A foodie family's diary of travel, food, and photos

Healthy and Tasty please

November 18th, 2012 | Posted by Ruby in Mains | Snacks | Starters | Summer - (Comments Off on Healthy and Tasty please)

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Faith is currently on the Paleo diet and she’s been asking the obvious question: “Can’t you make some meals that are healthy ie no carbs but still really tasty”.   And because I am known for taking what might, to most, be a relatively healthy dish or meal and turning into a cholesterol binge – I said I’d try.  (I’m the one that has to add lashings of syrup and pounds of butter to my cooked oats – I know I know it destroys any upside the oats might have – but oh it tastes sooo goood).

So here’s something that I make infrequently but always enjoy thoroughly.  Traditional rolls often include rice noodles in the roll but I prefer them without the noodels – it’s just empty calories.  I’d rather pack my rolls with tasty goodies.


Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Recipe for Vietnamese Spring rolls

What you’ll need for the sauce:

½ clove crushed garlic

2 limes

2 Tablespoons fish sauce

½ teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon soya

2 Tablespoons water

½ – 1 teaspoon chili (sambal oelek)

To make:

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and leave for at least 20 minutes to allow flavours to meld.


What you’ll need for the rolls:

1 small bunch fresh coriander

1 small bunch fresh mint

1 cup fresh bean sprouts

1 carrot grated (on large grate)

12 – 16 medium cooked prawns (cooled)

6 – 8 rice wrappers or lettuce leaves

To make:

  1. Wash and pat dry the coriander, mint and sprouts and arrange on a plate alongside the grated carrot and prawns
  2. To prepare rolls using rice wrappers: you need a shallow dish with warm water, dip 1 wrap into the water making sure that the wrap is completely covered and then remove from the water (the whole dipping process shouldn’t take more than 10 seconds) shake excess water off wrap.  Lay the wet wrap  flat on a plate and place a small quantity of each ingredient onto the wrap roughly 2 cm from front edge heap the ingredients on top of each other.  Make sure that you leave about 3 cm on either side.  Then roll one side edge in over the small mound, pull the edge closest to you over the side edge and roll tightly for 1 turn.  Fold the other side edge in and continue to roll to end of wrap.  Here is an example of how to roll the wraps.
  3. You would use the same method using lettuce as a wrap.

Note:  instead of prawns you can use fried tofu or cooked and shredded lamb, pork or beef – all work equally well.

Salt Beef Croquettes

October 28th, 2012 | Posted by Ruby in Starters - (Comments Off on Salt Beef Croquettes)

It started with a Salt Beef croquette – simple enough I thought.  Of course I didn’t want ready cooked beef – I wanted to cook my own salt beef, also my thinking was that if I buy enough salt beef I can use the remainder for a couple of other dishes.  I visited the local butchers and supermarket meat sections – nothing.  Not to be deterred I then travelled a bit further, still no salt beef.  Then even further – still no luck.  At which point I began researching recipes to make my own salt beef from scratch – well at least from a piece of raw brisket.

The key to salt beef is saltpetre (potassium nitrate) this gives the beef that pink colour even when well cooked.  Saltpetre has been used as a preservative and additive since the middle ages, as well as for medicinal purposes, although I was a little alarmed to discover it is also used as a rocket propellant, and is an ingredient in gunpowder.  As I was determined to make the real thing this ….didn’t put me off – I went shopping for saltpetre.

I tried the most obvious places first – the local pharmacies and kitchen stores – then a few more places – specialty spice shops, again nothing.  Then onto Amazon – where I found it and immediately placed my order.  In due course the saltpetre arrived and I could now progress to making salt beef.  Back to the recipe – ah, I need pickling spice so off to the butcher for a good piece of brisket and then to the supermarket for pickling spice.  Success at the butcher but total failure at the supermarket.

Then onto the pickling spice hunt that lasted for 12 assorted supermarkets, stores and stalls.  All the more frustrating knowing that I have a packet in the kitchen in Paris.  Oh well, finally discussing my problem with Cheri she asked why I didn’t just make my own pickling spice.  So back to google and start researching the ingredients for pickling spice.  A lengthy list later and 4 different stores and I had the necessary ingredients.  Not just for a large jar of pickling spice (probably enough to keep me in pickles for the remainder of this decade, but also enough of the individual ingredients to spice an Arabian nights wedding for 300 …..

Whoopee!  I was finally ready to start actually preparing something in the kitchen.

First the pickling spice….

Then the brine and meat altogether in a ziploc bag and into the bottom of the fridge for 2 weeks.

Now the cooked and shredded beef….

And once done I could start preparing my croquettes…


and finally….

The result

And so the verdict…

Were they great, were they fantastic, were they worth all the effort and long wait?

Well they were good, maybe even better than good, but definitely not worth all the effort.  Maybe next time round they will stand up to well to the expended effort.

All in all a good learning experience and I will definitely use the excess ingredients for other recipes.

See previous blog for the recipe for Pickling Spice

Then the brine – here’s what you need:

2 litres water

½ cup salt

½ cup brown sugar

1 Tablespoon pickling spice

1 kg brisket

Put the water, salt, sugar and spice into a large saucepan and bring to the boil.  Allow the liquid to cool and then put the brisket into a Ziploc bag along with the cooled liquid.  And then place it in the bottom of the fridge for 2 weeks.

After 2 weeks drain the liquid off the brisket, put the meat into a large bowl covered with cold water and leave for 24 hours, changing the water every 3-4 times.

Then drain the liquid off the meat.  Place in a large pot covered with cold water, a carrot, stick of celery, onion halved and some black peppercorns.  Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 4-5 hours. Once the meat is very tender, drain the liquid and allow to cool.


and the Recipe for Croquettes

Shred the meat or blitz in the food processor until you have about 4 cups of finely shredded meat. Prepare a batch of thick white sauce (about 1 cup) and mix the shredded meat into it.  Leave in the fridge until set fairly firmly.

Prepare 3 shallow bowls in a row, 1 with plain flour,  1 with a beaten egg and 1 with bread crumbs.  Then shape the mix into croquette shapes to a size that suits you, dipping each firstly into the flour, then the egg, then the crumbs.  Lining up your ready to cook croquettes on a plate until you have finished the mixture.

Now either shallow or deep fry in corn or groundnut oil till golden.

Serve with a rocket, sorrel or dandelion salad and some homemade mayonnaise, with a touch of horseradish added if you like.


Perfect Pickled Fish

September 17th, 2012 | Posted by Ruby in Lunch | Starters | Summer - (Comments Off on Perfect Pickled Fish)

Most South Africans are familiar with pickled fish. It’s a typical Cape Malay dish and one of those dishes that I must eat whenever I go to SA. Having not been back to SA for well over a year now and with no plans to return in the foreseeable future I decided it was time to find the right recipe.

Cheri and I have had some interesting experiences lately with our attempts to recreate typical south African dishes.  The recipes are usually easy enough to find but very few produce a perfect result and so it was for the pickled fish.  After a few attempts, the first too vinegary, the second too bland I’ve finally arrived at my version of perfect pickled fish.  Almost any white fish can be used, and either sea or fresh water fish.  I’ve used haddock, tilapia and red snapper with equal success.

For those of you who’ve never eaten pickled fish it’s a lot better than you might imagine.  It’s usually eaten cold or at room temperature with a salad of your choice and a hefty chunk of artisanal bread.  Although I usually skip the salad and eat it with bread and lots of butter.


Pickled Fish Recipe


4 Tablespoons oil + 1 extra spoon
2 pieces white fish fillets about 400grams (haddock, hake, tilapia)
2 Tablespoons flour +1 extra spoon
1 onion thickly sliced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (medium strength)
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar +1/4 cup extra
1 cup water
1. Dust fish in flour
2. Fry fish in old till lightly golden on both sides then remove with slotted spoon to a plate
3. Add the extra oil to the frying pan and fry the onion over a slow heat until softened  (about 8-10 minutes)
4. Add all the spices and extra flour and fry for a further 2 minutes
5. Add the vinegar, sugar and water and turn the heat up and simmer briskly for about 5 minutes or until the sauce starts to reduce and thickens slightly
6. Remove from heat and add the extra vinegar.  Remove the bay leaves and allspice.
7. Layer the fish and sauce in a dish and allow to cool.  Keep in the refrigerator until about 30 minutes before needed.  Bring to room temperature before serving.
Is best eaten a day or 2 later so that the sauce has time to soak into the fish.
It’s also available from the SA stores dotted around the planet – looks like this: