Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Isa's Food Addiction: Oliva Bar & Restaurant Review

Isa's Food Addiction: Oliva Bar & Restaurant Review: "Food: Spanish and Italian Tapas, Mediterranean. Wine: Almost non-existent (2 wines). Not licensed (at the time of visit). Service: ..."

Oliva Bar & Restaurant Review

Food: Spanish and Italian Tapas, Mediterranean.
Wine: Almost non-existent (2 wines). Not licensed (at the time of visit).
Service: Average.
Ambiance: Classic but relaxed.
In a Nutshell: Very limited Food Menu and only 2 choices of wine (both non South African). No card payment facilities. Nothing dazzling about it, except for the Wednesday Soprano Shows. Too little choice and too much trouble for a dinner out in my opinion, so I didn't even stay to try it.
City: Johannesburg, South Africa
Address: 178 Oxford Road (Cnr Corlett Dr). Illovo, Sandton.
Tel: 011 025 5225

As you may already know my husband and I are avid food enthusiasts, so when we see a new restaurant opening we seek the opportunity to give it a taste. We live nearby Oliva Bar & Restaurant on Oxford Rd, so when we saw it open we were eager to go and try it. So, one good day came when we took a break to go out for a nice meal and hastily made our way to Oliva, who was to say though that we were in for a disappointment. As we were coming in we were told there were no card payment facilities (strictly cash), eager to give the restaurant a chance, we tried to make a plan and my husband went to draw money. I sat down to look at the menu only to find an extremely limited food selection out of which 3 dishes were cold meats and some of the others were pickles. Trying to keep our spirits up and convincing ourselves that they must have put the best of their repertoire up on the menu, we decided to continue on. We then asked for the Wine List and were told by an insecure waitress that they only had one red and one white, as they had no license yet. I trust the readers may excuse my criticism, but this was it for me, I mean, I'm sorry but you don't call your place "Bar & Restaurant" and then open without a license, it's a completely deceiving sign hanging above the entrance! 

When I go to a restaurant I want to be dazzled by the food and wine options, but found nothing dazzling there! Apparently they do have a nice and surprising performance on Wednesdays, but the place didn't cut it for me. With all such de-motivation, we just walked out of the place feeling disappointed and headed once again for our neighborhood favorite! To be fair, we didn't even get to try the food and see whether it was worth the trouble, but I honestly didn't feel like letting trouble be part of our Friday dinner out was worthwhile in the first place. If you do try it, please let me know how it went!

Love, iSa

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Are Gastrocrats Bad News for True Food Lovers?

Wow! This Article is really something. I would also save for months just to have a taste of the world's most heavenly delicacies, but $3000 sounds like a bit much, specially for those of us who really love the food but can't really afford to compete with the bottomless pockets of some others. But I guess there aren't enough (at least not advertised enough) places with exceptionally outstanding gastronomy for all of us to visit, hence the demand is so high that they can pretty much set the price they feel like, they'll still be packed! Love, iSa Are Gastrocrats Bad News for True Food Lovers?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Isa's Food Addiction: Chicken Bredie Curry - Cape Malay Curry

Isa's Food Addiction: Chicken Bredie Curry - Cape Malay Curry: "Signature Dish by iSa Type: Malay, Indian, South African. Excellent in Winter, dazzling guests and eating in!

Chicken Bredie Curry - Cape Malay Curry

Signature Dish by iSa
Type: Malay, Indian, South African
Prep Time: 20 min
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Servings: 2-4 (depending on portion size)

Picture by smh.com.au
  • 4 Chicken thighs
  • 3-4 peeled and chopped ripe tomatoes (depending on size)
  • 1 green or brown onion
  • 1 garlic clove (mid size)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 finely chopped Cayene chili or 1 tsp Powder Cayenne pepper (this can be adjusted to heat taste)
  • 1 tsp Cumin (Jeera) Seeds + 1 tsp Coriander (Dhania) seeds crushed in a mortar
  • 1 tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp Curry powder
  • 2 heaped tbsp of Apricot Jam
  • 2 tbsp BBQ sauce (optional)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (or half a chicken stock cube)
  • Fresh Coriander
  • Chopped Mixed Vegetables (your choice! I usually use a combination of some of these: courgettes, red, green and yellow peppers, red onion, butternut...)
  • 2 cups couscous
  • 400 ml Water approx.
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
Note 1: Please don't be overwhelmed by the amount of ingredients, once you've got all these basic Indian spices you can do plenty of different meals with them. 
Note 2: Fresh tomatoes and onion and can be replaced for this dish with 1 can of tomato & onion mix.

This recipe, as you can see, is a bit of a mix, I basically took in my very basic knowledge of Indian Curry with what I learnt during a leisurely South African Cooking class on Cape Malay Bredie and threw in a few flavor twisters in between. The choice of couscous came because this mix reminded me a bit of North african flavors and simply because my husband loves couscous, I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did!

How to make Chicken Bredie Curry: Heat a heavy bottom pan at low to medium heat. Drizzle with Vegetable oil (about 2 tbsp) and toss in the Cumin and Coriander seeds (stir and fry for 1 min), then the rest of the Curry spices (Chili, Turmeric, Curry) and stir for another min, then add the garlic, ginger and onion. Stir for about 2 min and then keep in medium heat, add the chicken pieces and fry a bit until slightly browned (add more oil if needed). Put in the chicken stock, apricot jam and BBQ sauce, stir and allow to cook for a few minutes , then put in the tomatoes with some water, salt and pepper to taste and allow to cook for at least 30 min (so that the chicken comes out juicy and tender). Finish off with some coriander leaves and serve on top of the couscous in a deep plate. Make sure to be generous with the Curry jus.

How to make Vegetable Couscous:  Place the two cups of dry couscous in a bowl with a bit of salt. Pour enough boiling water to just about cover the couscous and allow to sit for 5 min. In the meantime heat a sauté pan to medium heat and add a drizzle of Olive Oil and the Butter, toss in the chopped veggies and sautee according to their cooking time, 3-5 min approx (some vegetables may need to be pre-cooked), season with salt and pepper. Stir the couscous with a fork until the grains have aired and separated, then stir in the veggies and serve with the Chicken Bredie Curry or any Curry of your choice on top.

Love, iSa

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ajiaco Santafereño - Colombian Recipe

Colombian Typical Meals
Type: Colombian food (adapted for overseas cooking)
Prep Time: 30 min
Cooking Time: 2.5 - 3 hours
Servings: 7
Picture by CBU
  • 3 Yellow or White Corn on the cob
  • 4 Chicken Breasts (bone and skin removed)
  • 4 Large Potatoes (white, red and yellow or a combination depending on the ones available)
  • 4 thick Spring onions or a full bunch (depending on the thickness)
  • 3/4 of a bunch of Coriander 
  • 3 cup of chicken stock or 1-2 chicken stock cube (please use the best possible stock at hand)
  • 1 Knorr or Maggi Ajiaco Soup packet (only available in Colombia - I buy as much as I can every time I travel to Colombia)
  • Single or Double Cream
  • Capers (chopped coarsely)
  • Avocado
  • Salted White Rice
Place the chicken stock and enough water to complete 1 liter of liquid to boil in a large cooking pot and put it on high heat while you prep the potatoes and the corn. Peel the potatoes, cut two of them in half and then chopped coarsely, then thickly grate the other two. Place all the potatoes, once prepared, in the pot. Now peel the leaves and strings out of the corn and cut in 2 or 3 pieces, depending on the portion sizes you prefer, and place in the pot (bear in mind you have to be careful when doing this as you can easily get hurt by a sliding knife. I cut them by placing the cob at the tip of the knife and then pressing the knife down while rolling the cob under, by the time the cob reaches the knife handle it's usually split in 2!). Chop the coriander and the Spring onion finely and proceed to place 3/4 of the total into the pot, the rest you can reserve for adding to the pot shortly before serving. 

Allow the pot to boil for about 30 min, and then place into the pot the chicken breasts whole. Lower the heat to medium and continue to boil, stirring occasionally (every few minutes) until the soup starts to take consistency and the chicken is tender, this should take from 1.5 to 2 hours. Take out the chicken from the boiling soup and it should be so tender that you hardly need to slice it to get slim strips, slice and place back in the pot. Add the remainder of the onion and coriander. At this stage, open the Ajiaco Soup packet (brought from Colombia) and mix into 1 cup of cold water), once dissolved stir into the soup and allow to simmer for about 10 min, stirring frequently. Your Ajiaco style soup is ready!!! Serve on a nice soup dish or bowl with a dollop of cream and a sprinkle of capers, accompanied by a serving of white rice and a nice big slice of ripe Avocado just sprinkled with Salt. Alternatively, place the capers and cream on the table so your guests can help themselves to their liking. 

Note: Please note that this is a Colombian Soup and the original recipe has been heavily adapted so that you can manage to pull it off while living in another country as this soup is originally made with several varieties of potato and a herb called "guasca" which are difficult to find even in neighboring countries. Hence, I buy the packet soup to give the base soup that unmistakable Ajiaco flavor. You'll be able to find these soup packets depending on where you live, if in the US, Spain or Latin American countries, you're almost sure to have a "Colombian" grocery store around; if in South Africa, I don't buy other than for my own use, but could make sure to include some extra ones for you in my next trip! 

Love, iSa

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Salmon, Avo and Creme Fraiche Pizza

Quick and Easy Meals by iSa
Type: Contemporary
Servings: 2 (4 Slices per person)

  • 100 gr Smoked Salmon Ribbons
  • 1/2 avocado
  • Creme Fraiche
  • Fresh Chives
  • Fresh Italian Seasoning herbs
  • 150 gr Grated Mozzarella Cheese
  • 3 Tbs Napolitano Sauce
  • 1 Quality Pizza Base 
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper

I'm not going to pretend that I know how to make the dough for the pizza base, because I don't. I'll leave that to the experts and rather concentrate in layering with some style and taste some top notch ingredients on top of this base for the most heavenly pizza. We have several preferences in toppings and this is one of our favorites, you can't go wrong with this mix, it's just meant to come together!

Preheat the oven at around 300 degrees F. Prepare the Pizza pan by sprinkling it with some Olive oil, then place the Pizza Base on top. Spoon in the Napolitano sauce, you can make it at home by simmering some onions (or shallots), fresh garlic, fresh Basil, Oregano and Tomatoes and seasoning it with some salt, sugar and pepper. Alternatively, you can do what I do when I'm tired and in search for a quick but good substitute, I go to Woolies and seek out the Herb and Tomato Pasta Sauce - good and effortless. Spread around 3 tbs of the sauce onto the base and sprinkle with some chopped fresh italian herbs (Basil, Oregano and Parsley) and some powdered Cayenne pepper, for a bit of a kick. Layer the cheese on top, followed by he chives and stick into the oven. leave for around 8 min and check if its all melted and has started to bubble, then turn on the grill and allow it to brown the top of the pizza for about 5 min, keep an eye on it though because it can quickly turn a nicely golden pizza, into a charcoal. 

Bring out the pizza and cut into 8 slices. After this proceed to place the Salmon ribbons on top of the slices by splitting them as equally as possible in a presentable manner. Then slice the avocado and decorate with one portion for each slice, topping up with a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkle of Cayenne Pepper (if you want to make it extra special, you can even top it with some Black caviar). Sprinkle with Parmesan or Pecorino for serving, and enjoy!!!!!!! 

PS - 1. Please Excuse the pic, I better stop taking the pic with my BB!
PS - 2. If you do know how to make the pizza base I'd really appreciate your recipe and tips for it! I'll definitely try it some time.