Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pretty, pretty, glug, glug

I like to think I have above-average willpower. (Despite evidence to the contrary.)

I mean, I can resist flying into a rage when DVD Nouveau has rented out the next instalment of True Blood/30 Roc/Sons of Anarchy to someone else.

I can (occasionally) resist shouting ‘**nting retard!!’ at those who cut in front of me in the morning traffic.

I can even resist the (often quite powerful) urge to have scrambled eggs for both breakfast and dinner.

But I cannot resist a prettily packaged bottle of wine. I just can't.

In fact, I can’t quite fathom why more marketers haven’t cottoned on to this. I mean, the wine labels below could be stuck to a bottle of paint stripper, and I'd still... have to... buy them.

It’s a very real, very Alice in Wonderland ‘Drink Me’ compulsion.

Luckily, the ones below contain glorious wine, not paint stripper – I have tasted them all (except the Thunderchild).

I mean, just look at them…


Purdy, non?

I also quite like this one...

Red blend Alphabetical: get in touch with The Foodie, David Cope, at david@owlandvine.com
Secateurs: AA Badenhorst
Thunderchild: Lettie or Petro at the Herberg 023 626 3140
Kloof Street: Mullineux Family Wines
Six Hats: Citrusdal Wines

Monday, July 18, 2011

I hate food bloggers

‘I hate restaurant critics. I hate restaurant reviews. I hate food bloggers. I hate all foodie commentators with their boring bloody opinions about everything, and their “accurately judged bisque”  and their “uncertain seasoning” and their “muddled flavours” and their “distracted service”. It’s all bollocks! Do you hear me? It’s all total rubbish. You know nothing. Nobody cares. Your wretched evaluations are subjective, ill-informed, prejudiced, pointless, perfectly irrelevant and of no interest to anyone. You are boring. You are fat. You are pasty-faced and stupid and wear ugly shoes. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.’

I happened upon this rant by Giles Coren in a May issue of the UK Times Magazine. I think it’s the best thing he’s ever written (and about as close to writing like AA Gill as he’ll ever get, shame). And I found myself nodding (and grinning) in agreement.

Ironic, no?

Which brings me to an interesting piece on the Mail & Guardian website about the contention between food bloggers and bona fide (i.e. they get paid) food writers — the ‘contention’ part coming mainly from the food writers’ corner. It really irks them that bloggers get invited to promotional events.

Yes, I get it. I think food blogs, for the most part, are pretty annoying. Not only that — 95 percent of them are badly written, unattractive, or both. I especially loved this excerpt in the MG piece, taken from some unfortunate blog somewhere:

‘I have quite literally never tasted anything as good as the Persian love cake. I can see why it so aptly named — I wanted to do more than just love it. As Josh Groban profoundly stated, It raised me up so I could stand on mountains.’


The thing is, food bloggers are only annoying ... if you let them be. That is, if you choose to be annoyed by them. In fact, the more seriously you take them (er, us), the more annoying they (we) get. So just stop taking us so bloody seriously, okay? In fact, I recommend you stop reading this post right now and go read something we can all be acceptably sanctimonious about, like the situation in Libya. Or Julius Malema. Or hipsters.

Go on...




You might have stuck around to find out about the picture I posted. It’s a delicious chickpea salad recommended to me by a colleague. I served it with a pomegranate molasses and cumin marinated roast chicken, and it went down a treat. (Not that I can speak with any authority on the matter, mind you.)


Chickpea, feta and coriander salad
(From Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros)
Serves 6 as a side

400g tinned chickpeas
250ml olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 or 2 red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
250g crumbled feta cheese
4 spring onions, green part only, chopped
25g chopped coriander
30g chopped parsley
Juice of 1 lemon

1. Rinse chickpeas and place them in a bowl.
2. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil and fry the red onion gently until it is cooked through and lightly golden. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a few more seconds, until you can smell the garlic. Take care not to brown the garlic. Leave to cool completely.
3. Add the feta, spring onion, coriander, parsley and lemon juice to the chickpeas and season. Add the onion mixture and the remaining oil and mix through.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pea, ricotta and lemon zest risotto

Everyone tells you (well, the ‘experts’, anyway) that risotto is one of the easiest dishes in the world to make — once you know how. And, of course, the kicker lies in those last four words. Unfortunately risotto is one of those dishes that refuses to be pinned down by a recipe. As with all things in life, experience is the secret ingredient. It is one thing to fling together one of Jamie’s salads or one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s roasts, but it is quite another to coax a gorgeous risotto from various combinations of stock, rice, onion and butter.

In Giorgio Locatelli’s restaurant, they set a timer for 17 minutes for the newbies learning to cook risotto, and it must be cooked within that time. I have never cooked risotto anywhere close to this time — mine usually takes about half an hour — but I did discover, after my first five or so attempts, that cooking the rice on the highest heat speeded up the whole process, and as you’re meant to be constantly stirring, it shouldn’t burn or stick to the bottom. Use the biggest heavy-based pot you own, and have the stock simmering in another pot on the stove as you cook.

And if you’re going to use crappy stock, you can just forget it. Sorry.

Everyone who loves to make risotto develops their own personal relationship with it. And like any relationship, it takes a little trial and error, a little time, but if you persist until you get it right (and try not to sulk or throw too many tantrums), the results can be, well, orgasmic.

I made this one chilly winter’s evening. It’s actually a spring dish — you’re supposed to make it with fresh new peas — but I used frozen and I thought they worked out just fine. (Better than fine.) It’s a lovely dish to make if you feel like something warm and comforting, but also not too dense or heavy. I also left out the vermouth as I didn’t have any, and thought the result did not suffer for it. I’m sure it tastes even more amazing if you include it though.

Pea, ricotta and lemon zest risotto (from the River Café Green cookbook)
For 6

3kg fresh young peas [or frozen!]
250g fresh ricotta cheese, lightly beaten
Finely grated rind of two washed lemons
1.5 litres chicken stock
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, peeled, 2 chopped
200g unsalted butter
500g spring onions, roughly chopped
400g carnaroli or arborio rice
2 tablespoons torn fresh basil leaves
150ml dry vermouth
50g Parmesan, freshly grated

1. Heat the chicken stock to boiling and check for seasoning. Bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil, and add half a tablespoon salt, the peas, half the mint and the whole garlic clove. Simmer for three to four minutes or until the peas are al dente. Drain, keeping back 150ml of the water. Return the peas, mint and garlic clove to this water and put aside.
2. Melt 150g of the butter in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan, add the onion and soften. Add the chopped garlic, then the rice, stirring to coat each grain for about two to three minutes. Add a ladle of hot stock and stir, adding another when the rice has absorbed the first. Continue stirring and adding stock for 10 minutes or until the rice is not quite al dente.
3. Add half the peas, keeping back the cooked garlic and mint and their liquor. Mash together the remainder of the peas, mint and garlic with the liquor in a food processor, then add to the risotto and stir. Stir in the basil. Add the vermouth, about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta, and the remaining butter. Test for doneness: the rice should be al dente. Serve with the remaining ricotta over each portion, sprinkled with lemon zest, salt, pepper and Parmesan.