken korma. One of my favourite recipes. No heavy spice, just an explosion of aromas and flavours. And the weather here in Cape Town has taken a turn to cool. Opportunity, indeed!

I have made this dish several times before. All very tasty. This time around I got some proper info on what the locals do in India. My own interpretations appear to be but a watered down version of what the dish should be.

This dish is soul food par excellence. And one has to prepare it with passion. Otherwise just go and get a take-away sandwich. The dish is simple to make, with some preparation required. Nothing onerous. The preparation is where the passion comes in. The flavours all comes with the preparation and process. Simple spices, commonly available.

The first rule for this dish is to roast the whole spices, including the almonds, then grind them to a powder before use. Roast them separately, as the grain sizes differ and therefore the roasting time will differ.

Then fry the onions before taking the blender to them. Along with the roasted almonds. This time, after my discussion with the intrepid Indian sailors, I used coconut cream instead of water. The dish needs a very thick onion sauce to cook the chicken.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning. Ingredients first.

Chicken Korma with coconut cream


600 g chicken breast fillets
2 large or 3 medium onions, chopped coarsely
1 cup yoghurt
½ cup almond slivers
2 cups coconut cream (1 can)
2 tsp coriander seeds (Whole dhania)
2 tsp cumin seeds (Whole jeera)
1 tsp whole jeera (Another, keep separately)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
¼ tsp asafoetida (hing)
2 tsp turmeric
5 green chillies, finely chopped
3 cinnamon sticks
1 ½ tsp freshly ground garlic
1 tsp freshly ground ginger
1 tsp red chilli powder. (Cayenne pepper will work for the South Africans)
some water
some butter, ghee or cooking oil
some coriander leaves for garnish
basmati rice


Cut the chicken into thumb size bites and marinade in the yogurt with the turmeric and red chilli powder. Leave for 30 minutes while you prepare the sauce and the dry spices.

Roast the mustard-, coriander- and cumin seeds separately in a dry pan, then grind it all to a fine powder. Add the hing.  Roast the almond slivers. Keep the almond separate from the rest of the spices. All this effort is what will determine the eventual flavour, so take care. And this is the bulk of your effort, the rest is a no-brainer.

Fry the onions and cinnamon sticks in the butter until the onions turn brown, then add the fresh chillies, garlic and ginger. Fry these for another 30 seconds, then add the almonds. Add the coconut milk, then blend the onion, almond and spice mix to a thick sludge. If the sludge is too thick, add a little water. You need a thick sauce for this dish.

Bring this lot to a slow boil, then add the ground spices to the sauce. Mix through, then add the marinade with the chicken. Add salt to taste. Turn the heat down so that the dish only just bubbles. Now add the raw cumin seeds.

Cook until the chicken is done.

In the meantime, soak the rice and cook as per instructions.

Dish up with some fresh coriander leaves as garnish.

And be careful, there are a lot of sensual flavours that creep out of this dish and through your soul. And you may have made too little food...

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2017-03-06

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Boeuf Bourguignon in Cape French Style

It has been a while since my last posting. Nursing a torn shoulder muscle saps away one's energy like nothing else. This injury put a serious crimp on my sailing activities. However, it is a new year and time for another cooking adventure.

We have high summer here in Cape Town around this time of the year, so making a stewed dish may sound somewhat eclectic. However, this one is very easy to make, requires but a few ingredients, and will feed the hungry hordes on their return from the beach or their other outdoor activities. And I probably have very little convincing to do to my northern hemisphere readers!

Another hearty dish originating in France, now used all over the world. I have made similar dishes with great success without wine, using soy sauce and tomatoes instead.

This dish may be made a day before serving. It ages and develops flavour if left in the refrigerator overnight and takes well to freezing.

So this is another one of my few experiments in cooking with wine. Somehow I have not yet explored that avenue of the culinary arts properly.

Most of the recipes on the internet use beef chuck as the main ingredient, so I opted for the same cut. It is one of the cheaper cuts from the carcass and quite flavourful. Basically any juicy cut from the forequarters will do. I also keep some of the bones. They tend to enrich the sauce part of the dish. Just be careful of too much fat. I usually trim most off. Between the bacon fat and the marrow you probably have sufficient fat for a delicious combination.

As for the bacon, most recipes propose pancetta. Over here in Cape Town, pancetta tends to be more expensive than the standard smoked bacon bits that can be obtained from your friendly chain store grocer.

You don't really need fancy cuts of bacon or beef, as you will be stewing it in wine anyway. I opted for a less pricey version of both.

Talking about the wine, there is much fuss. Some recipes specify quite fancy wine, others specify cooking wine. Others specify cognac as well. The reason for using the wine lies in the acidity and some flavour. The acidity will help to de-glaze the pan. The flavour of the wine itself is of less importance, as the dish contains a lot of other strong flavours that will overwhelm the wine. There is a caveat, however: The stuff sold as cooking wine may not be drinkable as a result of added chemicals. You don't want to use such concoctions. Use wine that you will drink yourself. While some French recipes specify burgundy, any easy quaffing dry red will do.

For this dish I specifically did not use tomatoes. It is up to the cook to decide. Both Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey has recipes on the net that use tomatoes. After a long chat about this subject recently to a French student of mine, I decided to go without tomatoes.

As for stock, I follow the school of thought that the preparation procedure creates sufficient stock to thicken the sauce, so no additional stock is required. So far this line of thinking has stood me in good stead.

The vegetables I cut into chunky, coarse bits. The meat is chunky, so the chunky veggies add to the texture. I did not have fresh thyme, so had to use the dried herb.

I always add some chilli to my stewed dishes, it brings out the other flavours. There is a caveat again: you need to have only a tiny amount in the dish. Once you start tasting the chilli, you have too much. If you are too scared, used a tiny bit of cayenne pepper instead, it is much more user-friendly.

So here goes.

Boeuf Bourguignon in Cape French style


1 kilo beef chuck cubed into 20mm cubes
250g bacon bits
250 g small brown mushrooms, quartered or halved
2-3 cups red wine
4 cloves garlic
2-3 brown onions, medium sized, chopped coarsely
3-4 pickling onions
sprig parsley
4 medium carrots, julienned coarsely
4 stalks celery, chopped
½ cup plain cake flour
1 tablespoon dried thyme
4 bay leaves
½ hot Thai chilli, chopped.
salt  & pepper


Fry the bacon bits in a medium hot pan until the fat has run out. Remove the bacon from the pan and keep aside. While the bacon is frying, pat the meat cubes dry with paper towels and roll them in the flour. This is the only tricky part. The meat has to be quite dry before dusting with flour. If not, the meat will not brown properly and your dish will not have the rich flavours that you want.

Now fry the meat cubes in the bacon fat until they are nice and brown. You have to do this in batches, otherwise the meat juices will make enough water in the pan to boil the meat, not fry it. Add a dollop of olive oil if the fat seems too little. The bottom of the pan will now get a layer of caramelised meat and flour. Don't worry, this is your stock forming. Just watch that this layer doesn't burn. Keep the temperature low enough.

Once the meat is done, fry the onions in the remaining fat/olive oil. Once the onions go brown, fry the chopped garlic and the chilli, then remove from the pan.  Now add the mushrooms and fry them for 30 seconds to a minute. Remove them from the pan as well and keep aside.

Once this is done you may turn the heat to low and add the wine. This will de-glaze the pan and you should have a thick-ish sauce.

Add back the beef cubes and bring to the boil. Now add the chopped carrots, celery and the bacon. Here you may add either boiling water or more wine, as you prefer. The dish needs to simmer in juice, so check it frequently. This simmering must really be just a simmer: very slow indeed. Budget at least two hours and keep the lid tightly on the pan.

Once the meat starts going tender, add the mushrooms and some chopped parsley. Close the lid and wait another twenty minutes or so.

In the meantime you may prepare the accompanying side dish. This may be in the form of pasta, toasted bread, potato mash or any other starchy side dish that you prefer. This is a very juicy dish, so any starch that will absorb sauce will work. I opted for baby potatoes boiled in the skin.

It is always good practice to allow the dish to repose for at least half an hour before dishing up. This will allow the flavours to develop. However, if you have hungry hordes to feed, you may just be outnumbered and swept aside!

Now dish up. Of course, not to forget that you will need at least another bottle of red wine to go with the dish...

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2017-01-01

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


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


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