Spaghetti Bolognaise

I often make a bolognaise sauce, which I use in many recipes, including pancakes and lasagne. You can opt for a vegetarian bolognaise sauce and replace the beef mince with lentils, which lends the sauce a more nutty flavour and is also high in protein and low in carbs.  This recipe includes spaghetti, which is of course high in carbs, but I absolutely love pasta and the fresh Mediterranean tastes associated with Italian food.

My bolognaise recipe has been developed over years- it started based on my mom’s recipe, but has grown to include friends’ recipes based on what their mothers or grans used to do.  This is my fail safe recipe and is my boyfriend’s favourite type of food. The trick for me lies in how long I cook the bolognaise sauce (the longer the better!), and the addition of red wine. This is a rich, meaty sauce that is filled with fresh flavours and can be served with pasta or rice, or used for lasagne or cannelloni.

This recipe gives four large portions:

1 brown onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

400 grams lean beef mince

50 grams diced, smoked bacon

1 carrot, finely grated

1 tin tomato paste (70 grams)

1 can cherry tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes

1/2 cup wine

3/4 cup water

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon fresh, finely chopped basil

1 tablespoon fresh, chopped parsley

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat a dash of olive oil in a large pot over moderate heat.  Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 5-8 minutes. Add the bacon and brown.  Now add the mince and brown.  Add the tomato paste and carrot and mix well. Add the canned tomato, wine, water and oregano.  Turn down the heat and simmer for approximately 40 minutes to an hour or until most of the fluid has reduced and thickened. Add all of the fresh herbs and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for another 5 minutes and remove from the heat.

Prepare pasta of your choice according to the instructions and serve with the bolognaise sauce and a fresh green salad on the side. The spaghetti bolognaise featured here was also served with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Basil potato gnocchi with roasted exotic tomatoes

I got very excited last week about the Woolworths Exotic tomatoes that I found at my local Woolworths Food.  Not only were they incredibly pretty, but tasty as well.  I used them in my Mixed Tomato, basil and pea garden salad, which was very popular, and decided that they would also be perfect for #meatfreemonday. So, with little further ado, here is my recipe for potato gnocchi with roasted exotic tomatoes.

This recipe gives 3-4 portions:

Potato gnocchi:

3 medium to large potatoes, cooked and skins removed

1 scant cup flour, sifted

1 egg

Salt to taste

Once the potatoes are cooled, mash it very finely but do not use a blender. Add the egg and salt and mix well with a spoon.  Add the flour to the potato mixture and gently mix through (you do not want to over mix in order to keep the gnocchi light and fluffy). Once the flour has been incorporated, remove a handful, and gently role it into a sausage shape on a lightly floured surface.  Cut 1 cm pieces off the potato sausage (they should be shaped like little pillows), and lightly press with a fork.  Once you have made all the gnocchi, bring a pot of water to boil on the stove and add the gnocchi to the boiling water. As soon as the gnocchi floats to the surface, they are ready and can be removed with a slotted spoon and place in a colander in order to drain any excess water.  Set aside.

Roasted tomatoes:

1 green tomato (a specific type of tomato, not an unripe red tomato), cut into wedges

2 pink tomato, cut into wedges and halved

handful vine-ripened tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsuis.  Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a roasting tray.  Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes or until done.  Remove for the oven and set aside.

Dish assembly:

2 tablespoons fresh, finely chopped basil

1 tablespoon olive oil

cooked gnocchi

roasted tomatoes

Heat a dash of olive oil in a pan.  Add the gnocchi, and fry for 3-5 minutes. Add the basil and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Remove form the heat, and add the tomatoes. Toss lightly and serve. I served my gnocchi with freshly grated parmesan.

Mixed tomato, basil and pea garden salad

O, Woolworths, how I love thee! I went to Woolworths Food this past weekend in search of something (I can’t even remember what!) when I discovered boxes and boxes of the most beautiful, mixed tomatoes.  I love tomatoes-they form the base of most salads and sauces and are so versatile that they can be served up from anything like a sweet jam to a savoury sauce or tart.

You can thus imagine my joy at purchasing a box of vine-ripened tomatoes, tiger-stripe tomatoes and yellow, green and pink tomatoes, each perfectly shaped and flawless. I immediately decided to continue celebrating summer with a tomato, basil and pea salad, with fresh mixed lettuce and basil from my garden. The end result was delicious- the sweetness of the tomato was complimented very well with the fresh basil (one of my favourite combinations) and off set by the acidity of the balsamic vinegar.

This recipe gives 3-4 large portions:

1 cup frozen peas, blanched and cooled

a large bunch of lettuce such as Boston, Romaine, Green and Red leaf lettuce

1/4 cucumber, thinly sliced and halved

1 cup, quartered or halved Tiger stripe and vine ripened tomatoes, tossed in salt and allowed to rest for 15 minutes

5-6 leafs fresh basil, finely chopped

3-4 sprigs chives, finely chopped

Parmesan shavings for garnish

Basil vinaigrette:

50 ml extra virgin olive oil

50 ml good quality balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons, fresh, finely chopped basil

Arrange the lettuce in a large bowl and add the peas and cucumber.  Poor off any water that formed after tossing the tomatoes with salt, and add to the lettuce. Add the chives and basil, and toss lightly.  Add the parmesan shavings and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

Cumin lentils and honey pumpkin salad

At the last moment last night, we decided to braai.  There wasn’t a lot in the fridge or cupboard to make up a side dish (it being almost the end of the month).  That, for me, is the perfect challenge and a great opportunity to be creative. I mentioned in a previous post that I have a lot of frozen Hubbard squash in my freezer (one Hubbard and two people means at least 4X 500 grams frozen portions of squash that takes a while to work through).  Some lentils, and beautiful baby Swiss chard from my garden plus a basil vinaigrette as well as the squash does make the salad!

A perfect companion to grilled mustard pepper steak, or as a meal on its own. This salad really stole the show and can easily serve four.

3/4 cup brown lentils, cooked

1 tablespoon roughly grounded cumin

1 tablespoon roughly ground coriander

2 tablespoons olive oil

350-400 grams cubed cooked squash

2 tablespoons heated, runny honey

8-10 leafs baby spinach/ Swiss chard

Parmesan slivers and chives for garnish

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Place the cooked, cubed squash in a greased baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and honey.  Flavour with salt and pepper to taste. Grill for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Remove for the oven, and allow to cool.

In the meantime, heat a dash of oil over moderate heat.  Add the cumin and coriander and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the lentils and fry for another 5-8 minutes. Remove from the stove, and allow to cool.

Basil vinaigrette:

50 ml olive

50 ml balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

5 ml white wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

2-3 tablespoons fresh, chopped basil

Mix all the ingredients together, and whisk well.

Assembly of the salad:

Rinse the baby spinach/chard and place in a salad bowl. Add the cooled pumpkin and lentils and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Toss lightly and serve immediately.

Potato rösti with rocket, tomato and a dollop of basil mayonaisse

It is meat-free Monday and lunch time! I have been craving potato rösti for a while now, but I have to admit that it is the one thing that I have had very little success with. Which is quite ridiculous as it seems so easy in all the recipes I have found. My potatoes are usually to watery, or to dry, doesn’t keep shape, stays raw or turns to mush. I have tried parboiled potato, mashed potato, raw potatoes, and the good ol’ raw potato and onion mix.  My boyfriend also gave it a go last week, but with little success either. Thus I set myself the challenge of attempting the perfect, golden potato rosti again, and with lunch being on the line I really did put in the effort!

It balanced perfectly with the acidity of the tomato, pepperyness of the rocket and creaminess of the mayo. It turned out to be a really tasty and easy lunch, even if I have to say so myself!

I used one potato for 4 röstis (which should serve 2 for a very light lunch, or 1 for a more proper lunch).

Potato rösti:

1 potato grated,

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

2 teaspoons cake flour

1 sprig spring onion, finely sliced

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablspoons cooking oil for frying

Squeeze the water out of the grated potato, and mix with the spring onion in a mixing bowl. Add the melted butter, salt and pepper and mix through. Lastly add the flour, mix well and form patty shapes with your hands. Heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat, and add the potato röstis. Fry for 5-8 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Dry on a paper kitchen towel, and serve warm with a slice of tomato, shredded rocket and a dollop of mayonnaise mixed with basil pesto.

Cumin chickpeas and aubergine with cous cous

Another chickpea recipe!  In a previous post, I mentioned how versatile chickpeas are. And how very underrated!  Chickpeas, like aubergine (eggplant) tend to soak up the tastes around them, and as I couldn’t quite decide what I felt like for dinner, this is what I came up with.  I started off with typical Moroccan flavours for the chickpeas, which meant frying them in olive oil with cumin, chilli and coriander, when I discovered one lost aubergine in the fridge.  I added the aubergine, then balanced the flavours with canned cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and parsley. The result?  A fresh, well-balanced, satisfying meal with a hint of chilli!

This recipe gives 4 portions:

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked for 6-8 hours, rinsed and cooked for another hour.

1 medium aubergine, cut into cubes (no need to salt beforehand if the aubergine is fresh and firm), skin on

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2-3 chillies (depending on taste)

1 brown onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed or very finely chopped

5-6 leafs fresh basil, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh, chopped coriander

2 tablespoons fresh, chopped parsley

1 can cherry tomatoes

cous cous, made according to manufacturer’s instructions

Heat a dash of olive oil in a pan over moderate heat.  Sauté the chopped onion, garlic and chilli for 5 minutes, before adding the chickpeas. Fry for another 5 minutes, add the aubergine cubes, and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato, place a lid on the pan and allow to reduce for approximately 20 minutes or until most of the fluid has evaporated. Add the basil and parsley, as well as salt and course black pepper to taste and set aside. Prepare the cous cous in a separate pot according to the instructions on the box.  Serve the cumin chickpeas and aubergine hot on a bed of cous cous and garnish with fresh parsley. Dinner in 30 minutes!

Bolognaise, feta and rocket pizza

Who does not like pizza?  This is one of my favourite weekend recipes- the bolognaise sauce can simmer and reduce until just right, whilst the home-made pizza dough rise leisurely in the window sill. I aim to use Italian flavours for the bolognaise  just because both pizza and bolognaise are of Italian origin. This also gives me the opportunity to nip back some of my herb plants which encourages new growth.

This is definitely not a low-fat recipe, but, as mentioned in earlier posts, I reduce the amount of sugar and preservatives found in bottled tomato sauce and frozen pizza basis, by rather making my own.  I know precisely what goes into everything that the pizza is made up of, and can make whole wheat or gluten-free pizza basis by replacing the cake flour that I use in this recipe with either whole-wheat or gluten-free flour, which is readily available at health shops these days. You can also of course not add cheese at the end and create a lactose-free pizza, but I honestly don’t know what a pizza without cheese is. This recipe gives approximately three pizzas.

For the base:

1 1/2 cup flour

150 ml luke warm water

5 grams (1/2 sachet) instant yeast

10 ml sugar

pinch salt

45 ml olive oil

Add your flour and salt to a mixing bowl (no need to sift), and make a well in the middle of the flour. Add the olive oil. In a separate measuring jug, add the yeast and sugar and 150 ml lukewarm water.  Mix and leave for 5 minutes until frothy. Add to the flour, and start kneading. The more you knead the softer the dough will become. Knead for 5-10 minutes until your dough feels silky and everything has come together. You should be able to press the dough lightly with your finger and see it return to shape slightly. Rub with a drop or two olive oil (which prevents it to crack and dry when rising) and cover with a damp cloth. Place somewhere warm and sunny and allow to rise for 1 hour. Roll out on a surface that is slightly covered with flour and shape accordingly.

For the bolognaise sauce:

200 gram lean mince

1 brown onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped

1 tin tomato paste

1 can whole peeled tomatoes or cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

salt and black pepper to taste

Heat a dash of olive oil over moderate heat in a pan. Brown the onion and garlic, and add the mince. Brown the mince, then add the tomato paste and canned tomato. I rinse my cans (for recycling) with 40-50 ml water, and add that to the sauce as well. Allow to simmer gently for 20-30 minutes until reduced. Add the parsley, basil, and oregano, mix well and set aside to cool.

For the pizza:

Prepared pizza base (above)

Prepared bolognaise sauce (above)

1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced

5-6 button mushrooms, thinly sliced

2-3 cups grated mozzarella cheese

1 wheel feta, crumbled

handful fresh shredded rocket

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. There is no need for a tomato base as it is already included in the bolognaise sauce. To assemble the pizza I first cover the base with the bolognaise sauce, followed by the peppers and mushrooms. Lastly I cover everything in cheese and feta, and bake in the oven until golden and bubbling. The pizza crust should be golden and crisp. Once the pizza is out of the oven, add shredded rocket to serve. Bon apetit!

Spinach, basil and mushroom stir fry

Another one of my favourite blank-canvas recipes!  Anything goes with a stir fry, and this recipe encompasses all of my favourites-fresh, colourful and flavoursome.  I had some left-over steak that I used for this stir fry, but chicken or beef strips will work just as well, whilst keeping it meat-free might work even better.

Although I am incredibly privileged to life in South Africa with our vast, open space, beautiful beaches and stunning Mediterranean climate, I envy Europeans with their fresh food markets and abundance of fresh produce without ever having to visit a mall or retail outlet.  I am specifically remembering the Great Market Hall in Budapest today, where local producers sells the most amazing, colourful variety of fresh produce and a little outdoor market in Kiel, Germany, where you can buy home-made cheeses, juicy fresh berries, and home-baked German brotchen.

In South Africa, we have the Food Lover’s market, but this is just another retailer and is often based or associated with another shopping mall. We do have smaller farmer markets over weekends, and although you can buy food and craft-beer in abundance, it is not often that you can buy fresh fruit or veggies.  As an alternative, I have started growing my own veggies (tomatoes, spinach, basil,  coriander,chilli ect,) and I am very happy to announce that this is the first meal largely comprised from what grows in my own garden!

This recipe give 3 large portions:

8-10 medium sized spinach leaves, stems included, finely chopped

1 brown onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, julienne

1/2 red pepper, finely sliced

7-8 basil leaves, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh coriander, finely chopped

2-3 chillies, finely chopped (optional and to taste!)

2 tablespoons olive oil

5-6 button mushrooms, sliced

100-200 grams egg noodles, prepared according to packet instructions

2-3 tablespoons soya sauce (salty, so add to taste)

Left-over steak, chicken breast strip or meat of you choice if you wish to include meat. As mentioned earlier, I had 100 grams of left-over steak that I cut into thin strips and added at the end

Prepare you egg noodles according to instruction and set aside.  Heat oil in a pan over high heat, add the onion and fry for 5 minutes. Now add the carrot and allow to fry for another 5 minutes, before adding the spinach (yes, stems included if you use fresh, young spinach leaves!) and red pepper.  Stirfry for another 5 minutes, add the herbs and mushrooms and stir fry for another 5 minutes or until the veggies are al dente. I like to keep my veggies crisp and towards the fresher side.  I added my beef strips at the end to heat it through. Remove from heat.

In a separate pan heat 2 tablespoons olive oil, add the noodles and stirfry for 5 minutes. Add the soya sauce, mix through, stir fry another 5 minutes and remove from the heat. Serve the stir fry on a bed of noodles and enjoy!  A quick, easy and fresh dinner (that also makes good leftovers!).