Side orders

Força Portugal.

IMG 8125 468x468 Side ordersIMG 8124 468x467 Side ordersScreen shot 2012 06 14 at 10.32.05 AM 468x468 Side ordersIMG 8122 468x468 Side ordersIMG 8121 468x468 Side ordersIMG 8120 468x468 Side ordersIMG 8291 468x468 Side orders

Bom dia! This is why I’ve been so quiet the last two weeks: I’ve just been on a whirlwind trip around Portugal with friends. Possibly the raddest holiday of my life in a country that really surprised me in terms of food, wine, style, people, culture and pretty much everything else.

Pics and stories to come.

 

Hidden MSG.

noodle 468x468 Side orders

Bought some stuff at that great Thai supermarket on Main Road, Sea Point, on Sunday. Aside from fish sauce, peanut oil and a bunch of vegetables (bok choy!), I also bought some instant noodles. There’s something about eating hot and spicy instant noodles that I really enjoy. It’s junk food in most ways, but at the same time, it’s totally comforting. Especially the hot broth.

Less comforting is the ingredient list on the back of this packet.

“Ingredients: wheatmeal, fine palm oil, starch, salt.”

Go right ahead and file that under ‘Bullshit.’ Maybe those ingredients are the noodles, but in all those little sauce and spice packets I reckon a good amount of weird shit is included, and most likely that old flavouring stalwart, MSG. Mmm, not ideal.

Oh, they were really tasty though. And cost about R8 or something.

 

Bacon

Change in Progress.

20100215 whole eggs thumb 500xauto 73539 468x311 Bacon

I’m cracking something interesting on this site, a complete change from it’s current purpose and concept. Stay tuned for the 2.0 version. Whenever it may come. Till then, keep at the bacon.

Bacon Is The New Black.

Screen shot 2011 05 31 at 7.52.28 AM Bacon

There is a t-shirt, therefore it is true. Nothing else to say, really.

Thanks to Nicola for the pic, taken on the streets of NYC I presume.

Getting Pigheaded at Chefs Warehouse.

pigheaded1 468x360 Bacon

Yup, the picture pretty much says it all. That’s Liam on the right, me on the left and our little porky friend in the middle. Finally I get to combine my passion for pig with the talents of Liam Tomlin, who is nothing short of a culinary genius.

The three of us will be hosting a class at Chefs Warehouse on 7th July where we will:
a) feast on a menu from heaven that Liam has designed, each dish involving some part of our good swine friend there
b) imbibe copious amounts of ALPHABETICAL, the wine I make with Simon Wibberley (read my good mate Jamie Who’s writeup on it here)
b) also drink a few other things – think local artisan cider, bubbles, etc
c) generally revel in the glory that is excessive indulgence

For a taste of what we’ll be er, tasting on the night, see the menu below, which I’ll be helping Liam prepare (aka staying out of his way in the kitchen all day)…
Proscuitto popcorn
Oysters with chourizo
Pork cheek rillette with deep fried pigs ears
Liam’s “bacon and eggs”
Confit belly of pork
Chinese-style barbecued pork

There’ll be loads of food and drink and it all goes down at Chefs Warehouse on the 7th July. Cost is R450pp and there are ONLY 20 SEATS AVAILABLE.

For bookings, more details, etc, visit the Chefs Warehouse website here. It’s going to be awesome!

Bacon Porn.

oh shit Bacon

“Oh shit!”

That’s all that needs to be said…

To all you bacon fiends, have a crispy dripping-with-goodness streaky bits of glory day.

*pic courtesy wellfound.tumblr.com

Bye Bye Jardine Bakery.

jardine.bye  468x351 Bacon

I’m going to miss you. You were always there for me. Cold early mornings in winter, braving the rain. Hot summer days, lazily drinking coffee, watching pretty girls go by. Impromptu meetings with lost friends in the queue. Getting laughed at for asking for a bacon croissant after 10am. Eating gourmet dogs, with onions dripping down my chin. The sushi on rye, crisp and slightly healthy, during detox. Those little empanadas, weird, but tasty. The little chourizo and egg tartlet thingy, a one-bite bit of breakfast heaven. Oh, and perhaps most of all, the pork belly and braised apple pie. Fuck I’m going to miss that.

Yes, your owner looks like an extra from a Hell’s Angel movie and tells bad jokes, but we put up with him. After all, the guy can bake. And he drives a Land Cruiser. But, you’re closing. Onto your next thing. I guess, the time has come to say goodbye.

Don’t call me, I’ll call you. It’s nothing personal. I just need some space. However you want to say it, you’re saying it. It’s over. And we’ll miss you. Bastard.

Goodbye Jardine Bakery.

* no tears were shed in the writing of this article.

**okay, maybe just a few.

Good Bacon. Bad Bacon.

bacon Bacon

Arty Bacon.

iheartbacon panty1 468x468 Bacon

Hot bacon.

Bacon by fatzombie Bacon

Inked bacon.

bacon%20gummis Bacon

Strawberry bacon?

bacon bra 01 468x318 Bacon

Disrespected bacon.

diet coke bacon Bacon

Refreshing bacon.

Screen shot 2010 12 01 at 12.28.07 PM 468x323 Bacon

Free-range bacon (the best kind).

sci bacon tremors Bacon

Kevin Bacon.

cash wad Bacon

Makin’ bacon.

nearly as bad as soy bacon Bacon

Bad bacon = Turkey bacon.

It’s my birthday, that’s all I got for you… bacon.

My Last Meal.

menu of heaven 468x351 Bacon

I’m not sure how many of you have thought about your last meal, but I’m sure a few have. The very last meal you get to eat on earth, what would you choose? It’s a toughie. Well, it was for me, until a good friend emailed me this beauty. Ladies and gentlemen, lovers of swine and pursuers of pork, may I present the Whole Hog Menu from B&B Ristorante in Las Vegas.

It’s brought to you by US celebrity chef Mario Batali, the true Lord of Bacon and oversized orange Croc-wearing pony-tailed ginger behind my favourite expression, “Wretched excess is barely enough.” Let’s just have a look on there, what do we have… (Cue the holy-angels-harmonising-from-above sounds) Pig Tail – check. Prosciutto – check. Pork loin – check. Cotecchino (giant pig sausage) – check. Porchetta di Testa (deboned pigs head marinated for a couple days, then rolled up and roasted) – check.

Holy crapballs! Kill me now, but let me eat this all before.

crocs mario batali 375x600 Bacon

(Mario “Lord of Bacon” Batali. The man has no style, but he can cook pig like a God.)

Vegas has become another dining capital in the US, with pretty much the entire Cooking Channel of celebrity chefs having their own restaurants. Some more than one. I ate at the Rum Jungle when I was there a few years back (cue Swingers clip: “Vegas, baby! Vegas!”). There wasn’t any Butcher’s Ragu Rigatoni, but they did clear the tables away at 11pm and the entire place turned into a heaving nightclub. But that’s another story.

ps – thanks for the menu Molly!

Personality Goes A Long Way.

pulp 468x262 Bacon

Vincent (John Travolta): Want some bacon?
Jules (Samuel L. Jackson): No man, I don’t eat pork.
Vincent: Are you Jewish?
Jules: Nah, I ain’t Jewish, I just don’t dig on swine, that’s all.
Vincent: Why not?
Jules: Pigs are filthy animals. I don’t eat filthy animals.
Vincent: Bacon tastes gooood. Pork chops taste gooood.
Jules: Hey, sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I’d never know ’cause I wouldn’t eat the filthy motherfucker. Pigs sleep and root in shit. That’s a filthy animal. I ain’t eat nothin’ that ain’t got enough sense enough to disregard its own faeces.
Vincent: How about a dog? Dogs eats its own feces.
Jules: I don’t eat dog either.
Vincent: Yeah, but do you consider a dog to be a filthy animal?
Jules: I wouldn’t go so far as to call a dog filthy but they’re definitely dirty. But, a dog’s got personality. Personality goes a long way.
Vincent: Ah, so by that rationale, if a pig had a better personality, he would cease to be a filthy animal. Is that true?
Jules: Well we’d have to be talkin’ about one charmin’ motherfuckin’ pig. I mean he’d have to be ten times more charmin’ than that Arnold on Green Acres, you know what I’m sayin’?

A bit of bacon hatin’ by Samuel L. Jackson, but still one of the best bits of movie dialogue around, and not only ‘cos they talk about bacon. Don’t you like the idea of “one charmin’ motherfuckin’ pig?” Quality. Pretty random, but quality nonetheless.  Enjoy the rest of your Monday then.

Bacon art.

pig equation 468x211 Bacon

There are some pretty crazy people out there. People that do mad stuff they regret for years to come. I don’t think any of these people regret these tattoos. I think they wear them with pride and show anyone that cares to look. In fact, they show anyone whether they care to look or not. I like the fork-through-the-heart vibe going on, and the rashers too, but the pig cuts, well, let’s just say don’t show me that outside a tattoo parlour after I’ve had too many drinks. Oink.

pig4 468x311 Bacon

pig5 Bacon

pig2 Bacon

(Thanks to @Bubbalubs for the equation one.)

Table Thirteen.

table13 468x317 Bacon
Popped in here earlier this week. Always forget about it since it’s tucked away on a side road in Greenpoint, but have enjoyed every visit. Worth seeking out if you haven’t been. The vibe inside is a sort of casual opulence – think dark shades, white marble, mismatched chairs and chandeliers. The crowd is usually a mix of moneyed housewives and plenty of business folk, the latter making sense given the surrounding buildings. They serve some delicious warm lunch dishes that change daily and are written up in chalk on the wall, and a menu focused on breakfasts and sandwiches. They also have a table overloaded with freshly made pastries and cakes to tempt the sweet tooth.

But forget all this. You only need to know about one thing at Table Thirteen: the open breakfast sandwich of poached eggs, bacon, slow-roasted tomatoes and rocket. This little bit of egg & bacon love is undoubtedly one of the best breakfast sandwiches in Cape Town. Perfect for a Friday too. You’ll also pick up this useful bit of information on the wall to help you ease into the weekend…

table13 2 468x280 Bacon

Table Thirteen. Victoria Junction (entrance on Ebenezer Rd). 021 418 0739.

Recipes

Recipe: Spinach & Feta Pie.

phylloto2 468x468 Recipes

I’m particularly fond of spinach and feta pie. Sad thing is, usually it’s eaten in the form of a take-away pie from a 24-hour garage shop that only tastes decent because I’m feeling the effects of wine overindulgence. And even then it’s a compromise: you want a pie because it’s going to soak up all the alcohol, but you don’t want to eat the weird meat they use so you go with spinach and feta. At least that’s how my line of thought works at 3am.

However, a good home-made spinach and feta pie is a winner, far better than the take-out alternative and added bonus is you’re unlikely to wake up the next day with crumbs all over yourself. The good folk at Mediterranean Delicacies sent me some phyllo pastry so it seemed like the natural thing to make. It’s a great winter dish that’s easy to cook for large numbers.

If you don’t want to make one large pie, you can also cut your phyllo into small squares and scrunch up to make little bite-sized spinach and feta parcels. A full pie just seemed more hearty though. Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients:
1 roll phyllo pastry, thawed to room temperature
1 bag of spinach, rinsed and roughly chopped (should make about 3 handfuls once chopped)
200g Danish feta
200g mixed mushrooms, chopped
1 knob butter
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1 handful Italian parsley, chopped
Salt & pepper to season
Olive oil
1 bottle red wine

Method:
Open the wine and pour a glass; enjoy the taste while surveying your ingredients. A good wine should make you smile.
Add a good swig of some olive oil to a wide saucepan on medium-high heat; add the onions when hot and saute about 10 minutes.
Add the butter, garlic and the mushrooms and fry until mushrooms browned a little, about 15 minutes. Be sure to drink some wine while doing this to pass the time quicker.
Add the spinach and stir into the onion, mushroom mix to soften; cook until spinach is softened through, then remove from heat and stir the Danish feta pieces into saucepan.
Season with salt and pepper, add the parsley and another swig of olive oil and set aside. Reward yourself with a good swig of red wine.
Unroll the phyllo pastry so it’s a stack of thin sheets, then brush each individual sheet with olive oil (best method for this is to fold in half like a book, then brush as if turning the pages one by one).
Place the phyllo stack into a roasting dish (wiped with some olive oil to prevent sticking), then add the mushroom, spinach and feta mixture on top.
Fold up the sides roughly so the centre is partially open (to let a bit of air in), drizzle with a few bits of water (just splash with your fingertips) to moisten the top of the pastry and place in the oven at 180′C for 45 minutes.
Once removed, should be perfectly cooked, the pastry nicely browned on top. Cut into portions and serve with whatever wine is left in the bottle.

 

You can get both Danish feta and phyllo from www.mediterraneandelicacies.co.za.

 

Spicy Berne BBQ Chicken (Recipe).

IMG 3698 468x468 Recipes

IMG 3696 468x468 Recipes

IMG 3700 468x468 Recipes

IMG 3701 468x468 Recipes

So I’m not really big on posting recipes. Why? Well, let’s be honest, there’s a ton of recipes out there already and I’m not exactly Marco Pierre White, even though I’m dying to read his autobiography. I just like to cook shit. Though I can’t even follow recipes myself, seriously. There are really two types of cooks: those that can cook ‘winging it,’ knowing how flavours work together and just trying things as they go along; and those that follow recipes. I’m definitely not the latter. I’m the guy with the blank look on his face staring at shelves in the supermarket, working out dishes in my head. I spend 20-minutes staring at the vegetable aisle figuring out what I’m going to cook. Actually, I spend 10-minutes in the meat aisle first, then once I’ve picked my meat I head to the veggie aisle for that decision process. The only thing that takes longer is picking a DVD on Sunday evening.

Anyways,  Sunday was a beautiful summer-like day, the Dad was in town and my sister texted me to see what we should make for lunch. I suddenly found myself sending the message back, “Braaied chicken marinated in Berne, chilli, ginger, garlic and tons of honey. Sides etc.” Maybe it was because I hadn’t had a beer in ages. Like two full days. Or whatever, I just felt like making that. And drinking Berne. There’s something satisfying about drinking and eating something made with the same beverage. As an amateur cook, the second best thing about having a professional cook sister is that she has everything in her kitchen (Obviously the best thing is when she cooks herself). She simply replied: “Just bring the beer.”

And so it happened. Chicken in Berne. With loads of garlic, chilli, ginger, harissa paste and other stuff thrown in too. What paste, huh? Harissa, there you go. It’s really freaking easy, so easy I figured I could post the recipe and even people from both camps (the recipe followers and the ‘winging it’ folk) could try it. It worked really well, the spices and beer flavours merging into one unified smack of deliciousness. Even more so when served alongside some grated fennel salad with vinaigrette and some baby potatoes drenched in olive oil, parsley and coriander.

Sunday lunch. With the family. And beer. And some good Silverthorn bubbly to kick things off. Winning, it’s really not hard.

Do try this at home, kids. You’ll need…
1 Elgin Free-Range chicken, spatchcocked (can someone Google that to find out where the hell that word came from?)
1 Brewers & Union Berne Amber Lager
Tbsp garlic
Tbsp ginger
Tbsp green chilli
3 Tbsp harissa paste
5 Tbsp honey
tsp paprika
tsp cumin
salt & pepper
1/2 handful fresh coriander, finely chopped
1/2 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 lime & 1 lemon

Okay, it simple from here. Firstly, light your fire, ideally wood with some charcoal added.
While that’s burning down, make a mix from the garlic, ginger, chilli along with a good dose of salt and pepper in a bowl.
Cut your chicken in half, breasts joined in the middle, and press flat. Salt and pepper both sides all over, then take the above mix and spread it under the skin that covers the breasts & legs, saving a little bit of mix.
Put the chicken in a dish, breast-side up, and empty the Berne all over it. Then sprinkle the remaining garlic-etc mix over the top along with 1/2 the harissa paste, paprika and cumin. Let this sit for at least an hour or so. The longer the better.
Once the fire’s ready, separate the coals and add the chicken so it’s not on direct heat, then if it’s a Weber, put the lid on to smoke it nicely. Turn it a few times over 30 minutes, basting with the beer.
Leave the chicken to cook, head to the kitchen and reduce the beer mixture in a pan until it’s about 1/4 it’s original volume. Once it’s there, add the honey and remaining harissa paste and cook a few minutes longer then remove. Take this outside and baste the chicken a few times, turning, until it’s ready (i.e. nicely browned, cooked through).
Remove chicken and cut on a board into pieces. Pour reduced beer sauce over the top, squeeze lemon & lime and then sprinkle with coriander & parsley and serve, with some more Berne.*

There it is. Less yada yada. More happy eating.

* And if you didn’t finish two Berne’s yourself during the cooking process you’ve failed miserably!

Fish Cakes Are Easy.

fish cakes Recipes

Easy peasy. Piece of cake. Simple as pie. Which is why I decided to make them for lunch the other day. With an ice cold beer. And what’s better than fish cakes? Spicy fish cakes! Because Cape Town thought it was Bombay that day, complete with mini monsoon and all and since I’d already been schvetzing like a mineworker, I thought ‘why not throw some spice in the mix?’ Spicy fish cakes. They came out alright, not bloody amazing, but good. I used angelfish, but hake probably would’ve been better. Simple hake, nothing wrong with it. Here’s how to do it…

What you need
300g white fish (SASSI green list, please)
zest of 1/2 lemon, finely chopped
3 green chillies, seeded and chopped finely
3 potatoes, medium sized
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, crushed
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
handful chopped coriander
1 egg
1 ice cold beer
flour
peanut oil

What to do
Put some cool music on. Then open the beer and take a big swig (duh). Look outside at the hot day and take another swig. Okay, you’re ready now.
Put the beer down, chop potatoes into small pieces and boil until soft. Remove and mash roughly in a mixing bowl.
Fry the fish on medium-high heat in a little butter until done (shouldn’t be translucent anywhere). Break into little pieces over potato mash.
Add the chilli, ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce, coriander and lemon zest. Mix well. Crack the egg in and mix well.
Drink some more beer.
Flour your hands well, then scoop a handful of the mix and shape into a ball. Sprinkle with flour and place on a flour-sprinkled board or plate. Squash gently until it makes a flat disc that resembles an ice hockey puck.
Repeat this until you’ve used all the mixture.
You can be fairly liberal with the flour, otherwise you might end up scraping fishcakes off the plate. You also might get sticky fish fingers, not the kind you eat but the kind you need to wash under warm water.
Heat a wide frying pan on medium-high and add some peanut oil, enough to cover the surface. Then place the hockey puc- er, fish cakes, into the pan and fry until golden brown on each side, then remove.

fishcakes2 Recipes

Serve with another beer and some dressed greens. Squeeze some lemon juice over the fish cakes and maybe enjoy with a bit of salsa verde or tartare sauce on the side. I just shoved mine down my throat before I could think of that, but if/when I make them again, I’ll sauce it up.

Ramen with Marinated Pork Steak.

ramen 468x378 Recipes

Let me just start this by stating that ramen is the business. For some reason, we don’t seem to get ramen in South Africa. Most of the Japanese restaurants here offer udon noodles, but no ramen, which is pretty sad when you consider how important a piece of Japanese cuisine it is. If you’re wondering what exactly ramen is, here’s the simplest answer: ramen is Japanese fast food. Originally a Chinese noodle dish, the Japanese have made it their own, probably mostly through what has been called the greatest Japanese invention of the 20th century: instant noodles. Yup, if you go and buy a packet of 2-minute noodles, that is ramen. Sadly you also get some shitty powdered flavouring and end up with a pretty crappy bowl of noodles. While the real deal generally uses the same egg noodles, the overall dish is far more satisfying. Instead of that powder addition, a Japanese ramen restaurant (or street stand, as is common) will have a variety of flavourful broths, from fish to miso to meat, that go with the noodles. The pork bone broth is probably the most favoured. Each region in Japan has their own variations, some with boiled egg, vegetables and meat added, some more simpler.

My experience with ramen is mostly in the vampire hours of the morning in the Lower East Side in Manhattan, where several authentic ramen outlets serve tasty noodle broths to inebriated youths. However, there is amazing gourmet ramen, like the kind made at Momofuko Noodle Bar, which needs to be eaten to be believed. If you’re going to New York, give it a try (if you’re prepared to wait in a queue for a table). Below is a recipe for a relatively simple version of my own, something that you can easily recreate at home. Give it a shot, you’ll be happy you did. Ganbatte ne!

Ingredients
2 pork steaks, about 200g each
600ml chicken stock
1 egg, hard-boiled and sliced
1 packet ramen noodles (or 2-minute noodles, sachets discarded)
3 Tbsp chopped spring onion
handful coriander, picked
2 Tbsp mung bean sprouts

For pork marinade:
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp Hoisan sauce
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp peanut oil
50ml white wine
1 clove garlic, finey chopped
1 green chili, finely chopped

Preparation
Mix the marinade ingredients together in a bowl, add the pork steaks to the marinade and let sit for at least 30-minutes.
Fry the steaks in a pan with a little peanut oil until cooked through. (Alternatively, grill on a fire for a smokier flavour)
Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl.
Bring the stock to a boil and add the noodles.
Once cooked, divide broth and noodles into two bowls.
Cut steak into slices. Keep the juice that comes from resting & cutting the steaks and add this to the bowls. This is important flavouring and makes a difference.
Divide the steak, coriander, spring onion, sprouts, and egg slices between the two bowls.
Serve with fresh chili on the side.

Drink it with a lager, or a fresh, fruity white wine. An unwooded Chenin Blanc would work nicely, like the Raats Original Chenin Blanc.

The Martini Pork Leg.

martini pork ff 468x353 Recipes

I recently attended an evening of cocktails that somehow left me with an almost-full bottle of Noilly Prat dry vermouth. The stuff makes an excellent dirty martini (or filthy martini, depending how much olive brine you add), but then if I finished the entire bottle only making martinis, it’d be awesome I shudder to think of my condition. Instead, I thought it’d be fun to cook with it, since it has a lovely fragrant flavour. It actually makes a great alternative to white wine in many recipes, but worked superbly with this pork leg. Great for a lazy Sunday, especially since you now have a bottle of Noilly Prat in your possession and this means you’re going to make a good martini. Or several. What else are you going to do while that pork cooks? Follow the recipe closely to see how…

home img1 noilly Recipes

Ingredients
1 pork leg (deboned)
1 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup Noilly Prat dry vermouth
1 bag green olives
two handfuls baby potatoes
handful small radishes
1 can white beans
1 handful green beans
1 handful fresh thyme, picked
olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper

Preparation

Set the oven to maximum temperature with the broiler element on. Then, while you’re waiting for that to heat up, mix yourself a dirty martini. You deserve one, just for trying a dish as great as this. Fill a shaker with ice, pour in two measures of vodka (Finlandia is a good one), 1/4 a measure of  Noilly Prat and a 1/4 measure of olive brine. (If you want to go filthy, mash up two green olives and add this too.) Stir well and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with three olives on a toothpick. Aah, civility.

Back to work. Rub the pork shoulder in olive oil, salt and pepper. Place pork in casserole dish under broiler, and brown on each side. Keep an eye on it, as you don’t want to blacken it – we’re not cooking Cajun here. Use kitchen tongs or a serving fork to rotate the shoulder in the dish, without removing from oven.

This should take about 15 minutes, by which time your martini will be finished. Feel free to mix another one. But first, remove dish from oven and turn the oven temperature to 150′C with the element off. Mix the chicken stock, Noilly Prat, thyme and half of the olives together. Splash in a bit of the olive brine too. Pour over the pork, and baste well. The pork should now be sitting in a ‘bath’ of marinade. Place dish in oven and let cook for 4 hours, turning every hour.

Add the baby potatoes, radishes, white beans, green beans and replace in oven. Cook another 2 hours. While its cooking these last few hours, you should have invited guests to join you in exploring how best to enjoy a martini. This is a most fun way to pass the time, and highly intellectual, of course. Churchill, Hemingway, Faulkner and others attested to this. You can experiment with the ratio of Noilly Prat to vodka. You can also see how dirty you like yours. Purists won’t add brine to their martini at all, but they don’t know what they’re missing. Besides, with the brine addition it makes it a lot easier to enjoy. But don’t forget the pork: remember to mix the vegetables in the marinade and turn the pork every so often in between exercising your inner James Bond.

Once the two hours are up, serve immediately, spooning the rich and tasty marinade (which has plenty of pork fat in it now) over the meat. You can continue to drink martinis with the meal, but you might find yourself so plastered you can’t taste the great food you’ve cooked, something of a tragedy. I’d rather recommend a good bottle of Riesling, something dry with good acidity and minerality. Paul Cluver makes a goodie, as does Klein Constantia.

Braaideas.

blue weber grill  Recipes

It’s Spring, it happens to be Braai Day on Friday and with the promise of months of sunny days ahead of us, it’s very definitely time to get the braai out. The beautiful thing I know about us South Africans is our dogged determination that when we want to cook something over coals, we will do it. We make braais out of anything. Basically, if you don’t have a braai and you can’t dig a sand pit, just find the nearest remotely-cylindrical item on hand and cut it in half. Large gas canisters, oil drums, paint cans… you name it, it can become a braai. Slice salvaged item in half. Make fire. Braai meat. Done deal.

Whatever your braai, you’re still going to want to prepare some tasty meat.  A little salt and pepper is great when you’ve got top grade steak, but most things need a bit of TLC beforehand. Here are some ideas that’ll impress the hell out of the guests at your next braai. That is unless you drink to much beer and overcook the meat again.

Asian five-spice rub.

Star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sechuan peppercorns and ground fennel. These five spices combined make an awesome combination. Grind them up in a mortar and pestle, then rub generously onto the meat before cooking. Save some to mix with some soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger and tomato sauce for a simple basting sauce.

Canton & soy.

Canton is the ginger & honey liqueur that was bestowed upon us by the kind and loving alcohol Gods. At least, that’s what you’ll think once you’ve tasted it. It’s delicious. If you haven’t, here’s another reason: it makes an awesome marinade. Naturally sweet, throw it together with some soy sauce, ginger, chili and lime juice and drop your meat in there for a few hours. If you missed my Canton-marinated steak recipe in Crush! magazine, go squizz here.

Rum & orange.

I’m giving away a secret here. This is my favourite rib marinade. It’ll work with other meats too, but with pork ribs it is awesome. Mix 1 cup tomato sauce with 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup Worcester sauce, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup orange juice and 1/2 cup dark rum. Squeeze in some lime juice and add a splash of olive oil. Now coat the ribs (which should either be preboiled or partly cooked in a medium-heat oven) in this and let sit for an hour or three. Then braai over slow coals, basting regularly, until the meat almost falls off the bone. Yum.

Southern-style BBQ rub.

The Americans know how to cook on a grill. As much as we are braai obsessed here, Down South in the US, it’s a whole new level. Pitmasters slow-cook pigs over low-temperature coals for 24 hours. Guys build elaborate contraptions to warm-smoke their meat. Every town has its own BBQ festival. And BBQ sauce recipes are whispered from one generation to the next, never allowed to leave the family. But you don’t need to go to Texas to taste this. Simply make a good rub and coat your meat with it. Salt, black pepper, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon and ground cloves mixed with some brown sugar will do it. You’ll want to make some BBQ sauce too, to slather the meat with once it’s done. This is generally a mix of tomato sauce, vinegar, olive oil, brown sugar, Worcester sauce, mustard and cayenne pepper. Play around and see what works for you. Try slow-roast a pork leg done with this rub. Serve with your sauce and sides of white bread and gherkins.

Egg Fried Rice.

fliedlice 468x321 Recipes

I just cooked egg fried rice for lunch. This is like the peanut butter and jam sandwich of Asia. It’s pretty boring. Why’d I make it? Well, now might be a good time to tell you that I’m eating nothing but Asian food for a week. I don’t really know why. It’s an experiment. To see if I can do it. To see what happens. No, I’m not worried about my eyes going narrow. Grow up, man. Maybe it’s because the Asians are the healthiest people in the world. They live the longest, work the hardest and definitely don’t have a problem procreating. So let’s see how I feel one week later. Maybe I’ll go another week. Maybe I’ll miss hamburgers and relent. Who knows. At least Asian cuisine involves bacon, so this is feasible.

If you have never tried egg fried rice you haven’t really missed out on anything awesome. But at the same time, it’s pretty comforting. Next time you have leftover rice, make this dish. It is pretty much a leftover dish in total. You can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Ingredients (serves 2)

2 cups cooked Jasmine rice

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 green pepper, finely chopped

1/4 onion, finely chopped

1/2 red chili, finely chopped

peanut oil

rice vinegar & soy sauce for seasoning

Preparation

Heat a large wok or pan over high heat. Fry the egg mix in the pan, spread as flat as possible, for 1-minute. Then throw in the onions, pepper and rice and mix up, so the egg breaks. Fry for 2-minutes until warm, then add the chili. Fry for another 30-seconds then transfer to bowls. Season to taste with a splash of soy sauce and rice vinegar.

There are endless variations. You can also fry some bacon, chicken or beef before you fry the egg. Just remove and add back with the chili at the end to warm. You can also add peas, sweetcorn or any other vegetable you feel like.

Thai Coconut Soup.

coconutsoup 468x350 Recipes

I have many fond memories of traveling in Thailand. I’ve been lucky enough to go twice, spending two months there in total. If you’ve been, and I mean actually went instead of just staying in a resort in Phuket, you’ll surely remember the three things that stuck out most for me: how easy it is to get around the country, how tasty the food is and how friendly the people are. For an example of each, there’s the one time I caught a bus that felt as if the wheels were pointing in four different directions and had no suspension. After rocking left to right for half an hour I thought best to spare myself as an accidental sacrifice and jumped off. No problem, the local policeman simply gave me a ride to the next destination. Once there, I tucked into some street food at the night market while watching some locals do strange aerobics on a lawn. The aerobics was shocking, but the street food was awesome. Fish balls, curries, sweet coffee in a bag, coconut pancakes, chicken skewers, pineapple sticks and lots more. And then there’s friendliness, which I witnessed regularly. Mostly 20-30 minutes after each meal when I had to bang on some poor stranger’s door to ask if I could make use of their squat toilet. Knee-breakers, those things. But how good is the food there? Well, for every great meal I had in Thailand, I endured minor torture afterwards, yet somehow, the food made it all worthwhile. Really, go, you’ll love it.

On a completely separate note, here’s a recipe for the easiest soup in the world, which happens to be Thai.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

3x 340ml tins coconut milk

2 large chicken breasts, sliced

4 Tbsp fish sauce

5 kaffir lime leaves, crushed

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated or crushed

4 portions vermicelli noodles

2 red chillies, chopped lengthways

2 Tbsp red curry paste

2 small sticks lemongrass, hard layer removed and finely chopped

3 Tbsp palm or brown sugar

1 handful fresh coriander, loosely picked

Peanut or cooking oil

Preparation

First put the noodles in a bowl of boiling water while you prepare the soup. Heat a splash of peanut oil in a saucepan over medium-heat. Add the curry paste and fry for 30 seconds. Then add the chicken, ginger and lemongrass and stir over the heat for 10-seconds before adding half the coconut milk, the kaffir lime leaves and fish sauce. Let simmer for 15-minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Stir in the lemon juice and sugar. Drain the noodles and add them to the saucepan along with the remaining cocount milk. Keep over the heat until warm again. Serve in bowls and top with chopped chili and coriander.

Calamari.

calamari clean 468x315 Recipes

Calamari is the bacon of the sea to me. Battered and fried, grilled over coals or just served in a pasta, it’s always good. But many people I meet seem scared to work with it, which shouldn’t be the case. Getting fresh calamari is pretty hard, so if you’re a keen calamari eater and want to cook some, you’re probably going to have to settle for frozen. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Most restaurants use the same. Just avoid calamari rings. Patagonian calamari is the good stuff. Get your hands on this and you’re set for a good meal. The German Butcher on Kloof Street sells it. He’s worth another post all together though- watch this space.

Cleaning calamari is a four-step process. Follow the steps below next time you end up with some whole calamari, with the head and tentacles intact, and you’ll be set to make something great. Sauteed calamari with chili, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil takes about 5 minutes and a 95-year old Sardinian man with one arm could do it behind his back. A good one to start your calamari cooking journey with.

The 4 Step Program (not a substitute for the 12-step program):

1. Rip the head from the body. It should come off with some entrails, set this all aside.

2. Pull the fins off the body. Best done downwards so you can take as much skin off at the same time. You want all the blueish skin off the body.

3. Clean the inside. Pull as much of the intestines out as you can, then turn the calamari body inside out. This is the best way to ensure everything is out of there. Make sure the transparent ‘quill’ is out. Wash the whole thing well and turn inside out again to return to original form.

4. Cut the tentacles from the head, just before the eyes. Discard the rest and wash the tentacles clean (you won’t get the blue skin off them, but it’s okay), making sure the beak is gone. There should be a nice hole there.

You’ve done it. You’re ready to cook ‘em. Enjoy.

Chorizo, Lemon & Spinach Risotto.

risotto chorizo Recipes

Next time you’re feeling like the lead role in The Hangover sequel, I’ve got something for you. You’ll need something to make you feel human again, something that comforts but nourishes. You need risotto. If you understand basic flavour combinations, you can’t really go wrong with risotto. Pick two or three things that go together and you’re done. Once you’ve got the knack you can experiment endlessly. Red wine instead of white. Seafood. Root vegetables. Whatever, you can find a way to make it work. There’s also something therapeutic about stirring a pot for 40-minutes. Best done with a glass of wine and some friends to talk to. Thank the Italians for risotto… they sure can’t play soccer, but man, can they cook.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1.5 cups Arborio rice

700ml chicken stock

3 chorizo sausages, sliced (about enough to make fill your hands cupped together)

5 Tbsp butter

1 onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 bottle good quality dry white wine

1 handful English spinach

juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 cup grated Parmesan

1 pinch smoked Spanish paprika

Salt & freshly ground pepper

Method

Firstly, open the wine and pour yourself a glass. Get the stock warmed in saucepan on a separate stove plate. Then fry the chorizo in your risotto pan for about 4-minutes to get all the fatty juices out. Remove chorizo and set aside, but leave the juices in the pan.

Add 3 Tbsp butter and the onions. Saute for 5-minutes on medium heat. Add the garlic and saute another 2-minutes.

Add the rice and saute for 2-minutes, stirring continuously (there’s a lot of that) to coat in the buttery mix.

Add a cup of your white wine. Don’t cry about it, it’s necessary. Pour yourself another glass while it’s out the fridge. Okay, now cook the rice – stirring constantly – until wine is mostly evaporated, about 2-minutes.

Then add a about a 3/4 cup of stock. Stir in well, making sure no rice is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring and when the liquid is almost evaporated, add another 3/4 cup. Repeat until your rice gets a thick, creamy texture, which should coincide with your stock running out. Taste a few pieces of rice to test – they should be soft all the way through, but not mushy. Don’t stop stirring the duration.

Once cooked, remove pan from heat. Add the chorizo again, with the spinach, lemon juice, remaining butter and parmesan. Stir well, then season with salt & pepper. Divide onto serving plates and sprinkle some Spanish paprika over each. Enjoy the rest of your wine with dinner, which tastes a lot better than the picture above looks, guaranteed.