Monday, September 13, 2010

Plenty of Ottolenghi...

Saturday was Cape Town's first real taste of summer, and I decided the only appropriate way to celebrate was to run out and buy a tube of self-tan. Ah, there's nothing quite like the chemical aroma of dihydroxyacetone delicately singing one's nostril hairs to fill one with the joys of the season...

In 4-6 hours I would be a few inches closer to resembling a healthy, hot-pant-wearing, roller-blading native Californian, rather than something that lives at the bottom of the sea. I needed a venue. I needed to be seen. I needed to find a location where the sun meets the alcohol amidst discreet sycophants and white linen.

We brainstormed and, after a few heated disagreements, I remembered reading a review on Casa Labia in Muizenberg, so we decided to make a booking... Boy was that a mistake.

We got there to discover that they only served wine by the glass (one kind), and bubbly by the bottle (one kind), and the reason for this was that they do not have a liquor licence. They couldn't have told us this over the phone when we made our booking?

The service was disinterested, the food average, and in general I felt my new tan was just not getting the attention it deserved. For future reference, Casa Labia is probably safest for breakfast.

They do have a very pretty museum though, which is worth a look...

And an even prettier view...

On to more uplifting matters — Yotam Ottolenghi's PLENTY has infected my brain. I can't stop thinking about it, and it took me two full weeks to decide which dish to make first.

This is the one I chose. Green pancakes with lime butter. Beautiful for brunch. I really don't think I need to say any more than that.

Green pancakes with lime butter
Serves 3 to 4

250g spinach, washed
110g self raising flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 free range egg
50g unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
150ml milk
6 medium spring onion (100g in total), finely sliced
2 fresh green chillies, thinly sliced
1 free range egg white
olive oil

Lime butter
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
grated zest of 1 lime
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 tbsp chopped coriander
1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 tsp chilli flakes

1. First, make the lime butter. Put the butter in a medium bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until it turns soft and creamy. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Tip everything out on to a sheet of clingfilm and roll into a sausage shape. Twist the ends to seal the flavoured butter. Chill until firm.
2. Wilt the spinach in a pan with a splash of water. Drain in a sieve and, when cool, squeeze hard with your hands to remove as much moisture as possible. Roughly chop and put aside
3. For the pancake batter, put the flour, baking powder, whole egg, melted butter, salt, cumin and milk in a mixing bowl, and whisk until smooth. Add the spring onion, chillies and spinach and mix with a fork. Whisk the egg white to soft peaks and carefully fold it in to the batter.
4. Pour a small amount of oil into a heavy frying pan and place on medium-high heat. For each pancake, ladle 2 tablespoons of batter into the pan and press down gently. You should get smallish pancakes, about 7cm in diameter and 1cm thick. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until you get a good golden-green colour. Transfer to kitchen paper and keep warm. Continue making pancakes, adding oil to the pan as needed, until the batter is used up.
5. To serve, pile up three pancakes per person and place a slice of flavoured butter on top to melt.


PS: I wish I could take credit for the image of the pancakes, but I can't — I scanned it from the book.

PPS: Don't miss out on this fabulous Eat Out competition — you could 'win the dining experience of a lifetime'. Doesn't that sound nice?

PPPS: Voting for the 2010 SA Blog Awards closes on Friday 17 September. I feel so dirty asking you this, but if you wouldn't mind voting just one last time...  (you can vote every 24 hours) x

Monday, September 6, 2010

Societi Bistro's Aubergine Fettuccine

A few months ago, seated and perusing the menu at Society Bistro — one of the most fabulous restaurants to ever happen to Cape Town's CBD — my eyes settled on 'Aubergine fettuccine: baked ricotta, chilli, fennel seed, cherry tomatoes.'

I read the line again and thought: 'I want to go to there.'

I have not been able to stop thinking about that dish, so eventually I asked for the recipe. I've never cooked with fennel seeds in a Mediterranean context before, but their subtle flavour goes beautifully with aubergine. I am so delighted with this recipe — and I know you will be too.

At Society Bistro they make their own fettuccine and their own ricotta — I used store-bought, and the result was even better than I remembered, but if you have homemade... Well, I'm sure I don't have to tell you.

The recipe is for one serving, because of course that's how they do it in restaurants, so just double or quadripple the quantities according to your needs. (I should just note here that SB did not provide ingredient quantities in the 'Assembly' section, so I just went with my gut.)

Aubergine fettuccine
Serves 1

For the aubergine caviar:
1 aubergine
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
10g fennel seeds
10g dry chilli flakes

1. Cut aubergine  in half lengthways, and score the flesh deeply to form diamond shapes.
2. Drizzle the olive oil and season with salt, pepper, chilli and fennel.
3. Wrap in foil and bake for 1 hour at 150C.
4. Allow to cool, then scoop out the soft cooked flesh.

1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100g cherry tomatoes
20g rocket
125g baked ricotta (I mixed mine with some chilli, fennel seeds, salt and pepper, and baked it along with the aubergine)
Fresh chilli, chopped, to taste

1. Warm a large frying-pan and add the olive oil and garlic, and then the caviar.
3. Cook for two minutes on a medium heat, then add the cherry tomatoes and cook for a further two minutes.
4. Season with salt and pepper and add the blanched pasta to the pan.
5. Add rocket and toss in the pan.
6. Tip onto a serving plate, top with the ricotta and fresh chilli. Grate a little Parmesan on top if you like.