Saturday, February 14, 2015

Boerewors spice recipe


Updated, 02-13-2015.

A South African braaivleis (BRIGH-flays, barbecue) is nothing without boerewors [BOO-ruh-vawrs, farmers sausage].

But boerewors is close to impossible to find in New York, and when you do, it's not great.  It amazed me that this ubiquitous South African sausage, available in every supermarket and butchery and corner joint in South Africa had very few sources of recipe-reference, online. I dug deep, experimented, and we took delivery of many batches. I ground and mixed the spices myself and delivered them to Los Paisanos, our butchery on Smith Street in Brooklyn, where the sausages are still made for us, for a minimum order of 6lbs (we try to order 12lb, when we are feeling flush). 

We worked our way heroically through coils and coils of sausage, becoming neurotic in our analyses of texture and taste. Back in South Africa we chewed with squinty eyes on delicious local sausages, comparing, judging, fattening visibly.

Ivan Palma and Pedro Franco

Pedro Franco of Los Paisanos mixed up the first batch for me in October 2010, and then Ivan Palma started to help. They discovered that marinating the meat overnight with the vinegar and spice mix yielded a superior flavour. The previous version of the recipe below (since tweaked) yielded good sausage, and was given the seal of approval and published by Go (Weg)  Magazine (Media24, South Africa).

But I still felt something was missing. I fetched the most recent iteration from Los Paisanos a few weeks ago and my most recent spice mix produced the best sausage yet, at least for our tastes.

The difference? More salt, more coriander, and a tablespoon of baharat, a Middle Eastern spice mix I had leftover from some Ottolenghi meatballs. Go figure. It contains many of the traditional boerewors spices plus some extras. So I isolated those and they are the optional extras for this recipe.


About the spices: if you omit the garam masala and the asterisked spices you'll have the basic boerewors recipe. It's good. But with the cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, it's epic. 


I buy spices from Sahadi's in Brooklyn, and use their premixed garam masala - it is fresh. But if you'd like to make your own see the recipe in the link. 

It's not complicated to mix spices at home if you have all the individual spices on hand.  I use a coffee grinder for mixing and seal the results in a jar, where it keeps for months.

You could use either beef or lamb, but you must use the fatty pork. This is a fine grind and we ask for lamb casings. If you make your own, marinate overnight.

For 6lbs of Sausage:

The Meat:

2lbs beef
2 lbs mutton or lamb
2lbs fatty pork belly 

Boerewors Spice Mix:

3 Tablespoons whole coriander seeds
2.5 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons garam masala*
1 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 tsp cumin*
1/4 teaspoon cardamom*
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon*
1/2 cup Malt vinegar

* omit for basic recipe

For the spices: 

In a hot pan singe the coriander very lightly and then grind into powder. Add the other dry spices, mix, and bag.

Hand this to your butcher, with the bottle of malt vinegar, and say, Please.


Los Paisanos will make this sausage for you, IF you commit to a minimum order of 6lbs and IF you bring your own spices and vinegar. Ask for "the South African Sausage," and for Ivan or Pedro.

Tell them Marie sent you.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Southeast Asian meatballs


I often crave the sparkling, powerful flavours of Southeast Asia,

These meatballs, highly fragrant and very tender, satisfy many cravings. Sweet-sour-salty and chile-rich, they can be eaten:

- Warm, with a dipping sauce - serve in a bowl topped with fresh mint, cilantro and basil leaves
- Warm, with miso broth poured over them in the last minute of cooking, to make a light sauce
- Added to a bowl of broth, eaten as a comforting soup
- Cool in banh mi, with pickled carrots and herbs
- Cool, wrapped in soft lettuce leaves with herbs



Meatballs - for two, with trimmings

The key to the flavouring is to chop everything exceptionally finely. I use some breadcrumbs to lighten their texture. If you can't find tamarind, just leave it out. I have made the meatballs successfully with pork and with beef.

1 lb ground pork
2 tsp lemon grass (the end of 1 stalk, outer leaves peeled off), exceptionally finely chopped
2 tsp garlic (2 medium cloves), very finely chopped
1 1/4 tsp hot red chile, very finely chopped
3/4 tsp black pepper
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp tamarind juice or syrup
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp ginger, very finely chopped
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1/3 cup Panko-style breadcrumbs

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients thoroughly and let the mixture rest, covered, in the fridge for an hour at least or, if possible, overnight.

Make the dipping sauce or broth (see below). Both can be made up to a day ahead.

To Cook

Shape the meat mixture small ping pong balls. Heat a good, heavy pan and add the meatballs (oil is not necessary if using fatty ground pork). Cook on each side for about 3 minutes, till caramel-y brown. Flip and repeat.

Dipping Sauce

2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soy
2 Tbsp lime or lemon juice
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp chopped ginger
1 thumb-sized stick lemongrass, halved
Slices of hot red chile

Mix all the ingredients and stir to dissolve the sugar. Taste. Adjust the balance with more lemon or sugar.

Optional broth, for deglazing the pan

1 cup water
2 Tbsp miso paste
1 Tbsp bonito flakes
1 strip dried seaweed
1 Squeeze lemon or lime juice
1 thumb sized piece of lemongrass, halved
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
Slices of hot red chile

Heat the water and dissolve the miso in it. Add the other ingredients, keeping it very warm for about 10 minutes till the flavours mingle. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Keep hot and pour over the meatballs in their final minute of cooking. Stir once or twice and serve topped with fresh cilantro leaves, with sticky black rice on the side (in a perfect world).

Or else double the quantity and put the meatballs in the broth and serve in deep bowls.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Cilantro chicken


Endless chicken dishes, in this house. We eat little red meat at home - partly a budget thing, partly an availability thing. There is no organic or grassfed raise beef nearby. We can find humanely raised poultry.

So here's a one-dish wonder. Strong flavours. Don't be afraid of the anchovies, they add salty complexity. There is nothing fishy about this and they will be undetectable to anchovy-haters.

Serves Four, or two hungry persons, with leftovers

4 thighs
4 drumsticks
1 head garlic, cloves all chopped finely
1 bunch cilantro (coriander), well washed, stems chopped finely
6 anchovy fillets, chopped finely
Zest of 1/2 a lime
2 large limes' juice (approx. 3-4 Tbsps)
1 Tbsp Halaby pepper (also called Aleppo red pepepr, otherwise use dried or fresh chiles)

Heat oven to 450'F/220'C.

Here's the fun part: Whop each piece of chicken in half with a big kitchen knife or cleaver. Pick out any small bone shards (the harder you whop the fewer there'll be. Really. Lift the knife above your head and aim well. Visualize the knife where you want it to land...Whop!).

You can skip that step if you're in no mood for fun. But the idea is that the more exposed surfaces you have, the more flavour sticks to them.

Put the chicken pieces in a large bowl.

Add the chopped garlic, cilantro stems, anchovies, the lime juice, the zest and the pepper. Toss very well.

Transfer to a roasting dish or skillet with low sides (it should accommodate the chicken pieces in a single layer with a little space between each).


Roast for 1 hour to 1 hr 25-ish, depending on how brown the bits become. Turn the pieces after about 40 minutes. If the liquid in the pan is drying add a splash of water every now and then. You want delectable stickiness when done, not soup.


While the chicken is cooking chop the cilantro leaves very finely. Pu the leaves in a small bowl and add the juice of a lime, a large pinch of salt, a teaspoon of sugar and stir very well. Serve this as fresh green sauce.

I served this with some steamed couscous.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Fast tomato soup


The first bitter day of winter is the first day of 2015. I made soup yesterday to take on a winter picnic, but we ended up eating fried clams, instead, sitting in a car pointing at a freezing New England beach. So we ate the soup today, for lunch.

This is quicksoup, cheapsoup, cheatsoup, and it is goodsoup. It is excellent New Year's Resolution soup, being thrifty, nourishing, satisfying and comforting. Take care of yourself, your family, your soul and your heart. All in one soup!

Use canned tomatoes. That is what winter is for. The fewer ingredients on the label the better. Hopefully just "tomatoes." The Splendid Table has a helpful list of good U.S. brands. Then again, I use Sclafani, which scored high on The Daily Meal.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large can - 1 lb 12 oz (28 oz/793grams) - tomatoes
1 teaspoon hot dried pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup water or broth

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and garlic, stirring a little every few minutes. Cook for 5-plus minutes until they begin to take some colour, but do not brown.

Add the contents of the tomato can. Rinse the can with broth or water and pour that in, too. Stir, and break up the tomatoes gently with a wooden spoon (watch out for projectile seed-spitting). Allow the liquid to begin bubbling. When it does, turn it low enough to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the onions are quite tender. Taste, and add the sugar, and the salt. Add the hot pepper. Taste again. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool enough to blend the soup smooth in your favourite appliance. Return the soup to your saucepan, bring to a gentle simmer once more, taste again and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

That is it. Your soup is ready. Best served with strands of sharp cheddar and a twist of black pepper, or floating islands of toast and goats cheese.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mushrooms à la Grecque


This is one of my mother's favourite things to make for a lunch under the tree. It tastes even better the following day, so is perfect make-ahead food. In theory, leftovers could be sliced for pasta sauce (with some fresh butter, wine and cream), or added to cold weather stews. But there won't be any leftovers. There never are.

When I know that I am going to be baking a sourdough loaf, I think of these mushrooms The bread and pan juices are a perfect match and make a wonderful meal.

Mushrooms à la Grecque – serves two

What defines à la Grecque? Lemon juice, olive oil, fennel and coriander. The acid and oil emulsify at the last moment.

You can use any sort of mushroom, really, though button mushrooms are easiest. If you use larger oyster mushrooms, hen of the woods, or portabellos, slice them, first (quite thickly).

Don't get too hung up on the measurements. Add more mushrooms if you like. When you've made it once you'll have the hang of it, and can take it from there.

1 cup water
1 cup of white wine
2 fennel fronds, with stalk
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, or about four seedheads of fennel
1 celery stalk
2 whole cloves of garlic in their skins
20 black peppercorns
20 coriander seeds, toasted
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon sugar
1 lb fresh button or small portabello mushrooms, de-stalked
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice (about 2 teaspoons)
Salt to taste

Use a wide saucepan that will accommodate the mushrooms in a single layer. Combine the water, wine, fennel fronds, fennel seeds or heads, celery, garlic, peppercorns, coriander, bay leaves and sugar in the saucepan. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the button mushrooms, topside down, and lower heat to medium-high. As they cook they exude a lot of liquid: when the caps start to fill with mushroom juices (about 10 - 12 minutes), flip them. Cook another 12-15 minutes or until a tested mushroom is tender.

When the mushrooms are cooked, and the pan juices are reduced by half, taste, and add salt. Still over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and the lemon juice. This will cause the sauce to emulsify. Taste again. The result should be salty-sweet-sour in equal proportions.

Turn the mushrooms and their sauce into a shallow bowl and serve at once, with bread for mopping (or a spoon, for the Paleo-people). They are very good the next day, too, at room temperature.

This recipe appeared in Issue 42 of Gardenista, as part of a story about fennel.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Maitake pâté

Maitake pâté (R)

Thinking of ideas for low-fuss treats I could take to the WNYC studios for an interview about maitake (aka hen of the woods - Grifola frondosa), recently, pâté seemed a good idea; travels so well in jars.

Pâté is something I grew up with. It was a normal part of our eating lives. My mother's chicken liver pâté made frequent appearances at dinner parties and picnics, and later it became deeply complicated with mousse-y terrines whose fat content was staggering.

This mushroom pâté may as well be called a spread. Cos...ya spreads it. It was surprisingly complex in flavour. A fall mushroom and a fall drink (cider) seemed to go well together, and the addition of a little lemon juice prevented the result from being cloying.

(I've made it subsequently with sherry, which works perfectly.)

Maitake pâté - makes 3-4 small jars

Yes, you may substitute other mushrooms.

3 Tbsp butter, plus another 3 Tbsps, melted
4 cups maitake, broken or sliced into chunks and very well cleaned
1 large shallot, sliced thinly
3 bay leaves
4 juniper berries
1/2 cup cream
1/3 cup hard apple cider (or 1/4 cup medium cream sherry)
Squeeze of lemon juice

Saute the shallots and maitake in 3 Tbsps of butter over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, until they start to lightly brown. Cover, and lower the heat. Cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring from time to time - this will draw out their moisture.

Remove the lid, add the bay, the juniper, and the cider or sherry. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir well to scare up brown bits.

Allow the liquid to cook off completely, then add the cream and stir well again. Lower the heat to medium.Cook gently for another 5 minutes. Add the squeeze of lemon. Taste, and season quite highly with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaves and juniper, and blend to a rough paste in a food processor. Add the last 3 Tbsp of melted butter with your last whizz.

Pack in jars and refrigerate up to three days (unscientific guess) or freeze till needed.

Serve at room temperature, to spread on good brown bread or crackers.

Here's the interview, on Last Chance Foods:


Monday, August 18, 2014

Roasted tomato Caprese


I have not even sunk my teeth yet into tomato season, because real tomatoes are very hard to find in Harlem, (as they are in any supermarketed neighborhood). I miss the Borough Hall Farmers Market, just a ten minute walk away from where we used to live in Brooklyn. And the days of our rooftop, all-day-sun tomatoes seem long gone, too. They were wonderful. Last year this time we just coming to grips with having to move.

The local supermarkets - and Wholefoods! - stock Canadian tomatoes, Mexican tomatoes, Floridian...sure. But I want a fat heirloom, grown across the river, or upstate. I have a date with the Union Square Farmers Market this Wednesday. 

But here is an idea for some small tomatoes, somewhere in size between cherry and a red golf ball. 

This is very simple to make but it makes even hothouse specials taste good, with a distinct sweetness.


You can use buffalo mozzarella or fresh mozzarella, but I love the collapsing creaminess of burrata. It drifts into the sweet tomato juice and this chance-meeting sauce cries for a crust of bread (rubbed with garlic, perhaps) to be dipped into it..

Roasted Tomato Caprese with Burrata - substantial for two, dainty for four

2 tsps olive oil
8 small tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 round of burrata, drained
6-8 leaves of basil

In a pan, over medium heat, warm the 2 tsps of olive oil. Add the whole tomatoes, season with a pinch of salt and some black pepper, and put a lid over the pan. After a minute or so, shake the pan, to stop them from sticking.

Lower the heat to medium-low and cook gently for 10 - 15 minutes, shaking occasionally, until their juices are oozing, the skin is crinkled, and the tomatoes collapsed but still entire. Put aside to cool.

When tepid, arrange the tomatoes evenly on a pretty plate. Take the burrata and carefully pull chunks off it, and dab them around the plate, over the tomatoes. Season with a tiny amount of salt and more black pepper, and a drizzle of very good olive oil ( we use Wolfgang's, or the Koringberg oil from our friends Johan and Peter - we are lucky!).

Tear up the basil leaves and toss over the top.

There. Done. Eat.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Salade Niçoise


I can never give quantities. The only stipulation is good tuna canned in good olive oil.

Blanched green beans are also a Niçoise staple, for me, and I love the floppy bowls of Boston lettuce leaves. Just-hard boiled eggs and chunks of boiled potato are good (to suck up the vinaigrette), and as part of that vinaigrette, I include about 1/3 cup very finely chopped red onion (leave it to macerate in the vinegar before adding salt, sugar, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil - in that order). Cherry tomatoes cut in half, oil-cured black olives are never a bad idea. Strips of raw red pepper, and coils of green garlic scapes, cooked till tender, would be nice.

Freshly toasted sourdough, rubbed with a clove of garlic, off to once, and you're set. Add icy white wine and the world is a good place for a while.

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