An Evening of Banting and Banter at THE TABLE

THE TABLE photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

THE TABLE photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

On Tuesday evening I had the privilege of attending Christopher Duigan’s pop-up restaurant event – aptly named ‘THE TABLE’. This was the second installment in what I hope will continue to be an annual event. Christopher, a famed concert pianist opened up his beautiful home to thirty guests, to partake in an evening of wine, food and fun – as well as providing an opportunity to network and promote local/national business, whilst building a sense of community, as we sat down to ‘break bread’ together – well, not quite – as the theme for the evening’s menu was ‘Banting’ – made popular in South Africa by Professor Tim Noakes. This lifestyle – or Real Meal Revolution as it has become known, is about forgoing carbohydrates and sugar and eating a diet that is moderate in protein and high in fat. Incidentally, I hopped onto the Banting bandwagon with the rest of Cape Town, ten days prior to this event – and was anxious as to what I would be able to eat – so you can imagine my delight, on arrival, to discover that the menu catered perfectly to my needs – oh who am I kidding – I would have eaten anything offered up to me – especially when some of the finest local chefs were preparing the meal!

Bouchard Finlayson Wine. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Bouchard Finlayson Wine.
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Throughout the course of the evening, we were treated to a variety of the most exquisite wines from Boutique Vineyard, Bouchard Finlayson, situated in Hermanus in the Western Cape. I had the pleasure of meeting Peter Finlayson, the winemaker – as well as Tony Kee who distributes Bouchard Finlayson wines in KwaZulu-Natal. Peter’s passion for wine was palpable (or should I say ‘PULPable’) when he addressed us, talking us through the wines we would taste that evening. I was fortunate to sample four of Bouchard Finlayson’s wines – all of which were superb and highly quaffable – however my favourites were the Sauvignon Blanc which was crisp and lusciously fruity and the ‘Piece de resistance’ – ‘Hannibal’ (as in the conqueror) a juicy and full-bodied red blend made with French and Italian varieties. The most notable element of this wine is the addition of Sangiovese grapes that Peter cultivated from cuttings in 1989 and worked to develop over 12 years before first bottling wine made from this cultivar in 2001. All I can say is ‘Give that man a Bells’ – ‘Hannibal’ is a delectable wine, with notes of black cherry, spice and strawberry. I suggest you go out and buy a bottle or three IMMEDIATELY!

Peter Finlayson talking about his wine

Peter Finlayson talking about his wine

The success of any pop up restaurant worth its salt – not only relies on fine wine, but also, delicious food. The guest chefs at THE TABLE did not disappoint. After snacking on Australian Macadamia nuts and crudites served with an artichoke pate I could easily have eaten by the handful, we started our meal with a sublime Langoustine bisque – lovingly offered up by Jonty and Tanya Nicolson, owners of Nicolson’s Country Cafe. The soup was akin to liquid velvet bursting with the sweet/savoury essence of Langoustine that Jonty had been reducing two days prior to produce this silken deliciousness – enriched with cream and piquant tomato, I could have happily licked the bowl clean were I not in polite company.

Nicolson's Langoustine Bisque. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Nicolson’s Langoustine Bisque. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

The main course – courtesy of Penny Hatting of Traffords, was ‘Duck done three ways’ and was prepared by her highly talented young chef, Kayla Ann Osborn assisted by Jeane Morkel – Executive Chef at Selborne Hotel, Golf Estate and Spa. Kayla created the dish to perfectly compliment Bouchard Finlayson’s Pinot Noir.  Each plate consisted of perfectly cooked duck breast, still pink and juicy with the fat rendered down, that had been soaked in a cherry and tobacco tea – giving an earthy, chocolate taste to the duck.  The second component was a rich and voluptuous duck liver pate with a cherry and tobacco gel and last but not least, a sumptuous duck rillette which was fragrant with herbs and suitably tender and rich.  The trio was pulled together perfectly with a cherry and tobacco sauce and turnip micro greens. It was without doubt the most enjoyable and satisfying threesome I’ve ever had!

Traffords Duck done three ways. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Traffords Duck done three ways. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Kayla Ann Osborn from Traffords. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Kayla Ann Osborn from Traffords. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Executive Chef Jeane Morkel plating the duck liver pate with cherry tobacco gel. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Executive Chef Jeane Morkel plating the duck liver pate with cherry tobacco gel. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Jonty Nicolson from Nicolson's Country Cafe plating  up the duck. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Jonty Nicolson from Nicolson’s Country Cafe plating up the duck. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

To end, we were treated to a cheese course, handmade by Dutch cheese maker, MJ Mook from ‘Just Cheese’. There were two varieties – a 3 month matured Gouda with crushed pepper and a 6 month matured Gouda. Both cheeses were utterly divine and I cannot wait to get my hands on some very soon!

MJ Mook's delicious handmade cheese from Just Cheese. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

MJ Mook’s delicious handmade cheese from Just Cheese. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Each course was served on beautiful crockery made by ceramicist, David Walters.

Beautiful ceramics from David Walters. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Beautiful ceramics from David Walters. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

The evening was interspersed with glorious music (from Handel to The Teddy Bears picnic- I think ‘eclectic’ is the word)- courtesy of Christopher, our warm and gracious host and an interesting talk by Professor Barry Lovegrove on Banting and the benefits of a LCHF lifestyle. The conversation surrounding the evening’s theme led to much debate and conversation – ranging from issues of health, sustainability and the viability of such a lifestyle for those with limited financial means. However, there was also plenty of merriment – especially during the sing along!

I had been slightly apprehensive about attending a communal dinner with strangers – what if it was awkward, what if they didn’t like me, what if I committed a truly horrendous faux pas, what if there was nothing to talk about – obviously I am neurotic and fortunately I was wrong! I thoroughly enjoyed the company and meeting such interesting and talented people from all different spheres of society – I regret not being able to talk to everyone who attended. I left THE TABLE event feeling uplifted by the sense of community I encountered which was infused with so much passion and creativity.

The concept of the Pop-up restaurant is not new – I first read about it in Kerstin Rodger’s fabulous cookbook ‘Supper Club: Recipes and Notes from The Underground Restaurant’ which details her own experience of pioneering London’s first Pop-up restaurant from her home. I was delighted when I found out about Christopher’s pop-up and having now experienced THE TABLE – I hope this event will continue for many years to come – perhaps with more frequency (hint, hint) – after all, in the words of Virginia Woolf “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
In addition, there is something truly lovely about being welcomed into a person’s home for a meal, sharing food with acquaintances and by the end of the evening, leaving as friends (if only on Facebook).

The opinions expressed in this blog post are my own – no-one coerced, tortured or blackmailed me. I received no payment for this review.

The gorgeous photos where credited were taken by photographer Jonathan Burton:

Should you wish to experience the delicious food and wine mentioned – here are a list of contacts:

Bouchard Finlayson Wine:
Tony Kee (distributor of Bouchard Finlayson wine in KZN): email: or phone: +27 (0) 82 652 9549
Nicolson’s Country Cafe:
Traffords Restaurant:
Just Cheese:
David Walters Ceramics:

Tony Kee of Bouchard Finlayson (left) and Christopher Duigan - our wonderful host (right)

Tony Kee of Bouchard Finlayson (left) and Christopher Duigan – our wonderful host (right)

Wonderful host Christopher Duigan (left) and Tanya Nicolson  Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Wonderful host Christopher Duigan (left) and Tanya Nicolson Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Postcards from Andy and a lush Kit Kat Brownie

IMG_20140309_184512A few months ago, my mother (bless her) ran into a friend. Said friend asked after my artist brother who lives in Kyoto, Japan. My mother – not au fait with matters of art commented, “He’s well. He was at an exhibit this weekend and had a photo taken with Andy Warhol.” Her friend, looking somewhat disturbed and perplexed on hearing this, responded: “Isn’t he dead?”

embarrassed, my mother related the story to my brother who found it hilarious. Last week, two postcards arrived in the post


Needless to say, we laughed! As you may have gathered by now – this anecdote has absolutely nothing to do with the featured recipe – apart from the fact that Kit Kat’s are BIG IN JAPAN (see what I did there?) – they also come in a variety of exciting flavours like ‘Green Tea’ and ‘Sakura’ (cherry blossom).  As for the brownies – they are all a brownie should be – rich, dark, moist, dense, chewy and extra chocolatey – with a lovely crunch from the Kit Kat to boot.  Served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream you may just feel like you’ve died and gone to Studio 54 and taken psychedelic drugs with Andy Warhol…

Kit Kat Brownies

Makes 12

170g butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 large free-range eggs

2 tablespoons water

1 tsp vanilla essence

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup cocoa

1/2 cup flour

5 Kit Kat’s broken into fingers

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Spray a square baking tin with non-stick spray and line with baking paper.  Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until blended. Add the eggs one by one, beating after each addition. Mix in the water and vanilla essence. Sprinkle the salt and baking powder over the mixture and stir in with a spatula. Do the same with the cocoa, followed by the flour. Once the ingredients are combined – spoon 2/3 of the batter into your prepared tin and smooth evenly over the base (it will seem quite sparse – however it will rise in the oven) lay the Kit Kat fingers over the mixture and then spoon and smooth over the remaining batter – ensuring the Kit Kat’s are covered. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool for about half an hour before cutting into squares.

Cake for Kiara


This is my beloved friend Kiara. They say dynamite comes in small packages and she is living proof of that. Today is her birthday and since I can’t spend it with her I’m writing this blog instead – because she’s worth it.

Dear Kiara

Today I’m raising a toast to you for all you mean to me – yes, I know I’m a sap – but ’tis true  – my life is exponentially better because of you ( don’t worry this isn’t going to rhyme the whole way through – dammit I can’t stop!) Kiara, you are one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met and I admire you for all you are and have achieved. Not many people embrace life with such fierce passion and determination – but you do. You are fearless, you dive head first into adventure, you live out of a suitcase, your self-belief is motivational, you live with an uncompromising sense of possibility and you strive to make the world a better place. I wish that I possessed even an ounce of your courage.  You are kind, compassionate and so very generous. You are funny and smart and beautiful inside and out. You are also a real hippie, but that’s okay. You are not afraid to dream big – something so many of us forget – despite being knocked down or victim to that inner voice that tells us that this is all there is – you continue to amaze me with your vision and perspective. You are resilient and strong. You once defended me from a bunch of wild dancers at an 80’s music concert despite them being double your height and size. So Kiara, I’m raising my glass to you today and wishing you all the love, joy and deliciousness you so richly deserve.  I am also singing the ‘Golden Girls’ theme song and thanking you for being my friend.

To celebrate I baked a grown up birthday cake – made ‘grown up’ by the addition of olive oil and wine! Now here’s a heads up – if you don’t like wine or olive oil and the thought of them mingling in a cake repulses you – don’t make this cake! If you’re adventurous and like to live on the wild side, whisk away! This cake is unusual and fragrant. The wine and olive oil impart a grassy perfume that is complimented by the raspberry jam and the dark chocolatey icing.

Please take a moment to visit Kiara’s fabulous blog and learn about her work, travels and  adventures with Rex:


A Grown Up Birthday Cake

From Food52

Serves 12

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups sugar

4 xl free-range eggs

1 cup white wine (I used a chardonnay)

1 cup olive oil ( I used a fruity Spanish extra virgin – if you can’t bear the thought of parting with a whole cup use half sunflower oil)

1 tsp vanilla

Half a jar of  good quality raspberry jam ( I used Bonne Mamen)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Sift together the salt, flour and bicarbonate of soda and set aside ( to tell the truth I seldom sieve – just whisked them together) With an electric beater blend the eggs and sugar together for about a minute until pale and thickened, slowly add the vanilla, followed by the olive oil. Finally, gently mix the wine in with  a spoon before whisking in the flour mixture. Divide the mixture between two cake tins – sprayed with nonstick spray and lined with baking paper. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for about 10 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool.  Once cool sandwich together with the raspberry jam.

For the icing:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup icing sugar

1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa ( I used NOMU)

1/4 cup full cream milk

Using an electric beater, combine the butter and icing sugar in a bowl until it comes together, slowly add the milk and cocoa until it looks like icing and beat until smooth. Use to ice the cake – or smear over yourself – or eat out of the bowl with a spoon.



An Ode to Nigel


A few days ago I decided to engage with Twitter again – I had opened an account in 2009 and quickly lost interest. I didn’t get the hype – I didn’t understand the lingo. To me, Twitter feels like you’re standing in a dark room, all alone, banging on a saucepan desperately hoping someone will acknowledge you – and then there’s the # hashtag- what’s up with that? Why is everyone using it – #whydopeopleontwittertalklikethishaveyounotheardofspacesoracomma

I was perplexed. Perplexed and disgusted. Surely there had to be more to it? So after a crash course in Tweeting by my kind and patient friends on Facebook, armed with sarcasm and new-found love for the hashtag, I returned to that little blue bird and began to follow a bevy of newspaper sites and celebrities. I also began to tweet – I didn’t have anything important to say – just me and my saucepan and a wooden spoon banging it out in Twittersphere to my 54 followers. And then I shut up and started to read other people’s Tweets, I gained confidence and retweeted – and then in that dark room, through which I’d been fumbling like a mad, blind woman I found Nigel Slater – that god amongst men, that kitchen alchemist. For anyone who knows me – Nigel Slater is one of my favourite celebrity chefs – his simple, unfussy and honest approach to food is instantly engaging and delightful – Nigel Slater can create magic with the leftovers from his fridge and he can do this while relaying anecdotes from his childhood.  He is articulate and passionate and so incredibly personable – and this he seems to achieve and communicate almost effortlessly through his books and tv shows.

The first book I bought of his, was ‘The Kitchen Diaries’ – in it, Slater takes us through a year in his kitchen, cooking what is fresh and seasonal. As I paged through it, I remembered feeling like I was partaking in a peculiar sort of voyeurism as though he had pulled open his kitchen curtains for me to take a peep inside – a bit like looking into stranger’s shopping baskets when you’re in the supermarket and wondering what they are about to cook for dinner or what they have lurking in their refrigerators.  I loved the conversational way he wrote about food – sometimes forgoing the standard recipe format and instead merely describing what he did in calming, fabulous, Nigel Slater prose.  I loved imagining his dinner parties and wished I could partake as he went on to describe his Roast pork sandwiches in mouth-watering detail:

“I carve the roasted meat and its amber fat so thinly that you can almost see through it, piling it on to a warmed plate as I go, then put it in the centre of the table with a basket of bread, a dish of salt and lots of red wine. Sometimes you expect everyone to dither, no one wanting to be the first to tuck in, but this time they all go for it as if they haven’t eaten in a week.”

It was after this introduction to Nigel Slater’s books that I purchased, what was to be, a seminal piece of literature to me – his poignant and beautifully written biography ‘TOAST’. Until then, I had never encountered anyone who’d come close to writing with such honesty, emotion and wit about food. It was a revelation. I suddenly felt less alone in the world – I began to understand my own deeply nostalgic, at times fraught, yet always passionate relationship to food – not only as mere  nutrition – but as a symbol of creativity and an expression of love.  TOAST was instantly comforting like a bowl of rice pudding or mashed potato with lots of butter and black pepper – it reminded me of times when I was sick, as a child, and my mother would make me toast fingers spread with lashings of butter and the finest scrape of Marmite, whilst still hot.  I remembered running our home, while my mother fought breast cancer, and how – through the stress and fear of the situation, I sought refuge in the kitchen cooking up all manner of dishes to ensure my family were fed – but more than that – nourished and comforted through a difficult time. I thought about my own relationship with food – a classic case comfort eater, I’d turn to food when I felt sore or sad – food would alleviate a host of everyday woes – and then, my fraught venture into bulimia – where food became the enemy -a source of shame and guilt that I purged daily from my body. Finally – my love of food brought me this blog and a means to write about meals I’ve prepared and the memories they have evoked.  I cried for days after reading ‘Toast’ – I still get choked up watching Slater on TV – especially when he recounts an anecdote from childhood, no matter how happy. From that moment on I was completely addicted to him and his wonderful way with food.

AND THEN SOMETHING FABULOUS HAPPENED ON TWITTER Icannotbelieveit# – Nigel (I freakin’ love you) Slater, tweeted a picture of some gardening tools artistically nestled in a wooden box – I was compelled to write – even though I cannot garden to save my life – and then….wait for it…(I do realise, for some of you, this may not be the revelation you were hoping for after the overuse of ellipsis and the carefully developed dramatic tension) Nigel (I freakin’ love you) Slater, tweeted back! Forgive my blasphemy – but it was as if the voice of God had descended from the heavens above – or at least how I would imagine that moment would feel were I not such a heathen. My heart was beating ten to the dozen, my hands were clammy, I wanted to jump for joy, I wanted to run into the street yelling ‘Nigel Slater has made contact!’ – I wanted to write back instantly and had to use every ounce of self-control not to – lest I turned into some deranged twitter fan – banging my pot and telling him how much I loved him and his lemon pudding.  What he wrote back is irrespective – he could have tweeted “JFLDFOIFKFHjfkdjlsjlsjf” and I still would have been on cloud nine – if not a bit confused.


So apart from making my Sunday truly fantastic, Nigel Slater has converted me to Twitter. I also have come to realise, in the last day or so, that Nigel Slater is an all round decent guy and seems to respond to most of his tweets no matter how inane or psychotic – but you know what? I don’t care, we’ll always have Twitter.

If you wish to share the blue bird love – do come over and follow me on Twitter @StarfishWoman – I have a saucepan for you and a selection of spoons.

In celebration I have included one of my most favourite Nigel Slater recipes – Lemon amaretti cream pots.  Like Nigel, I love to serve this in individual ramekins accompanied by a palmier, shortbread biscuit or wafer. I have also made this pudding using granadilla (passion fruit) curd for a change – and it was just as delicious.

Nigel Slater’s Lemon amaretti cream pots

Adapted from The Kitchen Diaries

Serves 6

300ml double cream

250g Greek yoghurt

280g lemon curd, homemade or bought

100g amaretti biscuits

Pour the cream into a chilled bowl (I mean a cold one) and whisk gently until it starts to thicken. Do not overwhisk – as Nigel explains – you want soft billowing folds, not stiff peaks. Fold in the yoghurt and lemon curd with a large metal spoon.  In a plastic bag, crush your amaretti biscuits with a rolling-pin (i.e. beat them to death with wild abandon) and fold the different sized crumbs into the cream mixture. Spoon into little cups or ramekins and cover with cling wrap (I apologise, I know working with cling wrap is unpleasant) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving with a tiny biscuit to dip into the creamy goodness. I have also made this pudding excluding the biscuits and it was just as delicious. Eat with a teeny tiny spoon so it lasts longer.

A Surprising Cheesecake


I’m not trying to be a smart ass – but I made this cheesecake in a microwave. Yup.  You betcha.  It took me 10 minutes – you’d swear it had taken me at least an hour – it was that good. Now before you go tut tutting and shaking your head and thinking why the hell would anyone make a cheesecake in a microwave – I’m gonna tell you something else – there is no cheese in this cheesecake. “No cheese in this cheesecake!” you cry – waving your fist in the air. Exactly.  Now I know this may not appear to be the height of sophistication – and there are gonna be people out there, who on learning you made dessert in a microwave – may shun you. I’m not gonna lie. It’s a possibility.  That’s their problem. You’ll get over it. You’ll be too busy devouring every last morsel to give a damn. I promise.

I don’t know why I’m talkin’ like I belong on the set of a movie set in Brooklyn. It could be because I’m watching a movie with Al Pacino. He’s playing a gangster – between you and me I think he’s been typecast.

This cheesecake is going to surprise you in all kinds of ways – and not like the scene in Psycho where Janet Leigh is surprised in the shower by Norman Bates and stabbed to death either. This is going to be a good surprise – like getting 3 numbers on your lotto ticket – I actually wanted to say it would be like winning the lotto – but I’m not prone to exaggeration.

What you’re going to end up with is the smoothest, creamiest, most lusciously delectable cheesecake. The  only snag is that I suggest making it the day before you intend eating it – as the flavour and texture improve enormously. Feel free to mix it up – I sometimes use ginger biscuits for the base and plain Greek yoghurt which I flavour with lemon rind and lemon juice for a lemon cheesecake. This recipe lends itself to experimentation.

A Surprising Cheesecake

Serves 6

For the base:

1 x 200g packet Tennis biscuits (or biscuits of your choice)

150g butter, melted

For the Filling:

500g double cream/full cream yoghurt ( Now please don’t start whining  – this is dessert – I refuse to use fat-free yoghurt – if you want to try it be my guest. For this variation I used 2x 150g tubs of Woolworth’s Mixed Berry Trifle double cream yoghurt and 200g Greek yoghurt.)

1 tin Full cream sweetened condensed milk

Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste (I used the juice of about 1 1/2 lemons)

Crush your biscuits in a bag using a rolling-pin – or for a finer texture blend in a food processor. Mix with the melted butter and press into a greased pie dish (this doesn’t make a huge cheesecake – so use a slightly smaller dish). Place in the deep freeze to firm up while you make the filling. In a bowl, combine the yoghurt, condensed milk and add lemon juice to taste. The lemon will help to thicken the mixture slightly and create the illusion that there is actually cream cheese in this cheesecake. Pour this mixture into your prepared biscuit base and microwave on high for five minutes. What you will notice is that something magical happens – the yoghurt filling firms up – you can test the cheesecake is done when you gently touch the surface – it should be smooth, firm and not make a huge indentation. If it still feels wobbly microwave for a minute more.  Allow the cheesecake to cool for about 15 minutes before transferring to the fridge. If you can bear it – leave ’til the following day – It will be worth it.

P.S. Ignore the picture – I couldn’t wait and cut the cheesecake too soon – I promise it will be firm the next day.

Feta, Mint and Almond Pesto


I don’t know what’s going on with the weather – it’s like a million degrees outside – the air is like soup – even the plants are sweating. There’s a guy across the street trying to mow the lawn – is he on crack? I debated pelting him with ice cubes – but I need them. I’m considering making a jumpsuit out of packets stuffed with ice – yes, it is that bad.  The aircon is not cool enough, the fans are blowing hot hair, I think I’m melting.

My cat is sitting in the sun. I’ve been calling him from the door and rustling the catnip bag – he’s looking at me like I’m deranged. Yes, cat.  It’s as hot as Ryan Gosling without a shirt on out there and your body is covered in fur and you’re lying on hot concrete – and I’m the one with the problem?

So last night I made this pesto for supper – because I needed something simple, quick and delicious to throw over pasta – something cooling and fragrant and light, something that tastes of summer and cool, bronzed people in magazine adverts wearing bikinis and sunbathing on yachts whilst drinking cocktails from tall glasses adorned with teeny tiny umbrellas.  I doubt any of them would eat this pesto because it contains a rather generous amount of olive oil – however I’m sure it would make a good face pack if you’re one of those people. Just saying.

This pesto has a lovely zing and I think would be delicious smeared over  flat bread or Javier Bardem ( forgive me, men are NOT objects, people!) I served this stirred through penne pasta with about half a cup of the pasta water to loosen it up and create a sauce like consistency. I think it would be good on pizza too.

Feta, Mint and Almond Pesto

adapted from coffeefoodwritergirl

Makes a generous cup (enough for 500g pasta or a couple of face masks)

1 handful of fresh mint, picked off the woody stems (about 20g)

1 generous handful of fresh basil, about 30g

A scant 1/2 cup of blanched almonds (the original recipe called for pine nuts – which I think would have rendered a smoother texture – but they are so hideously expensive)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (juice from about one medium lemon) NOTE: this pesto was quite lemony – so next time I make it I will add the juice in little batches til it suits my taste. I suggest you do the same.

50g Feta cheese ( I threw in 100g because I love cheese and 50g looked so pitiful – however next time I will stick to 50g so that the mint has more of a chance to shine)

Good quality extra virgin olive oil ( approximately a cup’s worth)

Maldon salt and pepper to taste

Throw the fresh herbs, almonds, feta, salt and pepper to taste, a dash of the lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil to moisten into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Whiz til combined, slowly pouring in the olive oil til the mixture is the consistency of a smooth, thick pesto. Taste. Add more seasoning and lemon juice if necessary, and whiz again til smooth and a lovely pale green.

Serve stirred through pasta along with some of the pasta water to loosen and make a sauce – or smeared over your body – hey, whatever floats your boat! I’m not gonna judge you.  A salad would be a good accompaniment – as would a large glass of wine.



A Retro Fridge Cake


If you have an extreme aversion to the ’80s – I suggest you stop reading now. However, if you were rocking a waistcoat and listening to Morrissey – keep going.  Growing up in South Africa in the 1980’s left much to be desired – first of all we were in the grip of apartheid, the media was censored and we knew very little of what was going on in the rest of the world – apart from what the then government wanted us to know. The eighties were also filled with so much kitsch – even I want to throw up. I remember as a child, my mother threw dinner parties where prawn cocktail was the  starter of choice – a mound of iceberg lettuce – adorned with – wait for it – baby shrimp smothered in a mix of mayonnaise and tomato sauce. This  was a standard – and if we were going to get posh about things – the iceberg lettuce would be traded in for half an avocado.  I remember a colour palette of brown and orange prevalent in my particular home and I also recall the standard trio of flying ceramic geese – hung in ascending order. The only cool things about the eighties were the music and possibly leg warmers – and who could forget the mix tape? And lastly – there was this throwback to the eighties – the Fridge cake – which appears in so many different incarnations  it could be a religion.

I had completely forgotten about Fridge Cake – until I encountered it  recently at a friend’s home. She had whipped up a batch and her two small children were devouring it like it was going out of fashion – which it had.  This Fridge cake was not too sweet, buttery and fruity and quite possibly  more addictive than crack.  I got home and immediately started experimenting – the thing about Fridge cake is that it is hard to mess up. I also did some research – trying to discover its origins – who was the genius who created this moreish treat – I still don’t know – but give that gal/guy a Bells! If any of you, dear readers, have a clue – please drop me a line. A search for Fridge cake – invariably brings up the chocolate kind – not unlike a ‘Rocky Road’.

Anyway, enough banter. If you make one thing this weekend – let it be this. Your children will love you, your family will love you – heck – YOU will love YOU – it’s that good. The South African version calls for  Marie Biscuits – but if you can’t find those – try a rich tea biscuit.

A Retro Fridge Cake

Makes about 30 squares

250g Stork margarine or butter (Yes, I know – I never thought I’d advocate using margarine – but this is retro style and marg was big in the 80s – bigger than shoulder pads)

3/4 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup if your dried fruit choices are very sweet)

2 cups (500g) Mixed dried fruit ( The original called for fruit mix – but now is the time to bring the Fridge cake into the 21st century – I love a combination of dried cranberries, raisins, sultanas, Glace cherries, Turkish apricots and mixed citrus peel)

2 x 200g packets Baker’s Blue Label Marie Biscuits, crushed ( I don’t crush them to a fine powder – you want some texture – so roughly crush – leaving some bigger pieces of biscuit)

2 xl free-range eggs, beaten

2 tsp vanilla essence

Begin by melting the margarine/butter in a large saucepan along with the sugar over a medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the dried fruit and allow to  boil gently for about 3 minutes – stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes then stir in the beaten eggs and the vanilla essence (I whisk the vanilla in with the beaten egg before adding it to the fruit mixture) – return to the heat stirring with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes – you want to cook the eggs and avoid salmonella.  At this stage, throw in the crushed  biscuits and mix to combine. Spoon into a greased rectangular dish and put in the fridge to set (Takes about an hour) – cut into squares and devour. I suggest playing ‘Come Back To Camden’ on repeat and wearing a side pony and/or leg warmers while you make these – but any 80s music would do.


Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry

IMG_20140121_200752Ok, let’s just forget the fact that I haven’t blogged in a while. Truth is I needed a break. I needed to enjoy making food again without trying to style it. I needed to stop looking for the best light to shoot. I needed to chill. It’s been 18 months, people. Today I turned 35. Does anyone know at what precise moment you begin to actually feel your age? Is it a gradual realisation -or does it spring out at you like one of the many shocking  moments in a horror movie? I’m hoping it’s the latter.

My friend T.J. inspired this dish. He posted a picture on instagram of a Chicken Katsu Curry he’d made and I just had to try it- also T.J. is one of those super cool people you want to emulate, because he’s smart, challenges perceptions and on occasion wears a monocle.  So a win win all round.

For the uninnitiated – katsu  is the Japanese word for ‘cutlet’ and essentially it is a piece of meat – in this case chicken, crumbed and served with a curry sauce and fluffy white rice. I have adapted a recipe I found on ‘allrecipes’ and it is inspired by the Japanese chicken katsu curry served at UK food chain Wagamama. If possible, try to source Japanese Panko crumbs as they absorb less oil and end up deliciously golden and crunchy without tasting like you’re eating an oil slick. If you can’t find Panko – try cornflake crumbs. This dish ticks all the right boxes – hearty, spicy, fragrant, did I mention utterly delicious comfort food.

Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry

For the sauce:

2tbsp sunflower oil

2 onions, finely chopped

5 garlic cloves,crushed

2 carrots, peeled and chopped into small cubes

2tbsp flour

2tsp curry powder

600ml chicken stock

2tsp honey

2tbsp soy sauce

1tsp garam masala

For the chicken:

8 medium, skinned and deboned chicken breasts, cut in half

salt and pepper

3tbsp flour

2 free-range eggs, beaten

150g Panko breadcrumbs

250ml sunflower oil for frying.

For the sauce: heat the oil in a medium saucepan and saute the onion, garlic and carrots over low heat until softened- for about 10-12 minutes. Add the flour and curry powder and cook for a minute. Slowly add the stock, stirring to avoid lumps and then add the honey and soy sauce. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until the sauce is thickened and a lovely rich colour. Add the garam masala. Keep warm.

For the chicken: Line up 3 bowls, one with flour seasoned with salt and pepper, one with the beaten egg and the last with the panko. Dip the chicken breast halves in the flour, then the egg and finally coat in the panko.Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry in batches over medium heat for about 4 minutes each side depending on the thickness of the breasts. I cut into the thicker pieces to ensure they were cooked and no longer pink. Drain on a paper towel lined plate and season with a sprinkling of salt. Serve with basmati rice and the curry sauce.

A Hearty Beef Stew


Winter is my favourite season. I love the changing colours, the crisp mornings, the smell of wood fires, the clear blue skies. I especially love wintry food – soups and stews – dishes that nourish and warm.  Nothing brings me greater pleasure than preparing food for the ones I love, celebrating friends and family.

As I write this, my father is at the doctor’s rooms having a biopsy. The outcome will confirm whether or not he has cancer.  On the night we first learned that there may be something wrong, I prepared this dish, because it was simple and comforting. My dad is a quiet man,  he enjoys a glass of red wine from time to time and if he’s had enough he’ll regale us with stories from his childhood. One that springs to mind, is when his brother, Calvin, ran away from home with all my father’s clothes and then proceeded to steal a bus. Fun times.

I don’t know what the outcome of the biopsy will be, if it is bad news, we will deal with it. We may not be able to walk this journey for the people we love, but we can support them, nourish them.

A Hearty Beef Stew

Serves 4

Adapted from Jamie’s Dinners

Olive oil

A knob of butter

1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced

A handful of fresh sage leaves

800g free-range stewing steak or brisket cut into cubes

Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper

Flour to dust

A few shakes, paprika

5 carrots, peeled and halved

1/2 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and the flesh cut into cubes

500g baby potatoes, halved

3 tbsp tomato puree

1/2 bottle of red wine

300ml organic beef stock

Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

1 clove of garlic, peeled and  finely chopped

a handful of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 150C. Put a little oil and a knob of butter into a casserole pan. Add the onion and sage leaves and fry for 3-4 minutes. Toss the meat in seasoned flour made by combining 3 tbsp flour, salt and pepper, and a few shakes of paprika. Add the meat to the pan along with the vegetables, the tomato puree, the wine and the stock. Gently stir together. Season generously with Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper (the amount of salt you add, depends on how salty your stock is. Remember that as it reduces it will become saltier, so exercise caution when seasoning). Bring to the boil, place a lid on top, then cook in the preheated oven until the meat is tender. This took roughly 2 hours in my oven, after an hour I added a little more stock and some hot water and continued cooking the stew until the meat was tender.

To serve, ladle the stew into your prettiest bowls, accompanied by some crusty bread and a glass of good red wine. Combine the lemon zest, garlic and rosemary and scatter a little over each person’s plate before eating – it will release the most amazing fragrance. Enjoy.


Warm and buttery Cinnamon Bun Scones

So yes, I fell off the blogging bandwagon.

One week I was churning out recipes like Macdonald’s burgers, and the next, I just disappeared.

I wish I could tell you that I was off in Morocco, living with a Bedouin tribe and riding camels all day, but that would be a lie. Instead I became a history/drama teacher to a group of 13/14-year-old girls. For reals.

So to make amends, I come bearing baked goods.

For the record, I hate working with yeast – every time I do, something goes horribly wrong and I end up with bread so rock hard it could be entered in the shotput category at the olympics – the good news here – is that there is no yeast in these ‘buns’ because – wait for it…they’re scones!!! Genius, hey?

The texture of these scones are all a scone should be – light, crumbly, moist. Delicious warm from the oven with lashings of butter and your favourite jam. Make them for a loved one, hell, make them for yourself. Have some scone lovin’. I dare you.

Cinnamon Bun Scones

Makes about 10

Adapted from Joy the Baker

3 cups flour

2 tbsp sugar

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

3/4 tsp salt

185g  cold butter, cut into cubes

1 xl free-range egg, beaten

3/4 cup buttermilk, chilled (not as in relaxed, but cold)

1 tsp good quality vanilla extract

For the Filling

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)

pinch of salt

2 tbsp butter melted, and a little extra for brushing the buns before baking.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease a square baking pan.  In a small bowl mix the sugars, cinnamon and salt for the filling. Have your melted butter ready too, in a separate little bowl or jug.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt to remove any lumps (I hate sieving and find this much easier). Add the cubed, cold butter and rub it in with your finger tips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  In another bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract.  Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture – I like to cut it in with a knife and then use my hands to knead it into a dough. Do not knead too much – or your scones will be tough – you just want to bring the ingredients together in a gentle lovin’ way.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll it out into a rectangle – you don’t want it rolled out flat – these are scones remember – so the dough thickness should be a little less than 2cm high.  Brush the dough with melted butter and then sprinkle over the cinnamon sugar mixture – it may seem like a lot – but use it all.  Then roll up your dough – you want a cylinder shape. Using a sharp, floured knife, cut rolls about 2 cm wide and lay them flat and close together in your baking pan. They should look like palmiers with the cinnamon sugar swirling through. Brush the tops with melted butter and bake for 13-15 minutes depending on your oven. Keep an eye on them, you do not want these babies to burn. 

These are best served the day they are made and can be reheated in the microwave.