rose iced tea in #dubai

rose iced tea in #dubai

Dubai Tourism recently invited me to the Dubai Food Festival – what a magical and enchanting experience! One afternoon we wondered off to the Dubai Creek and sat down at a little restaurant. I ordered a rose iced tea. It was this beautiful, pale pink colour, refreshing and made from dried rose petals. Back home I just had to make some but had to do so without the rose petals… I made it with rose syrup. It’s just a delight to look at and reminds me of my truly wonderful Dubai experience. To to see more of my Dubai journey click here.

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The rose iced tea I drank on the Dubai Creek.

The rose iced tea I drank on the Dubai Creek.

Rose iced tea
Serves 4

2 tea bags
750 ml of boiling water
5 ml honey
50 ml of rose syrup (get this at any supermarket)
2.5 ml teaspoon lemon juice
rose petals
mint leaves
ice

Pour the boiling water over tea bags and let it steep for 2 minutes. Stir in the honey, rose syrup and lemon juice. Put the tea in the refrigerator and let it cool down. Put lots of ice in a glass, fill it with the tea. Top with a rose leaf and a mint leaf.

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black figs dipped in chocolate

black figs dipped in chocolate

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I am fig crazy at the moment and my favourite are these voluptuous plump black figs. They are so beautiful, so sweet and so sexy! My friend Diana brought me a whole box the other day … So, I melted some chocolate and dipped the fruit in it. To round it off I added some pistachios. Here is no recipe or quantities. Experiment with the chocolate and the nut flavours you like – play and have fun.

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fruit + vegetable salad with white chocolate mousse

fruit + vegetable salad with white chocolate mousse

I was introduced to this extraordinary fruit and vegetable salad with white chocolate mousse this past week by Italian chef, Leonardo Vescera at the glamorous Ga Gemma Dell’ Est Hotel in Zanzibar. Never in my wildest culinary dreams did I think that raw veggies and fruit could go so well together. The trick with this is that you need to cut your vegetables into small little cubes. The veggies provide sweetness and texture to an ordinary fruit salad.

Back home, I decided to make my own version. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. Give it a whirl…it is a taste adventure!

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Fruit and vegetable salad with white chocolate mousse
Serves 6
100g of the following fruit + vegetables (you can of course, substitute these with your own choices…)
Pineapple, banana, carrot, papaya, peach, baby marrows, patty pan squash
10 ml icing sugar
30 ml mango or pineapple juice
A squeeze of lime juice
A few chopped mint leaves

Cut the vegetables into small blocks. Mix all ingredients together and serve with a dollop of white chocolate mousse.

Two ingredient white chocolate mousse
1 cup cream
150 g white chocolate

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Heat 1/3 cup of cream. Pour heated cream over chocolate and mix well till smooth. Allow the chocolate and cream mixture to cool down to room temperature. Beat the remaining cream until stiff and fold into the chocolate. Put in refrigerator until needed.

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magical zanzibar

magical zanzibar

The past week I was most fortunate to spend a few days at the magnificent Diamonds La Gemma Dell’ Est Hotel in Zanzibar. All I can say is that it was… and is … paradise. I got lost between the beautiful rooms, the crisp white linen, friendly and brilliant staff and then of course the lovely facilities. This is heaven people! The beaches are just amazing and this place has the best restaurants and chefs on hand to tempt and please almost every discerning palate. From the Beach Bar, Coral Cove Pizzeria, the Pavilion Restaurant to the ultimate Sea Breeze restaurant (constructed on a wooden platform just above the emerald ocean), La Gemma Dell’ Est caters to every need.

lagemmadellest.diamonds-resorts.com

Yes, Diamonds La Gemma Dell'Est is paradise

Yes, Diamonds La Gemma Dell’Est is paradise

I cooked with the brilliant Chef Prabhakar Kumar – what a talented man. He served me a lobster bisque with a lobster salad – well, I could just as well been seated in a Michelin star restaurant in Paris, the man is that good. This inspiring chef and engaging personality taught me how to cook fish and rice the Zanzibar way. He shared his knowledge of local cuisine with me (more about what we cooked … next week). What a thrilling experience. Here are a few images for those of you who love to travel and to taste the food from around the world.

Chef Prabhakar Kumar from La Gemma Dell'Est Zanzibar shared some of his cooking secrets with me

Chef Prabhakar Kumar from La Gemma Dell’Est Zanzibar shared some of his cooking secrets with me

The Sea Breeze Restaurant - isn't it just to die for!

The Sea Breeze Restaurant – isn’t it just to die for!

Here I appropriately had plenty of G&T's

Here I appropriately had plenty of G&T’s

The pristine beach

The pristine beach

Spices are plentiful and beautiful. The lovely crowd of ZanTours took us on a tour. Feast your eyes …

The glamorous 'lipstick' plant - yes, they do make lipstick from the seeds :-).

The glamorous ‘lipstick’ plant – yes, they do make lipstick from the seeds :-).

Cinnamon bark. Did you know that they make vicks from the Cinnamon root?  Well, me neither.

Cinnamon bark. Did you know that they make vicks from the Cinnamon root? Well, me neither.

Nutmeg - how beautiful!

Nutmeg – how beautiful!

The magnificent coffee pod.

The magnificent coffee pod.

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red velvet #fig cupcakes for my #valentine

red velvet #fig cupcakes for my #valentine

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If there ever was anyone who knew how to lure a man, it would have to been the exotic and ever-seductive Cleopatra, the historic queen of Egypt. Let’s face it, she knew a thing or two about casting spells over men – even the most powerful ones. Neither the great Julius Caesar nor Mark Antony could dodge the Cupids’ arrows. The story goes that one of Cleopatra’s favourite foods was the fig and when planning her own suicide, she hid a poisonous viper in a basket of figs.

So, if the mighty Cleopatra could seduce men with her beauty and a bowl of figs, surely I too stood some chance of seducing my Irishman hubby. I decided I would tempt my man with red-velvet fig cupcakes.

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I took a smart short-cut and used Ina Paarman’s Red Velvet Cake mix. Dividing the contents into eighteen small cupcake moulds I proceeded to insert a ripe fig in each mould and then baked it. I served these with a topping of freshly, whipped cream and red peppercorns. When I sliced the cupcakes, the juice of the ripe fig oozed out like lava and with the the cream and peppercorns caused a wonderful taste explosion in my mouth!

My little experiment based on the escapades of a young, mischievous and tempting sultress may not have been as dramatic as the Queen of Egypt herself, but I think my little love potion of red velvet cupcakes, cream and pink peppercorns had a similar intoxicating effect on my Irish Valentine.

Happy Valentine’s day!

Red velvet fig cupcakes
1 packet of Ina Paarmans Red Velvet Cake Mixture + ingredients on the back of the pack
18 small ripe figs
250 ml fresh cream
5 ml vanilla essence
10 ml pink peppercorns

Preheat your oven to 190 °C. Follow the cake mixture instructions on the packet. Divide the dough into 18 small cupcake moulds. Place a ripe fig in each mould. Bake for 13 minutes or until cooked. Whip the cream and vanilla essence together and spoon on each cupcake. Round things off with a sprinkling of pink peppercorns.

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rainbow blueberry #cheesecake

rainbow blueberry #cheesecake

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I have always wanted to make this blueberry cheesecake from No-Bake baking, however I have always had a fear or should we rather say trepidation when it comes to working with gelatine and ended up never having the guts to make it. When my husband brought home some fresh berries for me the other day I decided to let go of my gelatine fear and surprise him with this most beautiful and delicious cheesecake.

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Blueberry cheesecake
(Recipe adapted from No-bake baking by Sharon Hearne-Smith)

Base
75g butter
200g digestive biscuits, finely crumbed
5 ml grounded cinnamon
30 ml castor sugar

Filling
600g cream cheese
175g caster sugar
200g crème fraîche
800 ml cream
20 ml lemon juice

Gelatine + Blue Berry puree
9 leaves of gelatine
375g blueberries

To serve
125 g fresh blueberries
A small handful fresh mint leaves

Prepare a 17.5 cm loose-bottomed cake tin (10cm deep) with wax paper. Mix all the crust ingredients together and press firmly into the base of the tin. Mix all ingredients for filling for five minutes in a cake mixer. Place in the refrigerator. Take three large mixing bowls and put three gelatine leaves in each bowl. Cover the gelatine leaves with water and soak for ten minutes. Pour the water off and squeeze the excess water out. Cook the blueberries with a tablespoon of water for five minutes. Blend in a liquidizer. Divide your warm blueberry puree as follows into the three bowls: Bowl 1-50g blueberry puree . Bowl 2 – 100g blueberry puree. Bowl 3 – 225g blueberry puree. Make sure the gelatine has dissolved in the puree. Take the filling from the refrigerator and divide equally into the three bowls. Mix well. Scoop the lightest color into your tin first, then the middle colour and finally the darkest color. Refrigerate for five hours or overnight to set. Serve with whipped cream, fresh blueberries and decorate with fresh mint leaves.

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#shanghai – food paradise

#shanghai – food paradise

These past few weeks I have taken somewhat of a respite from my ever-busy blogging exploits. But now with the body and mind rejuvenated after the festive break, I feel both rested and at peace and am enormously excited at the wonderful year that lies ahead. Yes, I am sure it will have its challenges, but think of the opportunities to be grasped, the friendships to be made and of course the many food adventures that beckon….!

Dim sum te kus en te keur

2015 started with the most awesome adventure… I travelled to the incredible city of Shanghai in China! What an amazing city and food culture. Spending two weeks in the East gave me a completely new perspective of this amazing world we live in. And the week that I spent with my hubby in Shanghai just blew me away. I have to admit this is the first time that I have been so overwhelmed, astounded and just simply in awe of a city – it left me speechless and so much richer for all the incredible experiences. Did you know there are more than 24 million people living in this one city? People, that is almost half the population of South Africa in one city! It is a bedazzling place, almost like a well-orchestrated ant’s nest. Everyone has a place to stay, everyone has a job they need to do…there seems to be some kind of military management of things that keeps everything running in its proper order.

Eendjies, eendjies, staan in 'n ry ...

Kluitjies (dumplings) vars op straat

Shanghai is a food paradise. I am sure you can imagine the amount of food and the variety of food that needs to be prepared to satisfy the tastes and stomachs of 24 million people. Street food or rather street buffets are BIG and fabulous and it would be difficult to find a stronger food culture than in China. The food is affordable, fabulous and fantastic – a festival of oriental flavours that enriches both body and soul…

Here are a few images for you to feast on …

A friendly street chef preparing delicious squid tentacles on a stick

A friendly street chef preparing delicious squid tentacles on a stick

Fried tofu in the making - food is always served with fresh spring onions

Fried tofu in the making – food is always served with fresh spring onions

Food is made with honesty and pride and the recipes are handed down from one generation to the next over thousands of years….

A street chef busy with Rick's favourite oriental breakfast - a pancake with egg and spring onion.  4 Yuan - about R8

A street chef busy with Rick’s favourite oriental breakfast – a pancake with egg and spring onion. 4 Yuan – about R8

Beautiful fresh green vegetables.

Beautiful fresh green vegetables.

Dim sum te kies en te keur

Soup dumpling with the most delicious warm soup inside that you drink with a straw

Soup dumpling with the most delicious warm soup inside that you drink with a straw

Dried fruit and nuts anyone?

Dried fruit and nuts anyone?

Rick with a caramel strawberry kebab

Rick with a caramel strawberry kebab

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lettuce wedges with blue cheese dressing | #salad

lettuce wedges with blue cheese dressing | #salad

This time of the year for me is all about fresh, fast and simple food. But also food that still make your taste buds go … Pow-Wow! This absolutely scrumptious salad was mentioned to me by Kokkedoor 2 Winner, Johnny Hamman and I decided to make my own blue cheese dressing. Well needless to say my husband orders it at least once a week from my kitchen. It is summery and just simply splendid! Give it a bash…it is wow!

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you can replace the sour cream with yogurt like i did here

for a healthier option | replace the sour cream with yogurt like i did here

Lettuce wedges with blue cheese dressing

1 large iceberg lettuce , cut into six wedges
125 ml sour cream
3 T mayonnaise
2 t dijon mustard
1 T white wine vinegar
50 g good blue or gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
micro herbs

Combine all the dressing ingredients then scoop generously over the lettuce slices and garnish with micro herbs.

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christmas baking frenzy

christmas baking frenzy

Let me be totally honest, I am not the best of a bakers however when December finally comes around I invariably find myself caught up in a pre-Christmas baking frenzy. There are baking tins everywhere with me measuring, beating, whisking and tasting. I do not think I am alone in this festive baking bedlam. Whether your preference is for ‘soetkoekies’, ginger biscuits, “ystervarkies” (lamingtons), Hertzoggies or just your regular oats biscuit – for better or for worse we are all participants in the annual, global cookie bake bonanza.

Dine's "Pon's ystervarkies"

Dine’s “Pon’s ystervarkies”

I chatted to Dine van Zyl, SA’s very own “boerekos” queen. Her favourite cookies at this time of year are “ystervarkies”. But these are not your traditional chocolate and coconut ‘ystervarkies” (lamingtons)but a delicious mix of dates and nuts rolled in cornflakes. Once prepped and baked, these enticing nibbles look like small porcupines (ystervarkies) that have just rolled in dried leaves and crept out from under a tree. To cute and such a treat…

It was her father’s favourite, and hence the name, “Pon ‘s ystervarkies”. These are utterly delicious and adorable! Thank you Dine.

“Pon’s Ystervarkies”
250g soft butter
½ cup sugar
1 egg
2 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1½ cup walnuts , chopped
½ cup dates, chopped
2 ½ cups cornflakes

Beat the butter and sugar and mix in the egg. Sift the flour and baking powder and fold it into the butter mixture. Add the nuts and dates and mix well. Take teaspoons full of the dough, roll these in corn flakes and place the cookies carefully on a baking tray – be cautious not to crush or break the cornflakes. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at 180ºC .

For the soetkoekies recipe click here.

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sunday christmas shopping at #stellenbosch slow market | @TheSlowMarket

sunday christmas shopping at #stellenbosch slow market | @TheSlowMarket

If you are still looking for something to do this coming Sunday (30 Nov) pop in at the annual Christmas Weekend Market at the Stellenbosch Slow Market. Christmas trimmings, Christmas lights, lanterns and slowflake orgami will pave the way for the ideal Christmas shopping experience. Bakes, cakes, gammon, chicken, mince pies, nuts, sparkling wine, topiaries, boutiques of ladies’ designer goods and other one of a kind gifts are just some of the fine foods, décor items and unique gifts available on Sunday.

Slowmarket Christmas-1

The Slow Market has teamed up with Public Benefit Organisation FORCE4GOOD (www.force4good.co.za), which will allow those attending to write their very own Christmas wish on a Christmas card – these cards will be displayed on a festive season tree (at a cost of R10 benefiting the organisation).

Slowmarket Christmas-50

DATE: Sunday, 30 November 2014
TIME: 10h00 – 15h00
VENUE: Stellenbosch Slow Market, Oude Libertas Estate, Stellenbosch
ADDRESS: Corner of Oude Libertas Road & Adam Tas Road, Stellenbosch
ENTRANCE: Free

Facebook (SlowMarket), Twitter (@TheSlowMarket), Instagram (SlowMarket) and Pinterest (SlowMarket)

Slowmarket Christmas-53

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grilled #nectarine salad

grilled #nectarine salad

Yesterday the sun was out, and I decided to make this most delicious grilled nectarine salad. The rocket and the edible flowers come out of my garden and seemed to be a perfect combination. In celebration of the onset of summer, I jazzed it up with a fennel dressing. Taste the summer season. Beautiful.
nectarine salad

Ingredients
3 medium yellow nectarines, halved with stone removed
1 T olive oil
1 t caster sugar
50 g baby rocket
4 bocconcini balls
Salt and pepper
Dressing
½ t salt
¼ t fennel seeds
¼ t chilli flakes
½ t finely grated lemon rind
2 T olive oil
1 T white balsamic vinegar
1 T lemon juice

Method
Combine salt, fennel seeds, chilli flakes and lemon rind in a snap-lock bag. Pound with a rolling pin until finely ground and fragrant (You can also use a pestle and mortar). Combine with the other dressing ingredients and set aside. Heat a griddle pan. Drizzle the cut side of the peach or nectarine with the olive oil. Sprinkle cut side with sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, cut-side down, for 3 minutes or until caramelised. Turn. Cook for 1 minute or until heated through. Transfer to a plate. Cut each of the fruits half in half. Set aside. Arrange rocket on a large plate. Tear each bocconcini ball into 2 pieces. Top rocket with the bocconcini balls. Top with the slices of griddled nectarine. Season with pepper. Whisk dressing and drizzle over the salad.

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test kitchen takes No. 1 spot again – #eatoutawards

test kitchen takes No. 1 spot again – #eatoutawards

Abigail Donnelly (Eat Out Editor) and Luke Dale-Roberts of The Test Kitchen

Abigail Donnelly (Eat Out Editor) and Luke Dale-Roberts of The Test Kitchen

I attended the Eat Out 2014 Restaurant Awards last evening. It was a massive event – more than 800 people in attendance…definitely too large an affair for my liking. This is a pity as this prestigious occasions seems to have lost its intimacy and charm. The food too disappointed but that did not deter of the excitement of the evening…

The Test Kitchen took the title of Best Restaurant – for the third time in a row! Congratulations Luke you are a well deserving winner.

The 2014 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants:

1. The Test Kitchen
2. Five Hundred
3. The Tasting Room LQF
4. Mosaic at The Orient
5. Jordan
6. Overture Restaurant
7. Rust en Vrede
8. DW Eleven-13
9. The Restaurant at Newton Johnson
10. Terroir

Other 2014 Award winners:

Eat Out S.Pellegrino Chef of the Year: Chantel Dartnall of Restaurant Mosaic
Best Steakhouse: The Local Grill in Parktown North
Best Everyday Eatery – Chef’s Warehouse
Best Italian Restaurant – La Sosta in Swellendam
Best Country-Style Restaurant – Café Bloom
Best Asian Restaurant – Kyoto Garden Sushi

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#cabbage + pancetta with peas and mint

#cabbage + pancetta with peas and mint

When people hear the word cabbage I often see them cringing – thinking of how they were forced to eat cabbage in school and varsity hostels. Even between kale, cauliflower and brussels sprouts it was often seen as the poor cousin of the vegetable. Today I have taken the often disregarded, humble cabbage and turned it into a five star dish.

cabbage pancetta
Cabbage + pancetta with peas and mint

250 g pancetta, cut into small blocks
350 g shredded cabbage
30 g butter
1 cup frozen peas, cooked for 2 minutes
6 mint leaves, chopped
Salt
Black pepper

Fry the pancetta in a non-stick pan (no butter or oil) until crispy and golden. Remove the pancetta and add the butter and cabbage to the same pan. Fry until cooked. Season the cabbage with salt and pepper. Add the peas. Taste again for seasoning. Add the mint and serve immediately … with love.

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the blue monster #cupcakes

the blue monster #cupcakes

monster cupcake
My four-year old niece Luka asked me to make a birthday cake for this year. This is not an easy task as she wants a Tinker Bell cake of all things. You see I am a cook but definitely not a cake baking or cake decorating person…. Baking for me is rather a tedious, scientific and boring affair as you have to follow the recipe 100% otherwise your recipe is going to flop – like most of my cakes I might add! And let it be known that when it comes to decorating I have two left hands.

So I had to make a plan somehow in order to get me started – I did not want to try my deal with Luka’s Tinker Bell cake first time around so I decided to make a simple Blue Monster cupcake to start with and in some way then prepare myself for the fairy monster ahead. Well, I had so much fun ….

Blue Monster Cupcakes
Ready-baked cupcakes
Buttercream icing
Cake food colouring # E133
Grass nozzle # 234 (ask for this at any cake decorating shop)
Piping bag
Eyes – you can buy them or make your own with white and black plastic icing
Mouth – chocolate chip cookies, broken in half

Mix the buttercream icing with a little blue food colouring until you get the real “monster” colour. Spread a thin layer of blue buttercream icing over the cupcake. Place the grass nozzle in your piping bag and fill-up ¾ with icing. Press the icing on top of the cupcake and then pull it up to get the effect of hair. Place the eyes and the mouth in place.

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warm #BLT salad with mozzarella + basil + red wine vinegar

warm #BLT salad with mozzarella + basil + red wine vinegar

This dish is inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who loves the combination of warm bacon, lettuce and tomatoes. I turned it into a salad by adding mozzarella, basil and vinegar. This is utterly delicious and with a good piece of bread makes a perfect meal for this in-between season time of year.

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Serves 4
Preparation and cooking time: 20 min

250 g bacon
1 T olive oil
400 g baby tomatoes, half some and keep some whole
3 gem lettuce heads, cut in half length-ways
1 T olive oil
2 T good red wine or sherry vinegar
150 g bocconcini (fresh mozzarella balls), torn into pieces
Handful of fresh basil
Maldon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and fry the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Set aside and keep warm. Put the tomato and lettuce in a bowl, add the other tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss together. Add the lettuce and tomatoes into the bacon pan and fry for about 5 minutes until the lettuce halves are wilted and browned and the tomatoes are warmed through. Add the bacon and the two tablespoons of the vinegar for the last minute or two. Turn everything onto a flat salad dish – add the mozzarella and basil. Sprinkle with a bit more of the vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

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