beetroot Spaghetti and chicken Meatballs

Always looking for ways to create quick and delicious carb-conscious weeknight meals, I was pleasantly surprised to see beetroot spaghetti at Woolies yesterday. I grabbed a packet and while running around the store in my usual haphazard fashion tried to decide what to make with it. It was late and the chicken section was very empty, but I spotted chicken meatballs and hatched a cunning plan.

I decided that if the spaghetti is red, I need to put a white version of a red topping on it and garnish it with greens; Italian flag, unexpected colours and all that.

It’s terribly easy to make and was quite delicious.

Take the chicken balls and brown them in olive oil in a large pan for which you have a lid. (I use a non-stick 28cm Le Creuset pan.)

While this is happening chop a shallot or two and some garlic and add this to the pan, sauté them until transparent. Put the lid on on turn the heat to medium low.

Meanwhile, grate some parmesan (or Woolies Hard Italian Cheese) in a bowl and grate a bit of nutmeg into it.

When the balls are cooked (10-15 minutes), turn the heat down very low and add the parmesan and nutmeg and some double thick cream and season with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stir or shake and replace the lid.

Microwave the beetroot spaghetti according to the instructions. Check the seasoning of the sauce.

Put the beetroot in a pasta bowl, place some meatballs and the sauce on top and finish with roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley and some pea shoots.

Voila! You’re welcome.

I served it with a Lomond Impromptu Merlot Rosé.



Tapas Testing

It’s an open secret that I adore the food of Sam & Sam Clarke of Moro fame. The Moorish-inspired recipes from their brilliant cookbooks are delicious without fail and obviously very lovingly put together.

They recently opened Morito, a tapas restaurant next to Moro in Exmouth, London. I plan to go there in December, but was excited to hear that they had published a book of tapas recipes, aptly named Morito (little Moro).

On Saturday I did a test run with a friend of a few of the recipes. A few hours later we were stuffed to the gills, but very happily so. The recipes are easy to follow, even for novice cooks, and the dishes look great and taste little little pieces of heaven on a plate.

Here are a few pics from the day.

Morito, the recipe book

Morito, the recipe book



Pintxos: Boquerones, caper berries and piquillo peppers.

Pintxos: Boquerones, caper berries and piquillo peppers.

Grilled courgette, sumac and pine nut salad

Grilled courgette, sumac and pine nut salad

An italian interlude - not from the book. Prosciutto, fig and gorgonzola.

An italian interlude – not from the book. Prosciutto, fig and gorgonzola.

Chicken and preserved lemon tagine.

Chicken and preserved lemon tagine.

Fabulous savoury Rose (Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan, Syrah) to wash it all down.

Fabulous savoury Rose (Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan, Syrah) to wash it all down.

Patatas Bravas with Alioli

Patatas Bravas with Alioli

Making the Black Death Macaroons that sent two Masterchefs home

I was delighted and horrified by the wicked dessert that David Higgs presented for the five contestants to replicate in last Wednesday’s pressure test on MasterChef SA.

The dish was beautiful. I loved the complementary black and white colours and the flavours of liquorice and litchi. It was painful, though, watching people that I have grown very close to struggle with a slightly sketchy recipe and only two hours within which to recreate it.

Full of empathy and bravado, I decided to attempt it myself. Because I don’t have an ice cream machine and neither does my masochistic streak extend that far, I ignored the time constraints.

Here’s a link to the recipe: Liquorice Macaroon with Litchi Panna Cotta, Lichi Sorbet and Black Crumble

Here’s the result:

Liqurice and Litchi Dessert of Death

Not too shabby, I suppose. David himself remarked on Twitter (@David_Higgs) that it looked good enough to eat. I’ll take that as high praise.

What a mission it was though! I’m very glad that I wasn’t in that pressure test.

Will I be silly enough to try any of the other challenges coming up? We’ll have to wait and see.

My stab at David Higgs' dessert

The JIA Emptiness dinner plate was kindly supplied by entrepo Hyde Park. Tel. 087 150 5369
R 279.95









I wish I had one of these. I had to churn the sorbet by hand in a bowl over ice and salt. Old skool.

Le Glacier Turbine Ice Cream Maker
R 6 960









You’ll also need a stand mixer (Kenwood, Kitchen Aid), silicone macaron baking sheet (Silpat, Tescoma, Sweetly Does It), piping bag, whipping siphon with NO2 chargers (iSi, Ibili), isomalt and black gel colouring. These last two are available at good baking shops.

Happy baking!?

P.S. (2013/07/30) The liquorice and white chocolate ganache filling for the macaroons is the most delicious thing ever. It’s seriously addictive. Be warned.

Salmon Mi Cuit

Talk about a pressure test! I invited the series director and head of content of MasterChef SA for dinner last night.

After bubbles on the deck (thanks guys), we settled down to a four-course dinner skipping helter-skelter over that rustic/refined line.

The prize for the most photogenic dish of the evening goes to (drum roll please)… Salmon Mi Cuit. This consisted of a piece of half cooked (that’s what mi cuit means) salmon, a ginger and ponzu fluid gel, radishes pickled in rice vinegar, wasabi aioli and salmon roe. The dish is inspired by sashimi and salmon roses.

Salmon Mi Cuit

I unabashedly adore ChefSteps. I’ve made their 104F Salmon dish a few times, but this time decided to make it my own. I followed the technique for Salmon Mi Cuit (, which renders the most delicious and succulent salmon imaginable, and dressed it with a few garnishes to invoke that sushi vibe.

What on earth is a fluid gel?

I recently saw a HarvardX lecture on iTunesU in which Dave Arnold – a total rock star by the way – makes and explains a fluid gel. He explains: “Fluid gels have the properties of both a fluid and a gel. Agar fluid gels can look like hair gel on the plate but feel like a smooth, creamy sauce in the mouth.”

I decided to put this to the test. I whizzed up some sushi ginger, fresh ginger, ponzu sauce and about 0.8% agar-agar. Heated it to the boil and filtered it through an Aeropress. (Couldn’t find my muslin, works a treat.) I let the gel cool and set, and then blended it. Voila! Fluid gel. The soy in the ponzu with the particular texture of a fluid gel gives it that lovely silkiness and deep flavour of a good jus.

To complete the sushi effect I made a wasabi aioli and added some salmon roe. I loved the idea of making a modernist dish and having real ‘caviar’ on the plate instead of something spherified.

Equipment required:
Sous Vide circulator or bath or thermometer
Immersion blender

Difficulty: moderate

Salmon Mi Cuit close up

Some handy products for this dish


AeroPress Coffee Maker

Finding good coffee when travelling is an expensive and sometimes impossible task. The Aeropress is a wonderful travelling companion. I also found it great at straining liquids quickly and effectively.






Decadent Spiced Flourless Chocolate Dessert Cake

A dear friend phoned me recently with an offer I just couldn’t refuse. Apparently a large batch of Ferrero Rocher milk chocolate had melted into a solid mass and was seeking owners at R25 per kilogram. How could I resist? I immediately got 4 kilograms, which have been lazing around in my pantry waiting for an occasion.

A Hunk of Chocolate

A Hunk of Chocolate

I’ve been a huge fan of the Chez Panisse flourless chocolate cake for years, and have made several very tasty variations with various types of dark chocolate; Lindt Intense Pear and Lindt Intense 85% being my favourites to date. This weekend I decided to use whatever I had in the cupboard (including the aforementioned pile of milk chocolate) to make a delicious dessert. It sits, very happily, somewhere between a cake, a fondant and a fruit flan. It’s rich and decadent, warm and spicy, cool and tangy all at once.

Another dear friend, who requested to remain nameless, was instructing me in the ways of taking decent food photos while I was baking. It was a fun and chaotic afternoon, and I am eternally grateful.

Spiced Chocolate Dessert Cake with Strawberries, Pine nuts and Yoghurt








  1. Preheat oven to 190°C.
  2. Grease the base of a 20-23cm springform cake tin and line with greaseproof paper. Dust with a little flour.

Quality milk chocolate
Butter, unsalted
(Or use salted butter and omit the salt)

300 g
250 g



2.5 ml


  1. Melt in a bowl in the microwave at 60% power. Once melted, whisk together until smooth.


Chocolate and Butter

Egg whites


6 whites

  1. Whisk until soft peaks form.

Cream of tartar


2.5 ml


Egg Whites

Egg yolks
Castor sugar
Demerara sugar


120 g
55 g

6 yolks


  1. Whisk until thick and pale.




  1. Pour in the chocolate mixture and gently mix until smooth.


Ground almonds

55 g


  1. Sprinkle onto the mixture.

Cocoa powder
Cake flour


30 ml
15 ml

  1. Sift together onto the mixture.




  1. Mix together.
  2. Carefully fold in the beaten egg whites to complete the batter.





  1. Pour the batter into the prepared tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake is set but slightly wobbly in the centre.
  2. Cool in the tin. The centre will collapse slightly – a perfect hollow for the toppings.


The toppings for the cake

The toppings for the cake

Butter, unsalted
Pine nuts
Ground cinnamon
(Butter must be unsalted here)

50 g
30 g



2.5 ml


  1. Melt the butter in a very small saucepan.
  2. Add the pine nuts and cinnamon and fry gently until the butter begins to caramelise and foam and the pine nuts are starting to turn a very pale brown.
  3. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release any bits that are stuck and pour the pine nuts and butter into a cool bowl to stop the cooking.
  4. Leave to cool slightly.


Mascarpone cheese
Greek yoghurt

150 g
150 g


  1. Gradually stir the yoghurt into the mascarpone to form a smooth mixture.


Caramelised butter, cinnamon and pine nuts

Caramelised butter, cinnamon and pine nuts




  1. To serve, run a knife around the edge and remove the cake from the tin. Peel off the paper and place on a cake platter.
  2. Dust the cake with cocoa powder.


Strawberries, hulled and halved



  1. Pile the strawberries in the centre of the cake.
  2. Pour the butter mixture over.
  3. Spoon the yoghurt mixture on top.
  4. Slice and serve. (The centre should be quite gooey.)





This cake is best stored at room temperature under foil, though the toppings need to be refrigerated. Oh dear, you’re going to have to eat the whole thing!

Eat Me

Eat a slice, or 6! It’s gooey and delicious.

Benedict with No-whisk (sous vide) Hollandaise

A Hollandaise can be quite a temperamental sauce, as some of you might have seen on MasterChef SA last night when I had to whisk and emulsify to save my skin. The flurry of activity on the screen was also testament to the fact that it is quite labour intensive.

It is very easy to overcook the eggs and split the sauce, or turn it into oily scrambled eggs. You could throw money at the problem and buy a Kenwood Titanium Cooking Chef which stirs and heats at the same time, and I must admit that this is as good an excuse as any to get it, or you could go the trusty sous vide route.

I recently, when I didn’t have the inclination to whisk, made breakfast for 9 people and served them Eggs Benedict with a slow poached sous vide egg, either smoked trout or prosciutto crudo and the lightest fluffiest sous vide hollandaise on top.

Eggs Benedict

Here’s how to make the sauce:


Recipe adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home.

Caramelised Carrot Soup – The Maillard Reaction in Action

Being homeless (well, between homes) isn’t the most fun I’ve had recently, so in desperation I egged the divine Mistress M on to arrange a cook-up at a fabulous friend’s home. Said fabulous friend being a haematologist and partner in a pathology laboratory; I thought a soupçon of chemistry with a dash of microbiology might be in order.

The Maillard (say: my Yar) reaction, also known as the browning reaction, is the source of much of the deliciousness in the foods we love. The scrumptious crust on a seared steak, the caramelised sugars of toffee, butterscotch and tartes tatin, the heady aromas of roasted coffee beans, the comforting smell of baking bread are all largely due to this (actually quite complex) phenomenon.

The lovely caramelized flavours typically do not occur in wet environments in the time scales of normal cooking, but we can do a few things to speed them along; up the temperature and up the alkalinity.

You can read a wonderfully thorough and scientific discussion here:

So, with the help of Modernist Cuisine at Home, let’s put all of this wonderful theory into action.

Because we’re literally a mile high, water boils at a paltry 94°C in Johannesburg. But even at sea level 100°C is not quite hot enough for caramelisation to take place in our soup. To get things a little more heated, we have to put some pressure on.

Enter the pressure cooker. Well, at least it would if all of my kitchen equipment weren’t in storage. After some frantic twoogling and phoning around, my aunt came to the rescue with a very retro orange pressure cooker, which then entered. A perfect match to the soup.

Pressure Cooker

With the equipment to add enough heat (up to 120°C in a pressure cooker), we now need to raise the alkalinity. Imagine your carrots in the pot have indigestion and you want to neutralise some acid. Just add another retro remedy: bicarbonate of soda (baking soda [U.S.] / koeksoda [Afr]).

All you need for this mind-blowing soup is:

  • The best carrots you can find (the flavour depends entirely on them)
  • Fresh carrot juice (juice in a centrifugal juicer or buy a bottle of organic from Woolies)
  • Unsalted butter
  • Water
  • Chicken stock (optional if your carrot juice is very sweet)
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Salt

Special Equipment

  • Pressure cooker
  • Immersion blender
  • Fine sieve or chinois

After peeling the carrots and removing the fibrous cores, chop them into 5cm pieces.

Coreless carrots

Melt butter in the pressure cooker. This coating stops the carrots from sticking and adds some proteins for more Maillard deliciousness. Add some water, salt and baking soda, and pressure cook for 20 minutes. Give the pot a few cautious shakes in the beginning to stop the carrots from sticking. Depressurise and Voila! Pressure-cooked caramelised carrots. They smell delicious, like toffee.

Caramelised carrots

Puree the carrots with and immersion blender and pass the puree through a fine sieve or chinois.

Bring the carrot juice (and water or stock if using) to the boil, strain and stir into the carrot puree.

Juice and stock

Mount the soup with butter using an immersion blender. This is a cheffy term that means whisking cold butter into a hot sauce off the heat just before serving to give it a wonderfully smooth and silky texture. (If you haven’t done it yet, try it with the juices from a roast chicken for beautiful gravy.)

Season with salt to taste, spoon it into soup plates or bowls and serve.

I wanted to serve it with a sprig of dill on top, but had to settle for bit of chopped parsley.

Carrot Soup

So easy, so delicious, so educational. Thanks @ModernCuisine!

Modernist Cuisine at Home

Modernist Cuisine at Home
R1 978

This is the essential cookbook for the home cook who would like to experiment with the new tools and techniques of modernist cuisine.

Molecular Gastronomy is the science that studies the principles at play in the kitchen, on the plate and in the mouth. When you actually start to cook it’s something else entirely. Hervé This, one of molecular gastronomy’s founders, waxes lyrical about this in the introduction to his new book, if you’d like to know more. Nathan Myhrvold et al like to call this cooking part, and their massive book, Modernist Cuisine. I’ll side with them on this naming (for now).

You’ll find the simplified caramelised carrot soup recipe in this book.

Modernist Cuisine

Photo Credit:Ryan Matthew Smith
Modernist Cuisine, LLC
Modernist Cuisine
Currently R7 509 at
There are also one or two available at Exclusive Books Hyde Park at the special rate of R7 200. (011) 325 4298
This is the definitive guide to Modernist Cuisine. A hefty 5 volume set of groundbreaking gastronomical delights.
I think I might sell body parts to have my own copy.

WMF Perfect Ultra Pressure Cooker - 6.5 L

WMF Perfect Ultra Pressure Cooker – 6.5 L
Liv’ In

AEG Pressure Cooker

AEG Pressure Cooker
6 L Precision Pressure Cooker – Stainless Steel
R1 099.95

Kenwood Triblade

Kenwood Triblade Hand Blender 15 Function Incl Att

Dualit Hand Blender

Dualit Hand Blender with Accessories
R1 395


Stainless Steel 20cm Conical Sieve / Chinois