Thursday, June 17, 2010

South African Casserole

Last slice.
I saved it just for you.

I am fairly certain that this dish isn’t actually South African but its an old family recipe that was introduced to us as such by a vegetarian friend and the name has since stuck. I remember Aunty Hélène bringing this over to a potluck Christmas lunch when I was a child. Naturally as a family of serious meat-arians we were suspicious of  vegetarian food. Back then I loathed this purple vegetable which my mother only ever served stewed with beef. So it was only under extreme pressure and outright threats from mom that I tasted this just to be polite. The fact that I am making this some 25 years later tells you that it's good. Vegetarians surprise your carnivore friends with this tasty side dish. Oh and by the way it's goes great with a roasted or stewed lamb! We had this last Sunday with stewed fish

South African Casseroleraw

Tante Hélène’s South African Casserole
• 2 ounces raisins
• 4 melongene (eggplants)
• Salt to taste ¼ tsp – ½ tsp
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 cup diced onion
• 3 cups tomatoes, rough chopped (leave the seeds in as you need the moisture)
• ¼ cup unsalted peanuts, lightly roasted, coarsely chopped
• 3/4 cup breadcrumbs or ¼ cup farine reconstituted in 1/4 cup water
• 1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Put raisins to soak in some water so that they plump up.

Peel and cut eggplants in half. Slice length ways about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle with salt to to taste ( I only use ¼ tsp but we cook low salt around here.). Put the slices to bake at 350 degrees in the oven until cooked through. Alternately if you are worried about the oil you can steam your slices.

Meanwhile sauté garlic and onion on high heat. Cook until onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 2 minutes more. Turn down the heat.

Drain the raisins of excess water before adding them to the garlic, onion mixture. Add the nuts and breadcrumbs. Mix thoroughly. Remove from heat.

In a casserole dish layer the melongene, bread(or farine) mixture. Sprinkle with cheese, then another layer of melongene. Top with breadcrumbs and the rest of grated cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

Cooks Notes
This is another of my recipes that has undergone a gluten free makeover. The original uses breadcrumbs. Both ways are nice. The breadcrumbs have the edge on appearance since they give a prettier crust. For some reason the farine (coarse cassava flour)  just doesn’t seem to brown.

Promise me one thing.  Do not use American cheddar to make this. An Irish or New Zealand cheddar is preferable. You need a sharp cheddar to offset the sweet from the peanuts.

South African casserole


Monday, June 7, 2010

Japanese Okonomiyaki - Gluten free


For my brilliant effort with this dish, I was rewarded with a circle of unenthusiastic faces staring at the thing on the plate.

What is it? They asked suspiciously.

I swear they all looked like they wanted to prod it with a stick.

Oko something or other.

OMG!!! The daughter squealed, grabbing the plate from my hand.

OKONOMIYAKeeee! She screamed again.

I was stunned. You actually know what this is?

DUH! Of course. It’s Japanese.

Apparently, a fascination with Japanese anime makes her knowledgeable about Japanese food too. Who says too much tv is a bad thing:?:-)

Why don’t you make more stuff like this?

Dear friends let me clarify. In essence this is a cabbage omelette/pancake with layers of fish and vegetables piled on top. I would like to impress upon you that various incantations of these same ingredients appear regularly in other meals around here. This same young lady usually frowns, picks out most of the vegetables and stirs the fish in contemplative circles on her plate. Am I missing something? Ahhhhh yes, the cool Japanese name.


Okonomiyaki is a Japanese style savoury pancake that I first encountered in Cate’s World Kitchen. According to Wikipedia the name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning "what you like" or "what you want", and yaki meaning "grilled" or "cooked."

Japanese food is rarely on my radar due to the difficulty of accessing specialty ingredients. This however is very accessible because you can customize it to your own tastes. What could be better than that? You can load it up with as many or as few toppings as you like. You can be as exotic as the Japanese with toppings like squid, pork, bonito flakes, nori (seaweed), or pickled ginger. If that's too out there for you then do as I did and come up with your own combination of toppings. It is after all what YOU want.

Warning: it may take you a while to learn how to say it. However it won’t take you but two minutes to learn how to prepare it and even less than that to fall in love with it. My one complaint is that for some reason it made me crave a tall cold beer. Okay so that's not really a complaint is it:-)  By the way, I forgive you in advance for calling it, the oko thing. I still do.

Okonomiyaki Recipe
makes 12 small ‘pancakes’


Japanese Pancake Batter
3-4cups cabbage; finely chopped
2 ½ cup flour or Gluten free flour (I used Dove Farm’s White Bread Flour)
¼ cup cassava flour and ¼ cup water (optional)*
½ cup water
4 eggs
Oil for frying
½ to ¾ tsp salt ( less salt is needed if cassava flour is omitted)

* traditional recipes include grated yam which I didn’t have at the time so I used cassava flour. This makes a thicker more filling pancake.

1 ½ cups grated carrots
1 cup scallions chopped
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 onion 3 pimento peppers
1 can tuna (in oil)

Okonomiyaki Sauce

1/2 cup Ketchup
1 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (omit if making it GF)
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Soy sauce (substitute with Braggs Liquid aminos to make it GF)
1 teaspoon Honey


Make sauce
Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stir. Taste and adjust ingredients until it is to your taste. If it's too tangy, add more honey/sugar. If it's too sweet, add a splash more soy sauce. Set aside.

Prepare toppings
Use a mandoline and chop your carrots. Set aside.
Chop scallions and set aside.

Make pancakes
Reconstitute the cassava flour with 1/4 cup of water. After a while it will absorb the water and swell to about 1/2 cup.

In a large bowl mix cabbage, flour, cassava flour (if using) eggs and water and salt.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Toast 1/4cup sesame seeds and set aside.

Lightly grease skillet and sauté onions and pimento peppers. Add the canned tuna and fry for a few minutes then set aside. Clean the skillet and lightly oil.

Ladle approximately ½ cup of batter onto hot skillet. Cook until air bubbles appear then flip over and cook on the other side. Cook until it has turned a light golden colour.

To garnish: top pancake with fried tuna, carrots, chopped chive. Squeeze okonomiyaki sauce back and forth over the top. Then alternate with mayonnaise. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve hot

Cook’s Notes: To get your mayo into a squeeze bottle mix ½ cup of mayo with a tablespoon or more of milk. This makes a great breakfast or even dinner.

Finally if you have nothing better to do with your time, here is a funny video from a Japanese show called, “The Man who can’t get Married,” This guy appears to be on a date and is not pleased with his companion’s technique for making okonomiyaki. Finally the lady gives it over to him and he proceeds to school her on the correct technique.  When it is done, she takes a bite at last, saying delicious and he says, “It was made in such a way as to make it delicious.” You don’t have to speak Japanese (or French) to see why this guy is not married LOL.