I spent so much time agonising over my decision to enter Dinner Divas. Entering meant signing a contract that could mean that I would have to miss my dearest nephew Claudio’s wedding to the love of his life Jennifer. Actually, electing to miss such a special ‘Tripepi family occasion’ did not come easily to me. Much the same decision had to be made by Daniele. After serious deliberation we chose the Dinner Diva option, recognising the wonderful and unusual opportunity to work together on the same production as mum and son.
Two nights before this, the first of the Finals challenges, I got a call from Daniele when he was on his way home from set saying that he really felt that he should pop into the hospital to visit Lloyd, one of his best friends who had been battling cancer for the longest time. Not forty minutes later Lloyd, with his dear brother Dylan and friend Daniele at his side; closed his eyes for the last time.
Daniele went to work early that morning a young’un and came home that evening a man. Life and his understanding of it would never be the same again and I knew that the Universe had placed me EXACTLY where I should be at that precise moment and I could not have been more grateful for this. I was sharply reminded of my ‘trust your instincts’ mantra!
Daniele and I laughed together, we cried together and drank lots of red wine until the early hours of the morning together; and in true Tripepi fashion we cooked together. We played Queen’s, The Show Must Go On over and over again as we mourned the end of and celebrated the life of a very special young man, Lloyd Edy.
Dinner Divas Final … Challenge
Midweek Family Meal made from a Mystery Basket of Ingredients.
We each got a basket with exactly the same ingredients in to make a midweek family meal. I decided not to cook pasta, having already presented a pasta dish in the semi finals and decided to cook some chicken. This dish is a South African rendition of “Veal Campagnola” which is prepared in much the same way but with sautéed spinach and topped with either mozzarella or Gruyere cheese! This version, all be it without the Italian ingredients, was staying true to my blog, something that I kept in the back of my mind all the time. It was ‘drummed’ into us that our food HAD to represent our blogs ….. so Italian it was!
Riso all Povera
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 cup rice
1 chicken stock cube
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
1 tin of Rhodes peas – drained
1 sprig of rosemary
½ glass dry white wine
In a heavy based pot, brown the onion and garlic in olive oil
Add the rice, stock cube, rosemary, black pepper and drained Rhodes peas
Give the pot a good stir to make sure that your flavours are will distributed and add the ½ glass of dry white wine
Cook until all of the alcohol had cooked out*
Add 2 cups of boiling water to the pot, stir gently and put a lid on the pot until your rice is tender and all of the water has evaporated. This will usually take around 20 minutes.
When your rice is tender, add a knob of butter and gently stir it into the rice.
Pack a ramekin or a teacup tightly with the rice and carefully turn it out onto your plate.
*note : how do I know when all of the alcohol has cooked out of my rice. This is quite simple, place your face directly above the pot but be careful of the steam! Inhale the aroma and if there is any alcohol in the pot you will easily smell it. It whacks you one around the chops!
1 cup Rocket leaves
1 baby fennel bulb
2 Nulaid eggs boiled for 8 minutes and de-shelled – don’t overcook the eggs. The yolk should be JUST cooked and still a little translucent.
3Tbs olive oil
1Tbs balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
Salt and Pepper to taste
½ tsp of brown sugar or honey
Combine all of these ingredients first and whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Check for seasoning and adjust to your liking.
Wash and cut your tomatoes into bite sized pieces.
Clean and thinly slice the fennel bulb.
Arrange your rocket, tomato and fennel is bowl
Dress your salad just before plating your meal. This will ensure that your rocket leaves are still nice and crunchy. Give the salad a good toss making sure that everything is well coated in your dressing.
(Country Style Chicken)
1 brinjal cut into ½ cm slices
Olive oil for frying
1 chicken breast – deboned
½ cup of Sasko flour for dusting – season with a little salt and pepper
1 large knob of butter
½ onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1 tin of Rhodes choppedtinned tomatoes
1 chicken stock cube
1 slice of cheddar cheese
Fresh basil – 5 leaves for the tomato sauce and 1 spare sprig for garnish
Wash and cut the brinjal into ½ cm slices. Fry in a non stick pan until the brinjals are lightly caramelized. Remove from the pan and set aside on a piece of paper towel to drain off any excess oil.
Wipe the pan out and melt the butter on a moderate heat. Add a dash of olive oil. Coat the chicken breast in the seasoned Sasko flour and gently brown in the olive oil and butter. When cooking chicken breast you really do need to keep an eye on your temperatures. Gentle browning is best as you want the chicken to be tender and juicy and a chicken breast is not very thick.
Remove the breast from the pan and keep warm in a bowl – covered or in a piece of tin foil.
In the same pan, add a little extra butter if you need and then add the chopped garlic , onion, chicken cube or salt and pepper and fry until lightly browned. (Anne – I would normally add wine here but I don’t think that we had any!)
Add the tinned tomatoes and fresh basil leaves to the pan and cook for 5 minutes on a high heat. Cook for a further one minute open to reduce the sauce down just a little and condense the flavours a little. You don’t want watery sauce!
Reduce the heat to low and gently place the browned chicken breast in the pan. Add the meat juices that will have leeched from your meat into the sauce – NEVER waste any flavour!
Top the chicken with two slices of the fried brinjal and top the fried brinjal with a nice thick slice of cheese.
Put the lid on your pan and cook for 5 minutes on a low heat covered.
Plating this meal ….
Add the rice that has been packed tightly into the ramekin to the plate first. You can pick the plate up, put it on top of the ramekin and flip it over. Gently lift the chicken out of your pan and place onto the plate making sure to get some of the sauce under the chicken. Top the chicken with a nice fresh sprig of basil – this is going to add a beautiful fresh aroma of basil to the dish. Lastly, just before you serve this meal add a good handful of freshly dressed salad, and lastly top the salad with your gently boiled Nulaid eggs. A few slices of toasted bread is a great way to mop up that sauce!
And Walla that The First Challange Done and Dusted!
So what was in this lesson?
Trust your Instincts
NEVER pass up the opportunities that come your way!
No one lives forever!
Life truly is incredibly beautiful!
The Show Must Go On!