Wednesday 27 February 2013

When you would kill for something to eat other than beer snacks: Wrap lunch

Sailing will make you very thirsty, mostly because of the weather that you are enduring. Windy conditions will dry you out faster. And of course, the effect of the sun. Sitting on a boat makes it worse, as you cannot escape the elements. Not really. So you eat snacks and drink beer and water. But you stay hungry.

Combine this with the efforts and work required to keep the boat sailing and you end up being relatively tired and really hungry. Nobody really wants to cook, but everybody agrees there need to be something more than the snacks.

This is fast food, but not in a derogatory sense. A variation on the pasta lunch. No cooking or boiling of water required, which makes it a cinch. Only some rudimentary preparation required.

If you are industrious, you can make the filling at home and stash it in a seal-able plastic container. This will keep for the day and the flavours will develop.

Take some rosa-, cherry- or chopped normal tomatoes. The smaller ones I just cut in half. Squash them with your fingers if you want to. A cupful of this. Add a cupful of chopped cabbage and a small chilli, pips removed and chopped. Add half a carrot, sliced thinly, julienne'd if you will, and an onion, chopped. The filling needs something crunchy as well as something a bit piquant. Sweet bell peppers will also help. Half a cup of bean sprouts or other sprouts. Mix thoroughly and add a blob of mayonnaise.

Get some spicy sausages, three or four will do the trick. Five if you are hungry. Slice them up into thin wheels. Add to the mix.

Done with the filling before the next tack!

For the wrap I used store bought rotis, a flat bread made with yeast. My readers in parts of the world other than Cape Town may find a normal pancake size tortilla wrap more readily available. It does not really matter. For a day sail, the easiest wraps are those that you get from your nearest food shop or supermarket.

Ladle a liberal dessert spoonful of the filling into the wrap, then fold the wrap around the filling leaving one side open. Wrap this lot in a paper napkin and you have your very fast lunch.

This lot will make about five portions, so you will need at least five wraps. Scale to your heart's content. And experiment with the ingredients, the variations are endless.

Voila! Lunch! And hardly any dishwashing required.

Bon appetit.
Lunch guest

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-02-26

This blog post compiled for the GBYC newsletter.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Cabbage? Who Eats Cabbage?

The universal cry when you talk to the great biltong hunters of this world. Biltong, the cured, dried meat delicacy of South Africa. Hunters on a hunting trip. They don't eat veggies, let alone cabbage. And the closest they come to sea food is the mutton chops they barbecue on the beach.

But that is another story.

This post is about cabbage. I cannot remember the last time I ate cooked cabbage. Coleslaw and variations thereof, yes. Sauerkraut, yes. But cooked cabbage? Not on your life. Until recently, when I was inspired to look into my country's rich heritage of food. And, of course, there cabbage features quite prominently.

So I decided on baby steps. Let's have cabbage wrapped meatballs. Easy to make and not too much cabbage. I may use the rest of the head to make a variation of sauerkraut, perchance. The weather here in the Strand area is certainly supportive of that idea at present.

I appears from my research on the internet that this dish is known all over the world, not only in the South African platteland. Lots of variations in procedure and lots of variation in the ingredients, some more elaborate than others. The Greeks have one version, the Russians another. All very tasty from what I read.

I decided to stick to the simple method: Make a ground beef mixture as for normal meatballs, then wrap this in blanched cabbage leaves before cooking SLOWLY in the oven, or, as in my case, on the hob. I used a cast iron buffet casserole from le Creuset.

The meat mixture is pretty standard, using ground beef, chopped onion, some Worcestershire sauce, two eggs, some oatmeal instead of bread crumbs, salt and pepper. I also added my usual chilli, this time chopped after removing the pips. Simple.

Regard these directions as broad indications and experiment to your heart's content.

I find the chilli brings out the flavours. I was told by a chef friend that the capsicum oil opens up the pores on your tongue, therefore all flavours are enhanced. Reportedly that is why you don't drink a heavy red wine with spicy food. The wine will overpower the other flavours because of the enlarged pores.

Make a sauce by chopping four or five tomatoes and frying them in a little butter or duck fat. Add some fresh spring onions and rosemary, coarsely chopped. Thicken the sauce with some beef stock.

Carefully remove eight leaves from the head of cabbage and blanche them. Remove them from the heat and cool them by rinsing in cold water. Ladle a liberal helping of meat into each leaf, wrap and put this in the sauce with the folds downwards to keep them folded. I got seven meatballs out of 250grams of meat mix with all the additions.

These were all neatly tucked into the casserole, the lid put on and simmered for 40 minutes. Garnish with some thyme, basil and oregano. Perhaps a dollop of soy sauce for the flavour and salt. Check every now and then that the wraps don't stick to the bottom of the casserole.

This is a very traditional South African version, if simplified. It therefore goes very well with steamed garden peas and asparagus, mashed potatoes and sweet cinnamon butternut squash.

I got very hungry, so I forgot about the grated Parmesan cheese garnish at the end. I think I shall have it on the leftovers.

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-02-26

Friday 15 February 2013

Still Feeling Romantic? Valentine's Dinner

The oppressive heat here in the Strand area near Cape Town is brain numbing. It is getting harder to think clearly on identifying some romantic dishes for Valentine's day dinner. You will surprised at how much beer it takes to think up some decent recipes!

Valentine's day was coming up and the missus and I had long discussions on what to eat. A restaurant dinner was outside of our budget, so we were discussing various options for dinner.

We have lots of fresh fruit and I have used these extensively in brandied versions as well as in compotes of various descriptions. So I decided to stay on this course for a while and keep things simple for dessert. Flapjacks with a lime and vanilla caramel and cream. Dessert sorted. What of the starter?


After some discussion with the missus we decided on a spicy chourizo and prawn salad. Simplicity par excellence. You need some fresh mixed salad leaves, the green stuff, half a cup of freshly steamed garden peas, a dollop of lemon juice and a dollop of mayonnaise.

For the two helpings I used eight prawns and a 100mm (four inch) piece of chourizo, cut into thin wheels. Take the skin off if you want to, it comes off anyway. Chop up and mash two garlic cloves. Fry this in a lightly oiled pan, then add the chourizo. Allow the chourizo to release some of its fat, then add the prawns. Simmer this lot for another five minutes, then dish up.

Dishing up means that you arrange some of the leafy stuff in the bottom of a ramekin, then add the meats. Add some peas over this, then garnish with a dollop of mayonnaise and a few drops of lemon juice. And, if you are into styling, add some more green, leafy stuff to round it off.

A very quick to assemble warm salad, tangy and very tasty.

Main course

For the main course we decided on something grilled in the skillet, complete with some steamed veggies and mash. A softer option than the regulation braai food for the type of weather that we are having.

Grilled pork fillet, doused in an apple sauce. We have not ever had this before. The fillet was grilled in a ribbed skillet from Le Creuset using a little duck fat for thermal contact. The vegetables were chosen at random because they looked fresh and romantic. They were steamed in a sieve on top of the potatoes as they boiled. The potatoes were cut into thinnish slices for faster cooking.

The apple sauce were made by peeling, de-coring and blitzing two apples. The juice of half a small lime went into the mix, as well as a grating or three of nutmeg and a pinch of salt. To this lot was added half a cup of water and the lot set to simmer for a few minutes. Check that the sauce is runny enough for your taste.

The Hollandaise sauce is the stock standard stuff you get from your favourite recipe book. I added some black mustard seeds for the flavour. This lot was made using one egg yolk, three dessert spoons of cake flour, a small pinch of salt and a few drops of lemon juice. I also added some milk to get the batter into a runny mix.

Making this is becoming my favourite party trick. I do not possess a double cooker, so I hold the pan in one hand high over the burner while stirring the mix frantically with the other hand. The mix must not boil, otherwise you end up with a sticky mess omelet, so I am told. But hold your breath. I have made this twice, both times successfully. So far so good! This sauce came out quite delicious if a bit on the thick side. The mustard seeds bought just that extra flavour to the veggies.

The mash is pretty standard. This one had a dollop of cream to make it richer. It is a Valentine's dinner after all.


We have not had flapjacks (crumpets to some) for a while. Here in South Africa you traditionally make a heap of the things, then envelop them in butter and golden syrup before gulping them down hot, before the butter runs all over your hands and on to the table. Good dirty fun to have with your young children.

I proposed that we make only a few, then dish them up in proper style. This means you make a little stack with butter in between, doused with a fruity caramel sauce (another compote?) and a dollop of cream. Perhaps, if you dare me, I shall add a little leaf of mint as garnish. Us yachties also have style, you know...

The ingredients are for two servings, so scale to suit or just follow your favourite recipe. If using a lime, use a small fruit. Else just cut the slices across to have smaller pieces. These make little caramelled slices in the compote.


For the flapjacks

1 cup cake flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 dessert spoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon, heaped, baking powder
1 egg
½ to 1 cup milk or water

For the compote

1 small lime or other citrus fruit sliced thinly across the equator. You need about half a cup of sliced fruit.
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
½ cup water

Some cream and butter (real butter, not margarine or other ersatz stuff) for dishing up.
A sprig or two of mint for garnish


For the flapjacks

Sift all the dry ingredients, then rub in the butter. Mix well, then add the egg and mix thoroughly before adding the milk/water. The batter needs to have the consistency of thick cream. Use a dishing-up spoon to ladle the batter on to a lightly oiled frying pan or skillet. You only need to oil the pan once. I use a non-stick frying pan from Le Creuset, so I don't use oil. Use up all the batter, there should be about eight or more flapjacks.

For the compote

Put the butter, salt sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Make sure everything is mixed. When the water has almost boiled away, add the sliced citrus fruit. Stir the dish to make sure it does not burn. Ensure that all the fruit is covered in caramel and cooking. Cook until the foaming has stopped or when you think you are hungry enough, then remove the compote from the heat. Bear in mind that this stuff is much hotter than boiling water, so leave some time for it to cool down before serving. Add a little water and allow it to soak through if the compote is too sticky and toffee-like.

For dishing up

Stack the flapjacks into stacks of four to five high with a little butter in between and on top. Pour some of the compote over the stack and garnish with a dollop of cream and a sprig of mint.

Voila! Your romantic three course dinner!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-02-15

The Next Sourdough Experiment: French Loaf

After my last lost argument with my oven, I decided to walk the straight and narrow path of using a recipe slavishly.

Well, that is until I realised that in this oppressive heat in the Western Cape region, room temperature is actually around 30ºC, not 20ºC like the recipe requires for the first part of the rise. And how does one tell the amount of water in the starter?

Well, this is life, I thought and just carried on regardless. The elevated temperature will make the dough rise faster, but I may lose on some of the leavening and perhaps have a different flavour. This was my reasoning at any rate.

I opened my copy of Classic Sourdoughs, Revised by Ed and the late Jane Wood and picked the basic French loaf. This time I would win the argument with the oven!

True to expectations, both the starter and my basic sourdough overcooked from vitality in this heat and were running all over the counter-top. They like this weather!

I used a cup full of rye flour for the starter after I washed the basic sourdough by diluting it with normal tap water and discarding half of it. The rest was split in two for the starter, then fed with a cup of rye flour.

The recipe is very basic, using salt, flour, water and the sourdough starter. The dough mix is reasonably soft. This lot rose very well overnight. I then kneaded it down after allowing a two hour rest in the open. Another half cup of flour was added because the dough sagged too much in my estimation.
The dough was then split into two to make two small loaves. Our consumption of bread is so low that a large loaf goes stale. Going this way I can freeze one loaf.

The loaves were then put into the oven, covered with a wet cloth and allowed to rise for another four hours. I switch the oven on to about 40ºC /100ºF to boost the rising a bit.

These loaves were then baked at 200ºC/400ºF for 35 minutes using the bottom element and fan, then another 15 minutes using the top element and fan. And there was the requisite cup of boiling water in the bottom of the oven. After which the loaves were promptly removed from the oven and put out on a rack to cool down. 

This time I won the argument with the oven. The loaves have decent fermentation bubbles, a soft crumb and a nice chewy crust, not too brittle. And the flavour is perfect, just a tad of sourness from the rye and the dough fermentation regime I followed.
Perhaps I should pay more attention to detail, methinks.

This post also linked to Yeastspotting!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-02-13

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Fast Sourdough? The Next Argument With The Oven

I recently made another white bread loaf. Two, actually. I make two small loaves, otherwise one large one go stale long before we can finish it. There is only two of us.

I have often considered to make my cooking part of a community project by giving away the excess food to worthy causes or people who also may be struggling to make ends meet. The problem is a logistic one. I need to identify people, then get the food to them. This is a problem in my neck of the woods. But I am making headway.

Back to the baking and the argument with the oven.

I did everything that was required. Washed the sourdough, made a starter, feeding it properly. Waited until the starter had risen properly, then made the main dough mix. This was left for the requisite twelve hours to rise. This happened overnight, as our day temperatures are quite high. The sourdough responded magnificently and rose to more than double the volume.

This was kneaded down and left for the second rise of four hours. This was during day time, so I had a more elevated temperature for this rise. The dough again performed well and rose to more than double the volume.

This was meant to be ciabatta, which requires a very soft dough. So far so good, I had a soft dough that rose well.

This lot was then chopped in half and shaped to my taste, two oval shaped loaves, much like a pair of oversized bedroom slippers. These loaves were left to rise for another two hours before I turned on the oven.

The idea was to bake the loaves on an oven tray. My oven has a fan, so I turned this on along with the bottom element. After allowing twenty minutes for the oven to heat up, I popped the loaves in, added the requisite cup of water in the bottom of the oven and closed the door.
Second try dough

Well, to cut a long story short, I had two very flat and colourless loaves, looking like two small crocodile torsos.

I wisely decided not to take pictures of them.

Very nicely risen
No proper air flow in the oven with the oven pan. OK, then I shall use the bricks again.
We did not have any bread in the house, so I had to make a fast plan. Out came the white bread flour and the instant yeast. No sweat, the dough performed as required. This dough was very wet, as before. It rose well, even in the hot summer weather we have at the moment.

The oven was turned on and left to heat up like before, complete with the cup of water in the bottom. This time I turned on the top element only. After waiting twenty minutes I popped the three small loaves into the oven onto the hot bricks.

This effort met with more success and I had three very nice loaves. Except that the bricks were not hot enough and the loaves were somewhat under-baked where they touched the bricks.

Three very fresh loaves at last!
The lesson to learn here is that the oven behaves differently when using the fan. Also the heat distribution is different when using the top or bottom element, even with the fan running. So chalk up another caveat in a sea of caveats when entering the wonderful world of sourdough baking.

This post also linked to Yeastspotting.

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-02-13

Thursday 7 February 2013

Tired of Standard Meatballs and Gravy? Try These Traditional South African Frikkadelle

Actually, these ones are a bit different. There is a twist. I perused an old cookbook of mine, published in 1981 by the Section Home Economy under the Department of Education of those days. Yes, a government department that published a cookbook, nogal. Found a nice recipe for traditional frikkadelle (meat balls), made with a Russian sauce.

This one made a welcome change to our normal home-made meatballs. The sauce was especially good. This dish goes well with rice or mashed potatoes and one or two vegetables for a traditional South African lunch or dinner. I made a my own Hollandaise sauce to go with the veggies.

The frikkadelle is pretty standard traditional stuff, using some coriander, salt, pepper, half a teaspoon ground nutmeg and five cloves for seasoning. A little oatmeal provides the sponginess for absorbing the sauce, instead of the standard slice of bread.  There is no egg in this recipe, only some vinegar. I added some freshly mashed garlic as well.

The process for the frikkadelle is also pretty standard. Toast the coriander, peppercorns and cloves in a dry pan until the coriander seeds go brown. Remove the seeds to a mortar and pestle and grind the seeds to a coarse powder.

The frikkadelle (meat balls) need to be brown 
Mix 250 grams of meat with ½ cup of oatmeal, along with all the other ingredients, leaving out the vinegar at first. I added a dessert spoon of soy sauce before the vinegar, it adds some flavour. Add about ¼ cup of vinegar. Continue to mix. The mix will get more mushy as you add vinegar, so watch that you don't get a too mushy mix. Form these into little balls, flatten them and roll them in flour to cover them. Then fry them in a little butter or duck fat until the outsides are brown. Use your favourite cast iron pan!
This dish has a very nice sauce!

The sauce is where the difference lies. You use an appropriate amount of tomatoes, enough to make a decent thick sauce. You may add more after starting the dish if you think you need more. The amounts are for sauce for about 1 kg of meat mixture. I added some coarsely chopped mushrooms as well.

Ingredients for the sauce

You have to have mashed potatoes with that sauce

6 tomatoes
2 onions, chopped or grated
2 sweet bell peppers, chopped
2 dessert spoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
¾ cup red wine
¾ cup sour cream (optional)

And the two veggies, steamed
To make the sauce you mix all the ingredients except the cream, then simmer until the vegetables have gone soft. Then simply add the frikkadelle to the sauce and simmer the dish for another 30-40 minutes. Add the cream just before serving.

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-02-03

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Romantically Inclined?

Yes, Valentine's day is coming up again. A time when everyone goes moggy about being romantic, exchanging lavish presents, spending lots of money and thinking this is fun.

The missus and I have celebrated small occasions for a long time. I think it played a major role in keeping the relationship alive. All thirty four years of it. And seldom did I buy flowers or other presents, except on birthdays and Christmas. Our relationship started by having a chat over coffee and a sandwich during lunch times. This became a tradition, although the sandwich sometimes made way for a simple dinner.

Even today we often go out for a coffee and scones or something akin. On special occasions like birthdays we may go out for dinner, but, increasingly so, we cook dinner at home and enjoy a quiet time together.

Life is about relationships, not the internet and cellphone chats or other worldly goods. We often sit and observe people in restaurants or coffee shops, sitting together at a table but hardly exchanging a word. One wonders how they get along in their family circles.

Again, today I am planning an intimate dinner with the missus. Soul food.  We may even have some bubbly to go with the dinner, as well as a decadent dessert.

So I was wondering what my good friends in cyberspace are planning. A braai? Eating out? Having a party with some close friends? Cooking at home?

Pass some comments, let's share some ideas!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-02-05

Monday 4 February 2013

Valentines Dinner Soul Food. Something Else: Cassoulet

I almost ran out of ideas this time around for our traditional Valentine's Day dinner. Traditional because we celebrate anything just to have a decent conversation over soul food. And also because restaurant food tends to be very expensive during the second week of February.

The weather is extremely hot at this time of year in the Cape. In spite of this I thought a stewed dish would do the trick just nicely. One is bombarded with ideas for barbecued food and salads, along with recipes for cold desserts. I argued that perhaps one may have a stewed main dish, one with a difference. Then have some delectable sweet stuff afterwards.

So I did some pre-Valentine experimentation.

Michael Ruhlman is a great advocate of slow cooking, especially using the Le Creuset range of cookware. I decided to give the dish he made a try. It is a slow cooked stewed pork dish using three kinds of pork to obtain the mix of flavours specific to this dish.

I am not cooking for a large party, so the ingredients are sized to suit. My version of this recipe is also adapted for faster cooking than the traditional French cassoulet, therefore it does not take an overnight effort or two hours in the oven. I used my buffet casserole from Le Creuset, but you can use any thick bottomed pot. Preferably a cast iron one for its heat retention characteristics.

The pork chops may be any cut. Remove the bones and any excess fat. The bockwurst sausages may be replaced by any spicy pork sausages.

You may vary the amount and type of beans in the dish to suit your fancy. You may also use dried beans, as in the original recipe, in which case you will need to soak them overnight.

The beauty of this dish is that it creates its own stock, therefore no additional stock is required. This is also a departure from the normal stewed dishes so traditional to South African cooking. There is a lot less fat in the dish and the flavours coming from the different fried pork products make a welcome change from the traditional lamb shank or beef potjie. The beans make for a naturally thick sauce, so no shortening is required either.


250 g bacon bits
2 Bockwurst sausages, about 200mm long
400g pork chops, cubed
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic chopped and mashed
1 hot chilli pepper, chopped finely
2 cans broad beans
1 can red kidney beans
3 small tomatoes, chopped coarsely. Leave the skin on, it adds taste.
½ sweet bell pepper, chopped
3 carrots, coarsely julienned
some butter or duck fat for frying if the bacon is not overly fatty.
50 ml soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper
some salt to taste
500ml boiling water as needed
1 cup of rice. You may also use couscous for the starch. This dish has a lot of sauce.


Cook the rice or couscous as per your normal procedure.

Cook the bacon bits and sausages in a pan with some water. Allow the water too boil away, then remove the sausages, take the skin off and cut them into wheels. In the meantime allow the bacon to fry nicely in the fat that cooked out with the water.

If the bacon is not very fatty, add a little butter or duck fat to get a nice brown colour on the bacon. You also need some of the meat to stick to the pan itself. Mind that the pan does not burn. You are creating the essence of the stock for the dish.

Remove the bacon from the pan, then fry the cut up sausages and the pork chops separately in turn until they all have a nice brown hue.

Remove them from the pan, then add the chopped onions and sweet bell pepper and fry them in the now nicely flavoured pan until they are translucent (glassy). Add the hot chilli and mashed garlic and fry for a minute. Add a dollop of water if the pan goes too dry at this stage.

Now add the soy sauce, the chopped tomatoes and all the meat. Add a little water too. The browned bits of meat will by now come off the bottom of the pan and form the stock flavouring for the dish.

In the event that you are using dried beans, add them now. In the case of canned beans, add them after the meat has gone tender. This makes it a little easier on the chef, as the dish will need more water to allow the dry beans to soak up some.

Turn down the heat and simmer this lot for 30-40 minutes. Check frequently that the dish does not burn and add a little water as needed. When the meat is nice and tender, add all the canned beans and carrots and simmer for another five minutes until everything has cooked through. Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper and stir the dish properly.

Now turn off the flame and pour yourself and your favourite friends a glass of red wine to enjoy while the dish rests. This should take at least twenty minutes. Pour another glass if you drank too fast.

Then dish up.

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-02-04