Prawns for Any Occasion!

Prawns for Any Occasion!

Photography by Darren Bester

 

Maybe it’s because Easter is around the corner and I always associate Easter with seafood (after chocolate of course), or perhaps it’s the desire to indulge in one last al fresco lunch under the sun, before winter arrives in the Southern Hemisphere, or maybe it’s that case of ‘you want what you can’t have’, due to the baby boy currently growing in my belly and shellfish therefore being taboo… but for whatever reason, the desire to cook prawns, was one I finally gave into this past Sunday !

I made something quick and easy …toasted baguette with garlic & chili prawns and a fresh guacamole salsa for hubby and some friends (I ate mine minus the prawns). So quick and easy, yet so tasty and moreish. Something you could serve at a party as a canapé, as a starter or perhaps, like we did, as a lovely al fresco snack… Minimum effort for maximum results – just look how beautifully these pretty pink babies plate up … a quick and easy way to impress your guests. Prawn callage

Recipe Yield: Makes 10

Ingredients:

Olive Oil

30 prawns (deveined & peeled) (you could get away with 20 – 2 per slice of baguette)

2 clove garlic

2 fresh red chilli’s

For the salsa:

1 red onion finely diced

2 salad tomatoes finely diced

4 tablespoons coriander chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Salt & Pepper to taste

2 Avocados

10 Baguette slices – slightly toasted

Method: For the salsa – combine the chopped tomato, red onion, coriander, lime juice and seasoning and set aside.  Mash your avocado and add seasoning and a squirt of lime juice.   Toast your baguette slices either in a pan, coating lightly with some oil or in the oven for 5 minutes.   In a pan, heat olive oil, fry your prawns for a minute before adding the garlic and the chili, fry for another 3 minutes or until your prawns are pink and cooked through. Dollop a good amount of avocado onto each baguette slice, followed by a dollop of salsa and top with the prawns and there you have it… a fancy little treat in no time! Prawns2

Darren Bester of Darren Bester Photography and Ashton Van Graan of The Sweetest Things and I, had fun styling this & Darren took all the mouth watering photographs! The first of many joint food styled shoots to come …

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon…

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon…

Ever seen the movie Julie & Julia? A foodie must see… Where the main character, Julie aspires to cook all 524 recipes out of the great Julia Child’s recipe book, within 365 days. She blogs about her journey and all the recipes as she goes along, earning herself a lot of followers and media attention, resulting in a reporter wanting to run a story on her. Julie is so excited and decides to make Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon for the interview.   This dish requires up to 4 hours of stewing and when Julie oversleeps and burns the first batch, my heart broke for her at the prospect of having to start from scratch.

Experiencing a cold winter in the Southern Hemisphere at the moment, this king of all stews, seemed like just the meal to conjure up a few weeks ago, and that’s exactly what I did… having started rather late in the afternoon, I opted to serve it the following evening instead. Always a good idea with a stew, because that old wives tale about stews and curries always tasting better the next day is 100% true! Leaving the food over night, allows all the flavours to mingle, fall in love and hold hands, resulting in love at first bite!   Don’t eat this alone, it’s a master piece worth sharing with a few good friends and a (few) good bottles of wine !

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon

Yield: 6

Ingredients: 

150g streaky bacon

3 tbsp olive oil

1.4kg lean stewing steak cut into 2 inch cubes

1 chopped carrot

1 chopped onion

1 tsp salt

28g flour

¼ tsp pepper

700ml good quality red wine

1tbsp tomato paste

570ml brown beef stock

2 cloves mashed garlic

1/2 tsp fresh thyme

A crumbled bay leaf

18 to 24 small onions, brown-braised – see recipe

450grm baby button mushrooms, sautéed – see recipe

Method:

Remove rind and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1½ inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1.4 liters of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 230 degrees

Sauté the bacon in the oil over a moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Reheat casserole dish until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef. Dry the beef, it will not brown if damp. Sauté a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil & bacon fat unit nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat if any remains. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole & toss with salt & pepper.   Sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly.

Place casserole uncovered in the middle of the preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust).   Remove casserole, & turn oven down to 170c.

Stir in the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs & blanched bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover the casserole & place in lower part of pre-heated oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions as follows:

Ingredients: 

18 – 24 peeled baby onions

55grms butter

1 tbsp oil

145ml brown stock / red wine or water

Salt & pepper to taste

1 medium herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, and a few sprigs of thyme tied in string)

Method: 

When the butter and oil are bubbling in the frying pan, add the onions and sauté over a moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so that they will brown as evenly as possible. be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.

Pour in the liquid, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 – 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet. Leave onions aside until called for later in the recipe.

Now sauté your mushrooms as follows:

Ingredients: 

30ml butter

1 tbsp oil

450grm button mushrooms, washed, well dried

Method: 

Place the frying pan over a high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating that it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 – 5 minutes. During this the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from the heat. Leave aside until called for later in the recipe.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve placed over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole & return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions & mushrooms over the meat. Skim fat off the sauce & simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 570ml of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. if too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock. Season to taste.

Pour the sauce over the meat & vegetables. Cover the casserole & simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Basting the meat & vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole with a side of your choice, I like to serve with silky smooth mash potato… hmmmm YUM!

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Poached Perfection!

Poached Perfection!

Photography by Darren Bester

 

Have you watched the movie Run Away Bride with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere? Where she likes her eggs however her boyfriend at the time likes his… I would do a lot of things for love, but I would not compromise how I like my eggs …! 2 soft poached eggs please and don’t be shy with the Hollandaise Sauce!

Last week, I gave you my top tips on frying the perfect sunny side up egg. This week, we look at tips on poaching to perfection! Poaching the perfect egg can be daunting but if you follow these guidelines, you should be plating up poached eggs to be proud of:-

 

Darren Bester Photography - Cape Town Photographer - Easter Styled Shoot-77

  • Fresh eggs are a non negotiable! Even if you follow all the other steps but your eggs are not fresh, your end result will be disappointing
  • Ideally, eggs should be room temperature
  • Use a deep large pot
  • For every litre of water, add 15ml vinegar (aim for close on 2 litres of water if possible). The vinegar helps the white of the egg to set. Lack of vinegar will result in your egg not shaping nicely so it is a vital ingredient
  • Bring the water to the boil and then add your vinegar
  • Drop the heat to a gentle simmer
  • Stir in a circular motion inside your pot to create a whirlpool
  • Crack your egg and gently drop from the centre of the pot into the whirlpool
  • Set a timer for ± 2 minutes (for soft poached)
  • Leave the egg alone – do not be tempted to touch it
  • When the timer go’s off, remove your little beauty with a slotted spoon and if not serving immediately, carefully place in a bowl of cold water (this will stop the cooking process)
  • If serving immediately, trim the egg white by cutting off any stragglers and season with salt & pepper
  • Never add the salt to your pot during the cooking process –this breaks down egg proteins
  • If you placed your eggs in cold water and you are now ready to plate up – all you need to do is gently place your poached eggs in hot salted water for 30 seconds to heat through, drain with a slotted spoon, trim the egg white, season and enjoy!
  • Note: You can poach your egg a few hours in advance and leave in cold water in the fridge until required – this helps eliminate pressure & ensures everyone can have breakfast at the same time 🙂

 

Steak Pie

Steak Pie

 

My Mom-in-law is a fantastic cook, we are always excited when we are invited round for lunch or dinner at Mom & Dad’s house. It’s always a big family affair, with all the siblings and their spouses and their children chatting away and laughing… I’m always impressed by how cool and calm my Mom-in-law is and how she manages to feed so many people a delicious meal, without even breaking a sweat… I still have a lot to learn!

Fresh off the plane from Greece we were welcomed home with a family dinner of roast pork with all the trimmings … Hubby and I were in heaven, the food in Greece was lovely but never the same as food from your home country and never nearly as delicious as home cooking made with love by a Mom! So Mom’s Pork Roast is a firm favourite, so is her Roly-Poly pudding (worth every inch it adds to your waist line) and her yummy steak pie rounds up my top 3 from her extensive repertoire.

Her steak pie recipe comes from a Royco Recipe Book which I have had the pleasure of borrowing (when I asked for her famous pie recipe) and the wear and tear of the book plus the dated illustrations inside, attests to the notion that a good recipe will stand the test of time. Years have come and gone and my Mom-in-law is still making this delicious pie, now so am I, and hopefully after giving it a bash, you will add it to your collection of trusty recipes too!

It is amazing that with just these few ingredients, the end result is so meaty and delicious, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t tasted it for myself first. Be sure to read ‘Cooks Tips’ at the end of this recipe for my pointers before you get cooking!

steak-pie-collage-1

Steak Pie 

Yield: 6

Ingredients:

1kg Stewing Beef cut into 5cm cubes

25 ml Flour

750 ml Water (I substitute with 500ml Woolies organic beef stock & 250ml water)

2 Packets Royco Rich Oxtail Soup Mix (you can use other brands too, I have in the past)

300 grms Baby Button Mushrooms (optional)

Salt & Pepper

Oil for frying

2 Rolls Puff Pastry Defrosted

1 egg beaten

Method: 

In a heavy based saucepan heat the oil until hot and then sear the meat on all sides and in batches. Once all the meat has been seared, return to the pot, sprinkle with the flour and mix to combine. Add the oxtail soup mix and the water / stock and bring to the boil, stirring again to combine.   Once it starts to boil, drop to a low heat and simmer with the lid on for between 1.5 – 2 hours or until your meat is tender and a fork easily penetrates it. Add your mushrooms 20 or so minutes before you estimate the meat to be done. Throughout this simmering process, stir every few minutes to avoid the meat sticking to the bottom of the pot – do not leave unattended for long periods of time. It should be a gentle simmer and not a boil, if it is simmering rapidly when you take the lid off, lower your heat further.  Adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper near the end of the cooking time, as the sauce will continue to enhance the flavour whilst it is simmering away.

Grease a 26cm pie dish or similar

Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface until it is slightly larger than the pie dish. Then hold it over the centre of the pie dish and unroll it into the dish. Lightly press it into the corners with your fingertips and all the way up the sides of the dish. Trim off the excess with a sharp knife.   Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes – this will prevent shrinkage during baking (You can skip this step if you are pressed for time but try and plan ahead).

Preheat the oven to 180ºc and get the middle oven rack ready

Remove from the fridge and prick the pastry all over with a fork (this is called “Docking”). Cover the pie crust with baking paper or greaseproof wax paper, leaving enough over hang so that you can easily remove the paper once done without burning yourself.

You need to apply weight on top of the paper to prevent the pastry from puffing up, you can use uncooked rice, dried beans or dry lentils for this purpose if you do not have actual cooking weights – pour on top of the paper and place in the oven for 20 minutes.   After 20 minutes, remove the weights and paper and if your pastry is still looking very blonde, return to the oven for another 10 minutes without the weights and paper.

Finally, pour in your steak filling, cover with more rolled out puff pastry, use a fork to push down the sides and cut a small slit into the middle of your pie, to release steam, as its cooking. Decorate by making pastry leaves or use a cookie cutter on pastry cut offs to decorate your pie (Optional). Brush with the beaten egg and bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until golden brown and your pastry is cooked through.

Cook Notes:

  • The meat is the star of this dish, with so few ingredients, there is no-where to hide so buy your meat from a reputable supplier
  • Try to take your meat out of the fridge 30 minutes to an hour prior to cooking – this will render a more tender end result
  • Pat your meat dry with carlton towel before commencing with any cooking – this will help the meat to brown and will eliminate excess moisture in the pot
  • You should hear a sizzling sound when the meat is placed in the pot otherwise it is not hot enough and you will not achieve the browning result required
  • When searing your meat, do not overcrowd the pot as this will result in steaming the meat instead of searing it and you will not create the flavour base required. The searing of the meat, is one of the most important steps to this recipe so don’t rush this process
  • Should your sauce start reducing too drastically during the simmering process don’t be afraid to add more water / stock. At the same token, by the time your meat is tender, if you still have too much liquid in the pot – bring it back to the boil with the lid off for a few minutes to reduce and thicken your sauce to the desired consistency – just remember you need sauce for your pie so don’t over reduce!
  • You can always make your steak and sauce the day before and prepare the pastry the following day.  As with any stew, the flavours really do intensify over time – it is not just an old wife’s tale!
Moussaka

Moussaka

Inspired by my recent travels to Greece and coupled with the fact that aubergines are in season and in abundance at the moment, I couldn’t resist cooking up a Moussaka! It was delicious and so easy to make …

Ingredients:

Yield: 4 – 5

1 Finely Chopped Onion

Olive Oil

4 Cloves Crushed Garlic

1 kg Lamb or Beef Mince

250 ml Good Quality Red Wine

800grms Can Chopped Tomatoes

125ml Good Quality Beef Stock

2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

4 Sprigs of Fresh Oregano (or substitute with 2 – 3 tsp dried oregano)

3 or 4 Aubergines / Brinjals

75grms Butter

75grms Flour

500ml Milk (or more if sauce is too thick)

250ml Grated Parmesan

125ml Bread Crumbs

Salt & Pepper   

Method: 

Slice your aubergines into thin rounds and place in a colander or on a cooling rack and sprinkle generously with salt.  Leave for 30 minutes to extract all the bitter juices (the colander / cooling rack will help the juices to drain away from the aubergines).  

In a large saucepan, sweat the onion in 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil, once soft but not coloured, add the crushed garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the mince and fry until nicely browned. Add the wine and stir for a minute before adding the chopped tomatoes, beef stock, oregano and cinnamon. Simmer for approximately 40 minutes and adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper.

Whilst this is simmering, 

Preheat the oven to 180ºc

Prepare the white sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add your milk little by little, whisking the entire time to avoid lumps. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens, if the sauce becomes too thick, add more milk until you achieve the correct consistency (think of the consistency used in a lasagne). Remove from the heat, stir in the parmesan cheese and season with salt & pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasoning until you are happy with the flavour.

Turn your attention back to the aubergines, dab with carlton towel to drain away any remaining liquid and excess salt.  Coat the aubergine rounds in olive oil and fry in batches , in a non stick pan over high heat for a minute or two before turning and cooking the other side – you want to achieve a nice charred appearance. (If you have a griddle pan, use it).

Layer your oven proof dish with the mince sauce, white sauce and a layer of aubergines, repeat if necessary and end with a final layer of white sauce. Mix together the remaining parmesan cheese with the breadcrumbs, sprinkle on top and bake for 30 – 40 minutes until bubbling and golden !

Serve with a salad of baby spinach leaves, tomatoes, cucumber and feta and a good bottle of red wine 🙂