My favourite Recipes

Chả Cá Lã Vọng with Jacopever

Chả Cá

Chả Cá Lã Vọng at home

If I can not travel, my mind will, memories of Vietnamese food is driving me mad. I will happily travel to Vietnam just to have dinner at a homestay to have a portion of cơm lam (rice steamed in bamboo over a fire).
Somethings are just so damn good that it makes it easy to return time and time again. A number of years ago before going to Hanoi for the first time I had done a lot of research of where and what to eat, and at the top of my list with Pho, Bánh mì, Bun bo nam bo, Banh cuon, Bún chả bunca was Chả Cá.

The food in Vietnam is pretty healthy with so much herbs, loads of greens with the focus on freshness, balance of sweet, sour and salt.

Chả Cá Lã Vọng

Chả Cá Lã Vọng in Hanoi cooked table side

In the old quarter many restaurants specialise in one dish, I love this about eateries in Hanoi, they do not have restaurants with long menus, instead they focus on one, and do that dish very well, in the old quarter many restaurants specialise in cooking the tumeric spiced fish at your table, admittedly sometimes it does feel a little touristy, so finding the right spot is important.
We make this at home often, especially on those hot summer nights this is a very light refreshing dinner option. I often place the marinated fish like Jacopever in the weber on a used oak wine barrel plank and roast. It gives it a little smokiness which works so well with the combination of turmeric, ginger, garlic, dill, spring onion, peanut and fish sauce. Traditionally made with snakehead or catfish, any firm white fleshed fish will work.

Chả Cá Marinating

Chả Cá Marinating

Served with cold rice vermicelli noodles, handfuls of dill and spring onion with roasted peanuts with vietnamese mint, coriander and for me the part that brings it together – nuoc cham (combination of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and red chili). If you want to be more traditional make a shrimp paste sauce – Mam Ruoc Cham.
So weather you call it Chả Cá Thăng Long, Chả Cá Lã Vọng, Chả Cá Hà Nội, or just Chả Cá do not wait for your next trip, make it at home and pretend you hear the noise of a thousand scooters outside

Prep Time:40 min
Cooking Time:20 min
600g Jacopever fillets
Oil for cooking
Fish Marinade
2 tbsp Oil
2 tsp Sugar White
1 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Fish Sauce
¼ Onion Red Chopped Very Fine
2 tsp Turmeric Ground
1 tbsp Ginger Fresh & Grated Fine
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Bunch Of Dill
10 Spring Onions, Cut 2 cm Lengths With the White Parts Sliced in Half Again in Length.
½ Cup Roasted Peanuts, Whole or Chopped

Garnish Sides
Extra Peanuts toasted as needed
300 g Rice Vermicelli dried
Handful of Mint Roughly Torn
Handful of Vietnamese Mint Roughly Torn
Bunch of Coriander Roughly Chopped or Picked
Red Chilies Red Chopped
250ml Nuoc Cham
1 ea Lime cut into Wedges

Nuoc Cham Sauce
4 tbsp Water
2 tbsp Sugar White
4 tbsp Lime Juice Fresh
2 tbsp Fish Sauce
2 Clove Garlic Minced
2 ea Birds eye Chili finely sliced
1. Combine all ingredients for fish marinade and add cut Jacopever chunks, leave for +/- 45 min.
2. Make the nuoc cham dressing by combining sugar with lime juice add the fish sauce, chili, garlic and water. It must be sour, sweet and salty.
3. Cut spring into 2.5 cm long pieces with white of spring onion split in length in half.
4. Place rice vermicelli noodles in boiling water for 2-3 minutes or according to cooking instructions. Cool and place one side.
5. Heat pan and add oil, add the fish and cook until golden brown. Do not overcrowd the pan. Repeat the second and third batch. Best part is the golden crispy bits.
6. Cook Spring and dill with leftover marinade from fish until wilted. Add fish on top.
7. To serve, place cold rice vermicelli in bowl, add fish with dill, add fresh greens with peanuts and top with nuoc cham dressing.

Try the dill and the spring onion in the weber

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Warm Pickled Fish with Jacopever

IMG_5497 (2)

Easter and pickled fish always bring back old memories as a trainee working buckets and buckets of pickled fish. Previously I had shared a pickled fish recipe . The recipe is simple, coating the fish in flour then egg wash and straight into the deep fryer. Then into sweet and sour slightly spicy pickling sauce. I had received some Jacopever and was experimenting a couple of dishes from ceviche to whole roasted Jacopever served on tacos, these recipes will be published later. But I simply had to eat a favourite and the pickled fish still had to be warm on a warm toasted bun with lettuce and tomato. Warm and comforting.

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Roasted Carrot w Confit Onions


I have a thing for roasted carrots & roasted onion, I do not think I am the only one with this problem. When we cook it as an accompaniment to a roast it is the best. When left for the next day, if you are lucky enough, it is equally as delicious. But it did need an extra element to cut through the olive oil, first we made the dressing with yoghurt, which worked very well.
Then we decided to try using another favourite, hummus, and thinning it out a little. This opened a whole lot of other possibilities, adding mint, zest, sesame, pine nuts, cashew and parsley.

500g Baby Carrots
300g Confit Baby Onions
1 Tsp Cumin Seeds
3 Bay Leaves
4 Garlic Cloves
Sprig Thyme
1 TSP Black Pepper Corns
1 Cup Olive Oil + 15 ml for Carrots
2 Tbsp Honey

100g Hummus
2 Tsp Toasted Sesame Seeds
2 Tbsp Water
2 Tbsp Olive Oil form confit
2 Tbsp Lemon juice
1 Tbsp Chopped Parsley
10 ml Lemon Juice
Combine Carrots with olive oil, honey, salt & pepper
Roast for 10-15 Minutes at 160°C

For the onions
Place Baby Onions in small saucepan covering with olive oil, add pepper corns, Olive oil, Bay leaves, salt, thyme and garlic. Close with foil.

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Spinach ricotta Gnudi, Photo credit

This dumpling either Malfatti or called Gnudi…. essentially gnocchi, because of the rough look called Malfatti in Siena or Gnudi as it is called in Florence translating to naked basically without an outer dough like ravioli. We like serving it with a tomato sauce or a burnt sage butter with hazel nuts and more parmesan. In this recipe we have a lot more parmesan than in some, but then that is how we like it, cheesy. With a lot of the older recipes the egg is omitted as it is rested for longer in semolina before cooking forming a barrier.

Use some of the liquid when finishing in the butter, gives some body to the sauce.

200g Ricotta Cheese
200g Parmesan Cheese, grated
180 g spinach, sliced chiffonade or chopped very finely and cooked (steam or boil and drain well)
2 eggs
1 eggs yolk
1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh parsley, chopped
60 g flour
white pepper
roughly ½ C (125 ml) semolina
Gnudi (best made a day ahead)
Combine the Ricotta, Parmesan, spinach, eggs and egg yolk and chopped herbs. Fold in the flour and combine, add more flour if the mixture is too sticky (must be able to roll into balls). Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
Line a dish that you can seal to refrigerate with a thin layer of a semolina. Portion the gnudi mixture and roll into equal sized balls. Roll the gnudi in extra semolina making sure each is coated. Place the gnudi into the dish with the layer of semolina, don’t let the gnudi touch each other or the sides of the container as they may stick. Refrigerate.
Repeat this step every 2-3 hours. Do this about six times. Remove from the semolina.
Sage Beurre Noisette
100-120 g butter
12-16 sage leaves
50-80 g macadamia nuts, coarsely crushed and toasted

Parmesan, shaved or grated as needed
Place the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat, allow to bubble and froth. Do not burn, it should become nutty as the butter browns. Add the sage leaves and allow to cook and crisp up..
To cook the gnudi, bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil. Place the gnudi into the water until they rise to the surface and float (±2-3 minutes).

Remove from the water and gently coat in sage beurre noisette and top with crushed macadamia nuts. Serve with shaved or grated Parmesan.

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Roasted Red Pepper & Brie Soup

red pepper soup

Photo credit

I featured this before, but after doing a shoot with crush I thought I would show it again, because it is so delicious. This time we added some whipped brie.

This soup is one my all time favourite soups, I must confess that I am not a fan of raw red peppers but roasted and peeled seasoned with just salt and pepper is just amazing. Add some Le petit France Brie from Howick, in the KZN Midlands. I would suggest buying extra to ensure that you have some left for the soup.

A couple of years ago I worked at the Hyatt and had to make this soup for the first time, I under estimated the amount of peppers needed and making this soup for 200 people…it is not funny. Peeling roasted red peppers can turn into a tedious long task, but peeling 6 peppers  is easy stuff. For something extra add a some sun-dried tomatoes which gives it a nice lift.
Yield: 4 portions (large)

300g -500g Brie cheese, chopped with rind (try a more mature brie for a stronger taste or add some blue cheese)
12 large red peppers
800 ml Chicken or Vegetable stock
100ml white wine
300 ml cream (optional)
1 onion large chopped
2 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
¼ tsp Lemon Zest
fresh thyme to taste
olive oil

fresh basil chiffonade to taste
freshly ground black pepper

150g whipped brie
Fresh bread or croutes

Char the peppers under a heated grill, turning them over a couple of times. Or roast in hot oven.
Remove and place in a plastic bag to sweat, so that the skins loosen. Peel and discard the skins and pips set flesh aside (Juices can be used but I often find them to be bitter)
Sauté the onions, thyme and garlic lightly in olive oil till they change colour; add the peppers.
Add the white wine and then the stock with lemon zest and bring to a simmer.
Add cream, season to taste and add the Brie pieces; continue cooking until the cheese melts fully into the soup. Liquidize and strain if needed.
Bring back to the boil Add basil

Serve with fresh bread or charred croutes or some bread sticks with whipped brie.
If you like a cheesier soup add more brie or a little blue.

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Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng Neville Lockhart Photography

Nasi Goreng
Neville Lockhart Photography

Simply fried rice made from pre-cooked day old rice that has been highly spiced with a sweet soy sauce, shallots, garlic, ginger, tamarind and chilli
….maybe it is not so simple!
years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Jakarta(Batavia), It is here that I discovered that there was not one recipe, but as many as there were chef’s in the kitchen if not more.
The chef at the Gran Melia in Jakarta got upset one day when he reached his limit after endless complaints of the consistency of the Nasi Goreng in the Hotel.
This national dish was different everyday….it was becoming an embarrassment.
The chef on duty dictated the recipe and the method and this meant that the guest experience was never the same.
So the chef arranged a cook off on a grand scale to determine the best Nasi Goreng in the kitchen, needless to say 80 dishes were presented in the hotels Banqueting kitchen each presented by a chef with pride, old family recipes revealed so many different versions, so many secrets.
None wrong or right but all different, some with nuts, some spicier, some more sour, the room was filled with with strong aromas lime, shrimp paste and lots of hiden secrets….
So from this experience I stole a little from everyone and I created a base recipe based on a paste which I have been using for for years, although not needed, it did make a difference as the dish stayed dry and as never presented to wet. … was consistent.

Nasi goreng typically includes chicken and prawns, with either fried egg or egg omelette.
Krupuk (prawn crackers) as well as crispy onions is an included as an accompaniment with tomato and cucumber as a side sometimes lettuce is added.
Kechap manis with chilli is served as a condiment to add extra bite and sweetness as needed.
Nasi goreng is the national dish of Indonesia, with many variations some more exotic some very simple.

The origin most likely from Chinese fried rice, as with bakmie goreng which uses the same ingredients with noodles.
The main difference between Chinese fried rice and nasi goreng is the use of more spice and the use of sweet soya sauce also known as kecap manis.
Like in so many countries recipes are handed down from generation to generation and so many variations appear, it has a lot to do with what is available and what is left over from the night before.
Nasi Goreng is enjoyed at any time of day, my personal favourite is at breakfast, adding a fried egg and a little more vegetables is sheer bliss, we used to add spiced deep fried poached egg when I was working at the Saxon, happiness.
Often other addition are found in the dish especially if served for dinner or lunch, like lamb or beef satays, vegetable pickles and prawn crackers

Ingredients (serves 4)
3 cups long-grain rice (cold cooked)
2-3 tablespoons special paste
1 tablespoon sweet soya
peanut oil for frying
½ onion thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sambal olek or fresh chopped chili
1 garlic cloves, finely chopped
60g carrot, peeled, finely julienned
80g cashew nuts
30g bean sprouts
1 tomato concasse (optional)
80g Chinese cabbage shredded
250g chicken thigh, cut into strips or pieces
250g prawns, peeled, de-veined, chopped or halved
3 spring onions sliced

other condiments
4 fried eggs or very thin omelettes
40g Krupuk + oil for frying
2 spring onion sliced
2 fine julienne chilies
2 Tomatoes cut into 6 wedges each
¼ cucumber cut into batons
Pickled vegetable selection
Sweet soya with chopped chili 2tsp with a 100ml sweet chilie
4 x lamb satays
Sambal oelek
¼ cup crispy onion rings

Method for Nasi Goreng
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in wok over high heat.
Add onion and sauté, garlic, ginger and paste.
Add chicken
Stir-fry for 30 seconds to one minute, will be fairly strong and aromatic.
Add nuts
Stir-fry for 30 seconds
Add prawns, cabbage, carrot, sprouts
Add tomato concasse
Add rice continue cooking, everything happens very quickly so ensure that the mixture is kept moving all the time.
Add a little sweet soy if needed add spring onions.
Stir-fry until rice is well heated and cooked through.
Serve in a bowl
Top with fried egg or shredded omelette, sprinkle with fried onions.

Serve with sliced chillies, krupak, tomatoes, cucumber, pickles and lamb satays.

Recipe for paste
3 baby onions or shallots
30g chilies
½ tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp canola oil
8 ea lime leaves
1 lemon grass
20g chopped garlic
20g ginger
1 tsp lime zest
1 tsp lemon zest
1 ea lime juice
1 ea lemon juice
2 tsp sweet soya
4 tsp soya
1 cup water
1 tsp toasted shrimp paste
3 ea coriander root
1 tbsp tamerind paste
1 tbsp palm sugar grated
2 drops fish sauce (optional)
Sauté ingredients, add wet ingredients and liquidise to a fine paste, place back on the stove and reduce further over a gentle heat. Ensure it does not burn. You want to intensify the flavour.
This paste will hold a long time in a closed container in the fridge use when needed,

NB: if the paste is not needed, add
1 tsp chili
1 tsp ginger
½ – 1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tsp tamarind
2 tbsp sweet soya

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