Chicken Stir Fry with a quick Sweet & Sour Sauce

I have a confession…I am a preserve addict.  When I walk into any shop that sells a “homemade” preserve, I have to purchase it.  I have things like Cherry & Guava Jelly, Pickled Habaneros, Pineapple Marmalade and something that is the star of this post…Pineapple & Gooseberry Jam.

So what do we do with jam…put it on toast?  I am a little bored with that idea…I use jams to make sauces.  One of these sauces is a quick sweet & sour sauce for my chicken stir fry.  It goes a little something like this…

Pineapple & Gooseberry Sweet & Sour Sauce
makes 4 portions

2 tbsp Pineapple & Gooseberry jam (you can substitute  this with Apricot jam)
½ cup spirit vinegar
1 tsp fresh ginger grated
¼ cup boiling water

Place all ingredients into a pot over medium heat.  Let cook out and the ginger will infuse beautifully.

With a stick blender, blitz up to a pourable consistency.  This can stay in the fridge, so  make a whole batch for later use.

With my sweet & sour sauce, I made a quick Stir Fry.

2 chicken Breasts (optional or substitute with Tofu)
400g stir fry of choice
2 pks Two minute noodles (toss out the spice that comes with it!) – cooked according to packet
2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
seasoning
olive oil
3 tbsp sweet & sour sauce from above
fresh chilies, chopped (optional)

Heat a wok until scorching hot.  Fry off the chicken in a little olive oil, add vegetables, thyme and seasoning. Fry off for about 5 minutes, you want your vegetables to still be crunchy.  Add the sweet & sour sauce, ensure the chicken and vegetables are coated in sauce.  Add cooked noodles, toss and serve.

This dish can be served hot, or as a summery salad.

Enjoy!

Food Love at Meade Cafe, George, Gardenroute

Meade Cafe has been around for a while in the Garden Route.  I remember being fresh out of high scholl we all flocked there for the signature “Jamie Oliver Sandwich”.  Since then it has changed hands, turned into a more interior decorating spot, and now recently back into a cafe in its original spot and even more impressive!

Being slightly warmer, we decided to sit outside in the garden, which I absolutely love.  Looking around you would never imagine you are sitting in the middle of George’s CBD, you forget the world outside of those walls.  With Spring in the air, the flowers are starting to bloom, the smells of fresh Spring surrounds you, and you are taken into a magical world.


 

Inside if fit with a few tables, a counter full of wonderful pastries, quiche of the day, and the entrance to the kitchen simple says “the best kitchen staff works here” I absolutely love the positivity and friendliness, and most importantly the warm Meade Cafe gives you, inside and out!

The menu is small, nothing over the top, printed on recycled paper, all so simple and absolutely perfect!  They have a few adverts from different businesses in the close vicinity, so while sitting and looking over the menu, you can book a spa treatment or think about booking a photographer…

The fishcakes were highly recommended, so we had to order these!  Along with the fishcakes, we ordered the grilled polenta.  Both dishes blew me away.

The homemade fishcakes served on a baby potato and leaf salad, homemade tartar sauce and salsa

A mixture of hake & snoek, with fresh parsley and lemon zest gave these fishcakes so fresh and light!

Grilled Polenta topped with Ratatouille & olives and a touch of anchovies just had me squirming with delight.  Such a simple dish and my mouth was watering with delight!

This is a perfect example of the type of food I love.  Often you go to a restaurant and you have the restaurant classics, but nothing excites you…I love the excitement of food, of that something that really makes you think, feel and fall in love!

Rolled Pork Belly, stuffed with Apricots in a Brandy & Rooibos syrup

This month being heritage month, I started thinking about all the wonderful South African bits and pieces I missed when I lived in the USA.  We use to get little care packages sent to us, from back home, filled with South African goodies, we were also very lucky to have  a store close by which sold a little piece of home – Ouma Rusks, Milo, Rooibos Tea and Marmite, then we found an online SA store in California where we could buy Savanna, we were in heaven!  I would introduce my American friends to the little bits of South Africa, which brought me to this recipe.

I have played around with a similar idea before but thinking what is really South African?  Rooibos, Dried Apricots and Brandy…how much more South African do you get than that?

Pork Belly, stuffed with apricots in a brandy & rooibos syrup

Serves 6

1.6kg pork belly, deboned, ask your butcher to score the skin for you to make life easier at home
1 tbsp Caraway seeds, roasted and roughly ground
Coarse salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
1 Rooibos tea bag
1 cup of boiling water

For the Syrup
100g brown sugar
2 rooibos tea bags
1 cup Klipdrift brandy
125g dried apricots
1 cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice

Soak the dried apricots in the brandy for half an hour
Place all the syrup ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, let simmer for 5 minutes and turn off, set aside to cool
Roughly chop the cooled apricots
Simmer the remaining syrup until reduced by half

Preheat your oven to 150°C

With the pork belly skin down, season the flesh with salt & pepper, brush a little of the syrup over the flesh and place chopped apricots down the middle.
Roll pork belly and tie with butchers twine, you want a tightly rolled pork belly.
Rub the scored skin with salt, pepper and the caraway seeds

In a roasting tray, place two small bowls upside down and place pork belly on top.  Fill the bottom with a cup of rooibos tea and a little water until the water level is just under the flesh.

Place in oven for 3 and a half hours.  Remove from oven, pour all the juices into the same pot the syrup is in.  Cook together, thicken with cornflour for gravy.

Place the roast back into a preheated oven at 180°C, and cook for 25 minutes.
Put your oven on full grill and cook for 15 minutes to get a nice crispy crackling

Serve with mashed potatoes which ever way you like and some vegetables of your choice and you have a lovely easy meal

Oxtail, the perfect winter comfort food

My Comfort Food…I love stew type dishes, I love slow roasted, long cooking stews that takes hours and hours, with full flavoured sauces, but yet have very little work to them…that warmth and hearty feeling of a good winter meal.

I have often wondered what the fascination with oxtail is, in my opinion it wouldn’t be the best cut on the market, however, it is a delicious cut none the less.  As a child, I remember we use to eat a fair amount of oxtail, my older brother and I always referred to it as the “airplane bones” my dad would make, we would spend so much time licking the bones and giggling over the shapes.

With the really cold windy weather we are currently experiencing here in the country, I wanted something that would give me that hearty feeling I crave, my mind went all over, but settled on oxtail, I had the time, so after going to hunt for oxtail, I got into the kitchen and began the dish that brought back such fond childhood memories.

Wintery Oxtail

1.5kg oxtail
about 300g flour
2 tbsp Robertsons bbq spice
1 tbsp mixed dried herbs
oil for frying
1 tin whole peeled tomatoes
5 carrots, in large cubes
1 pk tomato paste
2 onions, cut roughly
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef stock
1 can butter beans
1 ½ star anise
seasoning

Mix the flour, bbq seasoning and dried herbs in a container.  Coat the oxtail in the flour mixture and brown in a pan.
Remove from pan and place into a deep oven proof casserole dish.
Add the onions, carrots, tomato paste, tomatoes, beef stock and red wine to the casserole dish, you want to ensued the meat is well covered.
Season, toss in the star anise and cover.
You want to cook the oxtail at 160°C for 6 – 7 hours, and then turn your oven up to 220° C for an hour, the higher heat will thicken your sauce a little more.
Remove from heat, drain the butter beans and add to the oxtail.
Let heat through and serve with light fluffy mashed potatoes.

And that, for me, is my perfect comfort food, with no mess and no fuss!

Lunch in Woodstock at Jamaican me Crazy

Our trip to Cape Town was filled with what we love to do best…try new places to eat.  My husband always tells me how he loves going to eat out with me because I always want to try new things, and I stay away from franchises / chain restaurants and of course, just how much I love food, even if it’s something simple.

I love the artisan and very much eccentric side of food.  I do enjoy a fine dining experience now and then, for me, I love quirkiness and restaurants that are unique and different.  While in Cape Town, we got to experience two of these kind of restaurants.

The first one on the list was Jamaican me Crazy in Woodstock

I learnt about this restaurant from my good friend, Blossom.  It’s her son’s place, and of course I just HAD to go!  I am freely going to admit I do not know much about Jamaican cuisine except the classic jerk chicken, so I was super excited to experience something so new with my good friend!

We started off with a few cocktails, I have to say I was very impressed with the selection of cocktails, and of course the fact that if you so wish, you could have any of the cocktails virgin style, and this brings me to my number one YES at any restaurant.  Versatility!

The menu has a little bit of everything so you have such a variety which can sometimes be a good thing and sometimes be a bad thing.

In my true style, I had to have a platter so I could taste many different things!  And wow, was this a large platter, it was for two so my husband had to help me out!  The platter consisted of a spicy mussel soup, Jamaican flatbread, calamari, jerk chicken winglet; coca cola basted ribs, meat pies and jalapeno poppers filled with feta.  To me, what stood out the most were the spicy mussel soup and the calamari.  So often you go to a restaurant and the calamari is bready and oily, this calamari was absolutely delicious!  I must find out the secret to the great calamari at Jamaican me Crazy.

My husband enjoyed a steak with blackened prawns and calamari. At first he was willing to try the goat curry, which I was very surprised about, unfortunately they goat curry was out of stock for the day.  I think it would have been such a huge accomplishment on my part, I have been trying to get Justin to eat more adventurous things…it’s working!

The waiter, Charles was very friendly and attentive; he had the sweetest smile and looked after the table with great ease.  He knew when to approach and when to rather let us be, which is such a rare treat when dinning out.

All round, the experience was wonderful, I loved the upbeat colours of the restaurant, in my mind, exactly how I would picture dinning in a typical Jamaican restaurant.

I learnt sport events are often on show on the large screen projector, you can have private parties or just spend time having a drink, with wi fi available it’s the perfect place to chill out and  enjoy a easy snack and some quiet work time, or meeting with friends after work.  A great vibrant restaurant which I highly recommend!

The second place I have to mention is Bombay Bicycle.  Watch this space for our experience which will follow soon!

Roasted Cardamon Orange Sweet Potato & Camembert Soup

I had this idea in my head for sweet potato soup, but I didn’t want to do the norm, I wanted to really test the flavours one can work with when you have sweet potato.

Growing up, sweet potato was baked in the oven and served with garlic parsley butter, or mashed sweet potatoes that have been beautifully caramelized in brown sugar and butter.  Then I started with sweet potato chips, which I absolutely die for, and sweet potato & pearled barley curry, now, I wanted to take it one step further and make soup with these beautiful sweet potatoes I had in my possession.

Seeing what I had laying around, I wanted to make a sweet potato and goats cheese soup, but being somewhat indecisive, and of course a true chef where I know something just doesn’t feel right, it struck me…camembert.  We had camembert soup on our honeymoon, I was very intrigued by this and now was my opportunity to use the lovely camembert I got at Fairview.

I needed something fresh in there, something that would compliment the sweet potato and enhance the flavours, so I brought out one of my all time favourit spices to work with…cardamon. And together with all these goodness, I made my Roasted Cardamon Orange Sweet Potato & Camembert Soup.  So here is the recipe…enjoy it!

Roasted Cardamon Orange Sweet Potato & Camembert Soup
serves 3 – 4

+- 1.5kg Orange Sweet potatoes
6-7 Cardamon pods crushed
1 clove crushed
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil
2 carrots, diced
2 leeks, diced
garlic
about 1L of vegetable stock (depending on how thick you want your soup)
½  wheel of good quality of camembert, cut into chunks and remove outer mould
2 tots ginger liqueur

Pre heat your oven at 180°C

Cut your sweet potatoes in half and place on roasting tray
Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed cardamom & crushed clove
Roast sweet potato for an hour and a half
Once the sweet potatoes are roasted, put aside.
In a pot, sauté your carrots and leeks, add the garlic and deglaze with 1 tot of ginger liqueur and let simmer for a minute or two.
Peel the sweet potatoes and add to the pot, add your vegetable stock, blitz with a hand blender and let cook out on a low heat for about 5 – 8 minutes.
Add your camembert to the soup and let melt.
Once melted, your soup is ready!

Lazy Sundays and a wonderful lunch at Crossways Country Kitchen

I know I have not been on the blogs much lately, I guess just a mixture of being busy, and for a while I stepped away from the  stoves, I just didn’t have any confidence in my cooking after a rather nasty incident with a patron.  But I am back, and I am feeling again…I have missed food…and most important, I have missed the feeling I have when I create in the kitchen.

Today, we had to do a little celebrating, so my lovely husband and I went to discover a new destination for lunch.  Now this is definitely what I would refer to as a “Hole in the Wall’ type place, which is exactly the kind of restaurants I love.  I am not one for the top 5 restaurants in the country, in my opinion, fine dining does have its purpose, however, for me…I am more the “mom & pop” kind of chef, where food comes from the heart and the creativity on the plate is such a large part of you.  Maybe its the artist in me as well that brings these feelings out.

The Crossways Country Kitchen is exactly what I love about the industry.  Briefly listening to the owner, I am so excited for the ideas he has, and WOW, it will bring so much into the community and more importantly for the “foodie’ community of the Eastern Cape.  I really look forward to his vision.

You can find out more about the restaurant here

We were warmly greeted by the handful of waitresses which are so lovely and friendly, and told we may sit anywhere, as there were many open tables.  I was rather surprised as I thought they would be more busy, however, we were early for lunch, and by the time we left, they were buzzing with people.

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We were brought the drinks menu and asked for a wine list, I was slightly confused as there was not an actual menu.

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The waitress brought us our wine, and in tow were 2 more waitresses, one with an easel and one with a large blackboard which was set up in front of us.  I absolutely loved this, however not very practical when they got busy as there was only one menu floating around.

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We settled on a wine I have never heard of.  Brampton Viognier, which was so fruity. The aromatics are splendid: springtime perfumery, fresh ginger, peaches, apricots and honeysuckle. The palate is waxy and delicate yet with an underlying strength and focus. Aromas follow effortlessly onto the rich palate the wine just set the mood for an absolutely wonderful meal.

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We started with the roasted tomato soup with basil pesto and  lovely homemade bread.  The bread was so delicious, beautiful soft crumb texture yet the crust was so crispy and chewy – exactly how I love my bread, with oregano and nuts, this was a perfect companion to this hearty earthy soup.

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As always mains are a tough decision as I always want to have so many things!  I finally settled on my old time favourite Lamb Shank with spring onion mashed potatoes with a lovely red wine & onion gravy.  The lamb was so full of flavour and just fell off the bone, definitely country cooking at its best.  The spring onion in the mash just gave the mash such a beautiful uplifting flavour which enhanced the flavours of the lamb.

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Justin had the smoked pork neck with rustic butternut mash, when the food arrived I had one of those breathtaking moments.  The sight of this dish made my mouth water!  The roasted naartjies and the beautiful Fall colours on the board  just oozed creativity, I was in love!

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I was already so full however when the dessert blackboard was set out for us, and there was a cheeseboard…I had to have!  Very seldom do you find a cheeseboard part of dessert, so we enjoyed cheese, preserves, crackers and a lovely cuppachino for dessert.

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The setting was just stunning, about 40kms from Humansdorp, just off the N2, take the Sunnyside turn off,  nestled between cows roaming free.  Open from 9am to 3pm, Wednesday through Sunday, from what I understand the menu changes all the time, and the pork belly is something to look out for!

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