Category: recipe

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



delicious baked beans

Let me start this blog by i how much I hate HATE HATE baked beans. Those revolting orange squishy things in snot-like sauce just make me gag.

But one day my mom asked if I wanted baked beans for dinner and after I had scowled at her she explained they were home made baked beans, not these things: [cue gagging reflex]

They were delicious. So yesterday I made some for myself. They are a night and day job but a very passive one so don’t balk

You need:

4 cups of beans – I used speckled beans. This is 2 cups after cooking, which is a dumb measurement to have really. A bag is 3 dry cup and about 6 cooked ones. I soaked a whole bag and made the recipe and have some beans left over.

500g streaky bacon. If you are a veggie, jewish or muslim you can leave this out.

2 onions finely diced

6 Tablespons of molasses. You can get molasses at Everfresh or Fruit and Veg City (same name different provinces). Buy crude molasses – in addition to being less sweet, the jokes on the way home are worth it.

1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard. I discovered too late that I didn’t have any so i used 2 generous teaspoons of English mustard

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup sweet chilli sauce. You can use 1 cup of tomato sauce only if you want. Or 3/4 – 1/4 or what ever proportions take your fancy.

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar.

You do:

Day 1.

Soak the beans overnight. Soak them in the pot you will cook them in as you cook them in the soaking water.

Day 2.

Simmer the beans in their soaking water for about 2 hours until tender. When cooked, drain and keep the cooking water.


Preheat the oven to 165.

Put the molasses, salt, pepper, mustard, tomato sauce, chilli sauce, worcestershire sauce and brown sugar in a pot. Bring to the boil.

When scraping the molasses out of the spoon, do not lick your fingers expecting sweet syrupy molasses – as I discovered molasses is not yummy. I expected syrup on steriods but did not get that. It clearly needs to be cooked or something. Yuck

Dice the onions.

Put a layer of beans in an over proof dish – pyrex is good. I used a rectangular dish about 15cm x 30cm. Put a layer of bacon over this layer of beans, if you are using bacon. Then scatter half the onions. Pour some of the molasses mixture over the layers.

Repeat. Make sure the liquid just covers the beans. Use some of the cooking liquid if necessary.

Cover with foil or a lid and put into the oven.

Bake for 3 -4 hours in total. Mine took 3 hours. My mom warns that it is a good idea to check them after 1 1/2 hours and add more liquid if necessary. I didn’t need to but I may have put too much liquid in to start.

Really really delicious and they don’t take much work but your house will smell amazingly nutritious.

Serve on rice, toast, mash, baked potatoes, pasta etc etc.


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


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 ( 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!

skillet bread

I am busy sorting out my collection of recipes torn from magazines and making my own recipe file.

This means I am being bombarded by a wide variety of often unexpected recipes I once liked the look of.

It is making for a very eclectic menu.

On Saturday I made lamb shank cooked in Guinness and had quite a bit of the delicious cooking liquid left over. I knew it would make a great gravy so when I found a recipe for skillet corn bread I could see dinner happening.

You could make this bread on a braai or in a fire too I’d think – you’d just need a lid for the skillet.

You need:

1 cup mealie meal or polenta. I used mealie meal and it was lovely. I am sure polenta would be too – and a little more upmarket too.

1 cup cake flour. I used half cake flour and half self-raising flour – by accident really.

3 tsp baking powder. To compensate for the flour mess up I used half the amount. It worked just fine.

1 tsp fine salt. I tried to use ground salt but it wouldn’t go through the sieve, so I learnt that when the recipe says fine salt, it means it

2 cups of veggies. I used 1 cup sweet corn kernels (you could use canned if you had to I guess), ½ cup onion and ½ cup peppers. You could use anything I’d think.

4 Tbsp chopped coriander

3 jumbo eggs. I only had large so I used 4. Worked out fine.

1 cup yoghurt or buttermilk. I used buttermilk.

3 Tbsp olive oil.

You do:

Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together. Chop the veggies up and add them and the coriander to the dry ingredients. Whisk the eggs and mix with the yoghurt or buttermilk and oil. Mix the dry and wet ingredients until combined. Pour into a butterered skillet and put in a preheated oven at 180C

Cook for about 35 minutes. It goes all golden brown when ready and the top is firm.

Take out and let cool for about ten minutes and serve.

I served with mutton sausages and the sauce from the shank made into gravy. The bread is thirsty in all the right kinds of ways, so prepare more gravy than you think you will need.

I had a slice with butter for lunch today and it was delicious all over again

Bf gave the bread a 3 helpings score.

Low effort high yield – perfect

Despite the dearth of posts, I have been cooking up some little storms of late. I just haven’t been writing about the meals.

A few weeks ago a friend was visiting from Jhb and we spent most of Saturday preparing for a little dinner party on Saturday evening. The meal was largely vegetarian as one of the guests is a veggie. This made it an interesting challenge.


We did a mezze-type meal rather than a single meal. I like this way of eating and it makes for slow, relaxed meals.

The menu was as follows:

White gazpacho to start

Veggie crudités with various dips

Zucchini poppers with a sour cream dip

Chickpea and lentil balls

Patatas bravas

Chicken skewers with a satay

Stuffed peppers


Was all very nice but I didn’t take very many pictures so you will have to just believe me that it looked good too. One of my favourite bits was the zucchini poppers. I am not a huge fan of baby marrow but I do try to eat them cos they must be good for me or something. I really liked them like this. They are really balls and not poppers in the ‘jalapeno-filled-with-cheese’ kind of popper-way.


You need:

A pack of zucchini. I found the recipe asked for few too few. It claimed three marrows made 3 cups of grated marrow. It didn’t. I used 5 and only had 2 cups.

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

150ml or so of flour – that’s 2/3 of a cup

½ cup of Parmesan cheese – and be generous, it adds such a delicious creamy cheesy goodness to the balls.

Garlic – as much as you like


Sage leaves if you have. I didn’t – we used parsley instead


You do:

Grate the marrows and then put them into a clean dish cloth. Squeeze the dishcloth to get as much of the juice out as possible. And then squeeze once more just to be sure.

Put the now dry marrow bits in a bowl and add the eggs, the flour, the cheese, the herb and the garlic. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together and then make small balls.

I then put them in the fridge for a bit but they got a tad soggy so maybe don’t do that.


The balls are friend in hot oil – I shallow fried them, turning them once only. You could probably deep fry them if your arteries could cope.


They were delicious right out of the pan, ½ an hour later when served, and the next day on a picnic.


The dipping sauce we made had sour cream, sugar, lime juice, parsley, salt and pepper all mixed up until it tasted amazing.


Very yummy indeed

white gazpacho

I always assumed that gazpacho meant cold tomato soup. Seems I have always been wrong. When I was told by a friend she would be serving white gazpacho I could not work out how tomatoes could ever produce a white soup. They didn’t need to as it seems gazpacho really means any cold vegetable soup; it just usually means tomato based.

This white cold soup has become a favourite very quickly; in addition to having it at my friend’s home, I have served it twice in the last month, both time to rave reviews.

It is also really easy.

You need: stock (2 cups), stale (or not) bread (2 cups), blanched almonds (1 cup), seedless white grapes (2 cups), cucumbers (2), garlic (as much as makes you happy – I use about 4 cloves), olive oil (1/4 cup), salt, sheery or cider vinegar (2 – 3 Tablespoons), a food processor.

You do:

Heat the stock and then break the crustless bread into it. The recipe says use good bread so I have used French loaf. A long french loaf is about the right amount of insides. (And the crusty outsides are not very hard to dispose of with butter and cheese.)

While the stock and bread are getting soggy together, whizz the almonds, garlic and salt in a food processor.

Add the cooled stock bread mush and all (if there is any) unabsorbed stock. Whizz that up with the skinned, seeded, chopped cucumber and halved grapes. Stop when it is all mixed and a rough-looking puree. My food processor can do half of this at a time only. Check the capacity of yours and if that is true for you too, I advise you actually make two distinct batches rather than try to divide the stock and bread, or the garlic, almonds and salt after combining them.

Add about a tablespoon of vinegar to the mix and taste. I have not needed to add more than 2 Tablespoons but apparently some grapes need more. Then drizzle in the oil while the food processor is on.

The most recent time I made this I used half chilli and garlic oil, and half plain oil. The little bit of a bite it added was a nice addition, but it is not necessary if you are not a chilli fan.

Taste and add salt if necessary (I have never found it necessary) and chill.

Serve in teacups (if you wish) garnished with chives, almonds or grapes

Absolutely delicious. A perfect starter to a meal and in summer could be a whole meal very easily. But hard to photograph especially after drinking wine while cooking :-). You can google images it if you want to see better pics

The soup is textured and filling.

It got high scores at both outing at my house, and at my friend’s house.