Surprise yourself. Next time you visit your local supermarket or deli browse the shelves with an eye for something different. There are always new temptations to try which will add interest to meals.
I recently discovered black bean noodles. They’re 100 per cent plant based, have a low sugar content and are gluten-free. The thin spaghetti-like noodles cook in five to eight minutes. Slightly chewy and with a mild flavour, they marry well with hot sauces or cold dressings.
Date syrup, one of the oldest sweeteners known, is again becoming popular. It is made by heating dates in water, puréeing them, straining, then evaporating the cooking water. The result is a thick dark brown liquid containing the vitamins and minerals from the dates. Use to flavour everything from chicken dishes to desserts.
Vincotto translates as ‘cooked wine’ but is actually a reduction of unfermented fruit and skins of grapes or other tree fruit such as figs. The result is a sweet-tart flavour known in Italy as agrodolce. A little goes a long way. Sprinkle fig vincotto over roasted meat, grilled fish, soups, salads, oysters, berries and desserts such as pavlova!
Summer is definitely fresh mozzarella time and little cherry-sized bocconcini are ideal in salads, on anti-pasta platters, sliced and grilled on bruschetta or placed on pizzas. Enjoy!
CHERRY BOCCONCINI SUMMER SALAD
A cousin of cherry bocconcini — the large burrata — is a pouch of fresh mozzarella filled with rich, fresh cream, would also be excellent in this recipe.
Lemon Dressing: 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
finely grated rind 1 lemon
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
Salad: 125g cherry bocconcini, drained
12 cocktail tomatoes (different colours)
1 ripe nectarine or peach, sliced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup raspberries
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6-8 slices ciabatta toasted for serving
To make the dressing, combine the oil, garlic, lemon rind and thyme in a small saucepan on low heat. Gently warm the mixture, then turn off the heat. Steep for 20 minutes, then strain. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, if preferred.
Place the cherry bocconcini in a small bowl and cover with the dressing. Marinate for at least 1 hour. Place the bowl in the centre of a platter.
Arrange the tomatoes, nectarine slices, basil and raspberries around the bowl. Season, then drizzle with lemon-dressing. Serve with toasted ciabatta. Serves 2.
DATE SYRUP BBQ-STYLE CHICKEN
10 chicken drumsticks
3 tablespoons each: lemon juice, date syrup
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Baste: 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
3 tablespoons date syrup
1 tablespoon siracha
Place the chicken drums in a zip-lock bag or a bowl. Combine the lemon juice, date syrup and garlic. Pour over the chicken and move it around so it is evenly coated. Marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours, turning often.
Mix the barbecue sauce, date syrup and siracha in a small bowl.
When ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 200°C.
Oil a roasting pan. Add the chicken in a single layer and bake for about 30 minutes, until tender, brushing every 10 minutes with the baste. Serves 4-5.
BLACK BEAN NOODLE BOWL WITH PRAWNS
For a vegetarian option, the prawns can be exchanged for 150g cubed tofu.
Ginger Dressing: 1 teaspoon grated root ginger
2 tablespoons each: olive oil, lemon juice
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Noodle Bowl: 1 teaspoon vegetable stock powder
50g organic black bean noodles
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
150g raw shelled and deveined prawns, thawed
12 thin slices cucumber
4 cocktail tomatoes, halved
1 small avocado, stoned peeled and sliced
Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a bowl.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the vegetable stock and noodles. Cook for 5-8 minutes until just tender.
Meanwhile combine the olive oil and garlic in a small bowl. Pat the prawns dry.
Heat a non-stick frying pan on medium high. Strain in the oil. Add the prawns and pan-fry for 1-2 minutes each side until milky and pink.
Strain the noodles and combine with a tablespoon of the ginger dressing. Place in two serving bowls.
Top with the prawns, cucumber, tomatoes and avocado. Drizzle with the remaining dressing. Serves 2.