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!

New Age Bangers & Mash

How often does the “what’s for dinner” conversation go down in your house?  When do you actually decide what you are going to make for dinner, whether you are going to cook or go out?  These are all important questions, for those who are faced with the daunting task of having to decide what to feed your family.  You don’t want the boring same old same old, having said that, if you are anything like me, having to go to the store to buy ingredients just for one meal makes me rather grumpy.  Unfortunately, the love to shop card is not part of my make up, so it’s a task and a half.

So for my New Age Banger & Mash I dug around in my freezer and just used what I had in the house.

I love potatoes, I can have potatoes done any way, but I wanted something different…

500g baby potatoes
1 onion, roughly diced
1 generous tsp garlic, chopped or used crushed garlic
50ml brandy
1 tbsp sugar
handful of parsley, chopped
Olive oil
salt & pepper

Parboil the baby potatoes; you want them just soft enough that you can squash them between your palms.  Set aside to cool

In a pan, fry off your onions over a medium heat, add the sugar and let caramelize.  Add the brandy to deglaze the pan, add garlic and briefly cook until all the liquid has cooked out.

Squeeze the baby potatoes between your palms just to break them, you looking for a rustic kind of look.  Add to your pan with onions, toss around until well combined.  Add the parsley, season and set aside.

Now to put something together on a plate!

Pork bangers – boil off your bangers and fry off in a little olive oil.  If you want to keep it slightly healthier, set your oven to 180° C, after boiling them off, just pop them in the oven until nicely the bangers have a nice colour. Healthier but it does take slightly longer.

I popped a packet of peas into a pot, a knob of butter, orange zest and a splash of orange juice.  Cook just until the peas are heated through.  The fresh citrus flavours with the peas are a lovely combination.

Stuffed Chicken Breast served on a bed of Pasta

The weather is all over the place, just as we get a taste for the Spring that is promised, we are reminded that Mother Nature is still in charge and when she is ready, we may bask in the Spring weather and that Summer time we all ling for.

With Spring comes the start of many new things, I am organizing at the moment, want to do a Spring clean, toss out the old, start with the new…and I will be starting on my closet.  But more about that in another post…

I love pasta…so versatile.  Pasta often find place on our dinner table.

Stuffed Chicken Breast

Serves 4

4 Skinless Chicken Breasts
½ packet of lean bacon
½ cup of cut mushrooms
1 cup of spinach
½ onion, diced
5 tbsp crumbed feta
1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
¼ tsp nutmeg
seasoning to taste

For the Sauce
½ onion, roughly chopped
½ tsp sugar
1 time whole peeled tomatoes
1 sprig of rosemary chopped finely
½ cup white wine

1 Packet of your favourite pasta, or 500g of freshly made pasta.

For the Sauce
Fry off the onions, with a little sugar, add the whole peeled tomatoes, white wine, rosemary, season to taste and let simmer on a low heat.

Preheat oven to 180°C

Fry off your onions, bacon, mushrooms and spinach, rosemary, in a dash of olive oil.  Set aside to cool and add the feta and nutmeg, and season to taste.

Using a sharp knife, create a pocket from the top of the chicken breast, do not slit the whole breast open. Fill the pocket of the chicken breast with your spinach filling, and close opening with a toothpick.

Place on a baking tray and into the oven for 23 – 35 minutes.

Cook your pasta according to instructions on the packet.

Remove chicken from the oven and let rest for 2 – 4 minutes.

Slice chicken and place on a bed of pasta, and cover with your homemade tomato sauce.

Simple dinner that sounds complicated but is so easy

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!

Dinner with Madam Zingara’s Bombay Bicycle Club

The second restaurant which enthralled my eccentric side is called Bombay Bicycle Club, one of the Madam Zingara restaurants’ in Cape Town.  I have looked many times on the website and lived the experience through the beautiful pictures and write-ups, and it was an absolute given that this would be one of the restaurants I just had to experience firsthand.

It was suggested that we book a table, and I am glad we did!  On a Wednesday evening, we arrived at about 6:15pm to just one table, by 8pm it was full, now for those of you who have not been, let me try explain what the restaurant is like.

Compact and quirky to the max is what first comes to mind.  You can’t miss the restaurant which is situated on Upper Kloof Street, the outside grabs your attention immediately with its brightly coloured umbrellas and the old car on the roof next to the Jollywood sign.

You just know you are in for a treat.  We were welcomed by friendly staff, who reminded me more of  long lost friends who had not seen us in a while as opposed to a waiter we just met for the first time.  Inside, you are greeted with so much your eyes can’t stop wondering.  We were lead to the “new section” called the Love Shack, which I was told we would be in when I booked the previous evening.  I felt like I had been transported into another galaxy where your childhood fantasies have become a norm.

Our Love Shack was a table in the corner which had been cornered off with zinc pannles, painted bright pink and decorated with many different African type memorabilia.  I spent quite some time looking at all the photographs and odds and ends displayed all over the Love Shack.

Our waiter made me giggle a few times with his typical Cape Town mannerisms and slang. Our wine was brought to us, we ordered our starters.

I opted for the deep fried beer battered camembert with a tomato and basil sauce, which was amazing.  The beer batter and the camembert worked so well together with a perfectly balanced tomato sauce to round the meal off.

Justin has the phyllo parcels with smoked chicken, mozzarella and a wild musroom sauce.  Of course I had to taste that too, and it was just as good.  The wild mushroom sauce complimented the smoked chicken perfectly.

After starters, we decided we would relax first and enjoy our wine, and of course have a look at a few more of the odds and ends that were laying around.   I was in stitches when our waiter popped his head into the Love Shake and asked if he could “gooi” (throw) our mains for us.  He had to give me a moment to compose myself before we could order.

The menu is a small menu but a nice variety.  I always um and ah, and for me it was the decision between the lamb shank and the ostrich tapenade, I finally settled on the lamb shank and was definitely not disappointed. The lamb was fall off the bone tender, yet still had the perfect mouth feel. Flavours of a rich tomato base with the rosemary and garlic just always is a winner.  Brings me back to one of my kitchen motto’s, keep it simple!

The waiter suggested that one of us had to try the ribs, so Justin settled on the Surf & Turf, which was a rib & prawn combo.  I tasted the ribs, and let me say, I second our waiter’s opinion.  The ribs were so tender and had a perfect balance of sweet and savoury and just delicious.

Unfortunately we had way to much already and dessert was skipped.

A restaurant I can happily recommend, this is a package deal, the whole experience is something you just have to have yourself.

Enjoy!

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.

Image

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

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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!

Image

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.

Image

Image

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!

 Image