It’s again been a while since I last found / made the time to try and catch up with the many notes I have made of ideas for this blog. This posting comprises a number of bits and pieces, covering various meals and dishes, some of which I’ll write up in detail in separate posts.
I’m writing this late on Sunday afternoon, outside on my patio enjoying the last of the winter sun’s warmth. Johannesburg has superb weather in winter, but it can be a little chilly. Lunch today was some of that soup I wrote about in my last post, “Winter food – time for soup”, jazzed up with some of Dave’s Devil Juice (more of that shortly), and a slice or two of the focaccia bread I made yesterday.
I spoilt myself earlier this week and bought a KitchenAid mixer. Until now, I have made do in the kitchen with a liquidiser, an old food processor (with a few slicing / chopping blades), a handheld mixer and a mini food processor (very useful for preparing sauces or chopping up a handful of ingredients). I had been wanting to make bread for a while and had tired of all the hard work in making pasta dough, so wanted a machine with a dough hook that could do the hard work for me. I also wanted to get back into baking, which I had largely ignored since my childhood (when I learnt to bake out of sheer desperation, because my mother was not that good at baking cakes or anything that involved yeast or dough).
The little orange Le Creuset pan to the right of the picture was a gift from Kitty this week, as a thank-you for some DIY I’d done at her place. I’d seen a mate using a similar small pan to make some sauce for dinner last Saturday, and had told Kitty I’d like something similar. (I also bought myself a mandolin, which I have to even unpack, but I have some ideas for its use shortly).
I put my new toy to work on a recipe for rosemary and olive oil focaccia bread, which I had seen in a recent newspaper article (http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/food-drink/recipes/impress-with-olive-oil-recipes-1.1530052#.Ub3ENPmno4c). I cannot recall when I last (if ever) cooked anything involving yeast – I am sure I must have cooked with it before, but cannot recall when. Anyway, when I saw the recipe in the ‘paper I decided to give it a bash – an expensive bash, given the cost of a KitchenAid…
Making the dough was a pleasure, thanks to my new toy and its dough hook.
Here’s a tip for cleaning up after making dough or pastry: a large flat paint scraper or putty knife makes short work of scraping all the flour and dough / pastry scraps together.
I mentioned “Dave’s Devil Juice” in my last posting, about the soup, and earlier today. Like the soup, it is named after B’s father, Dave. When I first met B, I enjoyed a bit of heat and some chillies, but her family introduced me to the “habit” of chewing on fresh chillies, as a quick accompaniment to a snack, or a curry, or something else needing spicing up. Another thing they had was this fearsome chilli sauce – so hot that a mere drop or two would blow a bowl of soup up the taste-bud Richter Scale! Dave’s recipe was deceptively simple: a few handfuls of dried bird’s eye or peri-peri chillies, which he ground to a fine powder, mixed with Old Brown Sherry, and bottled for several months. He would then filter the resulting flame-red sauce through a fine sieve before bottling it in a little decanter.
The alcohol in the sherry extracts all of the lovely heat from the chillies. I made some a few months ago. Sadly, I could not get the very hot, dried chillies, so bought a few packs of fresh red chillies which I dried in the Jo’burg summer sun.
The resulting sauce, depicted alongside, is not as hot as I remember Dave’s being, but still has a superb kick. As you can see, it is being consumed – this decanter started out full a month or so back.
Kitty and I made pelmeni for dinner last night. B and I grew to love pelmeni when we lived in Moscow, and it was a dish we both missed after returning to South Africa. Of course, there is no chance of finding a bag of frozen pelmeni in one of our local supermarkets, so, for the first few years after coming back, the only place we enjoyed pelmeni was during trips to Moscow. Last year sometime I tired of that, so did some research on the ‘web, where I found a vast number of pelmeni recipes, and started making my own. I’ll post my recipes for the dough and filling one day soon. After I introduced Kitty to pelmeni, she also wanted to make them. Her boys are now also big fans of pelmeni, served with “smetana” (sour cream or creme fraiche), vinegar and some chopped herbs. She follows a dough recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen (http://natashaskitchen.com/) and has adapted my meat mixture as well. As I said, I will write it all up in a separate posting, soon…
Last weekend I was hankering after some roast chicken. Kitty and I were busy with a number of chores and DIY tasks across our respective houses, so we needed something that did not involve a lot of effort. Thankfully, a charcoal-roasted Weber chicken fits the bill nicely: cover a suitably-sized chicken with peri-peri marinade or sauce, pop it into a roasting bag, and put it into a Weber kettle braai / barbecue (using the indirect method) for an hour (cutting the bag open 10 minutes from the end so that the skin can crisp up).
Kitty also cooked dinner on Wednesday night, trying a new and tasty dish which she’d eaten previously in Egypt. She made some small meatballs (using seasoned lamb mince, I think, with some chopped onions and herbs), which we grilled under that (in)famous TV grill. The mealballs were served wrapped in chickpea pancakes, with spoonfuls of cucumber / yoghurt raita or tzatziki. Very yummy indeed, and certainly a dish to be repeated.
Another new dish I tried during the week was pilau rice. I did cheat, however, as I used a pack of pilau seasoning that I’d bought from Woolworths some time before. I made a half-batch, to try, and quite enjoyed it. When I cook it again, however, I think I’ll saute some onions, perhaps some peppers, and definitely some chilli to put into the mixture before adding the water.
Something else I’ve eaten recently is sweetcorn, on the cob. Boil them for 8 to 10 minutes, slap on some butter and sprinkle on some salt, and eat with your hands – preferably in the sun somewhere. Lovely as a quick lunch or snack – and my kids love it, too.
I have taken so long to write this post that the sun has gone down, it has got distinctly colder, and I have retreated indoors, where the fire is now lit and the sherry bottle is calling. I still have lots to write about, so will put up another post or two during the course of the evening (hopefully).
Before I go, a punt, if I may, for my favourite Japanese restaurant – one which many rate as one of the best, if not the best, Japanese restaurant in Johannesburg – Tsuyu, in the Pineslopes Shopping Centre in Fourways. Roger and Sandi run a small but great operation. Their sushi is excellent and their teppanyaki table turns out one treat after another. Find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tsuyu.za?hc_location=stream. When B and I lived in Moscow, we would fantasize about the Tsuyu sushi, and made a point of going there on every trip back to SA.