Prawn, Lemon & Rocket Penne Pasta

Prawn, Lemon & Rocket Penne Pasta

I love Pasta ! When I moved to London in my early twenties, I had my first taste of basil pesto and fell in love! I would drench it over big bowls of pasta with bacon and mushrooms and I simply could. not. stop. eating. it.  Needless to say that when I flew home a year later on holiday, friends and family practically bypassed me at the airport due to not recognising me … or rather, the size of me 😮  

I’ve learnt to practice portion control since then and don’t make pasta part of our families weekly menu.  I am however, a firm believer in the ‘everything in moderation’ mantra and therefore do not see anything wrong with enjoying a bowl of pasta every now and then!  What is life without pasta?  This particular pasta is very fresh and certainly a lot healthier than the bottled pesto jars of my youth.  The flavours marry together beautifully, so simple but really packs a tasty flavour which makes this pasta dish, restaurant quality!   I’ve made it for friends and they have asked for the recipe.  Nough said 🙂  Martha Who_Prawn Pasta stomped1

 

Yield: 4 – 5 

Ingredients: 

500g dried penne pasta

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed to a paste

2 – 3 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped 

450ml of white wine (Sauvignon Blanc / Chenin) 

450g peeled & de-frosted ready to eat prawns 

4 tbs sun-dried tomato puree 

Zest and juice of 2 lemons 

4 big handfuls of rocket, chopped 

Salt & Black Pepper 

Olive Oil 

Method: 

Follow the cooking instructions for the pasta and while that is on the go, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a big frying pan and add the garlic and chilli – cook on a gentle heat ensuring not to burn the garlic.  After a minute or 2, add the white wine and the tomato puree and simmer for a few minutes until the alcohol has been cooked away together with the acidity of the tomatoes.  Drain your pasta and reserve a little of the cooking liquid.  Once the sauce is to your taste, add the prawns and mix through.  Remove from the heat.  Return the pasta to its pot and add the sauce, stir to combine.  Add the lemon juice, the lemon zest and half the rocket and 20 or 30 mL of the reserved cooking water.  Taste. Adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper.  Heat through on the stove top. Plate and garnish with the remaining rocket.  

Cooks Notes: I buy the Woolworths ‘Frozen fully cooked Prawns’  and the Woolworths ‘Sundried Tomato Quarters’.  With the tomatoes, I drain the vinaigrette it comes in and blitz the sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor / blender to a lumpy puree type consistency. 

 

Chicken Lettuce Wrap with a Coriander Yoghurt Dressing

Chicken Lettuce Wrap with a Coriander Yoghurt Dressing

Photography by Darren Bester

I love chicken wraps, not only are they super tasty but they healthy too!  Its always so well received by my family that I almost feel a little guilty because it took just minutes to throw together.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any healthier, we throwing out the wheat and wrapping it up in a lettuce leaf instead …

Yield: 1

Ingredients:

1x 80grm chicken frikkadel (recipe here)

1 large crisp lettuce leaf 

few slices chopped tomato 

few slices cucumber 

few slices carrot 

For the Coriander Yoghurt Dressing:

Yield: 250ml (will be suitable for a few wraps)

1 cup coriander, roughly chopped 

1 cup fat free greek yoghurt 

3 spring onions, chopped 

good squeeze of lemon juice 

Method: 

For the dressing – put all ingredients together and blend.  Adjust lemon juice seasoning to taste.  

To assemble wrap:  Cut frikkadel in half and place inside the middle of the lettuce leaf, drizzle over a little yoghurt dressing, sprinkle with tomatoes, cucumber and carrot, drizzle over a little more dressing and fold lettuce leaf over to close your wrap.  Cut in half and enjoy!

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Mastering Scrambled Eggs…

Mastering Scrambled Eggs…

Who doesn’t fancy fluffy and light scrambled eggs with a slice of toast and some bacon in the morning?  It is so easy to overcook scrambled eggs, resulting in the eggs losing colour, turning brown, becoming dry or even watery.  The trick is to whisk enough air into your eggs prior to cooking and then once on the heat, it should take no more than a minute to a minute and a half to cook through.  Remember, the eggs will continue to cook even when off the pan – so always take off the heat while it still looks moist because by the time it is served, it would have cooked through.

Here are my top tips for the perfect scrambled eggs:

  • Ensure your eggs are fresh
  • Eggs should be at room temperature to ensure even cooking
  • Have your non stick pan, heat resistant spatula, whisk, eggs, butter, oil, salt & pepper at the ready – Avoid having to focus on other tasks while busy with your eggs (so get the bacon and toast out the way and leave your eggs for last)
  • In a clean bowl, add your eggs ( I used 6 the other day for Andrew & I – *blush* & it was a satisfying amount)
  • For every egg, add 15ml of cream (you can substitute this for milk but it will impact on the creamy flavour)
  • Whisk well to combine
  • Put the pan on a very low heat, add equal amounts of oil and butter, coat the pan and pour out the excess oil / butter
  • Add your egg mixture and allow to cook without interference for up to 30 seconds
  • Add salt & pepper at this stage
  • Using a spatula, gently push the egg from the sides of the pan to the centre of the pan, tilting the pan as you go to allow the liquid egg to run to the sides of the pan and then repeat the process until no liquid egg remains
  • Continue to gently turn the eggs until the egg mixture becomes firm.  Do not break up the egg curds with your spatula – you want to maintain large curds of eggs rather than small curds
  • Transfer to your serving plate and enjoy !

 

 

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!

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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!
An Easter Brunch to Remember …

An Easter Brunch to Remember …

Photography by Darren Bester

 

On Sunday I joined forces with the very talented and creative people behind The Sweetest ThingsDarren Bester Photography and Pop! Events, to bring you our Easter inspired Breakfast Brunch Table!

The Sweetest Things lived up to it’s name by providing a decadent carrot cake with cream cheese icing complete with a spun sugar topping! Melt in your mouth Meringues and chocolate ganache tarts in a biscuit base topped with fresh raspberries – talk about decadent! And a big thank you for my doggy bag 😉

Pop! Events provided all the beautifully made paper decorations you see in the photographs, from the expertly laser cut place settings, to the festive cut out white bunnies, the cutlery & napkin holders, to the food description cards eloquently placed on pegs. Having recently hired Pop! Events services for a very special Baby Shower I hosted, I can vouch for their professionalism and ability to make things happen at very short notice.

Of course, no styled table is worth its weight in ‘style’ if you don’t have Darren Bester Photography there to snap up some gorgeous pictures and capture the moment! Thankfully for us, Darren is becoming more and more passionate about food photography, which is creating many an opportunity for us to work together. Choosing the photographs to use on this blog post has left me salivating as all the images are droolicious!

brunch-collage

So what did I bring to this party? My favourite breakfast of all times of course …the one, the only, Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict!!! Yummy Decadent soft poached eggs on a bed of smoked salmon a top an English toasted muffin, drenched in Hollandaise Sauce (possibly the most indulgent sauce of all times) and garnished with chives.   I’m not going to go into how devastating it was to watch the others tuck in after the shoot, whilst me and my pregnant belly had to settle for an English muffin with cream cheese … the memory is too painful. Nor am I going to tell you about how ever since Sunday, all I can think about is Eggs Benedict … No, I will not waste your time with the list of all my favourite foods that I cannot enjoy now, whilst pregnant.   Instead, I will quietly remind myself that in just 5 short months our bambino will arrive and after meeting him for the first time, Hubby will be off on a Sushi run and then returning the following morning again, to the hospital with eggs Benedict! Yes… only 5 more months … I can do this!

Darren Bester Photography - Cape Town Photographer - Easter Styled Shoot-23 - Copy

The long Easter weekend is upon us, I hope we have inspired you with our Easter Brunch Table and hope that you will lay your own … if you would like to serve up Salmon Eggs Benedict for your nearest and dearest … here is the recipe and if you find me knocking at your door, just as the Benedict’s are served, DO NOT open the door!

Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict 

Yield: 4

Ingredients:

4 English Muffins cut in half and toasted

100g Smoked Salmon

4 Eggs Softly Poached

250 grms Unsalted Butter

5 Egg Yolks

10 ml White Wine Vinegar

Fresh Lemon Juice (just a squeeze or 2)

Salt & Pepper

Chopped Chives for Garnishing

Method:

To clarify your butter, place the 250grm block of butter in a pot and put on a very low heat – allow to melt completely and the ‘foam’ to rise to the top. Once it seems that no more foam is rising to the top, you can switch off the heat (give it about 20 minutes). Use a spoon to scoop up and discard as much of the foam as possible. Then line a sieve with a piece of muslin cloth and gently pour the butter mixture through the muslin cloth sieve and into a clean bowl. (If you don’t have muslin cloth you can use a simple coffee filter paper instead – just to trap all the milk solids behind. If you don’t have a coffee filter paper, then use the finest sieve you can find to strain the butter mixture).

Set the clarified butter aside for a few minutes and poach your eggs according to the cooking tips provided here and set aside until required.

Right so your eggs have been poached and are resting in cold water, quickly toast your English muffins and place on each plate.

Time to make the hollandaise sauce, once you get started with this, you cannot pause in between – Bring about 500ml of water to a gentle simmer in a small pot. In a separate heat proof bowl such as stainless steel or glass, whisk your egg yolks quickly, adding the 10ml vinegar and pinch of salt, add 2 Tbsp of the hot water from the pot to the egg mixture and whisk for a further 15 seconds or so, now place this egg mixture bowl over the pot with the simmering water in it (water level must not be able to reach the egg mixture bowl) and whisk continuously until the egg mixture forms ribbon stage (meaning that when you lift the whisk over the mixture the batter should fall slowly, forming a ribbon that will hold it’s shape for a fewseconds. The colour of the mixture would have also lightened once ribbon stage has been reached). To prevent scrambling your eggs, lift it from time to time off the heat, while you continue to whisk awaiting ribbon stage. Remove from the heat and slowly drizzle by drizzle add your clarified butter, the whole time stirring with your whisk as you add it. You might not require all the clarified butter, you need to taste as you go along, I would say once you have added just over half the amount of butter, add the squeeze or 2 of lemon juice and another pinch of salt and then taste, add more butter if necessary and adjust the seasoning until you are happy with the flavour.

Time to plate up – gently place your poached eggs in hot salted water for 30 seconds to heat through, and then drain.

On top of each muffin slice, place a generous amount of salmon, top with a poached egg, spoon Hollandaise Sauce over the top and garnish with chopped chives. Place the other half of the muffin alongside the dressed one (Or perhaps double up on the eggs and Salmon quantities listed under ingredients so that each person receives 2 poached eggs & salmon for both sides of the English Muffin).

Notes: You clarify your butter to get rid of the milk solids and moisture content found in butter. For this sauce we want the flavour of butter but not the oiliness that usually comes with it. Clarifying the butter enables this. Another reason one would clarify butter is it allows you to cook with it over a higher heat or for an extended period of time. Leftover clarified butter can keep, in a well sealed glass container for a few weeks.

Wet a dishcloth and place it on your work counter, then place your bowl on top of it. The damp dish cloth creates a steady work surface, allowing you to free up the hand that would be keeping your bowl in place, which you can then use to pour the clarified butter in slowly while continuing to whisk. If the flat cloth does not seem to steady it, then twirl your dish cloth and place it down in a circular form, and nestle your bowl on top of this ‘nest’. 

This is not a traditional Hollandaise Sauce recipe – you will note some small discrepancies but it tastes the exact same and is less the fuss ! 

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