Tuesday 29 January 2013

Children Not Eating Veggies? Try Toasted Brinjals

We hardly ever ate brinjals (eggfruit) when I was young. My mother simply does not believe they make worthwhile food. It is a pity, because they are quite tasty, useful as a vegetable and easy to cook, not a big mess.

I went on a traditional cooking spree recently. Perhaps due to the influence of the KykNet Kokkedoor cooking competition and the hype surrounding it. Had a deep study of recipes in some old cookbooks lying around the house, dating from the third quarter of the last century of the previous millenium. (This sounds a lot more romantic than saying the books date from around 1980.) Somewhere in this pile I found a traditional recipe for cooking brinjals.

This recipe is actually quite useful nowadays, as I was able to cook the brinjals with only a little oil, making it a nice and healthy vegetable side dish. Even for the not-so-young children of the house.

And this one is a no-brainer, good for letting the young ones help with cooking too: Peel the fruit with a potato peeler, then cut it into slices of about ten to fifteen millimetres thick (just over half an inch for my overseas readers). I cut these slices into quarters to allow more seasoning to come into contact with the fruit. Place in a shallow dish and immediately sprinkle liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper. Finely ground white pepper is also good, but watch the quantities. You need only a tinge of pepper to help bring out the flavour.

Leave this lot aside for a few minutes to allow the salt to draw some water out of the fruit while preparing the rest of the seasoning. The rest of the seasoning consists of a shallow dish with some cake flour. You roll the slices of brinjal in the flour before toasting them in a dry pan. I used my non-stick stainless steel frying pan from Le Creuset. If you don't have a non-stick pan, simply add a smear of butter or fat to your pan. You only need a small amount of oiliness in the pan to make thermal contact with the brinjals, much like pancakes.

The rest is simple: Roll the seasoned slices of brinjal in the flour, then toast them until the outside goes nice and brown. The outside will be crisp as well and some fluid will have cooked out of the fruit. Drain on a kitchen paper towel and serve hot.

Voila, you have toasted brinjals!

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-01-28

Thursday 24 January 2013

Bannock: Another Fallow Field of Fast Food?

This is another venture into, for me at least, an unkown field. This time it is yet another staple food, namely bread in the form of bannock.

I was recently challenged by a fellow food blogger to come up with something out of the ordinary.  Her name is +Dionne Baldwin and she is a devoted foodie and teacher, working hard in her community.

The reward for the challenge is a guest blog post on her blog at Try Anything Once

In sympathy with +Dionne Baldwin 's community work, I decided to make the type of bread known as bannock.

Bread comes in many forms, including the familiar sandwich loaf you buy from the supermarket. Similar forms of bread also originate from different areas in the world. And bread does not have to be dull or ordinary.

You can read all about the result of the challenge in my guest post on Dionne's blog. My guest post is at guest post Johan Ziets Ramblings

Enjoy the away visit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-01-23

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Spicy Sausage & Seafood Salad

It is that time of year again where the up-country visitors have gone back home, the schools have started and weekends belong to the locals again. And the best part is that the crayfish season (Cape lobster for those not from around here) is still open for us over weekends, along with the most exquisite weather for sailing. At this time of year the infamous Cape Doctor, the prevailing southeaster, abates to under thirty knots, which makes for exhilarating sailing.

I was blessed on the last two occasions to have gone sailing in winds of around fifteen knots in champagne weather, enjoying the most beautiful sun, excellent companionship and some good food to boot.

This dish was again prepared on board the yacht Rhapsody of my friend Les. Perhaps this dish will go some way in thanking him for letting me cook aboard.

On this occasion I made a salad with some fresh tomatoes, a small onion, half of a fresh Thai chilli, spicy sausages and a crayfish tail or two.  This salad can pass muster as a light meal or a starter, whatever turns your fancy. It is exceedingly easy to make and other seafoods may be substituted for the lobster. I have used frozen de-shelled prawns as well, for those up-country friends with only the local supermarket for a source of seafood. And I think that de-shelled mussels, chopped calamari steaks and heads would work as well. 

The original idea for this dish came from a BBC good food recipe for a tomato and chorizo salad.  It is open season still on weekends, so we had some lobster. So I adapted the recipe. The seafood and spicy sausage go well together, enhanced with a dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and tarted up by the glow of the chilli.

Take care with the chilli. Rather use less, else the chilli will overpower the other tastes. You need the barest of glows, so use half of the chilli and remove the pips.

The original recipe calls for sherry vinegar, which is something exotic in this neck of the woods. Use regular vinegar and add some flavour by adding a dash of white wine. Or use apple cider vinegar. You may add a dash of lemon juice too. You are making a salad dressing, so use your imagination and make a plan.  

This dish goes well with a dry or off-dry white wine. The dish is simple, so you don't need a fancy wine, any quaffing wine will do. But it will work well for a special occasion as starter, in which case an off-dry Methode Cap Classique bubbly will work wonders...


2 medium tomatoes, sliced in thin slices over the poles, then the slices halved.
1 medium onion, sliced over the poles Chinese style.
½ Thai chilli, pips removed and finely chopped
250 g spicy sausages. Chorizo if you have some. And salami may be too dry and spicy. Cut diagonally into slices of not more than 10mm thick.
250 g seafood, Any seafood. We used lobster. Cut into 12mm / 1/2 inch slices. Prawns may be used whole.
Butter for frying

For the dressing

¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar


Heat up a dollop of butter in a frying pan, then add a dessert spoon of the sliced onions and the chopped chilli. Fry until the onions are translucent, then add the sausages. Fry the sausages until they go brown. Remove from the pan and add them to the tomatoes and onions. Your dish is almost done.

Now add the raw seafood to the pan and fry it in the pan juices until done. This takes about five minutes because you sliced the seafood rather thin. This is good, because by now everybody is suddenly hungry from smelling the frying onions. Get someone else to open the wine. This will keep them busy. Good crew management, I should think.

Add the fried seafood to the rest of the salad, along with all the pan juices. Mix thoroughly, then sprinkle some of your olive oil and balsamic vinegar salad dressing over this lot.

Bon appetit!

This post compiled for the GBYC newsletter

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2013-01-20

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Peaches in brandy: The Ultimate After Braai Dessert

I recently received an email warning the reader on the vagaries of being invited to a typical South African braai. The gist of this email was to warn the reader of the copious amounts of meat that is consumed at such an event, washed down with equal amounts of beer.

I wondered what the other readers would think of this. Then I thought, hey, I am not really a brandy drinker, but the stuff we get over here is not bad at all. And I would like to have some anyway. So I paged through some old recipe books and let my mind wonder while sipping a dram of the golden juice.

The idea is as follows: You get to eat copious amounts of meat, washed down with beer. So you can have fresh fruit, washed down with brandy, as a dessert. That will surely not tarnish your reputation around the braai fire, methinks.

Then I went to work. There is only the missus and I here, so I made enough for three helpings.  I booked a second helping for myself. A present from Dad to Dad, you know.

Slice two yellow cling peaches into thin slices after peeling them. Chew or suck off the remaining flesh, it does taste nice and you will not soon taste it like that again. Throw away the stone. 

Place the peach slices in a shallow dish and sprinkle liberally with brown sugar, then add half a cup of brandy. Put this lot in the refrigerator for half an hour or so to rest and develop flavour.

You just have to have a sauce with this, so I made a blueberry caramel sauce. Blueberry caramel compote, if you want to be fancy. Start with a teaspoon of butter, three quarters cup of brown  sugar and half cup of water. Add a small pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and wait until it starts to foam, then watch and stir regularly. While waiting for the caramel to form, mash two dessert spoons of fresh blueberries in a mortar and pestle. These need to be reasonably finely mashed. Add this mash to the caramel and mix through. The caramel will thicken and turn a dark blue. When it is thick enough to your taste, add another two dessert spoons of whole blueberries to the sauce, cook for another minute or two, then take the heat off.

The peaches are now dished up in ramekins, along with some of the brandy and sugar syrup. Add the blueberry caramel compote and garnish with a dollop of fresh cream. Wait for the blueberry compote to cool down, it is substantially hotter than boiling water.

Voila! Something sweet for the manne after the braai, complete with the requisite amount of brandy!

Lekker eet!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-01-22

Monday 7 January 2013

Pasta Lunch Aboard

 Ever had to eat two-minute noodles every day for a week in a row? They soon start to taste like packaging material. Some Facebook posts even claim that they contain some preservative or oily ingredient that is really bad for you. However, beggars can't be choosers and for ease of preparation aboard, very few other starch staples beat them.

We recently had this dish on board the yacht Rhapsody of my friend Les, who graciously allowed me to use the galley.

This recipe will appeal to everybody who have been compelled to eat two-minute noodles for extended periods. The dish is exceedingly easy to make, even on a bouncing boat in the middle of the ocean. And the only cooking is for the water. It makes a welcome change from sandwiches and we had it many times on our last transatlantic delivery.

This dish can alternatively be made using leftover rice or noodles.  In the event of using these, no cooking is required.

The ingredients may vary and one may prepare it as a pure vegan dish, vegetarian, or with some meat or fish ingredient.

Ingredients for three to four portions


3 blocks two-minute noodles
3 cups boiling water
Three cups of boiled rice
3 cups of cooked pasta


1 can tuna in brine
4 vienna sausages, cut into wheels
1 cup leftover meat from the braai, shredded or cut into fine strips
1 cup smoked snoek, shredded


1½ cup shredded cabbage
1 medium onion, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, julienned or grated or cut into thin wheels
½ cup fresh sprouts. I have used mung beans, alfalfa, fenugreek and lentil sprouts, sometimes in combination.
½ cup cucumber, finely chopped or grated
1/2 cup raisins
1-2 fresh Thai chillis, chopped finely. This makes the salad tangy. One chili in this dish is not enough to burn you, two will add a little bit of glow.

For the vegetarians

½ cup chopped dried fruit
½ cup chopped nuts

3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chutney. For the non-South Africans, this is a spicy minced fruit preserve looking like chunky dark apricot jam. Normally used as a saucy condiment with curry dishes. You may use apricot or peach jam and more chilies in lieu of chutney.


Soak the two-minute noodles in the boiling water. In the mean time prepare the rest of the ingredients. The list is not extensive and mostly you will not have all the ingredients above. The onion and cabbage are not really negotiable, the rest is up to the chef. Use your imagination.
The rest is simple: Mix all the ingredients thoroughly, dish up and enjoy!

This post compiled for the GBYC newsletter.

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2013-01-05

Palappam: A Venture into the Unknown

Food bloggers are a creative bunch of people. Which means they try new things, just to tickle their fancies. They also do dares, which stretches the imagination some more. So, this happened to me as well.

A fellow food blogger, +Dionne Baldwin , dared our Google+community to do something outside the box, to stretch yourself in public, so to speak. No quiet experimentation in the back room, everything up front. And here is the result.

I am a great lover of Asian cooking. The spices being one of the reasons. There is much to say about the use of spices and I have more than a vague suspicion that one needs some more of those spices in your diet in order to stay healthy. That is, barring the exquisite taste.

But there is a more compelling and obvious reason to look at Asian cooking. All of the traditional foods are home-cooked and done in short time. The mother of the house does not have time to dilly-dally around cooking the main dish for the family dinner. Therefore most of the recipes are quite easy and quick to make. Which translates to simple utensils and equipment and simple procedures.

Which, of course, suits me, as a dyed in the wool yachtie, down to the ground. This one I would classify as a flat bread made with fermented rice and coconut milk. It resembles a light coloured pancake or crepe. For us commoners, you may call it rice and coconut pancakes. The term lies easy on the palate.

This recipe stems from a recipe by fellow food blogger Niya. It looked delicious and, being a lover of curries, I thought to make some as a side dish to one of our curries.

Recipes for palappam abound on the internet and all of them use yeast or a toddy for fermentation. So, as part of the dare, I decided to use baking powder instead. This one may be made on board a yacht even in relatively stormy conditions. That is, if you have some sort of blender on board to make flour from raw rice. A coffee grinder will work wonders, starting with the dry, raw rice and blitzing it to a fine powder, then soaking it. I have done this with crushed rye flour to get a fine flour for catching a wild yeast, but that is another story.

Most of the recipes, including Niya's one, call for raw rice soaked for three to four hours, then mashed or blitzed in the blender to get it into fine mash. Some add a little flour or semolina to assist in the fermentation, others add an egg to make it keep fresh for longer. Some add a spoon or two of cooked rice to make the end result softer. There are many regional variations, all of them looking ever so delicious.

You need to get the batter about the same as for normal pancakes, maybe a bit more runny, as you want these pancakes thin. Perhaps akin to crepes. I am following Niya's recipe, sort of. Bar the chef’s licence, if you will. Instead of the fermentation. I am using baking soda. Also, I have coconut powder in a 60g (2 oz) envelope. I am using this and adjusting the batter to the required consistency using water. And I am using an egg. If the first palappams are too brittle, add another egg to the mix.

I am making half the recipe, so it is easier to use coconut powder. I am basically cooking for two people, but I have this suspicion that you will need double the quantity if you have the family around. Bear in mind that a cup of rice will easily serve a family of four and there is additional coconut flour or -milk in there, making it substantially richer. The standard recipe calls for 200 ml (1 cup) of water. Depending on your mixture and how much water you can drain from the soaked rice at the start, you may need a lot less water. These palappams are baked after warming up the main dish, or while it is resting for flavour to develop, just prior to serving. The preparation can be prior to the preparation of the main dish.


1 cup raw long grain rice
1 packet 60 gram coconut powder or 50 thick plus 50 ml thin coconut milk.
2 cups of water (Remember, I am using dry coconut powder)
1 teaspoon baking powder \
1 teaspoon salt
2 small eggs


Soak the raw rice for three to four hours. Drain the excess water and then blitz in the blender until you have a very fine mush. Don't lose any fluid from this stage, as the starch is needed in the end product. Add an egg, the salt, the coconut powder and the baking powder and mix thoroughly. Add water as required until you have a nice runny mix. In the case that you are using coconut milk or cream, you will use less water to adjust the batter to a nice runny consistency.

Heat a non stick pan like the one from Le Creuset, then pour a soup ladle of the batter into the pan, swirl the batter around and bake until the palappam turns slightly brown. Cover the pan during cooking with the lid  or a suitable cover.These palappams are not turned like crepes, hence the requirement for a thinnish batter. The standard recipe calls for a lid and no turnig. Sunny side up, so to speak. I don't have a lid for my frying pan, so I just imagined normal pancake/crepe procedure and turned them. Saves on dish-washing effort.

Bake palappams  until the batter is depleted, then serve warm as a side dish to your favourite curry.
This has been a great experiment, courtesy of the dare and invite from Dionne. It is certainly worth the effort. The whole neigbourhood smells of baking and coconut. Proper psychological torture for those who slap food together, methinks.

I have never eaten anything like this, let alone making it. And I shall treasure this as a special treat for occasions when curry and rice on the menu sounds a bit passe.

Or when I have an intimate dinner in mind...

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2013-01-09

Thursday 3 January 2013

Soul food: Paella alla Ziets

It's been a while since my last blog post. These things happen. In this case it was Christmas and the new year's festivities.
These have passed, now it was time for the missus and I to sit back, relax and have a cosy meal in quiet companionship. We needed this after the noisy new year's party.

The choice fell on paella. Something I haven't made for a while. So, a dive into the internet was not considered untoward. We have made paella before, this was a question of refining the recipe and to get new ideas, perhaps. The famous Jamie Oliver proposes using bacon, amongst other ingredients. Sounded frightfully British to me, so I searched for a Spanish version.

Being a member of a Google+ circle, I perused the blog of Maria Teresa Aleman, a Spanish food blogger resident in Madrid. Her recipe for paella mixta looked sufficiently traditional to give it a try. In fact, it looked positively delicious. Of course, true to form, I did not have the same ingredients. However, the general idea was good enough to set me on the way.

I have often thought about the difference between paella and risotto. After some deliberation and a brief internet search, I decided that the differences lie chiefly in the type of rice and the assembly of ingredients. And then I use my own process. The old ego and creativity thing, you know. Complete with my pet subject: Food made with love and passion.

For this one I used normal long grain rice, some de-boned chicken breasts, some shelled prawns and some shelled mussels. In my neck of the woods the mussels in half shells cost more than double the price of the shelled ones. Ditto for the prawns in the shell. This dish was not supposed to break the bank.

The ingredients given here are enough for about five to six decent portions. I used two fresh Thai chillies from the garden and a portion of a Habanero chilli. The Habanero gives a nice flavour to the dish. As for the chicken stock, I use a ready-mix one that comes in an envelope as a paste, then add water to the dish as required. I did not have a bell pepper (sweet green pepper), so I chopped one of the onions Chinese style to have shreds. Just for the looks of the dish. The tomatoes were just coarsely chopped into chunks, skin and all. This dish also requires saffron. I used the real Indian stuff as I do not have the Spanish variety.


¾ cup of long grain rice
1 kg deboned chicken breasts, cubed
1½ cup of shelled prawns, raw
1½ cup of shelled mussels
1½ medium onions, chopped
3 small or two large tomatoes, chopped into chunks
1 cup of fresh frozen peas
4 spring onions for garnish
Some fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
½ teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed. I used a mortar and pestle for this.
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon saffron essence. Or make a tea with three to four saffron stalks and a half cup of boiling water
3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped and mashed
2 hot chillies, chopped finely
Some salt
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup of chicken stock
4 cups of water, as required

Some olive oil for frying


I decided to make this dish in a similar fashion as my stewed dishes and the risottos. The chicken gets fried in a dry pan with a little butter or duck fat to brown it, followed in separate turns by the prawns and then the mussels. The prawns and mussels get fried for about a minute or two, literally. Put the meats aside separately to let them rest.

Start again with some more butter or duck fat in the pan, along with a dollop of olive oil. I used my cast iron buffet casserole from Le Creuset, as the wide, shallow dish is quite suited to making a paella and other stir-fried dishes. Add the crushed seeds and stir fry them for thirty seconds or so until the flavour comes out. Add the chopped onions and fry them until they get brown, then add the chopped chillies and the mashed garlic.

Take care not to burn these, else you start all over because they go bitter. Once done, add the raw rice and stir fry to let the rice take up the flavours in the pan. Add a little water to ensure that the rice don't burn. Add the wine and the chicken stock and stir through thoroughly. Add boiling water as needed. The rice will start taking up water, so take care not to let the dish burn. Once the rice get to a three-quarters stage, add the tomatoes and the spring onions. Add some more water and let the dish simmer for a while. The crust left by the frying of the meat should be taken up by this time. Add the saffron and the turmeric at this stage and mix thoroughly.

When the rice is almost done, add back all the meats, the peas and the chopped coriander leaves. Check for sufficient water. There should only just be enough, otherwise the dish will be watery, which you don't want. Mix through, put the lid on and let the dish simmer for another five minutes. Then turn the heat off and let the dish rest for half an hour. 

Now pour some wine and enjoy a sip or two while the dish rests. Then dig in! 

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2013-01-03