Monday, March 28, 2011

Things that are awesome

These bands:



Cooking is always most fun for me when accompanied by loud music and a glass of wine.

Why not try one of these the next time you're bored of your usual playlist.

After hearing each of these bands for the first time I was so excited to have found such gems that each album stayed on repeat in my car for at least a month. I am seriously you guys.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

9th Avenue Bistro, 9th Avenue, Durban

 I have been to 9th Avenue once before but it was years ago and the chefs have since changed. I thoroughly enjoyed my initial experience so expectations were very high on this visit.

It was a dark and stormy night (seriously) and two friends, Matty and Shayno, were down in Durban from Joburg for a few days and invited us to dinner with them at 9th Avenue. I have wanted to visit the restaurant again since hearing the chefs had changed but hadn't yet had a reason to fork out such a substantial (by Durban standards) amount of cash for a meal.
Anyway, my friends gave me this reason, and they advised that they intended spoiling themselves with the tasting menu, which excited me even more.

The courses were as follows:

Potato and garlic soup with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and caviar;

Fresh tomato and mozzarrella slices served with a basil granola;

Butternut ravioli with a madeira cream mushroom sauce and candied pecans;

Swordfish served on a bed on leek and smoked salmon risotto;

Fillet of beef, served rare on a bed on baby spinach with a butternut and sweet potato gratinee;

Chocolate torte.

We also drank mojitos and maragartia's which were sublime, and surprisingly well priced for such an establishment.

Now for the food opinions:

First course was great, I am not the biggest fan of dishes where garlic is the dominant taste but I thoroughly enjoyed the soup, the garlic was perfectly balanced with the flavour of the salmon. A seriously tasty soup.

The second course was very interesting. Shayno didn't enjoy the granola as he found it too sweet but the rest of us enjoyed the interesting textures and tastes of the soft, salty cheese combined with the juicy tomato and the slightly sweet, very basil-y crunchy granola. It took a while to get my head around what I was tasting but it grew on me with every bite I took and by the end of the dish I had decided that it was sufficiently scrumptious.

The third course was also sweet. And here again, the sweetness of the madeira mushroom cream sauce and the candied pecans was just perfect. It really added something that I never could have imagined to the butternut ravioli. I'm pretty sure I would have licked my plate clean if I thought those around me wouldn't have found it offensive.

The next course was swordfish and risotto. The fish was cooked to perfection and extremely tasty on its own and with the outstanding risotto. The piece of fish was rather large considering that swordfish is such a meaty fish so I ended up leaving about a third of it. It was a tasting menu, I had to pace myself.

The fifth course was steak, which was served rare.The meat itself was perfectly tender and someone commented that it felt as though we were chewing on clouds. The spinach was fine and the gratinee was average but the steak was truly so good that it didn't really matter what was on the plate with it, it shone like a bright shining star of mouth-watering awesomness.

The final course was the chocolate torte which was amazingly dense and chocolatey. To be honest I think I would've preferred something lighter at the end of all those courses but it was definitely delicious and decidedly decadent. I would recommend it, just not as part of the tasting menu.

The food was wonderful. The presentation was exquisite and the tastes and combinations were interesting but not too interesting as to put off conservative eaters, which I think is a great idea, especially in Durban. I had very high expectations and I am pleased to report that these were met.
I would definitely recommend this restaurant and the tasting menu. Although, one disappointment I encountered was that wine was not included in the menu. I was under the impression that tasting menus always include wine pairings but apparently this is not the case. I think that it would finish off the meal perfectly if the chef were to choose the perfect wine for each course. I don't know a lot about wine other than that sometimes it compliments my meal and other times it doesn't so I would appreciate a professional's guidance when I am eating a set menu of their food.

Completely Cooked Rating: 8.5/10

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Things that are awesome

The weekly "CAKE OR DEATH" event at Unit 11 hosted by Hruki

Every Thursday between about 7pm and 9pm Unit 11 hosts Cake or Death. No, it has nothing to do with Eddie Izzard. But it has a lot to do with cake. YES!

So here's the skinny:
Free entrance to Unit 11. The event is hosted by Hruki so they have a little shop open for peeps to purchase their lovely wares. Every week a different live act serves as the entertainment. I went the week before last and they had a bunch of different musicians doing Johnny Cash covers. It was pretty rad indeed. Even radder was the 8 bit video game set-up they had going on. Projected onto a big screen were the likes of Mappy, Mario Bros, Contra, and that circus game where the first stage is a clown jumping from ball to ball. Nostalgia to the max!

However, the tv games are not the most important thing. The show stopper at Cake or Death is, without a shadow of a doubt, THE CAKE. Each week there is a different type of cake for sale, at just R15 a slice.

The cake on the night that I attended was cheesecake I didn't know what type of cheesecake it was and neither did anyone else but to me it tasted like cheesecake topped with a melted top-deck-type sauce. So, in short, it was the best cheesecake I have EVER eaten... Please cast your eyes to the right to see a picture of the perfect cake. This cake is the stuff that dreams are made of. Admittedly the picture is the opposite of perfect and kinda looks like something out of the Nevermind the Buzzcocks game "What have we pixelated?". But the cake inspired such awe in me that I couldn't not share a picture of it.

The moral of the story is two-fold.
1. You should attend cake or death because it is great for a chilled thursday night out.
2. You should definitely try the cake (and keep your fingers crossed for the top-deck-type cheesecake).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Polenta Stacks

Modified from this recipe


polenta enough for 4 people
chicken / vegetable stock
1 or 2 cups of grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup fresh corn
1 roasted red pepper, pureed
1 eggplant
basil pesto


Make polenta using the instructions on the packet but substitute chicken / vegetable stock for water. Do not make the polenta it too runny, it needs to be of a relatively thick consistency.

Once cooked divide the mixture in half.

Mix the corn and grated parmesan cheese into the first half of polenta.

Mix the pureed roasted red pepper with the second half of polenta.

Spread the polenta mixtures in a shallow pan and allow to set in the fridge.

Slice the aubergine into slices approximately 1 centimeter thick and grill until tender.

Remove from the fridge once set and use a cookie cutter / upturned glass to cut round shapes roughly the same size as your aubergine slices from both the yellow and red coloured polentas.

Fry the polenta rounds on each side until warmed through, or, for a healthier alternative, place rounds on a baking tray and bake until warmed through.

Stack polenta rounds and aubergine slices and top with chopped feta and a drizzle of basil pesto.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Yossi's, Davenport Road, Durban

Yossi's has a very welcoming atmosphere, the warm colours and cosy, comfortable seating makes you feel at home right away. The night we dined there, a Wednesday, there was a live jazz band playing, which added a really great dimension. We were completely relaxed and happy in our surroundings.

We ordered a mezze platter to start. The particular platter we chose contained various dips and some sliced pita bread. Nothing crazy fancy, just some nibbles so that the wine didn't knock us over too early in the evening. Generally the dips were lovely, the olive tapenade was noteworthy and we pretty much licked the dish clean. However, I must say, I was disappointed with the tzatziki as it was watery and tasteless.
The main course was sublime. On the menu the dish is called "The Sultan Fainted". Layers of eggplant, parmesan, mozzarrella, tomato and mushrooms on a bed of cous cous. I am sure there were other ingredients but I don't know what they are because by then I'd had a few glasses of wine. Whatever they were, the ingredients blended together perfectly which resulted in a rich, strong flavour. I wasn't even that hungry after our mezze platter but it tasted so good that the entire plate was polished off before I knew it.

Prices were reasonable, service was fair and on the whole we had a fantastic night.

Completely Cooked Rating: 6/10

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Muesli / Granola

Muesli/Granola is pretty darn easy to make. See, I thought I’d ease myself into the blogging world by sharing my fool proof recipes. I like recipes that are easy and give max results with min ingredients.
There are approximately 45 trillion muesli recipes online and they all have very similar ingredients and more or less the same method. However, it was only after trying and testing over and over again, that I discovered the perfect method. And I have chosen this small space to share it with you, the people of the interwebs.

About 1/3 a cup of honey
3 cups of rolled oats
Seeds of your choice (I usually change it up between sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and linseeds I usually put a bit of them all in for good measure.)
Nuts of your choice (I usually use cashews or almonds or both)
(you need about a cup full of whatever combination of nuts and seeds you’ll be using)
About ½ a cup flaked or dessicated coconut.
About ½ a cup dried berries or raisins.

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celsius
Get a mini frying pan and heat the honey (this is the first of my home-learned hints: the honey will be VERY liquidy after heating and so will mix into the oats better)
Put the oats into a mixing bowl and pour in the liquidy honey. Mix like a crazy person so the honey is well dispersed.
Add coconut (if using)
Spread on a tray and bake for 10 minutes
Remove from the oven

Add the nuts and seeds and swoosh it around the baking tray so it becomes evenly dispersed (and also so the oats and coconut get flipped so that they don’t burn).
Bake for another 10 minutes
Take the tray out again and mix the ingredients around so that they are flipped to avoid burnage.

Bake for another 10 - 15 minutes
(You may be wondering why I’ve chosen to do this in a rather labour intensive manner, so here comes the second tip: I've found that putting all the ingredients together and letting them bake for the full 30 mins results in too-close-to-burnt nuts and seeds, it pretty much ruins the taste for me so the tip is to add those ingredients after 10 minutes to ensure that awesomeness prevails).
Once the muesli has baked for 30 to 35 mins. Take out of the oven and let cool. Once cool add the raisins (third tip: adding the raisins at any stage during the baking process gives you hard, tough raisins. Adding them at the very end means the raisins stay chewy and delicious).
Also, I recently discovered that dried cranberries are amazing with my muesli, so I have been skipping the raisins in favour of cranberries, though if you’re feeling particularly crazy there is no reason not to add both :)