Friday, 28 January 2011

Easy Chicken Souvlakis



In the early 1990's, while I was a student at Stellenbosch University, I was station manager, news reader and DJ at our university radio station.  At that time, it was still called Radio Matie (now MFM) and we could only broadcast via fixed line on campus, as the SABC still had their monopoly over the FM waves.  Our set up was quite basic with only two turntables and a CD player, but we were mostly proud of what we did.  We even got into a bit of trouble for playing "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" once!

Some of us, myself included, did auditions in Sea Point to become DJs at Radio Good Hope, became trainee DJs and had to go to Sea Point at least once a week for a training session in one of their studios.  It was during one of these trips that I was introduced to Aris Souvlaki by one of my fellow trainees.  Not a 5 star venue by any stretch of the imagination.  No, expect plastic over the red and white check table cloths, thimble sized wine glasses and plastic grapes hanging from the ceiling.  But the food was out of this world.  Their souvlakis and shwarmas were the best I've ever eaten, the pitas loaded with garlicy tzatziki and chopped tomatoes.
Aris Souvlaki in Sea Point, South Africa.  Photo from here

Those were the days!  Well, I'm sure if I looked really hard, I could find a Greek restaurant in Taipei somewhere, but I'm sure that their souvlakis and shwarmas would not be as tasty as Aris' in Sea Point.

Last night I had a craving for those souvlakis, so I tried my own.  Now, I really couldn't be asked to bake my own pita bread tonight and I didn't do the tzatziki either (even though it is dead easy to make).  I simply didn't have the time.  But by all means, serve these souvlakis with pita or some fresh bread, chopped totatoes and some tzatziki.


Chicken Souvlakis

Ingredients:
  • 4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • the juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp unflavoured yoghurt (I had nome and actually substituted it with 1 Tbsp mascarpone)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Method:
  1. Mix everything together in a zip lock bag and marinate it for about an hour or overnight in the fridge.
  2. Skewer the meat and discard remaining marinade.  Remember to soak bamboo skewers before using to prevent them from burning.
  3. Preheat a griddle pan (no oil needed if non stick) until screaming hot.  Cook for 4 to 5 minutes a side.  Serve with fresh pita bread, chopped tomatoes and big dollops op tzatziki.  Alternatively, remove the skewers and serve with some mixed salad leaves as a light meal.


Aris Souvlaki can be found at, 83A Regent Road, Sea Point, Cape Town.
Telephone:  +27 (0)21 439-6683

Monday, 24 January 2011

Good old tamatie bredie. (Tomato stew)



It is a week away from Chinese New Year (also called Lunar New Year) and it is bitterly cold in Taiwan.  When I say bitterly cold, I can hear the collective snigger coming from my readers in the UK, US and Canada.  Yes, yes I know 10C at 87% humidity is hardly the -23C my Canadian friends had to endure today.  But you know, this is supposed to be a subtropical island.  Also, earthquake-proof buildings (read made entirely of concrete) are cold and damp and we have no heating or double glazing.  The cold simply creeps up from the tiled concrete floor and then crawls up your legs and body until you shiver with cold.


Perfect weather for a stew, I hear you say.  That's exactly what I thought!  I've been missing my mum's tamatie bredie (Afrikaans for tomato stew) for a long time, so last night I thought it was high time to make some comfort food.  To be honest, it was way too cold and windy to go out on my scooter to buy ingredients, so I had to make do with what was in the house.  It came out great though!  This is my plain, nothing fancy tamatie bredie!


Slowly bubbling away.


Tamatie Bredie


Ingredients:

  • a glug of oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1.5 kg stewing lamb or mutton (I used beef to be safe.  The Chinese word for sheep and goat is similar and you never really know what you are getting.)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste (for me, tamatie bredie loves pepper!)
  • 500ml stock or wine
  • 500g potatoes, peeled and sliced (not too small, we don't want mush)
  • 1kg tomatoes, skinned and chopped (I didn't have fresh tomatoes, so I used Hunt's canned whole tomatoes.)
  • 1 to 2 tsp sugar
  • 1tsp marjoram (fresh, if you have.  I didn't so I used 1tsp dried oregano in stead.)
Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large casserole (I use my Ikea Le Creuset rip off ) and sauté the onions and garlic until it starts to soften.
  2. Add meat and quickly brown on all sides.  Add salt, pepper and a little stock.  Cover with a lid and simmer the meat for 1 to 1 and a half hours or until the meat starts to get tender.  Add a little more stock or wine from time to time, if needed.
  3.  Now add the potatoes, tomatoes sugar and herbs and simmer, with the lid on, for another hour.  If the sauce is too thin, remove the lid and let it reduce slightly.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Serve with cooked rice.
REMEMBER:  If you are making this stew in Taiwan, watch your pot very carefully.  Stoves in Taiwan are much higher in temperature that our western stoves, even on the lowest setting.  Because of the sugar content of tomatoes, they can burn easily, if you don't watch out!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Guilt-Free Chocolate Mousse



Some things in life are bad, they can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you're chewing on life's gristle, don't grumble give a whistle
This will help things turn out for the best

Always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the right side of life - Always look on the bright side of life, by Monty Python



I saw the recipe for Guilt-Free Chocolate Mousse on The Creative Pot.  Great blog by the way, you HAVE to check it out.  Any way, I was going to tell you about the 1st time I ate Woollies Chocolate Mousse and how I love making Nigella's Chocolate Mousse with marshmallows in stead of whipped egg white.  Quite frankly after a day like today, I'd much rather tell you about my day, which played out like a comedy of errors.


Now, for some reason I woke up at 2am this morning and was unable to go back to sleep.  Went for a spot of lunch with a friend at the local diner.  He recently moved to Taoyuan City from the south and is without transport, so I gave him a lift on my scooter.  However, when it was time to take him home, my trusty old scooter wouldn't start.  It sounded like someone had forgotten their knitting needles somewhere inside the engine.  We then proceeded to push said scooter a few blocks to the nearest scooter mechanic, in the freezing cold, only to be told that they didn't have that part and that I had to wait until tomorrow before I could get my transportation back.


Any way, I get home (after having walked back in the rain) and decided that Chocolate Mousse is probably the only thing that will cheer me up now.  Guess what?  My blender goes up in smoke (well, maybe there wasn't THAT much smoke but hey, this is my story)!  Thankfully it broke just at the point where everything was beautifully blended, so I could just finish it off with an electric mixer.  And just because I am feeling sorry for myself, it's no longer totally guilt-free, as it now contains some Malibu Coconut Rum!




Almost Guilt-Free Chocolate Mousse
Adapted from Guilt-Free Chocolate Mousse by The Creative Pot.


Ingredients:

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp coconut milk
  • 4 Tbsp Malibu Coconut Rum (optional but lekker!)
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder, sifted


Method:
  1. Cut the bananas into discs.  Pop them in a freezer bag and leave them in the freezer until frozen.
  2. Blend the frozen bananas, coconut milk and Malibu (if using) until smooth and creamy or until your blender goes up in flames, whichever comes first.
  3. Blend in the cocoa powder until well mixed.  (I used my hand mixer for this part.)
Next time I will tip the whole mixture in my ice cream maker for a delicious chocolate ice cream or maybe something with crunchy peanut butter...mmmm...

So I grumbled and I whistled to no avail.  Forget whistling - rather make chocolate mousse. 

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Not so trifle, Trifle

Trifle is one of those things that you either love or hate, like fruit cake.  Or closer to home, the durian, also known as The King of Fruit.  There is no middle way for the durian, with its sweet flesh and distinctive rotten onion smell.  You either love it or hate it.


I'm not entirely sure why people don't like trifles.  Maybe it is because of its distinctive 70's look, but for more than a decade, it was one of those desserts that were out of fashion.  Actually, according to Wikipedia, trifle is a pretty old desert.  "The earliest known use of the name trifle was for a thick cream flavoured with sugar, ginger and rosewater, the recipe for which was published in England, 1596, in a book called "The good huswife's Jewell" by Thomas Dawson.  It wasn't until sixty years later when milk was added and the custard was poured over alcohol soaked bread."   Well, with Jamie Oliver posing with a huge trifle in hand on the front cover the Christmas edition of Jamie Magazine, I think it is safe to say that the humble trifle is back en vogue.


So, trendy as I am (yeah, right), I decided to "build" some individual trifles for my Taiwanese guests  at our early Christmas lunch.  I thought this was going to be easy peasy; no mess - no fuss.  Boy, was I wrong!  Not that the actual making was a problem.  No, no...finding red and green jelly was the big challenge!  All I could find was coffee and green tea (yuk!) jelly and that was going into my trifle...over my cold, dead body.  I traveled up and down the city, going from supermarket to supermarket - nothing.  Eventually I found a lonely packet of strawberry jelly but still, not a single packet of green jelly to be seen anywhere.


I thought about abandoning my idea of a festive trifle but seeing as they were already halfway made and chilling in my fridge, I had to come up with a "Plan B" - make my own!  So, armed with a few sheets of gelatin, some apple and lemon juice and a touch of green apple food colouring, I improvised a bowl of (very brightly coloured), I dare say, quite delicious green apple jelly!




Trifle
Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of red jelly (any flavour but not something that would clash with your fruit.  I used strawberry)
  • 1 packet of green jelly (mine was my self improvised apple jelly)
  • 1 trifle sponge cake or some mini Swiss rolls
  • a few Tbsp of Port, Sherry or brandy
  • some fresh berries in season (I used blueberries)
  • some good quality fruit cocktail, from a can
  • 500ml custard (you can use ready made custard like Ultramel if you want.  I made custard using just a little more custard powder than stated on the package.  This helped it to set better.)
  • whipping cream, sweetened to taste.
  • some grated chocolate, 100's and 1000's, chocolate sprinkles or glacé fruit for garnishing

Method:
  • Cut the cake or Swiss roll into 1.5cm slices and line the bottom of your classes.
  • Sprinkle your alcohol of choice over the cake and let it soak in.  Meanwhile make your packet of red jelly, following the directions on the packet and let it cool.
  • Pop the berries onto the cake layer and pour the cooled red jelly over it to make your red layer.  The cake and berries might float.  Don't let it worry you - it looks pretty!  Refrigerate until the jelly is set.
  • Make the jelly as per the instructions on the packet.  I used double the custard powder stated on the packet in order to get a thicker custard.  Let the custard cool.
  • Pour the cooled custard over the red jelly layer.  Leave it so set.
  • Prepare your packet of green jelly and set aside to cool.
  • Drain the syrup off the fruit cocktail and add the fruit to your trifles, on top of the custard layer.  Pour the cooled green jelly over the fruit to make your green layer.  Refrigerate until set.
  • Just before serving, whip the cream to still peaks and plop dollops of this on top of your trifles.
  • Garnish with chocolate shavings, glacé fruit, chopped nuts or colourful sprinkles.


Saturday, 1 January 2011

Bobotie

Bobotie (pronounced /bɒˈboʊti/) is as traditionally Cape Town as you can get.  None of my friends from "the northern provinces" of South Africa had eaten Bobotie before I made it for them, in Taiwan.  I suppose the reason for this is that it originated in the V.O.C. colonies in Batavia and came to the Cape via the Cape Malay people and it might not have migrated well to the north, who knows.


In essence it is a curried meat loaf, I suppose, with an egg custard topping.  It isn't very spicy and uses many different spices to give the dish a depth of flavour, rather than heat.


There are as many Bobotie recipes out there as there are households in the Cape, I'm sure.  However, this one is my absolute favourite.  I was passed to me by my mother and apparently this is the recipe used by late Tannie Elize Botha, 1st wife of late State President P.W. Botha when entertaining heads of state at Den Anker, The Groot Krokodil's holiday retreat.


This Bobotie is worth a try.  It was even mentioned in Francoise Steynberg's column Ek sê maar net in Die Republikein (a Namibian newspaper) on 23 April 2009.




Tannie Elize Botha's Bobotie


Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 500g minced meat.  A mixture of beef and pork works best for me.
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed (The garlic in Taiwan is not as potent as in South Africa, so if in Taiwan, by all means increase this to 4 cloves of garlic.)
  • 1 apple or 1 carrot, grated
  • 10 ml curry powder


  • 5ml ground coriander
  • 2ml ginger powder
  • 2ml mixed herbs
  • 5ml turmeric
  • 2ml ground cinnamon
  • 5ml sugar
  • 5ml salt
  • 2ml ground pepper
  • 5ml lemon juice
  • 2 slices of bread, soaked in water, most water squeezed out and broken up with a fork.
  • a handful of raisins
  • lemon leaves or bay leaves
Topping:
  • 250ml cream or natural yoghurt
  • 2ml salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 2 eggs
Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C.
  2. Lightly fry the mince in the oil until just done and crumbly.  Add the chopped onion and keep frying until the onion is soft and glossy.
  3. Add the garlic, apple and all the herbs and spices.  Keep frying so that the flavours can develop.  Taste and flavour with salt, pepper and the lemon juice.
  4. Add the bread and raisins and place the mixture in an oven proof dish.  Level the top of the meat and stab one or two bay or lemon leaves into the top.
  5. Whip the ingredients for the topping with a fork and pour it over the meat.  Bake in the pre-heated oven at 190C for 35 minutes or until the topping is set and golden brown.  Serve with rice, pumpkin fritters and a sambal.