Asian burgers

Sorry foodies that it has been so long since I last posted! I have been extremely busy riding camels in Israel, reading for class, and working on my thesis. But I made it a priority to post a new recipe this week, so here it is!

My camel

My camel

Camel in the Judaean Desert

Ty and I on our camel in the Judaean Desert

The markets in Israel were beautiful, yet chaotic and overstimulating. They were overcrowded with people and full of pungent smells, bright colours, fresh produce, and shouting, haggling, beckoning shop owners. A food adventurers heaven…

Jerusalem shuk

everyone in Jerusalem preparing for the shabbos

How we felt at the market

How we felt at the market

And now to my recipe…

I am a very traditional (I mean lazy) lunchtime cooker. I will typically choose eating leftovers from dinner the night before or throw together a sandwich with whatever fillings are in the fridge. However, my favorite thing to splurge on is a weekend gourmet sandwich made from deliciously fresh ciabatta from Knead, and layers of Woolie’s salami and edam, rocket, avo, and Pesto Princess pesto, made for Ty and I to eat while we sit on the couch watching our favorite series of the moment.

Last weekend, I was feeling adventurous, so I decided to make Asian burgers as a Sunday lunch treat. The key is to use whatever ordinary ingredients you happen to have in the fridge and turn them into something fancy and delicious.

After Ty took his first bite he said “You need to open a restaurant”. *Sigh* Maybe one day!

Asian Burgers (serves 2 + leftovers)

Asian burgers

cooking my Asian burgers

Asian burgers

The final product


  • 400g raw minced beef
  • 1/2 finely chopped onion
  • 1-2 sprigs finely chopped green onions
  • 1 handful finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 large brown mushroom finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot peeled and grated
  • 1 heaped tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • 1 tbl soy sauce
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tbl curry
  • 1 tbl jeera
  • sprinkle of chili flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. gently mix all the ingredients together, minus the salt
  2. using your hands, form large, thick patties
  3. grill the patties in a lightly oiled panned for 10-15 minutes until both sides are golden
  4. sprinkle some salt on the patties
  5. serve (with mayo if you’d like) on slices of toasted bread

Zhoozsh Peanut Butter Thai Chicken

My all time favorite Thai dish is Pad Thai and the absolute best can be found at Sophia’s in little old Davis, California.  I have a thing for the sweet and savory juxtaposition and food textures, which makes peanut sauce with crushed peanuts a deadly combination for any food-related self-control.  Couple that with bottomless Thai Iced Tea and you have made it to tastebud ecstasy plus an extreme case of fond reminiscing about my college years at UC Davis.

I have not tried making Pad Thai myself but am in love with the idea of a peanut buttery thai curry, as you now know why, so was very excited when I came across a recipe for Peanut Butter Chicken with Curried Spinach in my new Zhoozsh cookbook.  The Zhoozsh! cookbooks are written by Jeremy and Jacqui Mansfield, who are famous for their easy to make, delicious, and down to earth recipes, which are presented in an intimate story-like photo journal fashion full of memories, humor, and love.

I saw their second cookbook “Faking it” at the bookstore a few months before Christmas and immediately was endeared by its unique style and laid back guidance on how to cook a diverse range of dishes from South Africa and beyond.  I was also immediately sold on the idea of “faking” gourmet and cooking on a budget, as I am still a young professional/student who cannot afford to always buy fancy ingredients. However, the more I cook, the more I realize that you do not need fancy ingredients to cook an awesome meal anyways! I then made it my goal to not so discretely beg Ty to get me “Faking it” for Christmas, which landed me a copy of my own from Ty’s grandma so that I would not have to go to the bookstore and surreptitiously take photos of the recipes using my iphone.

For my first Zhoozsh recipe experience, we made lamb rubbed with a fresh mint and coriander pesto for Christmas and accidentally burnt the lamb to the point that all the fresh the flavors dissipated but the lamb was still awesome.  However, the pesto looked, smelled, and tasted really great on its own so I will definitely try it again!  For my second attempt at making a Zhoozsh recipe, I successfully made Peanut Butter Chicken with Curried Spinach, which was quick, easy, tasty, and just absolutely lovely!

Zhoozsh Peanut Butter Thai Chicken

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers)

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 heaped tsp garlic
  • 2-3 chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbs oil
  • 4 pieces of boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size cubes
  • 2 heaped tsp curry powder
  • 11/2 tsp salt
  • 1 packet chopped english spinach
  • 3 tbs crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • spaghetti or thai noodles
  • a handful of crushed peanuts


  1. saute the onions and garlic in oil and stir in the tomatoes
  2. add the chicken, curry, and salt and saute until browned
  3. add the spinach and cook until wilted
  4. meanwhile, cook your pasta
  5. stir in the peanut butter, coconut milk, and sugar; let simmer and thicken while stirring continuously
  6. mix the pasta and sauce together
  7. garnish with crushed peanuts

Cyril’s Lamb Curry and Tomato Sambal

My love for Indian food developed while growing up in Branford, Connecticut and frequenting Darbar, where my sister and I religiously ordered Chicken Tikka Masala, Basmati Rice, Naan, and Gulab Jamun without question.  So it was not actually Indian food as a whole that I fell in love with but rather this exact meal as an entire food genre in itself. Sadly for my tastebuds, I moved away from Branford when I was a teen but always made it a priority to indulge in memories at Darbar whenever I re-visited.

Luckily over the years, I have stumbled upon a few beautiful diamonds in the rough (the rough being the world beyond Darbar): Curries in Liverpool, England, Taste of the Himalayas in Berkeley, California, Nawab Indian Cuisine in Roanoke, Virginia (if you can believe it!) and Bihari, Eastern Food Bazaar, the Indian Food on UCT Medical Campus, and Cyril’s Curry Cooking Class (talk about alliteration) in Cape Town.  However, I have yet to taste a Chicken Tikka Masala that rivals Darbar’s but will continue my fervent search and hopefully make it back to Darbar one day.

Forever ago I made a conscious decision never to cook my own Chicken Tikka Masala out of fear of creating a dish that was disappointingly inferior.  However, Cyril’s Curry Cooking Class taught me the fine art of making curries and I now feel confident that I could tackle Chicken Tikka Masala should the perfect recipe present itself to me.

Jacquie, my number one cooking partner (besides Ty), and I excitedly signed up for Cyril’s class and every week for one month, Cyril taught us recipes and techniques that his mother taught him, which we will pass on to our children, and our children will pass on to their children, and the tradition will continue.  We brought wine, cooking tools, main ingredients, and enthusiasm.  Cyril provided the expert insight and beautiful homemade spices from his mother and Atlas Trading Company.  At the beginning of the course we were given an in-depth lesson about the botanical origin of Indian spices, the forms, and flavors.  By the end of the course, we had made about a dozen curries, half a dozen salads, breads, rice dishes, and desserts, all of which where absolutely divine, complex, unique, and most importantly, relatively easy to tackle at home without Cyril’s supervision (I hope).

Our messy cooking station

Jacquie, Cyril, and I cookin' curries

Chicken Curry

Out of all the many dishes we cooked, my favorite was the Lamb Curry

Jacquie the Curry Queen

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers)

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 roughly chopped onion
  • 2 large tomatoes grated
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water
  • 4 star anise petals – the dried unripened fruit of a Southern Chinese tree that is 13x sweeter than sugar
  • 1 piece of cassia bark – the dried outer bark of a Cassia (Chinese cinnamon) tree
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves – the dried unopened flower buds of an evergreen tree and is “the most pungent of all spices”
  • 1 tsp ginger/garlic paste
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder – a rhizome from the ginger family that is “nature’s most vibrantly colored spice”
  • 2 tbsp curry powder – a western term, non-existant in India, which comprises a mixture of spices such as chillies and turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala – added to the dish at the end of cooking “to add a final touch of aromatics”
  • 1 packet of lamb cut into cubes with bone attached
  • 2 green chillies (optional)


  1. Add oil to pot, bring to medium heat, and add whole spices (star anise, cassia bark, cloves, and bay leaf). This process is called “tempering” which allows for the spice flavors to release and infuse in to the oil. Once the spices have been tempered you can remove them from your dish or keep them in if you are not fussed.
  2. Add onions and fry in oil until golden brown
  3. Add ginger/garlic paste
  4. Immediately add turmeric followed by curry powder
  5. Add the grated tomatoes
  6. Allow this to braise until oil seeps to the top of the surface and tomatoes are cooked
  7. Gently add in the lamb and the green chillies if you can handle the heat
  8. Add water, reduce heat, and cook for 30 minutes (the longer you cook, the softer and scrumptious the meat)
  9. When you are ready to turn off the plate, stir in the garam masala gently, and garnish with fresh coriander and salt to taste

Serve your Lamb Curry with Tomato Sambal, “a perfect accompaniment to curry dishes”

Butternut Curry and Tomato Sambal

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers)

  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 chopped cucumber
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 handful of finely chopped fresh coriander
  • salt to taste


mix all of the ingredients together, add in the vinegar, and season with a dash salt

Jacqs, Ty, and I dishing up our last supper of Lamb Curry, Ricotta Curry, Fragrant Rice, and Soji

Traditional & Non-Traditional Bobotie

Although Table Mountain is  one of the “New Seven Wonders of Nature”, Bobotie is in actuality the true Wonder of South Africa. This traditional South African dish, pronounced “bu-booah-tea”, is deeply rooted in South African history and my kitchen.

Traditional Bobotie (


Published in the New York Times on December 20, 1981
“Food had almost everything to do with the fateful or, as many of their countrymen might now view it, baleful decision of white men to establish themselves in the city that is known today as Cape Town, at the tip of the African continent. In the beginning – that means 329 years ago – the Dutch East India Company was not at all interested in colonizing the Cape of Good Hope, only in setting up the 17th-century equivalent of a truck stop there for its Java-bound ships.

Within months the company’s men had their kitchen gardens under cultivation; within a couple of years, their first vineyard. The ships that called at Cape Town on their way back to Holland from what is now Indonesia started depositing spices and, a little later, Malay-speaking slaves to work in the kitchens of the whites. Thus, almost from the start the ingredients were on hand not only for racial conflict but a distinctive cuisine, blending Eastern and Western influences. That, in short, is how bobotie was born – but more of that later.

When the British took over the Cape in 1806, this native cuisine was very nearly driven underground. ”One of the most depressing factors of eating in southern Africa,” Laurens van der Post, the writer, remarked, recalling his childhood, ”is the complete absence of our national dishes from the menus of hotels, restaurants and trains.” Yet until the apartheid era, these dishes survived on Cape Town’s side streets in Malay ”cook-shops” specializing in ”kerriekerrie” (curry in Afrikaans).

With the increasingly strict application of the country’s racial codes, the only truly indigenous cuisine was forced to retreat even further into the segregated residences of white and brown South Africans, becoming steadily less accessible to visitors. The ”slegs blankes” – whites only – restaurant scene was then dominated by immigrants from Italy, Greece and Spain – who found it profitable to serve a pretentious, lethally rich ”international” cuisine that systematically violated the best food traditions of guests and hosts alike.

Now, finally, the cultural if not the political pendulum has started to swing, to the point that it is regarded as somewhat fashionable rather than boorish to put authentic South African dishes on South African menus. As a result, the Malay influence is out in the open again and a good plate of bobotie is relatively easy to find.”

Bobotie is one of my favorite meals of all time and whenever I cook for friends it is my go-to classic.  The seemingly strange yet complimentary ingredients create an explosion of flavors that make all people, no matter what their food preference, food-gasm.

The ratios within Royco’s Traditional Bobotie packet are perfect and it requires minimal effort on a lazy night.  In addition, I always add a few dashes of sugar and a few more dollops of chutney.

On special occasions I cook Bobotie From Scratch

This recipe serves 4

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp tumeric
  • 1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • about 500g minced beef (or minced lamb which is rich and awesome)
  • 1 slice of white bread soaked in milk
  • 200 ml milk
  • 50 ml water
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vinegar
  • 3-4 tbsp Mrs. Ball’s Chutney
  • 1 cup rice

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  Sautee the onions in a small amount of oil until golden, add the spices, and stir for a minute or so until fragrant.  Add the mince and cook until browned. Next add the milk, water, vinegar, raisins, and chutney.  Break up the milk-soaked bread into pieces and add to the mixture.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and let the mixture simmer and thicken for about 15 minutes.  Pour the mixture into a deep oven proof pan.  In a bowl, beat together the eggs and about 3 tbsp of the leftover milk from the soaked bread. Pour an even egg layer over the mixture.  Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes or until the egg layer is fully cooked and has turned a nice golden brown.  Serve the bobotie with rice and voila!

For a non-traditional flare, try my Non-Traditional Bobotie Stuffed Peppers

Follow the bobotie recipe as described above except only use about 150 ml milk and 50 ml water.  Cut off the tops, clean out, and lightly oil four peppers (I bet red peppers would be even more awesome than green).  Sprinkle some salt and pepper inside the pepper-shells.  Next spoon layers of rice, bobotie, and egg into each shell.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the peppers are nice and soft.

My successful first attempt at making non-traditional Bobotie stuffed peppers

Additional non-traditional Bobotie variations that are delicious:

  • Bobotie pasta – serve over pasta instead of rice and omit the eggs
  • Chicken bobotie – use chicken instead of minced beef
  • Bobotie burgers – mix onion, garlic, spices, vinegar, chutney, and 2 eggs with raw minced beef. omit the raisins, milk, and water. form into patties and either braai (South African colloquialism for barbeque) or grill in a pan to desired done-ness.  serve on burger buns with lettuce and tomato.