Makaron Restaurant at Majeka House

I’ve been reminiscing about this most memorable meal. If you’re looking for a quite incredible dining experience, take a lazy afternoon off at Makaron.

 

 

British cupcakes

Whenever I visit my parents I usually have a good look in the pantry to see what interesting things I might find (that I might just maybe like to take back with me… as a kind of going away present). Well my latest find was a goodie! You must know that my mom is not a cupcake kind of lady or someone who takes pretty things very seriously so I knew she didn’t buy these and definitely wouldn’t mind if I put them to good use. And indeed they were a gift. Thank you Lucy! They are so gorgeous don’t you think?  So as an adieu to the olympics, I decided to whip up a batch of cupcakes and fulfil this set’s life-purpose. Cos if I didn’t, I dont think anyone ever would. What a shame ;)

PS: dont look at the state of my cupackes… I overfilled the cups and so I had a major case of overflowage. Arrgh.

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Friday’s Favourite: In my grocery basket

We’re back in Zambia after a fabulous Croatian holiday and I’ll show you some more photos from that next week. Going away is always a feast, and having supermarkets with endless options is one of my favourite parts of our holidays. Here in the bushes I’ve learned not to take the simple conveniences of the developed world for granted; if you can walk into a shop and buy crisp fresh lettuce on any day of the week, you are lucky beyond measure.

So for today, here are my 5 favourite things to put in my shopping basket when I go back to civilised places.

1. Cream cheese: A rare treat in rural Africa.

2.  Smoked salmon: Why buy cream cheese if you can’t have smoked salmon? It’s something I long for when we’re here.

3. Fruit: Anything other than apples and oranges, the only kind we really get here. It’s made me love European markets even more.

4. Rocket: On Saturdays there is a man who sells lettuce at the estate gate, but it’s tough and you have to chew it like you’re chewing bubble gum. Come to think of it, he’s marketing it as lettuce, but I don’t think it’s seen a lettuce gene in its life. Good leaves are such a treat.

5. Ice cream: You can actually get ice cream in Shoprite here, but the freezer of our little bar fridge is too small to fit even a small tub. And there definitely isn’t space for silly things like ice cream when there are Woolies Mac and Cheeses to keep frozen :) so we go without. But it’s not so bad. It helps to keep us humble and grateful when we do eventually go home.

Pavlova at Jardine berries meringue ice cream

 Happy Friday! x

Friday’s Favourite: Comfort food for winter days

Waking up to go to work at 5am on these cold, dark winter mornings is probably my least favourite thing of all. The only comfort is that Pete makes us a deep, steaming bowl of oats with raisins to share in the car, on the drive to work each morning. Bliss.

Here are my 5  favourite comfort foods, perfect for this time of year

1. Oats with cinammon and raisins: especially delicious if made by someone you love.

2. Macaroni cheese: in real life, it would be my gran’s version. In this Zambia life, the Woolies ready meal version is an awesome substitute. I bring so much of the stuff back with me each time that a macaroni-suitcase-leakage disaster is imminent.

3.  Lamb shanks: Slow cooked, meltingly delicious lamb shanks are one of the reasons I changed myself from vegetarian to flexitarian. Flexitarian is a real word by the way. A synonym is fussy.  

4. My mom’s chicken noodle pie: Another strike for vegetarianism. This pie is a double dose of carbs (noodles and pastry) and it has boiled chicken in it; that sounds not so great. But it’s UH-MAY-ZING. You should come over some time and let me make it for you :)

5. Butternut soup: I think butternut soup is my ultimate comfort food. Especially if its scooped up with warm bread smothered in butter.

butternut soup made by Tamara Dawson

Happy Friday! x

PS: I was so inspired by an article I (re)read yesterday by Iaan van Niekerk, that I decided that the process of turning the site into mine just shouldn’t wait anymore. Better done than perfect. I’m excited for what’s to come.

 

Bob

It’s a freaking mystery. How can I be 29 years old and never have tasted a broad bean before? I mean, yes, I’ve seen them on TV; Jamie Oliver had a whole program about them once. But I must have not taken very much notice, just because I guess we don’t see them much in South Africa so I didn’t really think about trying them. And why don’t we grow them back home? They’re incredible little wonders! I don’t know how it’s possible but I somehow think of them as meaty. Maybe it’s more “earthy” I’m thinking of. Either way, they’re just so different.

My first taste of broad beans was in a tiny Croatian restaurant in Zagreb, in a life-changing salad. So the next time we found a market, I used my best Croatian to buy a handful of the beautiful green pods that the Croats call “bob”. After our day’s sightseeing was done it was time to recreate the legendary bob salad…

Now don’t blame me because I’ve never dealt with these things before, but I didn’t quite realize you had to actually cook them! So instead of the delicate, sweet flesh I was expecting, I got rock hard little lumps of bitter green stuff when I started to pod them! I thought that maybe these ones were picked too soon and that they weren’t quite ready for eating yet (and that the sweet little old Croatian lady had scammed me), or that maybe I had romanticized the now famous Zagreb salad. Then Pete gave me an idea. “Why don’t you try cook them?”, he said. What a genius! 5 minutes later, after a dunk in boiling water, and then another 5 minutes later, after deciding to remove the hard outer shell, I had what I’d been dreaming of. Creamy, sweet, insanely delicious, bob.

Broad beans in croatia with some cherries thrown in

What would a market stop be without some cherries?

Turning 29 and being grateful

My first Zambian birthday, was, well not like most other birthdays. I’m usually far more concerned with birthday food than birthday presents, and the company that birthday celebrations bring. This year there were friends, but no swanky dinner out at some lovely restaurant with gobsmackingly delicious food: just a plain-buttered hot dog roll disguised as a braai. 

Our biggest sacrifice living in this remote piece of Africa is the sad, sad food. Being a flexitarian makes matters even worse (I’ll tell you about that sometime). And when it gets to the end of a rotation like now, I long for something delicious. Anything. It makes my insides hurt. Caramel treat can only help that ache so much. So now I can only long for the mediterranean yumminess that is coming our way in a weeks time. And never before have I been so grateful for the food pleasures we have in the first world. You can’t imagine how much.

Cauliflower main at Jardine in Stellenbosch

So for now, all I can do to keep it together is think back to the last grand meals we had, and the friends we shared them with, and be happy. And that is afterall, the point of birthdays. To be grateful for where we have come from and where we are going.

Wine and celeriac ravioli at Jardine in Stellenbosch

Market love.

It’s been a whirlwind of weeks. Such big changes, such happy times. Sometimes words elude me when I have so much to say. And those who know me, know that when I start typing, sometimes my fingers take on a life of their own, and I simply can’t control them. But now, when I have so much to say, so much feeling to share, words aren’t coming easily.

Let me get straight to the first lot of photos I want to show you.

I love markets.

It all started when I won a book prize at school. It was a book about the street markets of Paris. Way back in those days, before I’d even been outside of South Africa, and even way before the advent of the likes of The Biscuit Mill, the markets in that book excited me. Such colour, freshness and in the case of French marchants, heritage and community. And when I finally found the real deal, it didn’t let me down. I very happily think back to wandering along the main boulevard in Rouen with my old friend Carol, picking out fresh carrots and cherries with the help of the old French maman’s. Those were the days.

And now, when I come across a street market, Pete has a hard time keeping me away. We were on a tram in Geneva, heading downtown, when I spotted some stalls. STOP THE TRAM! And this is what we found. Don’t you wish you lived around the corner from a fresh food market? Sigh :)

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An ode to sushi in the North-West

So as I sit in Hluhluwe-iMfolosi Park, deprived of my usual Tuesday night sushi, I thought it apt to post a couple of photos I took last week at probably one of our last weekly outings to our local Cape Town Fish Market. Rustenburg is pretty hard pressed for decent restaurants of any kind, so to find amazing sushi in this town is pretty much divine intervention. And that’s why we go back every week. For half price Tuesdays of course :) Whether it’s a late night, rowdy gathering of 10 friends (and their friends), or Pete and I popping in for a quick early dinner, it’s always the same. The freshest pink salmon, crunchy ginger and lashings of soya :) with the smile of our favourite “black-a-nese” sushi chefs. Makes me miss it already. I have a feeling that the one sushi joint in Mt Isa is going to have a hard time living up to this one…

 

Sushi at Cape Town Fish Market (1)

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My and Martha’s macaron recipe

So for those of you that asked, here is the recipe I used, with a whole lot of other little comments. See what you think :)

I used the recipe off Martha Stewart‘s page. I followed the instructions quite closely, I just didn’t beat the meringue for 8 minutes, more like 2 minutes. I read that if you overwork the batter they might not rise properly. Oh ya, and the oven temperature- but that is such a variable, personal oven thing :)

Also

  • I couldn’t find almond meal/flour or even ground almonds, so I just put flaked almonds in the food processor for A LONG time. And I sifted the mixture about 5 times to be sure to have no grainy bits. I think there were still some anyway :)
  • For the South Africans who were wondering: confectioner’s sugar is icing sugar and superfine sugar is castor sugar
  • It’s quite hard to pipe them so that they’re smooth on top. Once you’ve piped them, shake the tray a bit to flatten the tops. If the batter is too stiff, obviously it won’t flatten. I found the last couple of batches/trays flattened a bit more than the first ones because the batter had probably got hotter and been worked a bit more (I can only put one tray in the oven at a time). Funny though, the last batches turned out the best. So standing doesn’t seem to deteriorate the mixture.
  • When you leave them to rest before baking, leave them until you actually feel a bit of a skin on them: this will help to stop them from cracking in the oven. If it’s very humid, you’re supposed to dry them a bit with a hair dryer!
  • They stuck terribly to a greased, non stick baking pan but when I put them on baking paper they popped off no problem :)
  • I have a very dodgy oven and so it took me 2 trays before I got it right. The recipe calls for 10 minutes at 160 degrees, but that was too hot. Another recipe I saw called for  20 minutes at 120 degrees. In the end, mine worked best for 15 minutes at 120 degrees, no changing the oven temperature up and down. It’s best to watch them. You’ll see them get good feet, then watch the feet for two or three minutes, then rotate the tray and give them 3 more minutes and they’ll be the right hardness. You’ll see straight away if the feet start “bubbling”. Then the bottoms are going crispy- not good. When they looked raw when they came out of the oven, they were perfect (they did feel stiff to the touch on top though)
Bonne chance!
The macarons below, courtesy of Pintrest.

macaron

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French macarons: tick

Macarons are one of those culinary holy grail type things: they strike fear into the heart of the person contemplating making them. Me included.

Inspired by my friend Dine‘s lovely series for Yuppiechef’s Spatula Magazine, The science behind, I decided that just like everything in the world, there must be a science behind macarons, and if you get the science right, they have to work. So I read and read and read and voila :) I think they’re pretty good for a first attempt. And besides, one of the articles I read said that some of Paris’s leading patisseries throw out 25% of their macarons because they crack/go funky. Eat that!

 

Martha Stewards macaron recipe

 

These are a limited edition Rustenburg Rose macaron :) and they’re just perfect: a crisp little shell with a soft, chewy centre. Bingo :)

For more about the recipe, read here.

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