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If you’re looking for quick and spicy dishes to celebrate Chinese New Year, we have the likes of kung pao chicken, ma po beancurd, XO pipis with Chinese broccoli and plenty more fire and crunch here.

Prego rolls

"This is a Mozambican specialty and one of the foods that changed my life in terms of African cuisine," says Duncan Welgemoed. "The best spot to get a prego roll in South Africa is the Radium Beerhall. It's run by my godfather, Manny, and is the oldest pub in Jo'burg. The meats are grilled out the back by Mozambican staff and are still done the same way today as they were 30 years ago." Start this recipe a day ahead to marinate the beef.

Lebanese-style snapper

"This dish is Lebanese-peasant done fancy with all the peasant-style flavours you'll find in Lebanese cooking, but with a beautiful piece of fish added," says Bacash. "The trick to not overcooking fish is to be aware that it cooks from the outside inwards and the centre should only cook until it's warm, not hot. If it gets hot in the middle, it will become overcooked from the residual heat. It takes a little practise getting to know this - be conscious of the inside of the fish and not the outside. Until you get it right, you can always get a little paring knife and peek inside the flesh when you think it's ready; it won't damage it too much."

Green salad with vinaigrette

"Our seven-year-old, Arwen, has been making this vinaigrette since she was five - she tastes it as she goes," says Levy Redzepi. "It's fresh and acidic and as good as the leaves. Frillice lettuce is crunchy but it's thin so it's like a perfect mix of cos and iceberg."

Fast and fresh summer recipes

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Oyster dipping sauce

"To me, eating raw things is integral to any good meal, especially during a barbecue in summer," says Rene Redzepi. "You can do it with oysters on the half-shell with a bit of lemon juice, or something like this sauce. It's a perfect start - rich, fresh, creamy, with the crunch from the raw vegetables and a lot of acidity from the parsley, vinegar, and all these things that give brightness."

Curried young coconut salad with sorrel

"This subtle salad acts like a palate-cleanser alongside the more intensely spiced meats and vegetables at an African barbecue," says Welgemoed.

Basic sponge cake


You'll need

80 gm butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for brushing 240 gm plain flour, plus extra for dusting 8 eggs, at room temperature 220 gm (1 cup) caster sugar 1 vanilla bean, scraped seeds only

Method

  • 01
  • Preheat oven to 180C. Brush two 20cm-diameter cake tins with melted butter, line bases with baking paper, dust sides with flour.
  • 02
  • Triple-sift flour and set aside.
  • 03
  • Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla seeds in an electric mixer until thick, pale and tripled in volume (7-8 minutes). Transfer to a mixing bowl.
  • 04
  • Sift over flour in three batches, folding each batch in with a large metal spoon.
  • 05
  • Fold in melted butter.
  • 06
  • Divide evenly between tins, bake until light golden and centre springs back when pressed lightly with your fingertip (20-25 minutes). Pull cake gently away from sides of tin with your fingers or carefully loosen with a knife. Turn onto a wire rack, remove baking paper, turn back over, then cool completely.

For good old-fashioned satisfaction, is there anything better than a sponge cake? It demonstrates the almost alchemical nature of baking, transforming the simplest of ingredients - eggs, sugar, butter and flour - into virtual gold, and filling the house with a mouth-watering smell at the same time. When a sponge turns out just the way it should - golden, delicate and feather-light - it brings with it a great sense of satisfaction. In fact, the ability to whip up the perfect sponge cake was once considered essential in a potential bride and the inability to do so spelled social disaster.

The boy scout motto, "Be prepared", could well apply to making sponge cakes. Brush your cake tins with melted butter, line their bases with baking paper and flour them before you start. Be sure to have your eggs - free range or organic are best - at room temperature, and your butter melted and cooled (if it's still hot when you add it, your cake will be less sponge and more pancake).

Note the absence of any raising agent, such as baking powder, in the ingredients list. This is no mistake. Instead there's one invisible ingredient absolutely essential to a sponge, and that's air. Lengthy whisking of the eggs and sugar will incorporate masses of air bubbles. We highly recommend an electric mixer with a whisk attachment. In days of yore, there wasn't the luxury of such a thing (those housewives must have had impressive biceps), but given that even with an electric mixer you're looking at close to 10 minutes of whisking, this isn't something to be attempted manually. Whisk until the mixture triples in volume and is thick enough to hold a trail.

Additional aeration is achieved by triple-sifting the flour and then by taking a very light-handed approach when folding it in. It's best sifted over in several batches, folding in with a large, long-handled metal spoon between additions. Use an up-and-over motion to make sure no flour settles at the bottom of the bowl, and turn the bowl a quarter-turn clockwise each time you fold, to ensure even distribution.

Next is the incorporation of the butter - melted, but absolutely never hot. To prevent the butter from dropping quickly to the bottom of the bowl, you can fold a little of the cake mixture into it first.

Rather than mangling the delicate cake with a skewer to test for doneness, press it gently in the centre with your fingertip. When it's cooked, it will spring back. The cake will also shrink from the sides of the pan when it's done. Turn it onto a wire rack swiftly, then turn it back over so it's not scored with the criss-cross of the rack.

Sandwiched with vanilla-scented cream and good-quality (preferably homemade) jam, it doesn't get much better. Or take a different tack as we have and make a hazelnut version. Sandwich with raspberry-spiked chocolate cream and it's heaven on a plate.


At A Glance

  • Serves 10 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 10 people

Featured in

Sep 2009

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