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The Mad Platter’s Party

December 13, 2010 in Meat, Soups, starters and light meals

It’s not yet 6 am and I am up and about – getting ready for another day at the ‘hoffice’. That’s my word for my home office. I have two days left before my first visitor arrives and the mountain of work is ready to slide into a sorry mess … what a year this has been! First there was no work and now there is such a load to tackle that I am already looking forward to a long holiday in December 2011!


Needless to say, there will be little time off for me this December. Work and its deadlines aside, I have a friend who will visit for 5 days, starting this Wednesday. When she leaves on the 20th, there will be a 2-day breather before the kids arrive. And then it’s Christmas and Boxing Day and then it’s just a few days before it’s New Year’s day and then when they all leave, it’s back to the salt mines of the ‘hoffice’ for me …


So how do I manage? One word, darlings: platters. Yip, beautiful, huge arrangements of all sorts of food I buy ready-to-eat or almost-ready-to-eat and put on the table with a sigh of relief. I always add something small that I make myself, like spiced or herbed butters. That is to say, if I do not call-to-action everybody in the house at the time to the kitchen to help.

From an early age I thought it was sheer B.S. that the hostess or the women or the mother should do all the cooking (and other domestic) work. I realized at an early age that men and kids all have the same limbs and organs as females and although they may not have the skills or motivation to attempt preparing a meal, those limbs and organs can be put to good use in the kitchen.


From an early age I was at loggerheads with my mother and granny who were determined to (a) prevent the men in our family from doing domestic work and (b) to stoically protect the kitchen as an exclusive female domain. I never won the battle but I did leave home and made my own family. So, when other mothers were taking their sons to an outdoors survival camp, I sent mine on a cookery course. When other mothers spent their savings on building a cute cottage onto their house in which their sons can live after school, I rented mine a small flat far enough from home to not pop in for food and laundry. Then I threw him a kitchen tea so that he can have all the appliances necessary to feed himself and his friends. My personal contribution to the kitchen tea was a toolbox so that he could learn how to fix anything that leaks and stops working in the flat and his future homes.


I took one look at my son in law when my daughter brought him home and said: “You look like you have a passion for food.” And from that day, he has only received kitchen gifts from me: cookery books, Wusthoff knives, baking utensils, pots, pans, whisks and tongs. In fact, he is better stocked than most female cooks!


But back to the platters: believe me, they are time-and-energy savers! Give them themes: fish platters, cheese platters, meat platters, roast veggie platters and even combo platters using everything you have in the fridge or grocery cupboard – including some breads or crackers.  Then, to big-up the balance and health issues, add a healthy starter that is easy to prepare in minutes like a chilled gazpacho or cucumber or pea soup and a fresh fruity dessert – the easiest being chilled and sliced melons all sorts: water melon, musk melon, winter melon. There – guilt-free meals and perfect for our lazy, hot summer days.


Even though we may be avid foodies loving every minute of cooking, with the people traffic and goings-on this time of the year in our homes, we also need to take a break and spend time with our loved ones. Or just with ourselves. So darlings, rip off the apron and gooi!


Here are two platters that you can gooi everything together, whip up a few intriguing butters, spreads and toppings (just to ease your guilt) and then gooi the wine or beer!


Meat platter with butters and spreads



Herb butter

Mix together 125 g soft butter and 45 ml mixed chopped fresh herbs like thyme, basil, chives, parsley and rosemary.


Garlic mayonnaise

Mix together 200 ml French-style mayonnaise and 5 – 15 ml finely chopped garlic and 45 ml finely chopped parsley.


Tomato-chilli cream cheese

Mix together 200 g plain cream cheese, 30 ml tomato paste, 15 ml fruit chutney, 5 – 10 ml chopped red chilli and 30 ml chopped coriander leaves.


Serve in individual bowls alongside shavings of chicken, ham and beef and add some pickles and biscuits.


Cracker Platter with Smoked Salmon Salsa & Wasabi Avo


This platter may not consitute a full-on meal, but it makes one hellova starter or light meal or snack. Which saves you in preapring one hellova large main course! 




You will need:


300 g smoked salmon, coarsely chopped

zest of 1 lemon or lime

2 whole spring onions, sliced thinly

milled black pepper

2 ripe avocado pears, mashed

65 ml mayonnaise

45 ml finely chopped parsley or coriander leaves

15 – 30 ml wasabi paste


packets of rice crackers, wasabi flavour


For the salmon salsa, lightly mix together the salmon, lemon rind and spring onions. Season with pepper, spoon into a serving bowl and place on a serving platter.


For the wasabi avo, mix together the avocado, mayonnaise, parsley or coriander and wasabi paste. Season with salt, spoon into a serving bowl and place next to the salmon salsa on the platter.


Arrange the wasabi rice crackers alongside the bowls and serve. Guests spread their own crackers with the avocado mixture and then pile the salmon on top.


Serves 6 – 8


PS: No need to buy expensive smoked salmon slices. Off-cuts will be perfect and much more affordable. Look out for the packets in your supermarket’s fridges. If they don’t stock them, then ask them to.

Not-for-the-fainthearted Butternut Risotto

December 6, 2010 in Sauces & side dishes, Soups, starters and light meals, Vegetarian & vegetable dishes

Before this recipe appeared in Avo Magazine some years ago, the food stylist called me and asked if I am quite sure that the recipe must contain cream? Absolutely, I cried. But it’s not Italian then…. (she sounded quite dull, that girl) we need to change it. So what Italian schmallion, I cried again: we are locals and we love cream, we love living passionately and dangerously. Besides, I continued without a taking a single breath in between sentences, it’s only a little cream and we have plenty happy cows producing dreamy creamy milk, so leave it in. She said something that sounded like ‘O’ and that was that. A few weeks later the recipe was published as I wrote it.


So in honour of the meatless Monday boo-ha and all that, here is my version of the not-Italian risotto. It has a chilli kick which you can increase or lessen, depending on your mood on the day you cook it.


Mine is beyond exhilarating as our website is coming along fanta-bulously with all sorts of wonderful happenings going to take place as from January next year. And we will reveal all in good time, promise.


The other (in honour of our cows I was tempted to type ‘udder’) big, big news is that SABC3 has commissioned our filming company to produce a whopping 26-episode fun-in-the-sun challenge series for teenagers! And they will pay us contrary to what you may read in the media and they will pay us as we go along, nogal! The series will be on air on the 6th of August 2011 so imagine who is going to skip writing a few blogs from now until then? Production will take place in the Garden Route where they have those awsome outdoors rides and things and we will film during the April and July school holidays. However, I promise that will share, share, share all the excitement with you and post the pics of the production and even some pics of that crew-food I wrote about previously…. Not the good crew food, the other kind as this will not be a cooking show with our own lovely chefs making crew food, no. It’s an action-reality-hardcore-high-octane production with caretered crew food (there should be an ‘s’ before crew-food in this case!) O my soul…. when I post those pics you will commisserate with me, for sure. 


I got the email with the news Friday on my Blackberry while in the town of Strand rummaging in a second-hand junk shops for a nice round table for the patio. Needless to say, I instantly dumped the table and headed straight for the wine shop instead. I found a wine store like an unguided missile and loaded the boot of my car with the best bubbly I could lay my hands on PLUS a case of Old Brown Sherry just to remind myself to stay humble and grounded and above all, real! After I was suitably sustained by the bubbly chased with an OBS, I printed out the email from them and kept it close to my heart the whole weekend, still not fully accepting this huge happy happening in our lives.


Back home…. strangely….. with all the goings on in my life and therefore not micro-managing Ya Ya Sister, she is getting on with it and the patio outside is getting a roof this week. She is also completely off every diet in the book, so there is great peace in the home.


But business excitement aside for us women, our domestic lives remain another priority and is always “in session”. Soon its high days and holidays and right now I haven’t got a cooking clue as to what to make for those high days. Any inspiration or great ideas to share? The kids and grandkids will be here for a week and other than rice crispies and hotdogs, I can think of nothing else right now …!


Tell you what: I’ll trade you my risotto recipe for a few festive ideas – not Turducken, please. The last one I cooked was not eaten at all (remember, our family are serious braai-ers and red meat eaters) and stayed in the deep freeze for 9 months until my visiting mother mistook it for my son’s biology project (no details as to what carcass he had in the deepfreeze) and threw it out!


So here is my contribution today. If you want more of a butternut taste, add 125 ml of grated raw butternut to the rice at the beginning of the cooking process. Enjoy!


Butternut & Chilli Risotto



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