Saturday, December 10, 2011

My MasterChef South Africa journey has ended. Yup, my ego has taken a bashing and I am not feeling so good. I didn't make it past the auditions and I must say I am really disappointed and confused – a little like Don Juan would after prematurely ejaculating. I guess everyone is going to hit me with the old clichés. “At least you tried”, “there's always next time”, better to have tried and failed, than to not have tried at all” or “find the positives” etc. Well, I suppose if I really look deep, there were one or two positives to have come out of the last few days. Firstly, I stepped out of my comfort zone and put myself out there and secondly, I got excited about food again and had fun in the process! So that was my MasterChef experience. Very short and not so sweet. I was hoping to blog my progress all the way to the final – but alas that was not to be. For interests sake, here is a pic of my Sesame seared Ahi Tuna salad with poached pears. According to my esteemed food judge, it's not that great.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I don’t know what came over me yesterday. There I was, stuck in my chair in a job that destroys me to the core feeling totally uninspired as usual. Check the clock – its only 10am! I still have six and a half hours to go. That’s 390 minutes or 23400 seconds...and its only Monday. But I am veering off the topic. After all, who actually wants to hear my moans of the epic fail that is my chosen career path? So back to the topic – I figured that if change or inspiration was not going to come to me, maybe I should go to it! And that’s when the light bulb went on…”why not enter MasterChef SA?” I love food and I hate my job – the two single most important qualifying criteria. This show was made for people like me! So it’s done. No turning back. Now I wait for the call to audition…

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hello! I am back (again).

Its been about two and a half months since I posted on the whole wheat, gluten and happy free debacle - and while I must admit that I felt better, nothing could replace my great diet of old. Sick of eating gluten free pasta that tasted like it was manufactured in a pharmacist laboratory or corn pasta that made all my Italian dishes taste, well, Mexican (think nachos), I slowly found myself cheating...Honestly, the added guilt only made it more exciting and now I am having a full blown affair with pasta again! I am sorry but there are some things in life that I just won't budge on. I have tossed most forms of bread out the window, drink less tea and only treat myself to coffee if it is real and fresh. I have almost cut out sugar completely (what's a small chocolate between friends?) and I drink a lot more water. Great stuff! So yes, I am back and what better way to celebrate than to make a wholesome Puttanesca. If you are looking for something super quick but super satisfying, this classic pasta is the answer. A chunky sauce made with tomatoes, olives, anchovies, and capers gives spaghetti the bold flavors that you (and I) crave...


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 whole dried chili pepper, broken into bits, or 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 anchovy fillets, rinsed
1 can whole Italian tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
1 cup pitted black olives, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes, then rinsed again
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 pack spaghetti or if you are feeling energetic, refer to my fresh pasta recipe and do it proper.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to boil.

Heat oil, garlic and chili (with seeds) in a large skillet over medium heat until warm. Add anchovies and continue to heat, breaking up anchovies with a fork. Add tomatoes and stir to combine. Add olives, capers and tomato paste; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Immediately add sauce and stir to combine; warm over low heat, tossing, until sauce coats pasta well. Serve immediately.

This is Southern Italian food at its best. Simple. Honest. Tasty. The way life should be!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I know its been a while - and yes I am still alive, but I must say that the ground beneath my feet has literally been snatched from under me. I have been having issues with my health so I went to have my blood tested and the results were not great. Thankfully, its not life threatening, but it does require a lot of changes in my eating habits and diet to get back on track again. Anyone who has read my posts or followed this blog will know just how much I LOVE food. Food is my life. I eat to celebrate, eat when I am sad, eat when I am nervous, eat when I am angry. I eat! So now, I have been told I can't eat. Well, not in those exact words - but if you see what I CAN eat, then I may as well not eat at all! So here is the run down...

NO COFFEE (are they kidding?)

So let me put this into perspective, for those who still don't comprehend the severity of this disaster. Pasta, pizza - in fact most things Italian are off limits. What will my life be without my Gorgonzola & mushroom gnocchi? And what of my home made "00" pasta? Cheese, cream, espresso! Someone shoot me now.

Now, for the sake of this blog, there will have to be some changes. Give me some time to digest (no pun intended) this tragedy and let me see what I can do to create tasty Italian inspired food that even I can eat. Watch this space.

Time to go make myself a cup of black, sugar-free rooibos tea. Yummy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The other night, while enjoying a beer and burger (okay it was a gourmet burger) with an old school buddy of mine, we got talking about pine nuts. Yes. Pine Nuts. Now you may be wondering why two regular thirty something year old guys are talking about pine nuts and not topics related to the fairer sex - but when you love food the way we do...

And for the record, it is possible that we turned our attention to the said fairer sex if but for a moment or two.

Back to pine nuts - I figured that since we managed to conjure up a discussion on them, this would be a worthy post for my blog!

So, what are pine nuts? Pine nuts are harvested from inside the pine cones of certain varieties of pine trees. The technique for retrieving the nuts, unchanged over time, is simple but labor-intensive: the trees are either shaken or prodded by long, hooked poles in order to knock down their cones. The cones are then heated, softening their shells to allow the kernels to be removed and de-skinned. It is this labor intensive process that makes them so pricey. These tiny, pale, teardrop shaped nuts, are used in cooking and baking throughout Italy. In Tuscany, they are baked into pastries. In Umbria, they are roasted with meats. In Sicily, pine nuts are paired with all kinds of seafood. Then there's Genoa where pesto, that famous and fragrant fresh basil sauce, originated. Though basil is the dominant flavor, pounded as it is with olive oil, grated cheese, and garlic, it's the addition of pine nuts that gives pesto its subtle texture and richness.

So, thats pine nuts. a nutshell, so to speak.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tagliatelle with Oyster Mushrooms, Anchovies, Capers and Rocket

The other day I went into Chefs Warehouse (major place of inspiration) and discovered that they stock genuine “00” flour (pronounced doppio zero). In Italy, flour is classified either as 1, 0, or 00, and refers to how finely ground the flour is and how much of the bran and germ have been removed. Doppio zero is the most highly refined and is talcum-powder soft – perfect for making pasta! If you ever are able to get your hands on this flour, I suggest you make this pasta recipe:

300g “00” flour
200g semolina
5 eggs
Pinch of salt
Tablespoon of olive oil
Tepid water

Start by making a well and crack the eggs into the centre. Mix through to form the dough – adding more flour if the mix is too wet or a little water if the mix gets too dry. Then you need to beat and knead and really work it! This gets the structures going and gives the pasta that great firm texture. Once the dough is lovely and firm, wrap it tightly in cling film and place in the fridge for at least one hour before rolling and putting through your pasta machine. Finally hang the pasta and let air dry for a few hours – unless you want to cook immediately.

For the sauce you need:

1 onion - chopped fine
1 clove garlic – crushed
Two big handfuls Oyster mushrooms - chopped
Handful of rocket
Half glass white wine
Olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan

Place the onions and garlic into a sauce pan with the wine over high heat and allow to reduce. Once the onions are glazed and transparent, throw in a large tablespoon of butter. Add the mushrooms and mix through evenly. Turn down the heat, add the anchovies and capers and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Add a few really generous glugs of olive oil, turn off the heat and add the rocket – incorporating it gently into the mixture. In the meantime, the pasta should be doing nicely and when al dente, remove from the heat and drain. Return to the pot and add the mushroom mixture. Add the parmesan and that’s it! Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pesto alla Genovese
traditional basil pesto

If there is one herb that reflects all that is summer, it is the sweet scent of Basil. Used fresh it is the star of a crisp a Caprese salad but combined into pesto and served with pasta, this is a traditional classic. Basil Pesto is also a perfect complement for grilled fish or steak and really simple to make.

Here’s what you need:


2 cups packed basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 small garlic clove, thinly sliced
Coarse sea salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Wipe the basil with damp paper towels to remove any dirt and tear any large leaves into smaller pieces. Combine basil, pine nuts, garlic and pinch salt in a mortar. Using the pestle with a rotary movement, grind the ingredients against the wall of the mortar until ground to a paste. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the cheese to combine. Stir in the oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, to desired consistency (you do not have to use all of the oil). That’s it! Put into a sterilized jar and keep in the fridge. It should last for two weeks, but then again, once you taste the stuff, its not going to last two days…

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Grigliata di Melanzane e Zucchine
grilled eggplant and zucchini with chili oil

Still on my summer theme, here is another great dish which can be enjoyed as an appertizer along with yesterdays Bruschetta or accompanied with creamy parmesan polenta or couscous.

2 fresh hot chili peppers
1 bunch spring onions
Extra-virgin olive oil
Course Maldon Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large eggplant
3 medium zucchini
8 cups mixed salad

Seed the chili peppers and trim spring onions; mince together and transfer to a bowl. Add ½ cup oil and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper; stir to combine. Marinate, covered and chilled, about 2 hours.

Cut the eggplant widthwise into 5-8mm thick slices. Slice zucchini lengthwise into 5-8mm thick slices. Season vegetables with salt, drizzle with the chili-infused oil, and grill until tender, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer vegetables to a platter and arrange mixed greens around and on top. Drizzle with remaining chili oil.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Even though, the chill of winter still blows through the Cape, the prospect of long summer nights is on the horizon with every passing day. So in celebration of the coming summer, I am going to share a mouthwatering delight – perfectly enjoyed with a crisp glass of wine or ice cold beer.

Bruschetta is a hearty appetizer from central Italy whose origin dates to at least the 15th century. It consists of grilled bread, rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Variations may include toppings of spicy red pepper, tomato, vegetables, beans, cured meat, and/or cheese; the most popular recipe outside of Italy involves basil, fresh tomato, garlic and onion or mozzarella. Here is a typical Sicilian take on this simple toastie…

Bruschetta Siciliana


2 large eggplants
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf ciabatta bread
4 tomatoes, diced
1 bunch fresh basil
280g ricotta salata, thinly slice

Prepare a charcoal grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal or medium-high heat for gas.

Prick eggplants with a fork; grill, covered, turning once, until blackened and very soft, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, slice open and, using a large spoon, scrape flesh into blender or food processor. With machine running, add 3 tablespoons oil to taste until smooth and combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Slice bread into 20 pieces, each about 12mm thick. Grill on both sides and transfer to platter.

Spread eggplant puree onto bread. Top with tomato, basil leaves and ricotta salata. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil.

Now all that’s left is to crack open a frosty, put on some Café Del Mar and watch the sun go down…can you feel it?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Black Summer Truffle Risotto

As promised, here is my recipe for risotto which used an assortment of exotic mushrooms but the pièce de résistance was ultimately the Black Summer Truffle. Here are the ingredients for my little bowl of heaven:

1 litre chicken stock (made with my next best friend – NoMu Fonds)
3 tablespoons butter
1 chopped onion
1 cup Arborio (risotto) rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon (or more) finely chopped fresh black truffles
250g mixed assortment of exotic mushrooms (shitake, oyster, portabello, maitake)

Start by placing the wild mushrooms in a saucepan over medium heat and fry gently in olive oil. Add some crushed garlic to taste and cook until tender. Place to one side and in the meantime, bring the NoMu Fonds chicken stock to simmer in medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low and cover to keep warm. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer until fully absorbed - about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup of stock, simmer until absorbed, stirring often. Add the remaining stock 1/2 cup at a time, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently until rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, (about 25 minutes). Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter and stir in the exotic mushrooms. Mix in the cheese and then finally the truffles. Season to taste with salt and pepper and divide the risotto among bowls. Serve immediately.

This recipe was made all the more spectacular by the NoMu FONDS Chicken Stock. The stuff is absolutely awsome and I cant imagine my kitchen without it.
Today I was ambling around the top end of De Waterkant on a mission that will be revealed at a later date and when I was done I stopped in for a quick espresso at Origin.

I have always loved this place. The concept, the product, the interior. Actually the interior has been a little point of contention for me. Remember I am an Interior Designer when I am not on the blog - and while I absolutely adore the design of this place, I have always felt that this is a shop of two halves. You can literally see the split right down the middle. To the left beautiful, but to the right…well lets just say it falls horribly flat - almost like they forgot to go there. Anyway, I always strategically place myself so that I face the “good” side! But, this is NOT a design site. I am trying to escape from design, remember? Back to the topic and that is Origin Coffee Roasters. These guys are on a mission to change the coffee culture of South Africa. Their head quarters in Hudson Street spills over three storeys, stretches between two streets, and opens onto three outdoor areas. They've combined coffee roasting with a courtyard, a coffee lab with a meeting space, a professional barista school with a warehouse and a tasting room so that you can do more than sit down and sip, arguably, the best coffee in Africa. Origin believes that success starts at the source. They sample, roast & taste before they buy. Importing beans that they have handpicked from all over the continent, the unbelievable selection of coffee on the menu is a testament to the fruits of their labour. They know who grew their coffee, and where, and they refuse anything but the best.

At the back of the shop, separated by large floor to ceiling glass doors, lies another gem. With peaceful Asian–inspired music playing, a unique water feature on the floor and a fusion between Asian and African decor, a tranquil environment is effectively established through the use of sound, scent and carefully placed lighting. This is a calm, serene space away from the hustle and bustle of coffee shop. This is Nigiro.

Simply ‘Origin’ spelt backwards Nigiro is a great representation of the synergy that the well established ‘coffee guys’ are hoping to achieve by having the two ‘opposites’ under one roof. Yin and yang, Origin is to coffee as Nigiro is to tea. Housing over 100 specially blended fine leaf teas, Nigiro is the top destination to enjoy the ambience and tranquility of the ancient Eastern tea ceremony. Like one would when wine tasting, we relied on alternate senses to determine which flavours of tea were being offered to us – sight and more importantly, smell. One can choose from the already extensive selection of teas provided, or ask for your own specially blended combination.

So, this is Origin. Another great Cape Town food icon and a brilliant concept that not only strives to educate the uneducated but also allows people to experience the best of both tea and coffee – all under one roof.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I have a confession to make.

For the last four months I have had my eye on this exotic beauty in the aisle of my local supermarket. She is there every week and indeed every time I go shopping, I meet her there just to admire her. Occasionally I hold her in my arms and bring her close to my nose just to pick up her scent. I dream of all the wonderful things I could do with her and how delightful she would be in my kitchen. But alas, that’s where it ends for us. I always leave her there with a heavy heart and a grumbling stomach. That is until today! I finally stepped out and thought “TO HELL WITH IT!” This Black Truffle is going home with me! Sure this little baby set me back a couple of bucks (that I don’t really have at this dry stage of the month), but no doubt the gastronomical delights that lie ahead will be priceless. First up will be an exotic mushroom risotto. Watch this space…

R7500 per kilo buys you this sweet little baby. Naked truffle NOT included.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pasta ai Caviale

Even though pasta may have originally been the food of the peasants, there is no reason why it can’t be made into a fine-dining and luxurious treat. Here is an exquisite pairing of juicy, burst-in-your-mouth caviar with Italy’s most famous export.


1 small onion – finely chopped
1 clove garlic - crushed
lemon zest from one lemon plus juice from half a lemon
half cup of white wine
one cup fish stock
salt and pepper to taste
French chives for garnish
Caviar (red, black or both!)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a large pinch of salt. Add the fettuccini and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
Sauté the onion and garlic for 2 minutes in olive oil. Pour the white wine and reduce by half then add the stock, and again reduce by half.
Toss with fettuccini and add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cool slightly before tossing in the caviar of your choice. Garnish with two chive sprigs and serve immediately! Enjoy with a full bodied Chardonnay.

Oh, by the way, here is another example of an exquisite pairing of juicy, burst-in-your-mouth caviar with another of Italy’s most famous (and juiciest) exports…!

Mama mia.

Monica Bellucci smeared in 26 ounces of Beluga Caviar. Sounds terrible.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tastes of Italy: Capers

These pungent Mediterranean treasures come from the bud of blossoming bushes, and the best are found near Sicily. Enhanced by a pickling process fundamental to their cultivation, their tart and briny flavors enrich sauces, spreads and garnishes.

Capers occupy a permanent post in the Italian kitchen. The tiny, piquant buds are enjoyed from region to region, up and down the boot. In Sicily capers are served in caponata, a summer side dish in which their saline bite cuts through the rich taste of tender, slow-cooked eggplant. In Naples they adorn spaghetti alla puttanesca, a fiery dish with roots in working-class brothels, and might combine with tomatoes and anchovies in a pasta fredda to create a light yet assertive sauce. The tangy orbs are often sprinkled over pizza, pasta, and fish dishes as a flavorful garnish, and they appear in a variety of sauces.

Sicily and the Aeolian island of Salina produce the majority of Italy’s capers. The best, though, come from Pantelleria. On this tiny island, halfway to Tunisia, volcanic soil and the heat of an intense Mediterranean sun create ideal growing conditions. The bushy plant has a thick cluster of thorny branches and fleshy, ovoid leaves. They can grow as high as two meters, but more often sprawl out over rocks and soil. From April to June, their tiny buds flower into large, sweet-scented, pink blooms clustered with long, violet stamens.

When choosing capers, look for dark green buds packed tightly in sea salt, because those submerged in vinegar lack the subtle, vegetal taste of salted capers. Also, size matters: Smaller buds have a more delicate flavor. True Italian capers are sorted by millimeter with mechanized screens. They range from 7 millimeters to 16 millimeters, but in stores their size is not often marked. Look for buds no larger than a raisin. Larger ones have less taste and could be frauds—sometimes the similar-looking buds of the nasturtium plant are passed off as capers. When using salted capers, soak them for five to ten minutes and drain to remove any excess salt - those in vinegar only require rinsing.
Cheese: Italy's Best

Italy is rightly famous for its cheese, which is revered and refined in every region, city or town. Indeed, there are more than 450 varieties of cheese, a prospect as delicious as it is daunting, but I would like to feature one of Italy’s most famous exports, Grana Padano.

The region of origin of Grana Padano is Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont; some provinces of Emilia-Romagna and Trentino-Alto Adige. Made throughout the Po Valley, this is one of the country’s most popular cheeses. The word “grana” refers to its grainy texture, which becomes flakier and crumbly as it ages. The hard cheese is made in wheels that range in color from straw yellow to golden brown, with a yellow to golden interior. It has a strong aroma and distinct flavor that is fruity and delicate, with some toastiness and is an essential partner to any pasta dish or accompanied by a glass of sparkling white, sweet wine or a young red.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Spiedini are the Italian (specifically Sicilian) take on skewers or kebabs. This is a great way to do meat, and accompanies anything. Chicken works great too. I recommend using boneless thighs as opposed to breasts because they are much juicier. There are no rules really when creating skewers or kebabs. However, you need to bear in mind when choosing your ingredients that they all have the same cooking times otherwise you end up with a stick of either raw or overcooked food. For the Spiedini below, only meat is used which makes the whole process so much simpler.


500g top sirloin beef, sliced thin
1-2 cloves garlic, minced fine
1/2 cup flat parsley, minced
1 cup pecorino cheese, grated
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2- 2 cups plain bread crumbs
salt & pepper to taste
metal skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak in water for 20minutes before hand)

Place beef between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and pound thin with a meat tenderizer or mallet. Cut into 5cm wide and 2cm long pieces and set aside. Combine the cheese, garlic & parsley and on a large cutting board lay the pieces of meat. Butter each piece generously. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the top and add salt and pepper. Starting at one corner, tightly roll the beef and place on the skewer. A 30cm long skewer should be able to fit 5-6 rolled pieces. Spread more butter over each full skewer and dip each into a mound of bread crumbs. Heat a large skillet with olive oil and the remaining butter, brown meat on a medium heat rotating once till golden.

Place skewers on paper towel to cool and serve.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Can you believe that it’s almost spring time? I know it’s a bit early, but we have been having some amazing weather and in anticipation of summer, here is a lovely summery take on soufflé. This one offers a deep raspberry flavor in every ethereal bite.


Unsalted butter for ramekins
1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar plus more for coating ramekins
1/4 cup water
2 cups fresh raspberries (about 10 ounces)
4 large egg whites
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon Maraschino cherry liqueur
Icing sugar
6 Ramekins

Start by heating the oven to 375º with rack in middle. Butter ramekins and coat with granulated sugar, knocking out excess, and then put on a baking sheet.

Bring 1/2 cup sugar and water to a simmer in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then simmer 5 minutes. Set saucepan into bowl of ice and cold water (to quick-chill). Cool syrup, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

In the bowl of a food processor, purée 1 1/2 cups raspberries until smooth; transfer to a bowl. Add syrup and whisk to combine. Return mixture to saucepan (reserve bowl); bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Return mixture to bowl, cover and chill in refrigerator until cold, about 2 hours.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt on medium speed until white and frothy. With machine running, slowly add remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form.

Fold two tablespoons chilled raspberry mixture into soufflé mixture to lighten, and then fold in remaining raspberry mixture gently but thoroughly. In a small bowl toss remaining whole raspberries with liqueur. Divide berries among ramekins, and then divide soufflé batter among ramekins.

Bake soufflés until puffed and golden, about 12 minutes. Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sirloin with porcini mushrooms and truffle oil

Keep it simple with this easy mushroom-inspired take on sirloin.


4 x 170g sirloin steaks
50ml olive oil
salt and milled pepper
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1T (15ml) butter
250g fresh porcini mushrooms, quartered
truffle oil to drizzle
rosemary for garnishing

Rub the steak with olive oil. Season well then rub with crushed garlic. Heat a non-stick frying pan over high heat until smoking hot. Pan-fry steaks for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Set aside and keep warm. Using the same pan, melt butter, add mushrooms and cook over medium heat until golden brown. To serve, top steaks with mushrooms, drizzle with a little truffle oil and garnish with rosemary.

This morning on my way to taking my daughter, Nina to Italian lessons I spotted this sign reading “cookshop – organic veg market” as I whizzed by. I decided to take a turn on the way back and see what it was all about. Tucked away in a quiet little courtyard off Hatfield Street, I found Cookshop. Owned & run by foodie enthusiast duo Ammy & Tom, both have a long history in the restaurant industry and have merged their different strengths to create this little gem of an eatery. I was greeted by Tom, who runs front of house & makes one of the meanest espresso’s in Cape Town. Ammy was in the background conjuring up the daily menu & directing the other cooking producing all the fare on offer.

The philosophy at Cookshop is quite simply to produce wholesome, home baked quality food using fresh and seasonal and ingredients. By choosing quality over quantity, they ensure that everything on offer is nothing less than what they would want to eat or drink. They aim to strike a balance between healthy, wholesome & hearty with the choices on offer varying between super-green freshly pressed juice spiked with wheatgrass (super healthy) to insanely delectable carrot cake with cream cheese & mascarpone icing (wholesome & emotionally comforting). Also on offer, buffet treats, such as hearty chicken & mushroom plait pie caters for the hungrier individual.

All in all it was great and inspiring to have discovered this little joint, and so wonderful to witness fellow foodies in action and loving what they do.

Open Monday to Friday
7am – 3h30pm
Saturday Brunch

The Coach House
117 Hatfield Street,
(Opposite Cape Town High School, below Karma Shala Yoga Studio)

Ammy / Tom : 021 461 78 68 /

Monday, August 9, 2010


Today I felt adventurous so I decided to play around with, what must be the most traditional of all pasta dishes. Lasagna is a classic Italian pasta casserole dish which consists of alternate layers of pasta, cheese, a sauce, and often other ingredients. As with many Italian dishes, significant regional variations exist. In some areas, the sauce is likely to be a simple tomato sauce or a ragù; this is mainly common to the southern regions of Italy, in others, a Béchamel sauce, more commonly used in the Northern regions. For my version, I took inspiration from Gordon Ramsey who always adds a new take to tired dishes. The difference with this Lasagna is that it is built up on the plate layer by layer and not baked in the oven.

I started by making the pasta (see my basic pasta dough recipe) cut into sheets and left to stand for about 3 hours. Then I deep fried sliced aubergine and yellow peppers and left to one side. While frying, I made a basic Napolitana sauce (tomato base) and added sliced black olives, and put to one side. Finally, I sliced 4 large chicken breasts in half, placed between two sheets of cling film and beat each one individually with a mallet. Then I marinated in olive oil, NoMu’s chicken stock fond, lemon juice and black pepper, rolled in flour and fried in butter till golden. Once all the ingredients where ready, I started the process of creating the lasagna. I put on a pot of fast boiling salted water and par boiled the sheets for about 5 minutes then put them on a baking tray, brushed with a little egg and put in the oven for another 5-8 minutes. Once done, I started the layering process – a sheet of lasagna, followed by some Napolitana, a slice of aubergine and some grated parmesan, then another sheet followed by a chicken breast, then repeated the Napolitan, aubergine and parmesan, topping off with one last sheet. It looks really interesting and tastes really good too!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Michael Pollan is the author of “In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto” and The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, which was named one of the ten best books of 2006 by both The New York Times and The Washington Post. In 2009, Pollan appeared in the documentary Food, Inc. and PBS's The Botany of Desire. He is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine. Pollan's new book, Food Rules: An Eater's Manual, has just been published. Learn more about the author at

Here are some of his really quirky food rules featured in the book.

Rule 20:
It's not food if it arrived through the window of your car.

Rule 21:
It's not food if it's called by the same name in every language (think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles).

Rule 26:
Drink the spinach water.

Rule 32:
Don't overlook the oily little fishes.

Rule 36:
Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.

Rule 57:
Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does.

It makes for some really interesting reading. All it boils down really is, eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Thanks NoMu!

A very big THANK YOU to Paul Raphaely from NoMu for the great product which was very kindly delivered to my kitchen on Friday. The support is really appreciated and I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck in. Will keep you posted...

Friday, August 6, 2010

It’s the weekend baby! Weekends mean quality time with the family, cooking and in my case, sport on the box. I just love my Saturday afternoon rugby matches. So, here are some little snacky ideas to enjoy while watching the rugger – whether its with a six pack with a mate or a quiet cup of coffee, you are going to love what I have for you…

Rosemary Straw Potatoes with Lemon Salt

for the lemon salt:

zest of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons sea salt

For the fries:

sunflower oil
800g potatoes, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked

By cutting the potatoes in this recipe nice and fine – around 0.5cm thick – you can cook them until golden and crisp first time round in a large pan of frying oil. For the last 30 seconds I like to put a nice big handful of rosemary in with them – this will flavour the oil and the potatoes in the most incredible way.

To make your lemon salt, bash and mix together the lemon zest with the salt in a pestle and mortar until the salt is flavoured, coloured and fine. Place in a dish. Use whatever you need straight away or allow it to dry out for a couple of hours before storing it. It might go hard, so just crush it up a bit before putting it into a jam jar.

Heat 6–8cm of sunflower oil in a sturdy pan and bring to deep-frying temperature. You can do this by using a thermometer, or by placing a small chunk of potato into the cold oil before you begin to heat it. When the potato is floating and a dark golden brown the temperature will have reached 180ºC and you’re ready to begin frying (remember to remove the piece of potato before you begin).

Pat the julienne strips dry with some kitchen paper to remove any excess starch. Making sure you’ve got a slotted spoon or spider and a big pile of kitchen paper to one side, carefully place some of your potatoes into the pan of oil (don’t overcrowd it) for a couple of minutes until golden brown and crisp. Cook the potatoes like this in batches until they are all used up. Add the rosemary for the last 30 seconds. Remove the chips and rosemary to the kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil, and then dust with your lemon salt. Serve straight away with a cold beer.

Best Sandwich EVER

The origin of the Reuben Sandwich is hotly disputed, but many New Yorkers say it began in Reuben’s Deli on East 58th Street. Try it with nice smoked ham if you can’t find pastrami.


3 big 1cm slices of rye bread
4 heaped tablespoons sauerkraut
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
4–5 slices of pastrami
a few gherkins, sliced
100g Swiss Ementhal cheese
a handful of watercress leaves

Grill the slices of bread on a griddle pan until lightly toasted on both sides then spread one side of each with mayonnaise. Put some of the sauerkraut and some of the chili on 2 of the slices, and top with a couple of slices of pastrami. Top with the remaining sauerkraut and chili and the sliced gherkins, then grate the Swiss cheese over the top.

Preheat a hot grill. Place the slices with toppings under the grill until the cheese is melted and dribbling.

Stack the sandwich together, adding a few watercress leaves and finishing with the final slice of toast. Press down lightly and use wooden skewers to hold together. Tuck in!

Lemon Butter Biscuits

Sometimes, especially when the weather is cold or there is an early morning game (All Blacks vs Springboks), I prefer a nice big cup of fresh coffee with my game. Now, there is nothing like biscuits and coffee! These biscuits are simple to make…


125g butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
1 egg, preferably free-range or organic
200g plain flour
juice and zest of 2 lemons
¼ teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of sea salt
Plain flour, for dusting
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in the egg until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the flour, lemon, baking powder and salt and mix until you have a ball of dough. Cover and place in the fridge for 2 hours, or until firm.

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until ½cm thick. Cut out shapes and place on a grease proofed tray. Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the edges are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Spaghetti Frutti di Mare (Seafood Spaghetti)

Driving home from work today and as usual, I was thinking about what to make for dinner. That’s how it works with me. It takes me 12 minutes to get home (assuming the traffic plays its part) and in that time I think about supper. The process is quite simple. Firstly, I try to remember what ingredients I have on hand, then I think about what I am in the mood for, finally a quick evaluation of my energy levels and nine times out of ten dinner is mapped out as I pull into the driveway. Pretty efficient don’t you think? So anyway, tonight I felt like something quick and easy and I decided on seafood spaghetti, known better as “Frutti di Mare”.

1 onion – chopped finely
1 clove garlic – crushed
Half glass white wine
Tablespoon of butter
1 tin whole peeled tomatoes
Chopped basil, oregano and parsley
1 tin shredded tuna
Fresh muscles (in or out of shells)
Clams in shell (optional)

Place the onions, garlic, wine and butter in a saucepan over medium heat and let it reduce. Add the tin of tomatoes and herbs and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Check the sauce – if it’s slightly bitter, add some sugar or balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and black pepper and add the tuna, muscles (and clams) and stir around. Simmer for twenty minutes. Cook the pasta in well salted water, drain and then mix in the sauce. Serve on a large plate, sprinkle with parsley and place a lemon wedge on the side. Pronto!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Now Cooking and NoMu become friends

I am so excited to announce the new association between Now Cooking and NoMu. In the coming weeks I will feature some of their great products and cook up a storm courtesy of them. I am looking forward to trying their new product "Fonds".

NoMU FONDS are a conceptual, foodie first for South Africa that will reinvent how you cook and how you use stocks in your cooking. With an 18 month shelf life, FONDS are super concentrated and 200ml will make up to 6 liters of unbelievable stock flavour which is even good enough to drink neat!

NoMU Fonds are free of artificial flavour enhancers, colouring agents and preservatives as well as being gluten-free. No more nasty, dried out stock powders with bits that stay behind long after each mouthful. NoMU FONDS have a unique tailored flavour that will be guaranteed to economically add amazing ease and delicious notes to any meal.

Stay tuned for more but in the meantime, if you want more information about NoMu's great product range, click the image on my side bar to be redirected to their site.
Cottage Pie

Last night, I made the classic Spaghetti Bolognese - but cooked way too much. So, tonight I thought I would serve it again. But not one to serve the same meal two nights in a row, I thought I would rework what I had and make Cottage Pie. Rather English wouldn’t you say? Anyway, it worked out really well – even my seven year old finished his dinner which says a lot. Okay, this is what you need and what you do:

6-8 potatoes – peeled and cut into quarters
1 roll puff pastry
Bolognese sauce
1 egg for brushing the pastry

Boil and mash the potatoes and lay into a rectangular Pyrex dish. Pour in the Bolognese and spread evenly over the mash. Roll out the pastry and place over the top of the dish sealing the mash and Bolognese. Brush with the egg and bake in the oven at 180 for about 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden.

I cut this into squares and served it with crumbed chicken breasts and crisp green beans. Simple!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sunday night, my wife comes home with a movie she says will inspire me. Always up for a little inspiration, I eagerly plonked myself in front of the TV, dimmed the lights and pressed play…

The movie, “Julie & Julia” is a true story of two women set in different eras. In 1949, Julia Child is in Paris, the wife of a diplomat, wondering how to spend her days. She tries hat making, bridge, and then cooking lessons at Cordon Bleu. There she discovers her passion for cooking and eventually writes an iconic recipe book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".

In 2002, Julie Powell, about to turn 30, underemployed and with an unpublished novel, decides to cook her way through "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in a year while blogging about it. We go back and forth between the stories of two women learning to cook and finding success while fascinating parallels in their lives are revealed.

The movie truly worked its magic with me as I too found many parallels in my life with that of Julie Powell. I am thirty five and have been doing my own share of soul-searching about my life and how radically different it is compared to what I expected by this point.I feel underemployed and not passionate about my current career but find great pleasure and inspiration when standing behind a stove. My blog, while probably not read by many, is a source of focus to me personally and has given me new challenges. After watching this movie, I feel confident that even though I am not a chef, somehow cooking will be my release from the mundane weekday hours between eight and five.

Monday, August 2, 2010

This weekend was one of mixed success for me in the kitchen. I experimented with different recipes and ideas – each with varied degrees of success. For example, Saturday night I thought it would make a real change to make burgers for dinner. Not just any burger - my burger. I decided that in order to make these burgers really special, I would start by making the bread rolls. Hmmm. Lesson one – if you are going to do this, have a Plan B, i.e. some spare bread rolls from the shop! I have a great bread recipe (which I will share with you one day), but on this day, I decided to adapt this trusted recipe slightly and substitute half the flour with polenta (Italian cornmeal). All went well with the first proving as the dough doubled in size wonderfully. Then I beat the shit out of it (as I always do) and waited patiently for the second proving. Nothing. No worries, I thought, thinking the rising would take place in the oven. Yeh right. The result? Biscuits. Enough said, moving on…luckily I had my wife and most honest food critic on hand to rush to the shop to get us some nice fresh rolls. However, there was one success of the whole burger saga and that was my “polenta hash browns” which worked really nicely. Basically, I whipped together a pot of polenta, added some cheddar cubes to make it really cheesy, and then I poured the polenta into a muffin tin and let them set. Once cooled, I turned them out of the tin, flattened with my palm, rubbed a little olive oil over them and grilled them in the oven. So simple, and an awesome addition to the burger. In a way, they made up for the bread disaster. But (I tell myself) the important thing is to keep learning. After all, it is through these great disasters that the best lessons are learned.

Sunday rolled by, and I was still feeling the urge to “play”. I popped into Carlucci’s to see what I could find. Damn it, good food is expensive. I want it all! After putting the caviar and block of authentic Parmiggiano Reggiano back on the shelf, I walked out of the store with a tin of anchovies, a tub of fresh artichokes in brine and a little jar of capers – all very Sicilian style ingredients and entrenched deep in my veins. So anyway, like the burger story of the night before (but not entirely disheartened by the saga) I decided to make the pasta myself. My family all nodded with straight faces as I announced that the pasta would be made from scratch…

Surprise!! The pasta was amazing! There is absolutely no substitute for the real deal, and I cannot see myself going back to the dry packaged stuff again. It brought a totally new dimension to the meal – made it feel so wholesome and honest. Wow. I am blown away! Okay, let me tell you how I did it:

PASTA RECIPE (serves 4):

275g pasta flour
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
Tablespoon olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together until they form dough, and then knead for a further 15 minutes on a floured surface until smooth. Put to one side and let rest for about 1-2 hours.
Once the dough has rested, roll out (either through your pasta machine or in my case with a rolling pin and muscle power) cut into manageable sheets and slice with a sharp knife by hand. Remember, this is hand cut pasta so they don't have to be perfect. Space out on a large table and get straight into making the sauce…


6-8 artichokes in brine
1 tin anchovies sliced up
3 heaped tablespoons capers
Two large handfuls of cherry tomatoes
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic – crushed
45ml cream

Place the onions, garlic and one anchovy fillet in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cut the artichokes into thin slices and add to the onions. Throw in a few more glugs of olive oil to keep the whole thing nice and shiny. Add the rest of the anchovies and then, lastly, the cherry tomatoes. Season with salt and black pepper –(not too much salt – remember the anchovies!!).

Now put the pasta into vigorously boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes. Add the cream to the sauce and gently mix in taking care not to mush up the tomatoes. With a spider ladle, remove the pasta from the water straight into the sauce pan and fold in gently. Serve in a large bowl and top with fresh rocket and grated Parmesan.

Buon Appetito!

Friday, July 30, 2010

My original inspiration for starting this blog was to document all the different recipes that I have discovered or created over the years in my kitchen and hopefully inspire others to discover the joys of cooking. One thing I did not expect was for this blog to kick start me into action as it has done. I have never felt more inspired to get creative and be in the kitchen. So, I have decided to push my boundaries and up my game. I am going to host a dinner party – but not just any dinner party. This is going to be a gastronomical feast! In the coming weeks, I will be experimenting with different gourmet dishes from appetizers, garnishes and deserts, all with one thing in mind – to feel like a Michelin Star Chef, if just for one night.

So, I created this invite which I will be sending off to my friends. Next step is to finalize and create the menu - will keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Left Over Pie

So, you over cooked last night and now you are wondering what to do with all the left over food. Here is my solution and it works all the time. I simply make a pie – aptly called “Left Over Pie”. It's a huge cheat but who cares – it tastes good!!

In my case, the left overs comprise, chicken breasts, peas, carrots and mashed potato. Here are the extra ingredients:

2 ready rolled puff pastries
1 can chicken soup (best quality that you can afford)
1 egg for brushing the pastry
Sesame seeds or grated Parmesan(optional)

Unroll the pastries and smooth out lightly with a rolling pin. In a large mixing bowl add the left overs – chicken, vegetables and mash. Add the soup into the mixture to create the sludgy (most unappetizing!) pie filling. Divide the filling into the pastries and close. Turn the pies into a non-stick baking tray and brush with egg. Sprinkle sesame seeds or parmesan and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until the pastry is golden and crispy.

Serve with a fresh salad – your guests will think you slaved all day making pie! Hush, its our secret.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Scottish by birth, Gordon Ramsay was brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, from the age of five. With an injury prematurely putting an end to any hopes of a promising career in football, he went back to college to complete a course in hotel management.

Ramsay’s first years in the kitchen were spent training under culinary luminaries such as Marco Pierre White and Albert Roux in London, after which he moved to France where he worked in the kitchens of Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon for three years where he was able to enhance his expertise in classic French cooking. In 1993, Gordon became chef of the newly opened Aubergine and within three years the restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars.

Gordon's first book, Passion for Flavour, was published in 1996. Since then a number of hugely successful books by Gordon have been published. His most recent recipe book, Gordon Ramsay’s World Kitchen was published by Quadrille in November 2009.

In 1998 at the age of 31, Gordon set up his first wholly owned restaurant, “Gordon Ramsay”, in Chelsea. On 19th January 2001 it won its third Michelin star. In October 2001 Gordon opened Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's which won a Michelin star in 2003. The same year saw the opening of Gordon Ramsay Holdings first international restaurant, Verre, located in the Dubai Hilton Creek Hotel. A year later he opened in St. James's. Within seven months it had won a Michelin star. The restaurant relocated to The Berkeley Hotel in 2003 and won its second Michelin star in January 2007. Gordon continued to open restaurants around the world including “Maze”, situated in the 5 star “One & Only” hotel in Cape Town.

Seating up to 170 guests, the restaurant is modeled on its British namesake yet the tasting-sized dishes will evoke the bountiful flavours of the traditional recipes of South Africa. The restaurant showcases the best in local seafood and game as well as fresh produce from organic South African farms. Maze is home to the country’s largest and most innovative collection of South African wine - housed in a magnificent tri-level wine loft. Over 6,000 bottles of South African wine from vintages of Cape Pinotage and Shiraz to both acclaimed and undiscovered South African vintages are on offer.

Above: Gordon Ramsay's Maze, Cape Town

Friday, July 23, 2010

Today, I would like to introduce some recipes relating to my mothers side of the family tree. She is a Sephardic Jew – these are the Jews that originated from the Iberian Peninsula (now Spain and Portugal) and who lived there until their expulsion in the late 15th century. Sephardic Jews make up around 20% of the total Jewish population and have very rich and proud traditions unique to them. Unfortunately the numbers of Sephardic Jews are dwindling and with them, so are their traditions – specifically their cuisine. I feel therefore that my blog would not be complete without a section devoted to the foods that my mother, grandmother and great grandmother took pleasure in preparing. For my Nona, this section is dedicated in its entirety to you.

Quajado de Pazi (Spinach & Potato Bake)

This is one of my all time favorites. I don’t get to make it much because my mother does it best, so I leave it up to her! Spinach is always so difficult to serve to large numbers of people because of its deceiving nature. It takes so much space in the fridge but whittles down to nothing when cooked. This is a great way to make 3 bunches go far! You need:

3 bunches spinach
6 eggs, well beaten
6 potatoes – boiled and mashed
1 cup milk
1 cup Parmesan-type cheese, grated
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. oil

Wash spinach well, remove the stalks and shred the leaves finely. Lay out to dry on absorbent paper or a clean cloth. Place in a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients, except the oil.

Place the oil in ovenproof dish. Pour the spinach mixture into the dish and bake at 180°C/350°F for 30 minutes or until golden. Cut into squares and serve hot or cold.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Caponata alla Siciliana

Today I am going to share a really special Sicilian dish. Caponata takes on many forms in Italy. Sicilian Caponata refers to a cooked vegetable salad made from chopped fried eggplant seasoned with crushed garlic, sweetened vinegar and olive oil. Occasionally fried green bell peppers, pine nuts or raisins are added for variation. The Caponata recipe I make is a baked version and is accompanied perfectly with couscous. So, let’s get right into it. This is what you need:

3 large eggplants – sliced 8mm – 10mm thick
Parmesan cheese – grated
Cooking oil

Basic Napolitano sauce:

1 large onion – chopped
Garlic (to taste)
3 tins whole chopped & peeled tomatoes
1 green pepper - chopped
6 tbs sugar
Balsamic vinegar
Basil / Oregano chopped
Olive oil

Start the Napolitano sauce by putting the chopped onion garlic and green pepper in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomato, sugar, a few small glugs of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and herbs and mix together. Season well with salt and pepper, cover and allow to cook through gently.

Now, heat the cooking oil in a deep frying pan and start frying the eggplant. When the slices become soft, that’s when they are ready. Place on absorbent paper to drain the oil.

By now, the Napolitano sauce should be well on its way. Give it a taste to make sure that it has good flavour and adjust accordingly. Blend the sauce either in a blender or with a hand-held to make smooth, then add the capers and put on low heat for a further 10 minutes.

For the final step, you need to lay the fried eggplant in a casserole dish almost as if you were making lasagna. In fact, think of the eggplant as the sheets of lasagna! So, it’s a layer of eggplant followed by some Napolitano and grated Parmesan, then a layer of eggplant….get it?

Finally pop it in the oven and bake for about 20mins. When its done, take out of the oven and allow to stand for about 10 minutes before serving with couscous. This is real “Sicilia in Bocca” (taste of Sicily).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

As promised, here is a great quick recipe for cupcakes that EVERYONE will love. They are a bit expensive to make because of the Nutella, but since when did decadence not come at a price? You could substitute the good stuff with that cheap imitation stuff – but you know it won't be the same. So go on – spoil yourself! You need:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
140 g butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup Nutella

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Next, line 12 muffin tins with cupcake or muffin liners. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl and leave aside. Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl till texture is light. Add in the eggs, one at a time followed by the vanilla extract. Gradually add in the dry ingredients into the wet and mix till well-mixed. Fill up each liner with batter till about 3/4 full. Finally top up each cupcake with approximately 1 tbsp of Nutella. Use a toothpick to swirl the Nutella into the batter. Pop in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Okay, I know this blog is supposed to showcase my passion for food, but lets not forget that I am still a designer and that's in my blood too. So I came across this really cool advert which, in a way, relates to what we eat and I thought I would share. Sorry Pam, you are gonna have to do a lot more than that to put me off a perfectly done piece of rib-eye served on a bed of wilted spinach and oyster mushrooms, drizzled in a gorgeous brandy and cognac pepper sauce! Right, I am distracting myself. Back to Pam. She again does it for PETA, the wholesalers of animal love. She appears in a poor tiny bikini which barely covers here assets. There are some paint markings that mimic a butcher's diagram. Her body is marked ‘breast’, ‘ribs’ and ‘rump’.

The caption reads- All animals have the same parts. Have a heart, go vegetarian.

Where is the heart?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Had a bad day? Well here is my answer to all your problems. It requires very little effort and will guarantee to lift your spirits. From great sports cars, beautiful women and pasta, the Italians have made a wonderful contribution to this planet. However, there is one item that tops them all. Nutella – or simply put, heaven in a jar.

Grab yourself a freshly backed ciabatta loaf, slice two 15mm cuts and toast lightly in a panini press. Generously spread the Nutella between the two slices, make yourself a cup of coffee and that's it. My perfect end to a crap day at the office. Stay tuned for some great Nutella inspired recipes...

Monday, July 19, 2010

I was going through a box of old photos and came across this one of me when I was 5 doing something quite rare. Eating (or should I say my lack of) was a problem my mother had to contend with during my early childhood years. Of course all of that has changed and, today, I need little motivation when it comes to tucking into a good meal. So let’s take a closer look at the picture…what is it in my plate that is prompting me to eat with such enthusiasm and vigour? Well I can tell you that it is the same thing in that plate that gets a similar reaction out of my similarly fickle 7 year old son. It’s good old-fashioned Spaghetti Bolognese.

Some interesting trivia about this meat-based pasta sauce is that it originated in Bologna, Italy. Bolognese sauce is sometimes taken to be a tomato sauce, but authentic recipes have only a small amount of tomato concentrate. The traditional recipe, registered in 1982 by the Bolognese delegation of Accademia Italiana della Cucina, confines the ingredients to beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, meat broth, white wine, and milk or cream. However, different recipes, even in the Bolognese tradition, make use of chopped pork or pork sausage, while chicken, rabbit, or goose liver may be added along with the beef or veal for special occasions, and today many use both butter and olive oil for cooking the soffritto of small amounts of celery, carrot and onion. Prosciutto, mortadella, or porcini mushrooms, when in season, may be added to further enrich the sauce. Milk is frequently used in the early stages of cooking to render the meat flavours more "delicate" but cream is very rare in the everyday recipe and only a very little would be used. According to Marcella Hazan in "The Classic Italian Cookbook", the longer Ragù alla Bolognese cooks the better; a 5 or 6 hour simmer is not unusual. But we are not lazing around in Italy. We are normal people with jobs, kids, pets and other things that fill our lives, so here is a quicker version that’s just as tasty. You will need:

2 onions - chopped
2 large garlic cloves - crushed
100g chopped pancetta (substitute lean bacon)
1kg lean beef mince
2 large carrots - diced
2 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine
3 cans diced tomatoes
3 tbs sugar
Handful of basil, origano

Start by heating some olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and cook the onions, garlic carrots and pancetta for 4-5 minutes. Increase the heat to high, gradually adding the mince and the herbs and cook until well browned. Add the beef stock, red wine, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar. Bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer partially covered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Don’t forget to season well with salt and pepper. Serve with your choice of pasta, however traditionally spaghetti would be the pasta of choice.