I don’t trust people who don’t particularly care about food. You know the type. They eat because they have to and wouldn’t particularly care whether you gave them Marmite on toast or seared tuna with truffled cauliflower puree for dinner. In fact, they’d prefer the toast, because the whole thing would be over faster. If they could, they’d pop a pill three times a day in lieu of eating a meal if such a thing were possible. I just don’t trust them. It’s not normal, I tell you! I’m quite sure they’re just waiting for a signal from the mother ship and then they’ll all start shedding their borrowed human skin and start converting nitrogen straight into whatever cells make up their weird-ass, food disdaining, alien bodies. Fortunately (and maybe because of this fact) I married a very appreciative eater. I love cooking for bush man. He makes these little noises as he eats when he’s enjoying the food. Little “hmmm”‘s and “sho”‘s and “that’s good, add it to the list”s (there is no list of dishes I must remember to try again, but I really should start one, because he’s often told me to add things to it and I’m buggered if I can remember a single thing on there now other than this chicken). Anyway, when I made this dish, there were no less than five “hmmm”‘s in the first two minutes of eating, so I knew it was a winner. The original recipe is one concocted by my mom – one of my food heroes and the reason that “Must appreciate food.” was at the top of the list of attributes I looked for in my man. I just added bacon because, well, it’s bacon, and it should be added to stuff.
It’s not easy trying to cook like home in China. Things we take for granted every day can suddenly only be sourced through an internet search and a three hour long quest into the city. Lettuce is no exception. Don’t get me wrong, we can get lettuce in Qinpu. The varieties available are: Lettuce. That’s it. Chinese lettuce (yes, that’s really a thing). Salads get boring. They all look the same. They all taste the same. But what we can get is a wide variety of other leafy Chinese vegetables which we have started using raw as a lettuce substitute to curb the boredom. Hangzhou bok choi is one such vegetable. It is similar in texture and flavour to a Savoy cabbage, but has the added bonus of providing a fresh crunch to salads, thanks to its large midrib. So what do you make when you essentially have a cabbage, a few potatoes and a teeny tiny fridge (really, you should see it, shove a 5L water bottle in there and you’re pretty much at capacity) that needs a small half jar of mayo cleared out on a first in first out basis? Well, naturally, you make a Potato Caesar Coleslaw salad, of course.
This is a salad with an identity crisis. Like that country gal who runs away from home and moves to the big city to become an actress, only to pack it all in and go back to harvest the apple trees with pappa, it wants to be a fancy Caesar salad, but knows it is ultimately a good ‘ol potato salad at heart. You can substitute the bok choi for white cabbage, or pretty much any raw, leafy veg.
Serves: 4 Read the rest of this entry
How do I love thee bacon? Let me count the ways. Last weekend I loved it chopped up and turned into breakfast burgers. A great TV meal for when no one can tear themselves away from the Super Rugby for long enough to locate the knife and fork lying in front of them. I wanted to serve these banger and bacon patties on scones so as to be more breakfast-like, until I remembered I can’t actually make scones. While they taste good, they look a little like doughy, cellulite prone pucks, and could probably be used successfully in a short ice hockey warm up match. The problem, I suspect, is that the scone dough should be just, just mixed and then left alone, whereas I like to prod and knead and poke and generally overwork the whole thing when I should actually just have walked away. Just ask any ex-boyfriend of mine. Then I remembered how Americans serve their scones (or biscuits) drenched in gravy, and my problem was solved! I made scones using a recipe from that old standby of South African housewives everywhere – Kook en Geniet – adding a packet of brown onion soup powder to the dry ingredients to get the onion flavour I was looking for without having to do any actual work. I then drenched the whole lot in mushroom sauce to hide how ugly my baking had turned out. Hollandaise would work well too. Top with a poached or fried egg and breakfast is sorted!
12 pork banger sausages, filling removed from the casings
250g streaky bacon, finely chopped. (Place the bacon in the freezer for half an hour before cutting to make it easier to slice.)
1) In a mixing bowl, add the bacon to the sausage filling and combine well. Shape into burger patties, about 10mm thick. If you want a thicker patty, fry the bacon, allow to cool and then add it to the sausage filling. If the mixture is too sticky to work with, lightly flour your hands and the working surface to make it easier.
2) Heat a very small amount of oil in a pan and fry the patties, turning once, until brown on both sides.
Yes, I know, this is a terrible photo. The rainbow assault from the colours in the table cloth completely overwhelms the food, which is supposed to be the star. The lines on the cloth are so skew that you’re probably clawing at your screen trying to straighten them. The proportions are wrong. It looks like a unicorn exploded all over the place. You can hardly tell what you’re eating. It’s just bad. But I need cheering up today and something about this photo is immensely cheering to me. And so is this salad (as are all salads that fatten you up faster than a jelly doughnut). The combination of the creamy Gorgonzola, the warm, salty bacon on the cool, crisp lettuce and the sweet, sharp dressing is so simple, but really, really delicious. It hits all the spots. Or at least, it hits all my spots. I was really happy with how the dressing came out – proof once again that pretty much everything on this planet tastes better with a dollop of mayo.
- For the honey mustard dressing:
- 80ml sunflower oil
- 60ml white wine vinegar
- 15ml Dijon Mustard
- 40ml honey
- 15ml Japanese mayo (Or any good stuff. You don't want the sharp eggy-ness of a cheap one here.)
- 2ml salt
- For the salad:
- 300g lettuce
- 250g bacon, fried and chopped
- 100g Gorgonzola or cremezola (preferably something mild and creamy and not too sharp)
- One avo, cut into cubes
- 2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 3 spring onions, thinly sliced
- Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together and set aside.
- Toss all the ingredients for the salad together and serve with the dressing. For a more substantial meal, just bung the whole lot in a tortilla wrap.
Like tea in a fine china cup, cheese when it’s grated and chocolate on a Tuesday when you started your diet on Monday, food just tastes better when it’s shared. I feel a little cheated when we go out for dinner and I don’t have at least two bites of my husband’s food (Tip: This handy habit also decreases your chances of getting order envy). So when we were asked last Sunday to cater for breakfast at the beach, I decided to haul out my Grandad’s old Mongolian Grill and get everyone to cook their own. I used to love the evenings when we did stirfry at Oupa’s house on this splendid contraption. I would scoop up spoons full of bacon, beef and chicken and top it all with two julienned carrots and a bean sprout and declare that I was eating my veggies. Not being Chinese, no one ever got the actual stir fry just right, but that didn’t seem to matter. There was just something about the “Check hers out!” and “Bru, I don’t think it’s supposed look like that!” that somehow made the complete lack of authentic taste of the food irrelevant. It didn’t really matter what they ate, everyone just loved the competition. I was sure the same could be achieved with some batter and a bit of bacon and I was not disappointed. There will always be that one guy who puts the cheese in too early. “Bru, I don’t think it’s supposed to look like that!”.
- 2 cups cake flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- Cooking oil
- 2 packets bacon, chopped
- 1 punnet brown mushrooms, chopped
- 2 cups cheese, grated
- I bunch spring onions, sliced
- Any other filling that takes your fancy (Feta and sundried tomatoes and a few fresh herbs would add a nice Mediterranean twist. Ooh, and salmon, cream cheese and caviar if you want to get all fancy!)
- Sauce to serve. We used a creamy mushroom, but Hollandaise would be fantastic!
- For the flapjack batter, whisk the eggs and sugar together.
- Add ½ cup of milk and butter to the egg mixture.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and add to the egg mixture.
- Add the remaining milk and mix to a smooth batter.
- If necessary, add a little water to the batter if it’s too thick.
- Now oil and fire up the grill. To cook the flapjacks, each person fries whatever filling combination they like. Once cooked, you can flatten the ingredients on the grill into more or less a flat, round shape and then pour the batter over, but I found the best way is to scoop the cooked ingredients into a bowl, add the batter and cheese and then scoop spoonfuls back onto the hot griddle. When bubbles start forming on the top, flip over, cook the other side for a few moments and serve with the sauce and a fried egg.
In a sheer fit of lunacy, I once decided to attempt one of Heston Blumenthal’s recipes. Chilli Con Carne to be exact. After three days of painstakingly weighing, chopping, roasting, simmering, straining and thrice cooking about a thousand rand’s worth of ingredients I had Chilli Con Carne that tasted like, well, Chilli Con Carne (and a pretty chilliless one at that – I was obviously a bit too timid). But while I no longer see the point of making my own beef stock when Nomu does an excellent job of it, I did learn one thing: How to extract maximum flavour from the humble tomato with minimum effort.
- For the soup:
- 1kg fresh tomatoes, cut into quarters (If you can find on the vine, retain the vine. If you can’t, consider tending a tomato plant in your garden for that purpose. Pretty much every garden has one growing somewhere thanks to birds indiscriminately pooping wherever they please.)
- 1 garlic bulb, cloves peeled
- 2 onions, cut into quarters
- 50ml olive oil
- 30ml balsamic vinegar
- 15ml sugar
- 20g tomato paste
- 500ml vegetable stock
- Basil pesto to serve
- For the bacon and cheese toasts:
- 4 to 6 Slices of bread (I used potbrood, but any fairly solid loaf will do)
- 1 cup grated cheese
- 250g bacon, fried and chopped
- 3 heaped tablespoons cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped oregano
- For the soup:
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C once you are ready with your tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in a colander over a baking dish and sprinkle liberally with Maldon salt. At least a tablespoon full. Allow to stand until a fair amount of juice has collected in the dish. Add the tomatoes to the dish with the onion, peeled garlic cloves, oil and vinegar. Roast at 200˚C for twenty minutes then turn the oven down to 160˚C and roast for a further 40 or so minutes. Once everything looks beautiful and sticky, you stop. Stir occasionally and keep an eye on the garlic because it tends to get a bit too toasty if left on the bottom for too long.
- At this point you can take everything, chuck the tomato vine in and refrigerate until you’re ready for the soup. Once you are ready, place the whole lot in a blender with the chicken stock and process till smooth. My husband likes things chunky (a lucky coincidence for me considering I’m ten kilo’s heavier than the day he married me), but if you like your soups smooth, you can pass it through a sieve at this point. Remember to scrape the bits that stick to the bottom of the sieve off – it helps to thicken the soup. Add the tomato paste and stir in the sugar if the tomatoes aren’t sweet enough.
- Heat through and serve with a basil pesto swirl and a dash of cream if you like.
- For the bacon and cheese toasts:
- Mix all the ingredients together. Place the bread slices under a grill and toast till toasty. Flip over and spread the cheese mixture on the untoasted side. Place back under the grill and bake until golden and bubbly. Cut into soldiers and serve with the soup.