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pears baked with amaretto

‘It is, in my view, the duty of an apple to be crisp and crunchable, but a pear should have such a texture as leads to silent consumption’.  ~Edward Bunyard


‘There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat’.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I tend to agree that pears have a very limited ‘window of consumption opportunity’, and as a result I prefer them cooked. That way they pretty much always taste good.

Peel, quarter and de-cor about 4 pears (or however many you need). Place in a small oven proof baking dish with a lid.  Pour over the Amaretto (I used about 80ml (1/3 of a cup) for 4 pears.  Sprinkle over 2 Tbsp brown sugar.  Mix a bit and then pop into a hot or moderate oven (180 – 200 degrees) for about 10 minutes.  Serve with vanilla ice cream, pouring the sauce over and then sprinkle over a generous amount of toasted flaked almonds.

warm pears in lovely amaretto sauce with vanilla ice cream

I love hot and cold together and soft and crunchy, and with this recipe, the pears are warm, sweet and soft, the ice cream is cold and the nuts are crunchy.  So perfect.


zesty warm green bean salad

i love green beans

Green beans are one of my favourite vegetables.  It’s a toss up between, courgettes, green beans and asparagus…..I love to do them like this (aprox 350gm) – so simple and so delicious.

Blanch the beans for a few minutes in boiling water (3 max).  Strain and then pour over a good gulp of olive oil, add the zest of a whole lemon, juice of half a lemon, a good sprinkle of Maldon salt and some freshly ground black pepper.

This is delicious as is, as a side dish with so many things. Eat it warm or cold.

Add a finely chopped red onion and toss around a bit.  The red from the onion turns the dressing a lovely pink colour.

sprinkle on finely chopped red onion

lovely pink dressing


fantastic fish pie – jamie oliver

jamie oliver's very fabulous fish pie

The search is over, this is THE best fish pie ever.  I first ate it at bookclub when Meags made it.  Its from JO’s second book and in the Nov 09 edition of BBC good food mag its included in an article as one of his favourite recipes of the last decade. I have tweaked the recipe to accomodate standard South African pack sizes (how nice is that?).


  • 5 large spuds peeled and diced (about 3 cm)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 free range eggs (leave out if you don’t like)
  • 2 handfuls spinach (I used 1 x 200gms packet of baby spinach)
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 carrot chopped / diced (small)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 250ml cream (recipe says 285ml double cream)
  • 2 good handfuls grated parmesan or cheddar cheese (I used a local and delicious parmesan style cheese)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 heaped tsp english mustard (I used 2 teaspoons Dijon)
  • 1 large handful flat leafed parsley, finely chopped
  • 500 gm smoked haddock sliced into strips and then chopped into biggish chunks (I used the folded fillets bought frozen then thawed). You could use any nice firm white fish – cod, hake, kingklip etc.  I think salmon could also work – or a mix of salmon and white fish.
  • nutmeg (optional) – I didn’t use, I’m weary of nutmeg since my overdose in the nineties which left me hallucinating and ill for 48 hours –thats a loong and very funny story

how to make:

  • pre heat oven to 230 degrees c
  • I then chopped all the things, juiced the lemon and got everything ready to cook
  • boil pots in salted water for a couple of minutes
  • add the 2 eggs and set timer for 8 minutes and add to the spuds.  remove when ready and cool, peel and cut into quarters
  • place a colander or sieve over the boiling potatoes and empty the spinach in, put the lid on and steam for about 2 minutes (how convenient). Remove and drain.
  • when spuds are cooked drain in the colander
  • in a separate pan fry the onion and carrot for about 5 minutes in the olive oil then add the cream and bring to the boil
  • remove from the heat, add the cheese, lemon juice, parsley and mustard
  • put the spinach (which you have squeezed and chopped up), the chopped up fish and eggs into an appropriately sized oven dish and mix together 
  • pour over the cream mixture
  • mash up the potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and then spread over the fish pie using a fork
  • you could drizzle a bit more oil or melted butter over the top to get a browner finish.  You could also sprinkle over some more cheese if you really wanted to be decadent and get some more crunch
  • bake for about 25 – 30 mins – until golden

The recipe serves 6, but between the 4 of us we manged to scrape and lick every last morsel of this delicious pie. My friend John had 3 helpings (he is a slim élite athlete so thats ok).  I served this with JO’s recommendation of some warmed baked beans in tom sauce …(really this does add so much value) and my zesty warm green bean salad.

Do not pass go, do not worry about the calories, go straight into the kitchen and make this. Yumalicious.

(note to self – for future possible changes and options, add prawns, mix in some salmon with the white fish, possibly celery etc)

A big heap of pie and beans

bubbling over the edge


oreo truffle balls


I was sent the link to this recipe last year and it looked quite interesting.  Decided to try these out. It’s from the USA so I have no idea on the pack size in the recipe but used a SA pack (16 x Oreo’s) and used 100gms of cream cheese (this felt like enough). You will then need enough chocolate to dip these into – about 200gms. 

Whizz the cookies through a food processor until you get fine crumbs. Add the cream cheese and mix until it all comes together in a big ball.  Roll the mixture out into small balls and place on wax paper on a baking tray and chill in the fridge or freezer.  Melt the chocolate over a pot of boiling water and then allow it to cool for about 15 minutes. 

Oreo crumbs mixed with the cream cheese to form a ball

rolled out little balls ready for chilling and dipping

 I dipped the balls into the chocolate with a spoon and then placed them on a cooling rack over a baking tray, I found this easier than using a skewer. They firmed up in the fridge. 


 Well these are not quite as fantastic as expected.  They stick to the palette a bit and I think a fun thing for kids to make.  If I ever made these or anything like them again, I would definitely do a more ‘grown up’ version and add some liqueur.  I think Cointreau, Baily’s or Kahlua would work well.  They definitely needed a bit of a kick (for me). 

all dipped


porcini and shiitake mushroom risotto

I found some local dried porcini  in Pick n Pay and was given a few spectacular shittake mushrooms by La Perla so thought I must make a little risotto.

The best way to make risotto is with a glass of wine in one hand and wooden spoon in the other and a good friend keeping you company while you stir.

This recipe will feed four comfortably, I halved it and made a portion for two.


  • 400gms arborio rice (about 100gms per person)
  • 20gms dried porcini mushrooms
  • 125ml (half a cup) white wine
  • about 150gms of shiitake mushrooms chopped (more or less)
  • 2 litres of stock (about 500ml per 100gms of rice)
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • a handful of grated parmesan or pecorino
  • chopped parsley (optional)
  • a good knob of butter and then another one for the end

how to make:

  • soak the dried porcini in about a cup of boiling water and allow to  rehydrate for about 5 – 10 minutes, reserving the liquid to form part of the stock
  • make the stock incorporating the porcini water.Try and use the best possible stock you can find, homemade is best.  I used a Thelma chicken stock  which I quite like, but if you can get your hands on mushroom stock this is also very nice.  The lack of a decent commercially available stock in South Africa is an ongoing irritation and I always buy up on trips overseas.
  • melt the butter in a heavy bottom pan / or pot and fry the onion for a few minutes until soft.
  • add the chopped up mushrooms (chop the rehydrated porcini quite fine) and fry  for a few minutes until cooked.
  • add the rice and stir through for a few minutes (this toasts the rice slightly giving it a  nice nutty flavour)

onions, mushrooms and rice combined before adding the liquid

  • add the white wine and allow it to be completely absorbed
  • add a ladle of hot stock at a time and stir continuously until its absorbed. Repeat this process until the risotto is cooked through but still al dente.
  • when ready, remove form the heat and stir in another knob of butter (I used some porcini butter), the chopped parsley and the parmesan cheese
  • allow to rest for about  two minutes then serve.

risotto and paremesan, stir through and serve

A little ramble about shiitake mushrooms….and something I didn’t know.  The Shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes) is the first mushroom to have been cultivated by humans and originates from the Chinese province of Qingyuan.  The traditional method of growing Shiitakes is from a grafted wood log.  It’s quite a painstaking process where the log from an oak (or in Japan the shii tree)  is inoculated with mycelium.  The farmer then has to wait two to four years for the mycellium to spread sufficiently to produce mushrooms.  This log will then go on to produce mushrooms for up to  six years.

The modern techniques for producing shiitake have reduced the gap from inoculation to fruiting to seven weeks and its the second most important mushroom crop in the world.  Up until a few years ago shiitake mushrooms were not available in South Africa, so its really wonderful to find them more or less quite easily.


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