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South African Recipes

TheABC to successful cooking

Introducing essential techniques, all you need to know to improve your skills in the kitchen.A real learning experience!


AL DENTE: Meaning cooked until just done, but not soft.
ASPIC: A clear, full flavoured jelly made with gelatine, which you can make using beef, chicken, fish or vegetable stock. Use this to coat pates, pressed tongue, whole poached salmon or the top of a colourful vegetable terrine.
AU GRATIN: A cooked dish which you top with bread crumbs, butter, or a cheese mixture and place under the grill until golden brown.
APPLES: To prevent browning, sprinkle apples with lemon juice immediately. When preparing apples for tarts and poaching add a generous squeeze of lemon juice to the water.
ALMOND ESSENCE: Very pungent but excellent when used effectively but sparingly. Try a drop or two when poaching or baking plums, peaches and apricots in summer; apples and pears in winter.
BASTE: Do spoon over pan juices while cooking to keep your roast moist and flavourful.
BEEF: For a rare roast allow 10 minutes at 200 C, then 15-20 minutes at 170 C for every 500g.
BIND: That means to add egg yolks, rice, mashed cooked potatoes, cream or a white sauce to a dry mixture to hold it together.
BUTTER: To prevent burning, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil to butter when sautéing.
BLANCH & REFRESH: Plunge into rapidly boiling water, uncovered. Refresh by placing immediately in ice water. Mainly used for vegetables and fruits to set colour, soften or loosen skins. e.g. Green beans; blanch for 5-8 minutes depending on size, drain and plunge into cold water. Mangetout; blanch for a second and plunge into ice cold water.
BOUILLON: A strong extract prepared using vegetables, meat, poultry or fish trimmings.
BOUQUET GARNI: A simple bouquet is composed of a few sprigs of parsley, bay leaves, sprigs of thyme and tied with twine to remove easily.
BRAISE: Brown meat; lamb, beef, pork and chicken in hot vegetable oil (in a heavy-based, flame-proof saucepan or casserole with a tightly fitting lid) until golden. Place on a bed of vegetables add seasoning, a little water, wine or vegetable stock and simmer gently for a couple of hours until tender.  
BRINJALS: Large, older brinjals should be 'sweated' before use to prevent bitterness. Sprinkle with coarse salt and set aside until they gather beads of moisture. Rinse in cold water and pat dry with absorbent paper.
CHICKEN: Fresh birds have a better flavour and texture. When using frozen chicken, thaw refrigerated. Remove giblets (neck, heart, liver and gizzard, usually sealed in a plastic bag) from the chicken cavity before starting. Be like a thrifty French housewife do not discard, reserve liver to sauté for an omelette and reserve remainder and collect 3-4 packets for use in chicken stock. Rinse the chicken thoroughly, inside and out, with cold water and pat dry with paper towels otherwise it will not brown.
CHICKEN: To calculate roasting time; allow 20 minutes for every 500 g plus an additional 15-20 minutes at the end. For stuffed chickens, allow 20-25 minutes extra cooking time (weigh the chicken with stuffing). To roast, place on a rack breast side. Halfway through cooking time turn chicken over and baste from time to time.
CHICKEN: To truss, tuck the neck flap underneath the chicken. Position the chicken on it back, with the body cavity opening facing you. Using about 50 cm string, wind it firmly over the base of the breast bone to hold the wings in place. Lift the chicken and criss cross the string at the back. Draw the string towards you, cross it over the parson's nose and loop it around the feet. Pull ends of string firmly together and tie tightly.
CHICKEN: Use a razor sharp cook's knife made from carbonated steel to carve chicken. Secure the chicken with a carving fork and with the breast facing you, remove the leg, wing and breast from one side, then from the other side. Carve the breast in long thin slices and place chicken joints on a heated platter and arrange sliced breasts in an overlapping row. Serve immediately.
CHICKEN LIVERS: Soaking well-trimmed chicken livers in milk for 25 minutes helps prevent any bitterness. A fast foolproof way to cook livers is to spread raw livers in a shallow roasting pan sprinkle generously with olive or vegetable oil, season lightly. Roast at 200 C for about 10 minutes. Remove and cool. They should be medium-rare.
CHILLIES: Discard the pungent seeds and handle chillies with care as they burn the skin. Never touch your eyes and wash your hands thoroughly after working with chillies.
CLARIFIED BUTTER: Place butter in a large saucepan and melt it over gentle heat. Turn up the heat and allow the butter to 'boil' (it will simmer and bubble) for a few minutes. When bubbling has stopped (if the butter is overheated it will discolour, so watch it carefully) remove the foam by skimming off with a spoon.
COMPOTE: Fresh or dried fruit, cooked in a flavoured sugar syrup. Use scraped seeds of a vanilla bean, 1-2 cloves and a cinnamon stick and lemon or orange peel for aromatic flavouring.
CROUTONS: Tiny cubes of bread fried until golden brown in vegetable oil, drain on paper towels before adding to soup, or to a crisp salad, just before serving.
CURRIES: Improve in flavour if made the day before and reheated when needed. However potatoes are best added on the day as they don't improve with standing.
DEGLAZE: Use a little wine, beef, chicken stock or cream and add to defatted (when necessary) pan juices stir briskly using a wooden spoon to make a good gravy.
DREDGE: To sprinkle food quite heavily with flour to protect or thicken; cakes or desserts, using sieved icing sugar.
DUCK: To remove fat efficiently, simply prick the skin all over using a fork with sharp prongs and roast duck on a rack over a pan quarter filled with boiling water (to steam roast) at 180 C for between 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Some Swedish cooks pour a cup of boiling salt water (1 tsp) over the duck 20 minutes before the end of roasting time this is to remove any last vestiges of fat.
DUST: Dip ingredients lightly in sugar e.g. fritters, or seasoned flour e.g. chicken pieces and shake off the excess. 
EGGS: When cooking with eggs always check quality by breaking into a second dish. Remove any little spots using one half of the egg shell. Always store eggs large end up in their cartons, refrigerated. They loose more quality in one day at room temperature than a week refrigerated. Remember when making hard boiled eggs place them in cold water to start, bring them to the boil, remove stand for 16 minutes. To prevent yolks discolouring cool in cold water, crack all over before removing the shell.
EN CROUTE: Fillet of beef, boned leg of lamb or a whole fish are wrapped in a pastry crust and baked until golden brown. e.g. beef Wellington.
ESCALOPE: Meat, chicken, veal or pork flattened and then quickly sautéed in vegetable oil or butter with a teaspoon of olive oil add to prevent burning.
FISH: Immediately on returning home wash fish under cold, running water, salt lightly, cover with waxed paper and refrigerate. Cook as soon as possible.To shallow fry: Heat oil slowly; it will bubble gently showing that the water in the oil is evaporating. Increase the heat until the frying temperature is reached. To find out whether the oil is ready, drop a 1 cm cube of bread into the heated oil; it should take exactly 1 minute to turn golden brown.
FISH: To test a fish when baked, cook until the juices run clear when fish is pierced with a thin metal skewer. The bone should always retain a pinkish tinge. It is better to undercook slightly rather than overcook as fish continues to firm as it cools.
FLAMBÉ: Various ingredients e.g. fresh cherries, halved peaches or apricots, chicken livers or mushrooms, tossed in a pan with flavoured alcohol e.g. brandy, whiskey, liquors. Ignite alcohol, the spirit will burn away, but the intense flavour will remain.
FOLD: Using a metal spoon, envelope one mixture or ingredients into another e.g. stiffly beaten egg whites, gently folded into a creamed cake mixture.  
GARLIC: To peel quickly give the fat cloves a quick thump with the base of a heavy object. When chopping sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt until it forms a paste. Always use fresh garlic when possible. The longer you cook garlic the more gentle it becomes, you can use up to 16 cloves in a casserole! Try baking a whole bulb very gently and then press out into the sauce of whatever dish you are preparing. Steer clear of fried garlic especially when it turns brown. Garlic is divine in a salad dressing you need one small clove finely chopped, it's pungent.
GINGER: To peel, use a potato peeler with a fine enough blade to produce delicate shavings. Wonderful in salads, great in fish dishes, superb in vegetable casseroles, marries best with pumpkin, butternut, carrots, sweet potatoes. Desserts, such as ice-cream, baked fruits, pound cakes especially when combined with orange peel.
GRAVY: Pan juices make the best gravy. Add a little white wine wine if you wish, and stir over moderate heat with a wooden spoon, scraping in all the tasty little brown bits. Reduce a little and strain before serving. For special occasions when roasting a chicken or preparing a steak add a few tablespoons of cream to thicken and mellow. If you need to thicken a larger quantity of gravy use a teaspoon of cornflour (lighter than flour) blended with a little cold water add to gravy and cook until it bubbles, stirring with a wooden spoon.
HERBS: When dried, do store refrigerated, use lavishly they will not last forever! Add them to the dish towards the end of the cooking time for the fullest flavour. While fresh herbs are always a boon, dried with their concentrated flavour are indispensable. Those that are particularly good are Tarragon, Dill, Parsley, Thyme and Marjoram. However, Basil is always a pleasure when fresh, grow it in a pot and place it in a sunny spot in your kitchen ready to snip.
ICE-CREAM: When serving a home-made ice-cream, remove 10-15 minutes before serving. Use a metal scoop dipped in boiling water, to make simple oval shapes or prepare the ice-cream shapes in advance and place in a glass bowl and freeze, remove 10 minutes before serving. Scrumptious with fresh, baked or poached fruits, otherwise serve a superb chocolate coffee sauce separately (see Beginner's Basics).
JULIENNE: It is vital when preparing julienne vegetables that you use a razor sharp knife. To make matchsticks out of apple, cucumber, potato or courgettes, slice, stack and cut into fine strips, these are fun to do once you have mastered the knack.
KEBABS: If you use wooden skewers, first soak them in water for two to three hours to prevent burning. When you have an abundant supply of rosemary, use rosemary sticks as skewers for lamb cubes, these provide a great aroma and a wonderful flavour.
LAMB: When choosing lamb, ask if it has been aged. A too-fresh leg of lamb will shrink, be rubbery and tough. Buy lamb a day or two in advance and age for best results, place the meat on a rack over a plate or on a plate and leave it, loosely covered with wax wrap in the fridge, turning it once day. For best results, remove an hour or so before cooking, allowing the lamb to come to room temperature. Wipe with a vinegar moistened cloth to remove any bone dust.
LAMB:  To calculate roasting time for rare lamb, weigh and allow 20 minutes for every 500 g meat, plus 15 minutes extra at the end for medium-rare lamb. To roast place on a rack over a roasting pan filled to quarter way with water. Cover lamb with foil for the first 20 minutes of roasting to prevent excessive shrinking.
LAMB: Don't forget about the more economical cuts like lamb knuckles, thick rib, shoulder, shank or neck for casseroles and braised dishes. A more expensive alternative is boned leg of lamb cut into chunks. The bonus of lamb knuckles, with their centre of marrow, is their rich flavour
Lamb: When carving, slice across the grain and not with it. Just one cut with the knife will show if it is going in the right direction. If you're slicing the wrong way (with the grain), you will clearly see long fibres of meat, instead of the fine surface which you will have when you cut across the fibres. When carving lamb as they do in France, anchor the meat firmly and slice straight down towards the bone in medium thick slices. This style of slicing presents very well for more formal occasions.
LEEKS: To clean leeks, make a lengthways slit from the green part halfway down the stem. Soak in a bowl of cold water for 5-10 minutes, drain and rinse once again to make sure no grit remains.
LENTILS: Rinse and pick over to remove any little stones or grit. Soak in cold water to cover for about 1 hour, or until softened (saves cooking time), and drain or cook in a little water until softened but not mushy.
MARINADE: A simple marinade for beef casseroles; 250 ml (1 cup) red wine, 5 ml (1 tsp) sugar, 60 ml (4 tsp) olive oil and 4 crushed cloves garlic and 5 ml (1 tsp) powdered mustard, 2 bay leaves, zest of 1 orange. Allow to stand overnight, covered.
MAYONNAISE: When making mayonnaise, the trick is to first add the vinegar to your seasoning. When using a food processor slowly add oil in a steady stream. Rancid oil will spoil the delicate flavour so check the oil. If mayonnaise curdles, break another egg yolk into a clean warm bowl and add curdled mixture drop by drop, beating constantly with clean beaters.
MEAT: Don't prick meat with a fork while cooking as too much of the juices will be lost. Never overcrowd the pan when pan grilling cutlets otherwise they will steam, not brown.
MEAT: Sirloin, ribeye, rump or fillet are particularly suited to pan-grilling. For excellent, full-flavoured steaks, use them on the day you buy them. If you have to buy in advance, store them for no more than 2 days in the refrigerator. Place, unwrapped, on a wire rack with a drip tray underneath and cover loosely with waxed paper. Store in the coldest part of the refrigerator. To prevent curling during cooking, slice directly into fat layer to the meat (at short intervals), using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors. Wipe steaks with a vinegar-soaked cloth to eliminate any bacteria, then pat steaks dry with a paper towel, as damp steaks will not brown.
MEAT: To test for doneness: rare steaks are barely springy to the touch, medium rare steaks will just resist when pressed with the back of a fork: steaks will become firmer as they cook. Approximately grilling times: 5-7 minutes in total for rare, 7-10 minutes for medium.
MEAT: For medium rare lamb cutlets, wipe with damp paper towels to remove any bone dust,  season with sea salt and freshly milled pepper, brush a grilling pan with olive or vegetable oil and grill over high heat for 2 minutes on each side. Quick cooking seals and caramelises the surface, giving a crusty finish.
MINCE: Use either medium-lean or lean beef mince, or mix half-and-half with pork mince. Beef mince can be dry, especially if it's lean. To counteract this, use soft white breadcrumbs soaked in milk add two tablespoons of yoghurt or sour cream, which also makes the mince less dense. Most butchers will mince meat while you wait; ask for topside, bolo and pork neck. Moisten your palms and shape mince lightly into patties.
MUSHROOMS: When preparing mushrooms, salt towards the end of cooking time. When making soup salt while cooking to draw out mushroom juices. Do remember when preparing mushrooms for a vegetable dish the less cooking the better, a few minutes is all they need. Larger mushrooms such as black field mushrooms need a few minutes longer, they  turn colour and soften slightly, but like pasta, they should still retain a bite.
LEEKS: Like onions they enhance many dishes, particularly casseroles. However, they do need thorough cleaning; snip off the hard green leaves then slit each leek  lengthways about a quarter way and soak in cold water for a few minutes, rinse, soak once again for a minute or two and rinse thoroughly. Leeks look exquisite in salads; cut into short lengths (8 cm) using a razor sharp knife, place fine shreds in a bowl of ice water and they will curl tightly and can be used to scatter over a salad. Chefs tend to deep fry them and pile onto grilled linefish. 
ONIONS: To make peeling onions a quick, easy and tearless task, soak onions in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes before you start peeling. Cut off roots with sharp knife and slip off skins. Another tip halve the onion and remove the little green centre before slicing. Dice onions neatly and quickly by halving them, placing them cut side down on a wooden chopping board, slicing then lengthways and then across.
PARBOIL: To boil vegetables until partially cooked and then complete using another food process, e.g. roast potatoes.
PASTA: should be served 'al dente'. To test whether pasta is done, take a bite, the texture should retain a slight firmness. South Africans often prefer their pasta less 'al dente' to Italians.
PASTRY: All ingredients must be kept as cold as possible. Work lightly, roll lightly and evenly, don't press dough with rolling pin. Use a minimum of flour to dust rolling pin and working surface. If dough becomes too sticky to handle, place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes. Puff pastry should be thoroughly chilled for hours before use. Never pull or stretch when rolling out. Use bread flour instead of cake flour as it contains more gluten. There is a new stone ground flour available which has both substance and texture ask for it at your local supermarket.
PARSLEY: Snip off parsley stems, soak and wash parsley thoroughly, dry in a salad spinner. Chop parsley, using a broad bladed knife or process in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Store in airtight container, refrigerated.
POACH: To immerse food in a liquid usually stock, or for fruit; a sugar syrup. Barely simmer until cooked.   
RICE: There are many different type of rice available. Each rice has a different use; Basmati, distinctive aroma, excellent with curries; Italian Arborio short grain, absorbent and suitable for creamy risotto's. Par-boiled rice is most suitable for every day use. Wild rice, black and long grained can be used to serve with more exotic dishes. Jasmine, a fragrant Thai rice, can either be served as separate grains or prepared as a sticky rice. Natural brown rice is perfect to add to stir-fries, while the Japanese use a more glutinous rice excellent for sushi.
SALAD: Rinse leaves (often pre-washed ones) under cold running water and spin dry in a salad spinner to remove any water that could dilute the dressing. Barely sprinkle the leaves with sugar. Chill, covered with wax paper while you are preparing the remaining ingredients. 
SALT: There are different varieties of salt available; Table, Iodised, Kosher, Sea, Rock, and Pickling salt. Sea salt, less harsh with it's soft crystals, is excellent for everyday use and particularly on salads.
SAUTÉ: Using a small amount of vegetable oil, butter or olive oil, fry ingredients rapidly until barely or completely cooked, depending on recipe.
SEAR: This seals in juices immediately by browning the surface of the beef, lamb, chicken or fish quickly over high heat. e.g. fresh tuna steaks, well-seasoned seared fast in a heavy based pan with a scant tablespoon of olive oil for a minute or two. 
SEASONING: Is a vital part of food preparation, used to intensify flavour The basic ingredients are the simplest; Sea salt and a little freshly milled pepper, added to these are fresh and dried herbs and a dash of spice depending on the dish being prepared (Western, Eastern or Oriental). Generally, a good all round seasoning is powdered mustard, use it on roasts, fish, vegetable medleys, and in casseroles. Bay leaves are another staple.
SPICES: Always buy spices that are fresh and aromatic, preferably from specialist shops, which generally offer a wide variety. Spices should be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator. For many Indian dishes the spices are sometimes crushed and sautéed to release the flavour, use them sparingly and judiciously as they can be overpowering. Some of the most simple and useful are, cumin, caraway seeds, fennel, mustard, celery seeds, sesame, chilli and cinnamon. 
STOCK: When preparing stock, always use freshly run cold water to draw out the flavour from the vegetables and the bones. Boiling water will seal in the flavour.  To freeze stock, line a rigid freezer container with plastic bags. Pour in stock in serving quantities; 1 litre (4 cups) for example. (Remember to use containers large enough for the stock to come no more than three-quarters of the way up.) Fast-freeze until frozen, then remove the plastic bags, wrap and overwrap. Label with the name and date of freezing and freeze until needed.
TERRINE: Are straight sided clay, porcelain or cast iron as well as earthen-ware dishes with lids. Use for pates or terrines of minced or pureed chicken, pork mixtures, venison or vegetable. Traditionally pate is served directly from the terrine, however vegetable terrines can be served unmoulded lightly chilled.
TURKEY FACTS: Thaw a frozen bird completely in the refrigerator before roasting. Allow 40 g stuffing for every 500 g turkey. Any leftover stuffing can be rolled into small balls and baked next to the turkey. To truss: insert small metal skewers through the legs and wings. Cut a long piece of string and place it under the parson's nose, loop it around the leg, draw up the string (leaving a fairly long tail end and loop it around the leg skewers. Cross the string over the breast and loop it around the wing skewers. Tie the ends together firmly under the parson's nose.
UNMOULDING: If it is a gelatine dessert slip a knife between the pudding and the container to create a vacuum, invert over a plate and cover with a hot cloth for a minute or so.
UPSIDE DOWN CAKES: The most delicious of these is famous French 'tarte Tatin' where the fruit juices are caramelised with butter and sugar during the baking process. The tarte is served upside down with the glazed fruit uppermost. This can be done using pineapple or apricots in season.
VANILLA: When using vanilla pods, slit the pod lengthways using the back of a spoon scrape out the centre and use the diminutive seeds for flavouring. Store pods in a jar of sugar and use the fragrant sugar when baking or poaching fruits. These last for months in an airtight jar, replace sugar as it is used.
VINAIGRETTE: Is one of the most widely used of all salad dressings, often called French dressing as it originated in France. Basically it is a good quality extra-virgin olive oil and wine vinegar (3:1) sea salt, pepper and a dash of powdered mustard. You can add a crushed garlic clove. Whisk until the dressing thickens. 
VINEGAR: Can be far too harsh, used too liberally and without knowledge of its strength. Lately, Balsamic which should be well-aged and exquisite, is too often overpowering in dressings and because it is not the best quality, pungent. Look for a good quality wine vinegar, red, white or sherry failing this choose a gentle apple cider, excellent for most salads and for certain dishes fruit vinegar's made with raspberry or fresh herbs.
WHIP: Use wire whisks when possible to beat cream or eggs, this increases the volume as the air is incorporated. However, for convenience electric beaters will do.
WINE: Choose a simple but good-quality wine; using an inferior quality wine will detract from the flavour of the dish. Before adding wine, simmer (it should barely bubble) in a small saucepan to release the alcohol. Particularly good when preparing casseroles; use a medium dry white wine for chicken, red wine for beef or in marinades for beef, lamb and venison dishes.
XMAS: The one time of the year when turkeys, ducks and the occasional goose comes into its own, no matter how hot the climate! Do your preparation well in advance you will  be far less stressed on the day. Important; check out your recipes, linen, Christmas decorations and prepare cakes and puddings ahead and store in airtight containers. For a basic roast turkey recipe check Beginner's Basics. 
YEAST: Baking your own bread is not nearly as difficult as you imagine, using whole-wheat flour which requires stirring rather than kneading is the simplest form of bread making. What you do need to understand is how to work with yeast and which yeast to use. There are two main styles of active dry yeast available; one which is slow acting and one fast. For real bread with an excellent texture and body use the slow acting. To prepare mix 250 ml warm water (too hot and it will kill the yeast, to cold and it will retard the yeast) with 1 teaspoon sugar, sprinkle yeast over the top, mix for a second and leave until it forms a head of foam. Add to the flour. For both brown and white bread recipes see Beginner's Basics.
ZEST: Use a citrus zester or a fine vegetable peeler to remove the perfumed outermost peel of oranges, lemons or grapefruit all of these add fragrance and flavour to many dishes including most soups, casseroles, vegetable dishes and almost all fruit based desserts. As with vanilla pods you can mix with sugar for use in baking or sprinkling for tarts. Avoid the pith which is the white surround of the fruit as it can be bitter.  


Avocados (discolouring)
Drop whole avocados into boiling water for 2 mins. Remove from water & peel. Use in salad or mashed - they will last for ages without discolouring.

Coffee (for flavour)
Use cold black coffee instead of milk in gingerbread, dark fruitcake or chocolate cake to improve the taste.

Cottage Cheese (storing)
To keep fresh longer, store container upside down in fridge.

Pumpkin Fritters (sticking)
When frying in oil, dip spoon in the hot oil before scooping up the dough mixture. This prevents the dough sticking to the spoon.

Sticky (bun coating)
Before removing buns from paper bag, first wet outside of bag with warm water. The coating/icing will separate from paper & stay on the bun or cake.

Tomato (when frying)
Coat tomato slices in flour before frying, this will prevent them falling apart in the pan.

Bananas (going brown)
To stop bananas turning brown in fruit salad, soak for 10 minutes in cold water before peeling.

Biltong (to soften)
Place too-hard biltong in bread bin. The bread will soften it within days.

Eggs (frying)
Need a lot of fried eggs at once? Oil a muffin pan, break an egg into each compartment and bake in the oven.

Egg (raw, cracked)
A cracked egg can be boiled in aluminium foil.

Eggs (scrambled)
Add a dash of sherry to scrambled eggs or omelette when preparing mixture for a great taste sensation.

Fish (when frying)
1 Coat fish with crushed potato chips instead of breadcrumbs for a
flavourful difference; or
2 Add a tablespoon of vinegar when mixing batter. It will turn out
crispy & tastes great; or
3 Roll fish in oat bran for a lovely nutty flavour.

Garlic (bread)
Make your own. Mix butter with garlic flakes, parsley & Aromat.
Spread on a fresh loaf,
wrap in tinfoil & heat in oven.

Liver (tough)
Don't add salt to liver before frying - it will become tough and shrivelled.