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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Balsamic and tomato pork casserole

I always have a little chuckle with myself when trying to come up with names for my dishes. (I work alone so I don't have the option of sharing my hilarious ramblings with anyone else) You see, the one pictured above is: 'a balsamic and smoked paprika pork fillet casserole with tomato and red peppers' but that just sounds ridiculous, I might as well copy and paste the ingredients list or call it 'pork fillet with 9 other things'. You have to sum it up in a way that explains the dish, like naming a child in a way, as you want its name to represent all of its characteristics - but realistically if I called it 'Andrea' people would be right to want to put me in the loony bin*.You want something simple, but not as unappealing as 'tomato pork' or 'pork thing'. So you have another cup of coffee and sigh a bit more and come up with: 'Balsamic and tomato pork casserole' (personally I think 'Andrea' sounds better).

It's delicious (although I tend to say everything I make is delicious, I hope I am not starting to sound vein, if I am, I apologize) But you must take my word for it and make it with the Butter Bean Mash as an accompaniment - it knocks the socks off normal mash and takes 2 minutes - literally 2 minutes - to make.

*(I don't have children and this was meant to be funny, so to all of you out there with children I was making a joke, not trying to equate naming my food with the countless hours you all spent finding names for your beautiful bundles of joy)

Balsamic and tomato pork casserole

Ingredients: (serves 4)
2 300-350g pork fillets
60ml balsamic
Olive oil
2 onions (peeled and sliced)
2 red peppers (cored and sliced)
1 tin tomatoes (cut up)
1 cup veg/chicken stock
30g sugar
1tsp smoked paprika (if you can't get smoked, you can use normal paprika)
1tsp thyme

Mashed potato or butter bean mash to serve

Preheat oven to 190*C
Put a non-stick pan on high heat.
Season the pork fillets with salt and black pepper and, once the pan is almost smoking, brown in the pan for 2 minutes on each side. Pour 1/2 the balsamic (30ml) into the pan with the fillets and turn the pork to coat as the balsamic reduces to a syrup. (This will take approx 4 minutes)
Put the pork fillets into a med/large casserole dish and set aside.
Using the same pan, add a little olive oil and then the onions, peppers and a little salt and fry for about 8 minutes, tossing continuously, until slightly caramelised and softened.
Add the tinned tomatoes, stock, sugar and balsamic and simmer to reduce for a further 10 minutes.
Pour on top of the pork fillets, sprinkle over the thyme and smoked paprika and cover with a lid/foil.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes*.
Remove and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Cut the fillet into portions and serve with butter bean mash. (See below)

*To tell if the pork is cooked through, simply press different areas of the fillet gently with your index finger, all areas should feel the same i.e. slightly firm - if the centre of the fillet is much softer than the ends then it needs a few more minutes in the oven.

Butter bean mash

2 tins butter beans (drained)
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove (thinly sliced)

Place a small sauce pan on medium heat and pour in the butter beans, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and a little salt and pepper. Mash as you heat the mixture for 2-3 minutes, then cover and set aside.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sweet soy ostrich with pak choi

Quick, easy, healthy, virtually fat-free. What more could you ask for?? 

I love cooking with ostrich, I find it comparable to duck in many ways, just far more versatile. Similarly to duck, ostrich goes beautifully with Asian flavours but, in the same way as game, it can handle strong herbs such as rosemary, spices like black pepper or a punchy red wine reduction. It's a lean, healthy meat, with less fat than skinless chicken, need I say more?

This recipe is just so easy, you can't really bugger it up - so if you're in the mood for a little Asian (food that is, not a little Asian person - that's just wrong) give this one a bash and let me know what you think...

Sweet soy ostrich with pak choi

Ingredients: Serves 2
6 heads of pak choi (stalk removed and washed)
1 tbsp butter
250g ostrich fillets (allow them to come to room temperature if they are straight from the fridge)
Black pepper to season
1/3 cup sweet Indonesian soy sauce (available from most supermarkets)
1 tbsp corn flour mixed with 1 tbsp water
2cm piece of ginger (peeled and sliced)
1 clove garlic (peeled and sliced)
1 small chilli- optional (deseeded and sliced)
Spring onion to serve
Rice to serve (optional)

Once washed, steam the pak choi until just tender, drain of excess liquid, stir through butter and season with a little salt.
Heat a non-stick frying pan on the highest setting on your stove, once it begins to smoke slightly, season the fillets with black pepper and fry for 2 ½ minutes on each side for medium rare.* Place on a board, cover with foil and allow to rest while you make the sauce.
Turn the stove down a medium heat and, using the same frying pan, pour in soy, corn flour paste, garlic, ginger and chilli and stir for approx 2 minutes until slightly reduced and thickened.
Slice the ostrich and plate with equal amounts of pak choi and rice (if desired), garnish with spring onion and serve the sauce on the side.
Alternatively: Add the pak choi and sliced ostrich to the sauce and toss to coat, spoon over of bowls of rice and garnish with spring onion.

*Ostrich is generally served medium-rare as it can toughen up, so if you want it a little more well done I would take to medium but that's about it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chicken casserole

I have been eating a lot of chicken lately - I am not exactly sure why...but I'm on chicken dish number 3 for the week and I'm not actually bored. I am pushing myself to find the versatility in this little bird and so far I'm succeeding (thankfully), BUT it's not exactly difficult...Chicken is the epitome of...well...versatility. It's a blank canvas, you can't really go wrong, just pick a style (Italian, Asian, French etc) or flavour combinations that you know work well and just roll with it...

Lemon, thyme and green olive chicken casserole

Ingrdients: (serves 4)
  • 8 chicken pieces (skin on, bone in)
  • olive oil for frying
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (you can dissolve 1/2 a stock cube in hot water if you like)
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 packet green olives (drained, about 20)
  • a few sprigs thyme (about 5)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tbs sour cream/creme fraiche 
  • couscous/polenta to serve

Preheat oven to 180*C
Pour a little olive oil into a non-stick frying pan and place it on med-high heat. Season the chicken with a little salt before browning in the pan on all sides (about 8 min).
Remove from the pan and place into a medium-sized casserole dish, pour over stock, scatter over the olives, squeeze over juice from 2 lemons and drop the lemons into the dish, sprinkle over thyme and add a dash of pepper.
Cover with foil/lid and bake for 45 min, remove foil/lid and bake for a further 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and stir through the creme fraiche/sour cream.
Serve with couscous/polenta.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Smoked salmon and cucumber canapes

A recipe and a funny story to help you get through your fist day back at work: 

Everyone I know had a great holiday. Everyone I know drank and ate a lot and was very happy doing so. And now everyone is finally back in Joburg and miserable as all hell...

Seriously, I went to a shopping centre this morning and all the food stores were rammed with people with sour faces buying their usual fill-the-trolley-to-the-brim weekly shop, with their snotty children screaming for chocolate bars (schools here open tomorrow and I know deep down most of those mothers can't wait to bid a fast farewell to their precious little bundles) and the queues were as long as they were on Christamas eve - only now there were no jingle bells or cascades of laughter because everyone was filled with the dread of having to wait for another year until they'll once again have a bloody holiday. It's depressing. I would avoid it at all cost if I were you.

But then I decided to go to the gym. Now I think most of you out there would agree with me when I say that the gym is a place of interesting and amusing characters at best of times but the comedy  tragedy tragicomedy today was just over the top. I signed up to a new gym and got a free personal-training session (I was dreading it); I sat at the waiting desk and asked around for Eddie and, true as Bob, Eddie was the biggest, meanest looking personal trainer I have ever seen. He told me I needed to 'pump more iron'. I held back the laughter because, despite the continual Arny references, he was a good guy and he meant well. He then weighed me...I've put on 3 3 happens. Eddie helped me pump iron and pointed out my fat bits (because I obviously didn't know they were there) and told me I should burn fat not weight and eat protein - lots and lots of protein - and protein shakes and bars and tablets that make you lose fat and not weight. I nodded and smiled. On my way out of the gym there was a queue of women at the scale, yes a queue, all waiting to weigh themselves (I felt their pain) and 99% of whom I am willing to bet had put on (in their minds) colossal amounts. They all looked seriously depressed and I wanted to buy them all an ice cream.

From the gym I took my fat bits and went to do my banking and get the car washed. The bank was carnage (naturally) and the car wash took an hour and a half and not 45 minutes - as advertised. It was hell. I finally left after sighing loudly for half an hour while 2 guys did their best to finish cleaning my car and ignore my loud sighing...only to be called by the bank to say that they forgot to ask me to sign something and they needed me to come back. I went back and I smiled and I signed and I left.

I didn't scream once today. It was hard at times but I stopped myself. I observed; I saw all the dear people feeling exactly how I felt and it made it all better. We're all in the same boat. No one wants to go back to work, everyone wishes they hadn't spent so much money, no one likes going grocery shopping and there is not a single person I know who had a good holiday and, on returning, doesn't have fat bits. C'est la vie. In a few weeks you'll have lost the fat, been payed again, not care about your car being dirty and still hate grocery shopping.

In the meantime I am putting together 3 recipes that are all about salmon and health and hapiness. The first is a no-carb canape/starter that I dedicate to Eddie; It's low in fat and high in protein and one of the few canapes I've thought of that isn't wrapped in pastry or deep fried. So here's to saying goodbye to the fat bits and hello to a superb 2013:

Smoked salmon and cucumber canapes

Makes 8-12
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 3 large gherkins (cut into quarters length-ways)
  • 100-125g smoked salmon
  • 250g danish feta
  • dill (12 sprigs)
  • black pepper
  • olive oil and lemon wedges to serve
  • Using a peeler, make long strips of cucumber by running down one side of the cucumber lengthways until you have peeled through the entire thing.
  • Cut the salmon into 8-12 even strips, equal in length to the gherkin and do the same with the feta.
  • Lay the strips of cucumber out on a flat surface and place the slices of salmon at the edge of each strip. Place the gherkin quarters, feta and sprigs of dill on top of that and grind over a little pepper.

  • Roll up the cucumber to encase the salmon etc until you have a sealed sausage shape and repeat.
  • To serve, sprinkle with a little olive oil and lemon wedges.