Thursday, 5 December 2013

Forgotten kitchen toys.

Thank you so much for all your e-mails and well wishes, I appreciate them all and promise to always try and reply within a day or two (no, not to those that want to sell me rare but interesting articles at amazing prices), the real ones. Thank you Isobel Conradie from fairest Cape town in South Africa for this week 's inspiration with her question as to whether she can bake that no-knead bread in a slow-cooker/crock-pot. The long  and the short of the matter is , I don't know , but I do want to know .
The dough was mixed yesterday and has been doing its doughy thing since then, so soon we'll find out . I must admit that I have done a bit of reading on the matter and there are recipes, but I would like to bake a successful bread before I will believe it. Unfortunately, you will have to sit through the experiment with.
But first , a little more about Crock-pots also known as Slow-cookers. In 1970 in Chicago , the slow cooking pot was born as the Naxon Beanery All -Purpose Cooker , but the company decided in 1971, wisely, to change the name to Crock-pot. That changed the course of the slow cooking pot forever and it quickly became a world phenomenon. The reason is simple; a basic cooking knowledge and a little space on your kitchen bench is all you need for great food . (Later, I will share one of my favourite crock-pot recipes with you.)
Benefits of a slow cooker
• The cheaper cuts of meat is the best to use. Because of the long cooking process it breaks down the connective tissue (collagen) and turn it into a delicious soft sticky gelatinous morsel of heaven. The gelatin is the stuff that makes the sauce stick to your fingers .
• It is almost impossible to burn food  due to the low temperature at which the pot works .
• It saves lots of time as tonight 's dinner is ready when you get home , all that is needed is a little rice , pasta, Cous-cous or mashed potatoes . (Next time you cook rice, cook a big pot and freeze the excess in meal-size portions.)
• My personal favourite, less dishes.
• You cook good healthy home-cooked meals without having to spend hours in front of the stove.
Disadvantages of a slow cooker
• Due to the long cooking process, some vegetables can overcook and turn into tissue paper. Choose your vegetables carefully and cut into larger chunks and follow this basic rule, longer cooking vegetables to the bottom and quicker cooking vegetables to the top.
• I always prefer to use canned beans in my slow crock-pot. There are some (dried) beans that need a hot cooking process of at least 10 minutes to get rid of toxins and the slowness of crock-pots might not do that. (It's almost like mushrooms, if you're not sure, buy a good reliable mushroom rather than eating one you picked in the wild.)
Now enough of all the boring bits, I want to bake bread .... try .... in a crock-pot.
The dough, as in my previous recipe, has risen , rested and was formed on baking paper. The slow cooker is preheated to its highest setting . All crock-pots is unfortunately not the same when it comes to heat adjustments and it might take longer or shorter in your pot.
I baked the bread for 1 ½ hours and then measured the internal temperature. It was not the desired 95c and I left it for another half hour. Two hours later, a delicious bread. I would have liked a more crispy crust, but I will certainly do it again . (I suspect it will also used a lot less energy than the oven.)

Guilty secret - If bread machines did not leave such a horrible hole in the bottom of bread, I would have baked all my bread in them.

Lets try out a crock-pot bread.

1. Dough formed, rested and ready on the baking paper.

2.Snugly in the pre-heated Crock-pot.

3. Two hours later, the bread is done. The bottom is golden brown, but the top is almost rubbery.

4. A few minutes (8 minutes) under the ovens grill fixed that.

All taken into consideration, I think this was a success and I will do it again.

Now on to this weeks recipe.

Moroccan Lamb Shanks.


  • 6 Lamb shanks (+/- 2.5 kg)
  • 2 large onions - rough dice
  • 6 - 8 cloves of garlic - bruised and chopped
  • 5 - 6 cm piece of ginger - finely chopped or grated
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 heaped teaspoon (7 ml) Coriander seeds - grind it yourself
  • 1 heaped teaspoon (7 ml) Cumin seeds - grind it yourself
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) dried fine ginger
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika (I like a Spanish one)
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 cup prunes - make sure the stones are removed
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1 to 1.5 L of chicken or vegetable stock - (or water)
  • Salt and pepper to taste. (I salt and pepper my shanks well before cooking and find that it is enough)

Construct your pot this way:

  1. Place halve the onions in the bottom of you pot;
  2. Place shanks on top of the onions;
  3. Place the rest of the onions, together with the garlic on top of the shanks;
  4. Top with the dried fruit;
  5. Sprinkle spices over;
  6. Mix tomato puree with the stock and add to the pot, trying to wash the spices into the rest of the ingredients. 
  7. Either cook on low for 6 - 10 hours or on high for 5 - 7 hours. Do remember that crock-pots differ, so please adjust your cooking time to your pot.

Hints and tips:
  • Serve on Cous-cous, rice or mashed potatoes.
  • Be warned, because it is so tasty, make sure that there are 2 shanks per adult (even ladies).
  • This recipe works very well with beef too.
Please keep writing to me at I really enjoy your mails.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Cast-iron cookware

OK, do you remember that rusted cast iron pot Nana gave you years ago, the one that went to live in the far recesses of your darkest kitchen cupboard because you didn't know what to do with it? Yes that one; go take it out, dust it and inspect the rust, because there is a thing about to happen. 
If your pot was lucky enough to belong to a loving previous owner, the tempering on it might still be there and there might only be a little rust as was the case with my little pan below:

My little pan made the voyage with my Nana Lena from Holland to South Africa in the late 1940's and again with me in 2007 to New Zealand. A very well travelled pan which now have a spot of rust and it is time for re-seasoning. Below I will take you, step by step, through the process. First thing is to do is examine your pan or pot and ascertain the seriousness of the rust. If the rust have eaten into the surface to deeply (it will leave a deep gorge in the pan or pot when cleaned away), it might be best to consider a second life for the utensil as a kitchen decoration. Old pots make very effective spice containers next to your stove for all that little bottles of spices you have everywhere.
Back to business. although I strongly urge you to never use soap on you cast iron, this time it is required. Get some of you favourite detergent and a green scouring pad:

Add a few tablespoons of hot water, some of the detergent and in little circle motions start removing the rust. Do not try and put a shine to the surface as that will make seasoning almost impossible later:

Wash of all traces of soap, dry thoroughly and immediately oil the pan or pot:

Now, place some foil in the bottom of a pre-heated oven (+/- 180 - 200 °C). The foil is to catch any oil that might decide to drip. Place the pan or pot upside-down on a oven rack. Close the oven and bake for 1 - 2 hours. Do not forget the lid, show it the same loving care. 

The oil must form a hard protective layer on the surface that looks almost sticky, like hard toffee.

This layer is what you should protect like a loved child, only difference is to remember not to use soap on it, the seasoning I mean. It will eventually remove the seasoning and then you will have to do it all over again. Don't be scared of bacteria or other creepy crawley's, the temperature you use the pan or pot at is high enough to kill all the little blighter's. I you feel that you have to soap it after every use, just oil it and bake it again, no sweat. Remember, the more you use it, the better the seasoning get.
Any questions, please don't hesitate to ask, my e-mail is
Now, lets bake a No-knead Beer Bread in your pot.
This bread is a variation on the New York Time version of a few years back.
You need the following:

  • 3 cups (425 g) white flour (bread flour works the best)
  • ¼ tsp (1 ml) instant yeast (yes, that little)
  • 1½ tsp. (7 ml) Salt
  • 200 ml water at room temp
  • 85 ml beer (I like to use a good quality Lager)
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) white vinegar
  • Tip  You can use non-alcoholic beer, but I ask you, what is the use, in for a penny - in for a pound.
    This is what you do
    1 Add all the dry ingredient to a mixing bowl and stir through with a wooden spoon.
    2 Add the liquids and mix with the wooden spoon until all ingredients are incorporated.

3 Spray with oil and cover with cling-film.
4 Place in a warmish cupboard and let it do it's dough thing there for 8 to 18 hours. It will double in volume and have a pleasant smell.

5 When you get to this point, flour your work surface and scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the flour. Now, fold the dough 15 time, like you would fold a piece of paper, not more even if you start enjoying it.
6 Form into a ball shape and place on a sheet of baking paper. Cover again and let it rise for 30 to 40 minutes. It must double in size again.
7 Pre-heat your oven, with your pot inside at to 260 °C
8 When your dough is ready, remove the pot from the oven and place on a surface that can handle the heat, Place the dough, still on the baking paper into your pot, replace the lid and put the pot back into the oven. (I always use my enamelled cast-iron pot for this)

9 Turn the oven down to 220 °C and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake 15 more minutes. Test the internal temperature, it should be 90 to 95°C and if it is, your bread is ready for the butter and what ever you feel like.

Until next time, enjoy your cooking.
PS. Please talk to me, my e-mail is
The Too Fat Chef

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Allan Truman's Pork Belly

A Chop and it’s drop.

I don’t know if you do it like me, I mean eating out now, but I tend to go to certain restaurant's for certain meals. To me it has always (almost) been a winning recipe for a  good meal and an enjoyable night. It does however happen from time to time, that you are either badly disappointed or happily surprised. Why would this be than, you might ask.
People tend to go to the same places, over and over, because they like the taste of their food, or like me, of a certain dish. In a good restaurant the food should always taste the same, whether the Head-Chef is there and cooking it himself or not and this can only happen if the kitchen work on standardised recipes.
(Just a quick explanation about standardised recipes. It is a very detailed recipe compiled by the Head-Chef for his chefs and it must be followed to the letter. It will, for instance, tell you what brand of item to use and the cooking methods will also be explained to the last detail. This explains why your making of Aunt Aggie’s well roasted blackbird taste different from hers, even though you used her recipe. Her roasted black bird don't need to taste the same every time she makes it, but the restaurants does.)
Enough said of standard recipes and back to more important matters. My theory regarding why your meal was so much better than last time lies in what you had to drink with that meal. Maybe you just made the perfect decision regarding the combination between the drink and the meal. Lets play an imaginary game.
Grab hold of an imaginary wine glass, fill it with imaginary wine and imagine bringing it to your mouth and taking a slow sip. Now, slowly let it tickle your taste butts and dance over your tongue........
One moment, will be back soon, need a glass of wine ............... real wine .............
I’m back and feeling a lot better thank you very much.
What happened, did your mouth start salivating (watering). If it did, your mouth was telling you: “I’m ready, bring on the food!”
The alcohol in wine (actually any alcohol and even the gas in gas cold drinks) tickle your taste buts and wake them up to the point where the right combination between food and drink will make your senses go .... wooooow, happy days are here again .........
Just think strawberries and sparkling wine, or dare I say, Champagne. Match made in heaven. Chillies can have a quite similar effect with the added advantage of you body releasing it’s own morphine in the form of endorphins. So they not only make the food taste better, they make you feel amazing.
Next time you are ordering your favourite meal, ask your server what the wine/beer recommendation is for that meal and try it, it might just surprise you. But try your own combinations as well, tastes differ and you might just come across something spectacular. If you do, pat yourself on the back, drink another glass and e-mail me directly at

Here we go with Chef Allan Truman’s signature Pork Belly. (Allan Truman is the Head Chef at the Cashmere Club in Christchurch, New Zealand)

This is how you prepare the Pork belly:

Lay the Pork belly down on your (red - for raw meat) cutting board

Roll the Pork belly up and you can use skewers to keep it in place

With a sharp knive, cut the Pork belly into rounds (+/- 1.5 cm in thick)

Place the Pork belly in a oven dish in a single layer

Make the sauce/marinade to baked the Pork belly in.

  • 1.2 to 1.8 kg Pork Belly as prepared as above
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) Corriander - fine
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) dried Ginger - fine
  • 1/2 tsp (2 ml) Cayenne peper (more if you like it hot like me)
  • 1 tsp french Garlick - Finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup each: Tomato sauce, BBQ sauce and Orange juice
  • 1/4 cup Sweet chilli sauce
  • Salt and peper to taste


  • Put salt and peper over the Pork belly
  • In a mixing bowl, place the wet ingredients together with the spices and garlick and whisk lightly

  •  Spread evenly overe the Pork belly.

  • cover the oven try with foil and bake in a 180c for 1 hour and 15 minutes
  • take foil of and bake at the same temp for another 15 - 30 minutes or until the Pork belly is sticky and tender
Etxtra sauce for serving:
  • 1/2 cup each: Tomato sauce, BBQ sauce and orange juice
  • 1/4 cup of Sweet chilli sauce
  • Corn Flour to thicken the sauce if needed

  • Add ingredients to a pot, together with the roasting juices, bring to a boil.
  • Thicken by making a slurry (paste) out of corn flour and water if needed.
And that is that, easy as pie. I would have a nice glass of fruity Rose or a Pale Ale with this, but then again, it is your meal and you should try it with the drink of you choice.

Thanks Allan for sharing this with us.


Chef Allan's Pork belly served on a bed of buttery mash potatoes.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Cola Ribs

As a radio host in America said; “He’s not as beautiful as Nigela or as naked as Jamie, but he is Albert, the Fat Chef”. Yip, that’s me and I am fat........, but I can cook as well, so here goes:

Cola Ribbs without the F-word

 I know I am preaching to the saved and that I have said it before, but you can spread the word from here.
You might have all seen the guy at the “other” table, the one that makes all the people at that table wish they have faked some kind of illness and stayed at home. He’s the one who finds fault with all his food and then explain to all and sundry how the food should have been done to start with. The one who will be the proud recipient of a few prize bumps to the back of his head caused by the light pan said chef used to cook his meal.
Obviously, if there is a problem with your food, you must complain, but be civil about it, mistakes are made even by us chefs.
You will find that I have it against the person that claims the right to complain just because he thinks it is the way it should be done, because it is done that way on the TV Cooking Competitions and that he exhibit his coolness by being rude. News flash mate, you are not cool, neither is that chef. He does it to entertain you and it seems that he have succeeded, you were entertained.
Do you, for one moment, think somebody can taste the slightly burnt hair of a scurfy ridden pirate the soup or did that judge say that to make you go ...... eeeiiwww ...... I don’t even want to taste that, it must be awful. Remember, they only have the sound and picture and to make you “taste and smell” the food, they have to use words and by golly, some of them do it well.
So next time, before you complain about your medium-rare T-bone not being grey, make sure of your facts before you complain. After cooking a few steaks, 99.9% of chefs know how a medium-rare steak should look and feel, and yes, we do touch your food to check for doneness. Further, most chefs also have this nasty habit of having a few cookbooks in their kitchens, the ones with photos in them of food, and as luck would have it, mostly there are vividly clear photos of steaks at all degrees of doneness. Nasty creatures chefs are, he will send his most outspoken waitress to your table, with that cookbook, to show you the photo of a medium-rare steak and somehow you might just feel like the slightly burnt hair of the scurvy ridden pirate and, obviously, also remember the light pan he is weighing in his hand.
But at the odd chance of you being right, things happen, be the bigger person. If that chef comes to your table, as he should, and apologies by saying: “rifgwuf wfn ewrgeri wf”; accept it as an apology and do keep his pan in the back of your mind (no pun intended).
So remember, if you have a complaint, complain, you are paying for a service and that includes the whole package, but if you want to impress everybody in the restaurant, put ice on the back of your head, it usually helps.
And now .... drum-roll .... lets cook!
Cola Ribs – my way
For the Ribs
·         2 kg spare-ribs – make sure you buy the ones with a lot of meat on them.
·         2,5 L Cola (the red- or the blue, red and white bottle)
·         4-8 cloves of garlic - crushed
·         1 large onion, roughly chopped
·         2 Bay leaves
·         20 cloves
·         1 tsp (5 ml) black peppercorns
·         2 tbsp (30 ml) smoked paprika
·         1 tbsp (15 ml) coriander – fine
·         1 ½ tsp (7 ml) salt

 Basting Sauce
·         1 medium onion, finely chopped
·         2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
·         1 Cup (250 ml) Ketchup/Tomato Sauce – good quality
·         2 tbsp (30 ml) English- or any mustard of your choice
·         ¾ Cup (180 ml) soft brownsugar
·         1 tsp (5 ml) Worcestershire sauce
·         salt en pepper to taste

This is how you do it:


 1 Cut the ribs in strips or single portions (I like it this way) and place in a big pot.
2 Place the rest of the ingredients, for the ribs, in the pot, bring to boil. Turn down to simmer and let it simmer for about 90 minutes. You want the meat tender, but not falling of the bone.
3 Remove the ribs, pour the liquid through a sieve and cook the liquid down to about 500 ml. Keep for your sauce.

Basting Sauce

 1 Place all the ingredients in a pot and cook down to the consistency of Maple syrup.
2 Liquidise to a fine consistency and let it cool a little.


Coat the ribs well with the basting sauce (don’t be shy),

2 Cook on your braai, Barbie or BBQ until dark and sticky, but be careful not to burn them


Bake in the oven at 180 °C for 45-60 minutes until they dark and sticky.

Dark and sticky is the secret.

 Don’t taste them at the BBQ or the moment they come out of the oven, there won’t be enough left for the rest of the people
Tips and hints

·         You can, and I encourage you to, do this with chicken wings as well. Chop the wing in 3 parts, but please throw the pointy bit away. Nothing can save it anyway. Cook the wings for a shorter time than the ribs, about 30 to 45 minutes.

·         Instead of using the cooked down liquid, you can use fresh cola.
·         This is only the basic recipe, don’t fell you have to stick to it religiously. (I like to make mine with about ½ a cup of hot sauce added to the ribs)

Next time I will share our Head Chef, Allan Truman’s recipe for Pork Belly Wheels, a Cashmere Club favourite and I must confess, one of mine as well.
See you then
The fat Chef
Please e-mail any questions or ideas, or just to chat to:

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