My favorite ingredient at the moment

Lamb racks to be aged

I love cooking and eating lamb. Whether it’s a whole lamb on a spit or a specific cut, as long as it’s kept simple you really can’t go wrong.

However I do think that sometimes our passions makes us a little nutty.
‘Somewhere a mother lamb is crying.’ The things that get said in a kitchen indeed.

For the love of…

finedining

Foie Gras has a rich history. The ancient Egyptians developed the technique of gavage used to this day through periods of austerity in cuisine. To some people it seems that Foie Gras came full circle with the Jewish community having continued with the tradition after the Roman Empire disintegrated. There is no historical evidence for it, but there has been a large amount of speculation about whether in Ancient Egypt the Jewish slaves were the actual community to have produced the fattened livers from the newly domesticated fowl.
Duck and goose fat, and by default the fattened liver, of course makes for an excellent cooking medium in Kosher cooking.

“The goose is nothing, but man has made of it an instrument for the output of a marvelous product, a kind of living hothouse in which there grows the supreme fruit of gastronomy.’ Charles Gérard

I can remember where I was, what I was doing at that time and exactly how I had it, the first time I tried Foie Gras.
Less than a week into my training I tried this beautiful textured product.
It had been cleaned with great care and attention, wrapped up in muslin and lovingly cured with a mixture of sel rose and sugar.
A tiny sliver of the torchon on toasted brioche and a splash of lime gastrique and I was in heaven – hook, line and liver.

“I think that PETA…has chosen an easy target. It’s a luxury item that most people haven’t had. It’s expensive. It’s suspiciously French. It’s hard to pronounce. It just sounds bad, you know? You’re feeding a poor goose or duck more than it would ordinarily eat. It looks bad. They did those grainy films… It’s not like that. That’s not the way foie gras that he buys (Eric Ripert)or I ever bought or any responsible chef at any quality restaurant would buy: a distressed, unhappy animal is bad food…inarguably that kind of suffering and stress leads directly to the quality of food that we don’t want.” Anthony Bourdain (Washington City Paper)

So yesterday, after some promising from me and requests from a eager young chef, had us tasting the foie gras terrine that I had prepared on Sunday. I had promised Neil I would teach him how to clean and prepare the foie gras so off we went. With a little heart stopping moments on my behalf when the foie sat at room temperature a little longer than I would have liked, (but a large amount of concentration) he had prepared his first Foie Gras. A moment I believe should be a highlight of any chef’s career.
Even after that moment, he was understandably still very eager to try it again. So we took the second one and proceeded to make a pure version. Veins out, smaller pieces of the lobes soaking in milk seasoned liberally with saltpeter, three small moulds went into a very cool oven.

That was on the twenty-fourth of December. Today is Christmas and Foie Gras made an appearance on the laden lunch table. My grandmother at the age of eighty-two tasted two things that she has never had before: Duck and Foie Gras. She doesn’t think much of duck, but the Foie Gras is rather palatable in her opinion.

Every moment spent with Foie Gras on my plate is memorable, from that first moment, to a simple terrine with home-made bread during Christmas lunch.

Foie Gras Terrine

1 lobe of foie gras
terrine
plastic wrap

Line a terrine, (or bread pan or oven proof mould) with plastic wrap, making sure there are no wrinkles that will leave indentations in your product. Leave extra on all sides to wrap over.
Allow the liver to soften slightly at room temperature and clean it carefully, removing as many of the veins as you can. Even the small ones can leave red markings after being cooked. Soak the cleaned liver in milk with about a teaspoon of saltpeter mixed in. After about three hours, strain off the milk and season the liver generously.
Pack tightly into you prepared dish and close the extra wrap over the top. Bake at 110 degrees celsius for 12 minutes. Put in fridge overnight to set.

Goji berry and almond rusks

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Rusks is a favorite for me. My mother bakes them religiously to this day and even though I prefer hers, it’s really easy and fun to make a batch and you know it going to taste pretty awesome as well.

It’s a relatively quick process, excluding the drying time once baked and cut.

This is a basic recipe that can be made without almonds, goji berries etc but if not why not!

750g butter, softened
1kg caster sugar
6 large free range eggs, beaten
3kg self-raising flour
60ml baking powder
1L buttermilk
400g almonds, broken
160g goji berries

Cream butter and sugar until thoroughly whipped and pale in colour. Add in eggs a little at a time until incorporated. Whisk in buttermilk
Sift flour and baking powder and fold into wet mixture. It’s going to be really sticky to start but just keep kneading the mixture.
When it’s all coming together but still a little crumbly spread out mixture and pour your flavourings out into the middle. Simply fold the dough over and into the almonds and goji berries until you have a nice soft velvety dough.
At this point you can divide the dough into balls the size of a plum and place them nice and tight together into a loaf pan prepared with non stick spray. I suppose you can say this is the traditional way of doing it, but if you just push the dough into the pans it won’t make a difference.

Bake for about 40 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius or until cooked. A knife will come out clean.
Allow the loaves to cool. They are fairly fragile so be careful when turning them out of the pans.
Once cooled cut into dunking sized pieces, and dry over night in the oven warming door or in a cool oven with the door kept slightly open. A wooden spoon will work well for this.

In the morning, brew a nice cup of tea and get ready to dunk.

How to write a new menu without losing your mind

I find that coming up with new menu ideas or totally new dishes for that matter shares a striking similarity to blogging. It either just happens or it doesn’t. When I try to force things I inevitably end up browsing Facebook or googling something totally inane. And don’t even get me started on doing it the ‘right way’ and sitting down at a table. It’s just not going to happen. I had a very practical office set up in our spare bedroom, and that has since become a highly unorganized storage space.

how to write a menu

All I need and want is the cushy comfort of my bed, a few dogs spread in-between local and international trade magazines, my favorite cookbooks, my latest cookbooks and laptop.

Now to just deal with all the lovelies at my disposal. Happiness faster than you can say quail and charcuterie.

empty coffee cup

But why is the coffee always finished?

Home comforts

As silly as it may be, there is something extremely comforting about seeing something you know when you are far away from home.

In this case it was a brand of coffee that I am familiar with and used at home and my favorite brand of tooth paste which I hadn’t been able to find before.

My mother doesn’t get it, but like my bestest says, there’s something about going into your own space and seeing the familiar.

Now tie that in with a decent choc chip cookie and you have one very content chef.

Thank you Stella Maris!Image

The funniest thing I’ve heard all day

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Imagine if you will a small (only in height) man who holds a striking resemblance to a caricature buddha. Now, he can’t reach up very high and at times sounds like a cat hacking up a hair ball, but in-between me bugging him to say things like ‘colorful creation’ so I can relish in his accent which is very intriguing and struggling to find a way to get past the language barrier we are both being fence sitters about, he’s still a pretty cool guy.

Now imagine this little ball of fun going through all the motions of running (going no where pretty damn fast) yelling “Puta! My foie gras.’

Funniest thing I heard all day.

We’re off to see the Wizard!

It was a very, very early morning as we left for Porterville  A slow start with the crack of dawn crowd on the way to work, but very well worth it when we finally closed in on the small town.

A cup of coffee down we started taking photo’s of Steve’s setup

There must be very few chefs in the Cape who don’t know about Steve and his produce.  Awesome micro herbs and a variety of vegetables and more covers the plots and provided us with plenty of photo opportunies.

I’ve been meaning to go and have a look at what Steve does for quite some time and I’m glad I gave up my usual off day sleep-in to do just that.