Australian Masterchef and some Life skills…

Dear Aussies- As a South African, I am supposed to hate you guys. It has something to do with rugby union (but you also struggle at the moment, I see…) and cricket. That magnificent game that you sometimes play so well… as do we…

We make a lot of jokes about you guys- something to do with handpicked ancestors. And some unfortunate encounters with sheep in the Outback…

Be that as it may, Australian Masterchef has really become our (my wife and I, not the whole of SA!)  favorite program of all time. In the process we have seen a few things that really excites us about you as a nation.  Let me share a few thoughts and impressions.

  1.  You focus on the main thing.  In this program it is about the love of food. Of  good chef skills, and presenting an amazing dish.  And the love for food shines through all the way, and binds you together.
  2.  Your respect for nature, and the respect for the good ingredients used to cook shines through- well done! Your agricultural products and seafood looks amazing.
  3.  You are amazing at people skills! I am amazed by the way the judges handle all contestants.  Everybody is welcome and important, and it does not matter what their background and level of education might be. Everybody is treated with respect, and the underlying  impression I get- the goal is to help every contestant to be their best, to produce their best cooking, to learn from their mistakes and to improve as chefs.  I really love that there is none of the Gordon Ramsey Hell’s Kitchen style yelling and insulting going on.
  4.  Mistakes are tolerated– and improvement encouraged. Everybody sometimes have a bad day in the kitchen, and knows it. The way that people are encouraged to get up, dust off and try again are really inspiring- learn from mistakes, do it better next time.
  5. Even elimination are handled with dignity- there is none of that “You’re the weakest link, goodbye…” sendoffs. I love the way that each leaving contestant is encouraged to follow their dream. The way that contestants victories are celebrated when they leave is really good. And the humane way the Judges act towards contestants- well done guys!
  6.  The way that contestants support one another, encourage, help… it looks like one happy family.  Maybe not all Aussies are like that, but you do give a very positive picture of a healthy nation.
  7.  The way contestants grow along the journey, producing food that they could never imagine before…
  8.  Marco Pierre White on the one hand scares- that look over his glasses… on the other hand inspires and share experience designed to push contestants to a next level- great to see a 3 Michelin star chef being an inspiration and a mentor– true greatness.
  9.  It seems as if everybody taking part gets a truly life enriching experience!
  10.  You have inspired our own cooking and the dare to try some new techniques and styles.
  11.  Billie McKay was such an amazing winner last year, I would love to sit at her table one day.
  12.  Would love to end with a Shannon Bennett desert!

In conclusion: As a Pastor I would love to see more of these life skills displayed in church! In the way all people act towards each other, love and support one another even though we might be from different backgrounds and opinions.

And finally: Aussies- see you on the Rugby field… you will bleed…


Another new experience… Sweet chili sauce…

I am trying to grow some vegetables organically in my huge backyard. In some black planting bags I have a few chili plants. They are giving their fruit in abundance this year.

So I decided to try something new. I looked up a few recipes on Youtube, and found some that is not too difficult. That was last night at just before midnight. This morning, after swimming my 50 laps (1.25 km) I jumped in to start cooking my very own sweet chili sauce. Following this Aussie bloke’s advice- thanks mate!

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So here is the recipe- I don’t have any idea how to translate it into that other ounces and pounds and yards and inches business…

You need about 250 grams of chili. 2 Cloves of Garlic. And 1 2/3 cups of white vinegar.

You blend at first about 150 grams of chilis with 1 cup of vinegar and the garlic in your blender. Then after it is blended smoothly, add the rest of the chilis.

Now get a pot on high heat on your stove. Add the blended mixture, with another 2/3 cup of vinegar, and get it to boiling point. Add 1 1/3 cup of castor sugar, boil it all together nicely while stirring, till it is reduced by about a 1/3.

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Let it cool down, and pour it into some sterilized bottles. How do you sterilize bottles? You take it to the vet, and they will spay it…

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It is really a great feeling doing this for the very first time, and to know that the fruit comes out of your own garden, and is organically produced without any insecticides used…

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That doesn’t seem like much sweet chili sauce, but hey, one small step for man…

There is just one small niggling thought in the back of my mind, and if Jamie Oliver, or Nigella Lawson, or Marco Pierre White happens to pass by, please help with this question- exactly which brand of peppers/ chilis should be used in sweet chili sauce? Sweet bell peppers? (That is why I am not asking Gordon Ramsey- he might be 6 weeks older than me, but he will call me an idiot in the kitchen…)

Because I only have jalapeno’s at the moment… and my sweet chili sauce is burning like hell. I am going to market this sauce, let all my church members have a spoonful before church on Sunday, and then deliver a sermon on the fires of hell…

Earning a Michelin star or two…

My wife and I are addicted to Australian Masterchef. This series has totally changed my view of that small island on the other side of the Indian Ocean. As a rugby and cricket fan- we sometimes find it difficult to like Aussies. Maybe it is just a little jealousy. They are really good at sport, and they know it… but Australian Masterchef changed the perception of the people of Australia a lot. We actually started to like them a lot. But when Gary and George and Matt starts introducing rock star chefs, they sometimes drop the title of “Michelin stars” behind a chef’s name.

Now, before Australian Masterchef, we did not have any idea of good cooking. My idea of a good dish remains a medium rare steak prepared on my Weber, with our South African Mieliepap (only Africans get it, I think… almost cous cous but not quite…) and a salad.  Would the Michelin inspectors like our Christmas lunch at Casa Rider?


Some steaks- from well done for the grandmothers to medium rare for me… and some Boerewors- our famous sausages…


And some salads, some veggies even sourced in my own garden…

We have yet to find a Michelin star restaurant in South Africa, I don’t think they give any stars to MacDonalds or Wimpy… I have seen a few chefs on the internet that is Michelin starred, but I am not sure that Michelin travels here to award stars in a guide.

I also saw somebody referring to “South Africa’s only 5 star Michelin restaurant…” but I have only heard of three stars.

So how does it work? Yes, I know, you can google it like I did, you don’t have to read my version of it.  But for those who want a short answer, read on…

The beautiful story over at Wikipedia says that the Michelin brothers, André and Edouard, was in this little company making car tyres. At that stage in 1900 there were maybe 3000 cars in the whole of France. So they thought to get the public going on road trips- more kilometers covered means more tyre wear, means more potholes connected, means more business- you see?  So, these two brothers started promoting road trips, with free tour guides for motorists. In these tour guides you would find the info needed for your road trip, with essential info like where to buy your Michelin tyres. Also where to find petrol (gasoline…) and mechanics  along the way. Where to find a place to sleep. And while you are at it, where to find a decent meal…  They printed 35000 copies for their first edition in 1900, talk about vision! Then they started spreading the news, to Belgium in 1904, They even had guides for Algeria and Tunisia in 1907 before they started the UK edition in 1911…

The story goes that the guides were free of charge, until André Michelin saw a stack of guides used to prop up a  workbench. Then they decided that people only value what they pay for, and people started paying for the Michelin guides.

It became a sign of good quality cuisine if the Michelin inspectors visited your restaurant, and award you a star rating in one of the guides.

But how does it work?

According to this excellent article in the Telegraph:  You will not know when there are Michelin inspectors in your restaurant. They don’t warn you to prepare your very best- they just arrive as normal, incognito paying customers. There are a few dozen of these inspectors worldwide. They have some culinary background, some are chefs themselves. They take great pains to avoid recognition, and will not travel officially in the same region for 10 years after an inspection trip. They are looking for new restaurants worthy of a mention.  They will also visit currant Michelin star holding  restaurants to see if they maintain, improve or lose their star rating. Gordon Ramsey lost two stars in a Manhatten restaurant- these cause tears…

There is a certain standard which must be met. The inspectors says: ” it all depends on the food, cooking, flavour, texture, technique. Good value for money in clean surroundings…”

There are no 5 stars in the Michelin world. The following star classification was decided on in 1936.

  • one star: “A very good restaurant in its category” (“Une très bonne table dans sa catégorie”)
  • two stars: “Excellent cooking, worth a detour” (“Table excellente, mérite un détour”)
  • three stars: “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey” (“Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage”)

I am still not sure about the Michelin star restaurants in our country. But it is my birthday in a few weeks time. And I would love to take my wife to La Madeleine in Pretoria- I think they would easily earn a star. Never been there, I hear it is amazing!

South African readers- any exceptional restaurants that I should put on my culinary bucket list?

Related Articles…

How to make an omelette, for Dummies- Daily Prompt

Daily Prompt: Food for the Soul (and the Stomach)

by michelle w. on November 11, 2013

Tell us about your favorite meal, either to eat or to prepare. Does it just taste great, or does it have other associations?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us FOOD.


I always loved omelettes, but never knew how to make them. The recipes always looked so difficult, separating the egg yolk and the whites… whisking them separately and then folding one into the other. Just too much trouble… stay with baked eggs.

But then one day we had a huge church meeting- a Synod. We stayed in a rather nice hotel in Pretoria. And they did this wow spread for breakfast. You could ask a chef how you would like your bacon and eggs done. And for the 4 mornings I stayed there, I asked for omelettes, and watched carefully. And I still do an omelette on this easy way…

I bought this little pan at an Indian supermarket, and it works beautifully for omelettes. First I fry some mushrooms and green peppers in a little olive oil: (ok, this day there weren’t any peppers left…)

20131028_074808Then when it is ready, I take it out. Two or three eggs have just been whisked with a fork in a porridge bowl till a few bubbles shows. That mix is poured onto the pan, just like you would do with a crepe.

20131028_075109The mushrooms is added on top of the egg mixture, and some cheese is grated on top of it. I like to use a little Himalayan salt or rock salt in a grinder, a little bit of black pepper, and a small amount of rosemary and mixed Italian herbs on top of that. When it is lifting up easily, I fold it, and voila…

20131028_075331An easy omelette to get started for the day… and that is all I have time for now, as I have to run to a practice session for our Christmas carols service coming up soon… Happy cooking-

Not the naked Chef…

Smoked Rider Eisbein- sorry, not kosher or halaal

I sincerely do not wish to offend anyone, so if you observe kosher or halaal food restrictions, this would be a good time to scroll back to a previous post and enjoy that… 

Daily Prompt: You, the Sandwich

by michelle w. on July 23, 2013

If a restaurant were to name something after you, what would it be? Describe it. (Bonus points if you give us a recipe!)

Photographers, artists, poets: show us DINNER.


I am from German descent- so my surname tells me.  When a dish must be called after me, it must be something that I enjoy cooking, and eating.  So I give you- the Smoked RIder Eisbein…

If there is one meal that I really enjoy, it is a good Eisbein. With Sauerkraut of course. But not mash, please. I love potatoes in any form, except mash. Why? I do not know. So… you can serve my dish with potato wedges or chips (fries for my American friends…)

When I prepare an eisbein, or most other meat, I love to BRAAI it (barbeque for all you non Saffas!) in a Weber kettle bbq.  When we buy it, it usually is smoked already.

Otherwise- you go to the local filling station and you rub your hands horizontally in front of any petrol attendant. They will then rush behind the station, and come back with a plastic bank bag, filled wit something looking like GRASS. You proceed to smoke it. Purple Turtles start swimming in front of your eyes. When you see the pink elephant, you light the fire. By the time the orange unicorn trots by, the coals are ready. Then you are smoked, and you can bbq (BRAAI) the meat…  For all my church elders reading this- I have never tasted grass before…

We are fortunate in that Eisbein can be bought for good prices at our favourite Food Lover’s Market. (about US$ 2.95 or R29.50 per kilo). When you order that in a restaurant, you would expect to pay 4 times that price.

When you light the fire, you also prepare a coffee cup, with  woodsmoke shavings poured into water in it- we can buy shavings of oak wine barrels that has been grinded to powder, to use in our Webers.

The Eisbein gets wrapped in tin foil, and put in the middle of the Weber, with two mounts of charcoal to the sides- the indirect cooking method. Some of the wet smoking powder gets put onto the charcoal and the lid stays on.  It is very important to have a meat thermometer nearby. After about 2 1/2 hours, you inject the thermometer into the meat, and when the core temperature reaches 80 degrees Celcius, it would be cooked through. You open the tin foil and let it brown off beautifully.

Like so:

Last Friday evening on my Weber… it was GOOD!

The Germans eat Eisbein with mustard, sauerkraut and mash, and lots of beer. Good people, the Germans…  Of course, if you continued to read till here and you are halaal or kosher… you might try it with lamb shanks instead…

In South Africa we all (except the Capies) love PAP- when maize (corn for American friends) gets  milled into a powder, and this is prepared with salt and water and love. Onto this we serve a tomato and onion sauce called sheba. Some veggies are fried in olive oil, and served as a side dish. ROunded of with a good Cape wine, like a Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon.  Or Slanghoek Camerca…  Remember the mustard!

And there you have it- smoked leg of Rider pork… (or lamb…no jihaad today…)

Another recipe that you might try for it, the German way (I just hate peas in any form…) :

Eisbein – Recipe for Simmered Pig Knuckles by Jennifer McGavin

Eisbein” is a salt-cured pig knuckle which is simmered for several hours in broth and served with sauerkraut and pureed peas. It is a specialty in Berlin and is a favorite for tourists in restaurants. Because it is simmered, it is not crispy on the outside. Eisbein can be made at home with simple ingredients and great results.

See larger image

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

Yield: Variable, 1 hock per person


  • ***For Brining***
  • 120 grams (1/2 c.) of kosher salt for each liter of water
  • 12 grams (1 1/2 tsp.) pink salt or DQ Curing Salt per liter water
  • 1000 milliliters of water (about 1 quart)
  • Pig knuckles or hocks with rind or skin still attached
  • ***For Cooking***
  • Use any or all of these ingredients in the simmering broth
  • Marjoram
  • Bay leaf
  • Allspice
  • Black Pepper
  • Coriander
  • Juniper berries
  • Garlic cloves
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Sugar


Curing the Pork

If you can find fresh pig’s knuckles you will want to cure them before eating. Salt curing them infuses the pork with salt and removes some of the water, concentrating the flavor of the meat. Try a local grocery store with on site butcher services or an ethnic grocery store and order ahead.

If you buy salt cured hocks or knuckles, skip ahead to the next section on cooking them.

To make the brine, use a 12% salt solution by weight. Dissolve 120 grams of kosher salt and 1.2 grams of pink salt per liter of water. Make enough to cover all your pork and chill the water thoroughly before continuing.

Use a non-reactive container to brine (cure) the pork. Plastic, including plastic zip lock bags will work as will any other glass or enamel pans. Place the pork in the container and add the brine to cover. Refrigerate.

Leave the pork in the brine 1 – 5 days in the refrigerator. The longer it sits in the brine, the saltier it will be. If it is in bags, turn over once or twice a day to redistribute the brine.

Cooking the Eisbein

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Rinse the cured pork under running water and place in the boiling water. Bring it back to a boil, remove the scum from the surface, and turn the heat to low.

Add the spices and vegetables for flavor. You can add about one teaspoon of each of the spices, one or two onions or carrots and 2 teaspoons of sugar per liter/quart of cooking water. You will not usually need salt, since the pork will salt the water.

Simmer the pork for 2 to 3 hours. When the rind starts separating from the meat, the pork knuckle is done.

You may choose to crisp the skin (rind) by placing under the broiler for 20 minutes or so, but don’t cook it too long or the skin will be too tough to chew.

The Red Bike outside Australian Masterchef Kitchen, Series 3

One of my biggest questions in life has finally been answered. But is a long story- I don’t like to keep things short…

My favourite television program is Australian Masterchef. I must say- this program has changed my perception of the Australian people a lot.  As a proud South African, we do not like the Aussies. They are just too good in cricket (sometimes… 🙂  ) and their rugby- the decent kind the rest  of the world can understand, not that Aussie rules funny stuff- is also sometimes ( 🙂 I know…) good.  We all know they come from hand-picked ancestors, Her Majesty’s best…  And there is the story of Breaker Morant– quite a bad bastard in our history…

Agggh mate, -get to the point, I hear the Aussies scream in their weak pale beers…

In any case- Masterchef Australia changed all that negative perceptions. Well, nearly all- do I really HAVE to like Shane Warne?

But the Aussies showed me they have a certain style of doing things, which I really like.  The American cooking competitions are so aggressive  and their judges really like to break the weakest link in the kitchen. And the Brits can be quite boring sometimes in the kitchen and bedroom.  Sorry Nigella. Sorry Gordon. Sorry Jamie…  maybe there are a few exceptions.

As I said in a droning voice already, the Aussies have a certain style of doing Masterchef. Their judges, Adam, George and Matt really love their food and their art of cooking. In the television series, I find that they are quite decent blokes, who do not go about negatively with the competitors. They challenge and inspire. They drive the competitors to give their best.  For the competitors it is a steep learning curve, it looks like one of the best experiences of their lives to participate. THe food they produce is spectacular, and I as viewer learn a lot as well. I did not know that they have such world class Michelin starred restaurants. The outdoor activities shows the viewer  a country of awesome beauty.  I am beginning to like Aussies… (except in that funny yellow Sporting gear…)  Maybe that is why half of my nation emigrated to Australia… 🙂

I know, I know, it is getting long and boring… but it IS workers day in South Africa, I couldn’t sleep anymore and am a little bored, so now I thought to bore you as well, maybe we can go back to sleep…

Anyway, somehow we always suck on the rear teat in SOuth Africa. We only now get to see Series 3, which was broadcasted in 2011 in Australia, and even in Ireland. I peaked on the internet yesterday and now know who won… we are in the final 8 of the series…

Let’s FINALLY get to the point. In Masterchef Australia, Series 3, there is a beautiful Red Motorbike standing just outside the door. One of life’s biggest questions in my mind was: Whose bike is it? And what is it?

So this morning, I decided to find out. (in a Jeremy Clarkson voice. Listen, BBC guys with the thick glasses and moustaches and checkbooks, if ever you plan a Top Gear for motorbikes, and need a fattish middle-age Stig for the job- call me…)

Whose bike is it? The television companies’ bike. Even the presenters are not allowed to ride it. Lawsuits etc- you never know when the handpicked ancestors’  genes kick in and it gets nicked…   Gary is the biker amongst the team, and owns his own Triumph. This is out of the mouth of Matt Preston himself.

The Bike? It is a Triumph Thruxton. I am a bad researcher, I can not find ONE photo of the real one standing outside the MCK on the Internet- can you help?

The Triumph Thruxton was named after a racing track of the 1960’s.

It is described by Triumph South Africa as:

Thruxton. The café racer. Reinvented.

Thruxton. Named after the race track where Triumph ruled the roost and inspired by the famous “Ton Up Boys” of the 60s. The Thruxton is Triumph’s sportiest classic, an authentic café racer delivering that unique Brit twin riding experience. Low rise bars, sporty riding position, aluminium-rimmed spoked wheels (18” front and 17” rear), megaphone style silencers and a modern 865cc parallel-twin engine. It stirs the heart for those around at the time and for those who seek the classic sporty retro cool….

Specifications for the Petrolheads: (2013 model)

Engine and Transmission
Type Air-cooled, DOHC, parallel-twin, 360º firing interval
Capacity 865cc
Bore/Stroke 90 x 68mm
Fuel System Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection with SAI
Exhaust Stainless steel headers, twin chromed upswept silencers.
Final Drive X ring chain
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Gearbox 5-speed
Oil Capacity 4.5 litres (1.2 US gals)
Chassis, Running Gear and Displays
Frame Tubular steel cradle
Swingarm Twin-sided, tubular steel
Wheel Front 36-spoke 18 x 2.5in, aluminium rim
Rear 40-spoke 17 x 3.5in, aluminium rim
Tyre Front 100/90 18
Rear 130/80 R17
Suspension Front KYB 41mm forks with adjustable preload, 120mm travel
Rear KYB chromed spring twin shocks with adjustable preload, 106mm rear wheel travel
Brakes Front Single 320mm floating disc, Nissin 2-piston floating caliper
Rear Single 255mm disc, Nissin 2-piston floating caliper
Instrument Display/Functions Analogue speedometer and tachometer with odometer and trip information
Dimensions and Capacities
Length 2150mm (84.6in)
Width (handlebars) 830mm (32.7in)
Height without mirrors 1095mm (43.1in)
Seat Height 820mm (32.3in)
Wheelbase 1490mm (58.6in)
Rake/Trail 27º/97mm
Fuel Tank Capacity 16 litres (4.2 US gals)
Wet Weight (ready to ride) 230 kg (506 lbs)
Performance (measured at crankshaft to 95/1/EC)
Maximum Power 69PS / 68 bhp / 51 kW @ 7400rpm
Maximum Torque 69Nm / 51 ft.lbs @ 5800rpm
Fuel Efficiency
Recommended Retail Price R92 500

This means that this bike is almost the same specs as my BMW R 850 R, I don’t need to buy one.

But: It is a beautiful bike!  Now you know…