Archive | cook books

cooked – out of the frying pan

I am a fan of Justin Bonello and his TV series.  I particularly enjoyed his first ‘Cooked’.  It was raw and original with excellent prodcution values that showcased the splendid beauty of South Africa all intermingled with his unpretentious cooking style.

I have his first book which focuses heavily on the ‘bush cook’ in Justin. Its kind of the best of the series (at the time) and whilst I am never going to dangle a leg of lamb over open coals as he does, it makes for some good reading.  Most of the recipes in ‘Cooked in Africa’ are fairly simple but remind us of the good things in life.  Like the great outdoors, hanging out with friends around a fire, having a laugh and enjoying fresh, local food. I particularly loved his 11 ways with oysters, the tom yum goong risotto, amarula and chocolate creme brulee and his breakfast cups. I am also desperate to make a dustbin pizza oven, just lacking in the ‘man’ power required for that.  So that is currently on hold and until such time.

His latest book ‘Out of the frying pan’ is all about his journey through 13 restaurant kitchens and the chefs he meets along the way.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching this series and found the exposure to the inside workings of these admirable professional kitchens quite inspiring. It kind of brought back memories of my time as a chef trainee many, many years ago.

Justin steps into these difficult environments, exposes his vulnerablitly and lack of formal training to learn from each experience. I love his reflections back on the time he spent and his ‘take outs’ in each chapter.

The recipes are a mix of very ‘cheffy’ higher grade stuff and some more accessible ones that once again remind us of all the good things attached to sharing food and developing friendships around it.  Warm fuzzy feelings all round.

The highlights of the show for me were the 7 African women he met and cooked with from ‘Gold’. The gentle and strong atmosphere that exists in this ‘all women’ kitchen was so perfectly captured.

I loved the peaceful and quite untypically frantic temperament of chef Geoffrey Murray from Zachary’s at Pezula in Knysna. I was completely blown away by the way he operates his kitchen. I cannot wait to eat there.

I found seeing the absolutely minute kitchen operation on the Blue train quite fascinating. I enjoyed the ‘drool’ factor of watching Michael Broughton in action from Terroir and thought the energy that Justin had with chef Tullishe le Roux from Lourensford Estate was so much fun.

His time at Hartford House was probably the most inspiring for me food wise.  Jackie Cameron has a style of cooking which I adore and her daily menu changing is super impressive. Having been there it was a lovely trip down memory lane.

As too was his stint at the Lindt chocolate studio with chocolatier, Dimo Simatos who taught me on a wonderful 2 day ‘Petit Gateaux’ course.

I realised (yet again) that I’m probably never going to attempt dim sum, and will rather try and track down where its been perfectly made and eat it there.

This book is Justin’s documentation of the TV series and everything he learns on the way.


book review: franschhoek food by myrna robins

I was so delighted when I was given this beautiful cook book for Christmas.  I had been eying it out a for a while.

Its a collection of recipes from 18 restaurants from one of the culinary hot spots of South Africa. It tracks the development of this small Boland town over the past 25 years and is a wonderful trip down memory lane for me.  It was roughly 25 years ago when I fell in love with the valley, and in those days there weren’t many options in terms of restaurants. We would just picnic along the banks of the river.

I’m a cook book junkie and find it very hard to choose amongst the abundance that is available on an ongoing basis.  I want so many of them. I also have a very large library of cook books, so have to be a bit particular about what I look for in a new one.  I have vowed to curtail my cookbook addiction, and to use more of the ones I already own, so getting a new one is a real treat.

As a cook, I want the cook book to be of a level that will challenge me. I want the recipes to offer something a bit different and innovative. I need to be inspired.

As a food stylist and visually orientated person, I absolutely insist that the book has pictures.

Generally I tend to like cook books written by chefs for inspiration and then cook out of books by foodies.

Franschhoek food offers all of this for me.  It captures the essence of 18 superb restaurants (a few of which are amongst my favourites), with a few recipes from each. There are stunning picture of the restaurants, of the valley and of the food.

Some of the recipes are simple, whilst others are of a restaurant level. I love it when I page through and find so many that I want to make.

I love the look of:

  • The filled lamb loin and white chocolate spring rolls from Haute Cabriere (Mathew Gordon)
  • The salmon and prawn Yakitori from The Salmon Bar (Judy Sendzul)
  • The parmesan crisps and spring vegetable and nettle risotto from Le Quartier Francais (Margot Janse)
  • The blue cheese tart and waterblommetjie soufle from La Brasserie and La Fromagerie (Melize Oliphant)
  • The camembert gateaux from La Prtit Ferme (Tammy van Zyl)
  • The feta and dried tomato focaccia (I have already made this on the course) and the double chocolate chip cookies from Bread & Wine (Neil Jewell)
  • The bouillabaisse and oyster tempura from Bouillabaisse (Camil Haas)
  • The fruit, nut and seed loaf from La Residence (Liz Biden – owner)
  • The chicken pie from Kalfi’s (Sandra van Zyl)
  • The sweetocorn soup with truffle popcorn from Reubens (Reuben Riffel)

I have a lot of cooking to do.

Franshhoek food is a lovely tribute to a very beautiful culinary corner of South Africa.


baked bananas with passion fruit and minty creme fraiche

baked bananas with passion fruit, honey and orange juice served with minty creme fraiche

This recipe is taken from ‘The 30 minute cook’ by Nigel Slater, who is one of the cook book writers I regularly refer back to, and his books are the ones that I regularly cook from.

His food is real.  No wonder he called his first book ‘Real fast food’ and a later book just ‘Real food’.

In the 30 Minute cook, he has compiled an eclectic mix of recipes from Europe, Asia, north Africa and the Middle East. I find them inspiring, accessible and downright tasty.

And, like all good cook books it includes some stunning close up ‘food porn’ images that always has the food as the hero and are high on the drool factor.

Now bananas are a polarising fruit, you either love them or you hate them. I have three good friends who loath them with such a passion, they consider it torturous to be anywhere near a peeled one, let alone be in the same room. I suspect its a textural thing that causes this adverse reaction, followed by the smell and then the taste.

I fall into the former category and am very fond of this fruit. It’s character and texture change when baked which is why I love this recipe.

What you will need to make per portion, extrapolate up as required:

  • 1 banana
  • a drizzle of honey
  • juice of half an orange
  • 1 passion fruit / granadilla
  • creme fraiche and finely chopped fresh mint

*Nigel also included a little lemon juice, but I find it acidic enough with the orange juice and the passion fruit

How to make: (and so very simple it is)

  • pre heat the oven to 180 C
  • place each banana in a piece of foil or baking paper and fold up the sides to make a ‘boat’
  • drizzle over the honey, add the orange juice and half of the pulp of the granadilla (reserving the other half for later)
  • fold and seal each foil pouch and place on a baking tray and bake forfor 15 minutes (his instructions are 20 minutes at 200C, but when I tried this it annihilated the banana to a mound of hot mush)
  • you can either serve the hot pouches sealed to each person as he suggests, handing out the remaining half a passion fruit to be scooped over as it is opened. Alternatively serve out the pouch and in a dish with the minty creme fraiche on the side.

The smell of this dessert as you open the pouch is indeed exquisite and its flavour is intense and tropical.

I made this for my friend Lori who suggested it needed some creme fraiche and mint to compliment the acidity and sweetness. What a beautiful accompaniment it was.

These parcels could be cooked on a braai (barbeque), making a very low maintenance dessert and ideal for camping.

*PS: Kim, Mands and Laurence (and any of you other banana haters out there), this recipe is not for you.

bake in foil or paper to lock in the tropical fruit flavours

loads of juice and flavour


perfect peanut butter cookies

peanut butter cookies

I inherited the book ‘The Joy of Cooking’ by Irma Rombauer from my mother who in turn had inherited it from her mother. The book was first published in the USA in 1931 and my copy is the 1952 edition.

my copy of the joy of cooking

I have never made anything from it, but have read bits and pieces and use it more as a reference book. I am however rather emotionaly attached to it. It makes me feel like I have a little piece of my mom on my bookshelf.

I stumbled across this recipe on Jun Belen’s fabulous blog and discovered its origin is off the ‘Joy kitchen blog’, which is the online home of the Joy of cooking.  I was immediately intrigued and thrilled to discover.

I have also fairly recently fallen in deep like with peanut butter and developed a really nice peanut butter shortbread recipe a while ago. Peanut butter and biscuits are a perfect marriage.

I looked the recipe up in my copy and found it had been ‘starred’ by my mom, which created added excitement.

I wrote the recipe down and left off the 1/2 a cup of brown sugar erroneously so mine were not too sweet, but they baked up perfectly though.

This is what you need to make:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup butter (113g)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

how to make:

  • pre heat the oven to 180 C (375 F)
  • beat the butter and sugar together until creamy
  • add the egg and beat some more
  • add the peanut butter and vanilla extract and beat
  • sift the flour, baking soda and salt and add to the batter
  • mix briefly until the dough comes together
  • roll the dough into small balls about 1 inch (3 cm’s), place on a lined baking sheet and press down with a fork (in one direction as I did, or in two directions to get a criss cross effect)
  • bake for about 10 to 15 minutes until a light golden brown
  • remove and allow to cool on a cooling rack

Jun sandwiched his together with home made dulce deleche which would be totally awesome.  Have a look at his recipe here.

These really are just perfect peanut butter cookies and terribly easy to make.  Lori you will love! Next time I may add some extra chopped up roasted peanuts to give a bit more crunch.

Based on this success, I’m keen to check out and try out more recipes from ‘The Joy of Cooking’.

soft and crumbly

light and golden and rather delicious

*NB – read all the comments below before trying these out. There are people who have not had success with this recipe and others that absolutely love it. I do not know why. This is the recipe I took off the Joy of  Baking website at the time. This recipe has been removed from that site subsequently.

The recipe above is now the original recipe exactly from the book and I have re tested these based on this recipe. They came out really well.


cool food for hot chics: the cookbook

cool food for hot chicks

I hauled this book out of my much loved  ‘library’ yesterday and find that revisiting the books  sort of helps with my cook book addiction issues. I need to be reminded that  these ones (and there are a lot) should be used a bit more before I go and buy all those others I’m desperate to acquire.

When asked what I want for my birthday or christmas, I remind people that I love cook books.  There is often the retort ‘but you have so many’. Well yes, I have so many because I like so many. And then I get another scarf.

Anyway this is a novel approach to a cook book.  It’s a collection of recipes covering any occasion (or almost) that a women may find herself in. It was given to me many years ago.

It’s divided into chapters according to the occasion, and offers accessible but yet tasty recipe solutions for these.

Like: ‘Entertaining Adonis’ (my personal favourite).  The old adage ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’, well all I can say is I’m still working on that one.  Men like steak, so this chapter is all about making steak and how to impress.

Then there is: ‘Girls just want to have brunch’. With recipes like crab cakes, stuffed french toast, camembert quesadillas with papaya salsa and guacamole and blueberry pancakes.  I thought a few tasty ideas here.

There’s a chapter on nibbles and on how to be the dinner party diva where the focus is on pre preparation so you are not locked up in the kitchen when the guests arrive.

Then there is a chapter on all the diet stuff, of course, and another favourite on tea and sympathy. “There is something particularly comforting about consoling yourself with food. Whether you are feeling the strain of too much partying, miserable because he’s calling all the shots or just plain fed up, eating comfort food can instantly ease the pain.’. Gosh now isn’t this sounding very familiar?  Recipes here like: mushrooms on toast, chicken and leek pie, chocolate chip cookies, brownies and pea and bacon risotto.

There are some nice midweek supper ideas for the working girl, a collection of drinks options and lots of puddings.

Gwyneth Paltrow has submitted a recipe for marinated grilled swordfish. Kate Winslet on Salmon Teriyaki style, and Nigella her calvados syllabub. Just to give it a bit of X factor.

This book is not higher grade stuff and there are no pictures, but perfect for a beginner cook or a fun bit of girly inspiration.

PS: I hope my family are reading this, no more scarves. Please!

my much loved cook book library


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