Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sausage, Leek, and Potato Pie

I had so much trouble naming this dish. It was originally supposed to simply be a pie, but then I couldn't find a pie dish and my cake tin was too shallow, so I ended up baking it in a casserole dish. Did that make it casserole? It's not shaped like a pie.

Then, there were too many key ingredients: cheddar cheese, sausage, potatoes, leeks... How do I create a name that isn't absurdly long?

Fiance insisted that it was more pie like because of the flaky, crunchy top and it was originally intended to be a pie, so it stayed a pie.

This dish was inspired by a pie feature in a local magazine. I couldn't help but laugh to myself when I read the opening line:

"When we hear the word 'pie' most of us think of pastry with a meat filling."

Just another daily reminder that I am not in the US, but the very different and wonderful South Africa. Meat pies are not very popular at all in the US- when we think of pies, we think of cherry pies or the all-American apple pie. The only relatively common savory pie eaten there is chicken pot pie.

So I took a crack at this well-loved style of pie and made my own with the ingredients we most love. Do this in a pie dish or a casserole dish, whatever you prefer.

I've never cooked with leeks before, and I loved the subtle flavor they provided without doing a thing to disrupt the texture.

Start by layering some half-cooked potatoes, sliced potatoes in a buttered dish of your choice. Top with sliced leeks, chopped onions, and garlic that's been sautéed.

Then on goes chopped sausage and fresh parsley.

Then a glorious cheese sauce.

And, one of my favorite things in the world, a layer of puff pastry. I didn't even bother trimming the corners. It's "rustic", right? Brush on an egg wash to make sure it turns out nice and golden. I cut little slits in it to let some of the air out.

Bake it for a good hour or until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked and the top is golden and lovely. You can broil it for a minute or so to make sure it's really golden, if necessary.

Serve with a salad, or call it a meal as is. I love and adore easy one dish meals like this! You could easily prepare this in a disposable foil container and freeze it before baking.

Sausage, Leek, and Potato Pie
Serves 5-6

    3 leeks, chopped into 2 cm slices
    1 onion, diced
    1 tsp minced garlic
    2 tsp olive oil
    4 yellow potatoes
    1 lb sausage, cooked and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
    1 tbsp chopped parsley
    3 tbsp butter
    3 tbsp flour
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp black pepper
    2 cups milk
    1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
    1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
    1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, onions, and garlic and cook until onions are just soft.
2. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork. Microwave for three minutes on high heat, until slightly soft and partially cook. Let cool, then slice into 1/2 inch slices.
3. Grease a pie dish or casserole dish with butter. Layer the potatoes in the dish and top with the cooked veggies, sliced sausage, and parsley.
4. To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for about three minutes, or until flour is just beginning to brown. Add the salt, black pepper, and milk and continue to cook until mixture has thickened and sticks to the back of a wooden spoon, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and add the shredded cheese. Stir until cheese has melted.
5. Pour cheese sauce over the sausage and potatoes. Lay the sheet of puff pastry over the dish, trim the edges if necessary. Whisk the egg and brush over the puff pastry. Cut little slits in the pastry to let steam and air out.
6. Bake the pie in preheated oven for an hour. Broil for a few minutes if necessary to brown the pastry.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chicken and Pineapple Curry

This delicious, simple chicken and pineapple curry is adapted from Tastes of Africa,a new favorite cookbook of mine. According to the book, this is a popular dish from East Africa known there as Kuku Nanazi. Although I'm mostly exploring South African recipes while we're here in Cape Town, it's fun to read about nearby cuisines and experiment with them. The original recipe called for shrimp... but I'm not too keen on combining meats like that, unless it's beef and pork in sausage! So I decided to keep it simple and just use chicken.

The pineapple in this dish does an excellent job of balancing out the heat from the green chiles. We had this curry with basmati rice cooked in coconut milk, and it was perfect!

Start off by sautéing onions and garlic in olive oil until soft and fragrant.

Next, all of the lovely spices. This is my favorite part of making any curry. We're using ground ginger, curry powder, ground cardamom, turmeric, and ground coriander, along with the usual staples, salt and pepper.

You'll also add the green chile at this point. I recommend using half a chile- we really like spicy and this was plenty of heat for us. If you really want to kick it up, throw in the whole thing. In fact, the original recipe says 1-2.

Once the you can smell the spices, add coconut milk, cubed chicken breasts, and chopped pineapple. Usually, I would use a fresh pineapple, but this time I will admit I used canned. I didn't feel like playing the "is it ripe?" guessing game and then wrestling it open. I know, I know, I'm lazy.

Let the whole thing simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is a little thicker.

Aren't curries pretty? I love the vibrant orangey yellow color! This was really simple and quick to prepare, it definitely falls in the weeknight dinner category. It also makes great leftovers for lunch.

Serve with veggies and rice, if you so please! For those who are paleo, coconut cauliflower rice would be excellent with this.

Chicken and Pineapple Curry
Adapted from Tastes of Africa
Serves 5-6

    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 onion, finely diced
    2 tsp minced garlic
    1 tsp ground ginger
    2 tbsp curry powder
    1/2 tsp ground cardamom
    1/2 tsp ground coriander
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp black pepper
    1/2-1 fresh green chile, finely diced 
    1 can coconut milk
    5-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
    1 small pineapple, cubed or 1 can cubed pineapple
1. In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic. Saute until onion is soft and garlic is fragrant.
2. Add the ginger, curry powder, cardamom, coriander, salt, pepper, and chile. Saute for 1-2 minutes, or until spices are fragrant.
3. Add the coconut milk, chicken breasts, and pineapple. Bring coconut milk to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
4. Serve with coconut rice and veggies of choice.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

SA Sunday: Royale Eatery

I had quite the challenge for Fiance's birthday a few weeks ago: find a restaurant in a town who's food scene you don't know, that he is guaranteed to love.

He's usually game to try any new food, but left to his own devices he will always pick one of his favorites: pizza, burgers, or nachos. I decided to indulge this on his birthday.

We've had very little luck with pizza in Cape Town- it's either really bad or on the lighter side, not the greasy, saucy, filling pizza we're looking for. I'm sorry, Cape Town. You have a lot of good qualities, but pizza making isn't one of them. There are still a few pizza places we need to try, though, so I could still be proven wrong. This ruled pizza out.

Most of the Mexican food places here are a little higher end and serve incredible creations like butternut quesadillas and octopus ceviche (I can't WAIT to go to El Burro!), but not giant platters of cheesy nachos loaded with fillings like Fiance enjoys so much. So I decided not to go down that route.

This left burgers, which was great. We've had a lot of really good sandwiches in Cape Town. I did a lot of research and had several contenders, but I finally landed on Royale Eatery. This is their tagline:

"Royale is a restaurant. We serve burgers. Not just any burgers - burgers that make your soul tingle and your dreams come true."

Ummm, yeah, this was definitely where we'd eat.

I made reservations for Friday night. They have a different area in their restaurant for reservations- upstairs, where there's a very different feel and decor. And, you can't order pizza if you're seated up there! (There should maybe be a warning for this on their website) Luckily, we weren't there for pizza. It's a gorgeous restaurant. Here are a few photos from their website.

To drink, I got a Mango and Coconut Batida and Fiance got the house red.

They do incredible things with burgers. They use several different meats, like beef, wagyu beef, lamb, chicken, fish, ostrich, and chorizo. Here's a snippet from their menu:

Fiance got the Cheddar Royale and added chorizo, and I finally settled on the Merino burger: a lamb patty topped with roasted red pepper pesto, coriander, and caramelized onions.

Royale Eatery also specializes in milkshakes, so we knew we had to end our meal with one. Fiance got to choose, it was his birthday, after all, and we got a chocolate peppermint shake. It was a chocolate shake with little delicious, crunchy peppermint balls all throughout.

Royale Eatery definitely held up to the reviews: it was one of the best burgers I've ever had and I'd believe they have the best in Cape Town!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hot Cross Bun French Toast with Apple Compote

If you can believe it, I'd never had the Easter favorite, hot cross buns, before this.

What a way to introduce myself.

This french toast was truly amazing. Melty raisins and currants, plenty of cinnamon, perfect texture. Whenever Fiance's first words when taking a bite of something I've made are "oh my gosh" followed by fervent shoving of his mouth, I know I've done well, and this did not fail.

This dish is perfect for Easter breakfast, or any other breakfast for that matter.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Gouda and Chorizo Hash

I know that I am not the first person to say this, and I'm certainly not the going to be the last: I love, love breakfast food. Brunch at The Screen Door in Portland is one of my favorite experiences of all time. Also Gravy. Also Overlook Restaurant. I could go on.

At the Taste of Cape Town festival we went to on Saturday, we bought a lovely stick of Spanish chorizo from Cape Mountain Charcuterie. The man who sold it to us asked what we were going to do with it. I responded that we'd probably just eat it as is. Let's be realistic, it's very unlikely that I'm keeping cured meat in our house for more than a couple hours before Fiance devours it. And I'm happy to help. He frowned and insisted that I cook with it. I asked for some suggestions, and one of his suggestions was cooking it with potatoes.

And then this magical hash popped into my head.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

SA Sunday: Taste of Cape Town

Yesterday, Fiance and I finally got to Taste of Cape Town, an incredible food and restaurant festival. Why do I say finally, you ask?

I had bought a Groupon for tickets to Taste of Cape Town, meant to be used Thursday night. After spending about an hour getting dressed up and ready for the event, we went down to our rented car, which we'd driven just the day before. And it wouldn't start. This is an old car, that in the past has been sticky to start but always would eventually get going. But that night, it just wasn't gonna cooperate. We even tried pushing it to give it a running start. Nope. That car wasn't going to take me to Taste. We live in the Southern Suburbs, so a cab wasn't an option since the festival would be half over by the time we got there.

The next day, we called the rental company who sent out some mechanics. After awhile, they did it! The car was starting, albeit a bit begrudgingly, as usual. They had me start it so I could see for myself, and it was good to go. We'd go to Taste that night instead.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Coconut Chicken with Spicy Mango Sauce

One of the happiest, simplest discoveries we've made about Cape Town is that mango is abundant here. The high-end grocery store that we sometimes go to has "snack pots" of already cut mango that Fiance adores and will often eat for breakfast. I've been trying to think of ways to incorporate it into more of our meals, although it's tempting to just cube it up and eat it as is.

This recipe was fun. I've had no luck finding Panko here (fine, I'll make my own breadcrumbs!) and had been craving crunchy chicken, so the coconut on this chicken was the perfect substitute. We did them as chicken fingers, for dunking purposes of course, and had them with coconut rice.