As the weather turned and we experienced the first chilly wet weather in the Cape, Commander J deemed it imperative that we partake of a hearty cassoulet. For those who have not yet had the joy of eating this dish, let me try to explain it. It is a bean stew with pork sausages, pancetta and confit duck. It is also a work of love and requires planning and a couple of days to make. There are a couple of regional variations in South West France where the dish originates from and each village swears that they make the original but if you stick to a few basics you can create the most delicious dish that demonstrates how caramelisation, building layers of flavour and slow cooking can create magic.
If you have the patience and inclination to make this you will need:
500g white beans 500g pork sausages 2 confit duck legs 100g pancetta chopped into lardons 2 carrots, peeled and chopped in large chunks 2 onions finely chopped 4 leeks finely chopped 1 rib celery chopped 2 fresh tomatoes grated 2L chicken or duck stock 250ml white wine 3 bay leaves 2 sprigs of thyme 1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped
Soak your beans in salted water overnight then drain and rinse.
In a large casserole dish start by placing the duck legs in the dish and crisping up the skin under a grill. This will release beautiful duck fat for cooking the rest of the dish. Remove and set aside.
Next fry off your pork sausages in the duck fat in the same casserole dish. Remove and set aside. This builds up layers of flavour in the pot that will infuse the beans.
Now fry your pancetta lardons until the are crispy and then add the onion. leeks, celery and carrot
Cook until the vegetables are softened and are just starting to caramelise
Add the tomatoes, wine, stock, the beans, the garlic and the herbs and cook until the beans are soft. This will take up to 90 minutes.
Now add the sausages and push them down into the beans. Taste the beans and add salt and pepper as required.
Cook uncovered in the oven at 160C for 3-4 hours. If it dries out then add a little more stock or water.
The cassoulet will form a crust from the gelatine in the stock. Every hour push it down to build up a thick crust. An alternative popular option is to top the stew with breadcrumbs while baking in the oven. These will absorb some of the fat and become golden and crispy.
30 minutes before you want to serve add the duck legs on top of the stew for the final cook
I added a garnish of crispy guanciale pieces to serve for some extra porky flavour
If you want to make your own confit duck, buy a whole bird and confit the leg quarters. Use the carcass for duck stock for the cassoulet. The breasts can be used in another recipe or cured as prosciutto.
The stock needs to be rich in gelatine to create the wonderful flavour and texture of the stew. Don’t use powdered stock for this recipe.
You can add a kick of umami by adding a little demi glace
Serve with crusty bread and a crisp green salad
Commander J was satisfied with the result. To the point that she ate it 3 days in a row. Job done. Now for ramen 🙂
Putting together the perfect charcuterie board is easy. If you follow a couple of easy guidelines.
You need a variety of cured meats.
Arrange them in a non symmetrical way and try to get a bit of height in the presentation (please people – no rolling up of the meat – the 80s are OVER).
Ideal additions to your platter include cheese, rillettes and pickled vegetables and of course some decent sourdough bread.
There is not too much more to add. I am not a big fan of adding fruit but at this time of the year some fresh figs can be a delicious enhancement.
We have just launched 2 new products that are ideal for platters. The first is a 200g selection containing prosciutto, coppa, bresaola, salami and chorizo. Ideal for a platter for four people. You can order them for home delivery here
The second is a 200g salami and chorizo selection pack which can be used for platters, sandwiches or just to snack on with some olives during your favourite sporting event (if you support Liverpool you might need something stronger than olives).
As food producers it is incumbent on us to make sure we utilise everything. Partly out of respect and partly out of necessity. Whether it is turning pork skin into crackling, making stock out of vegetable peels or bones, or lifting your game with some fancy leek ash garnish for your next dinner party in 2025 when the lockdown is eased 🙂 This same philosophy should apply to us all at home too.
So when Commander J harvested her first batch of radishes from our balcony I took this very seriously. I love radishes and often snack on them while I am cooking. I love to dip them in some seaweed salt or a home made spice mix apparently called Radish Dip (recipe at the end). However this time I decided to trying make something with the leaves and have a go at cooking the radishes.
First up were the greens. I blanched them in hot water and then shocked them in cold water to set the colour. Radish leaves have a lovely peppery note and they make a great pesto/sauce. Into the bullet went the tops along with olive oil, salt, pink peppercorns (compliments of the Sheriff of Prince Albert, Tex Freemantle), confit garlic, lemon zest and juice and some delicious Senqu River pistachios. Blitz this really well then add some Grana Padana and blitz again briefly. You can make this as thick or as thin as you like, just adjust the olive oil quantity. Mine is more a sauce than a pesto.
The result is a spectacular bright green creation that reminds you of pesto but has more zing and a citrus note. You can dip the fresh radishes straight into this but if you have an abundance of radishes try halving them and pan frying them in butter with thyme and elephant garlic. Only add the garlic at the end as it cooks really quickly and burns easily. It makes great side dish especially when drizzled with radish pesto sauce. Elephant garlic is closer to an onion than garlic and when you fry it until golden it goes very crispy and makes a delicious crispy garlicky garnish that also works well with fish.
Radish Dip, apparently
50g roasted pistachio nuts
10g dried dill
10g cayenne pepper powder
5g onion powder
5g garlic powder
Blitz everything really well in a grinder to make a powder.
It is nearly that time of the year again and what a year it has been. The less said the better at this stage. One thing that has definitely grown this year is the desire to cure meats at home. I guess once you’ve mastered sourdough and are bored with banana bread the next challenge is to make your own bacon. (Assuming your pineapple fermentation is up to scratch), not that these have to run in series and can run in parallel too 🙂
Our courses are more popular than ever and I have met some of the most wonderful people over the past 10 years. Many have stayed in touch and we continue to swap curing stories. What is also interesting is that about 30% of the participants have been gifted a course and what better present to give someone who has enough socks and single malt or Chanel No 5. I do suspect there are possibly ulterior motives at play as well, as the gift donor is often the recipient of lots of home made bacon, sausage and chorizo thereafter.
The course covers block work, how to make prosciutto, coppa, bresaola, bacon, sausages, salami and chorizo at home.
If you are avoiding the malls this season, if you are scared of running into a Boney M marathon or if you are just out of gift ideas why don’t you get that someone special a Charcuterie Course gift this year. I will be running the following courses next year:
Cape Town: 19th February and 12th March
Bryanston: 5th-6th March
Plettenberg Bay :19th-20th March
Prince Albert: 16th-18th April
You can email me at email@example.com for more details.
If these dates don’t suit you we also offer gift vouchers that the participant can use to book an alternative date.
Our prosciutto recently won a gold award at the Aurora International Taste Challenge. We are extremely proud of this achievement and have some exciting news for those who are able to look beyond this challenging year of double twenties.
Our next Prosciutto Club Day will be held on the 4th of December. Guests will learn how to make their own ham and we will look after it for you until it is ready to be eaten at the end of 2021 or beyond.
Our 2019 group have been enjoying their hams during lock down and what could be a better pairing with that sourdough bread and Pineapple beer you have perfected 🙂
The day also includes one of our famous charcuterie lunches.
Email me to book your spot. It is also an ideal gift for the person who has enough socks and soaps on a rope and would love something a little less than ordinary.
I have APProached this post with APPreciation for all the APPlication over the past month to get things APProved in time. Big APPlause for Will and co at Nologo Studios who have APPlied themselves with diligence and APPeal. Never putting the APPlecart (who knew that was one word) before the APPaloosa (yes I had to look that up too) either.
What I am APParently trying to say before this post loses its APPeal is that our new APP is now live. Hooray!
Available in both iOS and Android APP stores you can now order our products for home delivery using our super easy interface on your phone or tablet.
Life and the universe have a funny way of making connections, renewing them and surprising one with synchronous events.
Many years ago and I do mean many. When you could still give someone a hug. The Nokia 2110 had yet to be built, and Nelson Mandela was still our President. I worked with a lovely lady called Sandi. We looked after the Girlswear clothing ranges for a large retailer and she was so good at her job I had very little to do.
Her partner Peter was an entrepreneur with a love of olives and I recall many meetings at their house where the lid was lifted off a big tub of olives and Peter would scoop out a handful for us to snack on.
Since the turn of the century (man that sounds like a Dickens novel) we have gone our different ways in the world. I’ve been kept up to date with their olive exploits over the years as a very good friend of mine is now one of Peter’s business partners in another venture.
Peter owns Zoetigheyd farm outside Robertson in the Renosterveld and has been producing one of South Africas finest olive oils. Last year they were voted one of the 10 best in the country. The farm uses no chemicals at all and the oil is cold pressed on the morning the olives are picked for the best flavour.
We have been very fortunate to get our hands on some of that oil this year and I have added it to our online shop.
For many years we have been selling our beautiful cured meats in vacuum bags. The process removes all the air from the pack and prevents oxidation and spoilage. It is very effective and is widely used.
But, the process also squashes the slices together and they become very hard to separate. And we need to use several layers of plastic to interleave the slices to allow them to be separated. And it has been bugging me for a while.
We finally have a solution that we have just started to roll out. We are now able to replace the air inside the bag with inert gas (Issy, my 17 year old daughter studying science, explained that one to me). I am sure Alan Committie could give us the latin name for this too. A mixture of nitrogen and CO2 is injected into the bag after the air is removed. It is also known as gas flushing. No more plastic interleaving, no more squashed meats and it’s better for the environment.
The slices are easy to separate and the meat is in a recyclable PET tray. It is as close to freshly sliced as you can get.
Look out for the new packaging at the Oranjezicht market at Granger Bay and other delis as we start to roll it out.
We are navigating through a sea of daily changes and the only constant appears to be uncertainty. The key to survival is going to be adaptation. Nothing new to Darwin et al and nothing our ancestors have not had to do in the past when the world went through wars, pandemics, industrial revolutions and climate upheavals.
In years to come we will be able to analyse how the Covid-19 situation was handled in each country and whether it was effective, what could have been done better and what should be avoided the next time around.
However without the benefit of hind sight, we can choose to complain, moan and blame but the reality is that we need to adapt and survive. New ways of working will evolve, new shopping patterns will become mainstream, new etiquettes will be adopted for online meetings and new technologies will be developed to enable productivity during self isolation.
Commander J has seamlessly reinvented her business model and is offering online zoom pilates classes (firstname.lastname@example.org). They are extremely popular and she now has clients all over the world – something that was not possible before. Just please remember to mute your microphones please. Your huffing, puffing and moans can interfere with my guitar practise.
Our business has supplied many restaurants in South Africa over the past 10 years and many of the owners are my friends. Watching the hospitality industry be decimated by the lock down has been extremely hard and our thoughts are with you all.
We have had to change our business model to adapt. Happily we can now offer you home deliveries in Cape Town and Gauteng.
Hopefully you can now spice up your banana bread recipes with some bacon, chorizo and prosciutto 🙂