Thursday, April 28, 2011

The City Bowl Market

Hope for the City Bowl's foodies: a weekly food market for city dwellers in Hope Street. Saturday April 16th saw the launch of The City Bowl Market at number 14 Hope Street – the beautiful unmistakable red-and-white building. The impressive facade opens onto a large, well-lit hall with old, arched windows letting in the Saturday sunlight.

At the entrance, you're greeted by a vibrant fresh produce stand, a bright array of flowers and a plant table selling lavender, herbs and succulents. Stalls offering bread & cheese; olives & pâtés; curries & samoosas; fish cakes & smoked snoek; cupcakes & brownies; and yes, of course, coffee, surround the hall's perimeter and the hay bales and trestle tables in the centre. Musicians perform on the stage upfront, while the upstairs level, overlooking the hall, holds the bar – and the attention of most of the boyfriends/husbands dragged to the market!

The beautiful Easter flowers available at Saturday's market.
This last Saturday, I decided to walk to the market in the week autumn sunshine. I picked up cheese, 60% rye bread, hand-made chorizo, very reasonable fresh veg, flowers, springbok biltong and the most delicious double-chocolate wheat-free brownie I have ever tasted! But most refreshingly, I didn't break the bank and I came away with fresh ingredients to inspire me to whip up some delicious meals and to challenge myself to cook with things I wouldn't normally have come across – exactly what you want from your local market.

Some of the amazingly inexpensive produce from the green grocer stall.
These are the shallots that inspired the onion tartlet recipe!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Winter Roast Tomato & Spicy Chorizo soup

I have a passion for tomato soup. Roasted (see my simple roast tomato soup recipe), creamed, spicy, as a base to another ingredient, you name it, tomatoes are an incredibly versatile soup complement. I find spicy chourizo, with it's rich, fatty exotic flavour is the perfect partner to a warm tomato soup on a cold winter's day, with a robust glass of red wine.

I'm also very partial to layered textures and flavours. The humble bean is a wonderful carrier for the spiciness of the sausage and the richness of the roast tomato. I chose to add baked beans to this soup, as there's something childishly comforting about the soft, subtle flavour they impart. The sweetness of their sauce also compliments the tomato and spice. The butter beans on the other hand, provide respite in their large neutralness, balancing the more intense flavours. And, in my opinion, on a wintery evening, you want the satisfaction of a home-made soup simmering on the stove, but you also want to be able to reach into the store cupboard for your ingredients. 

  • 10 roma tomatoes, halved and deseeded
  • Olive oil
  • Pinch of salt & sugar, respectively 
  • Dried mixed herbs (if you have fresh, opt for a tspchopped origanum and a tsp chopped thyme)
  • 225g courizo sausage
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
  • 1 glass of red wine
  • 1 large garlic clove (or two small ones)
  • 3 small red chillies, for a medium heat (adjust to suit your palette)
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tin cream of tomato soup
  • 1 tin baked beans
  • 1 tin butter beans
  • Salt & pepper
Fresh chillies, garlic, an onion and the hero of the soup: the chorizo.
This is sausage-maker Rudi's Portugese Chorizo
that I picked up at the City Bowl Market.

How to make:
Heat the oven to 200˚C. Place the halved, deseeded tomatoes in a roasting pan/plate. Douse with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, the herbs and a little sugar to counter the tomatoes' acidity. Pop in the oven to roast for about half and hour till soft and oozing.
Ripe Roma tomatoes, halved with their seeds removed,
being prepared for roasting in the oven.

In the meantime, brown the chorizo. Lightly coat the base of a pot with olive oil (the chorizo will release its own fat) and fry the sausage on a medium heat.
Frying off the chorizo. When you're browning meat,
it's always best not to overcrowd the pan. 
Brown the chorizo gently and remove, setting aside on a paper towel. Use the oil that's left in the pot to saute the onions. When they begin to stick, deglaze with the red wine.

Onions sweating and reducing in red wine used for deglazing;
browned chorizo resting on a paper towel; and roast tomatoes out of the oven.
When the wine has reduced, add the chopped chilli and garlic. As they become fragrant, stir in the roasted tomatoes along with all their oven juices and the chorizo. Allow the flavours to meld before adding a cup of vegetable stock. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.

The roasted Roma tomatoes and chorizo simmering in the onion, red wine, 
chilli, garlic vegetable stock goodness!

Remove the tomatoes from the simmering stock mixture and place in a blender. Some will have disintegrated, which is fine, but try to get all the skins which can become stingy and chewy. Blend with half a tin of tomato soup to a rough texture, until all the skins are combined. Add this tomato "sauce" back to the pot, with the rest of the tomato soup and stock. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the tin of baked beans in its sauce, and the butter beans, rinsed and drained. Stir in the final cup of stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste, serve and enjoy!

Winter's best: a hearty, spicy, velvety tomato soup.

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Phyllo Onion Tartlets

    I find translucent onion bathing in a hot pan of butter immediately awakens my senses – and appetite! The smell is incredibly evocative for me. It was the basis of so many delicious comfort foods when I was growing up, from Bubble & Squeak* on the weekends, to a wholesome vegetable soup or savoury mince for bobotie**.

    On Saturday's City Bowl Market, I picked up an enormous bag of shallots. Inspired by a delicious-looking onion tart in the Eat-In magazine, I got to work caramelising the finely chopped shallots. When they were almost ready, I made a blue-cheese roux, which I poured over the softened onions in individual Le Creuset ramekins. Topped with a few layers of butter-kissed phyllo and baked until golden in the oven, the results are rich, layered flavours, and a combination of creamy cheese, sweet onion and crackling phyllo.

    Makes 4
    • 100g butter
    • 2 tsp sunflower oil
    • 15 - 20 shallots (depending on size), finely sliced
    • Half a glass of white wine
    • 1 tbsp thyme
    • 2 tbsp sugar
    • pinch of salt
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1 tbsp flour
    • 100g blue cheese
    • salt & pepper to taste
    • phyllo pastry

    How to make:
    On a medium heat, melt about a tablespoon of butter with the sunflower/canola oil in a pot on the stove. Once it's begun to smoke, add the onions and allow to sweat for about 10 minutes. When the onions begin to stick, pour in the white wine and deglaze, allowing them to simmer and soften in the wine for approximately another 10 to 15 minutes. Once the wine has evaporated, add the sugar, pinch of salt and thyme stirring well. Turn the heat to low, stirring occasionally. The longer the onions cook, the softer and sweeter they become. At this point, turn the oven on to 180ºC.

    After the onions have been cooking for about 45 minutes, begin the cheese sauce. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a small pan on medium heat. With a wooden spoon, vigorously stir in the flour to form a paste. Turning the heat down a little, add the milk, little by little, stirring well after each addition to avoid lumps. Crumble the blue cheese in and continue to stir until it's melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Grease the the top edges of the ramekins with butter/cooking spray so that the phyllo comes away easily when you're eating the tartlets. Fill the ramekins with the onion mixture and pour the cheese sauce over the top. Unroll two to three sheets of phyllo. Following the instructions on the packaging, keep the phyllo moist so it's manageable as you cut it in half and then quarters. Drape, fold and tuck one of the quarter sheets in each ramekin on top of the onion-sauce mixture. Melt the remaining butter and gently brush each crumpled sheet (it's more like a dabbing action so as not to tear the phyllo), before repeating on the remaining layer(s). Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until the phyllo is golden and crispy.

    Serve warm from the oven with a glass of buttery wooded Chardonnay or Pinot Noir to compliment the tartlets' richness.

      * Traditionally a British meal made of leftover vegetables, predominantly potatoes so it's a bit like one big rosti.
      ** A South African, traditionally Cape Malay, dish of curried mince meat baked with an egg-based topping.

      Thursday, April 7, 2011

      I Heart...

      I had to share this gorgeous Sagaform Heart Bowl with Ladle (R495 from YuppieChef). I'm mad about hearts and would love a kitchen with bright red signatures. A girl can dream!

      Monday, April 4, 2011

      Roast Tomato Soup

      Something magical happens to ingredients in the oven as you roast them. Take the fiery, overpowering, pungent raw garlic clove that becomes sweet and yielding and caramelised after half an hour at a high heat. I adore how a tart, taught tomato relaxes and oozes when roasted, yielding a rich, full flavour.

      This is a simple, rewarding soup that makes use of key flavours, gently roasted and blended, allowing the ingredients to do the work. It's a great basic: add chilli or bacon, lentils or onions.

      • 10-12 ripe tomatoes, halved with the seeds removed
      • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
      • 4 garlic cloves (more/less depending on your garlic preference)
      • 3 Tbsp thyme
      • 1 tsp sugar
      • Salt & pepper
      • 2 cups stock
      How to make:

      Preheat the oven to 200ºC while you prepare the ingredients. In a roasting dish or pan, place the halved tomatoes and garlic cloves. Coat liberally and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle the tomatoes with sugar, torn thyme and salt, setting a sprig or two of thyme aside for garnish. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes until soft. Blend briefly if you want some texture, or longer if you prefer a smooth consistency, with a half to a cup of stock to liquify. Heat through with remaining stock on the stove top, adjust the seasoning and serve.