any occasion asparagus & leek risotto

This is another toothsome vegetarian meal, perfect for meat-free Mondays or really, any occasion. Risotto, a special kind of Italian rice that can easily absorb a fair amount of liquid without become mushy, is cooked with broth until it reaches a beautifully creamy consistency.
Some of the main ingredients used when cooking risotto are onion, white wine, parmesan, butter and broth.
Although it seems like quite a lengthy process, it really does not take much time to cook. Risotto simply needs a little patience and good fresh ingredients, to make it a mind-blowing meal.

ingredients | serves 4 | a little effort
1 medium sized white onion, finely chopped
2t crushed garlic
1C white wine
3C chicken or vegetable stock
3 leeks, sliced diagonally
200-300g fresh asparagus, sliced with tips left whole
1C risotto rice
juice & zest of 1 lemon
3T butter
1C cream, full fat
bunch fresh thyme, stalks removed
1C finely grated parmesan cheese + extra for garnish
bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
2T olive oil
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
creme fraiche, optional (garnish)
chopped chives, optional (garnish)

instructions
Bring a small pot of water to the boil. Submerge the sliced asparagus and tips into the boiling water and cook for about 1 minute. (This is called blanche). Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon and dunk it into iced water. Leave to cool for 1 minute, remove and set aside.
Heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large pot. Add the chopped onion & garlic and cook until glossy. Add the sliced leeks, stir to coat and cook for about 3 minutes.
Tip the risotto rice into the pot and stir to coat. Mix the wine and stock and pour a ladle full into the rice mixture. Cook on a low simmer until mostly evaporated before adding another ladle of the stock & wine mixture.
Repeat this process until you have used all of the stock mixture. Add the blanched asparagus, the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and thyme, combine and cook for about 2 minutes while stirring.
Add the cream, lemon juice, zest and parmesan, combine and cook for about 5 minutes, while stirring, until thickened and the cheese has melted into the sauce.
Taste and season with salt & black pepper.
Stir the parsley through the mixture.

Garnish with a dollop of creme fraiche, shavings of parmesan and chopped chives and serve with a side salad or roasted vegetables.



haddock curry

This recipe is a simple one, with a delicious masala and coconut flavour. At first I was a little apprehensive of using lightly smoked haddock but I can honestly say that the mild smokey flavour only enhanced this dish. And I loved it!
If you like curry as much as I do and are looking for a delicious, healthy and easy mid-week meal, then this recipe is for you!
Contrary to the norm, I cook, eat and enjoy curry all year round. This one was particularly well suited to a warm, summers evening.

ingredients | serves 4 | easy
300g lightly smoked & uncooked haddock, cut into chunks
1 white onion, finely chopped
3t crushed garlic
2T tomato paste
2T masala curry powder
2C cherry tomatoes, whole
1T ginger, grated
1t ground cumin
1/2t mustard seeds
1/2t fennel seeds
1/2t red chilli flakes, optional
1T turmeric
1T brown sugar
1 1/2C fish stock
200g green beans, sliced diagonally
1 lime, juice only
2T olive oil
1T butter
salt to taste
good grind of black pepper
fresh coriander, to serve
basmati rice, to serve
natural yogurt, to serve (optional)
toasted almonds, to serve (optional)

method
Heat olive oil & butter in a pot and sauté the onion & garlic until translucent. Add the tomato paste & brown sugar, stir and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add the ginger, masala powder, chilli, cumin, mustard & fennel seeds and turmeric, stir to combine and cook until fragrant. About 2 minutes. Pour the fish stock into the pot, stir and leave to simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and leave to simmer on a medium heat until slightly reduced and thickened. About 10 minutes.
Add the cherry tomatoes and green beans and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Lastly, add the haddock and simmer until cooked through. Squeeze the lime juice into the pot and stir.
Taste and season with salt & pepper.

Serve with basmati rice, fresh coriander and yogurt.



“Boontjie bredie” – lamb & green bean stew

Cooler weather called for a warm, aromatic stew and since I had green beans in my fridge it was the perfect excuse to cook a meal that hold so many wonderful childhood memories.

This dish, a winter favourite consisting of lamb, green beans & potatoes, is just one of the many dishes customary to my South-African heritage. Traditionally cooked for a few hours in an aromatic broth of clove and nutmeg and served with fluffy white rice, it is cooked differently in every household after being passed down many generations.
It is certainly not the most attractive of dishes but it boasts beautiful aromatic flavour and will, undoubtedly, become one of your winter go-to recipes. An easy, delicious and comforting one pot wonder that will be enjoyed by everyone sitting around your dining table.

ingredients | serves 6 | easy
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1.2kg lamb stewing meat or lamb knuckle
3T flour
500g green beans, sliced
3 large potatoes, cubed
1/2C dry white wine
2C chicken stock
5 whole cloves
1t ground nutmeg
5 thyme sprigs, leaves only
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste
good grind of black pepper (don’t be shy)
2T olive oil + extra for browning meat
1T butter
white rice to serve

how to
Dredge the meat with the flour. Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot and brown the meat, in batches, using a little more oil for each batch.
Set the meat aside.
Heat 2 more tablespoons of olive oil and the butter and sauté the onion until glossy. About 2 minutes.
Add the white wine and deglaze the pot, scraping the bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Reduce to half.
Add the garlic, cloves, nutmeg & thyme and cook for about 3 minutes while stirring.
Pour the stock into the pot followed by the meat. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn down the heat to a gentle simmer, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.
Add the potatoes & green beans, stir to combine and season with salt & pepper. Cover with the lid and cook for 1 hour. Move the lid only a little to the side allowing steam to escape (this will thicken the sauce a little, if necessary) and cook for a further 30 minutes until the lamb is tender and the potatoes are well cooked.
Taste and adjust seasoning. Add the lemon juice and gently stir.

Serve with fluffy white rice or mashed potato.




oriental chunky vegetable & pork

I love the sweet, savoury, umami flavours that ingredients like soya, honey and fish sauce add to a dish. Stir fries are easy, flavourful and healthy and right at the top of my list of good, nutritious meals. An old Chinese method of cooking, which is a little time consuming in preparation but only takes minutes of cooking.
It always reminds me of my travels to far away countries with beautiful cultures and cuisine and hot, summer days.

A wok is the best pan for stir-frying because its curved surface distributes the heat more evenly and more food can be fried in less oil. If you don’t have a wok, a sauté pan will make a good substitute.

Serve this dish with rice or noodles and extra homemade chilli paste.

ingredients | serves 4-6 | easy
1 red onion, sliced
5 garlic cloves, sliced
3 carrots, sliced into large sticks
4 zucchini, sliced into large sticks
200g button mushrooms, halved and quartered
1 red pepper, sliced
500g pork loin steak, cubed
1/4C honey
1/2C soya
3T sweet soya
1T fish sauce
1t sesame oil
1/2t red chilli flakes (optional)
2T olive oil & extra for browning meat
2T butter
1T sesame seeds (i used white and black)
1/2C cashew nuts, chopped
1C rosa tomatoes, whole or halved
large bunch fresh coriander, half chopped, half for garnish
handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2t salt
good grind of black pepper

method
In a large wok or pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and brown the cubed meat all over. Set aside.
In the same pan, without wiping it clean, heat an extra 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter and sauté the red onion for about 2 minutes. Add the vegetables and garlic, toss and cook, while stirring or tossing, for about 8 minutes.
Add the red chilli flakes, tomatoes and the meat, stir to combine and then add the soya, honey, sweet soya, fish sauce & sesame oil. Stir to coat and cook for about 5 minutes, occasionally stirring until meat is cooked through. Season with salt & pepper.
Add the sesame seeds, cashew nuts, parsley & chopped coriander and stir to combine.

Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with steamed basmati rice or noodles.




beef sausage lasagna bake with orecchiette

One of the things I so love about cooking is finding inspiration from items I have in my fridge or freezer. A simpler version of lasagna using beef sausage, vegetables and orecchiette pasta, this dish cooks a little faster than your traditional lasagna as the pasta is cooked before adding it to the meat sauce.
Because sausages are packed with so much beautiful flavour I always remove the casing to enhance the dish. I used orecchiette pasta but any other pasta like penne, rigatoni or fusilli are great alternatives.

Serve this comforting meal with a simple garden or avocado salad and shavings of parmesan.
A delicious, budget friendly family meal!

ingredients | serves 6 | a little effort
600g beef sausage
1/2 white onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
150g button mushrooms, quartered
2 zucchini, grated
1t dried oregano
2 rosemary sprigs, leaves only
2T tomato paste
1 can crushed tomato
1T paprika
2T brown sugar
1C cherry tomatoes, whole
bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
1t salt
good grind of black pepper
3 thyme sprigs, leaves only
2T olive oil
1T butter
2C grated cheddar
3C orecchiette pasta, cooked according to package intstructions

white sauce
35g butter
4T flour
2.5-3C milk
1/2t salt
1/2t white pepper

method
Preheat the oven to 190C/170 with fan.
Heat the olive oil & butter in a large, ovenproof skillet and sauté the onion and garlic until glossy. Remove the sausage meat from the casings by pressing it out, into the hot pan, like little meatballs. Discard the sausage casings and brown the meat all over. About 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring.
Add the grated zucchini, rosemary, paprika, oregano, sugar, salt & pepper, stir to coat and cook for 5 minutes. Pour the crushed tomato into the pan and cook the mixture for another 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Add the cherry tomatoes, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the parsley through the mixture. Set aside.

make the white sauce
Melt the butter in a small pot on medium heat. Add the flour and mix using a wooden spoon.
Remove the pot from the heat and, using a whisk, add the milk while rapidly whisking. Place the pot back onto the heat and continue to whisk until the sauce starts to thicken. Leave to gently simmer for about 10 minutes, while stirring. Add more milk if the sauce is too thick. (You must have a pourable sauce.)
Season with the salt & pepper.

assemble
Spoon the cooked orecchiette pasta onto the meat sauce. Pour the white sauce over the pasta and top with the grated cheddar cheese and thyme leaves.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes until browned on top.