The Paneer Stands Alone

“Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are cheese” – Luis Bunuel

In this case, the age would be ‘newborn’ because paneer is a fresh cheese. I stand to be corrected but to my knowledge, paneer is the only Indian cheese. Paneer is a lot like ricotta but made solely with milk and not cream. It’s light and creamy and my favourite way to eat it is with palaak (spinach) and the warm spiciness of garam masala.

I got into a frenzy about eating Indian food on Sunday. Because Even though I was a little muzzy from the night before, I have always believed that cooking for oneself is the way to nurture oneself and so I set off on making my Sunday lunch dreams come true.

paneer recipe

Paneer Recipe

Ingredients 

2L full cream milk

6 Himalayan salt crystals

1 lemon

Method

Bring milk to scalding point with salt. Thats the point when you can see bubbles at the edge of the pot, steam raising, but not boiling yet.

Take the pot off the heat and squeeze the lemon into the pot of hot milk. Be careful not to squeeze the lemon seeds into the milk. Stir the pot with a wooden spoon and set aside for 10-15minutes. In that time, the curds and whey (yes, intsy-wintsy-spider style) will separate. The curds will be the lumpy milk solids and the whey is a sour-looking liquid that will separate to the top of the pot.

Ready a strainer or sieve lined with muslin cloth or a new kitchen cloth. Cut your piece of string before you pour the curds and whey into the cloth.

Pour the liquid into the muslin. Tie the cloth closed with the string and suspend. The curds needs to hang to allow the excess liquid to drain off ±45minutes. Once most of the liquid has drain off, place the muslin cloth with the paneer in it between two flat surfaces – a dinner plate weighed down with a side plate and a pestle will do. Once the curds have drained dry, cut into squares and add to your curry sauce.

 

 

Unframed Ice-Cream

At my final supper, if life only gave me two options, I would choose cheese over chocolate. Even within the dessert realm there are more savoury options like my old faithful, sea-salt caramel or cheesecake. I once made beer flavour ice-cream with pumpkin seed brittle which was a treat. As was the gorgonzola ice-cream I was once served with a poached pear, nuts and honey.

My most recent trip to Unframed Ice-Cream revealed yet another flavour that I probably would not have attempted, mostly because it has a cultural familiarity. Turmeric is the “new” wonder ingredient that anyone with Asian heritage would’ve grown up with. It’s a root (part of the ginger family) that is dried and turned into a staining yellow powder with health benefits galore. Used as an antiseptic, an anti-inflammatory and a dye for feasting cuticles and white shirts, Turmeric is the not-so new kid on the block.

Turmeric goes by many names:

Tami: Manjal

French: Souchet des Indes

Romanian: Curcumǎ

And and and…

In my experience, Turmeric is used in the marriage preparation process. It is mixed with water and turned into a paste to cover the bride and groom the night before the wedding to cleanse them for what is to come.

Turmeric Ice-Cream

This was vegan Turmeric latte ice-cream had that thick, slightly grainy texture of that very paste. It brought back memories of cold flower petals, the smell of the sandal wood chest my mother keeps her saree’s in, rangoli and sorgi, severed in the same plate that the dhal and biriyani had been eaten in. It took me back to watching my grandmother and mother get dressed for a wedding and putting on every piece of jewellery that appeared out of drawers I would never find. Maybe turmeric has more healing qualities than wiki says…

Born to be Wilderer

I feel as though I’ve started to play with food again. I recently upgraded my kitchen so the novelty of cooking has been revived. Will share the DIY in a separate post. You too will be amazed at how a little can go a long way. But I digress…I recently spent some time the Spice Route Estate. The property is home to CBC Brewery, a pizzeria, their restaurant Barley and Biltong, Brenda’s Preserves where I made my very own spice (himalayan pink salt, dried garlic, garlic flowers and pink peppercorns), Bertus Basson’s restaurant, The Barn’s Artist Gallery and glass blowing studio, DV Chocolatier and of course, the Wilderer Distillery.

Image by @GreatGrampops
Image by @GreatGrampops

The Wilderer (Vill-de-rer) Distillery is a family run operation. The current distiller is still being trained by Helmut Wilderer. Apparently Helmut employs a sensorial approach to distillation, so instead of focussing on technicalities, he encourages using qualitative means. While both men sit together in the tiny room that houses the copper pot stills, only one of them is holding a broom handle which is uses to administer a quick smack to the wrists for non-performance. Once you taste the clean, flavourful gin/grappa/infused white spirits, you too will  be ok with overlooking the menial clout.

There was a bottle of Fynbos grappa lurking in my kitchen. The herbaceous aroma is quite heady with aniseed being the front-most flavour. I used it to deglaze my pan of coconut oil, butter, garlic, chilli and thyme – pasta sauce of the future. Once the thick coat of alcohol lifted (after all, it’s a white spirit), what was left was a light, liquorice sauce to bathe my linguini and fresh courgettes in. I also threw in a few slices of beef rump from the previous night. Was a pretty bang on dinner for 1.

Wilderer

Sunflower Running Bread

If ever given the choice, I will always choose bread over cake. Warm, crisp-crusted and chewy with a slick of butter.

This morning worked out almost too perfectly. I weighed the ingredients out last night and tossed them all into my stand-up mixer with the dough hook attachment when I woke up. 15 minutes of kneading and then I left for my morning run. I cling-filmed the bowl and allowed the dough to raise. An hour later I got back and put the mixture into a greased cake tin and baked it while I readied myself for my day. As I flicked the last lash of mascara, my timer rang to end the 35minute baking time and tada – fresh bread.

I relished the fresh bake with butter and mature white cheddar (followed by yogurt and fruit because we aren’t animals). Because the bread was preceded by an almost-10KM run, I had zero reason to feel guilty. Two things about this subject – people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy bodyweight throughout their lives. And 2) eat your carbs earlier on in the day. I’m not sure if a bowl of biriyani or pasta for breakfast quite makes the grade but the earlier the better.

“Eat breakfast like a king, and eat dinner like a pauper”

Use the bread:water ratio of 5:3. Weigh the ingredients

250g flour (I used half white and half brown bread flour)

150-200ml tepid water

7g dry yeast

1,5 T salt (I used the grey, natural salt I bought in Milan. It makes the loaf feel special)

1 tsp jaggery

½ T butter

Before baking at 220C for 35minutes, glaze with milk, sprinkle with sunflower seeds and some Maldon salt flakes.

Bread ratio so easy that you can make it while you run
Bread ratio so easy that you can make it while you run

 

Making Pasta

The first time I had ever made pasta was as a contestant on MasterChef SA. We had one day off a week and this happened to be one of the first Sundays that we got to do as we pleased. Being the garden variety food nerds that we were, we were all gathered in the kitchen testing the new gadgets out.

One of the dishes that helped me win the title was a hand cut fettuccine with West Coast Lobster (as of December 2016 The West Coast Lobster is on the SASSI red list – DO NOT EAT IT) in a tomato-based, lemongrass, chilli and sour cream sauce – the second time I had ever made pasta. And with self raising flour which was my only option! (For those of you who need an explanation, self-rising flour has baking powder in it which is a raising agent – not suitable for pasta making).

Since then I’ve made pasta with varying levels of success. The method that I would dare to call almost foolproof is by weighing, not measuring, the ingredients.

Use 1 egg per portion of pasta you wish to make. Use large eggs that are at room temperature. Each egg weighs about 50g. Multiply that by 1.5 to calculate the amount of flour you need to add. I used Millstone’s white bread flour. Then mix together and knead until the dough is springy. What I mean by that is – knead the dough until the gluten has been activated so that when you push a finger into the dough, it should spring back into shape.

Sometimes there isn’t enough time or effort for a pasta sauce so instead I roasted some rosa tomatoes with whole cloves of garlic, thyme and red chillies to be smooshed later and tossed through the warm pasta. Some pan-friends courgettes and a bit of goats milk Chevin and you’re ready for a light pasta lunch.

Home made pasta

 

 

 

 

Chinese New Year

I’ve been wanting to re-vive my blog for a while and with Chinese New Year, today feels right – I’m ready to usher in the abundance, luck and prosperity held within a mandarin.

Would a tangerine/mandarin/satsuma/naartjie smell as sweet? These palm-sized orbs, all with soft peeling skin and sweet, tart flesh seem like very similar creatures…because they are. All circus fruits are derived from three chief specimens – the mandarin, pomelo and citron.  These ClemenGold’s are called nardorcotts. Yes, I did say nardorcott. It’s a specific sub-specimen of a mandarin with an unfortunate name but their seedless nature and spritely colour make up for the name.

Because it isn’t mandarin season, I received a bottle of preserve with some almond and mandarin biscotti. I included a sprinkling of Gruberg cheese for good measure. It’s the South African answer to Gruyere and has a similar sweet, nutty flavour. Cheese is not very Asian, but the savoury cheese works particularly well with the light, zesty preserved mandarins.

2017 is the year of the rooster combined with the element fire. It’s said to be a rare combination and one with great expectations. According to foreverconscious.com “The Rooster is often the leader and commands the respect of all the hens, making 2017 a perfect year to step up and take responsibility for the direction of your life.”

chinese new year mandarin

 

 

#Eatgram

Don’t be silly, this was just my first order of the day at @BoccaCT. Ricotta & spinach gnocchi, cannelini & chorizo bruschetta (fancy beans on toast is always a win) and zucchini fries that I could snack on for days all served with a cheeky Gamay from Radford Dale. #restaurantreview #blogfood #CapeTown #BreeSt #latergram

#Eatgram

Reminiscing about my meal at @ChefsWarehouse last week: onion risotto with battered onion ring