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Recipe #4: Coq Au Vin à la Sud-Africaine

Just what you want when it's cold and dark outside.

Just what you want when it’s cold and dark outside.

I took my (slightly chewed) apple crumble with me to a dinner party last week, where we were served superb pistachio-nut soup topped with Turkish saffron, followed by a traditional French coq au vin, stewed for hours in a Le Creuset casserole, complete with shallots brought specially from France. My hosts had slaved for hours over these dishes, so I felt a little cheeky pulling out the humble crumble, but it seemed to go down rather well anyway.

Despite the exotic allure of the soup, I was put off by grim stories of spending hours shelling nuts so, although I asked my friend for both recipes, I only intended to try the coq au vin. And, of course, I planned to make it as easy on myself as possible. Good news: I succeeded.

Here then, is my coq au vin recipe à la Sud-Africaine.

Ingredients

Yes, there are a lot of them, but they’re very simple and you should have most of them in your kitchen already.

  • 1 very cold and rainy day when you have a few hours to kill and want an excuse to drink wine.
  • 1 large, fresh chicken. Or two. It depends on how many people you plan to feed and how big your casserole dish is.
  • 2 or 3 bottles of Pinotage. Traditional coq au vin calls for Burgundy, which is usually Pinot Noir. But with the price of Pinot Noir in this country, there’s no way I’m cooking with it. I chose an el cheapo Black Tie Pinotage, available for about R26 a bottle at Pick ‘n Pay.
  • 2 or 3 shots of brandy. Not your best stuff, please.
  • 1 packet streaky bacon, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley, thyme and rosemary, tied up with string. Or, in my case, an elastic band. I’ve seen Bridget Jones.
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Small sachet of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • A punnet of white button mushrooms
  • Plenty of butter and olive oil
You need a fairly large frying pan to fit a whole chicken into. Remember to turn it over.

You need a fairly large frying pan to fit a whole chicken into. Remember to turn it over. The chicken, not the frying pan.

What to do

  • Preheat the oven to 140 C.
  • Fry the bacon, onions and chicken (whole) in a large frying pan with some olive oil. Then put them all in the casserole dish.
  • Pour the brandy over the chicken. Attempt to ignite it, as per friend’s fancy French recipe. Fail. Sulk. Carry on.
You probably need two people to do the 'igniting the brandy while pouring it on' routine.

You probably need two people to do the ‘igniting the brandy while pouring it on’ routine. Poking the brandy-splashed chicken with a match doesn’t work.

  • Add 1 bottle of red wine, the herbs, bay leaves, sugar, lemon juice, tomato paste and garlic, cover the dish, and put it in the oven for 2 to 2.5 hours. If your chicken/s aren’t covered by the wine, take them out and turn them over once or twice.
  • In the same large frying pan as before, fry the mushrooms whole, with plenty of butter and olive oil and a bit of fresh thyme. Keep them until the chicken is ready.
  • When the chicken is very tender, melt some more butter (about half a cup) in a small saucepan, add the flour and mix to form a creamy paste (it’s called a beurre manié if you’re posh. Or French). Take the chicken out of the oven and add the beurre stuff to it, along with the mushrooms.
  • Serve in the casserole dish, sprinkled generously with parsley (after all, it’s the only green stuff in the meal).
It's going to take a fair bit of willpower not to just gobble these up as soon as they're fried. Maybe wait until just before the chicken is ready.

It’s going to take a fair bit of willpower not to just gobble these up. Maybe wait until just before the chicken is ready to fry them.

Wine pairing suggestion

I was almost stymied until I realised that there is only one wine you can serve with coq au vin, and that is the wine you made it with. That is why, my observant readers, I said you need 2 or 3 bottles of wine, even though the recipe only calls for one.

I did try drinking a very good Bordeaux-style blend, but it simply didn’t work, and I had to recork it. Which is why tonight I am drinking this:

It's cheap, but you can drink it.

Black Tie. It’s cheap, but you can drink it.

It’s really not as bad as it looks. A friend of mine reckons that some winery had oodles of excess good stuff and just packaged it in these awful-looking bottles so they could sell it off cheap. I don’t think that’s true, but it’s still quite drinkable and exceptional value. And, if you’re making this meal for a boozy dinner party, here’s the really good news: It comes in five-litre boxes too.

Time needed

  • Actually doing stuff: 20-30 minutes
  • In the oven: 2-2.5 hours

Dishes dirtied

  • 1 chopping board
  • 1 knife
  • 1 large frying pan
  • 1 small saucepan
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 1 casserole dish
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Recipe #3: No-machine chocolate ice-cream

I MADE this. And it was EASY!

I MADE this. And it was EASY!

Skip the waffle, get to the ice-cream.

I think there’s a conspiracy among household appliance-makers to give cooks an incompetence complex. For example: ice-cream machines.

When I was in school, about 20 thousand years ago, we had a home economics class (yes, that’s how long ago it was) where we were taught how to make ice-cream. It was one of the most memorable and most useless pieces of education I’ve received, as our home economics teacher, a most glamorous woman, did this using her ice-cream maker, which she’d imported from overseas. (Such hi-tech items weren’t available in South Africa back then.) Since that class, I didn’t think it was possible for me, an ordinary, non-icecream-machine-owning mortal, to make my own ice-cream.

Then, a couple of months ago, I was sitting in a waiting room, browsing through a copy of Fresh Living, when I came across a recipe for yoghurt fruit ice-cream, with these wonderfully simple instructions:

Mix a tin of condensed milk, 300ml greek yoghurt and 300g berries. Beat 300ml of cream and fold in. Freeze overnight.

No machine needed! Unless you count the beaters, which would be a bit nitpicky of you.

I’ve made this ice-cream several times – usually with the raspberries and passionfruit that my darling absent-minded boyfriend buys for his breakfast and then forgets about – and it always gets rave reviews. But then, yesterday, I started wondering: what if I could make chocolate ice-cream?

This thought was sparked by two things in the fridge that needed using.

1. I’d bought a litre of cream at the supermarket a while ago, simply because it was CREAM and I didn’t realise it came in LITRES before. It would be more economical this way, I’d reasoned. Of course, that would depend on me actually using the cream before it went off. Yesterday was a day past the cream’s sell-by date. Eeek!

2. There’s an enormous great hunk of organic dark chocolate that has been lurking in the fridge for months. My boyfriend might be absent-minded when it comes to the contents of fridges, but he is something of a genius otherwise, and 88mph awarded him this giant chocolate numberplate for being their mentor of the year. (What do you give the tech guru who has everything? A giant chocolate number plate – obviously!)

You need some imagination to work out what to do with a giant chocolate numberplate.

You need some imagination to work out what to do with a giant chocolate numberplate.

I was too lazy to walk 500 metres to the shops for a tin of condensed milk, and I do get a bit annoyed at how expensive condensed milk is, so I thought using extra cream and a half-packet of castor sugar (one of the six Hefty-bagged sugars in the cupboard) would be a decent substitute.

Castor sugar, cream and chocolate numberplate.

Castor sugar, cream and chocolate numberplate.

So, here is what I came up with:

Ingredients:

  • About 500/600ml cream (pour until it feels like enough)
  • 300ml double-cream greek yoghurt
  • About 100g dark chocolate (I broke a random chunk off the numberplate)
  • About 200g castor sugar
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons cocoa (for extra chocolateyness)
  • Optional: some chopped nuts

What to do:

  • Break/cut the chocolate into smallish pieces and put them into a pot with a little of the cream and most of the sugar. Melt the chocolate into the mixture over a very low heat.
  • Beat the cream with the cocoa and a little bit of sugar (adding the sugar makes the cream solidify faster, which helps if you’re using a hand-beater). You want it to make stiff peaks – but don’t turn it into cocoa butter! (I beat cream into butter once when I got a bit enthusiastic. It was slightly traumatising.)
  • Pour the chocolate mixture into the cream, gently stirring until thoroughly mixed.
  • Put into whatever Tupperware/old ice-cream/yoghurt containers you have available and freeze for at least 6 hours.

The result: an extremely creamy, highly chocolatey and slightly tart chocolate ice-cream. Hurrah!

This part is fun!

This part is fun!

Dishes dirtied:

  • 1 pot
  • 1 bowl
  • 1 spoon
  • 1 knife
  • 1 chopping board
  • Beaters

Time needed:

  • Preparation: 10-15 minutes (depending on how easy your chocolate is to cut)
  • Freezing: 6-8 hours
The finished product, ready for freezing.

The finished product, ready for freezing.

Wine pairing suggestion

Savignac Potstill Brandy

marmalade and molasses, cinnamon and clove, coffee and chocolate, hazelnut and nutmeg, old rose and raisin, vanilla and sandalwood all in a whiff. That's how Jorgensen's describe their Savignac - and I agree.

Marmalade and molasses, cinnamon and clove, coffee and chocolate, hazelnut and nutmeg, old rose and raisin, vanilla and sandalwood all in a whiff. That’s how Jorgensen’s describe their Savignac – and I agree.

Yeah, yeah, I know that technically brandy isn’t wine, but it is brandewijn (burnt wine), so I think it  counts. And nothing, but nothing, could make this ice-cream taste better than partnering it with this incredible brandy from Roger Jorgensen. Er. Mer. Gerd.

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Recipe #2: Super-fast easy-peasy scones

One of my favourite places in the world is a little town two hours north-east of Cape Town called Montagu. It’s the sort of place you want to retire to immediately, even if you are not yet 40.

montagu_Snapseed

One of my favourite things about Montagu is waking up on a sunny Sunday and walking to the Montagu Country Hotel for breakfast. The highlight of the Montagu Country Hotel breakfast is the scones. Golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside; light, soft and fluffy on the inside. It didn’t matter how much I tried to resist, I always ate two and always thought longingly about eating a third.

IMG_4071_Snapseed

It took me a while to summon the gumption to ask for the recipe but, with a thick spreading of flattery, the cook was persuaded to write down five ingredients on a scrap of paper:

Ingredients

  • 500 ml buttermilk
  • 1kg self raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt

No instructions were provided, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out…

What to do

  • Preheat the oven to 200 C.
  • Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until they form a nice soft dough.
  • Sprinkle some flour on a baking tray and press the dough out into a 5cm thick sheet. Cut into rounds using a mug or glass. (I do this on the baking tray to save cleaning up but you can do it on a floured counter top too.)
  • Paint with buttermilk, milk or the egg white still left in the egg shells. (Use your finger if you don’t have a basting brush.)
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden on top. If you’re in doubt whether they’re ready, just break one in half to check.
  • Serve hot with butter (not margarine. I will disown you if you use margarine on scones!), your favourite jam and – if you have it – double thick cream.

IMG_4072_Snapseed

Since this is a hotel recipe, it makes about 5 million scones, so when I make this, I usually halve the quantities unless there are ravenous hordes in residence. Buttermilk comes in 500ml bottles, but it keeps practically forever, so you can stash the other half of the bottle in the fridge until the next time the scone urge hits.

Wine pairing suggestion

Du Preez Estate Maranda Cape Classique Rosé NV

IMG_4537_Snapseed

Aha! You thought scones don’t go with wine? Anything goes with this stuff – and what is Sunday brunch without bubbly, after all?

Time needed

  • 10 minutes preparation
  • 15 minutes baking

Dishes dirtied

  • 1 bowl
  • 1 baking tray
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 1 glass/mug
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Recipe #1: Left-over muesli apple crumble

Convert your unwanted food to sweet awesomeness.

Convert your unwanted food to sweet awesomeness.

I’m not sure if this  happens to other people, but I have a boyfriend who loves to buy food and then forgets he has it (for the simple reason that he never  opens the fridge or the food cupboard doors) so then he buys more of what he already has and the first lot of food that he bought sits sadly in Hefty zip bags (which he imports specially from America, presumably for exactly this purpose) until I haul it out and try to figure out what to do with it before it must be consigned to the bin, producing that special guilt that comes from throwing food away.

For example: he has six (6!) Hefty bags containing different kinds of sugar. He doesn't even EAT sugar!

For example: he has six (6!) Hefty bags containing different kinds of sugar. He doesn’t even EAT sugar!

Today I was wondering what to do with a quarter of a bag of cranberry and apple muesli, which had been bought a couple of months before for a camping trip and left to languish ever since. There were also some apples – not granny smiths that are recommended for cooking – but golden delicious and some fancy red varietal from Woolies, which had been maturing in a fruit bowl for several weeks. It was cold and rainy and I needed an excuse to turn on the oven and heat up the apartment. So I made an apple crumble.

If you too have months-old muesli and apples that are getting a little wrinkly, here’s how to get rid of them and make your whole house smell happy in one go.

Ingredients

Crumble:

  • A cup or two of muesli. Can be any kind. If you don’t have muesli, use oats. Tiger Oats are better, but you could get away with Jungle Oats too.
  • About half a cup of flour – plain or self-raising. Don’t stress.
  • Some sugar. You decide how much. It depends on how healthy you want to be. I used half a cup (ish)
  • Half a cup of butter. This is a stupid measurement, I know, because butter doesn’t come in cups. Sorry.
  • A few raisins. They go nice and crunchy in the oven.

Filling:

  • 4 apples. Any kind. Don’t bother peeling them. Just give them a good wash, quarter, core and cut them into thin slices.
  • A handful or two of raisins. These get all nice and juicy in the oven.
  • A good sprinkle of cinnamon. Not turmeric. (Although I must say, a bit of turmeric can add a certain something to the flavour if you happen to sprinkle a bit on accidentally.)
  • Half a lemon – zest and juice.
  • Some sugar. Your call how much again. I used about three tablespoons.
I bought the raisins once to make boboti because I couldn't find sultanas. Don't listen to what the recipes say: Boboti is great with raisins. #justsaying

I bought the raisins once to make boboti because I couldn’t find sultanas. Don’t listen to what the recipes say: Boboti is great with raisins. #justsaying

What to do

  • Preheat your oven to 180 C. Get some kind of ovenproof dish to put everything in. You can grease it if you’re feeling diligent, but it really doesn’t matter. I didn’t.
  • Put the sliced apples and raisins in the dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice and zest, then sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar.
  • Put the butter in a pot and melt until it bubbles nicely and goes a bit golden brown. Take it off the heat. Add the muesli, flour, raisins and sugar and stir well, then put the mixture on top of the apples, trying to cover them evenly.
  • Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Serve  hot with ice-cream, whipped cream, creme fraiche, greek yoghurt or sour cream. Any kind of cream-like substance will do.
  • Eat two helpings before remembering you’re supposed to be going to a dinner party shortly.
  • Tell boyfriend he may now buy more muesli.
Evenly distributed crumble. A proud moment.

Evenly distributed crumble. A proud moment.

Wine pairing suggestion

Backsberg Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

I made sure I finished this off too. Wasting good wine is the only thing worse than wasting food.

I made sure I finished this off too. Wasting good wine is the only thing worse than wasting food.

The robust tannins cut through the sugaryness of the crumble and the plum and blackberry flavours compliment the tartness of the apples and the sour cream.

Dishes dirtied

  • 1 pot
  • 1 chopping board
  • 1 knife
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 1 ovenproof dish