Lunch For One–Lightly Poached Salmon Served With Fig & Raisin Chutney

Steel grey in colour the choppy waves capped with white foam, heave and churn wildly below my garden deck, it is as always quite an awesome site. It’s raining too and I am pleased that I shopped for food yesterday.

Tomatoes cut in half lightly drizzled with olive oil, topped with a smidge of Demerara sugar, a light sprinkle of Greek oregano and salt and pepper, are roasting off in the oven. It should take about an hour and half at 180C to reduce them to a concentrated richness. When done I put them in a pot, add some chicken stock, correct the seasoning and simmer for about 5 minutes then blend the lot together. Sometimes I will strain the soup, most times I prefer not to. By roasting the tomatoes you get a rich unctuous creamy textured soup yet it has no cream, served with some crusty homemade bread and a good bottle Gently poached salmon served with fig and raisin chutneyof wine it makes a perfect light dinner or a starter.

But for lunch; a nice piece of fresh farmed salmon seasoned and gently poached in about two table spoons of the fat, skimmed off the top of the stock from last night’s coq au vin, it adds another layer of subtle flavour. I serve the salmon with some fig and raisin chutney which compliments the fish beautifully.


The Cape Winter, A Tart & and Guests For Dinner

There are four of us for supper tonight and the weather is icy and blowing, so good comfort food is in order. Shopping is usually slipped into other jobs and journeys: a dash into the green grocer’s whilst on my way to a meeting; a trip to the fishmonger on my way home. But today’s shopping is thought out, with a list, a big bag and a planned shopping experience for my guests.

One of the advantages of the free range birds from the butcher is that their bones are heavy and strong; to be expected as they have had a lot of opportunity to exercise; so one of these birds it is. Their fat, sauce-enriching bones make a delicious stew. Cooked slowly, with stock, herbs and aromatics, the result is mild but meaty, which is just what one wants when the cold weather and wind is enough to make your eyes water.

As I am well stocked with limes, I had planned on making a lime tart but now seeing the fresh Cape gooseberries I find myself in a quandary; gooseberry crumble, or the lime tart? A quick rethink of the dinner plan for tonight and tomorrow, scrambles through my head. I will do both, the lime tart for today and the gooseberry crumble tomorrow.

I pick up a nice country loaf of bread, organic cream, milk and eggs and head for home, my guests plod off to explore Cape Town. Considering the gale force winds blowing outside I think there could be better days for exploring than today.

The wind almost rips the door from my grasp as I make my way into the kitchen from outside, while hugging my purchases tightly to prevent them from being blown in all directions, I’m pleased that I passed on the opportunity to buy fresh flowers as they would have come off second best in these conditions.

The kitchen is lovely and toasty, a perfect day to be inside baking and preparing food. After a quick warming cup of tea I check on my cannellini beans which have been soaking for a few hours, all is looking good and now it’s time to start preparing the lime tart. I enjoy making this particular pastry, each time adding as much butter as I dare, just to see how crisp and fragile I can get the crust.

I have prepared all the ingredients for the filling; all that is needed is the final mixing of all the items together. The crust is pre-baked, looks great and is ready to receive the filling which I proceed to do. All goes smoothly with the mixing of the ingredients when suddenly the wind tears several branches from the palm trees, heaving them across the courtyard with a vengeance, and in my direction.

Somewhat distracted at this point, I put the tart and it’s filling into the oven, as I am about to close the oven door I realize I have forgotten one important ingredient, the lime juice. I quickly pour the juice gently into the liquid filling already in the tart, stir and distribute it as best I can while trying not to disturb the pastry base. Fingers crossed I close the oven door and hope for the best.

A little flustered I think of plan B, not to mention think about clearing the debris from the courtyard, it is going to be a long 45 minutes.

It’s time to check the tart. I give it a little shake to test if it is sufficiently set, there should still be a slight wobble to the custard; it is set just the way I like it and it looks perfect. The quick thinking and unorthodox approach to the lime custard filling actually worked. The tart was saved.

With the tart baked and the chicken slowly cooking and doing what it should, I have time to catch up on chores, get through a bit of my work backlog and I find time to relax before dinner is ready to serve.

Recipe for the well-deserved lime tart

Lime tart 2011 blog kate abbott

Lime Tart

Serves 8


For the filling

180ml lime juice

6 large eggs

250g castor sugar

175ml double cream

For the pastry

175g plain flour

40g icing sugar

90g cold butter, diced

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon cold water


To make the pastry, put the flour and icing sugar into a food processor, add the butter and blitz for a few seconds until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the egg yolks and the water. Blitz for a few more seconds until the dough comes together. Gently shape into a log, wrap in greaseproof paper and pop into the fridge for half an hour. If you skip this bit the pastry will shrink.

Next, cut thin rounds from the pastry and press into a loose-bottom 23-24cm tart tin, pressing the pastry gently up the sides and over the base. Make sure that there are no holes or cracks; otherwise you will lose your filling. Prick lightly with a fork and refrigerate for half an hour.

Set oven to 200∘C. Place a sheet of greaseproof paper in the tart tin case, fill with baking beans and bake for ten minute. Remove the beans and bake for a further five, until the pastry is dry to the touch.

Turn the oven down to 150∘C; finely grate the zest from two limes. Squeeze enough limes to give 180ml juice; this could be anything from 6 to 8 limes depending on the size and ripeness.

Mix the eggs and sugar together, beating lightly for a few seconds, it should not be frothy, and then stir in the lime juice and cream.

Pour the mixture through a sieve, stir in the lime zest and pour into the baked pastry case. Bake for about 45-50 minutes. Remove the tart while the filling is still slightly wobbly and leave to cool.

Winter Food in Season

Winter market

Brighten a winter’s day with yellow and ruby grapefruit, or warm up with the earthy flavours of potatoes and beetroot. June – July, fruit and veg in season.

It’s June and the icy bite of the Cape winter is setting in; even so it is impossible to remain unmoved by the sight and sound of the local farmers markets. As I arrive shoppers approach and pass by hugging brown paper bags brimming with choice produce, and other treasures of the day, at times their faces obscured by bunches of long-stemmed flowers. The market stalls are groaning with fat roots, purple cabbage and an array of mushrooms, fresh and beautifully displayed. The temptation to buy all the eye can see is overwhelming.

Cape Gooseberries are in season and are a real treat, brightly displayed in their little punnets. The season will last from now until the end of September. Early in the season I tend to get gooseberry fever, first poaching the fruit with sugar and serving with either a jug of fresh organic cream or custard, or I bake it under a crumble topping the butter, flour and sugar sometimes flecked with shredded almonds. Then toward the end of the season I might stir the raw fruit into a cake, the warm tartness flatters the sweet crumbs.

Moving along the stalls I spot some witlof, part of the chicory family, it is just coming into season. I love its shape and taste, a long and bulging white spear with pale golden tips, crisp and slightly bitter. I have to say it is one of my favourites at this time of the year. It goes well with roasted walnuts or hazelnuts, young goats’ cheese and watercress or radicchio. But witlof is also beautiful cooked. Cut it in half and lay it in a shallow casserole dish, dot with butter and season with salt and pepper. Pour in just enough stock or water to come halfway up the sides, cover with a lid and cook for about 20 minutes. Remove the lid, turn over and cook until golden brown and lightly caramelized.

Next stall up I find some excellent looking beetroot. The best time for eating is now through to October. I buy a bunch of six, each the size of a plum with a lovely rich ruby wine colour. The stalks are young and translucent, a vivid magenta purple, the roots have coarse, dusty, curly whiskers. They are so easy to cook; after washing, I cut off the stalks, leaving a short tuft behind, then put the beats in a roasting pan with a splash of water and cover with tin foil. An hour in the oven and they are done; the skin slides off effortlessly to reveal sweet, ruby flesh. They need no oil, just a splash of vinegar, red, white or tarragon and a crumbling of salt. It’s best to dress the beats as soon as they are cut into segments, while their flesh is still warm. The vinegar sets the colour and the warm roots take up the flavour. The beet leaves are an added bonus. I drop the leaves and stems, into a shallow pan with about a glass of water, bring to a boil for about two minutes, drained and toss through the sliced beets and sprinkle with goats’ cheese; makes a delicious dish on its own served with a slice of thickly buttered cottage loaf bread.

I need some potatoes. The humble potato is a very versatile vegetable, one for which I have a weak spot. I love creamy mashed potato and I adore cubes of potato crisped in duck fat with roast beef, or pommes boulangère with lamb. Potatoes are harvested year round and cold stored for many months. Now though is a great time for eating them. Many varieties are at their peak and the chilly weather especially calls for it.

For the best result when cooking with potatoes it is best to choose the right potato for the job. Floury potatoes are high in starch and low in moisture and sugar, making them perfect for mashing, baking, roasting and frying. Their waxy counter parts have higher moisture content and are low in starch, meaning they hold their shape when boiled or added raw to casseroles, they are best for salads, or simply tossed in butter and sprinkled with salt.

Wanting something sweet with which to make a desert I head for the fruit stand. In season at the moment are grapefruit, oranges and mandarins and that is just what I want. A tip when selecting grapefruit; they do not ripen once they are off the tree, so be sure you buy ones that are actually ripe. What I love about grapefruit is their season ranges from late summer to the end of winter, bringing a little sunshine into the kitchen.

My favourite way of serving citrus at the moment is to arrange slices of pink and yellow grapefruit, oranges and mandarins on a platter, pour over hot caramel and immediately drizzle the lot with Cointreau. The caramel will dissolve, becoming a delicious sauce. This simple, bright, colourful desert is great with custard or a dollop of thick natural yoghurt.

There is something deep and unshakably right about eating food in season, knowing where it comes from and knowing that the seasonal produce is at its best. Learning to eat with the ebb and flow of the seasons is the essence that makes eating enjoyable for me.

Also in season are:

Vegetables: Asian greens, avocado, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, fennel, ginger, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, okra, olives, onions, parsnips, pumpkins shallots, spinach, swede, sweet potatoes, turnips.

Fruit: apples, lemons, limes, papaya, pears, persimmons, pomelos, rhubarb, tangelos

Kate Abbott 08/06/2011©

Lemons everywhere I look


Almost everywhere I look I see lemons in abundance; either ripening on trees, the fruit piled high on counter tops in Delis or in crate loads in our local supermarkets. It is a time when I am sure many cooks’ thoughts are turning to ways of taking advantage of this wonderful little fruit. I love lemons and for me they are the most versatile of kitchen ingredients. You can use them in almost anything, from cakes to pates, the list is extensive.

This beautiful sometimes lumpy, sometimes smooth skinned fruit also makes a lovely table decoration, its shiny skin ranging in tones of sunshine yellow colour. The rich, yellowy essential oil situated in the skin of the lemon, when finely grated with a zester, is wonderfully fragrant, mind clearing, and uplifting too.

My lemon tree is groaning under the weight of its fruit and will provide more fresh lemons than I can use, which is why when in abundance, I like to preserve my own lemons. For anyone who has not tried preserved lemon, once you do I am sure you will become a convert. Preserved lemons are just gorgeous and so versatile, a possible ingredient to be considered whenever you’re making anything savoury. Use some blended to enhance a savoury sauce, chop it into a vegetable dish, add to a stuffing for roasted chicken, or blend into a paste with olives and garlic, or sprinkle some finely diced bits into a salad dressing. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

It is not that difficult to keep a good supply of preserved lemons in your store cupboard. You can do it the traditional Moroccan way, where the preserving agents are salt and the lemons’ own juices, with or without added spices. The other is to pickle the lemons in salty brine including their own juices. I prefer to use the latter; however both ways produce good results.

My method tends to vary according to mood, spice preference or whatever spices are in my pantry. Most often used are whole cinnamon, peppercorns and bay leaf. Another excellent addition, only to be added once the brine mixture has entirely cooled, would be lemon leaves, freshly plucked from the tree and pushed down into the jar. I have also used kaffir lime leaves which add another fragrant dimension.

The lemons you use do need to be ripe for maximum flavour and if you have bought your lemons it is important to wash and dry them first as they may have been sprayed and or waxed. So wash and dry your lemons, cut into quarters almost all the way through, they should still be joined at the tip. Rub a good tablespoon of salt into the flesh; pack them down into a sterilised glass jar, pushing each lemon down firmly as you do so, this will help release some of the juices. Put in two or three fresh bay leaves, some peppercorns, a few cloves, and a whole stick of cinnamon. Sprinkle in some more salt, about 2 more table spoons, pour in boiled water to fill the jar, and to cover the lemons. Using a sterilised spoon or ladle, push the lemons down firmly to release more juice into the brine. If you are adding fresh lemon leaves remember to wait for the brine to cool before doing so. Seal container and leave the lemons to infuse for at least two weeks before use.

Thyme, as essential as salt and pepper

Thyme in a pot

Thyme has inspired poetic praise from Virgil to Kipling, who wrote of “wind-bit thyme that smells of dawn in Paradise”.  It is one of the great culinary herbs of European cookery.

Thyme deserves a place right beside salt and pepper in the kitchen. Its amiable and positive flavour works in more dishes than any other robust culinary herb. Whether it’s humming in the background or conspicuously assertive, thyme seems to go with everything in the cooking pot. Another virtue is that it aids the digestion of fatty foods which makes it very useful in a health promoting diet.

Thyme can be added at any point in the cooking process, from the beginning of a stew to a last minute sprinkle. Oftentimes it is added both at the beginning and again a few minutes before serving to slow cooked dishes.

Use thyme judiciously until you are familiar with its pungency. As long as you match the quantity of the herb to the robustness of the other ingredients, thyme is comfortable with nearly any savoury dish. You can be as timid or as daring as you wish, using anywhere between half a teaspoon and one tablespoon per serving. The smaller amount will linger softly whilst the larger amount is best with something that has its own assertive flavour like a grilled leg of lamb.

Chopped fresh leaves are much more pungent than dried leaves. When converting between the two, start with equal amounts and adjust according to taste.

I trust you’ll add this wonderful herb to your cooking repertoire.

Tossed Salad with Thyme Vinaigrette

Inspired by the traditional Greek salad this dish is always popular when served at our classes or family gatherings. The baby salad greens are optional but they do add a wonderful dimension to the salad.

500g green cabbage, shredded (I liked to use savoy)
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
150g black olives, pitted and halved
225g feta cheese, crumbled
120ml olive oil
about 3 tbsp. red or white wine vinegar, herb vinegar or lemon juice to taste
2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. salt
1 big handful baby salad greens (optional)

In a large salad bowl, toss the cabbage, onion, olives and feta until thoroughly mixed. In a small mixing bowl whisk the olive oil, vinegar, thyme and salt. When emulsified toss with the salad. Refrigerate the salad for 1 to 2 hours to allow the flavours to develop. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Just before serving, toss the bay greens with the salad and season with pepper.

A Healthy Head of Hair

I seem to have a trail of visitors who come to my blog seeking hair care advice, so this blog is for them. Although this article refers to women, the nutritional aspects equally apply to men.Hair

Are you one of those women who feel the only way to get your a healthy head of hair to head for the salon and invest in the latest high-end hair care treatment or to use expensive products?

Of course these treatments and products may help, but what you put into your body is vitally important to hair health and growth. When trying to grow your hair or improve the condition then it would be good to follow some if not all of these steps:

Nutrition:  Nutrition is essential if you want a healthy body and a good head of hair. Eat protein-rich foods, include in lean meats, fish, beans, low fat dairy products and eggs. Also include Brazil nuts, almonds, along with flaxseeds; these are good sources of omega-3 fats, and they can increase your hair’s shine over time – but be patient, it will take time, it could take six months before you see the results but it will be worth it. The benefit of fish is that it contains the essential natural oils and fatty acids that your hair needs. If you can, choose organic meats as they don’t have any added chemicals which aren’t good for hair or your body. Drink plenty of water. It not only flushes out all the toxins in your body but it also carries the nutrients to where they need to go.

Vitamins: It’s important to make sure you’re getting specific B vitamins which are; B2, B5, B6, B9, and B12; each play a huge role, from balancing hormones to combating stress, all which can adversely affect your skin elasticity and glow as well as the health  and general appearance of your hair. It is best to try and obtain these vitamins through a healthy diet, but if not always possible invest in a supplement, take a good B-complex vitamin.

Treatment: Most shampoos are harsh so rather look for a shampoo and conditioner that is organic and gentle. There are several on the market.

Salad of Green Lentils from Le Puy AOP

Lentils that are considered to be the finest are the green Lentils from Le Puy en Velay area, in the mountains south west of Lyon. Here is an easy recipe for a tasty and healthy summer salad. After preparation you can also add slices of smoked sausage, ham, chicken or confit. Let your taste buds guide you.


Serves 4


· 300g of Green Lentils du Puy

· 3 cloves of garlic

· 2 onions

· 15g butter

· 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme

· 1 Bay leaf chopped to produce 30ml

· 700ml dry white wine

· 6 soup spoons of olive oil

· 15ml soup spoons of sherry vinegar

· 15ml Dijon mustard

· Chopped chives, Salt and Pepper to taste


Wash the lentils and check for any little grains of sand

Peal the garlic and cut in half, and peel and chop onions roughly

Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan, add the butter onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaf, stir gently using a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes

Add the lentils and mix in well, add the white wine, bring to the boil then lower the heat, cover the pan and leave to simmer for about 40 minutes

Prepare the vinaigrette sauce with the olive oil, sherry vinegar, mustard, and the chopped chives. Add salt and pepper. Whisk until blended.

Strain the cooked lentils, and put in a salad bowl, remove the thyme and bay leaf

Pour the vinaigrette over the warm lentils and mix in well. Serve warm or cold

Serve accompanied by fresh crisp bread and a glass of wine

Bon appetit!