Tag Archives: thyme

french onion soup

french onion soup

french onion soup

The other day I read that Viresh Maharaj, CEO of Sanlam Employee Benefits: Client Solutions said, “if the middle class was a country it would be relegated to junk status.” Phew, this is startling, he goes on to say that 46,46% of the people who participated in Sanlam’s Annual Benchmark Survey, could not meet their financial commitments. Naturally, this causes considerable financial stress…and I have to tell you I feel that pain too.

To what can this be attributed, I ask? Should we blame Zuma because he showed Pravin the door? Actually, we have only ourselves to blame for the simple reason that we to often choose to live beyond our means. Short-term debt such as credit cards, motor payments and personal loans is the very source of this financial stress. Sigh.

I too decided to investigate why my credit card was going through the roof – and it was easy to see why. A convenience store such as Woolworths is eating away at my credit card. I just want to buy a bag of tomatoes, but fifteen minutes later, I have R600 worth of groceries! Times this by four and again by twelve and that’s R4 800 debit on your credit card over a 12 month period!
Just like that. #MoreStress.

With the onions being plentiful, my Irishman whipped up a wonderful French Onion soup. Low carb and all. The rich flavours of the onion soup were rounded off with a cabbage and parmesan crouton. Talk about innovation.

If there ever was a time to tighten the belt and take responsibility for your financial future, that time is now. Being more economical with your grocery purchases does not mean you have to go hungry – just be smart with your money. If you are wise you can still eat like a king – and with less financial stress you will be able to sleep better and live better.

French onion soup with cabbage and parmesan crouton
(serves 6)
30 ml olive oil
50 g (55 ml) butter
1.3 kg onions, cut into rings
handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked
6 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 bay leaf
1.3 chicken stock
salt
black pepper
Cabbage and parmesan crouton
60 g cabbage, finely sliced
60 g parmesan, grated

Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion, thyme, garlic and bay leaf and stir well until covered in oil and butter. Reduce heat and cook for 25-30 minutes with lid on. Stir occasionally. Add the stock and season with salt and pepper. Without lid simmer for 25 minutes. Heat oven to 180 °C. Divide the cabbage into six individually buttered ramekins and place the parmesan on each. Bake for 20 minutes or until brown on top. Ladle soup into soup bowls. Carefully take the crouton out of the ramekin (I used a spoon) and place on top of soup. Serve immediately.

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cabbage sexy? i say yes! = roasted savoy cabbage salad

cabbage sexy? i say yes! = roasted savoy cabbage salad

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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. But the Savoy cabbage is the sexy cabbage – she is so petite and beautiful – in looks + colour + flavour. And when you treat this evocative and sultry lady with the respect and love she deserves – she will be the star of the night and your dining table.

roasted savoy cabbage salad

I served this as a starter for my friends and eventually the people were quite perturbed that there was no more of the sexy Savoy left for seconds….. The crispy leaves of this baby cabbage combine with the thyme gives it a unique flavour and taste. Once you have added the walnuts and the dressing to the mix…. well this little foxy Savoy revs-up a notch, setting-off somewhat of a flavour explosion in your mouth. It’s extremely easy, sassy and delicious – give it a try this winter!

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cabbage sexy? i say yes! = roasted savoy cabbage salad
 
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Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 Baby Savoy cabbages
  • 3T Olive oil
  • 2T Fresh thyme – leaves picked
  • 80g Walnuts
  • Dressing
  • 2T Red wine vinegar
  • 2t Sugar
  • 3t Parmesan cheese – finely grated [you can also omit it here and just add shavings on top of your dish]
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Add the thyme to the olive oil and heat for two to three minutes allowing for the thyme to infuse.
  3. Pull the cabbage apart so you are left with just the leaves.
  4. Sprinkle with olive oil – make sure that you rub each leave with your hands to make sure each leaf attracts some of the flavour of the thyme.
  5. Roast in preheated oven for 15 minutes – or till crisp.
  6. After cooked add the walnuts to the pan and just leave in the oven for two minutes for the walnuts to warm-up.
  7. Salad dressing - Mix all the ingredients together
  8. To serve - Sprinkle the combined cabbage and walnuts with dressing and toss salad to cover all the leaves. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and tuck in and enjoy!

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italian ramen – chicken soup for the soul

italian ramen – chicken soup for the soul

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“The Italian Ramen is a delicious cross-cultural take on chicken soup. The angel hair pasta represents Italy; the soft-boiled egg and chile oil evoke Japan” – Food & Wine

Italian Ramen – I have this lovely American colleague that started working with me this year and she reports to me what she cooked the night before (and I of course report to her :-)) and sometimes she brings along a small tester portion for me to taste. The American’s name is Madeleine. I needed to clarify that because I have another American in my life that I love dearly – she is another talented foodie and I will talk about her at a later stage.

So one morning Madeleine brought this delicious chicken based soup to the office – an Italian Ramen. It just blew me away – the chicken broth was so intense and just perfectly infused with the herbs. The chicken was cooked to perfection and the crunchy carrots added a wonderful sweetness and texture to the dish. Madeleine sent me a link to this specific recipe on Food & Wine’s website and I decided to make it – this is not a dish you want to fiddle with – It is perfect as is. It takes about 3.5 hours to make but its well worth doing it.
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This soup is served with a beautiful soft boiled egg – the traditional Ramen way … the egg compliments the dish but does not steal the limelight from the perfect chicken broth and succulent fleshiness of the white chicken meat.

So here is a quick guide to boiling the perfect soft boil egg:
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil add the eggs and cook for 5 minutes. While the eggs are boiling fill another large bowl with cold water. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to the bowl of cold water for 2 minutes. Crack the shells and peel the eggs.

Italian Ramen - chicken soup for the soul

 

italian ramen - chicken soup for the soul
 
Prep time
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Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • For the broth
  • 1.3kg Chicken, cut into quarters
  • 2 White skinned onions, quartered
  • 4 Large carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 4 Celery sticks, cut into large chunks
  • 4 Thyme sprigs
  • 2 Rosemary sprigs
  • 2 Basil sprigs
  • Salt
  • Other ingredients
  • 2 Carrots cut into fine matchsticks
  • 6 Large soft boiled eggs
  • 500g Angel hair pasta
  • Chilli oil
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Few basil leaves to garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 260°C. Arrange the chicken in a roasting pan and roast until the skin is lightly browned – for +- 20 – 30 minutes.
  2. Transfer the chicken and any juices to a soup pot. Add the onions, carrot chunks, celery and herb sprigs. Add 3.8L of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the chicken is cooked, about 30 minutes.
  3. Using tongs, remove the chicken from the broth and let cool slightly.
  4. Remove the meat from the bones and pull into shreds; discard the skin.
  5. Return the bones to the pot and simmer until the broth is reduced to 8 cups, about 1½ hours.
  6. Strain the broth, discard the solids and skim off the fat. Season the broth with salt and keep warm.
  7. Return the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain and divide the pasta between 6 large soup bowls.
  8. Top with the shredded chicken, carrot matchsticks and soft-boiled eggs.
  9. Ladle the hot broth on top, add some chillie oil and garnish with basil leaves and serve hot.

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zingy warm mushroom and three cheese sandwich = decadent + delicious winter sandwich

zingy warm mushroom and three cheese sandwich = decadent + delicious winter sandwich

three cheese mushroom sandwich

If you want to watch me making this sandwich … click here.

This is just a really delicious winter sandwich that will send your taste buds into somewhat of a happy twirl. This is definitely not for someone on a strict diet but it will definitely impress all your friends and loved ones. I used three of my favourite soft cheeses – Boursin (my ultimate!!), some blue cheese and normal cream cheese. What gives this sandwich somewhat of an edge is the fact that the cheese fillings are at room temperature and the luscious mushrooms are somewhat zingy, warm and juicy. The important element in preparing this sandwich is the preparation of the mushrooms.

three cheese mushroom sandwich

Here are a few tips for frying mushrooms:
1. You need to add oil and butter to your non-stick pan – the butter adds that buttery, nutty flavour to the woody flavour of the mushrooms.
2. The pan must be smoking hot – if your pan is not hot enough the mushrooms will become soggy.
3. If you are cooking a lot of mushrooms – it is a good idea to cook them in batches.
4. Season your mushrooms while frying – for me the salt and pepper get etched into the delicious graininess of the mushrooms
5. Lemon and parsley always elevate the taste of the mushroom – try it.

three cheese mushroom sandwich

 

zingy warm mushroom + three cheese sandwich = decadent + delicious winter sandwich
 
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Author:
Serves: 3
Ingredients
  • 6 Slices of bread
  • Butter
  • 1 Packet of micro leaves
  • Mushrooms
  • 300g Mushrooms
  • 1T Olive oil
  • 1T Butter
  • 1T Fresh thyme –leaves picked
  • Pinch of chilli powder
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • A generous squeeze of lemon juice (from ½ lemon or more)
  • 5g Chopped parsley
  • Cheese filling
  • (cheeses must be at room temperature)
  • 3T Cream cheese
  • 3T Boursin cheese
  • 3T Blue cheese
Instructions
  1. Prepare the cheese filling first by mixing all ingredients.
  2. Butter one slice of the bread very lightly. Divide the cheese fillings into three and add to the other side of the bread.
  3. Then prepare your mushrooms: Cook the mushrooms + thyme in the olive oil and butter in a very hot pan – season with salt and black pepper. Do not let the mushrooms become soggy; they should be a beautiful nutty and brown colour. At the end at the chilli powder, a big squeeze of lemon juice and chopped parsley.
  4. Add your mushrooms to the cheese filling side of your sandwich, top it with the delicious micro burst leaves and top with the other slice of bread. YUM!

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chicken + chorizo paella

chicken + chorizo paella

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A few weeks ago I was invited to meet Jose and Lisa Gomez owners of Perfect Paella … and all I can say of that night is that the Spanish truly love their Paella, they really know how to throw the best parties and boy can they dance! Just so you know Perfect Paella is selling the most amazing paella pans (and very affordable too) and even give cooking classes if you want to really learn from the Masters.

But for me the paella is one of those dishes that I think has become victim to its own success and modern day popularity – hence the reason why it has so many different interpretations or variation. Now my question today is – to chorizo or not to chorizo? A purist friend of mine said to me he heard that you traditionally don’t use chorizo in paella! This caught me completely off-guard – for one, I have always cooked my own paellas with chorizo and I honestly thought that it is the way to do it! I had to immediately ask one of my best friends Louis who lives near Valentia: would I be defiling an ancient and respected recipe by including chorizo in the paella or not?

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Within 5 minutes of my email, Louis responded as follows: “Nella… NO chorizo if you want traditional paella…my mother-in-law would turn in her grave. The paella with chorizo is more for tourists in Spain and in the South of Spain (Andalucia) . If you throw anything in then it’s just a rice ensemble and not a paella.”

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So there you have it folks – in Spain they don’t use chorizo in a real Paella … But now … I am not a purist or a traditionalist so I love chorizo and love adding it to paella. So my paella is probably a rice concoction of sort in Spanish terms but for me it’s a damn good paella. I also steered well away from the tradition by substituting the wine with some South African “Nagmaalwyn”. My paella is also on the blonder side (not yellow) – another note to self – I need to stock up on some fresh saffron. It was one of the most soulful paellas I have yet to taste – try it and let me know …

 

Paella

chicken + chorizo paella
 
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Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 800g Chicken pieces – I take each piece and cleave it into two pieces
  • 2 Chorizo sausages – sliced (+-250g)
  • 2T Olive oil
  • Marinade
  • 2 Garlic cloves - grated
  • 1t Black pepper
  • 1t Salt
  • 50ml Olive Oil
  • 50 ml Nagmaalwyn (Sherry)
  • Other Ingredients
  • 2T Olive oil
  • 3 Garlic cloves – sliced thinly
  • 1 Red pepper – cut into blocks
  • 1 Handful of fresh origanum (or replace with ½t dried origanum)
  • 5 Sprigs of fresh thyme (I use the whole sprigs)
  • 1t Smoked paprika (I did not have smoked paprika so I used normal paprika and added 6 drops of liquid smoke to my stock)
  • 1 Big pinch of saffron - soaked in a little bit of water
  • 50ml Nagmaalwyn
  • 500g Paella rice
  • 1.75L Chicken stock
Instructions
  1. Marinade - Mix all the marinade ingredients together and marinade the chicken for about ½ hour.
  2. Fry the chicken with the chorizo on medium to high heat until nice and brown.
  3. Take out of the pan and add all the rest of the ingredients except the Nagmaalwyn, rice and stock.
  4. Fry for about 5 minutes and then add the Nagmaalwyn to deglaze the pan. Scrape all the beautiful fried pieces from the bottom of the pan.
  5. Then pack the pieces of chicken in the pan – so they are spread evenly and add the sliced chorizo.
  6. Now add ½ of the stock to the pan and then the rice. Make sure all the rice is submerged in the stock.
  7. At this stage you don’t fiddle with the paella – don’t touch it with a spoon, ladle or anything. Cook over medium heat. When the paella looks dry add the rest of the stock and cook till done – about 40 minutes.
  8. Pour yourself a glass of good wine, rope in a few hungry friends and enjoy the flavours and the moment.

 

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pork sausages + lemony thyme mushrooms plus how to cook the perfect pork sausage

pork sausages + lemony thyme mushrooms plus how to cook the perfect pork sausage

Pork Sausage and Mushrooms

We all love pork sausages – it’s one of my husband’s ultimate favourite things to eat. The frustrating thing about pork sausages is that although they have this thick casing around them, they generally burst open … furthermore all the juicy flavours and brownness from the pan stays on the skin. For those that are like me … we generally tend to rip the skin off and set it to one side – and there goes the flavour with the skin! Well I have now worked out how to perfectly fry a sausage without it breaking or bursting or skin and with loads of flavour – I want to share this with you today … it will change your entire outlook on pork bangers!

1. Firstly add the sausages to a pan with a little water – about a cup of water for 6 sausages – put the lid on the pan and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Then put the sausages into cold water and take the casings off.
3. Now put some butter and olive oil in a pan, add the sausages and fry till golden brown – perfect!

I decided to serve these porkies with lovely mushrooms, thyme and lemon. The lemon cuts through the richness and its perfect just with a piece of bread on the side. Enjoy!

Pork Sausage

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Mushrooms

pork sausages + lemony thyme mushrooms
 
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Author:
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • For sausages
  • 6 Pork Sausages
  • +- Cup of water
  • 20g Butter
  • 1T Olive oil
  • For mushrooms
  • 400g Mushrooms sliced – I love a variety of different mushrooms
  • 30g Butter
  • 1T Olive oil
  • Handful of fresh thyme
  • 1 Lemon
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
Instructions
  1. Cooking the sausages - Add the sausages to a pan with water – put the lid on and simmer for 10 minutes. Then put into cold water to cool it down - remove the casings. Now put the butter and olive oil in a pan, add the sausages and fry till golden brown and perfect!
  2. Cooking the mushrooms - Add half the butter, oil, mushrooms and thyme in a very hot pan. Season with the salt and pepper and fry till golden brown. Do the same with the next batch. Squeeze the lemon juice over the mushrooms when done.
  3. To serve - Put the mushrooms in a serving dish and add the sausages – serve with some fresh bread.

 

 

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wheat + mushroom + thyme = delizioso risotto

wheat + mushroom + thyme = delizioso risotto

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I love wheat….and I love Italians. I am fascinated by the way Italians eat and the way they cook – it is the simplicity and the flavours, their history and the la famiglia. I grew up with wheat on our table and have always loved the earthy crunchiness of wheat, its healthy and nutritious in so many forms, its cheap and then of course it is also grown just around the corner from us in Malmesbury. What got me thinking about Italians and wheat was a fabulous foodie get-together with #chicksthatchow (see below)* at the Italian restaurant, Zibaldone. It was a spectacular feast of Italian cuisine and the kind of atmosphere that makes a South African like me feel part of the greater La Famiglia…

What stole my heart and took my gastronomic spirit on a wheat journey was the lamb tortellini with creamed pearl barley. Out of my endless curiosity when it comes to food, I had to explore wheat as a risotto ingredient. I went back to Jamie’s basic risotto recipe that I use every time I make risotto and tweaked it somewhat by replacing the risotto rice with wheat and added some martini and mascarpone cheese. It is so delicious and crunchy. It has such a proud and distinctive nutty undertone of flavour and can be enjoyed as a main meal or accompany any beef or lamb dish.

*About #chicksthatchow: we are a group of “taste, tipple and tweet” women who celebrate life, happiness and all things good over a serving of fabulous food and a glass or two of the best pressed grapes whenever or wherever the mood or the menu may take us. #chicksthatchow was founded by the inspiring and enchanting Errieda du Toit, aka @huiskok and now the presiding President of #chicksthatchow.

Divertiti…!

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wheat + mushroom + thyme risotto
 
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Author:
Serves: 3
Ingredients
  • 1 Cup of wheat – pre-cooked for 25 minutes without salt in the water
  • 1T Olive oil
  • 1 T Butter
  • 1 Medium onion – finely chopped
  • 1 Celery stick – finely chopped
  • 2 Cloves garlic – grated
  • 60ml Martini Bianco
  • 450 ml Stock of your choice
  • 40g Grated parmesan
  • 2 Generous tablespoons of mascarpone cheese
  • For mushrooms
  • 500g Mushrooms – any sort – thinly sliced
  • 2T Olive oil
  • 2T Butter
  • 2T Fresh thyme –leaves picked
  • 2 Cloves garlic – grated
  • Pinch of chilli powder
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Big squeeze of lemon juice
  • 30g Chopped parsley
Instructions
  1. Prepare the mushrooms first: Cook the mushrooms, thyme and garlic in the olive oil and butter in batches in a very hot pan – season each batch with salt and black pepper. Do not let the mushrooms become soggy; they should be a beautiful nutty and brown colour.
  2. When cooked add the chilli powder, a squeeze of lemon juice and the chopped parsley and then set aside.
  3. Melt the butter over medium heat in a pot and add the olive oil.
  4. Add the onion and celery and fry for about 5 minutes till translucent.
  5. Add the garlic and let it fry for another few minutes then add the cooked wheat. Slowly fry the wheat for a minute or two.
  6. Add the Martini – and stir till the martini has evapourated.
  7. Now start adding the stock ladle by ladle – allow each ladle to be absorbed by your ingredients in the pot before you add the next one.
  8. Continue until all stock has been added to the saucepan. Remember… your wheat needs to stay moist and creamy.
  9. Now add the mushrooms – give it a good stir.
  10. Then add the parmesan and mascarpone.
  11. Taste for seasoning – it is not normally necessary to add salt – but I always give it an extra pinch of black pepper.
  12. Serve with beautiful fresh Italian bread and a glass of good red wine.

 

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ostrich fillet + red wine + king oyster mushrooms + beetroot blocks

ostrich fillet + red wine + king oyster mushrooms + beetroot blocks

ostrich fillet + red wine + king oyster mushrooms + beetroot blocks
Today, I need to tell you about my little weekend adventure … the Ultimate Braai Challenge… This past Saturday my friend Joani and I took part in the Western Cape auditions for the Ultimate Braai Challenge. This turned out to be one of the best foodie experiences of my life – the 100 crazy teams, the ‘gees”, the organizers, the judges were just amazing and Justin Bonello is such a fabulous guy and so down to earth! Kudu’s go to all the organizers, the sponsors and everyone that took part both young and old. I was really gob-smacked by all the different people that took part – their liveliness, their spirit and what passion we South Africans have! I realised once again – we LOVE a braai! I cannot wait for this show to start – I really think it is going to take SA by storm!!

But let me get back to what food we presented to the judges – our main course was braaied Ostrich fillet in a red wine and mushroom jus with beetroot blocks – all done on the braai. One of the judges told us that this specific dish was the best dish he had tasted on the day. So I thought I would share this recipe with you. For sure you can do this on the stove as well but for those of you who are adventurous why not also try this on the braai…? Serve this with buttery, mustardy, crushed new potatoes. If you are not so much an ostrich steak fan you can always swap this with a cut of beef or even kudu fillet. Do not forget to enjoy this with a good glass of red wine …

Happy Braaiing … remember where there’s smoke … there is a braai!

ostrich fillet + red wine + king oyster mushrooms + beetroot blocks
 
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Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • For steak
  • 4 x 200g Ostrich Fillet
  • 1Tablespoon cooking oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • For the Jus
  • 15 g butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ½ large onion, cut in quarters and parted
  • 3 king oyster mushrooms, cut in 3x lengthwise
  • 4 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 Tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or finely chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • Big pinch of black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups of red wine
  • 1 Cup chicken stock (it is ok to use stock cubes diluted in water as per instruction)
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 teaspoons of brown sugar
  • 20 g butter
  • For beetroot blocks
  • 250g cooked beetroot cut into 1cm x 1cm cubes
Instructions
  1. Add the oil and butter to a pot then add the onion – caramalise the onions over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  2. Onions need to have that beautiful honey colour.
  3. Add the mushrooms, thyme, rosemary and the salt and pepper. Fry for a further 10 minutes. I love to hear the snap-crackle-pop of the thyme!
  4. Add the red wine and garlic and de-glaze the pan.
  5. Then add the chicken stock and the tomato paste. Simmer till half the amount is left. This is important - it needs to be a thickish sauce consistency.
  6. Add the rest of the butter and let it melt. Taste and season.
  7. Sieve through a fine sieve and add the beetroot blocks. Set aside.
  8. Keep the big onion pieces and oyster mushrooms aside – discard the thyme and rosemary.
  9. Heat the oil in the pan and fry the ostrich according to your taste – medium rare for me. Season meat to your taste.
  10. Add the onions and mushrooms (that you used in the jus) and fry these with the steak.
  11. Take the steak out of the frying pan to rest (let it rest for least 8 minutes) and add the red wine jus to the steak juices in the pan.
  12. To serve: Put the steak on a plate – add some onion pieces and giant oyster mushroom on top. Then pour some jus at the bottom of the plate. Dress with a few blocks of beetroot around the steak.

 

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