Thursday, July 30, 2015

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Che Argentine Grill

WHERE: 303 fox street, maboneng precinct. Johannesburg.
TEL: 011 614 0264
TYPE: Argentinian fare

A beautiful saturday afternoon spent in Maboneng in the company of great friends whilst eating great food!

I have to say that they had me since the market with the stunning Chimichurri, that's where you can taste the authenticity of their flavour. But then, the restaurant came and I tried their chorizo, served with a parsley sauce, chimichurri and a tomato salsa for a perfect balance.

I had been looking forward to the opening of their restaurant and to my great pleasure I was not disappointed. Both times I have been there, I've seen the hands-on owners around and about, ensuring things are going smoothly and people are happy with their food.
The first time, we went for a friend's  birthday dinner where the food was served in wooden chopping boards  and shared by all, and while I love the idea of sharing... I did want to have a whole plate of Bife (Rib Eye) just  to myself! So we decided to come back and have our own plate each, and this was our experience.
We came in for lunch early, so we got the first order in. With the sun shining through the windows into this farm-stall-like space,  that's made to feel cozy, especially when the chimichurri first made its appearance next to a little basket of bread, to get us started. The empanadas soon followed, with the chicken and beef variants quickly making it to the favourites list... and of course the Chorizo...!  Too small a plate in my opinion, because it's just THAT good. The only thing missing for us at this stage was some good chili sauce,  because even though we don't eat a lot of chili in most places in South America, my hubby and I have certainly gotten used to a nice 'bite' whilst in South Africa.
When we ordered the mains, the pork belly came with a warning: "watch out, it is a fatty pork cut"... and our response: "...and that's why we love it!". Apparently someone did not take well to the concept of a fatty cut previously, but that's why you have to know what you're getting  into, right?

I had a lovely rib eye steak served with the same sides as the chorizo, even though the menu didn't  let on that it came with anything, which is why I also ordered a side salad, something I don't  regret as it was divine: rocket, sundried tomatoes, goats cheese and balsamic vinegar. My friend ordered a side caesar salad, which I wouldn't  recommend until they improve the dressing to carry more anchovies and less mustard.
We all liked our meals and I loved the place, our waitress and the ambiance, it was just something else.
On our previous visit I had been enticed to try the Alfajor ice cream, which I had been looking forward to since, but didn't  get to try as the owner took someone's  unfeathered criticism perhaps too harshly and it came off the menu! Either way, my petition for its return is in and I hope they will reconsider...

Go for curiosity or whatever the case, open up your tastebuds and enjoy!



Sunday, July 26, 2015

Envueltos colombianos de mazorca (Steamed corn parcels)

500gr Fresh corn dough (Azteca products Midrand)
4 sweetcorns (with their wrapping leaves)
3 tbps butter
250gr mozarella cheese grated
3 tbps sugar or fructose
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt or to taste
100gr bocadillo (see recipe here)
Cut corn kernels from the cob and place in food processor, let the blade run until the kernels have blended in well, you can use some of the milk to aid this process. Do not dispose of corn cobs, you will also use these!

Melt the butter in a small container in the microwave, melts in about 15 seconds and let it cool.
Beat two eggs, add the corn mix, cheese, salt, sugar, precooked corn dough, butter and the rest of the milk. Now, wash your hands properly and then stick them into the mix to incorporate, mix well to get a mixture as homogeneous as possible. It needs to be quite a wet, runny dough, so if you need more milk, add a little at a time until you're happy with the texture.

Take the corn wrappers and place about two teaspoons of mix in the broader end of it (the amount depends on the size of the wrapper, but smaller parcels will cook quicker). Then cut off some bocadillo and place into the parcel, close by bringing the filled wrapper end into the other, the shape you should get ressembles a triangle.
Place the corn cobs at the bottom of the pot, choose a medium sized pot which bottom will be completely covered by the cobs. Add enough water to almost cover the cobs and bring to a simmmer, then place all the parcels on top of the cobs, tightly packed standing against each other. Cover with  a lid and let them steam for 20-30 mins,  depending on how big  the parcels are. Check on the water every 5 mins or so, as the cobs will burn if the water dries out and ruin the flavour of the corn parcels.
Corn wrapper alternative: if you can't find corns with the green wrappers still on, you can use heavy duty plastic wrap paper. Just place about 2 tbps of dough in the middle and wrap both ends by twisting and making a knot (like a candy wrapper). The taste or shape won't  be exactly  the same, but it should do the trick.
Cobs steamer alternative: if you opted or had no choice but using the corn kernels prepacked in the frozen section, you will not have the cobs for the steaming. In this case you can always  use a steaming basket (like the one used for dumplings),  a steaming  tray (like the one used for veggies) or a simple strainer held over steaming water.
Serve with a nice cup of coffee or hot chocolate while they're still steaming hot! You can have them for breakfast or as a snack.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

RESTAURANT REVIEW: That's Amore... indeed

Where: 4th Avenue, Parktown North, Johannesburg
Tel: 011 880 1870

Our friends met us at this small, warm and cozy italian ristorante in parktown north last friday night and we were in for a very pleasant surprise! A very pleasant ambiance,  despite our loud table ;)
We were greated with an appetizer of fried dough, that we all liked so much, we asked for more. Then we ordered three starters for the table: Melanzane parmagiana, Garlic Prawns and Antipasto. They were all amazing.
The Melanzane had a hearty napolitana and so much mozarella di bufala it just melted in your mouth (we were literally fighting for the last bit). The prawns were perfectly cooked in a garlic,  chili and olive oil infusion, which some of us wished we had ordered as a main. The Antipasto was rather small (in its regular size) but high quality, including about 50g of parma ham and half a mozarella di bufala ball (the pic below is of a double portion we had after the meal, that's  how much we loved it).

For mains there were several choices on the table that looked great, I tried all of them, but may struggle to order anything other than the Frutti di mare going forward.. although I heard later on that the gnocchi is also amazing. The steak tagliata was nicely cooked and very tender, with lovely crisp potato wedges. The bolognese was very tasty and the pappardelle it was served with was delicious. The Osso Bucco was served with peas and polenta and my husband said he would come back for it as it was tender and had the taste he remembered from his days living in Italy. My frutti di mare though, was the winner. Served in a napolitana sauce with all the juices from the seafood (of which a good mix and sizable portion was provided), smothered over the most delicious pasta I've had in SA. They called it Scialatielli, sort of like a thicker tagliatelle.

And dessert... go for the napolitan sponge cake, drenched in a syrup that tastes like limoncello, nona's recipe indeed! Or a more edgy basil panacotta with a very creamy feel and the contrast of strawberry syrup.

In all honesty, we really liked the place and will totally be going back. Just perhaps don't  order too much  grappa, like we did, as it can add up quite a bit to your bill!


Friday, May 22, 2015

Salmon Pasta

This easy pasta dish can be made with the best salmon you can find, off-cuts or even canned salmon too, which makes it very versatile and a meal you can cook during the week or to entertain guests for a more fancy dinner. It's amazing how little time it can take to put together a meal with the potential to impress!

INGREDIENTS - serves 4 to 6 depending on size
250 gr Spaghetti
150 gr Salmon pieces
3 spring onions finely sliced
2 garlic cloves chopped finely
12 cocktail, cherry or mini rosa tomatoes
1 tsp dill tips
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
250 ml fresh cream
1 egg yolk
75ml white wine
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
Can be served with chili flakes

Boil the pasta "al dente" in lightly salted water, rinse with cold water and set aside.
In a hot pot, place the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic.

Follow with the butter, salmon, spices, salt and cook until the salmon is half way done. At this point, pour the wine in and let the alcohol steam off for 2 or 3 minutes.

Then, pour the cream and the egg yolk, stirring immediately, two minutes later add the pasta and the tomatoes cut in halfs incorporate well and serve with some parmesan and chili to taste.

Ps. Dill goes off very quickly, so next time you buy one packet hang what you didn't use or place in a paper towel and let it dry, so you can store it for a bit longer. Otherwise, you can buy dried dill tips from Woolies to keep at hand.


Monday, May 18, 2015

French toast au chocolate

Last Sunday morning was warm and sunny, with the tree leaves turning yellow and orange, so an indulgent breakfast that captured that autumn feeling was needed! Herewith, my little indulgence...

6 slices of bread (I used woolies soy linseed low GI white bread but you can use any bread of your choice, actually brioche or fresh bakery white bread comes out much fluffier)
2 large eggs
1.5 tsp cinnamon powder
2-3 tsp raw cocoa powder (I used three because the one I have is not very strong)
4 tsp sugar
1 cup milk
3 tbsp Nutella
2 bananas sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil or spray n cook
A pinch of salt

Whisk the eggs with a pinch of salt and once beaten add the sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa. Whisk again until the ingredients have incorporated, then mix in the cup of milk. 
Grease a pan over medium heat with 1/3 of the oil and 1/3 of the butter, and let it heat slightly while you soak your first slice of bread in the milk mixture. The denser the bread (like the soy linseed), the more time you need to let it soak, turn to soak on both sides. Place the soaky bread slices in the pan, fitting in as many as you can comfortably flip and allow to brown slightly (about 3 mins on each side), very importantly, don't let them dry up!

Once ready, serve topped with the sliced banana and Nutella (about 1 tbsp for every two toasts or 1 tsp per toast).




Sunday, May 3, 2015

SEAFOOD PAELLA - Paella de Mariscos

We had the great fortune of spending some time chilling in Cape Town with our dear friends Yaz & Mark, and discovered, to our luck, a neat and well stocked fish shop only three blocks away. The result where three separate meals coming out of my seafood shopping spree. So here it is, the last meal.

INGREDIENTS (serves 6 people - including a little extra for each)
3-4 cups chicken stock
1.5 onions (brown or red)
3 bell peppers of medium size and mixed colours (for colour and flavour effect)
50ml Olive oil
6 garlic cloves
2 kg of seafood (I used mussels on the shell, mussel meat, clams on the shell and prawn meat)
300gr Spanish or argentinian chorizo
2 tsp Spanish paprika
2 cups Tastic Bonnet rice
2 tbsp butter
1 bunch parsley
0.02g saffron threads (the pinch you can easily hold in your fingertips)
100g pitted green or kalamata olives
2 cups white wine
1 can chopped tomatoes or tomato puree
Lemon wedges
Begin by placing the saffron threads in a small cup with 50ml of hot water, allow it to soak.
Chop the onion, garlic, peppers and parsley finely and the olives in slices, set each aside to incorporate when needed.
Place one flat big paella size frying pan (or two smaller ones) on medium heat and pour in 1tbsp of olive oil, folllowed by the onions and garlic, toss around until the onion is slightly soft. Add the peppers, paprika and half of the parsley. When it starts turning goldish in colour, ads the chorizo and fry slightly (add more olive oil if required).
Add the tomato and integrate it with the rest of ingredients, followed by the rice. Once the rice has taken the colour of the veggies, add in the wine. Let the alcohol steam off and once the rice begins to dry add in two cups of chicken stock.
Meanwhile, sautee the shellfish with 1 tbsp butter, 1tbsp olive oil, parsley and a bit of salt, set aside slightly  under cooked. Then, sautee the prawns and mussel meat with the same quantities of butter, olive oil, parsley and salt, also set aside slightly  under cooked.
As the rice cooks, add in more stock gradually and once it's almost done, add in the saffron and the water in which you placed it, as well as the seafood and their juices, the olives, some freshly ground black pepper and mix well. Leave for 2 minutes while you stir to integrate everything, taste for salt. Sprinkle the last bit of parsley on top and serve the pan on the table with lemon wedges.

Best enjoyed with friends, a bottle of Riebeek Cellars Pinotage Rose and an awesome view!
Love, iSa

ADDIS IN CAPE - Ethiopian Restaurant

Address: 41 Church St, Corner Long & Church Street,, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000
Phone:021 424 5722

WHAT TO EXPECT: The colorful ambience full of meaningful details, transports you to a place you may not know but you're about to discover. I find people either love this restaurant or are not at all interested, but for me the experience is part of the meal and in its rustic feel lies its authenticity.
There are no forks and knifes, just your hands and a roll of what seems like a hand towel, but is indeed an ethiopian crepe you tear and use as needed to scoop your bite out of the big sharing dish in front of you.
THE FOOD: An uncomplicated meal in terms of flavours, but very earthy and the combinations make it an interesting affair. We had the lunch platter for R99 per person which included some curried chicken and beef stew (the beef was my favourite), stewed mushy chickpeas and lentils (I loved the lentils), mushrooms and tomato stew, tomato salad and a side of veggies (which was rather tasty). All and all, a balanced meal, worth the money and appealing to my enjoyment for tasting different flavours.
We didn't explore the wine menu as we were feeling like beer. The coffee is also quite a worthwhile experience on its own, which we have done before.
If you're an explorer and don't mind eating with your  hands, this is a fun and interesting  way of exploring a piece of Ethiopian culture, one bite at a time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

BOCADILLO DE GUAYABA (Guava sweet treat)

400g can guava fruit pieces (1can)
3 tbps sugar
A lot of patience
Very easy, but takes time and you have to be careful: the sweet guava paste can get VERY hot and you don't  want it splashing on your hands.
Just empty  the guava can in a small pot, add the sugar and let it boil covered at mid temperature for about 10 mins. Stir every now and then until the colour starts turning darker and it starts sticking a bit to the bottom. At that stage bring down to low temperature, stirring every 3-5 mins to ensure it doesn't  burn or sticks  too much to the bottom. When it looks something  similar to the pic below, it's ready! But don't  try to taste it, remember it will be very hot!
Once it cools down, let it set in the fridge for at least 2 hours before using. Enjoy on its own, with mozarella cheese, as a filling for cakes, breads, pastries, envueltos or a topping for crackers, cheeseboard, etc.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Arepas de choclo / Yellow maize patties (with doñarepa)

INGREDIENTS (makes 6 arepas)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp butter
1 tbps sugar
1 cup doñarepa choclo
1/2 cup doñarepa regular (or maize meal)
100 gr of mozarella cheese
Salt to taste
Bring the water and milk  to boil over medium heat in a medium sized pan (you need space to stir). As it starts simmering, add the doñarepa or maize mix, sugar, salt and stir vigorously, bring down the heat to low and add in the butter when it starts to come together into a dough. Set aside and let it cool for about 10 minutes whilst covered  (so the dough doesn't lose moisture).
Make balls of dough that fit towards the center of your palm, flatten out the dough in between your palms making a rounded flat pattie, once you have a few, you can start assembling. Cut the cheese into slices that can fit in the middle of your hand, then place a slice of cheese in between two maize patties and mold with your hands into a round pattie again, hiding the cheese in  the middle and smoothing the edges.
Place on a greased braai (barbeque grill) or pan and let it cook until golden and crispy on each side.
Serve for breakfast with eggs o as a side dish to beef, pork or chicken meat, sausages, chorizo, etc.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Grilled Lemon Tilapia with coconut rice and Green Mango Salad

I haven't  blogged for a while, ok perhaps two years or more, but in order to get back to it, I will start doing it from my phone.  Let's  hope this works so I can keep it up!

1 cleaned whole Tilapia (I got a rather big one)
2 lemons (1 cut in lemon slices and the other in lemon wedges for serving)
15ml white wine
30ml olive oil
30 gr butter
2 crushed garlic cloves
A small bunch of parsley
A sprinkle  of cayenne pepper
Sea salt black pepper to taste

How to make it? Make 3-4 cuts on each side of the tilapia across its body and insert half a lemon slice on each cut. Rub it with about 20ml olive oil and sprinkle with salt, freshly grounded black pepper and cayenne pepper.
Place on the grill once it is at about medium heat to ensure the fish skin gets crunchy while it gets to cook fully on the inside. Put the rest of he olive oil, garlic, parsley, butter and wine in a small bowl and melt it in the microwave (should be about 15 seconds). Once the basting is ready brush it on the fish and turn, you should leave the fish about 4-5 mins on each side before basting it and turning again, repeating this about 4 times for a total  cooking time of about 20 mins. Depending on the level of heat  of your grill and how big the fish is it may take 15 or 25 mins instead (it took 20 minutes in our lotus grill at medium heat),  so just keep and eye on the cuts and pick a try to check for readiness.

1 cup rice
2 tbps dessicated coconut
1 tbps coconut oil/vegetable oil
1 tbps sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1.5  cups water
Salt to taste

How to make it? Melt the oil in rice pot and pan fry the coconut, on medium heat add the sugar  and do not stir  until it begins to melt and turn golden, add a few drops of water and stir. Turn the heat to high and add the rest of the water and coconut milk and bring to boil. Rinse the rice to make it less starchy and add into the pot, season with salt.
Let the pot boil until the rice begins to dry, once you can start to see the top rice layer, bring down to low temperature, cover with  a lid and let it finish drying for about 5-7 more mins.

1/2 Green-to-ripe Mango
8 cocktail or mini italian tomatoes
1/2 red onion
1 small bunch coriander leaves
1 lemon
1 tbps white vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste
How to make it? Peel the mango and take two big slices from each side, then cut into finer slices. Cut the tomatoes in halves, the onion in fine slices and then finely chop the coriander leaves. Place all ingredients into a bowl with the juice of the lemon, mix and serve.