Lentil + rocket salad

lentil and rocket salad

Once upon a time, I was a vegetarian. Well actually I was a pescatarian because I couldn’t bear to ditch fish, but for the sake of brevity, I called myself a vegetarian to anyone who asked. My motives for embarking on this change of lifestyle, I’m sorry to say, were less than noble. I will not disclose them because this is an open blog and I do not wish to expose my adolescent pettiness. Let’s just say I needed to prove a point, and I did. The truth is, despite my silly reasons for becoming a ‘vegetarian’, I grew to love my new chosen veggie based diet. It made me more mindful of what I was eating, it forced me to read labels on food, to be more selective with that was going into my body and it cultivated in me a love for vegetables and pulses which was previously non-existent.

I have previously written about all the health benefits that lentils offer (you can read about that here). And somehow, nothing seems complement lentils like the zingy pepperiness of rocket. I will admit that after over-indulging a little this past long-weekend, I find myself in need of food that is healthy and restorative. So if you, like me, are looking to enjoy something ‘feel-good’ and revitalising, then this lentil and rocket salad with asparagus and radishes should do to the trick.

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Ingredients:

1 tin can of lentils in brine, rinsed and drained

2 handfuls of wild rocket

50 grams of radishes, chopped

50 grams of asparagus

A couple of spring onions/salad onions, chopped

1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon of olive oil + 1 extra drizzle

Salt and black pepper

½ teaspoon of honey

A little bit of fresh parsley, finely chopped

The zest of half a lemon

 

How to make it:

In a small cup, combine the balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, parsley, honey and olive oil, along with a pinch of salt and pepper, and whisk briskly until the mixture is completely uniform.

Add the dressing to the lentils and allow them soak it up for at least 10 minutes.

Next, blanch the asparagus before soaking it in an ice bath. Drain and set aside.

Now, roughly break up the rocket and add to the lentils, along with some chopped asparagus and mix. Top with the radishes and spring onions. Finish the salad off with one final drizzle of olive oil.

Et voila!

lentil and rocket salad

 

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Baked hot cross bun French toast

baked hot cross bun french toast

Brunch. An institution all on its own, overshadowing most other means. Is it sweet, is it savory? Is it breakfast, is it lunch? Can I eat ribs and wings before noon if I have them on a waffle? No one knows the exact rules! This meal is a rebel. It’s breaking boundaries.  And everybody knows brunch is perfect for the type of lazy mornings that long weekends are all about. So this Easter break, I decided to put a little twist on a breakfast/brunch regular. I’ve combined baked French toast with something that is so quintessentially “Easter”:  Hot cross buns!

Is it breakfast? Is it dessert? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

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Ingredients

5-6 Hot cross buns, sliced horizontally

4 eggs

1 cup of milk

¾ cup of cream

3 tablespoons of melted butter

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

2 tablespoons of sugar + extra for sprinkling.

A teaspoon of salt

 

How to make it:

Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Next add the salt and sugar and continue to whisk.

Grease the baking dish with the butter and sprinkle some sugar over it.

In batches, submerge the hot cross bun slices into the mixture, then place them in the baking tray. You may use whatever formation you’d like to lay out the hot cross buns; I overlapped them slightly but you can also layer them if you prefer.

Pour the remaining mixture of the buns and place in the fridge to soak up the liquid for 2-3 hours.

Preheat the oven at 180˚C.

Sprinkle a little bit of sugar over the top of the dish and bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until the top browns and gets a little bit crispy.

Serve warm with whipped cream and maple syrup.

Et voila!

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Sweet potato brownies

For the longest time, I didn’t really like brownies. And then one day, I had a brownie that changed everything. Since then, I have embarked on the journey of finding the perfect brownie. The journey has lead me to many a rocky road, sometimes proving quite disappointing.

The difficulty with brownies, I think, is finding the balance between density and fluffiness; between chocolatey flavour and sweetness; between cakey-ness and gooey-ness. It really is a delicate dance.

I had planned to post this recipe during the Christmas holidays but, you know how crazy the holidays can get, so I ended up not being able to post it. But the good news is that brownies can be enjoyed all throughout the year! This recipe is really special because it is wheat free and doesn’t need any added sugar, but don’t be fooled: it is still a delectable sweet treat that everybody will enjoy.

 

sweet potato brownies

sweet potato brownies

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Ingredients:

250 grams of dark chocolate

500 grams of sweet potato, cooked, cooled and skin removed

1 cup of almond flour

1 tablespoon of baking powder

2 tablespoons of cocoa powder

70 grams of dried, chopped dates

1 egg

1 tablespoon of honey

1 cup of pecans, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon of vanilla essence/extract

½ teaspoon of nutmeg

 

Optional ganache topping:

15 grams of chocolate

1 tablespoon of milk

Edible gold dust

How to make it:

Start by re-hydrating the dates in about 2 tablespoons of hot water; allow them to soak for about an hour. Next, add the re-hydrated dates and cooked sweet potato in a blender and purée until smooth. (Tip: To cook the sweet potato, wrap it in foil and bake it in the oven.)

Next, melt the chocolate. Start by boiling some water over a hot plate. Put a bowl on top of the pot but make sure it doesn’t touch the water. Place the chocolate in the bowl and allow it to melt. Stir the chocolate until it is smooth.

Combine the sweet potato purée with the melted chocolate and mix thoroughly. Next add the vanilla, egg and honey and mix.

Now it’s time to combine all the dry ingredients. In a different bowl, place the almond flour, baking powder, nutmeg, coco powder and mix until consistent.

Next combine the dry and wet ingredients. Fold in some pecan nuts just until the nuts are evenly distributed.

Grease a baking tray, and pour the batter in. Bang the tray on the counter a few times to get rid of air bubbles, then put place it in a preheated oven at 170˚C for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before taking the solid brownie out of the baking tray.

Cut brownies into desired size.

To make the optional ganache topping, melt the chocolate and add the milk.  Stir until a smooth ganache is formed. It needs to be runny enough to drizzle over the brownies but must not be watery.

Next drizzle the ganache over the completely cooled brownies. Sprinkle a little bit of the edible gold dust over the top of the brownies and then gently blow the excess dust away. Place the brownies in the fridge for at least 3 hours and then serve.

Et voila!

sweet potato brownies

Peppadew chicken pasta

peppadew chicken pasta

I believe that food has the ability to tell stories. Family recipes passed down from one generation to another, spices that evoke aromas from faraway places, unexpected happy accidents that led to new food discoveries, early morning searches for something to eat after unforgettable nights out – our memories, our history, our celebrations are all peppered with the presence of food.

Peppadews (sweet and tangy South African pickled peppers) are one of those distinct tastes that remind me of my country. I find this ingredient to be highly underrated as it is so bold and complex in flavour. Peppadews are both sweet and sour, tart but in the most delightful way, bright and vibrant in colour and they definitely pack quite a punch of heat. I suppose these peppers are a lot like South African people: complex, colourful, vibrant, warm, feisty and quite unusual.

This recipe was inspired by a dish I used to enjoy at local restaurant. It’s so simple and ridiculously quick to make that it makes for the perfect mid-week meal, when one doesn’t feel like putting much effort into cooking.  Lately I have been all about quick meals. I don’t seem to have the time or energy to spend a lot of time in a hot kitchen. It’s great to be able to cook something that doesn’t sacrifice flavour for convenience. The cream balances out the stark taste of the peppadews, and the chicken lends itself brilliantly to the bold flavours. And let’s be honest, you can’t go wrong pasta!

Serves 2.

peppadew chicken pasta

 

peppade chicken pasta

Ingredients:

4 boneless chicken thigh fillets, chopped into bite-sized pieces

50 grams of peppadews, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon of grated pecorino cheese

½ cup cream

2 teaspoons  of Italian herbs

250 grams of penne

Olive oil

 

How to make it:

Cook penne until al dente, as per the instruction on the packaging.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat some oil in a pan, and sauté the chicken and peppadews on a medium heat, until the chicken starts to brown. Next add the minced garlic and Italian herbs, and sauté for another minute before adding the cream. Allow the sauce to thicken for about 2 minutes then stir in the grated pecorino cheese. Add a pinch of salt and serve the peppadew chicken sauce over the penne.

Et Voila!

peppadew chicken pasta

Kale + red cabbage slaw

kale + red cabbage slaw

It’s hard to believe that it’s already the end of January. It’s even harder to believe that I haven’t posted in 2016 yet. Now that the year and I have gotten better acquainted, it’s about time to get back to business.

Let’s talk resolutions. I know I’m late to the party but what would the year’s first post be without the mention of resolutions? I have decided to refrain from partaking in this well-loved tradition but I know many of you have probably set out some things you would like to achieve this year (shout out to those of you who have already ditched all attempts to try and achieve them. This is a no judgement zone. You can try again another time).

With the ‘healthy eating’ resolution being up there with the best of them, I decided to share a great recipe for a kale and red cabbage slaw with a delicious lemon, tahini and coriander dressing. Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring and tasteless, and seeing as I have already written about how much I like kale here, why not share another kale salad? For those of you who are looking to try and eat more mindfully, I wish you all the best in your endeavours. Investing in your health is always a great idea. I hope to be able to help by sharing healthy, wholesome and tasty recipes.

This recipe serves 4 as a side.

kale + red cabbage slaw with lemon tahini coriander dressing

kale + red cabbage slaw

Ingredients:

150 grams of kale, stalks removed

200 grams of red cabbage

½ shallot or small onion, diced

1 garlic clove, roughly chopped

1 handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

The juice of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons of honey

2 tablespoons of tahini

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of dried mint

A pinch of dried chilli flakes

A pinch of salt and black pepper

Almonds, roasted and chopped

How to make it:

You want to make sure that the kale and red cabbage are clean. I remove the stalks from the kale, and soak it in water with a splash of vinegar for 5 minutes. Next I drain it and shred it finely. The easiest way to shred it is to make a chiffonade: stack the leaves. roll them up nice and tight and slice into thin strips. I find it is easier, however, to rinse the cabbage after shredding it.

To make the dressing, place all the remaining ingredients listed above (excluding the tahini and the almonds) into a blender, and blend until an emulsified mixture is formed. Then add the 2 tablespoons of tahini and blend until smooth.

Toss the kale and red cabbage slaw in the dressing. Add the dressing little by little, so as not to overpower the salad. This recipe makes about ½ a cup of dressing, so you should only use as much as you need to lightly coast the salad. The left over dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge and will last for a few days.

Sprinkle the chopped almonds on top of the salad and enjoy!

Et voila!

kale and red cabbage slaw_4

Spiced pear pudding pots

spiced pear pudding pot with melting ice cream

It’s officially starting to feel like the festive season. And as such, it only seems apt to post a delicious Christmas treat: Spiced pear pudding. Traditional Christmas cake is so played out, and let’s be honest, not very tasty. So I’ve developed this gluten free pudding that brings together the traditional spice-plus-fruit combo but in a much more modern and delicious way. No brandy needed, though if you want to bring in that element, why not serve the pudding with some cherries that have been soaked in some brandy for 24 – 48 hours, to put a twist on the old-school boozy pudding.

This recipe makes 2 pudding pots, however, I have included instructions for modifying the recipe to serve more people.

spiced pear pudding pot with ice cream

Spiced pear pudding pot

Ingredients:

½ cup of almond flour

1 tablespoon cornflour

1½ teaspoons of baking powder

1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted but not hot)

2 tablespoons of honey

½ teaspoon of nutmeg

½ teaspoon of allspice

½ teaspoon ginger powder

½ teaspoon of cinnamon

½ teaspoons of vanilla extract/essence

1 egg

2 pear halves (canned pears) + the syrup from the can

 

How to make it:

Combine the almond flour, corn flour and baking powder, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and ginger powder. Next make a well in the dry ingredients and then add the wet ingredients (honey, egg, vanilla and coconut oil).

Grease a pair of ramekins/ small oven-proof dishes. Spoon in the batter between the ramekins until they are about halfway full. Place a pear in each ramekin and push it down slightly.

Place them in a preheated oven at 160˚C for 25-30 minutes. To check if they are ready, poke them a wooden skewer and if the skewer comes out clean, then the pudding is done. Once you have taken the pudding put of the oven, spoon over some of the syrup from the pears, over the whole surface area.

Allow the pudding pot to cool a little before eating.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Et voila!

spiced pear pudding pot + spoon

 

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Chilli, lime and coriander chicken wings

Chilli, lime and coriander chicken wings

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but my favourite part of the chicken is the wing, followed of course by the caboose. I am also quite partial to a good chicken gizzard. They can keep their dry chicken breasts and boring drumsticks. It’s the succulent wing I’m after: crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Whether you enjoy a good buffalo wing or like to mix things up with basting, the appeal of chicken wings cannot be denied. And while I do enjoy a nice barbecue sauce over my wings, I’m always looking for ways to up my wing ‘game’. This recipe does exactly that. The crispy chicken partnered with a distinctly South-East Asian influenced basting, is fresh and full of flavour. This recipe is giving me summer holiday vibes, all day! And seeing as we’re heading into the summer holidays in these parts, it couldn’t be more fitting.

chilli, lime and coriander chicken wings

chilli, lime, coriander chicken wings

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Ingredients:

500 grams of chicken wings

1 tablespoon of white pepper

1 teaspoons of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of salt

1 handful of fresh coriander, stems and leaves

1 stalk of lemon grass, the soft, white inner centre; finely grated

1 teaspoons of chilli flakes

½  a shallot

The juice of 2 limes

1 teaspoon of ginger, finely grated

1 tablespoon of honey

1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil + more for frying

1 teaspoon of sesame oil

A pinch of black pepper

 

How to make them:

Make a dry rub out of the salt, garlic powder and white pepper. Coat the chicken wings with the rub. Heat some oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and place the chicken in the pan. Allow the skin to brown on one side before turning it over to brown on the other side. It is better to use an oven safe frying pan otherwise you will have to transfer the chicken wings into an oven dish.

Next place the chicken in a preheated oven at 180˚C and let it cook for 15 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.

Next, finely chop the coriander stems, coriander leaves and the shallot Next combine all these ingredients with the lime juice, chilli flakes, the grated ginger, the grated lemongrass, black pepper and honey. You can grind them into a coarse paste with a mortar and pestle if you like, but it’s really not necessary. Next add 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil and the sesame oil and mix vigorously.

Coat the chicken in the mixture, leaving about 1/3 to pour over the chicken later. Return the chicken wings to the oven for 5 minutes. You can turn the oven off an use residual heat for this last 5 minutes. This will allow the basting to caramelise a little bit.

Take the chicken out of the oven and drizzle the remaining basting over the wings.

Serve with crème fraiche.

Et voila!

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Oatmeal pancakes + raspberry and nectarine sauce

oatmeal pancakes + raspberry and nectarine sauce

Breakfast time is such a sacred time for me. I really value the quiet time in the morning before the day’s demands take over. It is in this time, when I really pay special attention to feeding myself whatever nourishment I need. These quiet moments set the tone for my day. Sometimes it’s a couple of hours and sometimes it just a few minutes but regardless of the length of time, the value to the rest of my day is undeniable. Because of this, I have kind of fallen in love with breakfast foods. And due to that pesky short attention span I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I really need to get creative with coming up with new and exciting things to eat at the most important meal of the day.

I recently made these oatmeal pancakes with raspberry and nectarine sauce.  And it’s just as healthy as it is delicious. Everyone knows how healthy oats are. They are filling and have a low GI which means they release energy slowly throughout the morning so you don’t get that mid-morning crash.  Served with Greek yoghurt, which is high in protein, and blueberries, which are a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants, this sounds like a winning breakfast to me.

This recipe makes 4-6 pancakes.

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oatmeal pancakes + raspberry and nectarine sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup of plain instant oats

1 egg

1 cup of milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

½ vanilla pod

1 teaspoon of baking powder

½ teaspoon of cinnamon

1 cup of raspberries

1 nectarine

2 tablespoons honey (separated); alternatively you can use any sweetener of choice.

1 cup of Greek yoghurt and ½ cup of blueberries (optional)

How to make it:

To make flour out of the oats, blend them until they form a power. In a bowl, mix the oat flour, baking powder, egg and milk, and whisk until a smooth batter is formed. Mix in the vanilla extract, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon on honey, and let it sit for 20 minutes. This is will allow the batter to thicken.

Heat a non-stick frying pan on a medium low heat and ladle the batter in. When bubbles form on the pancake, you know it’s time to flip it over. Allow the pancake about 2 minutes to cook once flipped over. These pancakes take a little longer to cook than pancakes made with wheat flour.

To make the raspberry and nectarine sauce, scrape out the vanilla seeds from the pod and blend with the raspberries, remaining tablespoon of honey and nectarine until completely puréed. Strain through a sieve. Pour the sauce over the pancakes and serve with blueberries and Greek yoghurt.

Et Voila!

Greek yogurt and blueberries

 

 

Beetroot + cannellini bean dip

beetroot + cannellini bean dip

If you have been following this blog for a while, you might have noticed that I have a bit of a soft spot for beetroot (see here and here). Honestly, I don’t understand how anyone could dislike it. It’s earthy and a little sweet, incredibly versatile and that colour… What’s not to love?

This dip is essentially a re-imagined hummus, staring the bold and dashing beetroot, and the mild and creamy cannellini bean. It’s great when spread on bread or accompanied with an assortment of crudités (chopped veggies). It’s really quick and easy to make but tastes even better the next day when the flavours have had time to marry.

This recipe makes one bowl of dip and it can be kept in the fridge, in a sealed container, for up to a week.

Beetroot + cannellini bean dip + crudite

beetroot + cannellini bean dip

Ingredients:

2 cloves of garlic

1  4oo gram can of cannellini beans in brine, drained and rinsed (250 grams when drained)

1 large beetroot, cooked, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

The juice of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon of sea salt but you could use less)

 

How to make it:

Purée all the ingredients in a blender until completely smooth.

Et voila!

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Blackberry gin fizz

Blackberry gin fizz

When I was younger, every December my family would make a trip to my grandmother’s house in Swaziland. There was a ginormous mulberry tree in front of her house. My cousin, the other neighbourhood kids and I would climb the tree to pick the blackest, juiciest and sweetest berries. That is my first memory of mulberries. Racing up a tree to get my hands on as many as I could. Later on, when I was in primary school, whenever it was silkworm season, the mulberry tree’s leaves were what I was after. My mother of course wouldn’t let me keep silkworms so I snuck them into the house and kept them under my bed.  I would feed them a steady diet of mulberry leaves and lettuce, while waiting for the day when I would finally find silk cocoons instead of chubby worms.

It only follows that when I think of mulberries or mulberry trees, I think of my childhood. I think of adventures and exploring. I think of sunny afternoons, eating the spoils of my climbing expeditions, and silk cocoons. As we get ready for summer, I have vowed to try and recapture the childlike awe and curiosity of my youth. What better way to do that than to get creative with something that brings back only happy memories of that time with an added perk that comes with being an adult: Gin.

When I conceptualised this recipe, I was under the impression the mulberries and blackberries were the same thing. I have since discovered that this is not the case, but they look similar enough, so I won’t tell if you don’t 😉

I don’t make cocktails very often, so I had to improvise with the apparatus. You don’t need a cocktail shaker to make a fancy drink. Just a little creativity.

This recipe makes 2-4 glasses of Blackberry fizz depending on the size of the glass of course.

Blackberry gin fizz

Blackberry gin fizz

Ingredients:

1 cup of blackberries + extra to garnish with

3-4 basil leaves roughly chopped + extra to garnish with

1 1/2 cups sparkling water

1 bottle of tonic water

Gin

How to make it:

In wide glass, crush the blackberries and basil. I used my pestle. You really want to bruise the ingredients well to release the flavours. Then add 1½ cups of sparking water. Stir and set aside.

Place a few ice blocks in the glass you intend to serve the drink in. Next strain the blackberry mixture in until the glass is about 1/3 full. Add your gin (I add a single shot but you might like yours a little stronger) and top the rest of the class off with tonic water. Stir and garnish with a few blackberries and a basil leaf.

Note: If a cheeky beverage is not your thing, you can make this a non-alcoholic blackberry fizz instead. Just swap out the gin and tonic for lemonade.

Et voila!

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Lamb koftas with a cardamom + mint sauce

lamb koftas with cardamom mint sauce

It doesn’t happen often that a sauce is the main attraction. Their primary function is to enhance flavour in the main element on the plate. Sauces are the backup dancers: they add depth and colour and variety. But do not be misled, in this post, the sauce is the star of the show. This cardamon and  mint sauce is fresh, fragrant and straight up delicious. It can be put on pretty much anything: fish, chicken, vegetables, you name it. It’s great for dipping but can also form the base to a lovely curry.

lamb koftas + cardamom mint sauce

lamb kofta + cardamom mint sauce

Ingredients:

500 grams of lamb sausage

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon of crushed garlic

1 tablespoon of grated ginger

1 tablespoon of ground cardamom

1 teaspoon of ground coriander

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1 teaspoon of fennel seeds

1 handful of fresh mint

1 handful of fresh coriander

 

2 handfuls of kale, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon of honey

½ cup of raw cashews or walnuts

1½ cups of coconut milk/ cream

Salt

Olive oil

 

How to make it:

Place the onion, garlic, ginger, cardamom, mint, fresh coriander, ground coriander, ground cumin, fennel seeds, kale and the nuts into a blender/ food processor and blend until they form a paste. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and blend until smooth.

Next, heat up about a table spoon of olive oil in a saucepan on a medium heat. Add the paste into the sauce pan and sauté for about 3 minutes. Pour the coconut milk into the sauce pan, stir, and turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Allow the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes, or until it has thickened sufficiently. If you use coconut cream, the sauce should thicken quicker than if you use coconut milk.

To make the lamb koftas, take the sausage out of its casing and form into slightly flattened, oval meat balls. Put them on skewers. Heat a griddle pan on high, and space the skewers out on the pan. They will need to be cooked for about 4 to 5 minutes on either side. There is no need to grease the pan as the sausage will produce its own. Set the koftas aside.

Stir a tablespoon of honey into the sauce and season with salt to taste.

To serve, place the skewers on a plate and spoon the sauce over the koftas.

Et voila!

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Char-grilled vegetable salad

As the pursuit to eat more veggies ensues, I find that that all too familiar food boredom strikes often. One can only eat roasted veggies so many times before it gets tired. I have found that char-grilling vegetables can have a transformative effect on them. In the absence of a fire, tossing them on a griddle pan makes them smoky while still retaining that desirable crunch. Ah that sacred veggie crunch. It’s a delicate dance, let me tell you, to achieve that perfect balance between just cooked enough to not taste raw, and under-cooked just enough to attain the right texture. Soggy just won’t cut it.

This salad, served at room temperature, makes a great accompaniment for just about any main dish.

Recipe serves 2-4 as a side.

char-grilled vegetable salad

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Ingredients:

½ a fennel bulb, sliced into disks

70 grams of long stem broccoli/broccolini

1 red onion, sliced into rings

2 Courgettes, sliced into ribbons

1 handful of Asparagus

A few sprigs of fresh flat parsley, finely chopped

A few sprigs of chives, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of crème fraiche

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 teaspoon of grated parmesan or pecorino cheese

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

A couple of crushed walnuts (optional)

How to make it:

Start by blanching the broccoli and asparagus and set them aside.

Once the rest of the vegetables are all sliced, coat them in some olive oil. Next, heat up a griddle pan to a high heat and grill the vegetables on either side (broccoli and asparagus included). Do this in batches and be careful not to crowd the veggies in the pan.  You want the pan to score the veggies with the grill marks, thus allowing for them to take on the smoky flavour. Be careful not to burn them entirely. The aim is high heat for a short time.

To make the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, crème fraiche, and grated parmesan, a pinch of salt pepper, a hearty squeeze of fresh lemon juice, parsley, chives, walnuts and a teaspoon of olive oil. Whisk the ingredients together and drizzle over the grilled vegetables.

Et voila!

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Roasted chicken with za’atar + spiced chickpeas

roasted za'atar chicken with chickpeas

We eat quite a bit of chicken in the house, which means that it’s easy to get bored of it. I try to experiment with new flavours to reinvent classic chicken dishes. In this post, the good old classic of butter basted roast chicken is getting a bit of a Middle Eastern remix thanks to simple za’atar spice rub. And instead of baked potatoes to accompany the chicken, chickpeas (a personal favourite of mine for years) step up to the plate and give potatoes a run for their money. This meal is hearty without leaving one feeling sluggish and is packed with protein, as both chicken and chickpeas are a great source of protein.

This recipe serves 2.

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za'atar chicken + chickpeas_4

za'atar chicken + chickpeas_1

Ingredients:

2 leg portions of a chicken (alternatively you can use 4 individual pieces. I usually prepare 2 pieces per person eating)

1 can of chickpeas in brine, drained and rinsed

1 small onion

1 teaspoon of crushed garlic

2 tablespoons of ground cumin (separated)

2 tablespoons of ground coriander (separated)

1 tablespoon of za’atar spiced blend

2 teaspoons of salt (separated)

½ cup coconut milk (or yoghurt if you prefer)

¾ cup of chicken stock

20 grams of butter, melted

A few sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped

Optional: Greek yogurt and shredded mint to serve

How to make it:

To make the za’atar rub for the chicken, combine t teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of za’atar spice mix, 1 tablespoon of ground cumin, 1 tablespoon of ground coriander in a cup and mix until a uniform rub is formed. Next rub it onto the chicken pieces, making sure that the chicken is completely coated in the spices. The chicken is now ready to go into the oven, however if you have time to let it sit in the spice rub to absorb the flavours before cooking it, then please do so.

Place the chicken in the oven in a preheated oven at 160˚C for about 40 minutes or until fully cooked. The time that the chicken will need in the oven differs according to the size of the chicken pieces. If you use whole leg pieces like I did, then 40 minutes will be enough time. If you use individual pieces then 30 minutes should suffice. To check if the chicken is cooked, prick the meat and if blood runs out, the chicken needs a little more time.

When the chicken is about halfway cooked, drizzle the melted butter over it and place it back in the oven.

To make the chickpeas: chop the onion super finely or place it in a food processor/ blender. Sauté the onion in a little olive oil in a skillet over a medium heat for about 3 minutes before adding the garlic. Then sauté for another 2 minutes before adding the spices: the remaining tablespoons of cumin and ground coriander. Sauté for another 2 minutes before adding the chickpeas. Stir again before adding the chicken stock and allow to simmer until about half of the liquid has evaporated. Next season with salt and add the yogurt. Stir and allow it to cook for a few more minutes depending on how dry you like your chickpeas. I like to mash a few using a fork but this part is optional. Sprinkle the  chopped parsley on top and serve.

Et voila!

Suggestion: To make a whole roast chicken, stuff with spiced couscous and diced dried apricots.

za'atar chicken + chickpeas_6

Baked honey-soy salmon

salmon on a bed of asparagus

I have heard people complain about how they would love to eat more healthily but simply don’t have the time or energy to slave away in the kitchen—especially after a long day at work. I can totally identify with this. There are days when I get home in the afternoon and just don’t have any energy. But one can’t live on a steady diet of pre-packaged, processed food. And don’t get me started on take-aways! Don’t get me wrong, I am nowhere near militant when it comes to food. I think that everyone needs to decide for themselves what works for them. I am, however, a firm believer in giving your body good quality fuel so that it can operate at its best. That being said, there are days when even I can’t be bothered to get fancy in the kitchen. That’s when a dish like this comes in handy. It takes a short time to prepare and tastes so delicious. Its nutritional value is also off the charts. Everyone knows how healthy salmon is and when served on a bed of asparagus, you can’t go wrong with this one.

This recipe makes 2 portions, but it is a light meal. If you would like something a little more substantial, add more vegetables to accompany it.

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Ingredients:

200 grams of salmon steaks

A bunch of asparagus

2 tablespoons of soy sauce

1 tablespoon of oyster sauce

1 teaspoon of grated garlic

1 teaspoon of grated ginger

2 spring onions, chopped (both green and white parts)

1 teaspoon of honey

1 ½ teaspoons of rice wine vinegar (white wine vinegar also works)

1 tablespoon of sesame seeds

Olive oil

A squeeze of lemon juice

How to make it:

Put the chopped spring onion, soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, ginger, vinegar and honey in a Ziploc bag and mix. Next, place the salmon steaks in the bag, seal it, and gently massage it until the steaks are fully coated in the marinade. Let the salmon steaks marinate for 10 minutes, before placing them on a baking tray. Spoon over the remaining marinade.

Bake the steaks in a preheated oven at 160˚C oven for 15 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness. You will want the centres of the steaks to still be a relatively bright pink as opposed to pale pink. Salmon should not be over cooked as it will become dry.

When the steaks are cooked, take them out of the oven and serve on a bed of blanched asparagus which has been drizzled in a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Top with some sesame seeds to garnish.

Et Voila!

salmon + asparagus

Grilled cheese sandwich with caramelised onions and basil

Plain grilled cheese sandwiches, or toasted cheese sandwiches as we call them in this part of the world, have never impressed me much. They were simply too boring. A little bit of melted cheese wasn’t enough to get my taste buds excited. I always needed a little something extra— a few slices of tomato, a little bacon, you get the picture.  I never really understood why grilled cheese sandwiches had been elevated to the level of ‘comfort food’. I my mind, there was nothing comforting about them.

It’s funny how a little tweak can change one’s mind. Throw in some caramelised onions and some fresh basil and suddenly, I understand how something as humble as a sandwich can be considered comfort food.

This recipe makes 2 sandwiches.

grilled cheese + caramelised onion

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Ingredients:

4 slices of whole wheat bread

2 tablespoons of melted butter

50 grams of white cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon on mayonnaise

½ teaspoon of garlic powder or garlic flakes (fresh garlic can be used too if you don’t mind the pungency of raw garlic)

½ teaspoon of paprika

Black pepper

A handful of fresh basil leaves

1 red onion, thinly sliced

Olive oil

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

 

How to make it:

In a frying pan at a medium-low heat, sauté the onion slices in olive oil until they are completely translucent. This should take anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes. Next add the balsamic vinegar, stir and leave for a further 2 minutes and set aside.

Combine the mayonnaise, paprika, black pepper and garlic powder in a small cup and mix until smooth.

Next brush on the melted butter one side of the bread slices; this will make sure that the bread will be golden on the outside when it toasts. Flip the slices over and on the other side, smear a thin layer of the mayonnaise mixture. Now you build the sandwich: Place the cheese on one slice of the bread. You want to cover the slice completely in cheese to create a full layer. Next place some caramelised onions on top of the cheese, spreading them out evenly. The basil leaves go on next, covering the onions. Another layer of cheese goes on top of that before the other slice of bread gets placed on top (butter side up obviously).

Now you can either put the sandwich in a heated panini press, or you can toast it in a heated non-stick frying pan. If you use the pan but still want a pressed sandwich you can place a flat sideplate on top of the sandwich and a heavy object on top of the plate. Remember to flip the sandwich over when the one side is sufficiently toasted.  When the bread is sufficiently golden and crispy on both sides, and the cheese is spilling over the crust, then the sandwich is ready.

Et voila!

grilled cheese sandwich bitten

Grapefruit + rose milkshake

We’ve been experiencing a heatwave for the last few days. While it’s still only spring, it’s been hotter than the average summer’s day. Everyone is hot and bothered, trying to find ways to cool off and that’s where today’s recipe comes in. This grapefruit and rose milkshake is simply delightful, especially on a hot day.  It’s sweet (but not too sweet), fragrant, fluffy and refreshing!

This recipe makes 2 medium-sized or one jumbo-sized milkshake.

grapefruit + rose milkshake

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Ingredients:

5 scoops of vanilla ice cream, softened but not melted

2 cups of milk

1 teaspoon of rosewater

The juice of ½ a grapefruit

How to make it:

Put all the ingredients in a food processor/blender and blend until smooth

Et voila!

rose + grapefruit milkshake_8

 

Scallops + cauli-mash

It’s finally warm enough for al fresco dining! One of the things I miss most during winter (and there aren’t many things) is eating outside in the sun. There’s something so decadent about it—so leisurely. Even the name, “al fresco” sound glamorous. It remind me of a scorching hot day spent walking all over the ancient streets of Rome before enjoying the most delicious meal (along with peach bellini) in a grand piazza.

The food I have been preparing is a little more suitable to slower, warmer days. Scallops are really easy and quick to make and cauliflower mash is the lighter, more elegant sister to mashed potatoes (tastier too, if you ask me). Served with some warm buttered rolls and white wine litchi spritzers, this is the perfect weekend meal; an ode to lazy Sunday afternoons in the sun. And while my backyard can’t really compare to a piazza in Rome, there is still a charm to enjoying a meal out there while the birds chirp away merrily.

Spring brings so many delights along with it.

This recipe serves 2.

scallops + cauli mash

scallops + cauli mash

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Ingredients:

300 grams of scallops

1 head of cauliflower (400 grams of cauliflower florets)

½ cup white wine

A handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

40 grams of butter + 1 extra knob, separated

Olive oil

Salt

Black pepper

Micro greens to serve

White wine litchi spritzer:

A bottle of crisp white wine, chilled

A bottle of sparkling water, chilled

1 can of tinned litchis (400 grams)

Rosemary sprigs to garnish

 

How to make it:

To make the cauliflower mash, steam the cauliflower until it is fully cooked (very soft), then purée it with a blender/food processor. Mix in the knob of butter, along with some salt and pepper to taste. If it is still too thick, add a teaspoon of olive oil to loosen it.

Next, it’s time to make the sauce: In a saucepan, melt the 40 grams of butter and add about a teaspoon of olive oil to prevent the butter from burning too quickly. Add the white wine and allow to simmer and reduce for about 4 minutes. Next, add the chopped parsley and stir.

Season the scallops with salt and cracked black pepper.

Heat up some olive oil in a frying pan at a medium- high heat and place the scallops in the pan. Be sure not to crowd them. Cook then for about two minutes in each side. Remove from the pan. And set aside.

To plate, place the micro greens on a plate and position the scallops on top of them. Spoon the sauce over the scallops and scoop a portion of the cauliflower mash next to the greens and scallops.

For the white wine litchi spritzer:

Place a couple of litchis at the bottom of the wine glass along with 2 tablespoons of the litchi syrup. Pour in white whine until the glass is about half full. Then top with a sparkling water, remembering not to fill the glass till the brim as you don’t want to spill. Garnish with the rosemary. It’s not a science, you can totally eye ball it. My favourite thing is eating the litchis at the end after they’ve soaked up some of the wine.

Et Voila!

scallops + cauli mash

white wine litchi spritzer

Coconut crusted fish tacos

Coconut crusted fish tacos

I love the idea of making things from scratch. Although, most days I seek convenience, there is something really rewarding about using your hands to make something beautiful or delicious. It isn’t only about the end result, it’s also about finding beauty in the process. So much in life is about embracing the process, something which can be really hard to do when the process is challenging or if circumstances are not ideal. I’m learning that the trick is to accept that the ‘perfect circumstances’ don’t exist. Learning to love the process means diving in, giving your all, and not being afraid to get your hands dirty.

And Making these tacos from scratch, involves exactly this. It’s a bit of a messy job but it’s totally worth it!

Fish coated in crunchy spiced coconut. Nestled in a light, soft taco. Served with a sweet and hot sauce. Need I say more?

This recipe makes 4 tacos

Coconut crusted tacos

Coconut crusted fish tacos

Ingredients:

2 medium sized fillets of fish (I used hake but any light, non-oily fish will work)

½ cup of desiccated coconut

1 tablespoon of ground coriander

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1 tablespoon of paprika

1 teaspoon of salt

1 egg

Flour for dusting

2 radishes, thinly sliced

50 grams of cucumber, thinly sliced

40 grams of pineapple, sliced

¼ sesame seeds

½ almond flakes

Oil for frying

A handful of fresh coriander/cilantro

1 tablespoon of hot sauce/chilli sauce

1 tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce

1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar

For the tortillas:

1 cup of all purpose flour + extra flour for dusting

1 ½ tablespoon on canola oil

1 teaspoon of salt

1/3 cup of water

Coconut crusted fish tacos

How to make it:

In a bowl, combine the ingredients for the tortillas and work into a pliable dough. Knead the dough for about a minute then separate the dough into quarters.

Dust a flat surface/cutting board with a substantial amount of flour. Using a rolling-pin, roll the dough out until you have a thin circular piece of dough (the thinner the better). Make sure you also dust the rolling-pin with flour.

Heat a non-stick pan/skillet to a medium heat and drop the dough in, one at a time. Allow to cook for about a minute on either side. Set aside in a sealed container to prevent them from drying out and becoming difficult to fold.

To make the coconut crusted fish, combined the garlic powder, paprika, ground coriander, ground turmeric, salt and desiccated coconut completely. In a small bowl, beat the egg.

Next, cut the fish fillet into inch long strips.
Coat the pieces lightly in flour, then the beaten egg and then roll them around in the coconut spice mix.

Heat some oil in a sauce pan, to a medium-high heat. You will want to put enough oil in to cover the pieces of fish about half way. When the oil is hot, gently drop the pieces of fish in the oil, making sure not to crowd them – only a few at a time.  They will need about a minute on either side, maybe less depending on how hot the oil is. Remove them from the oil, once they have browned and cooked; set aside on a paper towel.

To grill the pineapple, toss the pineapple slices on a hot griddle pan for about 2 minutes on either side.

To make the sauce, combine the sweet chilli sauce, hot sauce and vinegar. (Alternatively, if you don’t want to make a sauce, you can use some sriracha instead.)

Assemble the tacos by placing the fish in the centre of the tortilla, top with cucumber slices, radish slices, grilled pineapple and fresh coriander. Drizzle a little sauce over it, then sprinkle some sesame seeds and almond flakes on top.

Et voila!

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Pad Thai inspired vegetable stir-fry

padthai style veggie stir-fry

The trick to a crunchy stir-fry is to make sure the wok/pan is hot and to keep stirring the ingredients—as the name implies. The ingredients should never stay in the wok for too long or they’ll over cook, resulting in a soggy stir-fry. In my opinion, there are few things worse than a soggy stir-fry.

This little dish here is my take on a well-loved classic. This recipe is a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet while still enjoying exotic flavours. It is completely vegan (provided you use vegan fish sauce) and takes such a short time to prepare.

Recipe serves 2 as a main dish; 4-6 people as a side dish.

padthai style veggie stir-fry

padthai style veggie stir-fry

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Ingredients:

2 carrots, finely julienned

1 onion, sliced

2 courgettes, finely julienned

1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, grated or finely diced

1 chilli, sliced

3-4 baby bok choi, chopped into large chunks

100 grams of Brussel sprouts, halved or quartered depending on size

½ cup of mung bean sprouts

A handful of Peanuts, toasted roughly chopped

A few spring onions, chopped

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon Thai 7 spice

A handful of fresh coriander, chopped

1 fresh lime

Peanut oil

How to make it:

Heat up a big wok/frying pan on a medium-high heat. Start by tossing in the onions and stir. When they have softened, add the ginger and mix. Now add the carrots, Brussel sprouts, courgettes and the Thai 7 spice; keep stirring for about a minute.  Next stir in the fish sauce; toss the chopped bok choi into the wok, and combine the ingredients.

Plate the stir fry, squeeze some lime juice over it and top with the mung bean sprouts, spring onions, chopped chilli and coriander. Finish it off with a sprinkling chopped peanuts.

Et voila!

padthai style veggie stir-fry

Spring// Poached eggs in ginger broth

This past weekend was the first weekend of spring and, was it not glorious? It rained for most of the time—fresh rain for a new season. Droplets from above wash away the old and welcome the new. I don’t know a better way for spring to begin. There’s a smell in the air, there’s excitement in the atmosphere. I think that’s the best part of spring: it brings with it hope and anticipation. All the possibilities! We don’t have a particularly miserable winter so its not as if life is put on hold until the bright green leaves start to sprout. But something does change in spring. It’s the change of seasons, not just physical but also metaphorical. For many of us, it symbolizes and new chance to live a little more daringly. It makes us a little more aware of the natural ebb and flow of things.

While the rain was really great, it did bring with it a chill in the air. I’m not complaining; I prefer cooler temperatures in general. But as far as food goes, its wasn’t yet time for cool crisp salads. This spring time egg soup was a spur of the moment creation on a morning when I wanted to eat something light and fresh in celebration of the new season but it was so chilly that I still needed something warm and comforting. Cue the easiest soup: egg poached in a simple, refreshing ginger broth with spring greens. I made this as a breakfast dish but it can be eaten at any time of day of course.

poached eggs in ginger broth

poached eggs in ginger broth

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Ingredients:

4 cups of low sodium chicken stock

1 large knob of ginger, sliced

4 baby bok choi, chopped into large chunks

2 full spring onions, chopped

A few chives, chopped

2 eggs (or however many you wish to use)

1 tablespoon of sesame oil

Black pepper

How to make it:

In a pot bring the stock and ginger slices to a gentle simmer and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes, depending on how strong you want the ginger flavour. Then removed the ginger pieces from the stock and the broth is ready.

To poach the egg, bring the broth back up to a gentle boil.  Crack an egg in a cup and then stir the pot with a spoon in a circular motion until a whirlpool is formed. Remove the spoon and gently slide the egg into the whirlpool. Allow the egg to cook for 4-6 minutes depending on how hard you like your egg. To poach the second egg, I like to remove the first one from the pot and set it aside as I don’t want it to break when thw water is stirred again.

Once the egg poaching is complete, add the bok choi, spring onions and sesame oil to the broth. Allow them to soften for about  a minute, then ladle into soup bowls. Top the soup off with a sprinkling of chives and a crack of black pepper.

Et voila!

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