As a vegetarian, making gravy for a traditional roast with only veg can be tricky. Usually I’d use Ina Perlman’s gravy powder, but this week I decided to try a red wine reduction instead. I googled to find a recipe, but straight away hit a huge, insurmountable problem! The recipe called for leftover wine. So, I googled Leftover Wine, thinking it was the brand name of some special red wine reduction ingredient. Turns out it’s the wine that people don’t drink the night before. Obviously, I had to give up on my plan to make a red wine reduction right there!
But then Analize explained to me that I could also use the horrible box wine that’s been in my cupboard forever. A while back someone told me that Woolies dry red box wine is the best kept secret in town, and so I decided to try it and see for myself. It’s not a secret. Nobody’s talking about it because it’s not true. That particular box wine was undrinkable. At least for me. But it would do for a reduction.
So…what is a red wine reduction anyway? It’s basically red wine that’s been heated until the volume of the liquid has been reduced by approximately half. It’s tasty because it keeps the red wine flavours without tasting overwhelmingly alcoholic.
The science behind it is interesting and a tad confusing. We know that wine contains both ethyl alcohol and water molecules. Alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water (78 degrees Celsius for alcohol vs 100 degrees Celsius for water), so strictly speaking, when the wine is heated, all the alcohol should evaporate long before the water starts to boil and evaporate. Because of this, we would expect that once reduced to half its volume, the wine reduction would contain no alcohol at all. But it does! The good news is that it retains up to 10% of the alcohol.
But why is this? Apparently, this happy phenomenon is due to something called hydrogen bonding, which involves weak electrostatic forces. In the world of molecular bonding this can be compared to the vague attraction you may have to a fling as opposed to the lifelong connection to your soulmate. Nobody would waste a good Shiraz getting dronk verdriet over the breakup of two hydrogen bonded molecules. I’ve just finished watching season 6 of Sex and the City. Can you tell? So…these forces form weak bonds between the molecules of the two liquids in the wine, to create a uniform mixture known as an azeotropic mixture. When the mixture is heated, the hydrogen bonding ensures that some water molecules evaporate along with the alcohol, while equally ensuring that some of the alcohol molecules remain bonded to unevaporated water molecules. Remember that red wine on average contains not more than 14% alcohol to begin with, so the final reduction percentage makes sense. Does it? Or is it just that handy wine maths thing again?
The recipe is not rocket science, once you get around the leftover wine conundrum. You fry onions in olive oil or butter then add the wine, rosemary and vegetable stock. Simmer until the volume is reduced by about half. If you want less alcohol in your reduction, reduce the wine to half its volume first, before adding the vegetable stock and reducing it further.
I just love being a vegetarian!! So many reasons and ways to “drink” wine. Anyone for lunch?
I can describe this dish as a South African Thai curry with Indian and Malay flavours. Very different, but not to be missed!
Wrong Curry with Coconut Rice
I was just playing around, wondering what would happen if I made a curry and did everything "wrong." The result was a curry dish with South African, Malay, Indian and Thai flavours all bunched up together, and I promise you, it is wonderfully different and lip-smacking delicious!
You can make it with chicken, beef or only vegetables for a vegetarian version.
I also promise to take some pictures next time when I make this curry! When I first made it, I didn't really take pictures because I never thought it would make it onto my blog, but it is so tasty I have to include it!
- 600 - 800 g meat of your choice - chicken, beef, or pork.
- 1 large onion chopped
- Mixture of vegetables Choose from, or use them all: peppers, butternut, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, peas, brinjals etc. chunks
- 50 g (one packet) Thai red curry paste
- 2 - 3 teaspoons curry powder
- Half teaspoon of each: turmeric, fennel, cumin
- 2 large potatoes cubed
- 1 tin coconut milk
- 2 cubes vegetable or chicken stock
- 50 g tomato paste
- 1 - 2 cups fragrant white rice
- Half cup (for each cup of rice) desiccated coconut
To Cook the Curry:
Fry the chopped onions in oil till translucent
Add all the dry spices and toast lightly.
Add the meat and brown it lightly.
Add the red curry paste and tomato paste, mix well, and fry briefly with the meat, onions and spices.
Dissolve the stock cubes in 2 cups water, and add to the meat mix in the pot. Cook until the meat is tender. Add water as necessary.
Add all the vegetables and the coconut milk and cook until the potatoes are tender.
Let the curry rest for at least 10 min before serving.
Cook the rice as usual.
When the rice is almost cooked, but still a bit chalky, add the coconut and lightly stir it through. Cook until the rice is soft but not mushy.
Serve the wrong curry with the coconut rice and a spicy chutney.
Will pair well with Avontuur Luna de Miel Chardonnay, or any good Shiraz. I would also not hesitate to have Onderkloof's Sir Lowry blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with this dish.
Vegetarian Wrong Curry
To cook a vegetarian version, add all your vegetables and coconut milk to the onions and spice mixture, and cook until tender. You can also add lentils, soya mince or chunks, cooked beans or any other protein source of your choice. I often add Quorn or Fry's chicken-like products to my curries and it is really good!
- 4 Tbsp Bobotie Mix
- 1/2 packet savoury muffin mix
- 2 extra large eggs
- 1/3 cup sunflower oil
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 handful raisens
- 1 tsp baking powder
Mix the savoury muffin mix, raisens and baking powder together.
Lightly beat the eggs, milk and water together.
Add the egg mixture to the muffin mixture.
Stir in the bobotie mix.
Spoon the muffin mix into the greased muffin pan.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 20 minutes.
- Use the bobotie mix from the Vegetarian Bobotie recipe.
This recipe is perfect for those cold winter’s days….
Vegetarian Bobotie with Dhania Steamed Basmati Rice
Lentil Curry Mixture
- Sunflower oil
- 2 cups cooked brown lentils
- 1 med chopped onion
- 1 tomato
- 3 Tbsp Mrs Balls Chutney
- 2 Tbsp Cape Malay curry powder
- 1 large grated carrot
- 2 cups chopped spinach
- 4 bay leaves
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1/2 cup milk
Dhania Steamed Rice
- 1 cup Basmati rice
- 1 bunch dhania
- 250 grams chopped white mushrooms
- 1 tsp turmeric
Lentil Curry Mixture
Fry the onion in oil until lightly browned
Add the curry powder and cook for a further minute
Add the chopped tomato and cook until soft.
Mix the lentils, carrot and chutney and add to the curry tomato sauce. Add salt to taste.
Cook for 5 minutes then add the chopped spinach and steam.
Spoon the lentil mixture into a greased baking dish and press lightly with a spoon to compact it.
Tear the bay leaves into pieces and stick into the lentil mixture.
Lightly beat the eggs, milk and cream together.
Pour over the lentil mixture
Pre-heat the oven to 150 deg celsius and bake for an hour or until the custard topping is set.
Fry the mushrooms and turmeric in oil. Add salt to taste.
Rinse the rice in warm water to remove the starch and cook per instructions.
Before completely cooked, add a few stalks of the dhania and steam.
Once cooked, carefully mix chopped dhania and turmeric mushrooms into the rice, using a fork.
- Rinse the basmati to prevent a sticky rice. This will allow you to mix the mushroom and dhania into the rice without creating a mush.
Winter is curry time.
Well, any time is curry time, but curry in a Cape winter just pushes the happiness meter way up. I am an avid curry lover, from Rogan Josh to Balti, Korma, Vindaloo, Jalfrezi and all the rest. Not that I always know all the differences, but I do know what tastes good! I learned to make them from various Indian friends in all parts of the world. That only covers the Indian curries! Sometimes I am seriously happy that humans have to eat so often because there are so many amazing curries in the world.
In SA, as a child, I associated curry mostly with the mince curry and rice that we used to get at church bazaars and school functions. We always ate it with Mrs. Ball’s chutney, sliced banana, and desiccated coconut. Which reminds me, I haven’t had that in ages! Must make a plan… My mum also cooked good beef and mutton curries but they were all flavoured with the same spices from the Rajah packet. At least until my dad started traveling to Durban often, for work, and brought back big bags of curry spices from the Indian spice market. Now remember, those were the days before Google. Also, long before eating out was a thing. The only “thing” it was, was a thing we did maybe once or twice a year, on a special occasion, and Indian restaurants didn’t exist in Kempton Park in the 70’s and 80’s as far as I know.
That means we didn’t know about different curries. All we knew was beef, mutton, and sometimes, chicken curry, and it was either handstands-in-the-shower hot, or not.
Then I discovered real Durban curry… And Malaysian curry, and Japanese, Indonesian and Thai curry. A whole new world of curries opened up for me, and I have been experimenting with them all ever since.
The other day Bev was complaining that her Durban curry masala was almost finished, and we decided to try and make our own. It was a sort of off-the-cuff attempt, based on what I could taste in the real Mc Coy. Not a totally bad attempt, I think, but it made me wonder for the first time what the difference actually is between a Durban curry and a Cape curry.
To find those subtle but flavourful differences, I have compared more than 50 recipes for the three main, basic curry masala mixes we use in South Africa, and the curries we cook with them. There are more variations than we can count; probably one for every single cook who has ever mixed their own curry spices. Yet, there seems to be silent consent about which spices are most often used for which type of curry, with the main variations probably being in the quantities.
The chart here below explains which spices are most often used in masala for Durban Curry, Cape Malay Curry and Garam Masala. It’s handy guide for everyone interested in the differences between Durban Curry and Cape Malay Curry.
Other differences between Durban curry and Cape Malay curry:
- Durban curry is generally hotter than Cape curry, so add more chillies or chilli powder.
- Some spices, like whole star anise, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks are not necessarily added to the masala mix, but can still be added whole to the curry.
- Durban curry is more red, due to the extra chili powder but also because tomato is an important ingredient. Durban curry makers put fresh, chopped tomato or canned tomato in their curries. Often both.
- Garam Masala is often used in both curries, combined with other spices.
- Garam means “warmth” but it shouldn’t be confused with hot or spicy. “Warmth” refers to the feeling of warmth and comfort the spices symbolise, and also to the fact that the whole spices for garam masala are toasted before they are ground to a powder.
- Garam masala is most often not spicy hot. It doesn’t have much of a “burn.”
- Garam masala is used in two ways, in the same curry. Some of the masala is added and sauteed with the onions right at the beginning of cooking your curry. More garam masala is added after cooking the dish; sometimes even at the table. It brings out the warm taste and aroma of all the spices and packs a rich, flavourful punch.
- It is not unusual for Cape Malay curry to have more of a sweetness, either from chutneys or coconut milk.
- Don’t be in a hurry when cooking a curry. Meat should be soft and fall off the bone. Add your vegetables at a later stage so they don’t get soggy and overcooked.
- Potatoes are an essential ingredient in most curries. It adds flavour and texture, and can also be a natural thickener for the gravy in your curry.
For our curry recipes, please click on the links, or browse through the recipe section.
Cape Malay Curry
Black Bean Curry
I think I need to cook a curry right now! Typing can make you hungry, especially typing about delicious food!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
These chocolate peanut butter balls are made with only 5 ingredients and take 5 min to make. Cool in the fridge for 15 minutes and pop them in your mouth or serve with ice-cream. So easy a 5-year-old could do it!
- 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 2 tbsp cocoa
- Some coconut to roll it in
Mix peanut butter and coconut milk in a bowl.
Add the cocoa and stir in.
Add the icing sugar, one spoon at a time, and stir.
Add a bit more or less icing sugar, as needed. It should be a soft paste that you can shape into little balls.
Roll in desiccated coconut and place on wax paper. Alternatively you can roll it in crushed nuts, smarties or cookie crumbs.
Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, and serve.
It is hard to give exact measurements because the consistency of different kinds of peanut butter, and even coconut milk are often very different, but if you adjust the icing sugar, it is easy to get it right.
Spinach and Lentil Salad
A vegetarian dish with layered flavours to be enjoyed with a full-bodied wine like Chardonnay or a Cabernet Franc Blend.
- 500 g Spinach or baby spinach
- Half cup/tin Cooked lentils
- 2 Ripe tomatoes
- 2 medium Potatoes
- 2 Onions cut into ring, and quartered
- 1 large clove of garlic chopped, but not crushed
- Cheddar cheese (or feta, if you prefer)
- Crushed, dried chillies
- 1/4 tsp Ground Cumin
- Olive oil and balsamic vinegar for the dressing
- Extra olive oil for sauteeing.
- Salt and course black pepper.
Boil the lentils for about 20 min, until cooked but still al dente. Drain, and let cool.
Sprinkle cumin and crushed chilies over the onions, and fry until brown and almost crispy. When they are nearly ready, add the garlic, and fry briefly, until brown too. Remove from heat, and set aside.
Rinse the spinach well, and cut up into chunks, if you are using swiss chard etc. Baby spinach can be used whole. Heat a little bit of olive oil well in a frying pan and add the spinach. Baby spinach just need a quick stir in the pan until it is wilted. Swiss chard will take a bit longer.
As soon as it is wilted, add 50 ml of water, and let it cook off. When the spinach is soft and all the water is gone, add a bit more olive oil. Coat the spinach well, and saute for a minute or two. Add salt to taste. (I used a delicious olive salt from Riebeeck Kasteel!) Remove and let it cool down.
Rinse and dry the potatoes and pierce with a knife with a knife. Microwave on full power for 4 min. (2 min per potato) Test with a knife to see if they are cooked. Let cool, peel and cut into cubes. Sprinkle with a bit of salt.
Cut the tomatoes and cheddar cheese into cubes.
Combine all the ingredients, mix lightly and dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Enjoy as a side salad or a main dish.
I learned to make this amazing, yet simple, Filipino chicken dish when I lived in Singapore. For the South African palette, I sometimes tone it down slightly with a mixture of balsamic vinegar and white vinegar. You don't have to though; you can also use either one of the two, depending on what you prefer.
- 6 Chicken pieces such as drumsticks
- Oil for frying
- 2 to 3 bay leafs
- Chopped garlic – lots!
- Coarse black pepper – lots!
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
For the sauce, mix together in a cup:
- 50 ml soya sauce
- 50 ml Vinegar I use white vinegar and balsamic together
- Fill the cup with water.
Fry the chicken until it is nice and brown.
Add all the spices and garlic while it is frying, and sprinkle the sugar over the chicken.
No need for salt, the soya sauce is salty enough.
Add the cup of liquid and cook slowly until the chicken is tenderly cooked and the sauce is thick and sticky. Add more water while it cooks, if needed.
Serve with rice.
Read the story behind this recipe here
There are a lot of stinging nettles in the Cape Town area and many other areas in the country. Most people are probably not aware that they are not only edible, but delicious and very nutritious. Once you cook them they lose their sting within 30 seconds. They are available at organic health shops, or you can just pick them yourself if you know how to identify the plant. Be sure to use thick gardening gloves, or pick them with tongs, because they don’t call them stinging nettles for nothing! Those little buggers pack a sting that keeps burning for what feels like a long time. If you do happen to get stung, rub on some aloe vera or an anti-allergy cream like Allergex. Put the nettles in a bowl with cold water to clean them well before cooking. Drain, and (with gloves on) pull the leaves off or chop the whole stem up if they are still young and soft.
- 1 Kg stewing beef
- 1 Large onion
- 2 Cloves garlic chopped
- 1 cup of packed nettles
- 2 to 3 Tomatoes peeled and chopped.
- 2 Medium potatoes peeled and cut into cubes.
- 500 g of a fresh vegetable mix of your choice. Choose from:
- Green beans
- 2 Tablespoons curry masala
- 1 Teaspoon garam masala
- 1 Small cinnamon stick
- 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger grated
- 1 Teaspoon fresh turmeric very finely chopped
- or a levelled teaspoon of turmeric powder
- ¼ Teaspoon ground fennel
- ¼ Teaspoon ground coriander
- Chilies or chilli powder if you like it hot
- 1 Star aniseed
Brown the meat in some oil.
Add the onions ad fry until they start turning brown.
Add all the spices and fry briefly to release the favour.
Add garlic and chopped tomatoes.
Add enough water to cover the meat, and bring to a boil. Stir often.
Slowly simmer for an hour, stirring now and then.
Add the potatoes, vegetable mix and nettles, and a bit of water if needed.
Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the veggies are cooked and the sauce is thickening.
Serve with rice or mieliepap.
Tom Yum Pork Stew
Tom Yum actually is a Thai soup, mostly made with seafood or chicken. The soup base is a very hot blend of chilies, lime, lemongrass, galangal and tamarind. The flavours also go well with pork, and I thought it doesn't always have to be a soup. I experimented with lean pork and a tom yum soup base as a stew. This recipe was the result of the experiments and an instant favourite for all my friends who like it hot!
- 800 g Lean pork I used a Texan pork steak, and the Texan spices combined well with the Tom Yum
- 2 tbsp Tom yum paste Use less if you don't want it to be so hot. You can buy it from Asian food stores, the Asian section of your supermarket, or you can make your own.
- 1 cup Chicken Stock
- 1 Onion chopped
- 1 Green or red pepper
- 2 Tomatoes
- 2 Carrots diced, or Julienne
- 300g Green beans quartered
- 150 ml Coconut milk
- 1 tsp Brown sugar or honey
- 2 Kaffir lime leaves
- 1 lemon grass stem, about 3 cm long.
- Coraiander leaves
- Salt to taste
- Water for cooking
Brown the meat. Add about a quarter cup of water and let it cook off until the meat starts frying again.
Sprinkle meat with sugar, add the onion and fry until caramelised.
Add the tom yum paste, lime leaves and lemon grass. Stir well, and try to coat the meat in tom yum paste as much as you can.
Add all the other ingredients except coriander, plus enough water to make a stew gravy and simmer for 20 - 30 min.
Serve with jasmin rice and garnish with coriander leaves.