Thought I’d Let You Know ……

Since we’ve moved, we have written a plethora of interesting articles for you to read at the new Just Food Now and I would love to see you there!  This morning “Apples – Always Desired, Ever Delicious – Ever Forbidden” discusses the origin, the taboos and the myths around apples and, as always, we end it all with some mouthwatering recipes.

The French Fathers of Cuisine, Pavlova, Champagne, Vacherin du Mont d’Or and Panna Cotta have also showed their faces and we’re sure you’d love them all.

See you there!!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

We have moved!

We’ve moved and now offer you everything that we have here plus more features at our new address. Please find us at from now on.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Specifically Spices (Part 1) – Mouthwatering Health

A look at the astonishing, life saving properties of spices that improve both health and food with a recipe or two to spice up the story

Tomorrow, the 28th October 2008, we’ll be moving so we’ll see you at our brand new address on Tuesday – – thanks to all of you for the support that caused us to move into very our own dotcom, Just Food Now. We’ll be able to spice up matters substantially and so it seemed fitting that we started a new series today that will spice up your life in more ways than one.  Just in case you were wondering – everything that’s been said here will still be on the other side for you to go back to so there’s no  need to write down any recipes at all.


Ginger is a rhizome (an underground stem) from the Zingiber officinale that originated in South East Asia. One of the first spices used in Europe, the Romans got it from the Greeks who got it from the Arab traders. The younger rhizomes are juicy and fleshy with quite a mild taste, often found pickled in vinegar (or sherries) and used in many dishes all over the world. Ginger tea has very useful antiseptic qualities and can even be really helpful in mild cases of food poisoning. It reduces gases, helps digestion and is very useful in preventing sea-sickness, relieving inflammation, reducing swelling of joints and actually relieving pain whilst improving mobility.  This very powerful anti-oxidant, effective against flu, fights off a host of viruses.  More importantly, it’s widely used in Indian and Chinese cooking in both savoury and sweet dishes.  China is the biggest producer of ginger in the world, followed by India, Indonesia and Nigeria.



250 g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
75 g butter, softened
125 g caster sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground dried ginger (or 1 heaped tablespoon fresh)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 ½ tbsps milk


Whisk butter, sugar, honey, spices and bicarbonate of soda with an electric mixer until well mixed.
Gradually add the milk and about a tablespoon of water with the flour until a firm dough is formed.
Shape the dough into a smooth ball and wrap in cling wrap to refrigerate for about 1  ½ hours.
Pre heat oven to 180 C and grease and line a baking tray with greaseproof baking paper.
Roll out the gingerbread dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 2 mm thick.
Use a large soup plate and cut out a big circle after which you cut the dough into equal wedges.
Separate the wedges and put onto the tray so that you can bake each batch of wedges for about 10 to 12 minutes.
Remove and allow to cool completely on a rack.

They last for about a week in a properly sealed container.


Turmeric gives curries their distinctive yellow colour and Hindu brides sometimes paint it on their faces. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can be helpful for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.  Experts say that it certainly reduces early morning stiffness in those cases as effectively as anti-inflammatory drugs.  Research has found that it is potentially helpful for both cancer prevention and treatment as it has been shown to reduce colon cancer as well as suppressing the growth of tumours. It helps the liver detoxify cancer causing foods like barbecued meat and excessive smoke. It supports liver function by keeping bile more soluble, which in turn, helps to prevent gall stones.  Used in Indian food, Malay food, sauces, desserts in all spicy food from all over the world for colour and flavour!


Cinnamon, arguably the most popular spice in the world is the dried inner bark of an evergreen tree from the cinnamomum family (the best of the best comes from the cinnamomum zeylanicum tree found in Sri Lanka). It is picked in the rainy season when the bark is still pliable.  Five thousand or so years ago the Arabs controlled the spice routes and they brought it from the spice islands to sell in Ninevah, Babylon, Egypt and Rome. It’s often mentioned in the Bible and has religious meaning in all faiths all over the world. In ancient times in Arabia, when the first bundle was gathered it was offered to the sun god. It aids digestion, helps to soothe the gastrointestinal tract, reduce spasms, activates insulin and glucose transport and improves glucose metabolism and has even been proved to support healthy blood sugar levels. It has been used in food from every single category and has to be the most versatile spice there is. This mousse has to be the most basic and simple mousse and is a delicious, rich and luxurious addition to the menu. It can be made without the egg white for a richer dessert.



3 x 100 g Lindt white chocolates
375 ml whipping cream
2 t vanilla paste
2 egg whites


Place the chocolate in a pan of simmering water and melt until the chocolate is smooth. Whisk the egg whites until it reaches soft peak stage and similarly whisk the cream until it, also, reaches soft peak stage stirring in the vanilla as you go. Add the whisked melted chocolate into the cream mixture very gently after which you fold in the egg whites, using a metal spoon. Spoon the mixture into chocolate or ginger flutes and allow to cool (but not in the refrigerator)!

Serve with syrupy Cape gooseberries, cranberries or candied sugar.


Cloves are the rich, brown, dried, unopened flower buds of Syzygium aromaticum. Clove trees are native to the famous Spice islands (nowadays called Indonesia) and is today harvested in Madagascar, Panang, Ceylon, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Malaysia. The Chinese were trading with Ternate (today called Gamalama) at least 2,500 years ago and Arab traders brought cloves back to Europe around 400 AD.  Widely used in  food today it is imported from Zanzibar where it is a capital offence to smuggle out! We can thank the Brits, who established plantations there in the 1800’s, for this glorious spice.
Strongly aromatic, containing the volatile oil, eugenol, which has analgesic properties, it has long been used to relieve toothache. Some dentists even use clove oil after dental extraction nowadays!!! Useful against infection, worms, fungal infections (including athletes foot) and said to be an aphrodisiac cloves are commonly used all over the world today!


Fennel seeds are the oval, green or yellowish brown dried fruit of Foeniculum vulgare, a member of the parsley family. Native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean area the leaves are widely used in fish dishes, deserts and I even use it in some egg dishes.  The name comes from the Greek word for marathon because the famous battle at Marathon (490 BC) against the Persians was fought on a field of Fennel. Pliny said that snakes casting off their skins ate Fennel to restore their eyesight. Early Greeks believed in its slimming properties. In India they are given after a meal toasted and coated in sugar. As an addition to fish (marinades and crusts for grilling and baking) it has become very fashionable in modern  cuisine all around the world. The breath freshening and digestive properties making it the perfect after dinner sweet since it reduces flatulence as well. In closing, it is interesting to note that it increases the production of breast milk too!


Cayenne (Capsicum annuum) comes from Central and Southern America as well as the Middle East. Cayenne Pepper is made from the dried pods of pungent chili peppers. It’s hot, flavoursome and perfect to add heat to a tortilla de patatas, egg custards and wonderful in chocolate truffles and biscuits!  Used widely in Asia, the Americas, and the Middle East. For ridding your house of rats put a heaped tablespoon in a pan over low heat and it will give off fumes both rats and cockroaches loathe!  From a health perspective, it improves circulation and  is excellent as a topical pain reliever. Make a cream and it  will help to relieve arthritis, rheumatism and shingles because it stimulates the release of endorphins which are the bodies natural pain killers.


Filed under Uncategorized

Happy Birthday Lisa!

It is customary in our family to eat cake at birthdays. My mother used to be responsible for birthdays and cake days and the whole family gathered together religiously in the days when my father was still alive and my mother still baked for us.  Today is the birthday of my only daughter and I share my love letter to her with you all.

Lisa, it’s your birthday today, a day that usually leaves me filled with awe and an immense sense of pride in the strong and exceptionally beautiful woman you have become. How is it possible that someone so young can know so much, be so wise and have achieved so much? There is no other woman that I hold in such high esteem, that I respect as much, that I value as much and that I could ever love as much.

Have a wonderful day in the country of my heart and where it is only fitting that you should spend your day.  I wish I could give you your birthday tea today, but know that you are in good hands. Know that I love you and I miss you more than words can say.


This is to remind you of home and days gone by and to remind someone to add one to your tea table this afternoon!


250 g sweetened evaporated milk
65 ml castor sugar
3 medium sized lemons
3 eggs.
Baked pie crust


Pre heat oven to 180 C
Remove zest and juice of the lemons
Separate the eggs.
Whisk egg yolks, lemon zest and lemon juice until the mixture becomes thick and creamy and add to whisked evaporated milk.
Pour into a baked pastry shell of your choice (short crust or biscuit).

Using a clean bowl whisk together the egg whites and castor sugar until the mixture forms stiff peaks – take care not to whisk too much because the meringue mixture may be too dry.
Spoon the meringue mixture on to the lemon filling without smoothing the top.

Remove and allow to cool.

There is only one thing to drink with this and that is a good strong cup of tea!



225 g really dark Lindt chocolate, chopped
50 g unsalted butter, chopped
2 tablespoons best quality instant coffee powder
50 raisins, soaked in a little cognac or brandy
50 g roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
50 g pistachios, roughly chopped
60ml Kahlua
150 ml cream, lightly whipped
150 g sponge finger biscuits (boudoir or savoiardi), chopped
Unsweetened cocoa powder to dust


Line a 26 cm spring form cake tin with cling wrap, pack firmly and make sure that you leave a large piece hanging over the sides.
Put the chocolate and the butter over a fireproof bowl and simmer in a saucepan to melt, whisking constantly until smooth.
Add the instant coffee and whisk until everything is dissolved at which point you add the raisins, hazelnuts, pistachios and the Kahlua, combine well and allow to cool down to room temperature.
Fold in the whipped cream and the chopped finger biscuits and spoon this mixture into the prepared cake tin, making sure that everything is level.
Cover with the cling wrap and put in the fridge overnight.

Remove from the fridge, turn out onto a suitable plate, dust with the cocoa and slice to serve with coffee or as desert.
It’s very very rich so cut into small slices!

To serve, only the Krug Clos du Mesnil 1979 …. Of wat sê jy?

I remember you sitting at birthday tea tables at a very young age, face covered in sugared cream, hands hovering expectantly around the big glass dish piled high with meringues abundantly filled with whipped cream so that you could grab the next one before anyone else did.  You outgrew that but not the love of the meringues … or did you?



6 egg whites, at room temperature
350g caster sugar
300ml sweet cream, to be whisked into firm peak stage
100 g unsalted, roasted pistachio nuts, crushed
2 lemons, zest only

Preheat the oven to 150C


Place the egg whites into a large clean bowl, add 110g sugar
Whisk together into soft peaks
Continuing to whisk, gradually add another 110g sugar, a spoonful at a time, until the mixture forms stiff peaks and fold in the remaining sugar taking care not to whisk too much
Form 20 large spoonfuls of the meringue onto 2 baking sheets lined with non-stick baking paper and bake in the oven for 15 minutes
Lower the oven temperature to 110C and dry for a further 3  or more hours until very crisp and dry
Leave to cool, then store in an air tight tin.

Whisk cream as per instructions above and fold zest and nuts into the cream.
Sandwhich together two meringues at a time and pile high onto a cake stand.

Delicious with good Brazilian filter coffee to end off an afternoon of cake eating!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Baccalà in South Africa

The wonderful thing about South African food is that there are no strict rules to follow.  South Africans are the most adventurous cooks in the world, even more so than the Australians – if only because there are so many more cultures and traditions to choose from and fuse with. As a general rule of thumb the Cape has strong European and Malaysian roots, Durban has her roots in England, China and India and the city of Johannesburg is 100% Anglo-African Chinese and thumbs her nose at everyone – simply taking the best that anyone has to offer.

North, West, Central and East Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius, Portugal, China, France, Italy, Holland, Germany, India and Malaysia are all vital contributors to a fresh and vibrant cuisine that is as new as it is old and as simple as it is complex. It’s essence is that it defies all categorization.

This is my recipe for Baccalà


1 kg Baccalà
1 whole fennel bulb, thinly sliced or shaved
2 tsp cardamom seeds, remove seeds from pod
3 tsps yellow mustard seeds
1 garlic clove, peeled & quartered
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
3 limes, zest and juice
100 g Italian parsley, chopped
500 ml thin cream
100 g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 170 C and lightly grease an oven dish or casserole.

Soak the cod in several changes of cold fresh water for 24 hours and check for saltiness by breaking off a little flake to taste – you may need some salt for this recipe as cream removes a lot of salt.

Remove the cod, rinse well and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into pieces, discard bones and skin if there are any and place the cod and fennel in an oven dish – season with salt (only if needed) and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle the lime juice over the fish.  In a bowl combine cream with half the parsley, cumin, ginger, mustard seeds, cardamom, garlic and lime zest to infuse for 10 minutes and then pour the mixture over the fish.  Bake, covered, in the oven for about 40 minutes, checking every now and then.  Allow to bake uncovered for the last 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, dot with the rest of the parsley and the butter and serve with crispy bruscetta, a green salad and a shaved carrot and coriander salad.  The long cooking process delivers rich, soft and creamy fish. Try a chilled Perderberg Sauvignon Blanc Reserve – the 2007 is excellent.


Filed under Uncategorized

Roman Fare, Savoiz-Faire On a Plate

Roman food was forever changed when Apicius arrived on the culinary scene – we find out who he was and what he believed, how it’s done today in and around Rome and feature mouthwatering recipes for the whole weekend.

Lazio is huge and there is simply no way one can summarise the food from from this area in one discussion!  If you want diversity though, this is the place to be.

100 years AD Marcus Gavius Apicius, culinary genius and rebel, was known as a breaker of hearts and a rake! He was a contemporary of Augustus and Tiberius and was vehemently criticized and scorned by chefs and all of society but was impervious to their comments and couldn’t give a hoot. He gained fame for doing absolutely everything that wasn’t done – from insisting that animals should be fed well before slaughter to influence the taste of the meat to turning menus upside down. He made them lighter than the heavy ones of the time where tables were a stage for elaborate productions of food – we can thank him for the type of menu we use today.  Unfortunately there is no original copy of his classic work and we have to be satisfied with copies of his writings made by monks through the ages that they, no doubt, altered. He had a  habit of presenting a meal ex ovo usque ad malum – from the egg to the apple (the apple as dessert and the egg as starter!)  For fun, I will include one dish from a typical menu of the time and adapt it only slightly by giving you the option to use chicken livers instead of sweet breads to simplify matters.

Chicken salad à la Apicius


100 g veal sweetbreads, buy prepared already cooked ones from your butcher, alternatively use cleaned chicken livers
200 g skinless chicken breasts
4 slices whole wheat toast
100 g pecorino cheese, cut into small cubes
4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
White wine vinegar to taste
Maldon salt to taste
1 lemon, zest and juice
20 g butter
Butter for frying
100 ml full cream milk
1 tbsp honey
1 cucumber, finely sliced
1 onion, finely chopped

Ingredients for the sauce

1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp celery leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp lemon grass finely chopped
1 tsp mint, finely chopped
1 tsp coriander, finely chopped
2 tbsp sultanas
2 tbsp runny honey
4 tbsp white wine vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


Sauté sweetbreads or liver in hot butter and season with pepper.  Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and sauté in butter until cooked but not overcooked. Check and correct seasoning. Set aside. Prepare sauce by combining all ingredients and mixing thoroughly in blender. Combine milk and honey and dip the bread into it without soaking.  In a flat dish, place the cooked sweetbreads or liver on each slice together with the pecorino, pine nuts, cucumber and chopped onion.  Top with the sauce and serve!  Should you be unable to buy the cooked sweetbreads and need help with cooking them, drop me a line below and I’ll help.

My best friend, Alessandra, is the best cook I know. She lives in Sabaudia, the town that will always be my home and which is situated in the middle of the Circeo National Park. She lives right next to the most beautiful lake in the world, the Lago Paola (image above) – so beautiful that the ancient Romans built many holiday homes there as well as an aqueduct connecting the sea to the lake. Everything she cooks is absolutely delicious and, on top of that, she is one of those frustrating people that simply doesn’t make ‘flops’.  Here is one of my favourites.



500 g Orriechiette (you could use another shape, but these are perfect for this)
400 g broccoli
Malden salt and freshly ground black pepper
Abundant Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic – use 1 clove and chop finely
1 chili, chop finely


Boil the pasta in abundant salted water.
Boil the broccoli until just cooked but not tough.
In a pan with some olive oil, fry the garlic and the chili together and add the broccoli, incorporating it with everything else by mashing it with a fork.

Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the pan and mix through, ensuring that you incorporate it with everything in the pan. Optional  (anchovies or spicy sausages can be fried quickly with the garlic and the chili for added flavour). Serve immediately with plenty of parmigiano reggiano

We move back to the city of Rome with it’s famous oven roasted lamb. The Romans have known how to prepare lamb since the first Etruscans set foot in Italy – their genetic memory strongly linked to their  forefathers who, 10,000 years ago in Asia discovered that sheep not only provide warm covering but are darned good to eat!  Cooking comes naturally to Italians, they don’t have to learn how to cook, they know when they are born.

(Oven roasted lamb with potatoes)

2 kg leg of lamb
3 cloves garlic
2 large sprigs of rosemary
20 g butter
700 g potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces of your choice
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil to taste

Pre heat oven to 180 C

Make sure that the lamb is scrupulously clean, gland removed and ready to roast. Cut slits in the meat and spike with the halved cloves of garlic and the rosemary. Place in a casserole or oven dish, with potatoes and warm butter to melting point, brush over the roast, season with salt and pepper (the butter helps the salt and pepper to stick), spill the oil over both meat and potatoes and roast for about an hour. Make sure the potatoes are coated with oil and seasoning. Baste whilst cooking.

Finally, to end this menu in the true style of Apicius, a classic Roman dessert, Tiramisù, as a fitting end to this meal. This dessert belongs to all of Italy since everyone claims to have made it the first time. Piedmont insist they did because of the inclusion of finger biscuits, known as savoiardi and Lombardia says that since mascarpone was first made there, it must have originated in Lombardia. However, we in Lazio know, absolutely, that it has to be Roman simply because we do. As with most recipes in Italy there is major disagreement on how it must be made, most notably which liqueur should be used.  So herewith the Roman way


200 ml heavy cream
500 g mascarpone
5 tbsp sugar
4 egg yolks
25 finger biscuits
4 tbsps very strong espresso coffee
4 tbsps Amaretto
Cocoa powder as needed


Beat the cream with 1 tbsp sugar until stiff. Whisk the egg yolks wit the rest of the sugar until creamy and using your hand held whisk on maximum speed because it’s quite tough to do. Stir in the mascarpone a little at a time and bring the speed down. Once you’ve done that, add the cream again a little bit at a time but bring the speed right down to low.
Line a flat, preferably square or rectangular, with one layer of the biscuits. Mix the espresso and the Amaretto and sprinkle over the finger biscuits, taking care not to soak them. Spread a layer of the cream over the top and then cover with the next layer of biscuits. Sprinkle with the rest of the liquid and cover with the rest of the cream mixture. Sprinkle with the cocoa powder until you have covered the top completely.  Refrigerate for at least 1 ½ hours.

Bon appetito – enjoy the meal!


Filed under Uncategorized

Sauerbraten – Classic, Classy and Controversial – The Sweet Side of Sour Roast

The how’s, the why’s and the wherefore’s of sauerbraten; what’s controversial and what’s taboo; a tribute to a victorious nation and their eternal food; two recipes, one salute, one offer

I don’t think nearly enough attention is paid to German food outside of Germany and it’s a pity. German food suits German climate and modern innovation has turned it into world class cuisine and something we should all see a lot more of.

I love Sauerbraten even though, on my last trip to Germany, I never had it once! There is little to beat the sweet sour taste of biting into a juicy slice of well marinated meat and become hopelessly seduced by the taste of raisins, cognac, apple and spices from the crushed lebkuchen. The insanely velvety sauce immediately banishes all negative thoughts and you know you are exactly where you want to be and that the weather is exactly how you want it.   There are many variations to the theme but today’s recipe is based on the one commonly used in and around the Rhein, albeit with a quite a few adaptations.

Sauerbraten is made all over Germany and every region boasts it’s own special recipe – one more delicious than the other. Saarland, Silesia and Swabia all have their own special versions but all agree on the basics.  Except for one thing – the matter of the meat.  Beef is used, but traditionalists insist on using horse meat which is why I include a very brief discussion to bring reason to this very touchy subject.

About 9000 years ago (when harpoons were first discovered in Europe) wild horses were commonly hunted as a vital source of food. In the Northern part of Europe the Teutons ate horse meat and revered the cow. That was just the way it was and as far as I’m concerned, emotional commentry serves no purpose anymore. The sacrifice and eating of horse meat formed part of religious ceremonies associated with Odin, (below image of him arriving in Valhalla on his horse).

Jews form no part of this discussion since they were forbidden to eat horse meat because of the cloven foot and they have never eaten it.
The first time it was forbidden was in the 900’s AD when Pope Gregory told the missionary Boniface, working in Germany at the time, to forbid the eating of the meat for a variety of reasons. It has been suggested, however, that he only did that because the Arabs were invading Europe at the time and there was a serious threat of victory. The Pope was really only concerned about the eating of horses because he needed them for the warring warriors. To the Catholic Church of the day, the horse was of more value for the waging of war than as a source of food for the barbaric tribes up north. (It has since been discovered that the Teutons were a hugely sophisticated people). The Church was on the verge of losing it’s entire power and financial base and facing a very real threat, so one could understand their sense of urgency. The French started eating horse meat in 1807 when starving troops ate the flesh of dead battlefield horses upon advice of their surgeon-in-chief and frankly, I think it was good advice. The troops used their breastplates as cooking pans and gunpowder as flavouring and it saved their lives. Horse and donkey meat was eaten in Britain, more notably Yorkshire, until the 1930’s and in France, Scandinavia and Germany people still eat it. In the United States of America more than 80,000 horses are slaughtered every year for export to Europe, Mexico or Japan.

So before we judge others, let’s rather pray we are never put into a position where we have to eat our pets – or our dead as was done in the Andes – in order to save our own lives.

My recipe for sauerbraten is, essentially, from Nordrhein-Westfahlen, my favourite place in Germany.  Apart from the fact that my daughter lives there, I love Köln. It is a beautiful city of hard working people that built a magnificent city out of the ashes of war in an unbelievably short space of time by simply getting on with it. I love the Rhein, the river that symbolically caught all my tears during the darkest time of my life and brought me back to normality again under the watchful eyes of two exceptional people.  It brought me peace and calm and revived that part of me that had died.  It is a kind city with extremely kind people who all have a gentleness about them and I miss them. They are reserved and they are dignified and they are joyful and they are very special and for now, they all take care of that most precious of beings, my granddaughter Martha. So in honour of the city and it’s people I created my version of sauerbraten for them.

Sauerbraten is not something to be made in a hurry. It requires time and love and is the perfect Sunday lunchtime meal to be started on Friday evening so that anticipation can mount over the weekend. It is not sour as the name implies rather, sweet and sour and spicy and fruity and salty and absolutely, utterly delicious.



1 kg Beef (use a blade roast, it lies next to the ribs and is less pricy)
2 medium carrots
2 medium sticks of celery
2 medium leeks
1 handful parsley, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 bayleaves
10 juniper berries
5 allspice berries (pimento)
5 black pepper corns
80 g lebkuchen biscuits, crushed
200 seeded raisins
2 tablespoons grated granny smith apples
2 granny smith apples, peeled and cut into cubes
250 ml sour cream
100 ml oyster sauce
Ground black pepper to taste
Malden sea salt to taste
Olive oil for frying – traditionally ‘butterschmalz‘ is used, but this is my recipe
1 very large Ziploc bag – make sure that your meat will fit into it.

For the marinade

300 ml light red wine
200 ml of the best red wine vinegar
200 ml dark port
500 ml pure water


Make the marinade from the red wine, the vinegar and the water to which you add the bayleaves, juniper berries, allspice, pepper and boil it, allowing it to simmer for about 2 minutes.  Let it cool down completely.   Place the meat carefully inside the bag and pour the marinade into the bag taking care not to spill any of the precious liquid. Once the bag is almost full, close it and with a straw extract all the air, creating a vacuum in which the liquid covers all the meat. Put in the fridge for two days.  In the course of the two days, turn the meat around occasionally to ensure that the marinade reaches all the meat. After two days remove from marinade, dry, season with salt and pepper and fry in a hot saucepan in olive oil, adding the oyster sauce so that all sides are browned well. Turn the heat down and add carrots, onion, leeks, celery and fry until the colour just changes. Pour the marinade into the saucepan, all the rest of the spices, the parsley, the crushed lebkuchen, the grated apple and braise on a low heat so that it just simmers on top of the stove for one and a half hours, checking occasionally to stir. Turn the meat around and see that it does not burn.  Should it become too dry add a little water to ensure that you have a thick sauce at all times. After two and a half hours the meat should be soft and cooked. Remove the meat onto a separate serving dish. Add the apples and the raisins to the saucepan containing the liquid and cook for a further 10 minutes. Towards the end, stir in the sour cream well, check and correct seasoning and serve with creamed potatoes, string beans and a crispy green salad.  The dish is so rich it requires little else.

My eldest recommended a Dornfelder or a Pinot Noir and I don’t know anybody in the world who not only knows as much as he does about wine, but also understands the essence of it.

For the those of you unable to get hold of lebkuchen, herewith a recipe as it could prove difficult to get hold of in some countires.

Lebkuchen or pfefferkuchen are round or heart-shaped German and Austrian cookies made from a gingerbread dough. Nowadays there are many different shapes and sizes – I prefer the flatter squares, for example. Legend tells us that they were first made by Monks in Franken around the 13th century, but the first references available are from Ulm in 1296. The most famous lebkuchen come from Nürnberg and they are very popular right around the year.  The dough was originally raised with Salt of Potash or Hartshorn (potassium carbonate) instead of baking powder and the biscuits were placed on rice paper (oblate) before being baked since they didn’t have non stick pans in those days. The traditional biscuits contained no eggs and no butter and therefore kept very well.  For my recipe, I choose to ignore the original recipe since this is the recipe that I have been carrying with me for 32 years and on top of that, I think the eggs taste better than the potassium carbonate. The word leb may have been derived from the Hebrew word lev, a heart.  Any suggestions would be gratefully accepted.  For today’s recipe I have to thank Lieselotte who gave me the original one and ask her forgiveness that I tweaked it a bit over the years!



4 eggs
130 g caster sugar
125 g honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon cognac
140g finely chopped orange and lemon peel
1 lemon, zest only
200g ground almonds
100g ground hazelnuts
A few sheets of rice paper cut into circles (or whatever shape you like) unless you can find the proper oblaten rounds.
A few whole almonds for decoration


Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together until thick and creamy using an electronic aid.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix into a thick paste
If it’s too runny, add more ground hazelnuts
Spread  a heaped teaspoon of mixture on top of each circle of rice paper and make sure that the heap is higher in the  center
Decorate some with whole almonds
Place on a non greased baking tray and bake at 125 C for 30 minutes
Leave to cool on a wire rack and decorate with almond glace or chocolate glace

Enjoy the Sunday roast and if you enjoy it, I could just do a really unusual recipe from the hunting grounds of Thüringen, which gives a completely different take on this one. If enough of you request it, I’ll include it at the bottom.


Filed under Uncategorized

Seven Sweets From The East You Have To Try

A sudden, unexplained craving for Habshi Halwa made me realise that there are substantially more sweets to life and feel ‘duty driven’ to recommend these to you this morning!


Loved by Indians young and old – these have a sweet, creamy and nutty taste thanks to the pistachio. The edible silver coating on burfis is made from real silver, used in a host of other Indian sweets and lends a metallic taste to the sweet. Silver production in India is huge thanks to Indian sweets. They are expensive and made from sugar, water, ghee, ground pistachios and powdered milk to form a paste that is cut up into squares or diamond shapes and wrapped in silver leaf (varak).


Certainly the best of the best Indian sweet, made from caramelized milk, sugar, ghee and wheat flour it is the supreme ruler of Halwa.  They are juicy with more flavour than is believable in one sweet – an absolute treat! Almonds, cashews or pistachios are combined in a thick stiff bechamel type base and raisins, cardamom, saffron, mace or nutmeg turn this halwa into the superior sweet treat that it is.  I prefer the ones that are not so sweet so that the tastes can come through freely since I find the other kind, the sweet kind simply too sweet. There is only one thing to have with it and that’s a cup of Mountain malt tea! Teascapade is one of those sites that always always offers the best of the best tea – do visit and enjoy.


A dense fudge made from ground cashews, palm sugar, cardamom and rose essence, they are hugely popular all over India. Rich in oil this soft and grainy sweet tastes of fresh nuts and is often covered with gold foil instead of silver – especially during festivals like Diwali.


Qum, the most holy city in Iran and the centre of Shi’ite Islam with more holy shrines than any other city in Iran produces, fittingly, this mouthwatering and delicious honey and nut sweet.  It is common cause that the best of the best sohan comes from Qum.  A flat, rectangular sweet, it is made from a dough of honey, sugar, butter, saffron, cardamom and a mixture of almonds and pistachios.  This buttery, aromatic and crunchy sweet must take pride of place in Iran.


Back to India! A milk based sweet made from chhenna, a crumbly curd cheese used in many Indian sweets, it proves a winner with its light and spongy taste – so reminiscent of the sugus in my country only larger. Chhenna and semolina is boiled and soaked in ordinary sugar syrup infused with rose water. Understandably they do not last long and are available in tins for preservation purposes.


Lowzina b’Shakar (the word shakar means grateful in Iraqi) is a diamond or triangular shaped sugary sweet made with almonds and flavoured with lemon juice, rose water and cardamom.  It’s eaten at special occasions like weddings when they are covered in gold leaf and sent to the family of the bride as a gift to their friends and relatives. Gold leaf and gold dust are common in Asian culinary circles and usually used for great celebrations. The sweet is soft and creamy, delicately nutty with a depth of flavour added by cardamom and rose water.


In Nepal the pulp of the Lapsi fruit (image below), the titaura is used to make this very tangy and spicy sweet. The lapsi is boiled, the pulp is extracted, sun dried and seasoned with the spices that include even chili and then sugared and salted for balance.  If you want a huge variety of these sweets, go to Kathmandu‘s Ratna Park which is famous for the many shops that sell titaura.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Portuguese Cuisine, How It All Began

From Neolithic man to modern man, we look at the reasons why Portuguese food is so rich and varied and include two recipes that embody not only the history but also the essence of this often neglected cuisine

In order to appreciate the cultural diversity of Portuguese food, one would have to look, albeit briefly, at it’s history
When the first humans arrived in what is today known as Portugal about 10,000 BC, they must have thought they had arrived in paradise!  Entering between the shore and the west end of the Pyrenees, they settled in the north to be joined in 2000 BC by the Iberians, who were probably from North Africa.  The next to arrive were the Celts and a handful of Germans who were farmers and herders with wagons for transporting what they needed (similar to the ones still used today in Galicia). They settled in the North where forests were rich and abundant and wild game, honey and even shellfish was added to the menu.  Similar to an old German recipe that I have jealously guarded for years, this one reflects all things Portuguese so well and is a fitting tribute to the venison those early citizens must have hunted.

PERDIZES COM COUVE (Partridge and Cabbage in Aguardente)


2 young partridges, plucked well, cleaned, dressed and cut in half
Flour to coat
3 medium potatoes per partridge, peeled and halved
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, very finely sliced
100 g presunto, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and finely sliced
250g Portuguese couve (or cavolo nero or savoy cabbage)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bayleaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
100 g butter
6 tablespoons aguardente
125 ml vinho verde
125 ml chicken stock
¼ teaspoon piri-piri
2 lemons, zests only – 1 per partridge


Pre-heat oven to 180 C

Put flour and some seasoning in a carrier bag and shake partridge halves up in them so that they are covered.
Heat oil and half of the butter and brown them, removing to a separate plate when done.  Add the potatoes and toss them in butter until they are crisped and then add the rest of the butter and sauté the onions until they are transparent at which point you add celery, presunto and bay leaves and stir fry until done. Now add piri piri and cook everything until well incorporated. Finally, add cabbage, aguardente and cook until cabbage is just softened.

Pour this mixture into a large cast-iron pot or a casserole, place the partridges, breast side down into the cabbage so that they are half buried. Tuck in the potatoes and carrots, pour over wine and stock, put on the lid and cook for about 50 minutes until the potatoes are cooked right through.

Up the heat to 200 C, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom, scrape and add some water if this is necessary. Turn the partridge halves around and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes, basting regularly.

Serve with crunchy Portuguese bread and any crisp chilled white Herdade de Cartuxa

Nuts and chestnuts were gathered, roasted and used for making bread and I can only imagine how rich and varied that nut meal must have been!  The Portuguese then, as now, took advantage of the fine pastures, both for raising livestock and farming and consistent food supplies slowly became the order of the day.  Both they and their animals lived a life of abundance. The pigs, still relatively wild in those days, were associated with fertility, authority and power. A vitally important source of protein it became a staple in the diet then, as they are today. To add to this every increasing menu were contributions by the Celts in the form of their sacred cattle and also their sheep. They lived in villages in round stone houses that can still be seen in Northern Portugal today and established trade with Brittany and the British Isles, most importantly, tin.  The inhabitants of Portugal thrived, so foreigners arrived, settled and introduced more foodstuffs, more habits and more traditions.
The fiery and proud Celtiberians and Lusithanians lived in the Northwest.

It took the Romans almost 200 years to take over Iberia even though they overran Gaul (France) in seven years, and introduced olives, onions and garlic – three ingredients which are indispensable in Portuguese cuisine. The Lusithanians had withdrawn to  hilltop villages in the northwest and at about the same time, the Phoenicians founded little fishing and salting settlements throughout the south of Portugal, followed by the Greeks and Carthaginians.

The Romans settled but steered clear of the North (there were only a few settlements there) and preferred the south was which was suitable for wheat, olives, and grapes as in Italy.  When the Roman Empire started tumbling down, the Teutonic invasion began in Gaul and Portugal had new visitors, the Swabians in the northwest. Luckily the Germans did not try to destroy all traces of the Romans since they were a nation that had respect for anything from which they could learn and in return they taught Portugal how to farm with the quadrangular plow. The Climate in the North northwest of Iberia suited their crops and they simply stayed there and when the Vandals and Alans crossed the Pyrennes they moved to western edge of the peninsula. The Alans, at the time the strongest of the tribes, took a large area in the center and south, approximately the area of Roman Lusitania. The LusoRomans offered no opposition to their settlement.

The Moors arrived in Spain in 711 and quickly invaded these Christian lands.  They remained in the South, in the Algarve and Alentejo. Egyptian Moors settled in Beja and Faro and the Syrians nearer Seville.  The Moors were great leaders and fortified cities, introduced complex and effective irrigation systems and introduced linen paper.  It is common cause that they were a nation of great learning who introduced new irrigation methods that turned  barren areas into agricultural land successfully planting almond trees, figs and citrus trees. It was then that new ingredients in the form of rice and spices were introduced, not to mention fascinating cooking techniques. Cataplan, introduced by the Romans is still highly visible in Portuguese cuisine today.

The Christians and the Moors were at loggerheads since the beginning and it lasted until 1249 when the Christians finally took back their land. Portugal remains in Christian hands to this day.

Columbus started globe-trotting and began exploring the world – this heralded the beginning of a new and powerful era in the history of Portugal, then a powerful sea-faring nation. He and his fellow explorers must take responsibility for adding yet another dimension to their cuisine. They introduced spices such as coriander, saffron and ginger to Europe and brought home vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and so much more from the South America’s, then known as the New World.

Fascinated by the east Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India and the far east and opened the doors to the import of more exotic spices. On these trips the famous bacalhau  was born when used in addition to cured pork that was standard fare for sailors on these long voyages to the far east.

Culinary history didn’t stabilize completely then but this rich and varied basis is certainly on of the main reasons why Portuguese food withstood, to a great extent, the doldrums of the Middle Ages.

To celebrate the pork and at the same time the seafood for which Portugal is, justifiably, so famous herewith:


1 kg Pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 3 cm cubes
1 kg small clams, still in their shells but already well purged
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
200 ml good fruity white wine
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon allspice
3 fresh bayleaves
800 g potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 handful chopped coriander
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
500 ml water
5 tablespoons olive oil


Boil the potatoes for about 5 minutes on high heat, remove, rinse, dry and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed, wide pan and sauté pork over high heat until golden and crisp on both sides to add flavour to the meat. This will take some time.
Add onions and garlic and sauté until the aroma is noticeable, add salt, allspice, paprika and pepper and then the wine. Allow it to boil for a few seconds in order to thicken the sauce somewhat.
Add the water, put on the lid and simmer over low heat for about 1 ¼ hours, turning the meat over and checking regularly.
Should the need arise, add some more water but remember that there must be enough slightly thickened sauce in the pot.
Finally add the clams, the zest and the lemon juice, put on the lid, turn up the heat and cook vigorously for about 10 minutes until the clams have all opened up.  Discard all closed clams.
Check and correct seasoning, stir in the coriander and set aside to rest.

During this period, fry the potatoes in enough olive oil until they are crisp, sprinkle with Malden salt and serve immediately with a red from Quinta do Carmo


Filed under Uncategorized

Butter, Part 3 (b) – Russia

There is no doubt that Vologda is Russia’s butter capital – famous also for flax and lace, it is particularly the butter for which it is famous and the delicious light and creamy Vologda butter (Vologodskoye maslo) undoubtedly ranks as the best of the best Russian butter. In the 12th century butter was made here for the first time and the famous ‘melted butter’ became an excellent source of income for the city. Homemade butter was consumed up to the beginning of the 1800’s with the every increasing demand resulting in the phasing out of traditional butter making equipment (image of traditional butter separators below) and the introduction of efficient, new industrial milk processing plants, like the Vologda gubernia set up in 1835.  Since 1881 only three dairies in this region have been making Volgodskoye maslo with it’s luxurious 82, 5% butterfat content. Vologda butter owes a debt of gratitude to Nikolai Vereschagin who noticed the sour taste of certain butters and developed a process to separate the sweet cream from the milk twice, instead of the standard once. You’ll notice the real thing by the little picture of a milkmaid that should appear next to the name, Vologodskoye maslo and is the certificate of authenticity. Look for this mark of authenticity before you buy because there have been attempts to sell really disgusting surplus government butter under the same name! If you find Vologdoskoye in birch wood casks, you’ll know you hit gold. The advent of the industrial revolution sadly encouraged production of butter to alter in such a way that small landowners and farmers became part of a new system that enforced cooperation between, literally, thousands of peasants, locals and the dairies with the foreign merchants owning everything.  Vologda then became the leading producer of butter and today, although not the biggest, still the best. The 1990’s

The advent of World War 1 and communism did no favours for butter or butter production but fortunately today, slowly, things are getting back to normal.  What really counts, to my mind, is that farmers markets are once again delivering excellent butter despite the onslaught of margarine. Matters have improved markedly since the days of communism and increased money has enabled Russians to embrace proud culinary traditions once again.

Excellent butters choices to try are:

  • Vologodskoe
  • Krest’yanskoe, a Soviet-era brand made by various manufacturers but the most popular brand in Russia, more so even than Vologodskoe
  • Derevenskoe (from Petrosoyuz)
  • Domik v derevne

Interesting and varied culinary traditions in this massive part of the world, for example, the butter ‘desert’ of the Yakut are now shared with all of us. The Yakut, an ethnic group who live in the Northern part of Siberia in the coldest part of the world, make Chokoon. For this a soft, creamy butter is mixed alternatively with warm and cold milk to make a smooth puree. To this they add berries and sugar, spoon it into small dishes and freeze it by placing it in the frost. It is eaten crushed into small pieces.

Since this is such a short article, I will include one recipe that acknowledges the Jews in the ghetto’s of East Galicia which is, today, part of the Ukraine. Notwithstanding the hell in which they lived, they found the strength, deep inside themselves, to find joy in life and thus in food – this recipe is, truly, one of those moments.

Lokshen Kugel

500 g egg noodles, usually ribbons
5 eggs
250 ml cream
180 g sugar
150 g butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
6 tablespoons honey
200 g raisins
2 sour apples, peeled and chopped finely
200 g walnuts or almonds, roughly chopped
More butter for greasing generously

Boil the noodles in lightly salted water, drain, rinse well and set aside. Fry apples in a greased pan just until they soften, remove. Beat the eggs and sugar and add cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch of salt, cream, honey and the softened butter. Mix very well and pour into the noodles with apples, nuts and raisins making sure that everything is mixed very well.  Place in a well-greased ovenproof dish and bake at 160 C for an hour. Allow to rest for 10 minutes if serving hot.

Serve hot or cold.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized