This Saturday (that's TOMORROW), 20 people are coming over to my house with the expectation of being fed and plied with liquor. They have that expectation because I encouraged them to, in a fit of insanity a few weeks ago.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a gathering of the misfits, egomaniacs and narcissists that comprise my friendship circle (well, actually it’s more of a crumpled hexagon), but, as my husband sweatily pointed out, I do have a tendency to take it all rather seriously.
It’s true. I am a control freak in the kitchen. In fact, I make Anna Wintour look like Jeff Lebowski. I start out calmly enough. A week or so ahead, I’ll start perusing cookbooks and putting together a menu of sorts, which is really the part I enjoy most. Then, a few days in advance, I’ll start shopping, getting all the basics. The night before, I’ll begin to prepare whatever can be done in advance, and make a mental inventory of what needs to happen the next morning ... which is when panic sets in.
Somewhere along the line I got this notion that everything needs to be perfectly arranged before anyone sets foot through our door: serviettes, white tablecloths, champagne buckets, an immaculately tidy house, enough ice, perfect make-up, music playing, snacks on tables, the braai set up, enough chilled wine to kill a grade 12 rugby team, and of course all food prepared to within an inch of its life, so all I have to do when guests have arrived is flick on the oven or something. If things aren’t exactly right, I end up taking it out on the poor, beleaguered Guinea Pig, who is ultimately blamed for everything. Normally we have just enough time to slap on a smile and slip the knuckle duster/switchblade under a coaster before the first guests walk through the door.
I am host-zilla.
Okay, I WAS host-zilla. At least, that’s what I hope.
Four weeks ago, the Guinea Pig’s family came over, and I wasn’t perfectly prepared. There was no way I would have everything ready before they arrived. For once, though, I miraculously, magically, didn’t give a shit. I was still dicing tomatoes when they arrived, and nothing bad happened. I was relaxed, breezy, content.
'WHY,' I wondered, 'have I been putting so much pressure on myself all these years?' It’s utterly ridiculous.
(In my defence, I think I used being prepared as a way of exerting control over my sometimes crippling social anxiety, but five years of therapy seems to be paying off, har har.)
So this Saturday is a social experiment of sorts. The Guinea Pig is supportive, but still gives me nervous little sideways glances. In his defence, I don’t think we’ve ever had this many people over before, and under normal circumstances he would be prudent to anticipate some sort of hospitality Blitzkrieg.
But no. I am going to enjoy my friends, get drunk, and who cares if the fish is overcooked? (Okay, well, that is to be avoided because nobody likes overcooked fish, so I’ll just keep an eye on it.) Who cares if we run out of ice? (Although, there’s really nothing worse that warm wine, amiright?) Who cares if we run out of wine? (Good god! Who said anything about running out of wine?!?) And really, who gives a continental about a few dirty dishes in the sink? (Nnnngyaaaaaaaaah I can't take this anymore!!!)
So I’m going to be making this, and this, and some grilled fish and a few other tidbits. Easy peasy.
THIS dish, however, I made for the GP and I week or so ago after I found the recipe in a Donna Hay mag – it’s not something I’d make for a crowd, but it IS just a glorious way to enjoy aubergine, which I adore.
Gremolata is an Italian chopped herb condiment typically made of lemon zest, garlic and parsley, used to accompany meat, fish and veg. It's tangy and tasty, and makes a nice alternative to salsa verde.
Grilled aubergine with gremolata
Cut two aubergines in half lengthways and score with a knife. Stick a few stalks of thyme into the scored bits, brush with olive oil and scatter over two cloves crushed garlic, salt and pepper. Grill, cut side down, in a baking tray for about 20 minutes. Turn over and grill for a future 15-20 minutes, until cooked through.
In the meantime, combine a handful of flatleaf parsley, the zest of two lemons and a garlic clove (more garlic!) in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Combine with enough olive oil to get a sauce of sorts, and season with salt and black pepper. Drizzle the gremolata over the aubergine and serve.
eat out your insides until you feel like an empty, emotionally
incontinent shell. And then, when it finally lets up, and your psyche
begins to accept nourishment again and to heal itself, they (your
insides) don’t grow back quite the same as before. You don’t see life
through the same lens. You are changed, as if some
pranksters broke into your brain while you were asleep and moved all the
I’m not saying that’s a bad thing though.
The most awful periods in your life — while horridly, seeringly traumatic, seemingly endless and life draining — always have something to
teach, or bring into focus.
I guess you can tell I’ve had a
rough few months. Six, to be exact. The Guinea Pig too. I won’t go into detail, suffice to say that I haven’t felt like cooking, which is always a bad omen — a proverbial dead canary.
So my being seized by a fierce desire to make these couscous cakes on the
Wednesday Chef’s blog was a sign that the old Robyn is still banging around in there, somewhere.
gathering ingredients for the cakes, thinking I’d like to have them with
a salad, and possibly some kind of lamb deal. I think the recipe was
Ottolenghi-based, so I’d have to stick to a Middle Eastern theme... A
sharp tomato and onion salad seemed like the thing. I found this recipe on my iPhone while trawling the isles at Pick n Pay. Cumin! Of course! A
tom and onion salad with parsley and cumin sounded perfect.
bought coriander though, because I prefer it, and I had some
pomegranates at home from a recent visit to my folks in Calitzdorp, so
those were definitely going in. By now I was getting inordinately
excited about this salad.
Back home, I put on Frank Sinatra
Duets (so very cheesy, so perfect to cook to), poured a glass of wine, and spent the next two hours in the kitchen... Not because that’s how long the meal took to make, but because I
wasn’t in any hurry. I was enjoying myself. I was getting drunk.
Guinea Pig only arrived home at 9pm, which was perfect timing, and we
feasted like starving peasants. The cakes were nice but frankly a little
bland (though I admittedly did not follow the recipe to the t). I’d
bought some lamb frikkadels (meatballs) from Woolworths, which were
surprisingly lovely — savoury and lamb-y — but the salad... Oh my hat,
that salad was out of this world. Crunchy, tart, sweet, salty, fresh...
Towards the end, the Guinea Pig and I were just spooning it into our
mouths right from the salad bowl. (And, after that, I lifted the bowl
and drank the dressing, a thin stream escaping down the side of my neck —
it might have been vaguely erotic, if it wasn’t salad dressing/I were
I made that salad three consecutive days in a row, and
I’m still pining for it. But I’m out of pomegranates, and although I
know the salad would still be lovely without, there’s something about
those sweet little rubies that makes it. If you ever needed an excuse to
splurge on pomegranates, this is it. (This is another one.)
even though we’re going into winter, I feel a bit like spring. I can
sense life returning to the parts of me that fell dormant in recent
months, and I feel pathetically, irrationally grateful to this salad.
Pomegranate, tomato & onion salad
are not all that important in this salad, really, as long as there’s
enough dressing. Most shop-bought tomatoes are pretty awful, though, but
I find a trick that makes them immeasurably tastier is
to chop them up and scatter some salt over them. Allow them to sweat for
about 10—20 minutes, then drain the liquid. It really intensifies their
8 medium tomatoes, chopped, salted & drained
2 small (or 1 large) red onions, chopped
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
1 bunch coriander, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
1 tbsp cumin, ground
Sea salt, to taste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Combine the tomato, onion, pomegranate seeds and coriander in a salad bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the lemon juice, cumin, salt and olive oil.
3. Add dressing to salad, toss to coat, devour.
All couples have their idiosyncrasies; ways of evening out the power balance that might seem a little... odd... to others.
Maybe you hide the good chocolate.
Or maybe you switch the mosquito repellant plug off after your partner falls asleep (against their express wishes, and that partner wakes up in the night and can’t go back to sleep because she’s covered in mosquito bites).
Or maybe you fib that the DVD store's copy of The World at War was out, but hey, guess what? Working Girl was in!
Or maybe you have his and hers bath mats.
That last one applies to Husband and me. (Actually, they all do.)
It dawned on me one day, after I’d once again accidentally stepped onto the edge of our (his) bamboo bath mat, that I should not have to put up with this. I mean, the thing is practically useless. It doesn’t keep your feet dry when you step out of the shower. It’s hard, and every now and then I accidentally catch the edge with my heel, causing it to snap up like a rake in the grass. It's aggravating.
One day, it was too much.
I marched up to Husband, the air above my head crackling slightly, and demanded that either he get rid of that bloody bath mat, or at the very least store it out of harm’s way after showering before someone (me) gets seriously injured.
He paused, mid-munch — he was eating a sandwich — and stared at me for a few beats. Then he swallowed and said very slowly, ‘Okaaaay,’ which did nothing to improve my mood. Was this not a serious discussion about a legitimate health hazard?
It was only then that I realised much of the dialogue leading up to this confrontation had occurred in my head — okay, all of it — and this was the first time it was being brought to Husband’s attention.
Never mind. Irrelevant.
I suggested getting a nice, soft bath mat. One that it is absorbent, pleasant underfoot and shields feet from frozen cement tiles in winter.
The indulgent look was replaced with one of horror.
‘But they’re so dirty! No. Sies. No way.’
‘It doesn’t have to be one of those kitsch pink things that look like candyfloss — I’ve seen some very tasteful ones at @home.’
‘But I keep slipping on that bloody bamboo thing! It’s driving me nuts!’
‘Why are you slipping on it? I never slip on it.’
He ignores my murderous look, and I am treated to a demonstration of how to step onto, and off of, the bamboo mat.
‘You would never put up with it if it bugged you,’ I seethe.
‘Nonsense!’ he laughs. At which point the situation escalates dramatically.
‘I’M GOING TO BURN THAT PIECE OF SHIT!!!’
Well, dear reader, this impasse lasted for a few weeks. Husband neither placed the bamboo death trap out of harm’s way or agreed to replace it. So I just went out and bought my own. It’s rather pretty, don’t you think?
Husband was severely annoyed, but recognised (sensibly) that he didn’t have much of a case.
I still curse the bamboo thing whenever my heel slips off the edge, but I am willing to put up with this purely because of the occasional glimpse I catch of my beloved scowling at my lovely soft bath mat.
It’s lose/lose — and balance has been restored.
Ain’t marriage grand?
Of course, we always reconcile — usually over a meal, which is like having make-up sex, except with your taste buds.
This is a dish I sucked out of my thumb... It’s pretty basic, but soooo good. You just have to be willing to make your own labneh, which is stupidly easy, but requires you to prep about 24 hours in advance. (See my previous post on the subject.)
One of my New Year’s resolutions (okay, my only resolution — ever) was to stop wasting food. I seem to waste a lot of yoghurt, in particular. Woolies doesn’t sell full-cream yoghurt in the little cartons, so I have to buy a large 500ml tub, and I am very ashamed that I rarely finish that tub before the contents go off.
So I’ve started making labneh. It’s such a versatile ingredient, and so yummy that it gets used without fail before going off... perhaps also because it lasts a bit longer than yoghurt would ordinarily.
So, as I said, this dish was invented, as so many are, by the contents of my fridge, and holy fuck, it was a winner. I cannot wait to make it again. It’s glorious on pasta, but I think the sauce would be equally good on crostini, or over some grilled polenta or chicken.
Baked spinach, labneh & tomato pasta
400g swiss chard, chopped fairly finely
About 400ml yoghurt (I prefer full-cream, but it’s not essential), made into labneh (recipe here)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of one lemon
200g baby rosa tomatoes, halved
250g pasta of choice (I think fusilli or any long pasta would work well — I used spinach linguini)
Parmesan, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Combine the spinach, labneh, garlic and zest in a bowl. Season with black pepper (the labneh’s already pretty salty, so you shouldn't need any), add a good glug of olive oil, and mix it all up until evenly combined.
2. Transfer to a baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes, or until spinach is tender (but still green). (It always amuses me when I read the instruction ‘Remove dish from oven’ right around this point in a recipe. What are we, brain damaged?)
3. Arrange the tomatoes on a baking tray, and roast at the same time as the spinach, also for about 20 minutes.
4. In the mean time, cook the pasta until al dente, and reserve a cup of the cooking water.
5. Add the baked spinach sauce to the pasta, along with the roasted tomatoes and stir so the pasta gets evenly coated in the sauce. Add a little of the reserved cooking water water to loosen up the pasta if needs be.
6. Serve sharpish, with a generous grating of Parmesan on top.
You know those crazy mornings? The ones so chaotic and rushed, that instead of pausing for a second to pour a glass of water and swallow your magnesium supplement, you stash the pill in your bra and hope you won’t forget about it?
Mornings like this are also the ones I’m most likely to be caught staring at someone’s crotch on the train. I’ll be innocently lost in a daydream, or wondering if I’ve got enough oregano for a dish that evening, and when I return to reality I realise my gaze has settled slap bang on the woman across from me’s expansive bosom, or a man’s pants seat.
Time sort of slows down as I realise what’s happened, and without thinking I instinctively (and unwisely) look up to see whether anyone has noticed — and usually everyone has, including the gaze-ee. There’s a moment when accusing eyes say to me, ‘I know what you were doing, you perv, and you know that I know.’
In my mind, I’m shouting, ‘No! It’s not what it looks like! I was thinking about spaghetti!’
This is all communicated Kabuki-style, like in those old Western films where the camera pans right up close to the gunslinger’s eyes.
Invariably I am defeated and misunderstood, and emerge from the train vowing never to let my mind — or eyes — wander again.
So I’m afraid you owe it to me to make this spaghetti with roasted lemon & garlic sauce, after all I’ve been through. Just this morning I came to after reliving each gloriously slurpy mouthful from the night before — with my eyes firmly glued to the crotch of the Colin Farrell lookalike next to me. I may have been drooling slightly.
My eyes rose up to meet his (cue rapid zoom-in and eyebrow flailing):
Him: I know what you were doing.
Me: I’m so sorry — I have a problem. It’s not my fault!
Him: It’s okay, I get that a lot. Besides, I was just staring at your boobs and wondering why you have three nipples.
Me: Uh... It’s a magnesium supplement.
So you see, dear reader, you owe me.
Spaghetti with roasted lemon & garlic sauce [Serves 2] This sauce is stupidly simple, but it hinges on the kind of lemons you use: the glossy, thick-skinned one’s from the grocer won’t do — you need those puckered, easy peeling ones that look like deflated soccer balls. They’re much sweeter and the peel becomes much softer when cooked.
3 lemons 2 whole bulbs garlic 1 cup olive oil Handful fresh basil leaves, chopped 250g spaghetti 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Grana Padano
1. Preheat the oven to 200 C. Chop off the tops of the garlic bulbs (this’ll make it easier to squeeze out the garlic once cooked) and wrap in tinfoil. Wrap each lemon in tinfoil as well and roast both the garlic bulbs and the lemons for about 40 minutes or until meltingly soft. Open the parcels and allow to cool slightly. 2. Chop the lemons in half and scrape away the insides (they’ll come away easily). Chop the peel and transfer to a bowl. Squeeze the roasted garlic out into the bowl (it should be lovely and squishy), and add the olive oil and plenty of sea salt (about a tablespoon). Wizz into a sauce with a handheld blender. 3. In the mean time, cook the spaghetti until al dente, then drain, reserving about a cup of the cooking water. 4. Return the spaghetti to the pot with the lemon-garlic sauce, the basil and the parmesan. Stir to coat, adding enough of the reserved cooking water to get it really slick and slurpy. 5. Transfer to bowls and serve with extra Parmesan.
I know that's a bit like saying I've discovered 'The Internet' ... or Downton Abbey.
But allow me to explain.
Last week I decided to buy some of those monstrously large mushrooms — you know, the ones that look like they could jump up at any moment a suction themselves to your face (now that I think of it, that's actually quite close to reality).
This was unusual for me, because I've never really understood mushrooms. Every cook has an affinity with certain ingredients, while, for some reason, it is difficult to establish a repoire with others.
Mushrooms and me ... in the past, there's been nothing but awkward silence and the odd polite cough when left alone in a room together.
So I can't really explain why, as I passed the giant 'shrooms on the shelf at Woolies (careful not to make eye contact, lest we be forced to acknowledge and greet one another), a vision of the fungi with a glorious golden crust of thyme, goats cheese and a light sprinkling of Pecorino popped into my head. I honestly can't say. But I made it, and it was every bit as good as my imagination led me to believe (which was uncharacteristically honest of it).
And then, this weekend, the Grateful Guinea Pig and I sampled the Pinot Noir tasting menu at
Haute Cabriere, which was unadulterated, toe-scrunching bliss for
anyone whose heart beats faster for Pinot.
It started with chicken liver parfait and ended with a trio of desserts so rich and creamy they nearly had to scrape me off the walls.
Suffice to say, I felt like something light, healthy and nourishing on Sunday (the weather was beautifully moody: hot, with dark clouds roiling over the mountain) ...
... and again my thoughts turned to mushrooms. The result was this rather delightful dish: boiled eggs; roasted giant mushrooms, sliced; chopped parsley; crumbled goats cheese (feta would also do nicely); lemon juice; olive oil; sea salt and ground black pepper. Would have put some avo and maybe some pine nuts in if I'd had any.
The dish shared a table with some stuffed, baked peppers, crusty bread and a vat of rosé.
Let's just say, mushrooms and I will be seeing a lot more of each other.
Ever have weird dreams? You know, the kind that make it easy
to believe the government is pumping hallucinogenics into our water supply?
had one of those last night.
I was at DVD Nouveau in Newlands, down the road from my
house. If you’ve never been, it’s a ‘boutique’ DVD store, with chandeliers and
upholstered furniture that gives them permission to overcharge. They do let you keep DVDs for two days though. I don’t
think I could live without DVD Nouveau.
But I digress.
The dream: I was at DVD Nouveau at night and it was quite dark inside —
the shelves were dimly lit, which gave the space a distorted feel, like a fisheye lens, so I had to practically press my nose against the DVDs to see
what was what.
Then the lights go up, and my husband is sitting on a
chair in the middle of the store — except he’s not my real-life husband, he’s
an Italian man in chef’s whites who looks a bit like Al Pacino in Scarface (oh
how I wish this had been a sex dream).
I am standing facing him, holding a large, cascading bunch
of spinach leaves. I am utterly in awe of spinach in that moment,
wondering how the perfection of its corrugated
texture, the potency of its pigment (I did NOT just write
that, yea gods) had escaped my notice before now.
I express these feelings to my Al Pacino-esqe husband, stroking the leaves lovingly, and he mumbles noncommittally.
Now a small table for two appears, discreetly set to one
side, and on it is a platter piled high with steaming, spinach-laced spaghetti,
and as I look closer I see it is dotted with cooked snails. In real life this
would be gross. In my dream, it’s the pinnacle of haute cuisine.
I lift a snail to my mouth, and…
Much like a David Lynch film, the dream now changes tack completely.
The table and Al disappear, the lights dim
again, and I am wandering around trying to select a DVD — except this
time I’m wearing a belt over a jersey dress, and I am feeling quite anxious
about this fashion decision (seriously). Other customers are
milling about, and the staff — film students who look like extras in a Lady Gaga
video — are busying themselves behind the counter. But I KNOW they are ALL
looking at me secretly and wondering what on EARTH convinced me that wearing THAT BELT was a
And then I woke up by sort of karate-chopping out of bed.
(Gave my real-life husband a fright, I can tell you.)
Dreams are a total fucking mystery, but there are clues as to how my subconscious put this one together. (Places everyone!)
Exhibit A: Not too long ago I watched a David Lynch movie
called Inland Empire. It was so surreal and chaotic I could literally feel my
brains being sucked out through my eyeballs. If you want to drive someone
completely, irretrievably insane (so you can have them committed and collect
the insurance — you know), I recommend strapping them to a chair
and making them watch Inland Empire on a loop, Clockwork Orange-style.
Exhibit B: I made the following spinach pasta dish for
dinner last night, and it was the most facepalmingly delicious thing I
have eaten in quite some time. It is more than the sum of its parts, and completely explains my somnambulant spinach fetish.
I’m afraid I have no explanation for Al Pacino's presence, though. Do I need one?
Pasta with spinach and blue cheese
There are just a couple of fine points here: Don't drain the pasta too thoroughly; the water that clings to it and the leaves of the spinach is needed to thin the cheese and butter and create a real sauce. If the mixture seems too thick when you return it to the pan, add a little of the pasta-cooking water or a couple of tablespoons of milk. Finally, in a dish like this any blue cheese will work well, but great cheese will have a real impact.
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound spinach
1 pound spaghetti, linguine, or other pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 pound Roquefort, gorgonzola or other good blue cheese, crumbled
1. Set large pot of water to boil, and add salt. Remove largest, thickest stems from spinach; roughly chop leaves and remaining stems. Wash thoroughly.
2. When water comes to boil, add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until nearly tender. When just about done, add spinach. Stir. As soon as spinach wilts completely — less than 30 seconds — drain quickly.
3. Immediately return pasta and spinach to pot, with butter and cheese, over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cheese and butter melt, all water is absorbed, and pasta is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
Isn’t it nice when people offer to lend you their cookbooks?
Really? I don’t think so. In fact, I can’t stand it.
‘Oh, you’ll love this. Take it with you! There’s a pork ragu in there I know you’ll go berserk for.’
I accept the proffered tome with a brittle smile and the usual pleasantries (‘No, I couldn’t. Are you sure? Oh well, If you insist...’) — all the while thinking, ‘Oh. Great.’
You see, it’s not that the cookbooks people try to lend me are no good — well, not usually. It’s that they’re too good. I get too attached, you see. It causes me very real psychological trauma to have to return them. Particularly — and this is almost always the case — if they are out of print, or otherwise tricky to get hold of.
Usually I have a fairly firm grip on my financially crippling cookbook addiction; I know to avoid certain bookstores or websites when I’m not flush. I give myself over to a new cookbook only when I have the means to purchase it. But when someone lends me a book willy nilly, out if the blue, I am without my armour. (Not to be confused with my armoire, which is also very handy in a scuffle.)
At first, I’ll just leave the book somewhere I won’t have to look at it — under the bed, say — with the intention of returning it to the owner, unread, accompanied by a glowing review: ‘It changed my life. Really, I’ll never cook stroganoff any other way.’
But my curiosity always gets the better of me. It whispers to my subconscious, telling its silken lies: ‘Just a quick skim — no strings attached. You don’t have to commit. We can just go our separate ways tomorrow. I’ll still respect you in the morning...’
I never learn. I always do it, thinking, ‘Just a quick skim...’ And there’s always that one recipe, isn’t there? You know, The One. With Your Name On It. It seems it was created Just For You. And that’s it. Down the rabbit hole I go — hook, line and sinker.
That’s how the Guinea Pig finds me: in bed, clutching the book, white-knuckled, eyes glazed, slack-jawed and quite unconcerned about the thin stream of drool making its way down my chin.
On that note, I’d like to introduce you to my latest obsession: Clarissa’s Comfort Food. It was lent to me by a very dear friend, handed over with the words: ‘Do try the kedgeree — you won’t be sorry.’ And what do you know? I wasn’t.
This dish has the kind of ingredient combination I can’t turn away from: eggs, lentils, rice, salmon, a bit of spice, friend onions, coriander, toasted almonds... I feel a bit of a bore to admit I’m mad about anything to do with legumes, but it’s true. I get far more excited about a bowl of dressed up lentils and brown rice than I do about roast lamb. If that says anything about me, I haven’t the faintest idea what it could be.
You may remember the author, Clarissa Dickson Wright, from that show ‘Two Fat Ladies’. She was one of them, and by God, if this book doesn’t prove that you should take cooking advice from a fat cook over a skinny chef any day, then nothing does. I am dying to try her onion, aniseed and tomato soup, and something called ‘Fuzdah’s eggs’ (involving boiled eggs, coconut milk, mango and spices — sounds weird but the recipe had me salivating) — she’s got some quite out-of-the-ordinary ones, as well as a host of gorgeously rich traditionals like cottage pie, fish pie, cheese soufflé, fish cakes (made with store-bought gnocchi, thank you), salads, stews and pies.
I’d never heard of kedgeree before, which isn’t saying especially much as I’m not that knowledgeable about food, but what a delightful discovery it was. Apparently it’s very British, and usually made with haddock, though Clarissa does it with salmon when no one’s looking.
When the time came to return the book to my friend, I found my hand would not let go, and there was a spot of polite yanking before it was restored to its owner. So I had to go out and procure my own copy... As if there was ever going to be any other outcome.
All I can say is, do try the kedgeree. You won’t be sorry.
1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cardamom seeds
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 dried red chilli
4 tbsp ghee or clarified butter [I just used butter]
1 onion, ½ chopped, ½ slivered
500g long-grain rice
500g brown lentils
500g cooked salmon, flaked
4 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and cut into quarters
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp slivered almonds
Coriander, to garnish
1. Pound the spices and chilli together. Put them in a saucepan with 1.2 litres water and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and keep the water.
2. In a large saucepan, melt the ghee or butter and fry the chopped onion until coloured. Add the rice and lentils and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes. Add the strained spice water and the salt and simmer until all the moisture has been absorbed and all is cooked and tender. Stir in the cooked fish carefully, along with the hard-boiled eggs.
3. Heat the oil in a separate pan and fry the onion slivers until brown and crisp, then drain well on kitchen paper. Sauté the almonds quickly in the same pan.
4. Turn the kedgeree onto a serving dish and scatter the onions and almonds on top. Garnish with coriander.
[To bulk out the recipe you can add cauliflower or potatoes.]
This time of year, for me, usually
entails a trip to Calitzdorp — a sweet,
not-too-pretty-but-filled-with-character dorp in the Klein (small)
Karoo, just outside Oudtshoorn — to visit my folks. They retired
there from Jo'burg about six years ago, and since then I've come to
look forward to my visits, not just because I get to spend time with
them, but because it always means lots of fun in the kitchen with the
spoils form my dad's veggie patch, a lot of wine appreciation, and
generally a lot of togetherness, laughter and good eatin'.
Huge home-grown carrots, gargantuan
beetroots, fresh salad leaves, lovely, earthy potatoes, snappy leeks,
sweet cherry tomatoes and firm, shiny zucchini were all potential
ingredients, but I decided to give vichyssoise (cold leek and potato
soup) a bash. I'm not sure why, exactly, because I'd only had it once
at a restaurant and I hadn't really enjoyed the taste or the
temperature — the merits of chilled soup eluded me. Perhaps, now, I
came to this recipe due to the baking Karoo temperatures, and the
fact that I'd been on a steady diet of rich meats and carbs for about
a week straight... I needed a reprieve from the heat and heavy food.
I didn't want to leave the result to
chance, so I consulted both Larousse and The Joy of Cooking — the
former called for a base of water with a bouquet garni thrown in,
while the latter called for stock. So I used both (a stock cube, I
admit), and boy, oh boy, was it delicious — thick, savoury and
filling, but quite light at the same time. I also didn't chill the
soup completely, but rather served it on the cool side of room
temperature, and I think this allowed for more flavour. But if you
prefer your soups icy, by all means.
This is one of those stupidly easy
recipes that yields fabulous results — and we all need more of
those, don't we? Don't worry too much about getting the amounts
exactly right, they're more of a guide.
If you happen to be experiencing a cold
winter right now, this soup is also — hey presto — exceedingly
yummy served hot.
(Side note: Vichyssoise was invented in
the US by a French chef, who named the dish after his home town,
Vichy. So drop that into conversation, why don't you.)
12 leeks, white bits only, washed and
600g potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 bouquet garni*
1 litre chicken stock (or just enough
to cover the potatoes)
1 cup cream
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Chives, to garnish
1. In a large soup pot, gently fry the
leeks in the butter until soft and translucent — do not allow to
2. Add the potatoes and garni to the
pot, as well as enough stock to just cover the potatoes. Give it a
good stir, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and allow to
simmer until the potatoes are soft.
3. Using a handheld blender (or an
ordinary one — which just means more washing up!), blend the soup
to your desired consistency. I like it slightly chunky.
4. Leave the soup to cool, then plonk it
in the fridge if you'd like it chilled, for about an hour.
5. Stir in the cream, season with salt
and pepper, and divide between four bowls. Garnish with chives
(snip-snip) and that's that.
*Two sprigs parsley, two bay leaves and
one sprig each thyme and rosemary, tied together with a piece of