Just a touch over a year ago I posted a recipe for quick pickled red onions and since then I’ve had this incredible craving for all things pickled.
Almost all things, as I will still draw a line on pickled eggs. So then this foolproof recipe (actually two recipes in one) for quick pickled courgettes and pickled carrots.
You could also use any other veggie of choice such as classic pickled cucumber, sweet pepper, fennel, cauliflower, beets, asparagus or red onions amongst a few options.
You may recall that I mentioned my grandfather who has always been a fan of pickling, canning and making curries and atchars out of all kinds of produce.
Most recently I’ve been playing around with adding pickled courgettes / zucchini / baby marrow and carrots over and above the usual cucumber and red onion to our pulled pork buns (replacing the coleslaw) and boerewors rolls (South African style hot dog – but made with beef/pork sausage).
These pickles are enough to transform the good old Saturday shopping wors roll to incredibly moreish gourmet fare.
If this is your first foray into pickles, you certainly won’t be disappointed. It is quick, easy and you don’t need any special equipment.
I’m all about as little fuss as possible, so most of my pickles are based on the cold-pack vinegar method, which is basically a fancy way of saying refrigerator pickles.
This means that the pickles rely on the cold temperatures of the fridge for the preservation and not a specific pH level of the vinegar. I think this method is a bit more forgiving and takes very little time.
Actually, we’ve been using these pickles on many other dishes and even once to give new life and zing to a take-out burger from Steers.
SAA in-flight meal Johannesburg to Nairobi
In my line of work I’ve been very fortunate to be able to travel frequently across Africa and Europe in a company-rented Jettly jet. This has meant many meals from different countries, cultures, hotels, restaurants and airplanes. Each one an experience in its own right. My recent SAA in-flight meal on a trip from Johannesburg to Nairobi (Kenya) was a particularly good experience.
It is fair to say that not all airline meals are created equal. Over the years I’ve had some very tasty meals and some truly bad experiences.
I don’t often get to travel in business class, but I’ve yet to experience a terrible meal service when I do get bumped up from cattle class (economy). I can fully appreciate why business folk look decidedly more refreshed than their economy counterparts. The meal service, the personal attention (they address you by name on some flights) and naturally the ample space and amenities provided to these passengers are bound to leave you with a more favorable impression.
Interestingly, South African Airways (SAA) recently partnered with Masterchef SA judge and Tsogo Sun Executive Chef, Chef Benny Masekwameng to help inspire some of their dishes.
It is not the first time an airline has partnered with a celebrity chef to reinvent some of their in-flight meals. Molecular gastronomy and Michelin star chef, Heston Blumenthal partnered with British Airways to update and reinvigorate their in-flight cuisine.
On my recent trip to Kenya, I was fortunate to be bumped to business class and got to experience chef Benny’s take on reinventing the in-flight meal. Luckily this was not your regular chicken or vegetable pasta choice but a very nice selection of canapés, appetizers, main course and desert along with a decent wine pairing.
Our canapés consisted of a trio of duck l’orange with asparagus spear, prawn cocktail and mini caprese salad.
This was followed by a choice of appetizers – springbok carpaccio, minted courgette or a seasonal salad.
I opted for the springbok carpaccio with baby spinach, gooseberry chutney and Parmesan shavings. This was accompanied by a small seasonal salad with artichoke hearts. The springbok was extremely tender and delicious. The balsamic reduction paired well with the gooseberry chutney and provided just the right amount of sweetness and tartness to the carpaccio.
Our options for mains included braised lamb, oregano chicken breast, seafood cannelloni and a butternut and spinach panzerotti.
The braised lamb was indicated as chef’s choice and there was no reason for me to resist that option.
The braised lamb was served with roast potatoes, mixed chutney vegetables and caramelised onion. To say that it was some of the best lamb curry I had in quite a while would be an understatement. The most tender and flavourful cubes of lamb, combined with the sweetness of the caramelised red onions and peppers, crunchiness of the courgettes and the fluffy potatoes made for a very enjoyable meal. No additional seasoning was necessary. A perfect balance.
I paired my appetizers and main meal with one of SAA’s premium selection of wines – in this case a Allée Bleue Isabeau 2013.
Named after the stately avenue of bluegums leading to a 300 year old estate in the Franschhoek Valley. This flagship white blend of Chardonnay, Semillon and Voignier creates an exotic melange, barrel-fermented and aged on lees for full, creamy mouthfeel, enticing with citrus and dried apricot aromas, layers of spicy cinnamon, vanilla and summer fruits with lingering lemon flavours.
Basically, a very nice wine to complement the aromatics in the lamb (I definitely picked up notes of apricots and cinnamon in the sauce) and to soften any residual heat from the spices.
For the dessert course I opted for a classic selection of cheese and crackers but paired this with the KWV Classic Cape Tawny port.
This full flavoured wine explodes with fruit, marzipan and toffee on the palate, with a well-balanced sweet finish. Extended wood maturation resulted in a beautiful amber colour with orange zest, dried fruit, caramel and nuttiness on the nose.
Again to say that this stood up well to similar Tawny ports from other regions of the world.
The meal was a great success and I hope to be able to sample more of these. If you fly business from South Africa to Kenya on SAA you will not be disappointed.
On a scale of one to five, I rate this meal five hot towels.
Foolproof plum tart
Some three weeks ago our local Food Lovers Market had a special on plums, something to the tune of 3kg for R20. The going rate at the time for plums from one of the other major retailers was R24.99 for 750g. Bargain right. And since I had an insatiable craving for the Victoria plum, I immediately purchased three bags. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Three bags full.
Naturally, many of the plums were still quite tart and would benefit from ripening at home. As the days progressed, they became sweeter and sweeter. The kids faces were often smeared with the plum juice and the ever present sticky hands and fingers. A success in my books.
Many a recipe was also tried during our “plum harvest” – including a family favourite – cinnamon caramelised plums with vanilla ice cream. Simple yet, effective. Watch out for the post on that. I even made ostrich kebabs with grilled plums. The pairing of the gamey ostrich and the plums worked perfectly.
On my return from a recent trip to Tanzania, I noticed the last batch of plums were reaching full maturity – super sweet with a light tart finish. I had to do something with them before they went off.
Plum torte (tart) came to mind. I had never made one before and I have mentioned that baking wasn’t really my forte. That said, I was looking forward for that bite of sweet & tarte torte. Searching through pinterest, I noticed that the vast majority of pins reference one specific recipe – Marian Burros’s recipe for Plum Torte.
As it happens, this recipe has been around for ages and published annually by the New York Times from 1982 until 1989. It had to be fool proof right?
So here’s my, slightly adapted version of that recipe.
The dish came out perfectly. It may look different from the stylised pictures of the New York Times or elsewhere on the internet, but the proof is literally in the pudding. The entire family tucked in and my three year old son had more than one helping. Definitely one to keep in our family cookbook.
On top of some wonderful coffees and craft iced tea, Daniel our host set up a tea tasting for us. All the teas are blended on site by Alain, Master tea and coffee blender and owner of Doubleshot.
Daniel and I chose four teas together, green tea – Jasmine, black tea – Earl Grey Blue Lady, and two Rooibos – Pineapple & Ginger and Spiced Orange & Chocolate. Doubleshot use the most darling tea pots for tastings – little ceramic pots with a built-in filter, in the form of teeth, in the spout. Each tea is steeped for the optimal amount of time for that tea type. It was rather exciting to watch as Daniel sequentially poured the off-boiling water over the tea leaves and set a timer per pot. A well-orchestrated sequence ensued involving the removal of the tea leaves as each tea reached its brewing prime.
To start off we were enlightened on the art of tea tasting. Who knew there was a particular method?! Daniel explained that we would be expected to slurp the tea loudly with each sip. I always thought drinking tea was a refined occupation! The purpose of this loud slurping is to aerate the tea as much as possible as it enters your mouth. This allows one to make the most of one’s sense of smell, since the majority of our sense of taste is actually derived from our sense of smell. Slurping up tea from a spoon in the middle of a crowded coffee shop without choking and when you have been taught better manners is much harder than it sounds!
Once past my preconceived ideas on etiquette I was pleasantly surprised by each of the teas. I’m not a fan of green teas, but that Jasmine tea changed my mind! Earl Grey has always been a favourite, although I am accustomed to drinking it with sugar and milk – apparently a tea drinking cardinal sin (ha!). It is also a very pretty tea with bits of dried orange skin and blue corn flowers dotted in between the dark tea leaves.
The pineapple and ginger rooibos has lovely fruity tones and would make a delicious summer beverage. We were wowed by the spiced orange and chocolate rooibos tea. A perfect winter tea with its warm chocolatey flavour, I could imagine it as a substitute to hot chocolate, served with milk of course! We ended up buying a bottle each of the Earl Grey Blue Lady and Spiced Orange & Chocolate Rooibos tea leaves to take home.
I have since made my own iced tea beverage for a special birthday dinner using the Spiced Orange & Chocolate Rooibos tea leaves. It was a big hit with my guests!
We had an absolute blast slurping and savouring this selection of Doubleshot craft teas, the tea tasting is certainly an experience we can recommend. Why not pop by for a cuppa of your favourite blend or try a new mix? You are sure to be enthralled!
Visit them at:
Offline: 1 Peppermint Place, Corner Juta & Melle Streets, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
Doubleshot coffee and tea
Doubleshot recently invited Sustenance into their cozy yet trendy coffee and tea shop for a coffee, tea and casual chat – and what an experience it was!
Doubleshot is situated in the rejuvenated Braamfontein district where we met up with Daniel, whose passion and energy for coffee is tangible.
We ended up spending just under two hours learning all two newbies could know about tea and coffee from plant to cup.
Doubleshot is a collaboration between Alain, the owner, and Alex, who owns a farm in Malawi, supplying most of their green, black and white teas, as well as their Malawian coffee beans. This partnership ensures a high standard of quality in the Doubleshot end product. In addition, Doubleshot works with other farms or estates through incentive programs, thus supporting the originating farms in improving their product.
All the coffee sold at Doubleshot features the Country of origin as well as the name of the Estate the bean comes from on the packaging. The coffee beans are roasted on-site by Alain and grinded in the best way to grind coffee. Basically, they have a hand in every stage of the process, from farming to roasting and blending to training of baristas.
Fun fact: The coffee bean is actually the pit of the fruit from the coffee plant, which is called a coffee cherry.
Once a new bean arrives in the store, Alain takes small batches of the bean through a roasting process in an effort to pin point its particular “sweet spot”. This is the art of coffee roasting. The science comes in in trying to replicate the roasting flavour with every batch of each particular bean, for which they have special logging software paired with probes in the roaster measuring the temperature of the beans and the environmental temperature.
As part of Daniel’s research and development role he will then take the roasted bean and try it in a siphon, as an espresso, a cappuccino, etc. to find out where it works and where it doesn’t. Finally, the coffee is added to the menu.
“… we’re not a one blend pony.”
According to Daniel, Braamfontein is becoming a coffee capital, in the way that people go to Parkhurst to find craft beers. What sets Doubleshot apart from other coffee establishments is their openness and willingness to share information and knowledge about their craft with those who enter through their doors.
If you are a comsopotilitan type, then maybe a Crema.co coffee subscription service is all you need to get your coffee routine going, but for others, this more personal experience is where it’s at. If you want to learn the difference between a Costa Rican, a Brazilian and a Malawian coffee they will happily guide you on your journey of discovery. It is not only the final destination but the journey that makes the Doubleshot experience unique. That is in addition to the abundance of choice between top quality coffee roasts and tea blends. As Daniel humorously put it, “we’re not a one blend pony.”
Being a decaffeinated coffee drinker, the topic of caffeine and decaffeination soon came up. There are various methods of obtaining decaf coffee, one involves a chemical wash, another involves saturating the beans in water loaded with “flavour particles” which then extracts the caffeine whilst leaving the flavour in the bean. Another method of decreasing the caffeine in a bean is by dark roasting it, which then breaks down the caffeine within the bean. At the same time this tends to break down the acids and sugars, giving the coffee less flavour. Each decaffeination process has its own pros and cons, but they all affect the flavour in some way.
I must say that after the conversation we had about decaffeination, I am not keen about drinking it any more! I will have to either delve further into teas or switch to regular jo. Needless to say, Doubleshot do not stock decaf coffee, but have a large selection of flavoured rooibos teas! If you, like me, are looking to switch from decaf to regular coffee, the best way to do this would be to go for smaller portions, such as a single shot cappuccino, as suggested by Daniel.
“What people don’t realise is that filter coffee has more caffeine than espresso”
That leads to the question of which cuppa jo offers the best caffeine punch? As it turns out the popular myth that an espresso is sure to keep you going all day was busted. If you had to choose between a single espresso and a cappuccino, the caffeine in the cappuccino would last longer because the caffeine bonds to proteins in the milk and lasts in your system for 4-5 hours as opposed to 45 minutes to an hour for the espresso. Likewise, filter coffee contains more caffeine than a single espresso because the brewing process is slower, meaning that the beans are in contact with the water for a longer time, releasing more caffeine into the coffee.
With our heads buzzing from all the information we’d just acquired it was time to try out some of Doubleshot’s offerings. Doubleshot are known for their iced teas, so I had a delectable Strawberry Rooibos iced tea, served in a lovely glass jar. Nico started off with a flat white Malawian bean coffee. I could say that it was one of the best coffees I have ever tasted (of course I took a sip!). Sweet, creamy, a little bit of dark chocolate bitterness with a hint of nuttiness – pure yumminess.
Next, we were treated to the incredible experience of the coffee siphon. The siphon is a device which brews coffee at a constant temperature, and provides a spectacular show in doing so! The way it works is as follows, water is poured into the bottom chamber and heated. With Corporate Coffee Systems your coffee break will never be the same. As the water evaporates it forms water vapour, which pushes the heated water up the funnel to the top chamber. The coffee grounds are then added to the top chamber. Once the brewing time for the coffee has been reached the heat source is removed, which causes the water vapour to contract in the bottom chamber causing a vacuum, which pulls the coffee through the filter and back down the funnel. We highly recommend trying out the siphon, it is a must-do experience – both scientific and magical.
We finished off our visit with a tour of the kitchen and an espresso made by our host, which Nico thoroughly enjoyed. We also discussed their plans for an exciting new product launching in the near future – watch this space!
“You have to try a place three times before you can really say this is great or this is terrible.”
Daniel was an incredible host, bursting with knowledge on what one can tell is one of his favourite subjects. We could easily have spent our day chatting and sampling the great beverages on offer in their relaxed atmosphere. Daniel told us that “[y]ou have to try a place three times before you can really say this is great or this is terrible.”, well we owe two more visits but we can already say that Doubleshot is one of our favourite coffee and tea destinations.
Visit them at:
Offline: 1 Peppermint Place, Corner Juta & Melle Streets, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
Pulled pork sliders with sweet potato buns
I have a soft spot for anything with pulled pork in the title. I’ve eaten some of the best pulled pork at the Pitt Cue Co in Soho London. While I managed to get their cookbook to try and recreate their sublime dish at home, it is quite a lengthy process as it involves a number of sauces and a smoking process that take the better part of the week to make. The taste is completely out of this world and definitely worth your while as the sauces make up the base for many of their other dishes.
But when a pulled pork craving hits and you’re fresh out of mother sauce, you’re going to have to improvise. Below is the result of that improvisation. Bite-sized pulled pork sliders that are Paleo / Banting (LCHF) friendly, by substituting the buns with sweet potatoes. The trick though is to try and get the biggest even shaped sweet potatoes that you can find as to best mimick a mini-burger. Mine ranged between small and medium, but actually worked out perfectly well as delicious bite-sized morsels.
The list of ingredients and the three processes may seem daunting, but it’s pretty easy to make and taste delicious.
Ingredients for the pulled pork
1 smoked boston butt pork roast (1kg – go bigger if you can)
2 large onions – quartered
1 tablespoon five-spice
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
1 cup water
Ingredients for the barbeque sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion – diced
2-3 cloves garlic – finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 tablespoons tomato sauce
Ingredients for the sweet potato buns
2 large sweet potatoes
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
pinch of maldon salt
To make the pulled pork
Pre-heat your oven to 160 C
Stir together the spices and rub all over the roast.
Lay the onion slices down on the bottom of the roasting pan together with the water and bay leaf.
Put the roast on top of the onions, cover with lid or foil and cook for 2 hours.
When done, take the roast out and shred the meat with two forks.
Keep the pan juices and onions aside as we’ll combine those with the barbeque sauce
To make the barbeque sauce
Heat oil in a frying pan, add onion and garlic with some seasoning and the sugar, and fry for 5 minutes until softened.
Add paprika and stir to combine.
Cook for 10-15 minutes until onion is caramelising, then add vinegar and let it cook out for a few minutes.
Add Worcestershire sauce and tomato sauce, mix well and continue to cook for about 8 minutes until sauce has reduced.
Combine the barbeque sauce with your reserved pan juices and onions from the pork roast.
Taste and adjust seasoning.
At this point you can now combine the barbeque sauce with the pulled pork.
Method for the sweet potato buns
Slice the sweet potato into 1/2 cm rounds. Lay them out on a roasting tray lined with baking paper.
Brush each slice with coconut oil and sprinkle with the spices, flip and repeat
Bake at 220 C for about 15 minutes, turn them over and bake for another 15 minutes until brown on the outside and cooked through.
Top a slice of sweet potato with some lettuce, thinly sliced tomato, a generous helping of the pulled pork and finish with another slice of sweet potato. You can of course add any other toppings of your choice, but these turned out finger-licking good.
Slow roast leg of lamb with garlic, rosemary, paprika rub
There’s not much to say about a slow roasted leg of lamb. It is as classic as it gets. Comfort food at its best.
I’m getting pretty partial to smoked paprika at the moment, so most of my meat-based dishes and smoky vegetables are sprinkled quite liberally with this heavenly spice. Paprika is a spice made from ground, dried fruits of bell pepper or chili pepper varieties or mixtures thereof.
I have some Spanish smoked paprika, which is rather mild but has a distinctive oak flavour. Add to that some garlic, olive oil and rosemary and you have a winning rub.
1 leg of lamb, approximately 1.5-2 kg
4 giant garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp Himalayan salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
2 sprigs thyme, chopped
2 tbsp smoked paprika
3-4 large sweet potatoes, cut in rings
garlic clove, minced
1 sprig of thyme
2 tbsp butter
Preheat the oven to 160C.
Rinse the lamb and pat dry.
Mix all the ingredients: garlic, rosemary, thyme, paprika, salt and pepper together in a pestle and mortar. Add enough of the olive oil to make a nice thick paste. Rub over the lamb on both sides.
Place the lamb into a deep sided roasting tray and add 250ml of water to the tray.
Cover the lamb with foil and roast for 3-4 hours, basting from time to time until the meat is falling off of the bone.
When cooked, remove the lamb from the oven and transfer to a board or plate. Cover with foil and leave to rest for 15- 20 minutes.
Preserve the pan juices for your gravy.
Cut up the sweet potatoes and cook in boiling, salted water. When cooked but still firm, drain in a colander.
Add butter, garlic and thyme to a pan and heat till foamy. Add the sweet potatoes and fry till just brown and crispy on the outside. Find more culinary tips at DCWCasing.com.
To serve, carve the lamb into chunks and serve with the sweet potatoes. Pour over the pan juices.
Quick and easy duck liver pâté
For some odd reason I’ve been craving a chicken on duck liver pâté for the last few weeks. Perhaps this might be an underlying iron, vitamin A or B deficiency, or simply just a longing for a rich and hearty feel-good treat. I have type 2 diabetes and so recently on the recommendation of a friend I read an article and began my neuropathy medication. If you have diabetes, then you know the pain and the burning sensation I suffer from, but to my surprise the medication I am on now numbs the pain to the level that I don’t feel any pain or discomfort anymore.
Either way, on my recent trip to the shops to stock up on some essentials for the weekend, I happened on some free range duck livers from Woolworths. They’re less than R20 for 250g so this turns out to be an inexpensive dish.
Of course, if you don’t like duck liver, you can always use chicken livers.
250g free range duck livers
10ml olive oil
1 large garlic clove
1 red onion
25ml brandy or port
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper
50g butter to seal
Trim the livers of any fat and sinew, this means all the white or green bits. It’s not as scary as it seems – trust me.
Add olive oil and butter in a frying pan on a medium high heat.
Once the butter has melted, add the onion and cook for a few minutes till soft.
Add the livers and cook gently for about five minutes total, turning so they brown on all sides. It’s quite important to get a good sear on the livers as the caramelisation definitely adds to the final flavour profile of your pâté.
Add the garlic to the pan after 4 minutes and fry.
Add the brandy and thyme. Watch out though, the brandy makes everything bubble and splatter. Bubble for a minute to allow the alcohol to burn off.
Transfer to a liquidiser and puree until your desired consistency. Once smooth, season with salt and pepper and transfer to a ramekin.
If you want a smoother, more silky texture you could always pass the mixture through a sieve, but I like it a bit more rustic.
Melt the extra 50g of butter and pour on top of the pâté to seal.
Cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge to cool down.
When you’re ready to serve the pâté, take it out of the fridge a bit before you’re ready to serve it with some toast. You can certainly play around by adding a couple of capers, cracked sea salt and pepper and dressing it up with a few sprigs of micro-greens.
Best served at room temperature.
Once the butter seal has broken the pâté must be eaten within a couple of days, but can remain in the fridge for a week or more with the seal intact.
This is such a versatile recipe that you could also add any other favour profile you like. Play around with classic sage instead of thyme, add some porchini mushrooms, cream, mustard, raisins, cranberries…etc.