Thursday, 16 February 2017

List of must have culinary books

The Argentinian
Whilst sipping a cappuccino at my favorite local coffee shop, The Argentinean, I will explore a few good titles for books discussing culinary techniques. It became apparent that I developed a slight obsession with obtaining this information. Here is a list of my top 5 (so far!).

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Visiting Cape to Cuba in Kalk Bay, Cape Town South Africa

We visited this quirky restaurant, stuck between Main road and the railway line, in December 2016.

Stunning views over the Kalk Bay harbor. Waiters dressed as Che impersonations or island girls floated about.

The before and after:

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Food photography - the challenge

I set myself a new challenge - to improve my food photography. The proof is in the eating, but food blog readers have to eat with their eyes. To be honest, I think that there is plenty of room for improvement on this blog - seriously, you don't say!

So lately I have been investigating ideas on how to improve my presentation. A number of blogs are discussing very good tips, for example here.
In summary the following actions can be taken immediately:

  • Proper props - interesting and supposedly appropriate to support the mood and style - Yeah, some excuse for shopping. (Just kidding Honey!)
  • Focus - close-ups should not be forgotten.
  • Size does matter - smaller plates so that food does not get lost.
  • Let there be light - molto importante! As most things in life that should be natural.
  • What's your angle? - top, side etc. Use all angles and choose the best.
  • By arty - don't forget about texture, color, balance
  • Be adventurous. Experiment.Experiment. Experiment. And repeat!
No more slap-dash, boring photos. I promise!

What other tips do you have for mouth-watering photo's?

Happy cooking!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Culinary school or not

Already November with the usual Christmas decorations in the shops and people discussing plans for the December holidays. This year is racing towards the end. All the old cliches come to mind of 'time waits for no man' and 'you don't get any younger'. Then paranoia sets in. On of those 'Oh F*ck!' moments where you (again?) start questioning you existence and the usual interrogation of 'Where are you going with your life?'. This existential crisis has been raging forever as many that know me will tell you.
I recall a saying: 'sometimes all you have is the dream'. So I have had mine for a very long time. It entails collecting tastes and smells through cooking with fresh ingredients in an innovative way while also recording the experience and learning more techniques and skills. (This sounds very corporate-ish motto style reading it again.)
The unthinkable happened these past two years when both my older brothers died. The one was sick and died 2016 and the other was not and died in 2015. But what is scary is to be left behind with the ghosts of their unfinished plans and dreams. This made me painfully aware that life is too short for not enjoying what you do for a living and that time will eventually catch up with all of us. That is inevitable and then it is 'game over'. We might as well make plans, follow dreams and appreciate food and love every day. Sounds very 1960 and free-love-style! And I am sure that there are a few 'get-over-your-miserable-self' prophets now reading this!
BUT, I want to start heading in the direction of my dream. I know that I want to write more about food, culture, cooking etc and not just that, but also creating these experiences myself.  Now the question  that always pops up is the dilemma whether proper formal training will enhance my credibility. Would I be able to write with authority and seriously cook for people (other than my usual bunch of friends and family) with the necessary self assurance possessed by someone with the necessary culinary training?
There are diverse opinions out there and even some chefs like Bourdain whom I respect says that the training route is not always the right option. Then there are so many people out there practicing what they love and just riding the experience train. The following is also an insight into the problem.
I gather that it is a very personal choice and all is relative to what you want to achieve. I am still in two minds, and will have to make a decision at some date.
Let me know what is your opinion on getting formally trained at a culinary school.
Happy cooking!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Sustainable Cooking aka my cooking obsession

Recycling, upcycling and the concept of no waste have always been something close to my heart. On a daily basis, I strive to apply that in my daily life, my art, my household, my decorating as well as my cooking.

Today I watched an old program of chef Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" where he visits Napoli, Italy. He tries to trace 'the red sauce' introduced to him by many Italian eateries in New Jersey, USA, growing up during the '70's. The one scene is quite special where he joins a family in Napoli for typical Sunday lunch, Ragu. The grandmother cooks the assortment of meat in a tomato sauce for hours, then ladles the meat sauce over pasta like big macaroni or rigatoni and then the meat with green leafy veg is served as the main. Slowly she cooks the meal - no fuss, no story. It is clear that La Mama is the fierce ruler of her kitchen and that will be the case until it is time to take a boat ride to the other side of life! This is the way she has been doing it forever, with dangling cigarette and all!

Then the program cuts back to New York where Bourdain interviews two young chefs from Italian descent. They apply the waste-not principles of their Italian forefathers by using local ingredients and adapting their dishes to the local influences.

Then the lucidum intervallum moment occurred. The challenge is to fuel my lust for Italian cooking with some fresh ideas from my local market. Instead of trying to mimic the Italian recipe in front of me it needs to be adapted to what is available here and now. This takes me back to a sour response from a cousin when I told her about my dream to live in Venice for a while and document my cooking experience. She naively asked why it cannot be done here in South Africa in Johannesburg. Because it is defeating the purpose, duh! But in retrospect, I am here now and cooking now, so yes, I can apply those lovely principles and don't need to search our shops for authentic Italian - not taking any glamor away from the dream! Adapt or die.

The other idea that is occupying my mind is the private restaurant, pop-up dining, or underground dinner club - call it what you like. Many people started like this with great success. I know it is not as simple as laying a table and opening the front door. But all big ideas start small. This has been something I have been toying with for years. Time to start acting on this now. I don't want to compare myself to Rachel Khoo, but it can be done.

Maybe it is also time to start acting on that chef's course! It is definitely time to go check on the tomatoes drying in the oven and start cooking my own Ragu for dinner with the spinach from my small garden.

Let me know how you apply sustainable cooking principles.
Happy cooking!

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Roots from the Netherlands

Hutspot and Hachee from the Netherlands
Amsterdam has always been a place that filled me with inspiration. How can one go wrong with a setting of quirky little houses overlooking canals? If that's not enough, there is the amazing food that these people prepare. The Netherlands are definitely on my list to visit. Today I am going to explore the spicy heritage of Hutspot and Hachee.

Thursday, 13 March 2014


This is a lovely mix of fried chopped onions, carrots, celery and parsley. Soffritto means “fried under oil” and the French equivalent is mirepoix. This is a crucial ingredient for Italian dishes. This forms the base for a minestrone or ragu di carne (or known to us as a bolognese sauce). This can be prepared and kept in the fridge for a few days. I freeze small quantities of this and it really helps when a bag of soffrito and passata is readily available on nights when cooking time is limited.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

When in Austria - eat Goulash soup to escape your Russian ski-instructor.

When your ski-instructor introduces himself with the phrase: "I am Victor, your ski-instructor.", with the strong emphasis on syllables only Russians can apply, then the best advice would be to run as far and fast as possible. Head for the safety of a ski-hut and order "Goulash Soup". Forget the famous phrase in the movie Marie Antoinette: "Have you ever been with a Russian man? They are so bossy!" or any other fantasies you might be cultivating about foreign men. Read about why eating soup is better than having ski lessons.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Sangria - El Diablo's refreshing cocktail

Sangria, the sacred drink from Spain, can  be very dangerous as many people would confess. Once tasted it can never be undone. My virgin experience with this sweet, intoxicating drink of varying strength was in South Africa, prepared by a real Spaniard. Many people have various stories about experiencing this popular drink. So, is this the drink prepared by the devil himself or is it ambrosia? The only solution to answering the question is to try it yourself. Come with me on a trip exploring my sangria experiences and my attempt to replicate it.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Wimbledon, Strawberries and Cream

Strawberries and cream with a twist.
I just love strawberries. The sweet, juicy and lovely little wonders! Seeing that it is associated with tennis at Wimbledon, where the finals were played this past weekend, it tickled my fancy again. I set out to find out about them and create my own little version of the famous Wimbledon Strawberries and Cream.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Open-faced sandwich - Poached egg, crispy bacon and roasted tomatoes

Poached egg, bacon, roasted tomatoes and wild rocket on toast
This is the best breakfast treat ever! A poached egg, crispy bacon and roasted tomatoes on toast. I just love the different tastes that mingle together and besides, it looks gorgeous.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Lunch with Francesca

Happy 50th, Francesca!

Francesca celebrated her 50th birthday with friends and family at our home. We were very fortunate to be able to share this joyous day with our dear friend.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The unshaven Don and Lucio's broken eggs

Huevos Estrellados
Huevos Estrellades (broken eggs over potatoes) is a very popular Spanish tapas dish. This is the story about roaming Madrid in search of Spanish food, beer and culture guided by an unshaven Spaniard.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Chicken Pie for Adeline

This weekend we had a big family reunion. Together with my sister-in-law from Luxembourg we celebrated the expected arrival of her first grandchild - Adeline. Our house is central and always open to any festive event. What a joyous afternoon we had with everyone chatting, eating and drinking! It was indeed special because my mother was also present; also looking forward to become a great grandmother for the third time. It is always very important for families to spend time together and celebrate big events.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Monday Madness - Spaghetti Bolognese with Meatballs

Spaghetti Bolognese with meatballs - the way we like it.
I decided that this should be the logical start for the blog, as this was the first food that I learnt to prepare in my mom's kitchen. My variation of Spaghetti Bolognese is now a Monday night dinner demand in our household and will result in a riot if not presented promptly.

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