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Potato perfection

March 30, 2012 in Woolies Pantry

Burnt butter and sage pan-fried gnocchi with parmesan

I knew a girl at school who professed to loving potatoes so much that they were her favourite food. I remember being quite surprised. Why not choose something like fillet steak or risotto? But I must admit, they’re pretty sensational.

The humble potato can produce the best hand-cut chunky potato chips, the lightest, fluffiest gnocchi or crispy, moreish potato rösti. My grandad makes the world’s ultimate hand-cut chips with floury potatoes – he keeps the skin on so that they are golden and crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

Gnocchi is best made using floury potatoes because they have a higher starch content. I love leftover gnocchi lightly fried in burnt sage butter and eaten hot, straight out of the pan.

Woolworths sells ready gnocchi that simply needs cooking in boiling water for 2 minutes.

To make foolproof potato röstis, use floury or waxy potatoes – the starch will help the grated potato to stay together while they’re being fried. Röstis are real comfort food and delicious with hollandaise and eggs for a weekend breakfast or midweek dinner. Woolworths also sells ready to bake frozen potato röstis made with grated potato and diced onion.



Hannah is the Assistant Food Editor for Woolworths TASTE magazine

Find more of her recipes online at and follow her tips and tricks on Woolworths The Pantry where she has joined forces with other prominent SA bloggers to help you shop and cook like a chef.

MasterChef gets down to basics with eggs and taties

March 27, 2012 in Woolies Pantry

Things are definitely hotting up in the MasterChef kitchen, and it’s almost unbearable to see people you were just starting to like having to leave so early on. We can only say good luck Candice and Luxolo! We hope to see you with super sharp knives next year.

Mushroom and potato frittata

Mushroom and potato frittata

So, eggs and potatoes ruled the show tonight (not to mention those onions). The two nourishing gifts from mother earth make such magic together, but on their own can be quite the showstoppers too – an egg white magically becomes a meringue or a spud potato fondant – or not as was the case tonight.

One recipe that we know works is this one to the right for a light yet filling mushroom and potato frittata.

Over at The Woolies Pantry TASTE Assistant Food Editor Hannah Lewry gives some tips and tricks for choosing and cooking with eggs.

Her recipe to go with this week’s episode is comforting little pots of fluffy ricotta and olive-baked eggs that can be served with toasted ciabatta or a big salad.

Woolies blogger Fritz Brand makes the most delicious Nutella crepes. A marriage clearly made in heaven, even if Fritz does say “Nutella is wonderous on the taste buds but sadly hazardous on the waistline”.

And the inimitable Ishay Govender creates a dark chocolate souffle with honey almond cream. Not a dish for the faint-hearted, but definitely for those who want to impress.

We have more cooking inspiration for you, including a top notch video showing you how to poach the perfect egg. Since poached eggs are served on just about everything nowadays, it’s a skill you absolutely have to master if you haven’t yet.

Our recipes of the week are spicy poached eggs with pepper, brinjal and tomatoes and the ultimate classic potato bake. Best of all, you can buy all the ingredients for both these recipes online from – just click on the Buy Ingredients tab to add to basket, Woolies will deliver and then you can make them at home.

Here’s to next week!

The Woolies Pantry Team


The perfect pan-fried salmon

March 26, 2012 in Cooking with Woolies

Pan-fried salmon with beetroot quinoa salad

Pan-fried salmon with beetroot quinoa salad by Hannah Lewry for Woolworths TASTE

I learnt how to cook salmon as a child during my summer holidays. While my friends sunned themselves on the beach, I did my bit at my parents’ catering company, sometime helping them more than I think they really wanted me to…

I remember watching my dad in fascination as he sliced through fresh sides of glistening salmon, using the sharpest knife in our kitchen. Now whenever I pan fry a piece of salmon, I always smile and think back to those hot days in the kitchen. Maybe that’s why I love salmon so much…

I’m actually stocking up on salmon right now after spotting the Woolies’ Eat In for 4 for under R150 special offer which includes a wonderful side of salmon at an absolute steal of a price. Salmon is such an easy fish to cook, and it’s super healthy for you too.

Here are my top tips with this magical piece of fish:

1. Fresh fish: Only use the freshest fish and a really sharp knife. This allows you to portion it and cut through the outer skin with out squashing the flesh

.2. Perfect portions: Slicing your salmon into equal portions is really important. Sort through by size, the fatter pieces will all get cooked together and the slimmer pieces towards the tail end will get cooked separately. This ensures that they all will be cooked evenly. (There is nothing worse than eating a beautifully cooked piece of fish to only put the next piece in your mouth and finding out mid-chew that is overcooked or slightly too raw)

3. Searing hot pan: The next step is to cook your salmon. Generously rub the salmon with olive oil to coat and Sprinkle with crushed sea salt over the oiled skin. In a super hot non-stick pan, fry a few portions at time skin side down.

4. Crispy skin secrets: Now do not, I repeat, do not turn the fish over until the skin is golden and crisp. You’ll know that it’s ready to turn over when the skin releases from the bottom of the pan and can easily slide around without you using a spatula to loosen it.

5. Timing is everything, as is paying attention to the fish at all times. Place the salmon with the skin side down first and cook it longest on this side – this is necessary to ensure the heat penetrates the skin through to the flesh. Depending on the thickness of the cut, it should take around 2 minutes. When you flip it over to its flesh side, you will only sear it for about 30 seconds to a minute, at the most. Crispy gorgeous skin with a firm but melt-in-the-mouth blushing pink middle. That’s perfect salmon


I also love eating salmon in fragrant, spicy coconut curries. I start off by frying off the curry paste before adding coconut milk and vegetables and letting it simmer for 10 minutes. I then cut my salmon into chunky pieces before adding them to the sauce, covering with a lid and letting it poach for 3- 5 minutes until firm but still succulent. This is perfect for melt-in-the-mouth salmon and cooking it in the curry sauce really brings out a myriad beautiful flavours.

When I have a whole side of salmon I prefer to cook it under a hot grill rather than in a pan. This way it is handled less and cooks evenly, perfect for when you have friend round and want to let them help themselves. I rub the salmon side with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt before placing it under a hot grill where I let it cook until firm but still succulent, for about 8-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the side and how you like your fish cooked.

I hope that you found some of them useful!




In love with baby veg

March 23, 2012 in Woolies Pantry

I love this time of year when the days are cooler and and all the signs are there that winter is coming. And just as the seasons change so do my cravings for food. I am already dreaming of the soups and stews I’m going to eat with hunks of torn ciabatta this winter.

But right now I’m in love with baby veg. Bay carrots, baby cabbages, baby carrots, baby brinjals and of course, baby marrows. Woolies has a fabulous selection of in season baby veg right now that are irresistibly cute and super healthy to boot.  I love the variety of colours and textures and can rarely get it over my heart to overcook them or even chop them up!

A selection of baby vegetables

A selection of baby vegetables

Take baby carrots. They are so deliciously crisp and sweet I often munch on them during the day. When it’s supper time and I’m all out of ideas for a side I take the entire bag of ready-to-cook baby carrots and pop them onto a roasting tray, drizzle them with butter, salt and maple syrup (or use honey, depending on what I have most of at home) and bake until they just done.

Baby cabbages make a delicious salad mixed with raisins, spring onion and homemade mayo. But they’re also great pan-fried in a couple of splashes of soya sauce, sesame oil and sprinkled with chopped chillies and a grating or two of ginger.

One thing I insist on is that life is really just too short to peel a baby potato. Rather, I’d par-cook them before placing them on a baking tray with sprinklings of sage, garlic, olive oil and seasonings. This is a great dish to serve with at a braai.

Other lovely baby veg from Woolies are baby beets, mushrooms, spinach and gem squash. Use them as you would the ‘adults’, but remember to handle with care!

One of my favourite dishes is this sugar snap pearl barley risotto to which I add sliced baby purple cabbage for delicious crunch and colour. Pearl barley has a deliciously nutty taste. Here goes.

Sugar snap pearl barley risotto

Sugar snap and pearl barley risotto with baby purple cabbage

8 spring onions, thinly sliced
2–3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
400 g pearl barley
4 cups good-quality chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
200 g sugar snap peas, blanched
150 g broad beans or peas, blanched
2 T flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 baby purple cabbage, thinly sliced

Place a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat.
Add 2⁄3 of the spring onion, along with the garlic and olive oil.
Gently fry for a minute or so, until soft and fragrant.
Add the pearl barley and stir through until the grains become slightly glossy.
Add 1 ladle of stock at a time, and gently cook until the grains plump up and absorb the liquid.
Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once the grains are tender with a slightly nutty bite, and the texture is creamy, remove from the heat and season to taste.
Fold in the blanched sugar snap peas, the broad beans or peas, parsley, the remaining spring onion and a handful of thinly sliced purple cabbage.
When ready to serve, divide between warmed bowls and serve with a crack of black pepper and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

My note: Add a splash of white wine before adding the stock, if you like. For something different, serve with crumbled goat’smilk cheese or ricotta.




PS: The Woolworths Homemade Soup Competition 2012 has just kicked off! Visit for tips on what the judges are looking for then enter your recipe. As always there is a R50 000 Woolworths gift card at stake as well as the chance to have your soup sold on Woolies’ shelves.

Secrets of a smashing cold dish

March 22, 2012 in Woolies Pantry

If I were to ask you what your favourite cold dish was you’d probably answer me without even a moment’s hesitation.  But when the guys over at Masterchef SA asked the thousands of entrants to produce their own cold dish, it sent most of them into a flat spin.Crunchy summer pizza

That needn’t have happened. My secret for a show-stopping cold dish, or any dish for that matter, is making it with confidence. Why should it be any different when cooking for a bunch of judges?

When you finally place your bowl of chilled gazpacho or handmade vanilla ice cream in front of a judge it should be the same as making it for someone you love. When you know you’ve put your heart in to it, it will show! That’s what will make all the difference.

Once you can put your heart on a plate, however, you do still need a couple of fail-safe tips to perfect it. Here are mine.

A cold dish is all about showing off the flavours – think sweet with tart flavours to awaken your tastebuds – and textures (crunchy mixed with creamy) of the best and freshest produce you can get your hands on. This balance will make or break your dish so it’s important to get it just right; keep it simple and don’t try to combine too many flavours and/or textures.

For example, beef Carpaccio, might lose some of its flavour if left in the freezer for too long. Make sure it’s only in for an hour or so until you’re ready to slice it wafer thin and serve it super cool. This, combined with a good-quality free-range beef fillet, is half the battle won. You need to serve this dish immediately, so don’t let it hang around for too long.

Salads are of course the perfect cold dish. A tomato salad may sound dull, but not if you do it the Jamie Oliver way, which has become my favourite way. Slice a mix of different tomatoes into uneven, chunky pieces – the less uniform the better. Sprinkle them with coarse sea salt to release the excess water and drain in a colander. This intensifies the flavour. Place in a bowl and add a couple of balls of torn mozzarella. Finally, tear over a handful of basil just before serving – don’t do this too soon as it will discolour over time.

Woolworths has recently introduced a great new range of exotic tomatoes – from rosalini to stripy red and green, to vibrant yellow and orange. Using different tomatoes makes a feast for the eyes and the taste buds.

You also can’t go wrong with a sweet dish, especially your favourite dessert! A baked New York style cheesecake with a chocolaty fudge base and a decadent, smooth vanilla-flecked filling, is hard to resist and easy to make.

Keep it simple and don’t overcomplicate cold dishes with too many ingredients. But, most of all, believe in your dish and it will do the rest for you.



Hannah is the Assistant Food Editor for Woolworths TASTE magazine

Find more of her recipes online at and follow her tips and tricks on Woolworths The Pantry where she has joined forces with other prominent SA bloggers to help you shop and cook like a chef.

MasterChef SA kicks off with a bang

March 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

Wow what a gripping show that first episode of MasterChef SA was! The contestants really pulled out all the stops to impress with their dishes and there was a nice mix of simple and complicated.Oven-roasted fish with lime-butter, spinach, shiitake mushrooms and shoestring potatoes

It all started out quite slow, then moved rapidly through the bulk of the contestants, which is kind of confusing, but that’s TV we guess.

Johannesburg and Durban proved to deliver the most competent cooks, though no one can argue that Luxolo, the dishwasher from the Cape, stole most hearts. Funny  the crying though, it’s not really a South African thing?

That aside, we also liked the ‘not-jaded’ Jade from Cape Town with her chocolate tartlet with Cape berries and cardamom ice cream and Khayakazi (love that name) from Jozie with her scallops and rhubarb tart with orange vinaigrette. Then of course there was Ken from Pinetown with his almost showtstopping kingklip with taragon mustard sauce that made at least one judge ‘hear the sea.’ We’ll be watching these guys.

So from frangipani tartlet to pap & vleis and lots of seafood inbetween, there was a little bit of everything for everybody. Well done MNet for a great show.


All the contestants had to ‘cook’ a cold dish to get to this first round, which made us wonder just what it is that makes a cold dish tick. We think we’ve found the answer.

Woolworths TASTE Consultant Food Editor Hannah Lewry took us by the hand and showed us how to create the perfectly beautiful, crisp and healthy summer pizza that can be served cold on a hot summer’s day. It’s not something everyone would think of cooking, but Hannah says her friends rave loudly when she makes it on weekends. It’s simple, which is the key.

Digging even deeper is Woolworths The Pantry blogger Alida Ryder of Simply Delicious who has similarly created a marinated calamari and fennel salad. She uses Patagonian calamari from Woolies and the whole dish takes 20 minutes from prep to plate.

Phenomenal food blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs of Scrumptious decided to complicate things a touch with her heady Gin-cured salmon gravadlax with crisped capers. But don’t be put off, it’s a really simple dish that works because of its clever combination of flavours.

If cold dishes still have you stumped, pop on over to Woolworths The Pantry where we have inspiration galore for getting it right. For starters there’s the quick-to-follow how to video that teaches you the ins and outs of making that classic French mayonnaise, aioli. This sauce is great served over seafood or with finely cut French fries. Get all the ingredients online from Woolies then make it at home.

Here is some more recipe inspiration, straight from the pages of Woolworths TASTE magazine. Feel inspired to make it at home? All the ingredients are ready-basketed for you over at Life couldn’t be simpler.

Smoked salmon trout slaw made with oyster mushrooms, radishes and cucumber ribbons and trout or salmon is perfectly bound together with a lovely dressing. Buy all the ingredients needed to make this recipe online at Woolies The Pantry.

smoked salmon trout slaw


At least one of the contestants tried and failed to make the perfect risotto. But we have the perfect recipe for a smashing cold mushroom risotto using a mixture of exotic mushrooms along with garlic, dry white wine and Winelands brie. Buy all the ingredients needed to make this recipe online at Woolies The Pantry.

Cold mushroom risotto

For more recipe inspiration, visit and the brand spanking new Woolworths The Pantry. And for some great reads on the MasterChef judges (and their addiction to chocolate), get the April issue of Woolworths TASTE, on sale now at Woolworths stores countrywide.


The Woolies Pantry Team