Back to Basics

I’ve been cooking since I was 12 years old and cooking from recipes has never been one of my strengths. I used recipes for inspiration, but often I felt intimidated by the specialized ingredients, the complicated techniques and sometimes just the use of foreign terms like mirepoix or jus or or ….

Once you get to know these techniques or ingredients, it becomes a lot easier, but for novice, amateur cooks who want to experiment, it can become quite daunting.

So, I have decided to create this page which goes back to basics and try to simplify things a bit. This page is not intended for seasoned cooks and by no means provide the best recipes. It is a place for novice cooks to learn some basics and expand from there. This page is also for my personal use where I would dot down small recipes instead of keeping it on a little piece of paper somewhere (which eventually lands up in the bin)

This page consists of a table of contents (so you can easy jump to the specific recipes) and then the contents. It would be frequently updated so make a point to visit it frequently.


Rubs & Marinades

Brine

Brine is a wonderful way to make (especially white) meat a lot more succulent and tastier. I was introduced to brining by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn in their wonderful Charcuterie bible.

It is very simple to prepare.

Ingredients

Very Simple

  • 2l of water
  • 100g coarse salt
  • 65g sugar

Simple

Add some garlic gloves, bay leaves, pickling spice and other herbs like sage for pork, fennel for fish etc. to enhance the flavours.

Instructions

Put the water and ingredients into a pot and bring to boil. Dissolve the salt and sugar. Let it cool down to room temperature and put it in the fridge to cool down even more. Add to meat and make sure the meat is fully covered. Leave the meat in the brine for 2 to 24 hours, depending on how much you want the brine to penetrate and the density of the meat.

Notes

  • Try to use good quality (non-iodized) salt if possible
  • Use brown instead of white sugar, if possible
  • If you are in a hurry, use only 1 liter of water to dissolve the sugar and salt and then add 1 liter of ice and cold water

Dry Steak Rub

On the left the roasted spices, on the right the rubbed steak

Ingredients

This is a quick, trusty recipe I use as a steak rub.

  • 3 measures coriander seeds
  • 1 measure black peppercorns
  • 1/2 measure cumin seeds (if you like cumin)
  • 1 measure garlic powder
  • 1/4 measure brown sugar

Instructions

Roast the coriander seeds, black peppercorns and cumin in a dry pan. Be careful not to burn the spices. Crush in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. In a measuring cup, mix the ground spices, garlic powder and sugar. Rub the steak at least 4 hours before cooking, but you can rub it 24 hours before the time.

Notes

  • If you want the rub to be more a paste, add some olive oil.
  • Do not add salt. Salt the steak while you are cooking
  • Make sure your steak is room temperature before cooking it
Grilled steak

Wet Steak Rub

This is very much the same a the Dry Steak Rub, but you add olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard and replace the garlic powder with fresh garlic.

  • 3 measures coriander seeds
  • 1 measure black pepper corns
  • 1/2 measure cumin seeds (if you like cumin)
  • 1 garlic clove per measure, finely chopped
  • 1/4 measure brown sugar
  • 2 measures Dijon mustard
  • 3 measures olive oil
  • 1 measure Worcestershire sauce

Roast the coriander seeds, black pepper corns and cumin in a dry pan. Be careful not to burn the spices. Crush in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. In a measuring cup, mix the ground spices, garlic, sugar, mustard, oil and Worcestershire sauce. Rub the steak at least 4 hours before cooking, but no longer than 8 hours.

Notes

  • Do not add salt. Salt the steak while you are cooking
  • Make sure your steak is room temperature before cooking it

All Purpose Greek Seasoning

I found this very easy all purpose Greek seasoning recipe by @cervantesbrandi.

Ingredients

  • 3 measures dried oregano
  • 2 measure dried mint
  • 2 measures dried thyme
  • 1 measure dried basil
  • 1 measure dried marjoram
  • 1 measure dried onion flakes
  • 2 measures dried garlic flakes

Mix all well together and store in an air tight jar.

Greek Lamb Rub

Building on the All Purpose Greek Seasoning, you can create a rub very suitable for lamb.

The spices mixed together

Ingredients

  • 3 measures dried oregano
  • 2 measure dried mint
  • 2 measures dried thyme
  • 1 measure dried basil
  • 1 measure dried marjoram
  • 1 measure dried onion flakes
  • 2 measures dried garlic flakes
  • 2 measures dried parsley
  • 3 measures dried rosemary
  • 2 measures mustard powder
  • 2 measures paprika

Mix all well together and store in an air tight container.

The rub on lamb chops and chicken wings
The rub used on a spit lamb

Emeril’s Essence

Named after the American celebrity chef, Emeril John Lagassé, this rub is perfect for grilled chicken and pork.

Emerils

Ingredients

  • 2.5 measures paprika
  • 2 measures kosher salt
  • 2 measures garlic powder
  • 1 measure black pepper
  • 1 measure onion powder
  • 1 measure cayenne pepper
  • 1 measure dried oregano
  • 1 measure dried thyme

Mix it all well together and store in an air tight container.

The essence used on grilled chicken wings

Spit Braai Basting

Ingredients

Very Simple

  • 2 liter water
  • 1 packet Robertson Whole Pickling Spice
  • 1 cup coarse salt

Simple

Add the following:

  • 3 rosemary sprigs
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed

A bit more effort

Replace the Robertson Whole Pickling Spice with 4 tablespoons of home made pickling spice

Instructions

Put the ingredients in a 2 liter disposable water / cooldrink bottle. Add 2 liters of hot (not boiling) water. Shake well. Leave the bottle for at least 48 hours, shaking it now and then.

Pierce the cap of the bottle with a knife and spray over the meat every half an hour or so while it is on the spit.

For a whole lamb / sheep you will need 4 – 6 liters of this mixture.

Home Made Pickling Spice

I got this recipe from the Charcuterie bible by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp mustard seeds
  • 2 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 Tbsp dried chili flakes
  • 2 Tbsp allspice berries
  • 1 Tbsp ground mace / nutmeg
  • 2 small cinnamon sticks broke into pieces
  • 24 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp wholes cloves
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger

Roast the peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds slightly in a dry pan. Crush it slightly in a pestle and mortar and mix with the other ingredients. Store in an air tight holder.


Dipping Sauces

Remoulade

Ingredients for the remoulade

Ingredients

  • 250ml mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp hot sauce
  • 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp capers, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • paprika and chopped spring onion for garnish (optional)

Mix all the ingredients except the paprika and spring onion together. Garnish with paprika and spring onion.

Mustard and Sour Cream Sauce

Ingredients

  • 250ml sour cream
  • 125ml mayonnaise
  • 60ml Dijon mustard
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • 1 dash of hot sauce
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together.

Dough

Pasta

Here’s a couple of recipes to make pasta. Any of these recipes will produce pasta that is superior to mass produced, commercial pasta.

Ingredients

Very Simple

  • 4 eggs
  • 400g all purpose flour

Simple

  • 4 eggs
  • 320g all purpose flour
  • 80g semolina flour

Still Simple

  • 4 eggs
  • 320g 00 flour (Zero Zero flour – an Italian milled flour used for pasta)
  • 80g semolina flour

Rich and superior

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 320g 00 flour
  • 80g semolina flour
  • 20ml olive oil
  • 40ml cold water
  • (add more water if the dough is too dry)

Instructions

Mix the ingredients well together and stretch the dough with the bottom of your hand across the table for about 10 minutes. Wrap the pasta in cling wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. A good video to watch is this one by Gennaro

Notes

  • Use large, good quality eggs

Outdoor Potbrood

Ingredients

  • 500g self raising flour
  • 340ml warm beer
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 packet (10g) instant yeast

Instructions

Mix the ingredients well together in a bowl. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes until your hands come of clean. Cover the bowl and put it in a warm place for 2 hours. Do not put it in direct heat or sunlight. Knead the dough again very lightly and only for about 10 seconds. Shape the dough and put in a cast iron (bread) pot. Again put the pot in a warm place out of direct heat for about 1 hour. Cook over medium coals, but make sure you have twice as much coals on top of the lid of the pot. Cook for 45 – 60 minutes until the bread is ready.

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