Tomato and Red Wine Braised Lamb Shank

During my 3 year stay in the USA, lamb made very few and far between appearances, I always asked why and got the same answer…it smells when cooking. Now I have always been confused by this statement, personally I cannot ask for a better aroma to flood through my house than when cooking lamb, whether it is in a stew or a roasting in the oven.

Slow cooked, family style food which brings comfort and warmth when you indulge, in my opinion, is my signature style.  This can be anything from my favourite lamb shank (or Springbok shank if you can find), to a melody of curries, the cooked to perfection oxtail, unhurried roasts or home baked breads , studded with olives, rosemary and coarse salt served with freshly made pâtés and preserves. Definitely not waistline friendly…however, I try to keep that balance of healthy vs. pure food bliss. During winter time, the later has the upper hand.

With us being in the midst of winter, there is nothing more comforting than sharing slow cooked lamb shanks, and a wonderful bottle of wine with family to shoo off the cold.

Tomato & Red Wine Braised Lamb Shank
serves 4

lamb shank plated

4 lamb shanks
300g flour
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Olive Oil for frying
1 tsp white sugar
2 large onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely diced
1 pkt celery, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 pkt carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 whole star anise
2 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 Knorr beef stock pot
¾ bottle of red wine (I used a Fairview La Capra Merlot)
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
1 pkt tomato paste
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
seasoning to taste

Preheat the oven to 150°C

In a plastic packet, mix the flour, paprika, salt and black pepper, place the shanks in – one at a time – and shake.  You want to coat the entire shank well with the flour mixture. Set aside.

In a deep, cast iron pot, heat olive oil over a medium to high heat, brown the lamb shanks.  Set aside.

Without cleaning the pot, fry the onions, carrots, celery and sugar until soft.  Add the tomato paste and garlic and fry further until you see the oil starts splitting from the tomato paste.

Add the star anise, cloves cinnamon stick and stock pot.  Stir before placing the lamb shanks in the pot.  Cover with wine and whole peeled tomatoes and add rosemary sprigs.  You want to just cover the shanks, if the wine doesn’t cover the lamb shanks, add some boiling water.

Cover the rim of the pot with flour & water glue (See Chef Note at the bottom of the page).  Place the lid on top and squash, you want to have a completely sealed pot which won’t let steam escape.

Place in the oven for 4 to 5 hours. This time may vary based on your oven, so use this only as a guide.  You want the shank to be so soft that you can just pull the bone out without breaking the meat apart.

Turn the oven to grill, take shanks out of the sauce and set under the grill.  Careful not to burn, you just want some colour on the meat.

Using a handheld blender, blitz the sauce, if it is not thick, place it in a pot and reduce, or to cheat, thicken with corn flour.

Serve with parsley & garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables.

 lamb shanks in pot

Flour & Water Paste:
This is a paste made from water and flour which create a type of glue which you can seal pots with to ensure that no steam escapes.  Use about 1 ½ cups flour, to about 3/4 cup  water, for the paste. You are looking for play dough type consistency.
Working on a floured surface, shape the dough into a long sausage shape, then press the sausage onto the rim of the casserole.

 

Saturday Morning at the Outeniqua Farmers Market

What a beautiful Saturday morning it was in George, I wanted to be outdoors…and for those who don’t know me that well, by outdoors I mean outside, not doing any weird or wonderful extreme sport.  The outdoor farmers market is the perfect outdoors for me.

Follow the N2 heading for PE from George, you will find the Outeniqua Farmers Market nestled on the Kraaibosch farm, close to the Garden Route Mall.  I am told that on the opening day of the market, a year ago,  it was so busy that people were parking on the opposite side of the highway just to be able to get there.

I love the concept, strolling between the big trees, all the little stalls of all wonderful little goodies. I met some great people, every stall that caught my eye, ended up with a few minutes of great conversations and of course some great networking.  I just love the vibe, I have been to markets where the people are rather off putting, you walk away feeling more of a bother than educated.  This is definitely not the case at the Outeniqua Farmers Market.

The first stop was coffee, I was amazed how well organized the coffee store was, in my opinion, more organized than most coffee shops I have been to.  On the menu were different coffees, cappuccino and teas, no lack of milk, sugars, sweetners, I loved how clean and neat the station was, and the absolutely delicious cappuccino!

The food stalls were impressive, such a large variety, local restaurants offering prego rolls, or a stall for bacon and eggs, some pancakes, and the speciality stores were amazing, you had such a choice of world cusine – Indian, German, French, Thai, Chinese, South African and Greek.

I settled on French simply because of the personality of the stall.  Such a lovely energy, German born, married a Frenchman, loved South Africa and finally settled on living here.  She was making the famous Crepe de Paris.  But what really got my attention was how natural she was, she just loved making your crepe and chatting with you.

Her croissants had me drooling…I had a croissant filled with gypsy ham, and topped with béchamel and a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar. I was in heaven.  Flaky and light croissant just heated enough to melt the cheese…yes please!


Next door was the German Butcher, all homemade bacons and other charcuterie and man oh man was he busy.  He had his little deli slicer set up and was selling like hotcakes.

And of course to cater for everyone, the rugby was broadcasted for the men while the ladies strolled from stall to stall.  Tables set out under the trees for people to sit and relax, enjoy the weather and all the market has to offer.

So if you are in the Garden Route area, I would recommend that you stop by.  The Outeniqua Farmers Market is every Saturday, there is ample parking and for more information, pop on over to their website

Rosemary Marinated Olive, Feta & Sundried Tomatoes Bread

We all have those certain smells or songs that trigger of a great memory or a moment that just triggers of a smile that is unexplainable.  For me, the aromas that fill my house when bread is baking, perfectly exhibits one of those moments.  Fresh bread brings feelings of warmth, comfort, happiness and family…and most importantly simplicity.

I don’t often get the opportunity to bake bread at home, having some time off, I just had to grab the chance with both hands.  I have a few things in my pantry and fridge that I am trying to use in all weird and wonderful ways.  One of these said items are rosemary marinated olives & feta & sundried tomatoes.  Lovely to use for cheese platters or other anti pasti’s, but why not more!

Rosemary Marinated Olive, Feta & Sundried Tomatoes Bread

I have just a basic white bread loaf recipe that I use when baking.  This recipe makes 1 loaf.

500g stone ground white bread flour
1 pk dried yeast
1 tsp fine salt
375ml tepid water
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp Olive oil
2 eggs

Tepid water is basically water that is the heat of bath water.  You don’t want it to hot or it will kill the yeast, but if it’s too cold it wont activate.

Place the yeast and sugar into the tepid water, whisk and set aside for 10 –  15 minutes.  It will create a layer of foam on top.

Mix the flour, salt olive oil in a bowl.

Crake the eggs into the yeast and whisk lightly.  Pour yeast mixture into the flour, incorporate until you have a stiff dough.

Knead for about 15 – 20 minutes.  I do this by hand, but if you have a machine, use a dough hook, and you probably looking at about 10 minutes.

Set aside in a warm place, in a bowl that has been wiped with olive oil, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to double in size +- 45 minutes

Knock back down.  At this point you add the olives, feta, sundried tomatoes and rosemary.  Break it up and just place all over, fold the dough and place another layer.  This is all estimated, you can use a lot for a string flavour, or you can keep it subtle.  Roll into a ball and place under the tea towel again and let double in size again.

Knock back down one last time, and shape, you can either place in a baking tin or bread tin, I like to keep it a little more artisan style.  Score the top and set aside to rise, +- 30 minutes

Preheat the oven to 220°C.
Place loaf into the oven and bake for 25 minutes, turn the oven down to 180°C for another 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.

Now 2 tips on bread:

Never place bread in the fridge, it will go stale over night.

Eat bread in moderation.  Bread is not only a carbohydrate, but your body breaks up break into sugars, so for a diabetic, rye bread is your healthiest option.

Spring has sprung in Port St Francis

Spring is in the air, can feel it, and with Spring comes new beginnings.

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I decided that I needed to clear up in the house. My closet is a mess, with the winter we are covered in layers of clothing, bulky, warm layers that fill our winter cupboards.

I like to help others, I have a beautiful friend who claims I am a giver
not a receiver, so I went on her theme and decided to give all my old clothes away to the less fortunate, all 3 bags full!

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I am currently on a little leave again, my plans are to do a little house keeping, relax, read as much as I can, try out a few recipes, I started off my morning with my book and a cup of coffee.

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Tomorrow we are on our way to Addo, my husband decided to spoil me and tske me away for the night, I can not wait, as you that know me know, I am not a camper, so a little cabin in the game reserve is the perfect get away, some away time with my favourit person.

And on that not, I better go pack! Plan in spending 2 days in jeans and a tshirt! So unlike me but so what I wsnt to do!

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

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!

Sunday Afternoon Poitjiekos and Cannellini Bean & Beetroot Salad

Poitjie is such a South Africa tradition, and personally one of my favourit meals to prepare. I love doing a great poitjie, and have been lacking in doing so since we moved into the flat.

A little history on the poitjie…The round potbellied cast iron pot was the perfect cooking utensil to suit the nomadic lifestyle of the black tribes and the Voortrekkers during the 17th and 18th centuries. Potjiekos evolved as a stew, made of venison and vegetables (if the latter were available). The pot with its contents protected by a layer of fat was hooked under the wagon by the Voortrekkers while travelling and unhooked at the next stop to be put on the fire again.

When the wagons stopped at the end of the day and camp was made, game was stewed and sometimes mutton, goat or old oxen when available. As each new animal was shot, it was slaughtered and the meat added to the pot, together with whatever vegetables that could be found. The large bones were added replacing the old ones, to thicken the stew. Surplus meat was preserved by seasoning and drying.

So on my day off, I thought I would do a little poitjie. The first step to a good poitjie is to burn the pot. Wash it thoroughly, then place it back on the fire to get it really hot before cooking again.

The best part about a poitjie is that you can add whatever meat and vegetables you wish to add, and your cooking liquid is all up to you. I used beef with red wine. Another great combo I love is chicken and beer poitjie.

Now what does one serve with a poitjie? Well, traditionally it would be “pap” or dumplings and in many homes it is rice. I also served one of my cannellini bean salads, which was actually very nice. The cannellini bean’s meatiness worked really well with the poitjie, and you could even add it directly to the poitjie, however, I rather did a salad.

Cannellini & Beetroot salad

2 cups cannellini beans, leftover night to soak, and boiled until soft
fresh beetroot, boiled until soft
Danish feta
fresh rosemary
balsamic reduction

Add all together, ensure your beetroot is cooled properly before you add to the salad.