Vicki’s Corner – Are food trends completely overrated?

Have you noticed how a trend just sneaks up on you and you think you are on to things but you realize you aren’t really?

Food trends in particular. From one day to the next, or that’s how it seems, every magazine, blogger, Instagram and FB post is talking about Pulled Everything. Pulled pork, lamb , chicken the list goes on. You race back to check your mags, bloggers Instagram and fb to see if you were out of the loop for a while. And you weren’t – and now everything is pulled. I do some quick reading only to find that nothing has changed, only the vocabulary- what is now pulled was Slow Roasted or Fall off the Bone.

Whew, sigh of relief, the food world didn’t change without me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love nothing more than a Slow Roasted leg of lamb, now a Pulled leg of lamb, with delicious Slow Roasted veggies ( I am guessing that veggies can’t be pulled?) with a rich sticky sauce with creamy Parmesan mash potatoes. Same goes for Pulled Pork on crispy thick white ciabatta.

What happened to Sun Dried? We had Sun Dried tomatoes coming out of our ears and now they are a thing of the past, up there on the grocers shelve with Sun Dried Olives. I do suspect that they were likely to have been Oven Dried but somehow that’s not so appealing.

Another new Food Trend you can’t avoid right now is Salted Caramel. Apparently it is so wonderful you can have it on practically anything. I’ve seen it on popcorn, which I don’t mind, on cheesecake and even on savory dishes like quiches.  And of course it is not just any old salt –  it must sea salt or volcanic salt or something equally exotic sounding.

The one trend I am looking forward to its quick demise will be the Balsamic Glaze one. And I am ready to spearhead the campaign. Single handly if I must.

It seems that the sole purpose of this product is to turn your plate, your meal, your meal and your napkin into a huge sticky mess. Why? Chefs seemed to use it liberally as a garnish –  “may I please just have a radish rose?”

Corny and out of date but the radish rose doesn’t make me want a shower after my salad. Or my breakfast.

I hope I see the next Food Trend coming, I don’t like things sneaking up on me.

I feel Christmas is about to do that quite soon…

Roll on Spring, we’ve missed lunches outside but not the mosquitoes.

 


4 Quick Tips for Food Stations

Food Stations have become an entertaining staple over the past few years. And why not? We love the idea of having foods on display for guests to help themselves to.  Food stations also work brilliantly with almost any party or theme. We’ve done a ‘food market’ for a wedding, a curry bar for a corporate year end party and even a live action sushi bar for a birthday.

When creating your food station there are definitely a few things you should focus on

The Theme

You want your guests to have a great idea of where in the world they are. Food stations work brilliantly with one genre of food per station. Don’t worry too much though if you can’t make up your mind. Rather have a ’round the world’ series of stations and take your guests on a culinary adventure.

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The Decor

Once again, this should really tie in with what you are serving. Food markets look great with black boards and gingham tablecloths, use piles of spices (think cinnamon sticks!) for Morocco and really bright flowers (and chillies) for Mexican

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The Food

You can’t do a food station without food! This is the easy part, because you probably already know what you want to eat. The important thing here is to ask yourself how your guests will be eating. If they are sitting around then make-your-own  tacos is perfect. STanding? Maybe a bowl of chilli con carne with guacamole and nacho chips is better.

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The Drink

One of our favourite ways to get a stand out station is to have a signature drink per station. Think Tequila shots, bottled ginger beer or even steri-stumpies with cookies for dessert.

 

All in all a food station is a really fun and quirky way to get your guests talking and to bring a theme into your party or event. The possibilities are endless. Go wild!

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All pictures in this post were taken by Charles Johnstone


3 essentials for a banging 40th Birthday party

When you’re in the party business it becomes something you learn a lot about.Which is great, because every now and then we have to throw one too. This year Nikki put together an unbelievable 40th Birthday Party for her husband Sean.  So, how DO you ensure a flawless party every time?

LOTS of food!

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We love mezze type platters. Think chicken and lamb skewers, pita bread, dolmades and dips. These work well, you can do so much with them and everybody loves them. Another option is to cook a huge gammon (or grab one from the butcher), clear the dining table and lay out a make-your own feast. Bread rolls, different cheeses, potato salads and pates can all be added on to this and everybody can decide what they would like to eat.

Booze!

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Again, lots of it. For an interesting feature hire a bartending service or a mixologist and get them to invent a signature cocktail for when everyone arrives. Most bottle stores have a service where you let them know how many people you’re having and the work out what you’ll need. There are a few that will offer to take back what you don’t consume – which make it so much easier.

Just remember the ice! The last thing you want to be doing in the middle of the party is running out for more.

Great music!

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Without music a party is just a gathering. Get a playlist of old favourites together – make sure you include the classics you love to dance to. Otherwise hire a DJ. They’ll be able to read the crowd for you – and they’ll have everything already. Set up a meeting beforehand to ensure that you like them and you won’t be disappointed with their choices on the night.

Parties can be stressful, but if you focus on these 3 elements it’s guaranteed to go well. Just remember to have fun!

 


Catch up with Vicki

 

I have just had a wonderful week in the Cape and just wanted to share my thoughts on a few restaurants and, well, just life in general!

 

Babylonstoren is an absolute treat, regardless of whether you like farms or not.  The accommodation is superb and the food sublime. Most of what you eat comes from their gardens, even the pigs, chickens and beef!  Not to mention the delicious wine from their own vineyards. It rained a lot, which was dream for me because I just wanted to be curled up in front of a blazing fire with my book and a glass of wine. Perfect.

Babylonstoren

(Image taken from Babylonstoren)

We  had many meals in the bakery at Babylonstoren, delicious pizzas and risottos and their soups were wonderfully hearty.

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We did venture into Franschhoek which is very different in the winter months – so many restaurants are closed for a break so while we weren’t spoilt for choice, we weren’t overrun with tourists either. We drove through torrential rain to Café Bon Bon, one of the nicest restaurants I have been to in a while.

We had a table in front of a blazing fire and had the best pork belly imaginable. And more wine.

The sun started to come out on the day were leaving for Cape Town – I was happy to see some sun by then so we drove to Cape Town in high spirits.

Restaurants in Cape Town have always been better than those in JHB – I try hard not to admit this, but it is true!

 

The highlights were :

 

Tigers Milk in Muizenberg – it has feeling of Katy’s Palace Bar with  a sea view. Great music, great food, great evening.

Tigers milk

Black Sheep on Kloof Street – delicious food and great service – great new find for us.

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Four and Twenty – Chelsea Village Wynberg – owner run ( as so many places in CT are) for a delicious breakfast.

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Do you remember when going to Cape Town meant you could go to Melissa’s?

Well, not any more. What a huge disappointment! Sad food and bad service and an attitude of not caring. It’s a pity that this brand that was at the top of its game has lost its way…

 

I couldn’t write this post about Cape Town without mentioning that we did go the Memorial Service for Jenna Lowe.  She was the most courageous 20 year old and achieved great things in her short life.

It was an absolute privilege to be part of such a moving memorial, no parent should ever have to make such speeches about their child but they did. And they did so with great courage and with admiration and humility.

Their lives will never be the same ever again, but they will carry on with Jenna’s legacy and will continue to champions of her cause : to get more organ donors signed up in South Africa.

R I P Jenna Lowe.

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(Image courtesy of Jenna Lowe Trust)

(All images were taken from the websites of the restuarants)

 

 

 

 

 


Decadent 4 ingredient hot chocolate

Winter is here and looks set to be a cold one! When it gets cold like this everyone immediately reaches for the warm drinks, and nothing quite hits the spot like Hot Chocolate.

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This hot chocolate recipe is delicious and satisfying – managing to warm up every part of you. It’s made with only 4 ingredients, so it’s really easy to make and adjust to your own tastes. We’ve also added some variations for you to try!

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Ingredients – makes 2

2 cups milk

1 tablespoons cocoa powder

4 teaspoons brown sugar

4 blocks dark Lindt chocolate (we like the 85%)

Optional:

Vanilla essence

Pinch of salt

 

Heat the sugar, milk and cocoa in a pan on the stove with whatever variation ingredients you feel like. Mix all together. Once the milk is heated stir in the chocolate and remove from heat. Serve topped with whipped cream for extra decadence.

Variations

Add a pinch of crushed chilli for extra heat

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Add some orange zest for an interesting twist

Oranges

Throw in a cinnamon stick to get that fragrant winter warmth

Cinnamon

Roast tomato & cannelini bean soup

Soup is one of those things that everyone loves. What’s not to love about velvety deliciousness and fresh bread?

This roast tomato and cannellini bean soup is as close to perfection in soup as you can get. The tomatoes add a robust depth and the beans make it creamy.  This also makes it ideal for either a starter or a light mid-week meal. You can serve it as is, or pep it up as we did here with buffalo mozzarella and basil pesto.

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Roast Tomato and Cannellini Bean soup  with melting mozzarella and pesto

For 6 portions

 

1 x bag ripe tomatoes

2 x whole garlic cloves

3 – 4 sprigs of thyme

1 x red onion

1 x tin cannellini beans (drained)

1 x lt chicken stock

250 ml dry wine

 

To serve

Mini mozzarella balls

Basil pesto

 

Roast tomatoes halves with olive oil , salt and pepper, garlic cloves and thyme

Cook red onion ( roughly chopped) in a little olive oil until soft

Peel hot tomatoes and add to onion

Add the tin of drained and rinsed beans

Add the chicken stock

Add wine

Taste and season accordingly

Blitz

You can add a little fresh chili, if you want a bit of heat

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TO SERVE:

  • Heat soup bowls
  • Spoon in the soup
  • Drop one mozzarella ball into soup
  • Garnish with teaspoon of pesto
  • Serve quickly with toast or warm bread
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Simple scones with jam and cream

Scones with jam and cream are an enduring favourite. This particular recipe takes a few minutes to whip up and only produces 6 scones – more than enough for an easy afternoon or breakfast treat. Serve them with double thick cream and a berry jam.

on plate

Scones

Makes 6

 225g self-raising flour

½ tsp salt

55g butter

30g caster sugar (to make cheese scones, replace with 30g grated mature cheddar, and only use half the butter)

150ml milk

1 egg, beaten, to glaze

  1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees C. flour a baking sheet
  2. Sift flour and salt into a large bowl
  3. Rub in the softened butter to resembles breadcrumbs. Add sugar if using, or cheese
  4. Make a deep well in the flour, and pour in the milk. Mix to a soft spongy dough with a knife.
  5. Knead the dough very lightly on a floured surface until just smooth. Roll of press out to 2.5cm thick and stamp into rounds with a pastry cutter.
  6. Brush the scones with beaten egg and bake at the top of the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and well-risen.
  7. Serve warm or leave to cool on a wire rack
Above_with jam

Tips – Create a stunning Mother’s Day Bouquet!

Mother’s day is coming up and every mum loves (and deserves) flowers. Some people, though, aren’t quite sure where to begin when making an arrangement. We got our resident floral expert, Heidi, to share her tips to help you put together a beauty of a Mother’s Day bouquet.

Working with a budget?

Different mums like different flowers and first you’ll need to think about what you would like to spend  and then choose flowers accordingly. The cost of a bouquet is very dependent on the flowers you choose, some bunches of blooms are a R120-00 a bunch and others not such pretty flowers are R29-00 a bunch. So, a medium sized bouquet with nice flowers could cost between R200-00 and R400-00

Bouquet 4

What to choose?

To make a bouquet special, always choose flowers and colours that complement each other and either wrap them in cellophane or brown paper and tie a beautiful silk ribbon around it.

If you use roses or lilies as your focal flower, you can’t go wrong. We can always get beautiful roses and lilies, because they are often imported from places like Kenya. We are just coming to the end of Hydrangea season and they are always so beautiful, the colours are spectacular and range from Sky Blue, Mauve, Deep Pink, Baby Pink and Snow white ones. The tulips at the moment are absolutely stunning!!

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Forever lasting

If you want them to last for ages think about including some Stargazer lilies, roses, lisianthus and sprays last pretty well. Before buying check the stems and leaves. If the stems are soft and mushy, the flowers are old. And if the leaves are going brown and brittle then you know the flowers are old as well. With roses, the head (the flower) must be firm to the touch, not all soft when you squeeze it. Lilies that are still closed or about to open are the ones to buy.

Rose

Building your bouquet

Constructing a bouquet is not very easy, it takes a lot of practice. You need to lie the stems in one hand and then add flowers by crossing the stems, but you also need to keep looking at whether you have placed the correct flower next to the last one for a good visual effect.

On the other hand get the young men that work at the flower shop to make the bouquets for you, because they are brilliant!

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Nikki’s Banting cheesecake

This is Nikki’s recipe – she posted it on social media and everyone went crazy for it! Obviously banting has taken South Africa by storm. The LCHF diet advocated by Tim Noakes makes a lot of sense to some people and is incredibly easy to follow. Especially when you include delicious treats such as this banting cheesecake. When a diet involves cheesecake what’s not lo love?

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Banting cheesecake

Crust

2 large eggs, beaten till frothy

½ cup almond flour

½ cup coconut flour

1/3 cup xylitol

1 tsp baking powder

½ cup water (use less or more – you are looking for a wet mixture that spreads easily)

base

Filling

750g cream cheese – 2 x 250g mascarpone, 1 x 250g low fat cream cheese

½ cup xylitol

2 tsp vanilla extract

4 large eggs

Side

Method

  • Place oven rack in centre position and preheat to 180 deg C
  • Grease a 28cm round springform tin with butter
  • Combine all crust ingredients except water and mix. Slowly add water until you have a spreadable mix. Pour into tin, spread and bake for 15mins
  • Cool for 5 mins
  • While base is cooking, beat cheese, xylitol and vanilla in mixer/with electric beaters until combines
  • Add eggs and mix until just smooth
  • Pour filling on cooled crust and bake for 40-60mins (longer for non-fan ovens) – centre must be just set
  • Cool for 30 mins, demould and refrigerate for 4 hours
  • Serve with berries and cream
slice

Grilled salmon with spice rub and chilli cream

April heading into May is always perfect weather here in Johannesburg. And there’s the added bonus of lots of public holidays and long weekends, which means family time. Long outdoor Sunday lunches are definitely called for. This grilled salmon with spice rub is definitely the dish for those times. It’s light (yet filling), easy and full of flavour.

Chillies

 Grilled salmon with spice rub and lime chili cream

Spice rub

3 x tbsp olive oil
3 x tsp cumin powder

3 x tsp coriander powder

½ cup tightly packed chopped coriander

¼ cup mint

2 green chilies

1 tsp chopped garlic

6 fresh lime leaves chopped finely

2 tsp lime zest

Juice of 2 limes

2 chopped spring onions

Put all ingredients in a food processed and blitz for a minute.

Paste

1 x large side Scottish salmon

Smooth the paste over the fish allow to stand for up to 2 hours

Place under the grill for about 8 minutes.

Do not turn the fish.

Serve with chilli cream and baked potatoes.

Paste on fish

Chili Cream

1 cup good mayonnaise – I use the Hellman’s Low Fat (the Lite is too sweet)

¼ cup plain yoghurt

3 tbsp lime juice

5 tbsp chopped coriander

¼ peeled, seeded, chopped cucumber

1 chopped chili

Add a 1 tbsp of the rub from the fish

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 tsp fresh lime zest

Juice of limes

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients

Limes