beef wellington – a classic

There are classics and then there are classics. Beef Wellington is one of THOSE amazing classics that never gets old and I couldn’t imagine any other meal for my dinner table on the 1st day of 2022.
A succulent, lean, juicy cut of meat coated with mushroom duxelles (and in this case also bacon), encased in puff pastry and then baked and served with a homemade red wine jus, creamy mashed potato and buttery aged carrots.
It was the perfect meal paired with a special Pinot Noir from a very special place called Calitzdorp in the Klein Karoo.

I must admit that the process behind making this spectacular dish can be quite lengthy. But honestly, good things come to those who wait and the time and effort here is well worth it. Time and time again.

ingredients | serves 4-6 | a challenge
1 beef fillet, about 700g, trimmed
1 roll ready made puff pastry, thawed and chilled
1 egg, whisked with a splash of water
500g mushrooms (i used button, black and shitake)
small bunch fresh thyme, leaves only
2 cloves garlic, crushed
9 slices streaky bacon
small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
2T dijon or English mustard
glug olive oil + extra
salt
black pepper

method
Chop the mushrooms in a blender in batches.
Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and cook the mushrooms with the garlic, thyme and parsley to cook out all the moisture from the mushrooms. Spread out to cool.
Rub the beef fillet with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat a large pan and sear the meat for about a minute each side until nicely browned.
While the meat is still hot, rub with english or dijon mustard and set aside to cool.
Line a large cutting board with three sheets of clingfilm.
Place the slices of bacon in the centre of the clingfilm, overlapping one another. Spread the cooled mushrooms duxelles over the bacon.

Lay the fillet on top of the duxelles and using the front end of the clingfilm, start rolling the bacon around the fillet, tightening and pressing as you go to form a cylinder.
Twist the ends to secure and chill for about 30 minutes to set the beef and to keep its shape.

On a lightly floured surface, gently roll the pastry out to a large rectangle.
Unwrap the fillet and place it in the centre of the pastry. Brush the sides with the egg mixture and fold the ends over. Wrap the pastry around the beef, cutting away any excess pastry.
Turn the wrapped fillet over onto a piece of clingfilm with the seam underneath and roll up the clingfilm to tighten the pastry and fillet.
Place in the fridge to set for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Remove the clingfilm from the fillet and score the pastry down lengthways and then sideways at 1cm intervals taking care not to cut all the way through the pastry.
Brush the pastry with the egg mixture and place the fillet on a baking tray.
Bake the fillet for 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 180C and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with your choice of sides and sauce.




pressure cooker lamb shank

Some foods, like shank, can take hours to cook and, frankly, I just don’t always have hours to wait for a good, healthy meal.
These beautiful, meaty shanks are from my local butcher and have been in my freezer for about three weeks. Three weeks too long!!
It took me about 20 minutes to prepare this dish and a further 40 minutes of cooking time, for tender, flavourful shanks that I served on creamy, garlicky mashed potato.
In my mind, a meal fit for kings and queens!!

ingredients | easy
2-4 large lamb shanks
5T flour
Olive oil
1T butter
1 large white onion, chopped
2T tomato paste
4 large ripe tomatoes, quartered
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 stalks rosemary
1/2t ground coriander
1t turmeric
1/2t ground cinnamon
2t cumin seeds, lightly crushed
2t paprika (not smoked)
2 bay leaves
1C chicken stock
1C red wine
2 leeks, sliced diagonally
2 carrots, peeled and cubed
3 celery ribs, sliced
2T brown sugar
bunch fresh parsley, garnish
zest of 1 lemon, garnish
mint leaves, garnish
1t fine salt
good grind of black pepper
2T corn flour
2T water

how to
Season the shanks with salt & pepper and dust with the flour.
Turn the pressure cooker to saute mode. Heat about 3 tablespoons olive oil and brown the shanks all over until beautifully caramelised. Set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the uncleaned bowl of the pressure cooker and a knob of butter. Sauté the onion until translucent. About 3 minutes.
Add the tomato paste & sugar, stir and cook for about a minute. Add the coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin & paprika, stir and cook until fragrant. About a minute.
Pour the wine into the pot to deglaze and reduce by half. Add the carrots, celery & leeks, stir to combine and cook for about 3 minutes on a gentle simmer.
Nestle the shanks in the vegetable mixture and top with the quartered tomatoes, rosemary and bay leaves.
Add the salt, black pepper and bay leaves and pour the stock around the shanks into the pot.
Bring the mixture to a boil. Switch saute mode off.
Place the lid on the cooker, seal the vent and turn the pressure cooking time to 40 minutes, on normal mode.
Cook for the set time with a natural pressure release.
Carefully remove the lid.
To thicken the sauce, mix the corn flour with the water to a paste. Switch to sauté mode.
Pour the corn flour mixture into the pot, stir and gently simmer until the sauce has thickened.

Garnish with chopped parsley, mint leaves and lemon zest.





pork & pear casserole

Another one pan wonder with beautiful, fresh flavours that is perfect for your family dinner table. Pork and pear make a delicious combination in an earthy sauce, packed with vegetables. I use cider in this recipe, which can be replaced with more stock.
Best served with creamy mashed potato.

This is a dish you will return to again and again.

ingredients | easy | serves 4
8 pork sausages / bangers
olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed or sliced
2 carrots, peeled & sliced diagonally
5 celery ribs, sliced diagonally
2T tomato paste
2 ripe tomatoes, quartered
2T flour
300ml chicken stock
15 sage leaves, plus extra for garnish
1T dijon mustard
2 large pears, cored & sliced
knob of butter
1 savanna cider
large bunch thyme, leaves picked
1T sugar
lots of black pepper
zest of 1 lemon
salt to taste

how to
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and brown the pork sausages all over. Set aside.
In the same skillet, without wiping it clean, add a large knob of butter and cook the pear slices until tender. About 8 – 10 minutes.
Set aside.
Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and sauté the onion until glossy and fragrant. Add the tomato paste, sugar & mustard and cook for 2 minutes. Add the carrots & celery, stir to coat and cook for about a minute.
Add the flour, stir and cook for 1 minute. Pour the cider and the stock into the skillet. Stir, bring to a light boil and cook, while stirring, until reduced and thickened. About 8 minutes.
Add the quartered tomato, garlic, sage & thyme, stir and cook for a further 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.
Add the pork sausages to the mixture and place the skillet in the preheated oven.
Bake for about 25 minutes.
Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and add the cooked pear. Place the skillet back into the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Garnish with the extra sage leaves & lemon zest and serve with creamy, buttery mash.




chicken & rice tray bake

This is my idea of a simple, delicious, no-fuss family meal that can be on the table in almost no time at all. It is, undoubtedly, a firm favourite in our home. Just an easy, deletable home-cooked meal that goes in the centre of the table so that everyone can tuck in at their leisure.

I like to use leg quarters for this recipe but really, any part of the chicken is just as delicious. The meat is tender and juicy with a lovely spice. The skin is gorgeously browned and crispy and the rice deliciously fluffy, flavourful and buttery.
Make sure to coat the chicken liberally with the spice rub so that the flavour soaks into the rice.

You can combine all of the ingredients in a roasting tray and put it straight into the oven although I like to brown the chicken first to ensure an extra crispy skin. I then cook the onion & garlic in a little oil and butter before adding the rice and mixing everything together.

Everything you need is in this dish but if you want to serve something alongside, opt for something minimalistic like a tomato & avocado salad.

ingredients | serves 4-6 | easy
for the spice rub
1t onion powder
1t garlic powder
1t paprika
1t salt
1/2t pepper
2T olive oil

Combine all the ingredients together except the oil. Mix and set aside.

For the tray bake
4T olive oil
80g butter
4-6 chicken leg quarters
1 white onion, chopped
3t crushed garlic
120g long grain or basmati rice
1t cumin seeds, crushed
1t dried thyme
1t dried oregano
1t fine salt
1t black pepper
400ml chicken stock
1C frozen peas
fresh cilantro / coriander leaves, garnish
fresh parsley, chopped, garnish

method
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
Drizzle the two tablespoons olive oil over the meat. Using your hands, rub the spice rub into the skin.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan and brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Set aside.
In the same pan, without wiping it clean, heat the remaining two tablespoons olive oil and about 30g of the butter. Sauté the onion & garlic until glossy and fragrant, while stirring. About three minutes.
Add the remaining butter, crushed cumin, oregano & thyme to the skillet / roasting tray and add the rice. Stir to melt the butter and coat the rice and then season with the salt & pepper.
Tip the mixture into a roasting tray or ovenproof dish if needed.
Arrange the chicken pieces on top of the rice and then pour the stock into the dish, around the meat.
Cover the roasting tray or dish with tin foil and bake for about 40 minutes.
Remove the tray from the oven and carefully remove the foil, taking care the steam doesn’t burn your hand.

Test the rice to see if it is cooked. If it is not perfectly tender, cover with foil again and bake for a further 10 minutes.
Now remove the chicken pieces and set aside.
Stir the frozen peas through the rice, replace the chicken pieces and place the dish back into the oven, uncovered, and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven, garnish with the fresh cilantro and parsley and serve.






red wine & vegetable braised lamb neck

It has been years since I last cooked lamb neck and I feel I have missed out on beautiful & succulent, tasty and very tender meat. It was a delicious dinner and I had lots of leftover lamb meat, which was recycled into two beautiful lamb & vegetable pies.

My preferred method of cooking here is low and slow, braised in lots of red wine with vegetables and good stock. Others may argue that it is best treated like a steak and cooked on the fire, quickly on a high heat and served pink.
I will definitely give this a go as soon as the weather allows it.

Delicious with roast potatoes, garlic mash, rice or couscous and a side of buttered vegetables.

ingredients | serves 4-6 | a little effort
1/2C flour & a little more if needed
4/6 lamb necks (depending on size)
olive oil for browning meat + extra for vegetables
1 large white onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
5 garlic cloves, sliced
2T tomato paste
1 can crushed tomato
600ml red wine
4 C good quality chicken stock
4 rosemary stalks, sprigs only
2t fresh thyme leaves
3 bay leaves
1/2t juniper berries, crushed
1/2t cumin seeds, crushed
1/2t coriander seeds, crushed
2T brown sugar
1/2t salt
black pepper
2T butter

method
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C/340 F/150 with fan.
Dredge the lamb necks in the flour. Heat olive oil in a large oven proof pot or Dutch oven and brown the meat on all sides until beautifully caramelized.
Set aside.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same pot without wiping it clean. Add the butter and melt. Saute the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, carrot & celery and cook for a further two minutes.
Add the tomato paste and brown sugar and cook for about three minutes, while stirring.
Crush the cumin, juniper berries & coriander seeds in a pestle & mortar and add it to the vegetables. Cook until fragrant, about two minutes.
Pour the red wine into the pot to deglaze while scraping any bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Pour the chicken stock into the pot, add the crushed tomato and stir.
Add the rosemary, bay leaves and thyme, salt & pepper and bring the mixture to a light boil.
Submerge the lamb neck into the mixture, cook on a light boil for about two minutes. Turn the heat off, cover with a tight fitting lid or tin foil and carefully place the pot into the oven.
Braise for 3 – 3 1/2 hours, until the meat is almost fall off the bone tender.

Carefully remove the lamb neck from the pot and set aside.
Using a handheld blender, blend the vegetable mixture until smooth and strain it into a sauce pot. If the mixture is a bit thick, add a little more chicken stock or water.
Alternatively, simmer until reduced. Season with salt, pepper and a little sugar if needed.

Place the lamb neck onto a serving dish and drizzle with a little of the rich, red sauce.
Garnish with fresh mint & parsley and serve with extra sauce on the side and your choice of starch and vegetables.

From my kitchen to yours, with love x