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Everything posted by gsquared

  1. Ok - here is mine, local supermarket in South Africa: bacon (back, smoked) $3.60/Kg chicken, whole $2.40/Kg shrimp $7.93 cabbage 75c each carrots 77c/Kg chiles $3.30/Kg corn 33c each garlic $5.50/Kg mushrooms Portabellini $8/Kg onions 71c/Kg potatoes 94c/Kg squash 47c/Kg apples $1.42/Kg bananas $1.09/Kg lemons $1.04/Kg mangoes 63c each oranges $2.44/Kg tomatoes 95c/Kg rice 58c/Kg sugar 75c/Kg cooking oil $1.02/L olive oil $7.90/L butter $4.40/Kg cream $4.28/L eggs (large) 12c each yogurt plain low fat $1.90/L milk 63c/L beer 375ml can 65c each bread standard white 72c each coffee beans $11.10/Kg juice 80c/L tea standard tagless bags 1c each
  2. I find that a large number (8 or so) of small courses a la "tasting-style" works splendidly for a dinner party. 1. If the courses are chosen carefully, all the prep is done beforehand and it takes no time at all to finish each dish. You are absent from the table for small periods. 2. Because each dish is small, the flow of conversation is not stopped for serious chowing down. 3. I usually assign one guest to be the "kitchen elf" for a specific course to help with finishing and plating. Involves the guests in the process without them having to do really hard work. 4. The entire evening revolves around the dining part and there is no need to worry about "before" and "after". 5. Quite a lot of people are unfamiliar with the concept of a succession of small dishes and assuming that you do it well, it enhances your culinary rep no end.
  3. I am probably the wrong person to chip in here, as I am one of those unfortunate souls that cannot bake bread. I think it is due to a genetic deficiency. At least that is what I keep telling myself. Nevertheless, I have been told that properly kneaded dough should feel like a young woman's breast.
  4. Add a pinch of sugar to savoury dishes and a pinch of salt to sweet ones.
  5. gsquared


    Rice used to make risotto (such as Arborio) is high in a starch type called amylopectin, as opposed to long grain rice which has less amylopectin and more amylose. Amylopectin glutenises well and amylose does not (that is, it is released into the cooking liquid fairly easily). If you cook rice high in amylopectin in a lot of liquid, some of the amylopectin will glutenise but more will simply stay on the rice grains. Adding liquid in batches and stirring well ensures that as much amylopectin as possible is released into the liquid, giving the creaminess of risotto.
  6. The easiest way to do the soup-with-a-lid thingy is to bake the lids beforehand. Cut rounds from the puff pastry slightly larger than the bowls. Spray the edges and down the outside of the empty bowls with cooking spray. Place rounds of puff pastry on the empty bowls and crimp the outsides down. Brush with eggwash. Bake until golden. Let them cool and remove the lids. They can be kept for a few hours at room temp. When the soup is done, warm the lids for 3 minutes in a hot oven, ladle in the soup and place the lids on top. The lids come out great and look and taste freshly-baked.
  7. My tried and tested method is: 1. Paint all the surfaces of the meat well with vinegar. We have high humidity from time to time. I cannot trust that the air in the fridge is sufficiently dry and find that the vinegar helps to prevent the green fuzzies. 2. Place fat side up on a wire rack in the fridge and place something on the shelf below to catch the drippings. I use a newspaper because it can be draped over whatever may be on the lower shelf. The dripping-catcher can be removed after the first day. 3. Check every day whether the surface of the meat feels dry to the touch or slightly sticky. If sticky, repeat the vinegar treatment and turn the fridge temp down a notch. 4. Leave until a hard black rind forms - usually about 7-10 days, depending on the humidity. 5. Trim off the rind, cut into steaks and either use within a day or two or freeze. Weight loss is 15-20%, depending on the shape of the meat: a larger surface area results in a greater weight loss.
  8. gsquared

    French fries

    Frying from frozen works well, as long as you 1. Allow the potatoes to cool down well before freezing to prevent frost on the surfaces (less splatter when they hit the oil) and 2. Fry at 190C in batches small enough so that the temp does not drop too much (or, of course, use a decent fryer). I fried some frozen potato wedges yesterday morning and the kids who asked for it in lieu of the brie fritters pronounced it great!
  9. The way in which society is structured isolates kids from the realities of food production. I do not think that parents "shield" their children - the disconnect from what goes on behind the scenes is simply the way it is. Why should it be salutary for kids to be familiar with the gory details? Any more than they should be familiar with what an aborted fetus looks like?
  10. While I have no problem with the slaughter of animals for human consumption, I have to question the wisdom of showing the Jamie episode on TV. The process by which meat is turned from living flesh to consumable commodity is a grisly one and I for one would prefer not to be reminded graphically how the pig became bacon. There is a big remove between the abstract knowledge of how it happens and actually seeing it. I cannot help but think that the JO scene must have had a disturbing effect on children. There is no reason why children should have to deal with the realities of the production end of the food chain by seeing how it operates. It should be enough to know that the lamb chop on the plate was once a living lamb which was killed to provide food. No reason to be exposed to the gore as well. Sure, it is reality, but then all aspects of reality are not suitable prime time viewing for the young.
  11. gsquared

    Pearl Onions

    I like them boiled until just soft and then served in a sweet and sour sauce:- eggs creamed with sugar, add water and lemon juice and thicken in a bowl over simmering water. Best at room temp, making it great for preparing beforehand.
  12. I have only ever had problems with baking custards on the convection setting when I left them uncovered in the bain marie. Covering with the whole contraption with foil and sealing it tight worked fine. Runny = too few eggs yolks?
  13. Sorry for the delay in posting. I fear that I succumbed to the ailment of the lotus eaters. Lazy, hazy days, walking the dogs on the beach and somehow tempus has simply fugited. In any event, here is the next instalment. We arrived at Mes Amis on a beautiful day, blue skies and sunshine, to find the place in an uproar and the current owners in a complete tizz. Boxes everywhere. People running hither and thither. Furniture being loaded. We wandered around, rather bemused by the hubbub. Eventually they left, leaving us to await the arrival of our stuff the next day. Early the next morning our furniture arrived, followed in quick succession by the flooring people, the new linen, the new crockery and cutlery, Garrick the garden man, the new patio furniture, the equipment for the laundry, people to install the new fireplace in the guest lounge and four guests. We apologised profusely for the state of the house and decided to accommodate them free of charge. The furniture could not be placed inside as the flooring people had to clean the terracotta floors preparatory to sealing it. When they were done, we still could not unpack, as they were due to return the next day to apply the sealing coat and everything would have to be carried outside again. I had cunningly packed a bottle of bubbly and some red wine in the car, so at least we could toast our arrival as the sun set on our first day. The only way to eat a ten ton marshmallow is byte by byte. That is how we tackled the problem of getting our houses in order. The first priority had to be things that affected our ability to receive guests and areas that guests use and can see. After that we would do the behind-the-scenes areas. This strategy worked well. After four days we were set, with only the Artist’s studio left to sort out. Greg the handyman was painting the roof and the outside, and Garrick the garden man was planting and installing irrigation. We could now settle down to attending to important stuff, such as sorting out breakfast. I had intended to take pics of the moving in process, but the exigencies of getting things done put paid to that. You can have a look at the completed product at www.mesamis.co.za. Breakfast was the first real problem that needed urgent attention. The previous owners provided a breakfast buffet of sorts and it was clear that this would have to change immediately. It simply is not practical to set up a buffet when the number of breakfast covers varies between 2 and 20. The first step therefore was to change to a full service breakfast. I decided to split up breakfast into components and then look at each aspect critically: Coffee Fruit juice Fruit Bread Cereals Cold meat and cheeses Eggs and associated dishes Coffee We found a filter machine with two hot plates in the breakfast kitchen: It produced 1.5litres of filter coffee in pretty short order. I tested the holding time for filter coffee. When brewed into a glass coffee jar, the coffee could be held on the hot plate for around 20 minutes. We obtained a thermos jar that extended the holding time to about 45 minutes. This was clearly going to be a problem for breakfast that starts at 7am and ends at 10am. The machine could only brew 1.5litres and there was sure to be considerable wastage. There would also be additional wastage relating to keeping an opened pack of filter coffee fresh. I decided to move my Saeco automatic grind/espresso machine into the breakfast kitchen. This had the obvious disadvantage of it taking longer to serve coffee, but I felt that the advantage of serving a really good cup was more important. We would also be able to offer a wider range of coffee. The Saeco can brew from a dose of preground coffee and we could therefore also offer good decaf. This would leave my personal kitchen without a coffee machine, clearly an intolerable situation, so I had to buy a second smaller Saeco. The first morning we put the Saeco into service, I realised that we had an additional problem. The crema in a large cup of espresso leaves a deposit around the empty cup. This meant that we could not re-use the same cup to serve a second coffee to a guest. Four guests went through 16 cups. We would have to buy a LOT more cups. At least the decision to go the Saeco route was vindicated: the guests loved the coffee. Fruit Juice I am picky about fruit juice. It has to be unsweetened and fresh. Easy solution: while oranges are plentiful and cheap, limit our offering to freshly squeezed orange juice. The Magimix’s orange press attachment produced around two litres of juice per large pocket of arranges. We will keep a jug or two of pure apple juice around for variety and for those guests who may not enjoy orange juice. We should be able to find cheap oranges until beginning October, leaving us lots of time to source juice for use when oranges are out of season. Fruit This was relatively easy. Simply offer whatever may be in season and plate it attractively. Winter is not a good time for soft and tropical fruit, so we would have to make do with grapefruit, the odd papaya, grapes and the like and use the rather expensive hothouse fruit and berries such as strawberries and kiwis for garnish. Bread This was my biggest nightmare. I am not a great baker of bread and was seriously apprehensive about our ability to offer freshly baked bread. To be continued……..
  14. Now there is a thought! I have been in this business just long enough to come to two realisations: 1. Running a B&B is a doddle 2. Running a B&B ties you down. When we want to go anywhere, even for a day or two, we need a sitter. Otherwise we go single. So where is the Assocation of B&B Sitters that I can phone to come take care of the shop while we go swanning down the Danube?
  15. Thanks to all for the complimentary words. And the encouragement.
  16. He was scheduled to travel with us, but disappeared a day before we left. I guess the movers packing things got him spooked. We left without him, but with a posse of the neighbours visiting regularly to look for him. He returned the next day and went to stay with my daughter temporarily. They have bonded. Temporary has become permanent. Cat is happy. Daughter is happy. We miss him.
  17. One of my many failings is impatience. Maybe that is the main cause why I will never be a good baker. We drew up a to-do list: Paint outside Paint roof New stoves Fit gas into the kitchen that is all electrical. Redo garden Remove dune bushes that obscure the guests’ sea view when lying on the bed Fit irrigation Install a central fireplace in what will become the guest lounge (for the few cold days and for comfort on rainy days) Replace all the linen and napery Replace the crockery Replace the curtains Replace the patio furniture Replace the staff uniforms Pipe satellite TV to the rooms Clean and seal the terracotta floors Remove the Bar and turn it into our personal lounge Fit mini bars in all rooms Arrange transfer of all licences and permissions Arrange health inspection Arrange contracts with the staff And a host of small, irritating items I decided to start tackling some items remotely from Johannesburg :- my impatience at work. It would have been a lot more sensible to take occupation first. Sensible is good, but sensibility and impatience are mutually exclusive. Impatience won. Were it not for a stroke of luck I would probably have wasted more money than I did. We were referred to Greg, the handyman, and this contact later proved to be a valuable one. We found that, in Wilderness, you get nowhere if you do not know the right people. An example is the Mole Man. There was evidence of moles in the garden. Fast forward to after our arrival in Wilderness. I phoned a few pest control companies and was told that these were Bathyergus Suillus or dune moles. Around a foot long, the beasties dig huge collective tunnels in the dunes and are impossible to eradicate. Not so, said Greg. All you have to do, is phone the Mole Man who might be prepared to address the mole problem if he takes a liking to you. I phoned the Mole Man. Me: “My name is Gerhard and….” MM: “Yes – you have a mole problem at Mes Amis.” Me: “How did you know that?” MM: “I know.” Me: “Ok, can you help?” MM: “I’ll see.” Two weeks later a small, rotund man with a bald head walked in and introduced himself. “I am the Mole Man” I was rather disappointed that he was not wearing a cape….. “Your moles are gone.” Me: “What do you mean, gone?” MM: “I fixed them last night. You owe me X.” I paid up and asked him what I should do if they come back. MM: “Forget about it. If they return, I will know and deal with it.” Two single malts later, he left. The moles have not returned. I sleep well in the knowledge that we are under the protection of The Mole Man. I know Kas, the woodcutter, Terry the Plumber, Pierre the bread guy, Garrick the gardener, Sol the butcher, Marinda the fish woman, Patrick the hang gliding photographer. I am set. Buy the stoves now, I thought. That will mean that when we arrive, at least I can start cooking immediately. The one kitchen had an old Garland gas stove dating from the Boer war with the oven out of commission and only two burners working. No spares available, so it had to go. The other kitchen had a small electric range that would be of no use to man or beast. So, phone the suppliers, pore over catalogs and arrange with the current owners that we can get the new equipment in whilst they are still in occupation. The one kitchen is located off the guest breakfast room and is used for breakfast. The other is part of our personal living area and will be used for our personal cooking. Equip the guest side with a gas range with an electric convection oven large enough for baking. I will, after all, do a good deal of baking for breakfast. Freshly baked bread, croissants, brioches……Sensible would have thought through the logistics, impatience wanted that stove in. Now. For our personal kitchen we would need a gas hob only, given that we would move our AEG electrical oven from Johannesburg. Good oven, with a low temp of 40C and a high of 290C. I settled on a Smeg range for the guest side and an AEG hob for our kitchen. I bought and arranged installation. The Garland had to be removed. It was huge and weighed a ton. I phoned Greg, who gave me the name of Russell, the Gas Man. Russel dismantled the Garland and removed it. For free. The new equipment was installed and I was happy. Reality would set in later. Farewell dinners on the veranda for all the friends and family, all our belongings and the detritus of 15 years packed and headed coastward. Me, The Artist, two dogs and a fully loaded car followed. We sang some of our favourite 60’s songs on the way. We talked about our new life, rehashed our plans. We were happy. The adventure had begun.
  18. Lots of other attractions. The area is rich in fresh water lakes, rivers and mountains with lush vegetation and natural forest. Rowing, kyaking, fishing, mountain climbing, parasailing.... Our mean nighttime temperature in winter is 12C and mean daytime temperature in winter is 19C. Summer is 16C nighttime and 24C daytime. That said, today was 26C- the winter weather is variable from warm to the odd really cold day (12C or so). This does make long term planning for breakfast difficult, as one does not really know what to expect until you get up in the morning. The guava ice you had planned to serve as the breakfast fruit does not go that well when it is chilly outside.
  19. Ok - here goes. Of necessity I will probably have to tell the tale of our B&B in several episodes. Bear with me if the posts appear in a rather erratic fashion. That will be due more to a lassitude induced by living in paradise than the exigencies of running a guest house. Because that is where we find ourselves. Paradise. After retirement from the hurly burly of the investment world, I decided to take a sabbatical. I felt that I owed a period of doing nothing to myself and my SO (hereafter referred to as The Artist). The problem with doing nothing is that it is difficult to know when you are done. After a year of sitting under the thorn tree, reading, sipping wine and eGulleting, I found that declining interest rates meant that I had to look carefully at our investments. Income producing property offered the best balance in terms of capital grown and income. The advantage of having a large thorn tree in the garden is that it induces, to the sitter beneath, a contemplative mood. Great place to contemplate your navel. The idea of a guest house or B&B arose and took hold of the Artist and me. We decided on the most wonderful place to live, and forthwith flew off to the Garden Route along South Africa’s Eastern Seaboard (Indian Ocean). Four visits later we found Mes Amis, a 10 bedroom B&B on a dune in Wilderness. We booked in and, this time sans the thorn tree but with a superb view over the ocean, turned to our navels again. As we were sitting on a little patio outside our room, a school of around 200 dolphins appeared in the breakers, playfully surfing the waves. That ended the contemplation, firmed our resolve, and produced an offer which turned into a contract the next day. Our house was sold a week later, the movers booked and plans laid for what we were going to do to Mes Amis to imprint it with our (we hoped) unique character. Mes Amis has 10 lettable rooms, all en suite. Two with bath and shower, 8 with shower only. Each room has a small patio and a superb view of the Indian Ocean. Two, count them, two kitchens! Somewhat run down here and there and in need of a coat of paint, but we had serious plans. This would be the B&B where we would love to stay. This would be, well, just the best B&B on the Garden Route. This series of posts will tell the tale of ideas realised, of reality tempering extravagance and of how we came to realise that aiming at a specific market segment and shaping the establishment and what it offers to fit that target market is far more important than satisfying some personal desire. Until the next post, here is an arial pic of Mes Amis, with our property outlined in red. Hang gliders often come swooping past, and we had a shouted conversation (in sections with lots of miming) with one of these foolish men. He somehow grasped what we wanted and turned up at the door one day with a slew of pics. And the view from our front porch. In the next post: How I wasted money on kitchens. Why moving house after 15 years is a bad idea. How to cook breakfast for philistines. And more. Bear with me, I'll try to do a post a week.
  20. We have now taken posession of our guest house and have more or less settled in. What would you guys prefer me to post: ball-by-ball, highlights only or just the food related stuff?
  21. I have had good success with poaching salmon in olive oil. Heat control is a bit tricky on the stove top, but my oven can do a consistent 50C and that works well.
  22. A superb and innovative rendering of your interview. Congratulations!. This does need to be followed, though, by the details of the demonstration.
  23. Great material, Jack! Congratulations. I am interested in the application of slow cooking to fish, especially as it is so easy to overcook fish. Please consider covering this in a future unit.
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