I’m sure I’m not the only one longing for warmer temperatures but since nothing can be done about the weather, I decided to brighten up the atmosphere of my kitchen by cooking these vibrant venison kebabs. It’s a recipe you can keep in mind for the summer as well, but it also works as an “indoor” dish. The spice level of the venison kebabs can be adjust and makes for a great family meal. There is a mysterious allure to food on sticks that kids and adults alike simply can’t resist.
Venison has a delicate, yet unique, flavour. You don’t have to marinate the venison kebabs with lots of spice and can opt for a simple seasoning of salt and pepper instead. That said, there’s no reason why you can’t add your own spin on the kebabs.
There are plenty of ready-made spice mixes and rubs that can be bought at the shops. Sometimes, the decision for selecting the “right” one can be quite the challenge. In this case, I have prepared my own blend for the venison kebabs. A while back, I published a jerk spice recipe which you can find here. This was the perfect occasion to use up the spice mix! Jerk spice is a mixture of various dried spices and herbs that can be used for a number of different purposes. It is especially good for grilling meat but you can also use it for seafood as well. Check out my jerk spiced prawns.
Alternatively, you can use other spice mixes or you can attempt your own blend. The jerk spice is a dry rub which is the most commonly used for barbecue purposes. You can use marinade Do keep in mind that you don’t want to overpower the unique venison flavour I recommend sticking to a dry rub, not spiced up too hot.
venison and other types of meat
Venison is a general term referring to meat from antlered animals such as deer or stag. It has an intense deep red colour and a flavour profile often referred to as “gamey”. This flavour primarily comes from the animal’s diet, meaning a farmed animal will have a milder taste than a wild one. Venison is most similar to beef but with a lower fat content. Consequently, it is very important not to overcook venison, as it will become dry and tough if cooked to well-done. You should aim medium, which would render a rosy pink colour inside after cooking. It is also important to serve the venison kebabs hot, directly out of the oven or from the grill. When the meat cools off it can get slightly grainy and liverish in taste.
If you can’t get your hands on any venison, you can use this same recipe for other types of meat too. Beef or lamb is best suited for substitutes, although pork, chicken or turkey will also work well. Remember that if you use any of the white meat it must be completely cooked through. Again the critical point is to cook it through without the meat ending up dry.
You can even combine different kinds of meat, but keep in mind the different cooking time. The best is to make skewers with only one type of meat on it. If you want more variation make half of them with venison and the other half with another type of meat.
variation of vegetables
For my venison kebabs, I have used peppers, red onions, courgette and mushrooms. To me these are the ideal vegetables to barbecue and the combination of colours are pleasing for the eyes as well. I especially enjoy the flavour of a grilled mushroom, and the sweetness of the grilled onion alongside the juicy meat. Although, you can of course choose any vegetable you like for this purpose. Baby sweet corn or eggplant could be worth a try. If you don’t have red onions, just use normal white ones instead. Even parboiled carrots cut into smaller pieces are surprisingly good on the grill. A tip is to let your kids join in on the cooking. Let them select their own combination of vegetables and threading the ingredients onto the skewers themselves. Trust me, they will enjoy this.
best sides for venison kebabs
For myself I actually made a Persian version by serving the venison kebabs with a side of saffron rice and a grilled tomato. Very simple but also very tasty, with that distinct note of oriental perfume from the saffron rice. Another thing that immediately springs to mind is geelrys, a much loved South African classic that owes its distinct yellow colour to turmeric rather than saffron.
Of course if you want to go more old school barbecue style, you can serve the venison kebabs with a baked potato and garlic butter.
In my opinion, the best side dish for venison kebabs is a salad. Even though there are vegetables on the skewers too, the grilled meat can be a little bit heavy without anything freshness to counter it. So what could be better than a lush green salad? Furthermore, you can make the salad in advance and have it on the table waiting for the sizzling hot kebabs, rather than preparing other sides simultaneously.
For something a bit more offbeat, serve it with an apple salad, as pictured above. I would recommend my cucumber and avocado salad. The freshness of the juicy cucumbers combined with the spring onion, avocado and herbs, makes up a perfect side for any grilled meat. Another amazing salad for barbecues is the pico de gallo, which is strictly speaking more of a salsa than a salad. The freshly cut tomatoes are perfect for lightening up the plate and bringing some freshness to the heavy meat.
Let’s talk about fake meat and other dubious products, shall we?
Over 15 years ago I was a bread addict. At that point I had undiagnosed IBS too and decided to eat no wheat for one year. The following year I gave up diary as well and after that I never had painful stomach cramps again after eating wheat or dairy.
The change was hard, especially when it came to dairy and watching everyone around me eat chocolate during the Easter and Christmas periods. It’s natural, by yearning for these comfort foods, to seek out alternatives. Believe me, in the noughties only a fraction of wheat free alternatives were available, even fewer in third world country South Africa. I tried all bread alternatives and they all…. sucked. In fact, it put me off so much that I gave up the notion of eating bread altogether. After a while, I didn’t miss it anymore and to this day I’m rarely tempted by any form of bread, although I must admit to giving in to a flaky pain au chocolat every now and then.
The thing is I’d rather have the real deal than some substandard-tasting alternative. The other day a date fell through and I felt down in the dumps. In pure comfort eater style I walked into the shops and headed to the ice cream aisle where I discovered the vegan version of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream. To cut a long story short, it was the pits and if anything, my spirit spiralled downwards even more. Sex is a simple analogy to use in this case. If you had the choice between having an intimate encounter with another human or cyber sex, which option would you choose? For me it’s a no brainer, but hey, to each his own.
No, I haven’t tried meat alternatives yet. (Perfectly aware I’m entering innuendo territory here.) Perhaps one day I’ll try pulled jackfruit but until then I’m not tempted by overly processed fake meat products at all. I understand that people miss their favourite foods but the point is that there’s so much else to be had. After an initial period of adjustment it will become a way of life. Trust me.
Fancy some bobotie? It’s time to indulge in the exotic spices and explore the amazing cuisine of South Africa yet again. Sometimes I feel that my motherland’s cuisine is slightly over-looked. Therefore, I hope that my blog inspires people to cook more South African dishes. One bite and I’m certain that bobotie might become one of your favourite dishes when it comes to using minced beef. Many expats turn to this beef casserole when seeking comfort so far away from home.
This recipe is perfect if you feel like making a hearty family dinner and serving it with other traditional South African dishes. Oh, and don’t forget a imperative bottle of red South African wine! That rich and full bodied wine goes hand-in-hand combination with the punchy flavours of bobotie.
Do you suffer from food intolerances or allergies such as lactose intolerance? If you do, then you must know all about missing out on food that contains lactose, let alone eating dairy products. As some of you may know, I suffer from various food intolerances. So, not only do I know all about not being allowed to eat delicious food that contains dairy, but I am a frequent user of this phrase – ‘I’m sorry I can’t eat that’. It’s always a bit awkward to be considered a “difficult” eater, and everyone has to accommodate, whether it’s in social situations such as dates, corporate or family dinners. Although this is quite embarrassing, lactose does have negative effects on my body.
My consequences for eating dairy are that I get a build up of phlegm, my nose becomes congested and my digestive system bloats to high heavens. Others suffer from extremely bad headaches or intestinal inflammation. According to some people, lactose can be a big energy drainer, which can ultimately affect their mood and well-being. Honestly, ever since I’ve left out lactose from my diet, I’ve been feeling much more energised and downright happier.
However, that still doesn’t solve the problem of not being able to eat meals that contain milk or lactose in dishes. (Don’t worry about this bootie though, alternative milks can be used!) I’ve tried out goat’s milk but it had the same after effects. So this is where LactoJoy comes in handy, for when matters aren’t in your control and you don’t want to suffer.
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what is bobotie
Some consider bobotie to be the national dish of South Africa. Despite of the long list of ingredients it is quite easy to make, and once you have it in the oven, you can use the time to make delicious side dishes.
The dish itself bears resemblance to the Greek moussaka or British shepherd’s pie. So if you like these dishes, I am confident that you will like my bobotie as well. In essence, bobotie is a curried mixture of minced meat, dried fruits and nuts that are covered in an egg and milk mixture. The dish is then finished off in the oven.
history of bobotie
The exact origin of the dish remains fuzzy to this day. However, it is documented that the Dutch settlers brought a similar dish with them to South Africa in the 17th century. The recipe was adopted especially by the Cape Malay community and was then adjusted to use the spices and ingredients locally available. The word bobotie supposedly comes from the Malayan word ‘boemboe’, meaning ‘curry spices’. Given the exotic flavour of the dish, this would make sense.
The exact ingredients can vary a bit from recipe to recipe. Families tend to have their own particular version. Some people like to use more dried fruit than only the raisins, and others prefer to leave out the almonds.
Traditionally the bobotie is made from either lamb or beef mince. Lamb does have a specific flavour that not everybody likes and I find beef to be a more all-round enjoyable flavour for everyone in the family. In terms of spicing, bobotie is an exotically seasoned dish but not spicy. Of course, if you can’t live without your chili you can add a pinch, but it should not be dominant in any way.
Along with the raisins you can also use dried apricots, chopped in smaller pieces. If you don’t like the idea of almonds mixed with mince, you can leave these out or replace with other nuts. I have heard of families topping of their bobotie with walnuts. If anyone suffers from a nut allergy, it’s best you omit nuts altogether. Another welcome addition is ginger. Some of the earliest recipes included ginger and some families still use it. Also, never underestimate a good pinch of ground cinnamon.
what to serve with bobotie
You need something to suck up all that juicy flavours from the bobotie, which is why it simply must be served with geelrys (yellow rice). A typical South African side dish for meats and stews. You can learn how to make it here.
Some vegetables as a side is also essential to complete the meal. It could be something as simple as green beans or a green salad. Or, you can make something equally exotic in flavour such as cumin roast carrots or something fresher like my mung bean salad. Or, for a more hearty option, you can serve it with boereboontijes.
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Entering is easy, just follow the instructions below.
Competition Question: What is your favourite South African recipe?
Have you been looking around for an amazing vegetarian recipe, but just didn’t find the right one? Within these 150 vegetarian recipes, you’ll be able to select between soups, starters, dips, sauces, side dishes, main courses, drinks and desserts, from a vast range of cuisines. Every day of the week can be an international adventure – Indian, Greek and even Icelandic!
I find myself cooking more and more vegetarian recipes. My vegetarian journey has thus bar been a very pleasant experience. I am a believer that you need to cut down on meat using a step-by-step approach. I wish I could do something drastic and cut off meat immediately, but I feel this would be counter productive and it wouldn’t be sustainable in the long run. Remember, going vegetarian is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Hence, a slow and cautious approach is wiser in my opinion. My first step was to cut out pork with game next.
Peaches you usually associate peaches with dessert or breakfast, right? Peach pie, peach melba or ice cream springs to mind. However, there is another side to the peach flavour that is not being used enough. Namely, the use of peaches in savoury dishes. That’s why you’ll love this peach sauce.
My peach sauce with mustard is inspired by classic French cuisine, and can be prepared in a very short time. It is a perfect side for white meat, which is practically any kind of poultry. This is an ideal sauce for a weekday meal to the next level or spoiling your guests on a special occasion. The sauce instantly became a classic in my kitchen and I would not be surprised if it happened to you as well.
Even though you only need a little bit of peach jam for the peach sauce, it is a very important ingredient. Therefore, be sure to use a jam that you like and know is of good quality. It is important to get the balance of the flavours right. Remember, you should serve this peach sauce with savoury food – hence, it should not be overly sweet. Obviously, the peach jam itself will be quite sweet, which is why we only use a little bit of it.
The brandy and mustard help to balance the sauce giving it a distinctive savoury flavour. If you do not like brandy, you can leave it out or substitute it with dry sherry. When it comes to making a good sauce, it is important that you let your taste buds guide you, so do not be afraid to adjust the measurements according to your preference. If you like a little bit more texture in the peach sauce, you can cut up a fresh peach into little cubes and roast it in the pan alongside with the onion and garlic.
the use of mustard
Mustard is one of the corner stones of the classic French cuisine, and comes in countless variations of strength, grains and flavours. You probably know Dijon mustard. When using mustard in a sauce you need to be careful with the dosage. Some mustards are sharper than others. For this recipe, I have chosen a whole grain mustard because this is a little milder than a fine mustard. This way the flavour will balance better with the sweetness of the peach jam.
There are many flavoured mustards on the market and if you like you can use one of these to season the sauce. For instance, some mustards are infused with thyme, rosemary or even cognac, respectively. These flavours would work very well in the peach sauce too.
Whenever I visit a farmers ’ market, I love to look for interesting kinds of mustard. Therefore, if you have something funny in the cabinet do not be afraid to try it out. Just be careful with the amounts used, as too much mustard in the sauce can be tricky to rectify.
variations and seasoning
You may have noticed that I have not added any herbs or spices to this sauce. This is in order to emphasise the peach flavour and not detract from it. As always, the sauce needs some salt and pepper but the rest of the seasoning is up to you. Depending on what you want to serve the sauce with, you can enhance the sauce by adding herbs. Thyme and rosemary pair particularly well with peach. You can use dried herbs in small dosages or finely chopped fresh herbs if you are lucky enough to have a herb garden.
You can also try a slightly different version of the peach sauce by making it with apricot instead. Simply replace the peach jam with apricot jam and voilà. Equally delicious, if even a hint more exotic.
what to serve it with
What I really like about the peach sauce is that it does not have a specific season. It can be warming and comforting during the winter months and yet fresh and exotic during the summer months. If you want to use fresh peach though, you’ll need to wait for the warmer months of the year but year round you can use canned peaches. You can influence the dish by what you serve it with. Now, when it is still somewhat cold it would be fantastic with smoked turkey like the one I made some time ago. You can find the recipe here.
In fact, the peach sauce is a great match for any sort of white meat whether it be turkey, chicken or pork. Why not put a new spin on the traditional Sunday roast? Serve a whole chicken, or a turkey if there are many of you, with peach sauce and some delicious sides. For this purpose I would particularly recommend some rosemary roasted potatoes and some cumin roast carrots.
Other fruit based sauces
As a South African, it’s standard practice to pair meat and fruit. If you didn’t grow up with it, give this combination a try because I’d love to hear what you think! The use of fruit and berries in savoury dishes can bring absolutely amazing results. As a matter of fact I have experimented with this in the past, with great success if I may say so. As an example you should have a look at my venison steak with blackberry sauce.
Lastly I want to mention my pork fillet with sweet and tangy orange sauce. It’s another good example of how to use fruit for savoury cooking. If you are familiar with French cooking you have probably heard about canard a l’orange, better known as duck in orange sauce. A lovely dish but the orange sauce brings much joy to a pork fillet as well.
Heat a large frying pan and gently fry the onion in the butter and oil until translucent, which takes about 5 minutes.
Tip in the garlic and peaches and give it a stir.
Crank up the heat and add the brandy and let it sizzle for a minute.
Add the stock and simmer the sauce for 10 minutes until the liquid has halved.
Stir in the mustard, jam and cream, which will help the sauce to thicken. (Should you prefer your sauce even thicker, combine the cornflour with a splash of water to create a slurry and slowly drizzle it while stirring vigorously.)
Serve immediately with your favourite white meat such as chicken, turkey or pork.
You can use apricots instead of peaches.
Courses Side Dish
Serving Size 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 10g
Saturated Fat 4g
Total Carbohydrates 49.3g
Dietary Fiber 8.2g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Sweet and sour sauce is one of the most sought after items in Chinese cuisine, whether it’s serviced with chicken, pork or prawns. This dish is a great way to celebrate Chinese New Year, along with Chinese mixed vegetable stir fry. Despite being a popular takeaway, you can make it at home yourself just as good and cheaper, hence calling it a ‘fakeaway’. Not only is it satisfying and empowering to cook it yourself at home, it’s healthier and cheaper too. My Hong Kong-style sweet and sour chicken is so simple and quick to make that you’ll never opt for the take away again. Fakeaway forever!
The traditional Chinese calendar is called a lunisolar calendar, based on astronomical phenomena. It contains 12 zodiac animals and this year we have just entered the year of the dog. Chinese New Year is not only celebrated in China but in Chinese communities throughout the world. In honor of the Chinese New Year a Manchester restaurant made an extraordinary dish, called the world’s most expensive stir fry. Containing 500g (1lb) of infamous wagyu beef as well as lobster tails, it is certainly not your average stir fry.
It also includes Shimeji mushrooms, a gold label whiskey sauce and black truffle oil infused rice make up the dish. Sounds like perfection to me! The cost of the ingredients based on a serving for two people comes in at a whopping £437.25. The stir fry was cooked, filmed and served up to attending press and bloggers on Monday afternoon at Sweet Mandarin restaurant. If you a curious to find out more about that, you can check out this video.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for are slightly more cost efficient meal that you can make at home, the Hong Kong-style sweet and sour chicken is worth a whirl.
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what is Hong Kong-style sweet and sour chicken?
What is the difference between the standard sweet and sour chicken and its Hong Kong-style counterpart? The preparation of the chicken. In the latter, the chicken is battered, then fried and served with the sweet and sour sauce. It’s almost like little chicken nuggets dressed in sweet and sour sauce. The standard version is deep-fried chicken balls that comprise a little bit of chicken covered with an enormous amount of batter, with the sweet and sour sauce served on the side for dipping. In my books, the Hong Kong-style version is slightly healthier. Of course, you can omit the batter all together and fry the plain chicken along with the vegetables before adding the sauce.
what difference does the batter make?
Perhaps you are thinking that it would be easier not to batter and fry the chicken first. It would be easier and healthier, but you would be missing out. Those golden crispy chicken nuggets covered in sweet and sour sauce are simply to die for. Believe it or not, but that first crispy layer of the batter on the chicken really does make a difference. The best flour for this purpose is corn flour. However, if you can’t get hold of it, you can use very fine bread crumbs instead. You can smash up the bread crumbs in a mortar if the ones you have are a bit too grainy.
A tip for frying the chicken is to do it in small batches. This way you don’t lower the temperature of the oil as much, and you get a better result in the frying, making the nuggets not as oily.
The best way to bring variation to the sweet and sour chicken is with the kinds of vegetables you use. I’ve gone for a classic mix for my sweet and sour chicken, namely onion, pineapple and red and green bell pepper. Not only do these vegetables taste good in the sweet and sour sauce they also add fantastic colours to the dish. We eat with our eyes as well so the colour scheme makes the dish even more appetising.
I find that the pineapple is very important to obtain that right balance for the sweet and sour chicken. If you can’t stand pineapple, then leave the pineapple out. You can add or substitute other vegetables as well. Green beans or broccoli are always great in Asian dishes, and if you have kids who complain about broccoli they will love it with sweet and sour sauce slathered on it. Other suggestions are sugar snap peas or mushrooms.
You can make your sweet and sour chicken even more Chinese by adding bamboo shoots or slices of water chestnuts. Both possess excellent crunchy textures that add freshness to the dish.
In terms of spicing, sweet and sour chicken is not meant to be hot. However, you can add a little chili if you find the recipe too tame. Alternatively, add sweet chili sauce as a topping.
Another way of changing up the dish is to take out the chicken itself. Technically, no longer sweet and sour chicken but still every bit as amazing. Apart from chicken, turkey or pork work the best with the sweet and sour sauce. I’d say pork is the most popular choice as it works well with other Chinese recipes, such as the Chinese BBQ pork stir-fry. The flavour is also great for seafood, especially prawns. Prawns are actually great when prepared Hong Kong-style. Should you want to make a vegan version, you can substitute the protein with tofu. In that case, no need for the batter.
serve with rice
Personally I prefer to serve my Hong Kong-style sweet and sour chicken with steamed rice. Typically this would also be the way you would get it in a Hong Kong street kitchen. A steaming hot bowl of white rice with a generous scoop of fried chicken and crunchy vegetables in a perfectly balanced sweet and sour sauce. Alternatively, you can serve it with wild rice, fried rice or even noodles. It’s not strictly traditional but you can add to the dish by topping off with some peanuts when serving.
If you made more than you could eat the sweet and sour chicken will easily keep in the fridge for a couple of days, although the batter on the chicken will turn soft very quickly.
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½ pineapple, peeled, stalk removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large onion, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 red pepper, washed, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 green pepper, washed, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
First make the sweet and sour sauce by combining the tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar, chicken stock and corn flour in a small saucepan over a low heat. When all the ingredients have come together to form a smooth sauce, remove from the heat and set aside.
Heat the oil in the wok on a high heat.
Dip the chicken pieces in the egg then dredge in the cornflour.
Fry the battered chicken pieces for 4-5 minutes or until crisp and light brown. Remove the meat from the wok and drain. You might need to do this in batches.
Heat 30ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil in a clean wok, then fry the pineapple, onion and peppers for 3 minutes.
Add the chicken and sauce, stir and let the mixture bubble until it’s thickened.
Serve immediately with steamed rice.
You can use prawns or pork instead of chicken in this recipe.
Serving Size 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 24.8g
Saturated Fat 5.7g
Total Carbohydrates 41.5g
Dietary Fiber 4g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Geelrys, or “yellow rice” in English, is a classic side dish in South African cuisine. It is perfect for when you need something livelier than just plain old boiled rice. With a few additions you can even consume it on its own as light lunch at the office. If you think it sounds a bit too experimental for weeknight meal, you are mistaken. Most of the traditional South African recipes are delightfully simple to reproduce, meaning you will have more time left over for yourself and your family. Why not enjoy the exotic flavours of geelrys?
The secret ingredient of geelrys is turmeric, in itself subtle in flavour but very powerful. Turmeric is the spice that lends curry its characteristic yellow tinge. Along with the cinnamon, it creates an Asian flavour, and the dish looks like something you might find in an Indian restaurant. It is, however, very much a South African dish. The use of such exotic spices date back to colonial times.
other spices that make rice yellow
Turmeric is not the only spice that can add this beautiful yellow colour to a rice dish. Saffron does the same thing however the aroma is different. You might know saffron from the traditional yellow risotto Milanese. Saffron is widely used throughout the Middle East where it is grown commercially. You could make geelrys with saffron if you wanted to, but be warned that saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. My advice for you would be to stick with the turmeric for your geelrys.
tricks with spices
The basic recipe does not need a lot of different spice but obviously the turmeric and cinnamon are crucial to making the dish work. I usually add ground cinnamon, as well as an entire cinnamon stick. The use of both versions amplifies the flavour. It looks enticing serving a big bowl of geelrys with the cinnamon stick still inside, indicating to diners what’s in store. If you find the basic spice blend a little too bland, you can add a tiny bit of chili to give it a bit of a kick. Be careful not to overdo it though. You still want to be able to taste the aromas from the turmeric, cinnamon and the raisins.
A dash of freshly cut herbs completes the dish. For this purpose parsley or coriander are the best herbs to use. If you don’t like the characteristic perfumed aroma of coriander, you can leave it out. If you want to serve the geelrys with a more traditional meat roast, you’d be better off with parsley, which has a more versatile flavour.
Traditionally raisins are mixed into the geelrys to bring some sweetness to the dish. This helps to balance the slightly bitter flavour of the turmeric and gives variation in the texture. If you are not a fan of raisins you can leave them out, or you can replace them with green peas. If you are looking for a bit more crunch you can add some peanuts or cashew nuts. This twist turns it more into a kind of pilau – check out my cashew rice pilaf.
The geelrys works fantastically as a side dish but with of bit of creativity it can be more than that. You can add any sort of vegetables you want and make it into a standalone vegetarian or vegan dish – ideal for a healthy work lunch. Green peas work well, as do butternut squash or courgette. You can clear out the fridge, such as using thinly cut carrots or bell peppers, turning it into a vibrant dinner. Let me know what secret ingredient you come up with and how it improves your version of the geelrys.
serve with meat
Geelrys is simply great for serving with meat. If you are intending to cook a full blown South African meal, serve denningvleis with it. These two go together like fish and chips! Geelrys is also great for any other type of meat roast or stew. Think of dishes where you would normally serve plain white rice, and you can substitute it with geelrys instead. With the addition of fresh coriander on top, it will work very well with a heavy type of meat such as Indian roast leg of lamb.
serve with seafood
Looking at the geelrys it almost looks like paella only without the fish doesn’t it? Actually there is no reason not to pair fish or seafood the geelrys. South Africa is rich in seafood and fortunately, we can also get our fair share here in the UK too. A plate of geelrys served with grilled tiger prawns from the barbecue on top will satisfy any seafood lover.
Steamed cod, baked seabass or any white fish will be taken to the next level when served with geelrys. Last year, I made baked seabass with a carrot salad. You should try it with geelrys as well.
Geelrys can easily be stored for a couple of days in the fridge. You can even freeze it for later use if you don’t eat it all. So, don’t be scared to make a big batch. You can always keep it for later and have an easy side dish ready in no time. In this sense, it is a very practical dish as well as simple to make and extremely versatile!
This Chinese mixed vegetable stir-fry combines the classic Chinese flavours with fresh, crunchy vegetables. It is the perfect side dish for any oriental meal, but can also be a standalone vegan dish. I recently served this as a side for Mongolian lamb, and it was amazing. The beauty of this recipe is its versatility. Use any of your favourite vegetables.
It may be a simple recipe but there is more to it than just throwing everything into a saucepan. In order to make a good stir fry there are two different methods which you can use. The first method is to put the vegetable in raw, starting with the ones that take the longest to cook. Proceed to cook at medium heat while stirring constantly. This is where the name stir-fry comes from.
The other way to do it is to parboil the vegetables, drain them and finishing them off at high heat in the wok. Which method you use is completely up to you. I have tried both and I must say I am having a hard time telling which is best. If anything, the sauce seems to stick a bit better using the slow method, and it saves me the trouble of parboiling the vegetables first. The most important thing is to not overcook the vegetables, so that they maintain a good crunchy bite.
which vegetables to use
For my Chinese mixed vegetable stir fry I used broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, baby sweetcorn, sugar snap peas and asparagus. I find the combination of sweet and bitter tasting vegetables ideal for a Chinese stir fry. Nonetheless you can make a number of variations to the vegetable mix. Simply pick what you like and substitute what you don’t. Bell peppers are always good in a stir fry but have you thought about using kale or bok choy?
If you are keen to emphasise the Chinese element in the Chinese mixed vegetable stir fry, you can add water chestnuts or bamboo shoots. Not only do they taste great, they also add a crispy element to the stir fry. Another variation you can try is to replace the ordinary white mushrooms with Asian sorts such as shiitake. The latter’s earthy flavour adds depth to the entire dish.
If you are a crunchy type of person, nuts are a welcome addition to the Chinese mixed vegetable stir fry too – especially cashews or peanuts. Another tip is to add bean sprouts at the end of cook time. These taste best if they a still fresh and not fully cooked through. If you feel like you are missing protein in the dish you can solve it by adding tofu. Don’t forget to drizzle a bit of lime juice, because it’s a lovely finishing touch!
tweak your stir fry with sauces
Substituting vegetables is not the only way you can tweak the Chinese mixed vegetable stir fry. For instance, you can add honey and bring more sweetness to the dish. You can also do a great deal to the flavour using Chinese sauces. For example, you can use fish sauce or oyster sauce, which have intense fragrant, salty flavours that add enormous depth to the stir fry. Theses are traditionally used in Thai cuisine.
Another alternative would be hoisin sauce, which is a thick fragrant Chinese sauce based on soy. These days you can easily find it in supermarkets but if all else fails you can go to a Chinese store to pick up a bottle or two….or three. If you think you’ve got too many vegetables, you can also make this broccoli, red pepper and asparagus with hoisin sauce and couscous for the next meal.
Fancy more spice? Add sweet chili sauce, Chinese chili oil or even chopped, fresh chillies.
Meat eaters can add their preferred type of meat into the pan with the vegetables. Lean meats are perfect for this purpose, especially chicken and turkey, but beef or pork work as well. In order to get the best result you have to slice the meat very thinly, so that it takes only a short time to cook. Seafood works brilliantly too, such as shrimps, crab meat or even sliced octopus!
what to serve with Chinese mixed vegetable stir fry
Add a bit of steamed white rice on the side and you’re done. Alternatively, you can serve the stir fry with boiled or fried noodles.
As mentioned earlier, the Chinese mixed vegetable stir fry is also an excellent side for any meat or fish cooked in an oriental way. You can adjust the vegetables, seasoning and accompaniments to your preference. With this as a side, you don’t need to worry about the young ones not eating their vegetables tonight!
As always, I like to finish the dish off with a little bit of green on the top. In order to keep in line with the Chinese theme, I recommend using herbs such as coriander . If you don’t like it, you could use watercress or Thai basil instead. That last one can be tricky to get hold of but if you’re lucky your nearest Chinese grocery store will stock it. To add even more freshness to the dish you can also sprinkle with finely chopped spring onion. The subtle onion taste complements the sweet and umami flavours of the stir fry very well. Toasted sesame seeds are a bonus!
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Today, I am recreating another one of my favourite South African side dishes, boereboontjies. Traditional South African cuisine is a sturdy one, designed to bring nutrition and energy to the farmers’ hard work in the fields. In fact, the word ‘boer’ means farmer in Afrikaans. Boereboontjies means farmer’s beans and in essence, it’s a potato mash laced with green beans and onion. It sounds very simple and it is – but don’t be fooled by its simplicity. This is straight forward tasty comfort food that everyone can enjoy, not just during the winter months but on any occasion. You can serve boereboontjies with any number of things, even as a side for a barbecue instead of the usual baked potatoes. Vegetarians can enjoy it on its own, or ever add a fried egg or two on top.
It’s hard to say exactly when and where the dish was invented. What we know is that it was a popular staple among the Dutch settlers in South Africa in the 1800s and since then it has become embedded in South African food culture. Farming in those days was by no means an easy job, and the farmers needed a diet that would give them the necessary strength and energy. Hence sturdy dishes like boereboontjies found their way to the dinner tables. Made from simple ingredients that the farmers could grow themselves, it was an ideal way to have a tasty nutritious meal for a low price. In some ways it is similar to the Dublin parsnip colcannon I published years ago.
Some South African recipes feature the addition of a fatty pieces of rib mixed in with the vegetables. If you want to stick with the South African theme you can serve boereboontjies with denningvleis, a traditional South African stew. If you haven’t already tried my denningvlies, I urge you to do so.
what kind of potatoes to use
For a mash it’s important to use potatoes with medium to high starch content. These potatoes have a more floury texture once cooked and tend to fall apart quite easily. This feature makes them less useful of you want to serve normal boiled potatoes as a side and still have a bit of bite in them. On the other hand, it makes them excellent for mash, or for boereboontjies, for that matter. Normally the potatoes will be labelled, indicating whether they are starchy, so look out for this when you shop.
A great variety of potato for this purpose is the King Edward, which is widely available in the UK. For the boereboontjies you still want a bit of texture in there and not a 100% smooth velvety mash. Therefore it’s not a disaster if you can’t get the potatoes specially meant for mash. I recently made a sweet potato mash which turned out fantastical. If you like the boereboontjies you will probably like this one too.
Green beans or string beans make an excellent companion for potatoes, which is why they work so well in this dish. When in season you should use fresh green beans. Perhaps you are even lucky enough to be able to grow your own in the garden. Remember to snip off the ends when using freshly harvest green beans. If you don’t have any fresh green beans you can cheat a little and use frozen ones. If you do use the frozen ones, wait until the water boils before adding them in with the potatoes. Frozen beans need less time to cook than fresh ones.
This traditional boereboontjies recipe is a quite simple one. If you are looking for a bit more flavour than the basic version, there are lots of things you can do to jazz it up. For instance, you can add garlic in with the onion. Garlic pairs well with potatoes and beans, so if you love garlic as much as I do, don’t be afraid to break the tradition and sneak some in there. Otherwise you can make it even greener by adding other vegetables into the mash. Fry some finely sliced leek or some bell pepper alongside the onion and mix it with beans and potatoes.
As always, a little green sprinkle on the top does wonders for the dish. Parsley, chives, thyme or rosemary go particularly well with the traditional boereboontjies’ flavours. You can pick your own favourite herb, depending on what you serve with the boereboontjies.
what to serve it with
Boereboontjies is a very versatile side dish that you can serve with a number of things. It works fantastically with meat and I recommend you to try it out for your next Sunday roast. Don’t get me wrong, I love roast potatoes with a good Sunday roast. In fact I made some with rosemary that are just amazing. You can find the recipe here.
If your kids like sausages with mash, you can replace the traditional mash with boereboontjies and get a bit more greens in them. Somehow kids seem to be allergic to anything green on the plate, but mixed in with the potatoes it usually works. It also works well with any type of stew, especially now during the cold season. There is just nothing as comforting as a good stew that has been left to simmer on a winter’s day.
Nonetheless that doesn’t mean that boereboontjies cannot be eaten in the summer too. It’s a perfect companion for just about any type of grilled meat and will make a great addition to a barbecue on the terrace. It is so easy to prepare that you will still have plenty of time to enjoy the barbecue outside with friends and family.
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Competition Question: What is your favourite South African recipe?