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.

 

 

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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 (http://www.chefsteps.com/activities/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.” http://www.cookingissues.com/primers/hydrocolloids-primer/

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
Blender

Difficulty: moderate

Salmon Mi Cuit close up

Some handy products for this dish

AeroPress

AeroPress Coffee Maker
yuppiechef
R495

 
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

Ingredients

Quantity

 

Method

 

 

 

  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
Salt
(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.)
Cake

 

 

 

 

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:

Hollandaise

Recipe adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home.