Have you ever wondered what would happen if we all just stop being so fanatical about food?
Think of your Instagram feed without those amazing photos, of breakfast tables or lunches, cakes and pastries, imagine a feed without that juicy burger or vibrantly green matcha smoothie. How dull would life be?
Since dedicating my Instagram solely to food, albeit the occasional image of me having a picnic or a random cup of coffee, I have come to realize how small the world actually is and how social networking brings people together. I have followers from Japan, Norway, Australia and America, to name a few, and have noticed how home cooks, lifestyle coaches, trainers and even just the mom down the road, pull in these huge followings and cult status Instagram profiles.
Then we get all the amazing Bloggers, who are so dedicated to sharing recipes and giving advise on what works and what doesn’t as far as food goes, also experiences shared or restaurants reviews, that you get drawn into scrolling their pages and loose track of time completely.
Being a chef, it’s opened my eyes to the immense beauty of food, the love that people have for it and the overwhelming satisfaction of seeing an amazing photo of a plate of food, a cake, a burger or even just a donut, and thinking “I need to recreate this!” or “God help me not bite into my phone!”
Well, it’s not a sauce per se, more like a thick salsa that’s not a salsa….get what I mean? Maybe I can call it a thick guacamole??? It has the magical avocado…it also has load of fresh herbs, pistachios, and some kick with jalapeños!
You can use this on ANYTHING. Nachos, fish, chicken, steak, a dipping sauce for sweet potato fries, or those awesome mozzarella sticks, use it as a dressing for a pasta salad or as an add on to a crudités platter! It’s endless!!! It’s also quick, all into a food processor and go go go!
So on a mission to always find GOOD alternates, that still taste amazing, look good and are healthier than mayonnaise, processed tomato sauce or all the other stuff that you accumulate in that side door of your fridge!
Although shelled pastachios are a bit pricey, it’s worth the splurge, and a 200g bag gives you enough nuts for at least 3 recipes. (So a good investment, as this will become a staple and an addiction)
Not one of my indulgences, but what’s not to love? Warm melted cheese, with a crispy panko crumb coating! Come on…warning though : they can be addictive! Serve these as a side or as a snack with a thick marinara sauce. Prepare trays of them before hand and pop them into the oven when you are ready to serve!
So what happens when you can actually feel the effect that gluten has on your tummy??
I’m not one to jump on any quick fix diet, detox or cleanse, but I have started (after many years of eating really badly) listening to my body. You can actually do that you know!? After years of battling, I figured out that I am actually lactose intolerant, and stopped eating the wonderful creamy pastas that I always gravitated to. I also stop eating processed dairy, and stick to Parmesan, that I put in almost everything!!!
Gluten on the other hand, you can actually feel the difference after you have eaten a gluten free dish and one that is filled with gluten. Here’s the challenge…loads of restaurants offer the two options, try one then another time, try the other.
SEE!!!!!! Can you feel the difference??
So here, a quick recipe, to make a handmade pasta, that once you master, it will become a staple, and you’ll serve it at least once a week! The sauces and/or toppings, are only as limited as your imagination.
Place the eggs into a blender, with the basil, and blitz until the basil is fine.
Transfer to a bowl, and add the water, and salt. Mix well.
Add the dry ingredients and mix well, until all incorporated. Transfer to a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes.
If you have made normal pasta before, you will not that it’s not as stretchy due to the lack of gluten. Wrap the kneaded ball in plastic wrap. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Divide into quarters, keep them covered and only take out the piece that you are going to roll out.
Take one portion, keep your surface floured, and roll out, to as thin as you can with a rolling pin.
Carefully cut to the pieces that you need, lasagne, or thick tagliatelle.
Transfer to a flat container and leave to rest to one side
Boil a pot of water as you would normally, add some olive oil and salt, and semi cook the pasta for 2 minutes, and then place it into iced cold water.
Once you have figured out your sauce, toss your semi cooked pasta through your sauce. This will help thicken your sauce and your pasta will take on all that yummy flavor! If you making lasagne, layer it as you would normal pasta and bake!
It’s another Monday! Filled with coffee, carbs and chocolate! Luckily for me, this recipe has two of the things that I’m craving, and I can serve them with a cup of coffee to help chase away some of those pesky little Monday blues.
Whip these up on a Sunday evening, as they last for 4 days, covered and at room temperature, you can store them in the the fridge, that will give you another 2 days.
It’s an easy, on the run snack, and it’s healthy for the little ones, the chocolate is dark, but because of the honey and molasses in here, it’s not bitter!!
After a slightly crazy few days last week, I take away the overwhelming feeling that through the years of being a chef, through all the crazy working hours, many functions, countless colleagues and many amazing chefs, I can still get that tingling feeling. I love what I do. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Being a chef, this is my entire being.
There comes a point, in anyone’s life, where you ask yourself if what you are doing is what you love? There is this word that we use : passion.
Am I doing what I love? What is my passion?
I think, if you can love what you do, you put yourself at a complete high everyday. With me, I can still get so happy when I make something and it tastes good, it still blows me away, when what I have “tasted in my mind” actually tastes amazing in my mouth!
Reading a recipe and following steps are one thing, but if you spend time in the kitchen you come to a realization on what works together, and what doesn’t, what flavors compliment and which ones don’t. We take away from eating experiences learnt with moms, dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles. We also tend to remember those moments when all our senses where heightened when we had “the best steak” or “the best meal EVER”, how euphoric it made you feel.
When people ask me, I say that eating is sexy. It’s all the senses, working together, to make you excited about what you are going to taste, smell, see, hear, feel.
I find it incredibly fulfilling when I can sit at a table with people, who are eating my food, and watch them. I can see the joy, the little smirk, the licking of the lips, the anticipation of the first, second, third, mouthful. The complete sense of fulfillment when they are done, that look at the empty plate as they lean back in their seat.
If you can find a job, that includes your passion, but also pays the bills, then you will be in the lucky few that are, in essence, fulfilled, happy and content.
My mom always says, “Never settle” – I take that with my daily, in love, life, and in this case, my job. Find what you love, hold onto it, let it drive you, motivate you and give you happiness, everyday!
Picture a room, lined with book shelves, warmed by a glowing fire. You smell musk, deep oak, and worn leather. You take in the plush arm chairs, the thick Persian rug. Somewhere you hear the clink of glasses, hushed conversation, and the lingering scent of smoked cigars. You might even hear laughter, or that heavy sigh as the day ends.
This to me, is the ideal setting to sit down and sip on a Cognac. What surprises me most, is that, besides the opulent setting of the Munro Boutique Hotel, I sat at a table, with a few other people and ate lunch!
I was invited to a Cognac pairing, hosted by Bisquit Cognac, with Distell and arranged by the amazing team at Hello Conversation Communications Agency, all in celebration of World Cognac Day. I made my way on a gloomy and cold Johannesburg afternoon, to be greeted by Denis Lahouratate, Maitre de Chai for Bisquit, Simphiwe Pato, Brand Manager for Bisquit and all the amazing guests that were due to join me for an afternoon, of not only Cognac education, but one that was going to be filled with good conversation, amazing food and ridiculously delicious drinks!
We started our afternoon with a tasting of the Limited Edition Bisquit X.O Rose Gold Cognac. You could see the twinkle in Denis eye’s as he started talking about this delicious, smooth, delicately sumptuous, handcrafted Cognac. Like a man, that sits with pride when he starts talking about a first love, Denis could not stop gushing, and needless to say, once I had the first taste, I could understand why.
With the vision of creating the smoothest Cognac ever released, Denis personally selected eaux-de-vie from six casks to blend for this creation, producing a Cognac that stands for the epitome of the style of the house: a smooth blend with a “generous bouquet of aromas”. Rose Gold XO is a silky sumptuous Cognac with a beautiful balance of flavours and a wondefully lingering and everlasting finish.
What a treat it was to taste this Cognac. With only two bottles, currently in South Africa, we were of the first few that had the privilege of tasting this absolutely decadent beauty.
We then moved onto our lunch. I started with the Lobster Vol-Au-Vent with orange Cognac Sauce, which was paired with the V.S Classique. This Cognac has a fruity aroma, with hints of vanilla, cinnamon and oak.
Main course was the Karoo Lamb fillet with thyme jus, Artichoke, organic vegetables and Hazelnut Puree, which was paired with the V.S.O.P. This Cognac is drawn from the esteemed eaux-de-vie of Petite at Grande Champange, which enhances the longer distillation. Also so smooth and decadent.
The dessert was a White Chocolate Mousse Cannelloni with Strawberry Minestrone, and although you would think that chocolate and Cognac might not go together, it paired so well. The last pairing was the XO, which is the mature, grown up, adult of the range, Its a deep amber color, and has hints of woody and smoky notes, with tabacco and cocoa, sugar fruit and prune.
For a first time Cognac experience, I was utterly blown away by firstly, the humility of Denis, also, his passion and love for Cognac making, his knowledge and experience of being in the wine and spirits industry for more than 30 years, is prominent when he could explain and make us understand the most complex questions.
I left with a full tummy, half closed eyelids and a new appreciation for the entire process of this handcrafted distillation technique that is the signature of the House Bisquit.
Did anyone else in the Southern Hemisphere notice that its winter? This major onslaught of cold weather that came through overnight, especially here in Johannesburg! It went from Hero to Zero in a few moments! As I have mentioned before, winter brings with it an entire amount of weird emotions and strange eating patterns. We tend to comfort eat, because its so cold, and the food we do flock to is normally the heavy, carb laden, thick stewy dishes. I AM NOT COMPLAINING! As always I try to figure out “alternates”. Ways to still eat “comfort” food without it being full of processed products and heavy on the stomach. One of my favorite products to work with is barley. I love the chewy texture, and it is Low-Gi, so it keeps you fuller for longer and cuts the cravings in half (lets be honest, we all still crave stuff). It is a versatile, cereal grain with an almost nutlike flavor, and once cooked, its almost like eating an al dente pasta. So besides soup, what else do I want to eat barley to, and also what are my favorite flavor combos to add to it? Because its generally a bland base, it can take on any flavor without it being over powering. I came across a recipe for sweet potato cakes with barley, and felt that I did not want the “sweet” characteristic to this dish, what I actually wanted was to use what i had in the fridge, and take it from there. So I found some peas, mushrooms, and potatoes. I also have loads of thyme (for some strange reason) and fresh oregano, parsley and Parmesan. Ok, mashup begins (excuse the pun).
2 Small Potatoes – steamed, and cooled (leave the skins on them)
2 handfuls of Portabellini mushrooms – remove stalks and chopped (keep the stalks aside for later)
1 cup of Portabellini mushrooms – chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped and halved (I LOVE THYME WITH MUSHROOMS)
1 cup of cooked barley
1/2 cup of peas
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
2 kale leaves, stalks removed and chopped finely
Himalayan Salt and black Pepper to season
Soak barley for at least 1 hour in cold water Preheat oven to 180C Steam your potatoes, until soft and set aside to cool, once cooled, cut up into chunks.
Cook the barley and peas in a small pot of water (don’t add any salt to it, the water cooks away and you might land up with really salty barley and peas)
Drain the barley and peas, if needed, and return to the pot to start the “drying” process. You will notice that the barley will become sticky, remove from heat and add to the potatoes.
In a pan, add a good glug of olive oil and start frying your mushrooms, once they are slightly soft, add the thyme and garlic and keep tossing the pan.
Let the mushrooms cook until they are soft and spongy and have absorbed all the gorgeous flavors of thyme and garlic, and season them slightly (bear in mind you will season the entire dish before you start to shape the cakes).
When the mushrooms are ready, give them a rough chop, and add them to the other ingredients.
Add the parsley and kale. All the ingredients are cooked, give the mix a taste and add more seasoning if needed, shape into 4 big cakes or loads of smaller ones.
Heat a small amount of olive oil in a shallow pan, and seal the cakes on either side before popping them into the oven to heat. When the cakes are in the oven, roughly chop the mushroom stalks, fry it off with the cup of chopped portabellinis, the same way as you did the mushrooms for the cakes, adding the extra thyme and season well.
Plate each cake, topped with the warm mushrooms, sprinkle with loads of Parmesan and serve with fresh micro herbs. You can also use these as a burger night patty, topped with onion marmalade and melted provolone.
These are so good, the will become a staple and once you get the hang of all the prep work, it becomes a breeze to make!