image shot by @jongolozi for @elburromercado
What makes a dish? That on-the-go bagel. That hangover toastie. That Friday night take-out pizza. Those date night tacos and that post-promenade smoothie bowl. We are all guilty of having our favourite dine-out dishes. Sometimes things just taste better when they are made by someone else. The undeniable effort, top-class ingredients and unique flavour-combinations are what initiates the unbreakable bond between us and our ‘go-to’ restaurants.
Due to current circumstances, a lot of us have been left without our restaurant regulars. Well, I, along with some foodie OG’s, am here to tell you exactly how to get your fix right within your own kitchen (for the time being).
There is much to be said about simple things being done well. No frills, and nothing fancy. A good bagel can hold its own with a simple slather of good cream cheese, but can also be the perfect base for juicy brisket and a signature pickle. Andrew, from Max Bagels (a Bree street institution), has let out their secret on how to achieve the best bagel from home. Max Bagels has 5-star ratings on pretty much every platform so why not become a winner in your own kitchen.
Max Bagels’ Bagel recipe (NYC style):
“First stage, bloom the yeast. 10g of dry yeast with 23g of sugar. Incorporate together with about 300ml of tepid water (30°C). Stir and mix well. The second stage: mix 500g of stoneground flour with 6g of Kosher salt. Incorporate the yeast and mix all together until a shaggy dough is formed.
On a clean surface, knead until you get a smooth texture. Make a nice big ball out of it and transfer to a non-metallic bowl that you’ve lightly oiled. Cling wrap and wait about an hour.”
Feeling fancy yet? Damn, never thought I’d make my own bagels but luckily Andrew’s making it easy for us to get our usual fix.
“The third stage: take off the cling and literally punch it down until it’s flattened. On a work surface, smooth it out and divide into 8 portions. Now you can form the bagel.
There are two ways:
- Roll into a ball and ensure it’s well-combined. Then use your thumb to pierce the middle and create a hole. Make sure it’s big enough as it will grow in size when it proofs.
- Roll into a cylinder and wrap it around your hand and join the two ends. This is a more Montreal style of shaping bagels.
Important stage: boiling the bagels (it’s not a bagel if it’s not boiled)
If you can get hold of malt syrup, add that to the boiling water to give it that nice and subtle sweetness. Boil the bagels for two minutes on one side and another minute on the other. Once you have removed the bagels from the water onto a tray they are ready to be pimped up, so sprinkle with whatever seeds you want. The ‘everything’ seasoning is sesame, poppy and caraway seeds with dried onion and garlic flakes.
Oven at 220°C and bake for 20 minutes. A good bagel will always have ‘blisters’ on the top. And that is that – our Max Bagel NYC or CT style bagels.”
So, I guess it’s now safe to say we can confidently add ‘master bagel-maker’ to our resumes (or Insta / Tinder-bio – I don’t judge.)
Ever wondered how they get the bread so crispy? What guarantees the perfect melt? What is the ideal filling to bread ratio? Robbie, the owner of firm-favourite, Molten Toffee, makes one of the best toasties around. His FAB (feta, avo and bacon) has nursed many a Kloof street hangover and has been the staple lunch of the workforce in and around the CBD.
His advice is to “pre-toast your toast with butter on both sides so it has that extra crunch factor”. He also suggests you ‘“don’t be shy with the toppings” and “once filled, pop it back in the toaster machine for a second round”. Also, “only add the avo at the end, no one likes warm avo”. I’m sure you can agree with this. Are you hungry yet? I am.
Your local pizza joint just seems to get it right. And the enjoyment of swapping slices with your mate in some kind of flavour trade is what makes pizza spots the ultimate gang gathering. I’m here, along with Eugene from Pizza Warehouse at Yard, to tell you that you can achieve this feeling in your own home with your loved ones. Pizza Warehouse is a small, unassuming melting pot of all things pizza located in the heart of Cape Town. Known for their Neapolitan, Romano and Californian as well as their New York-style sharing pizzas, they are up there with the other pizza pioneers in the city.
Eugene’s advice is simple, “patience, love and sharing with your friends and family are what brings great pizza to an awesome experience”. I couldn’t agree more. Pizza is more than a dish, it’s everything that goes with it. He also says, and this one left me genuinely laughing out loud, “don’t treat pizza like a Gatsby as in terms of flavour, less is more”. So, keep it minimal, like a classic pepperoni pizza and maybe leave the pineapple for your fruit salad.
Mexico is high up on my travel list. Everything about the cuisine (and tequila being my poison of choice) ticks all the boxes. There is always a balance of flavours that a taco delivers in one mouthful. Also, if you don’t like a good nacho and guac combo, we aren’t friends. El Burro Mercado makes it easy for us to host the perfect Mexican fiesta.
There are 3 essentials that guarantee good tacos, according to EBM. Tip numero uno, “keep your tacos warm before serving by tightly wrapping them in a tea towel”. Numero dos, “a good salsa full of aromatics provides extra flavour and heat.” Lastly, “make sure you always have a fresh element such as lime, avo, crunchy onions or fresh herbs.”
“As long as your taco ticks all the boxes of salt, fat, acid and heat you are already a winner.” Seems simple enough. So grab some goodies from El Burro Mercado (Wellness Warehouse, BuyFresh.co.za or Faithful To Nature) and beg for, borrow or steal (please don’t) some tequila to bring Mexico’s signature dish to your casa.
When it comes to smoothie bowls, the texture is key. No one wants a watery smoothie bowl. That’s just considered juice, right? That’s not what we are here for. We are here for creamy textures, luscious and rich flavours that remind us we are on some beach in Bali when in reality the only thing we are surfing is the internet. The smoothie bowl, loved by many, has become a firm favourite in the Capetonian lifestyle. However, there is still much controversy around what makes a good bowl. Luckily, we have the lovely Emma, co-owner of The Stranger’s Club to give us the inside scoop.
“Always use frozen fruit, not fresh fruit” and “never add any ice or water. Rather opt for a milk alternative for your liquid element”. Emma also suggests focusing on already well-loved flavour combinations. “Berries with mint or basil, or cacao with banana are obvs great”. The Strangers’ Club is known for its unique combinations such as the above mentioned. Their “pina colada” bowl is a fresh and morning-appropriate take on the classic cocktail. But hey, whilst no one’s looking, why not throw a tot of rum in yours?
Although you can’t go visit your favourite spot in the flesh, you can support them virtually. Send them some love, and recreate their dishes at home. Hell, why not film it and pretend you’re on some bad American Cooking show? (Don’t worry, I love Chopped too).