Monday, August 30, 2010

My Birthday @ Roots

Today is my birthday: "Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear Leaine, happy birthday to me" :) And boy oh boy have I been spoilt! In typical Virgo style I have already been celebrating my birthday for about a week now, but yesterday was definitely the pinnacle; 9 of my closest friends joined me for a 6 course lunch at Roots Restaurant at Forum Homini.

It was a glorious 26 degree day; the weather in itself held so much promise and there was great anticipation for the foodie extravaganza ahead.

As requested by Roots, I dutifully gave them my dietary requirements: allergies to gluten, dairy, egg, yeast and garlic... I admit, my list is long and to most people it can seem daunting, but I had high hopes for this top 10 restaurant.

Upon arrival, we started off with a celebratory bottle of bubbly. Yes, sparkling wine and all other wines do contain yeast - but I was still going to be doing the wine pairing to see how well they could do with my allergy free food. I wanted to see if they would still take into account the fact that the wine teasers needed to compliment the food and vice versa.

Our meal commenced with an amuse-bouche. Mine was a confit of quail legs, which I must confess was pretty tasteless. The whole point of an amuse-bouche is to whet the taste buds and get them excited for the meal ahead. My poor little quail's legs did not do this for me, but the others had chicken liver with goose berries, which looked rather appetising. Already, this was not boding well for me...

The starter on the menu was a chilled tomato soup with basil ice cream, strudel pieces and a balsamic reduction. Each soup was extravagantly poured into the bowls at the table. My guests raved about the flavour combinations and different textures that the crunch of the strudel and creaminess of the ice cream provided, which in turn, cut through the acid in the tomato. I on the other hand was given the tomato soup with only the balsamic reduction and nothing else to replace the creaminess of the basil ice cream or the crunch of the strudel. I was really disappointed that I had missed out on this experience, although it was very tasty. The balsamic reduction however did still contain yeast - as it is vinegar.

The second course was an apple, watercress and peppered pecorino salad with apple and grapefruit jellies and croutons. With mine they left off the pecorino and croutons. It was very flavoursome being sweet and salty and the jellies added an extra texture dimension. But I couldn't help feeling cheated that the pecorino and croutons weren't replaced with something else.

Tempura lobster came next with pickled fennel and cucumber with chilli. At last, I was getting the same as everyone else - except my batter was done with tapioca flour! Yippie! This was the best course for me - it complimented the wine the best and the flavours were out of this world. Although, once again this dish contained yeast from the vinegar - I was beyond caring as the tastes were exceptional. The theme of sweet and salty rang through and the lobster was tender with the crunch from the batter - utter yum!

An unusual sorbet of beetroot, rock salt and cumin was our palate cleanser. This was a controversial choice as some people enjoyed it, while others didn't. Other tables received cucumber sorbet. I was really happy with the beetroot.

Guinea fowl with mushrooms, smoked bacon and peas followed. I don't recall ever eating guinea fowl before, but the smokiness of the bacon really complimented it well. The original dish was done with potato gnocchi and a creamy sauce. Mine had a red wine reduction instead. The yeast allergy was not catered for again with the gravy and the mushrooms, but the flavours were good. Some complained about the fat around the guinea fowl, yet I was lucky enough to have a lean piece and I found the meat to be very tender.

"A Study of Lamb" became the hot topic of conversation - I guessed right when I said it might be a trio of lamb as "trios" seem to be very popular at the moment. The trio was a tender saddle of lamb, lamb's liver and a lamb sausage. I found the saddle and the sausage to have similar flavours, although I was not complaining as the flavour was delicious - I even enjoyed the liver, much to my own surprise. The original dish was done with a cauliflower puree, I was given a beetroot puree, which I was shocked about - but there must have been dairy in the cauliflower. The menu mentioned saffron potatoes, but we only got one cube, which was disappointing. On the whole I enjoyed this dish and I found that the beetroot worked well.

The piece de resistance was a "Chocolate Landscape". Butterflies fluttered in my stomach and I held my breath, hoping to receive something exciting for my dessert. Sadly, and I think I even shed a tiny tear, my dessert was not a master piece like the original dish, which consisted of chocolate soil, roots and branches, tiny pieces of honey comb, and chocolate blocks with a decadent brownie covered in a caramel sauce taking centre stage, and finished off with a banana ice cream. My dish of apple sorbet and fruit, although very refreshing, just could not compare or compete.

In conclusion, the original menu was a triumph. Each plate took the eater on a journey of taste, texture and sight, but my dishes in some cases left me wanting and a little envious of my friends. I know Roots' forte is not catering for people with allergies; they are clearly masters at what they do.

Each plate was not just a work of art, but was a lavish display of talent and flavour.

I do feel that they could have tried harder, maybe even done a bit more research with my dishes, as they clearly did not understand the yeast allergy for one. I give them credit for trying, but I would have even been happy with a cake made from the "Glutagon" range, found at Dischem and all other health shops, to wish me a happy birthday, instead of popcorn. It would have made me feel more special, instead of just highlighting the fact that my allergies make me "different".

Yes, I have allergies, but that doesn't make me less important or make me like food less, as a result. I am paying the same amount; (some would argue that people with allergies should pay more because they are deviating from the menu) no problem, just provide me with an equally as amazing journey as everyone else.

I would recommend this restaurant to anyone - it is certainly a must experience, but sadly they are not fully able to cater for all types of allergies.

Besides the few food hiccups, this was a day filled with laughter, happiness and very fond memories that were shared with some very amazing people! Thanks for a super birthday guys :)

Click here to see my latest review of Roots

Friday, August 27, 2010

Beef Stew with Marrow Bones

Lately I have been loving oven roasted tomatoes - they are so versatile: On pizza as a fabulous base sauce or even as an added topping to add that extra bit of zing (oven dried baby tomatoes are perfect for this and are equally as divine as an addition to savoury muffins) or even as a base for a stew, which is what I did in this beef stew recipe.

I learnt an amazing fact about tomatoes this week. Tomatoes by nature are actually alkaline - it is heating them that makes them acidic. If you are prone to heart burn, cooked tomatoes could be the source of it. Raw or sun dried tomatoes would therefore be more beneficial to you.

I am not a fan of fat, so even though I used beef shin in this recipe, I removed all the fat, chopped up the meat and used the shin bones, devoid of fat, but with the marrow still in - I am not too sure if I defeated the whole purpose of beef shin, but it still tasted very flavourful - so I am going to say, no I didn't :)

Beef Stew with Marrow Bones:
(Serves 4)


1 Onion, Diced
1 Packet Beef Shin, Approximately 500g, cut into bite size pieces and fat removed (Saving the marrow bones, I used 4 bones)
4 Tomatoes, Cut in Half
1 - 2 Teaspoons Oregano
2 - 3 Teaspoons Fructose
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil
1 - 2 Teaspoons Paprika
1 - 2 Teaspoons Za'tar Spice
2 - 3 Carrots, Chopped into Chunky Pieces
2 - 3 Celery Stalks, Chopped into Chunky Pieces
A Few Bay Leaves
1 Potato, Chopped into Small Pieces (I left the skin on)
Half a Red Pepper, Chopped into Chunky Pieces
4 - 5 Baby Marrow, Chopped into Chunky Pieces
Fresh Mint and Basmati Rice for Serving


Heat oven to 180 Degrees Celsius
Sprinkle oregano, fructose, and salt and pepper to taste over the tomato halves and drizzle with olive oil
Roast in the oven while you are preparing everything else
Fry onion until tender in a little olive oil with a sprinkle of salt
Add the beef shin meat and bones and fry on high until the meat browns
Add the paprika and Za'tar spice and fry for a few minutes
Add the carrots and celery and fry for a further few minutes, stirring all the time to prevent burning
Add just enough water to cover the ingredients in the pot
Add a few bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste
Add the potato
Simmer for about half an hour to 45 minutes
Half way through cooking add the red pepper and baby marrow
About 10 minutes before the end, add the roasted tomatoes
I added half a teaspoon more fructose at this stage
Taste for seasoning
Before serving sprinkle over some fresh mint and serve with basmati rice or any other rice of your choice

Please don't forget to nominate me for the SA Blog Awards, if you like this blog :) Thanks and have a super weekend xxx

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

World's Best Chicken Noodle Soup

I don't know what has happened this year, but it seems the flu viruses are in full force - they just seem to be going round and round, mutating and then whacking us again and again. Anyone would think we were in Australia - I have dubbed it the "boomerang flu".

It is especially frustrating at work, just when I've overcome a bout of flu; someone else seems to get it and WHACK! I've got it again... lucky for me, I haven't been hit as hard as others, but it is frustrating none the less!

Last week was no exception - it was a very stressful working week and I suddenly felt a sore throat coming on - it was the absolute worst time to get it because my Dad and Ali were coming from Plett and we were all going to watch the rugby (SA vs New Zealand). Every time I think of the opening to the game I get goose bumps - nowhere else in the world would you have felt such electricity and patriotism - I was exceptionally proud to be a South African! The hakka was drowned out by impassioned fans screaming Ole Ole Ole at the top of their lungs and don't even get me started on the anthem - hair raising stuff!

The opening held such promise and possibility - we were going to beat the All Blacks and all 94 000 of us (give or take a few New Zealanders) were waving their South African flags in encouragement... Unfortunately it was not to be as New Zealand came back in the end with a try in the final moments of the game to beat us by 7 points. Oh well, I am still ecstatic that I was part of that little piece of record breaking history! What a game!

To try and scare away the lurgies - I made myself a delightfully delectable soup. It was my first attempt at a chicken noodle soup, but wow - did I get it spot on. It was so flavoursome and I'm sure it frightened away some germs :)

Gluten and Dairy Free Chicken Noodle Soup:
(Serves 4)


2 Meilies, Cooked and Corn Removed from Cob
Gluten Free Pasta, Cooked (I used Glutagon Fettuccine)
2 Roast Chicken Breasts (Skins Removed and Sliced) I used the Woolies ones
1 Onion, Diced
2 - 3 Celery Stalks, Sliced
2 - 3 Carrots, Sliced
1 Litre Vegetable or Chicken Stock (Gluten Free)
200mls Coconut Milk
1 Teaspoon Fish Sauce
A Handful of Chives, Chopped
A Few Spring Onions, Chopped
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon Chilli Flakes
Fresh Coriander for Serving
Grape Seed Oil for Frying
Herbal Salt and Cracked Black Pepper, to Taste


Put meilies on to boil for about 5 minutes until they turn bright yellow - remove corn from the cob
Put pasta onto boil - do not overcook, make sure it is slightly underdone because it will cook in the soup
Fry the onion in grape seed oil, or any other healthy oil, until translucent
Add the celery and carrots and fry for a further few minutes
Add in the stock and the coconut milk
Add the fish sauce, nutmeg, chilli flakes and salt and pepper to taste
Add in the corn, chives, spring onion and chicken
Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes
Just before serving, add in the cooked pasta and the coriander
Serve while still piping hot

If you like this blog, please nominate me by clicking on this icon, on the right hand side of the page, and following the directions:

nominate this blog

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cloud Nine

I am on such a high - I came second in Nina's Thai Event. I have never won anything in my life - and what better validation to win (or come second in) a cooking competition when you love to cook? Better still, to win a Thai Cookbook when your favourite food is Thai?!

The competition was very stiff - I was among 8 esteemed bloggers. Jan Tripepi won the first prize of a meal at Wang Thai in Milnerton and what a well deserved winner she was. Not only was her meal a virtual extravaganza for the senses, but her blogs are an ode to food - her passion and love for food practically bounces off your screen. She is so inspiring and her step by step visuals make you want to race into the kitchen - she makes it look so easy! Congrats Jan! :)

Thanks so much Nina - I am on cloud nine! :)

Now, what recipe can I end off this post with - I need something wow and with pizzazz and something that epitomises my love of thai flavours...

Ok, so nothing can match the way I'm feeling right now - so I'll end off with this:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Scrumptious Butternut, Basil and Lemon Risotto

You know you're on a flavour-roll when everything you make is bursting with flavours that just seem to complement each other and do a little song and dance on your taste buds before making their way into your stomach, where they reside contentedly.

Your whole mouth buzzes until the last mouthful.

Well, this is how my week went last week - I was untouchable; a relative Culinary Super Woman - I loved every moment of it - that is what cooking is about to me - FLAVOUR FLAVOUR FLAVOUR!

This enthusiastic piece of cooking was inspired by my recent love for risotto - I have made a pea and mint risotto and a tomato and basil risotto, but this risotto worked out to be the tastiest.

Butternut, Basil and Lemon Risotto:
(Serves 4)


1 Litre Good Quality Vegetable Stock (Yeast and Gluten Free) - Heated on The Stove
2 Cups Arborio Rice
1 Packet Butternut, Cut into Small Pieces
Sprinkle of Paprika
Sprinkle of Herbal Salt
Sprinkle of Cinnamon
Olive Oil
1 Onion, Diced
Dried Basil (Or Fresh, if you Prefer)
1 Teaspoon Xylitol/ Fructose/ Sugar
Good Grind of Cracked Black Pepper
Zest of 1 Lemon
Squeeze of Lemon Juice
Basil Infused Olive Oil for Serving


Heat oven to 180 degrees
Sprinkle half the packet of butternut with paprika, herbal salt and cinnamon and roast in the oven, after drizzling with some olive oil; until sweet and roasted (keep checking on it)
Fry the onion in a good glug of olive oil and when translucent add the rice and allow it to sizzle
Add a ladle or two of stock to the rice and stir
Add the rest of the diced butternut and stir until the stock has evapourated
Continue adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, after the previous amount has been absorbed - stir every now and again - you should be using a medium heat at this point
Half way through, add a generous amount of dried basil (about 2 or 3 teaspoons) or a bunch of fresh basil
Add a few teaspoons of cinnamon and a teaspoon of xylitol
Add a good crack of black pepper, herbal salt, lemon zest and lemon juice
Continue with the stock process until it has all been used up - this should take about 20 to 25 minutes, at which time the roasted butternut should be done
Taste the risotto - the rice should be al dente (still have some bite and not all mushy) and the butternut should be tender
Adjust the seasoning if necessary
Finish off with a good glug of basil infused olive oil and top with the roasted butternut

Friday, August 13, 2010

Not Your Average Baked Potatoes Stuffed with Baby Spinach and Tomato

On Tuesday night, I made a supremely tasty, but super simple baked potato. I know you're probably thinking baked potato - that's so boring! Well, this potato is not your average baked potato - it is very exciting and the flavours are amazing! (Take my word for it :))

Baked Potatoes Stuffed with Baked Spinach and Tomato:
(Serves 2)


2 Large Baking Potatoes
1 Onion, Finely Diced
Packet Baby Spinach
Half Punnet Baby Tomatoes, Cut in Half
4 - 5 Tablespoons Coconut Milk
A Teaspoon Ground Coriander
A Sprinkle of Chilli Flakes
A Teaspoon Xylitol/ Fructose/ Sugar
A Squeeze of Lemon
Herbal Salt and Cracked Black Pepper to Taste
Olive Oil for Frying


Heat oven to 180 degrees
Prick potatoes with a knife or fork all over and place them in the oven for about 20 - 30 minutes until the skins are crispy and a sharp knife slides easily through the potato
Fry the onion in a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt until translucent
Add the spinach and fry gently until wilted
Add the coriander and chilli flakes and stir to combine
Turn down the heat and add the coconut milk - the consistency must not be too runny, but there must still be enough sauce for both potatoes
Add the xylitol, baby tomato halves, squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper to taste
Stir to combine all the flavours
Simmer for about 5 minutes
Taste again to check the seasoning
Cut the potatoes into quarters and top with the spinach and tomato mixture

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Old Biscuit Mill and Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Last weekend we flew down to Cape Town for a wedding - it was a whirlwind of a weekend catching up with long lost friends - but there was one thing I absolutely had to do and that was visit the infamous "Old Biscuit Mill." I have heard so much about this culinary hot spot - it seems to be the only words spoken on everyone's lips and boy was there good reason for this. I'd move to Cape Town, just for the Saturday Market (and even put up with the awful wind)!

I only had half an hour before the wedding - I felt like Alice in Wonderland - running in circles, looking in wonderment at all the delectable goodies, while dodging the never ending stream of people. I could have spent all day there, just walking around and looking at all the gorgeous things on offer; from beautifully decorated cupcakes and scrummy looking pastries to giant sized pans of paella and other interesting concoctions. There were even fresh fish and meat stands, gluten free pizzas, wine tastings, ciders and beers, limoncello - which I just couldn't resist buying (and sampling - hee hee) stalls with spices, vinegars, oils, chocolates, freshly squeezed juices and fresh cut flowers - the list goes on and on... If you haven't visited this slice of foodie Heaven yet - please do yourself a favour and get to Cape Town asap!  The address is 373-375 Albert Road, Woodstock.

Another stand that caught my eye was called CookMe - this is an innovative range of products such as couscous, pasta sauce and risotto with no preservatives or additives. The natural ingredients have been dehydrated to remove the water and all you need to do is add it back. I bought a packet of risotto to try.

Armed with my goodies from the market, I invited my friends Kerry and Kirsty over for dinner.

Ever since Marisa from the Creative Pot blogged about her Chicken with Pecan Cream and Mushrooms, I have been frothing at the mouth to try this pecan cream for myself - it sounded perfect, a cream made from nuts, with no dairy in sight!

This is my invention with Marisa's pecan cream:

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Zesty Pecan Cream, Baby Spinach and Tomatoes:
(Serves 4)


Zesty Pecan Cream:

1 Cup Pecan Nuts
1/2 - 3/4 Cup Water
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Zest of Half a Lemon
Squeeze Lemon Juice
Sprinkle of Dried Oregano
A Drizzle of Sesame Oil

Other Ingredients:

4 Chicken Breasts
A Handful of Baby Spinach
A Handful of Baby Tomatoes, Cut in Half
Tin Foil
Sesame Oil
Dried Oregano
Herbal Salt and Black Pepper


Heat Oven to 180 Degrees Celsius
Start off by adding the pecan nuts to a blender and blending until the pecan nuts are finely ground
Slowly ddd some of the water and whizz again
Add the zest of half a lemon (or less if you don't want the lemon flavour too overpowering)
Add the lemon juice, sesame oil, salt, pepper and oregano and whizz again
Add more water until the consistency resembles a thick cream
Tear four squares of tin foil, each big enough to house one chicken breast
Drizzle a little sesame oil, paprika, and herbal salt over the tin foil
Open up the chicken breasts (there should already be a flap, which can serve as the top layer of the pocket, in which to stuff the chicken)
Spread a layer of pecan cream on the bottom inside layer of the chicken breast, top with a few baby spinach leaves and a few baby tomato halves
Sprinkle with pepper, herbal salt and oregano before pulling over the chicken flap to cover the stuffing
Make a parcel from the tin foil by folding the sides together, above the chicken breast and scrunching it around the chicken - ensuring that it is entirely covered
Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the chicken has turned from pink to white, but is still moist
Drizzle the liquid created in the tin foil over the chicken for extra flavour
Cook the risotto as directed on the packaging - if you are allergic to yeast - leave out the wine.

The risotto was very simple to make and packed full of flavour - my friends and I loved it!
P.S The risotto does contain garlic

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bring On the Summer Weather

Last weekend was the first glimpse of the beautiful summer weather just around the corner and Dre and I decided to take advantage with a braai.

I wanted a healthy braai and was intent on making my own marinade as who really knows what goes into them otherwise! And I just love kebabs - I don't really know why - maybe because of the fact that I hate bones in meat (I know, I'm weird ;-)) and it's also possible to combine the meat with other flavours for an even greater taste sensation!

We kicked off proceedings with a refreshing cocktail - just the thing to symbolise a summer's day with strawberries and mint - mmmm... yum!

Summer Cocktail:


A Handful of Strawberries, Sliced
A Handful of Mint, Torn
2 Litres Sparkling Water
Blackcurrant or Strawberry Cocktail Mix, To Taste
Tonic Water or Lime Cordial, To Taste
Gin or Vodka (Optional), To Taste


Combine all ingredients in a big jug
Mix together and serve

I settled on Beef Kebabs with Braai'd Potatoes:
(Makes 8 - 9 Kebabs)


500 - 700g Good Quality Beef (Such as Rump Steak Cut into Cubes)
1 - 2 Onions, Cut into Large Chunks and Layers Separated
2 - 3 Large Peppers (Yellow, Green, Red), Cut into Large Chunks
Tin Foil


Olive Oil
Dried Thyme
Dried Oregano
Lemon Juice
Soya Sauce (Gluten Free)
Herbal Salt
Cracked Black Pepper


Marinate the meat in the marinade for a minimum of an hour - combining marinade ingredients as per taste
Start creating the kebabs, by layering the rump, peppers and onions
Do this until all ingredients have been used up or until you run out of kebab sticks
Coat with a final amount of olive oil so that the kebabs do not burn on the braai
Wrap the potatoes in tin foil - poking the potatoes with a knife or fork before doing so
You can rub olive oil over them and sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper for extra flavour before wrapping them
Cook in the coals for about 20 minutes, until a sharp knife goes straight through the potato
Serve with a salad

Such bright and vibrant colours - don't they just scream summer?