Category: dinner party


This is the winning soup of the charity event really. More people picked it than any other soup as the winner. The mushroom soup was joint first only because the people who picked it felt so strongly that it should win. Quality vs quantity of votes really.

This is a crowd pleaser of note.

You need:

oil

1 chopped onion, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 450g of peeled chopped tomatoes. Chop these up small as you will eat them as is.

2 tsp gound cumin, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp groun ginger, 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley

2 x 400g tins of chickpeas, or your own soaked boiled chickpeas

1 litre stock

juice of half a lemon

 

You do:

Fry the onion and garlic gently in the oil. Add the dry spices and cook until it smells fabulous. Then add half the chickpeas, the tomatoes and 800ml of the stock. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes.

Whizz the remaining stock and chickpeas to a smooth puree. Add this to the soup. Heat. Add parsley and lemon juice and serve

 

It’s so much nicer than it is difficult – a meal in a bowl

 

I am off tomorrow to buy blankets – have been too busy to do it before.

will post photos of the pile we get

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I can’t find the recipe I used to make the gammon and leek soup which came third in the Charity Soup off so  here instead is the recipe for the joint first place soup.

But before that – a blanket update.

There isn’t one.

I was in Cape Town all of last week and this week my co blanket buyer and hander outer is writing her psychology masters mid-year exams so i have to wait for her before we can go spend the money and start dishing out the warmth. But this will happen next week. and photos shall follow.

 

But – back to the soup

Wild mushroom soup with sage

(only i bought the mushrooms from Pick n Pay and didn’t have sage)

You need:

25g butter

1 chopped onion, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 6 fresh sage leaves (if you can find them. i couldn’t so i used parsley. a different taste but it was still delicious)

1 Tablespoon flour, 1 litre veggie or chicken stock. (I have bought a bottle of organic veggie stock which i don’t for one second belive is really organic but it is much less salty than normal stock so i think worth it)

750g of assorted mushrooms. (I used a mixture of brown mushrooms, button mushrooms and those fancy shmancy mushrooms you get at Pick n Pay now.)

120ml of white wine (like anyone ever measures the wine they put in food), 120ml double cream (i used plain yoghurt)

salt, pepper and parsley to garnish

 

You do:

Melt the butter in the pot you will cook the soup in. Gently fry the onion and garlic until the onion softens. about 4 minutes-ish. Add the flour and cook for a bit. Then add the stock slowly, stirring away. Add the chopped mushroom and bring to the boil. Here I went my own way because i was making the soup in advance. I added all but one packet of those skinny mushrooms with the little ball heads. They look like these enoki mushrooms but I don’t remember that that was what PnP called them.

 

Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on for about twenty minutes. It is surprising that it really does take that long for the mushrooms to get soft.

Use a food processor or wand to whizz the soup up. It never gets completely smooth but whizz until it is as you like it. Ten minutes before serving I added the rest of the mushrooms  and a handful of chopped parsley, and allowed the soup to simmer. Then I added the yoghurt and the recipe asked for the wine at this stage. I didn’t much fancy raw wine in the soup so I left it out!

I know – shocking!

Once the yoghurt was added you can’t let the soup boil, so warm it through, season with salt and pepper and serve with a parsley garnish.

Was a very filling, creamy, rich and delicious bowl of soup.

 

 

Last night I had a little gathering at my home to collect blankets and raise money to buy more blankets for cold homeless people in Durban.

It was a wonderful success in many ways – we collected 10 blankets, R1100 to buy more blankets, 1 person landed up under the table giggling and 3 of the guests tried to use  mind power to fly the couch home.

I made 4 soups which everyone enjoyed. There was much conversation about soup strategy and how best to attack the options, about which flavours should be eaten in what order, and about how to make sure you had enough space in your tummy to try all four.

Votes were cast and soups rated

in fourth place was spinach & coconut soup

You need:

2 tsp oil

1 chopped onion, 2 garlic cloves, 2 green chillies. I used seeds and all and could have used an extra chilli.

2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp tumeric, 1/2 tsp ground ginger. All of these are rough amounts. When I make the soup again I will use more of each.

600ml stock, 600ml coconut milk, juice of 1/2 lemon. Again I will use more next time.

500g spinach. This is a lot of spinach! More than one bunch – almost all of two.

salt

You do:

Heat the oil. Add onion, garlic and chillies. Cook gently for a while – like 4 minutes or so until the onions are getting soft. Stir in the spices and then add the stock and coconut milk. Bring to the boil and then cover, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Clean and shred the spinach. Add to the liquid and cook for a few minutes until the spinach is wilted. The recipe requires you remove 2/3 of the soup and blend in a food processor and then add to the original soup. What I did was use my wand blender and whizzed the soup up until it was the kind of smooth I like. You will never get all the spinach whizzed up so don’t expect a completely smooth, even coloured and textured soup.

Once the soup is smooth enough for you, add the lemon juice and salt to taste. Heat again if necessary and serve. The recipe called for coconut shavings to serve but I have no idea where you would these from and the soup was fine without them. You could possible use desiccated coconut.

I served the soup with french crusty bread.

This soup may have come 4th out of 4 but it was not a loser. Was very nice – the rest were just better.

Recipes 3, 2 and 1 will follow over the next while. As will pictures of the blankets etc

No photos cos we forgot – and then continued to forget as we drank wine, ate soup and giggled

Last week the MasterChef contestants had to use fish, fish, fish. David, one of the MasterChef Stalkers does not like fish. at all. and it was his turn to cook yesterday.

Luckily for him our rules are gentler than the actual rules so he was allowed to pick from the original choice of main ingredients for a curry. the options were fish, duck or lentils and tofu and pulsey-type things.

 

Last night he served us butternut and lentil curry. very yummy indeed.

here is his recipe taken from the interwebz

Ingredients:
1 butternut
1 T olive oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
3 chopped shallots
1 T butter
Olive oil
1 T curry powder
4 fresh curry leaves
1 cup coconut milk
½ cup vegetable stock
1 cup red lentils
Cooking instructions:

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Peel and cut butternut into bite-sized cubes, then toss with olive oil and cloves crushed garlic. Roast for 40 minutes, or until tender.

Place chopped shallots in a pan with butter and a little drizzle of olive oil. Soften over a low heat for 5 minutes, then stir in curry powder and fresh curry leaves and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Add coconut milk, vegetable stock and red lentils and gently simmer for 10–15 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked. Serve hot with the caramelised butternut

was very nice indeed

Next week Leaza has to make magic with pork – she is threatening pig’s ear but i am hoping for a pork roast.

we’ll see

Hamster loins

so – last night was Stalk MasterChef dinner at my house. Using last week’s show as inspiration I had to feed my friends. a recap of last week may be useful here – two teams had to feed a bunch of wine farm workers on a two course meal. The Blue team cheated and made three courses. Red team leader picked three people, herself included, to go into the pressure test. the pressure test was lamb loin, lamb rack, babaganoush, pistachio nuts bread crumbs and a jus thingie.

I went to the MasterChef site for the recipe for the lamb and saw that it was only half a recipe really – and even the half was a bit weird. what exactly is 25/64 teaspoons of something anyway? so it was time to be inspired by the show rather than dictated to by it.

 

I decided to do the rack and loin rather than the platter thing of the team competition. i went off to buy the bits and pieces and got what i thought must’ve been the smallest ever lamb loin. I didn’t know that a loin and a rack are the same thing; one with bones, one without. The tiny things I got looked like a hamster loin and rack so I decided, once again to be inspired by the relevant episode of MC – and cheat. I made a starter, the hamster meat and even had dessert. I’d have hated for my guests to leave hungry and since when does 1 course, or 2 courses ever mean that anyway? Pfft to the rules, this is my game after all.

For starters I made an assortment of bruchetta, which is really just fancy stale french bread let’s be honest.

I did start with fresh r bread and did the toasting on one side thing. I made three toppings.

1. chickpeas, flat-leaf parsley, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Food process to your taste

2. peas and mint. cook peas and then blend together with mint, olive oil, salt and pepper

3. blue cheese and honey. slice the cheese, put on bread and drizzle with honey.

Now for the main course

The menu was crusted lamb rack, whole boneless lamb loin, pistachio cous cous, wild mushrooms and green beans and a red wine reduction served with a salad on the side. Impressive huh!

Crusted lamb rack

To prep: I made a spice mix of paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, organum, garlic slices and spring onion. I put this onto the inside of the loin and then wrapped it up and stuck it closed with tooth picks. I rubbed coriander and cumin onto the outside with some salt.

To cook: I seared the loin on all sides in a hot but not smoking pan of oil and then cooked in the oven at 200C for about 25 minutes.

The result: perfectly pink really delicious lamb

Crusted lamb rack

To prepare: The rack probably should have had the bones cleaned but the hamster rack was so small I thought every guest would want ever scrap of meat available. and I don’t know how to do it. I mixed fresh french loaf bread crumbs with salt and pepper and rolled the rack in the crumbs. (I just saw i forgot to smear mustard on the meat first – damn). Anyway, the crumb-coated rack went into the over for much longer than i expected. after about 25 minutes we cut into it and it was till too rare so it went back in for a bit.

The result: really nice lamb chops with a lovely crust – eventually.

Remember to let the lamb rest after cooking before serving. It really does make a difference

The sides

Wild mushrooms and beans.

I soaked dehydrated mushrooms in water and then sautéed them in the oil used for the searing of the lamb loin, and additional butter. The beans i put into boiling water for a while and then ice water. I drained them and sautéed them with the mushrooms.

Red wine reduction

I sautéed chopped onions until soft. Then i added vegetable stock and red wine and a rosemary twig or too and let reduce. I strained the sauce and reheated adding small chunks of butter and whisking them in. Added about a table-spoon of butter in total, in four bits.

Pistachio-mint cous cous

I mixed 3 tablespoons of shelled and roughly chopped nuts with 1/4 cup of mint. 2 1/4 cups of hot water went into 300g of cous cous and left to cook. Once the water was absorbed, i fluffed the cous cous up and added the nuts and mint.

The table:

One plate:

 

The verdict: I got through to the next round of Stalk MasterChef

 

 

As I said yesterday, I made beetroot leaf bread to go with the soup.

I have cooked with beetroot leaves before so I knew I liked them – and that they were generally edible. When I bought the beets for the soup, the stalks and leaves just looked way too delicious to throw away.

So I found a spinach bread recipe and modified it.

You need:

1 cup water

2 tightly packed cups of cleaned, stemmed beet leaves or spinach

4 Tablespoons of butter and 1 teaspoon of butter

7g of active yeast. This is a pain – it seems yeast used to come in 7g bags cos all old recipes ask for multiples of 7g. It now comes in 10g bags so you waste a little. But at less than R3 a bag I guess its okay (ish)

1 egg

1 Tablespoon sugar. I used brown sugar cos that’s what I have at home.

1 teaspoon salt

Black pepper

3 ¾ cups of flour. The recipe didn’t way what flour so I used 3 cups of white bread flour and ¾ cup of whole wheat bread flour. I guess cake flour might work too.

1 Tablespoon of kosher salt. I don’t; have kosher salt so I used course ground salt instead

Grated Parmesan

You do:

Wilt the leaves in the water. Take them off the heat and remove the leaves. Keep the liquid. Pour it into a bowl and add the 4 Tablespoons of butter. When the leaves have cooled a bit, squeeze out every bit of liquid you can. Add to the butter liquid mix.

Stir the yeast into the liquid and dissolve. Add the beaten egg, the 1 teaspoon of salt (the kosher salt is for later), the sugar and a twist or two of black pepper. Chop the leaves up quite finely and add.

Then add the flour and stir with a spoon until the dough pulls off the bowl. Have an oiled bowl ready. Take the sticky dough out of the bowl and put directly into the oiled bowl. Turn it once to get oil on all side and cover with cling film. Cover the actual dough and bot the edge of the bowl.

Leave for about an hour until it has double in size.

The recipe said this was enough for 6 over-sized muffins. I thought it was much much more. I made 6 large muffin and a small loaf of bread from the dough. Maybe over-sized muffin trays are larger than I know – but it is a lot of dough.

After an hour or so, tip the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface. Punch it down and fold over itself a few times. It is really quite sticky and because it is not kneaded this stickiness does not go away.

Place in the muffin tray or loaf trays or on an oiled baking sheet in a loaf shape. Sprinkle with the kosher, or course ground, salt and Parmesan. Cover and allow to rise again. And be warned – a lot of rising happens.

Bake at 190 for about 30 minutes.

I baked mine in an oven not my own and it wasn’t hot enough. So while the breads tasted great they were a bit pale. I am learning about baking still – seems bread is delicate even if it seems such a robust product.

The bread and soup were a hit at dinner – but I did only come 2nd!

Winning meal to follow

So, Friday night was our taster menu meal, except the boys seem not to understand the term ‘taster’. I have seldom eaten so much in one evening!

 

I drew the veggie straw and decided to make a soup. I think soup can easily be a main course, and would work well as part of a taster menu. I wanted to be seasonal so I decided on beetroot soup. It seems beetroots like being in cold soup only but I decided, after consultation with my mother, to make a warm soup.

So I made beetroot and cumin soup.

 

You need:

 

500g of beetroot. I found baby ones – it was two Pick n Pay bunches.

600ml boiling water. This is to make the stock so if you use homemade stock just have as much.

1 large onion – sliced

250g sweet potato, peeled and sliced. In real life we buy potatoes by the individual and not weight. This was a medium sized thin skinned potato. I think it doesn’t matter if you have a bit more or less.

425ml milk

Ground cumin. I used a generous teaspoon

Butter

Salt and pepper

1 stock cube – only if you don’t use your own stock

Juice of half a lemon – about a tablespoon.

 

You do:

Boil the beetroot until cooked. I learnt a good trick for boiling beetroot. Cut the stalk off leaving that rough bit behind. Then, to check if the beets are cooked, rub a finger along one rather than poke with a fork. The beets are cooked when the skin comes off easily. If you don’t do the poking thing, less of the colour and flavour escapes.

Once they are cooked take the beets out of the water. Keep the water. Let me repeat that – Keep the water. Do not drain the beets into the sink and remember half way through you were supposed to keep the water. Peel them by sliding the skins off while still warm.

 

Cook the onions in the butter in a large saucepan until just turning colour. Add the peeled and sliced sweet potato . cook over a medium heat for a while and then add the milk, stock and cumin. Let this simmer until the potatoes are really soft.

 

Whizz the beets in a food processor with their cooking liquid. Then add the potato mix. It’s best to let it cool a bit or you may have splattered beet and potato mush on your walls. And I learnt not to over load the food processor with beet – a mighty mess was only just avoided.

 

Add the lemon juice, and salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with a swirl of cream and chopped chives or parsley.

 

I decided to get fancy and made bread with the beetroot stalks. Recipe tomorrow

mini taster menu

Cooking is definitely an infectious enthusiasm. People experiment with cooking because others around them do. It’s a state of being that is spread by heart to mouth contact I think.

But enough of that kind of vomitious prose.

The point of it is that, in addition to having a third person in the Stalk MasterChef SA game, tonight David and I and a third friend are holding a mini dinner party just cos we want to try cooking things we haven’t cooked before. (This third person is not the MasterChef 3rd so the cooking group is growing.)

 

Louis suggested this evening – the original plan was one course each. It was then decided that we would each do a main course, just a small portion thereof. So it’s kinda of like a mini taster menu.

I got veggies, Louis got chicken and David got red meat. Well, to be honest, David grabbed red meat in his grubby little closet-farmer hands and would not let it go. He thinks it’s all he can cook – silly man!

(A closet-farmer is someone who wears trennery but would happily each meat and starch every day of his life.)

 

This may be fun. And if it is – we will do it every month or so.

So busy

Stupid deadlines

Family gatherings

All combine and result in me not doing too much interesting cooking really

So here is another dish from the dinner party from a while ago.

My friend Tania (http://thebadjogger.com/) was here for the dinner party and she is Portuguese – so obviously we made the classic Spanish dish of patatas bravas. The interwebz is awash with recipes for this tapas dish, but this happens to be the one we used. They differ somewhat, but apparently in Spain each place has a slightly different version anyway. So you can’t actually be wrong.

The recipe makes more sauce than you need and trust me, you will be glad. We ate it on pretty much everything for two days and were sad when it was finished.

So – you need:

500g potatoes, unpeeled and chopped into chunks or wedges

I big onion, sliced. I thought they meant chopped but they meant sliced – the slices are delicious

2 gloves or garlic, or, if you are like me and think 2 cloves of garlic are not worth getting garlicky fingers for, four cloves

1 or 2 chillis chopped small. Pips in or out depending on how butch your taste buds are. Mine are big girls so 1 small chill with no pips was enough.

2 bay leaves

4 tomatoes, unpeeled and chopped. The ones we used were big table tomatoes, but not those monster beef ones. You could peel them if you wanted but the skins were completely inoffensive once everything was cooked.

Tomato puree – if I had a jar or that squeezey tube you get I’d have used about a tablespoon. I had a small tin and I never remember to use the left overs so I put it all in

1 glass white wine. This is for the food – drink the rest of the bottle

Soya sauce – according to taste really. We probably used about a tot.

2 heaped tablespoons of sugar

1 heaped tablespoon of mayo

Olive oil for cooking

Parsley to make pretty

You do:

Par boil the potatoes. I read somewhere that to get even cooked potatoes you should put them in cold water and then allow the water to heat around them. We did that and then let them boil for about 6 minutes or so. You don’t want them cooked through. Drain them, put them on a baking tray, sprinkle with olive oil and put in a 180-ish oven for about 40 minutes.

Fry the sliced onions, garlic and bay leaf til the onion is soft. Then add the soya sauce, sugar, wine, tomato puree and chill and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Add the tomatoes and let it simmer over a low heat for about 20 minutes.

When the potatoes are ready and the sauce is bubbling away, season the sauce with a little salt and pepper if needed – do taste it first cos of the soya sauce. Dish the potatoes up, pour the sauce over the top and add a dollop of mayo and a sprinkle of parsley.

Serve with napkins

My bestie, David, and I are stalking Masterchef SA. By this I mean we are watching it, talking about and then copying it – very SWF for those of us old enough to remember that movie.

 

So what we do is watch the program together on a Tuesday and take turns feeding each other doing what the contestants had to do the previous week. The stalking game is only in its infancy – obviously – but we already have a third stalker cook join in.

 

Last week David cooked his meal to impress while we watch the contestants chop onions, separate eggs and make potatoes special.

This week I had to do all of that for dinner last night.

 

So I made gnocchi with a carbonara sauce. Not a usual combo maybe but this is Masterchef after all and you have to take risks.

 

For the gnocchi I baked 5 big starchy-type potatoes. I dunno how you know – I just believed what was on the packet. I read that baking them keeps the flesh drier, and it helps to poke many holes in the skin too. So I did.

Once baked I peeled them while still warm – and have the blister to prove it.

Then I mashed them. The recipe says use a fork. I say yeah right – um no! I used a potato squasher but really I needed a ricer. They weighed 900g once peeled so I sieved 150g of flour into them with some salt. The recipe gave amounts which indicated 1 part flour to 6 parts potato.

 

Then I made the sauce – recipe just now. but back to the gnocchi.

I rolled the potato flour mix into sausages – not as easy as they make out on Jamie Oliver shows, but possible. I cut them sausage into little pieces and pressed a fork into the top to make a dip and grooves. Into boiling salted water they went and out they came when they popped to the surface.

They were not a total success but were nice enough for people to want more. And nice enough for me to be determined to try again.

 

And now the sauce:

I cracked and separated 4 eggs, keeping the yolks. I fried a whole pile of smoked bacon chopped into bits. You are supposed to use pancetta but, well, I didn’t.

I also chopped a little onion cos Masterchef said I had to. These fried together and when cooked and slightly cooled, I put them in with the eggs and stirred. You have to cool the meat down so you don’t get scrambled eggs.

Then I put a goodly heaped tablespoon of crème fraiche into the mixture and some parsley. The recipe called for thyme but thyme makes me go yuck. Seasoning is in the form of salt, pepper and grated lemon zest.

 

As the gnocchi surfaced I dished them and poured sauce over the top.

 

I was surprised that 5 potatoes, 150g flour, 4 eggs and a whole pack of bacon did not make enough food for 4 adults. Here options – we are pigs; the food was really good; I mismeasured. I am going for the middle option – obviously.

 

I did get through though – and will be in the next round of Home Masterchef. And lucky David has to braai next week!