I plant my flag. I sit by the warm fire. I see the road traveled so far,fruitful, full of joy and with lovely characters along the way.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pasta with sweet tomatoes, aubergine and mozzarella - Jamie Oliver

Today I am going to try one of Jamie Oliver's recipes. I love his shows on television and I do think he is the most gorgeous chef on earth. Also he is lucky with his accent, it is lovely. Although it is described as mockney or fake, it has become famous over the years. Particularly the use of the Hindi word 'pukka' (meaning brilliant or solid) refers to him.

Some of the newsflashes in which he was the center of attention:

In 2003, Oliver was ranked number 28 in Channel 4's poll of '100 Worst Britons'. The poll was inspired by the BBC series '100 Greatest Britons'. The poll specified that the nominees had to be British, alive, and not currently in prison.

In 2005, Oliver was widely criticized by animal rights groups for slaughtering a fully conscious lamb on his TV show (my God!). Some critics believed his act would scare meat eaters into becoming vegetarians, which they stated as good television. I would never become a vegetarian to be honest but I am happy to not have seen this video..

Also in 2005, Jamie Oliver embarked upon his school dinners campaign to improve the quality of food fed to pupils. While the campaign was arguably successful, at the time it was a highly controversial shake-up for students and parents, some of whom believed that the students should have a healthy option available, but still be given the choice as to what they want to eat. (agreeable I guess)

In September 2006, Rawmarsh Community School, South Yorkshire, UK, made headlines after a handful of parents revolted against Oliver's lunch plan (in which all 1,100 pupils on site were fed two portions of fruit and three vegetables every day) by delivering junk food from local shops to the pupils through the school fence. (who are these people for Heaven's sake? So much for setting an example!!) One parent dismissed Oliver's food as 'disgusting rubbish' and declared: 'Food is cheaper and better at the local takeaways.'

Well guys, believe me he knows how to make a good healthy vegetarian dish :)

For this Pasta with sweet tomatoes, aubergine and mozzarella dish you would need:
  • 350 gr pasta (whichever you like)  
  • 1 large firm aubergine
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 x 400g tins good-quality plum tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons thick cream
  • a large handful of fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped oregano
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 x 200g ball of buffalo mozzarella
  • 4 large handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Slice up the aubergine into 1cm thick cubes and heat a griddle pan. Meanwhile, put 4 tablespoons of olive oil into the pan on a medium heat. Add the aubergine for seven minutes on medium heat. After that add the onion, garlic and dried oregano and cook for a few minutes, until the onion is soft and the garlic has a tiny bit of color. Then add the tinned tomatoes and the balsamic vinegar. When the tomato sauce is reduced, season it carefully with salt and pepper. Cook on slow heat for 15 minutes, then add the cream. Cook the pasta. Add the pasta to the sauce mixture together with the torn-up mozzarella and basil. Serve immediately.

 Thanks for sharing this recipe Jamie, you are amazing!

Warm regards,

Abigail Summer

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa - Johannesburg

Hi there!

After a weekend of lifting boxes, cleaning offices and joking with the builders, we finally settled in a new office. The result is amazing and we were quite happy about it and very satisfied after all the hard work we have done. Peter and I decided to celebrate our achievement and we booked a table at the excellent Restaurant of Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa.

This five star Hotel is unique, exclusive, up-market, for either business or leisure. Once the private home of the current live-in owners, John and Anna Thacker, the property was originally bought from the Little Brenthurst Trust of Oppenheimer fame, and consisted of 10 acres with horses and stables and rolling green lawns. Portions of the property have been sold off, but it has retained its stately, park-like ambiance with huge mature trees and prolific bird-life.

First impression at the entrance:
  • Unique
  • Historical 
  • Peaceful
  • Elegant
  • Italian decor
  • Friendly staff
The entrance was difficult to find because there were no visible signs in the street. After we finally found the entrance we were most friendly welcomed outside and enjoyed the peacefulness and quietness in the garden. You feel at home immediately in the restaurant area. Soft classical music in the back, nicely laid out tables with dark red table cloths, comfortable white leather chairs (see picture) and nice staff.

They have just enlarged the restaurant area and the doors were not quite finished yet, which meant during dinner we were getting cold and asked to move. This was not a problem and the staff helped us changing tables to a warmer area in the middle of the restaurant. Supposedly the doors will be closed before wintertime, so don't worry. The hotel is running very well. Apparently all suites are fully booked for the World Cup 2010, at least that is what the friendly waitress told us.

The bread rolls and butter were served in a silver dish. The bread was divine, the butter was a bit hard and salty. The serving dish reminded me of an ashtray at first, which I guess it wasn't. Or it was never used as an ashtray I hope. Otherwise if you have just stopped smoking, this could be an idea for your silverware! Or if you love silver like me.. don't leave it in your cupboards but use it at your dining table. We ordered white wine from a long list of wines. The pale wine had a delicate roundness and attractive notes that made it an equally good choice.

We ordered Namibian oysters as a starter, served with lemon wedges, Red onion vinaigrette and Caviar! Delicious!!
After that Peter ordered Grilled Fillet of Beef served with Oxtail cannelloni, mashed potato and Truffle sauce. I ordered Slow Roast Duck with crisp raspberry and plums, greens and star anise sauce. After 15 minutes of ordering our mains were served on hot plates, and I was curious to compare this Duck with my first experience (eating Duck at Le Canard) that I immediately attacked the dish with my cutlery to taste it.
Duck is always on the fatty side and I read on the internet that this is why the Chinese make pressed duck. They literally press it to get the fat out. If you never have tasted Duck before it is difficult to explain why it is so divine. It has no white meat to it so it is sort of like turkey with a flavored glaze. I loved it.
Peter's dish was very good. The potato mash was lush and the beef fillet was perfectly cooked, medium rare as ordered. Juicy from the inside nicely browned from the outside, right temperature and good layout of both plates.

The dessert was something else. We shared Baked Alaska together.
This dessert is made of ice cream placed in a pie dish, lined with slices of sponge cake and topped with meringue (made from whipped egg whites and sugar). The entire dessert is then placed in an extremely hot oven for just long enough to firm the meringue. The meringue is an effective insulator, and the short cooking time prevents the heat from getting through to the ice cream.

We were lucky to have shared the dessert as it was too much for the both of us. The sugary taste, combined with the richness of the egg whites, the softness of the sponge cakes and the cold ice cream is a lovely combination and they actually prepared it well. Just too much guys, thanks for your generosity but undo-able if you already had a starter and main course.

Overall experience?
Excellent. The friendly staff made this a great experience we will remember for a long time. Although the Duck at Le Canard is still my ultimate favorite.

Value for money?
If you know this all costs us nearly 600ZAR including an expensive bottle of white wine, I would say it was definitely worth the money. The food was exquisite, staff knows etiquette and customer service and the ambiance was peaceful and quiet.Too bad that it was chilli in the restaurant and that we were the only customers inside! That's why I came to the following conclusion:

Food        4/5
Service     5/5
Ambiance 3/5

Overall review

Warm Regards,

Abigail Summer

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Muffins from Heaven

Just wanted to say, I love muffins. All varieties and flavors as a matter of fact! I was curious what I could find on the web about these lovely cupcakes and was surprised to find so many articles about how to get rid of your muffin top?? That's another subject for another blog I presume. Lots of recipes as well, which I loved.

For people who have been sleeping their earlier life.. muffins are made with a specific ingredient such as blueberries, chocolate chips, raspberry, cinnamon, pumpkin, date, nut, lemon, banana, orange, peach, strawberry, boysenberry, almond, and carrot, baked into the muffin.. and they are heavenly. My all time favorite is a cappuccino muffin and I missed that on the top 10 list I found on http://www.faqs.org (see below)

Here's the list of 10 muffins that readers from their website rated as the best ones:
1. Chocolate Chip
2. Pumpkin
3. Cranberry Upside Down
4. Lemon and Poppy Seed
5. Strawberry and Banana
6. Cherry Ricotta
7. Blueberry
8. Mocha
9. Blueberry Streusel
10.Apple and Cinnamon

Well? Would you agree? Or would you rather change the subject to muffin tops? Or to what happens to you (unfortunately) when having too many muffins? Please share your thoughts.. and your muffins from now on I guess.

Warm Regards,

Abigail Summer

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Salmon Grenobloise - Jacques Pépin

This beautiful recipe is from one of Jacques Pépin's 18 cookbooks named Jacques Pépin's Kitchen. He is one of America's best-known chefs, food columnists and cooking teachers.

He wrote a cookbook together with Julia Child. She was an American chef who introduced French cooking (famous also is the film Julie & Julia, which was adapted from Child's memoir My Life in France and from Julie Powell's memoir. It was a bestseller all over the country).

Jacques Pépin is down to earth if it comes to his success. He speaks about his cooperation with Julia Child as follows: "Cooking is a fun occupation and our book shows the conviviality of two pals cooking together. Not that we don't take our cooking seriously, but what the heck, it's not the end of the world in importance."

I tried his Salmon Grenobloise yesterday and I loved it! As I cooked for Peter and myself I divided all ingredients by two. For this lovely recipe (2p) you need:
-2 salmon fillet steaks with skin
-1 slice of bread
-salt and black pepper
-1 lemon & 1 teaspoon fresh chives
-1 tablespoon unsalted butter
-1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
-2 teaspoons canola oil
-1 tablespoon capers

And it is so easy to prepare! Honestly, even I can not fuck this up. You heat the oil in a nonstick skillet. You cut pieces of bread into cubes and cook them for about 2 minutes until they are nicely browned on all sides. Set aside.

You sprinkle the fish steaks on both sides with salt and pepper and place them skin down in the hot skillet. The one you used to saute the croutons. Cook the fish, uncovered for 3 minutes over medium high heat and covered for another 2 minutes. Place the steaks skin side up on a warm platter and sprinkle them with croutons, lemon flesh pieces, carpers and chives. This looks great already but we are not done yet...

Discard any fat that has accumulated in the skillet. Add the butter to the skillet, and cook it over medium heat until it is lightly browned. Add the vinegar, shake the pan to mix it in, then pour the mixture over the steaks on the platter. This must be served immediately.

And it tastes fantastic. 100% recommended!

Thanks Jacques for sharing this recipe with us on internet. You definitely master the technique of cooking.And by the way.. I love your French accent! :)

Warm Regards,

Abigail Summer

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Review Vasili's - Morningside - Johannesburg

It's me again... at your service, keeping you from making unnecessary mistakes in restaurant choice.. What we got ourselves into last week..

I love Adega Restaurants and I convinced Peter to go and have their special : 1 kg 'Adega style' King Prawns for only R119,-. Such a great offer and the quality is very good. Also I enjoy the service at Adega Restaurants. They have most friendly waiters and you can go to Adega without having made a reservation. Also I love it that you do not really have to dress up for that specific evening. If you haven't been, please do and order the special. 

We entered 'Adega' at Morningside and immediately noticed some changes in the lay out and design.

First impression at the entrance:
  • A new and more spacious entrance
  • Light blue security fence
  • Adega brand visible from the outside
  • Very cold inside
  • Nicely laid tables with light blue tablecloths
  • Still looked like Adega (wall decorations)
 We were seated and received the menu. A different one! Appears to be though we actually entered another restaurant, called Vasili's. We felt betrayed because nobody had introduced us to the new setting at the entrance. Outside the sign 'Adega' still lighted up and near the entrance hung a sign. I purposely went back the next day to make these pictures. Although it says on the sign (left) 'watch this space' it never occurred to me that Adega would be gone. We at first did not know what to do because a prawn special was not in the menu. And if I set my mind on prawns, I want them!

It pissed me off that the restaurant owner did not tell the guests about the new identity. Some other guests in the restaurant looked just as surprised as we did when receiving the menu. This was wrong. We decided to stay anyway and we ordered wine from the wine list. The wine list offered lots of choice in wine. It tasted good and was at the right temperature.

Later, I ordered Prawn Curry and Peter chose steak, medium rare. My prawn curry was tasteless. The prawns were overcooked and it definitely missed flavor. It came with white rice and a mixture of tomatoes and cucumber.
Peter's steak was okay but not medium rare. The fries were too crunchy. They were even slightly burned!

The worst part of the experience was the service. In fact our waiter was friendly and I must admit, he was trained on the basics. He came back to our table frequently to ask if we were doing alright and he was visible all the time. But his colleagues were fucking annoying. We were seated at a table in the middle of the restaurant. Therefor the waiters passing our table were constantly bumping up to the back of our chairs or the corners of the table. Some apologized, some did not even bother.

How rude to seat us in a place where we can not enjoy a peaceful diner, in a place that has changed overnight without telling any guests, and being much more expensive than Adega. I can only say, you guys have a lot to learn about service, ambiance and food. We skipped dessert because we really wanted to rush out of the place and never come back.

Overall experience?

Value for money?
No value for money. The food was tasteless, the service was bad and our table was placed in a busy area with no space for the waiters to walk around it. It really was not good.

Food         1/5
Service     1/5
Ambiance 1/5

Overall review

Warm Regards,

Abigail Summer

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Review George on 4th - Parkhurst - Johannesburg

I believe Parkhurst is a fantastic area. It is like a little village with delicate restaurants with outside area's, pleasant bars and retro stores. George on 4th is my new challenge. Together with my two friends we had lunch on a sunny afternoon! Should I also mention how cold it was last Friday.. this is the first time I wore a sweater in months! F*&:\xi3_u(&^#(#..

Anyway, back to George on 4th.

First impression at the entrance:
  • The place is not easy to spot from the street 
  • No branding of any kind was visible outside or inside
  • Lovely wooden chairs and parquet floor
  • Continental touch
  • Charming decor
  • Outside tables too close to the road
We were seated outside and the waiter came, properly introduced himself and asked us what we wanted to drink. We ordered wine and fruit juices. The house wine is definitely recommended. Nothing fancy but a good price, and a full glass.

As girls do, we chatted and we forgot to look at the menu.The waiter understood and was very patient with us girls. After we made up our mind we all decided to take a salad for lunch. I ordered Berry & Goats Cheese Salad -
Poached seasonal berries, toasted almonds, watercress, topped with goats cheese- and was surprised about the plate that was served to me ten to fifteen minutes later. That my friends, is a salad!! The plate was full with green leaves in the middle, I guess 8 cm high. Around the greenery the goat cheese was perfectly laid out, together with all the ingredients that tasted fantastic together. One of us was given a steak knife by the way, which I thought was strange. After asking out friendly waiter, he apologized for the mistake and replaced the knife.

Definitely a healthy lunch at George on 4th. No dressing was added but there was balsamic vinegar and olive oil on the table for our own use. The bottles were placed in the middle of the table, perfectly laid out but annoying because it blocks sight. After use we asked the waiter if he could take them away which he did immediately.

Inside the place looks great. Besides lovely healthy food, good ambiance and a friendly waiter, I loved the fact that there was no rush.. just a relaxing Friday afternoon in Parkhurst. Great choice of food and wine (original). What fucking annoyed me the whole experience outside on the terrace was the fact that there were fucking parked cars in front of the restaurant. These cars blocked our view completely. Keep this an open area guys! How hard can it be?

Overall experience?

Value for money?
Yes. Good prices for a more than average lunch. The food is of high standard, based on my review of the menu. Inside the place is beautiful but sitting outside during the day isn't nice because the cars are parked near the tables. That is why my 'vote' is as follows.

Food           3/5
Service       3/5
Ambiance   3/5  

Overall review

Warm Regards,

Abigail Summer