Thursday, June 27, 2013

My take on sugar and it's substitutes

Sugar as well as sugar substitutes are a thorny topic in health conscious circles. There is plenty of reading to be done with arguments, debates, scientific evidence, personal testimonies; all with differing opinions on whether they are good or bad for you and in what quantities. 

So as with most things I follow my guiding principle of 'all things in moderation'. 

I don't have a huge sweet tooth but when I get a craving I like to indulge it properly. I would find it hard to live without cheese cake, ice cream or good quality chocolate from time to time. I try not to over do it (not always successfully) and in between I use sugar substitutes like xylitol and stevia. 

I am not a fan of the taste of either of them though. Xylitol has an empty metallic taste and stevia is sooo intense and has a mild licorice taste. I have however found the perfect solution. 

Mixing xylitol and stevia together in the ratio of 1 cup of xylitol to 1 tsp of pure stevia powder, compliment each other perfectly. I find the taste really pleasant. In fact I ran out of the mixture and for a week I have been using regular sugar in my morning coffee. Yesterday I made up a fresh batch of my xylitol stevia mix and much preferred the taste in my coffee this morning.

My husband who is a sugar fiend and hates sugar substitutes also really likes this combination. He uses it willing and asks for it when it runs out. We do however use it moderately and I also only buy the GMO free Xylitol.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Luscious lamb chops

I have recently been craving lamb chops. This is not normal for me. Most of my life I couldn't have cared less for lamb chops. But this, I realise, is because most of my life I have been exposed to appallingly cooked chops. 

In my past most chops have either not been seasoned at all or been overly seasoned in some one size fits all braai marinade which over powers the subtle flavours of the lamb. The chops are then either cremated, the fat burned and the meat tough and tasteless. Or even worse, they are slowly cooked until grey with soft white gelatinous fat. Shudder. 

But then from time to time you come across a chop, delicately marinaded, grilled until the fat starts to caramelise and the meat it browned but still pink inside. Soft and juicy meat, crisp and creamy fat. Paired with a baked potato and fresh zesty salad; any red blooded person would go weak at the knees. 

So here is my take on how to do the perfect chop. I encourage suggestions and improvements as this is going to be a lifelong love affair for me. 

Lamb chops in rosemary and red wine
Serves 2

½ a cup of good red wine
1 Tbsp of fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp of crushed garlic
1 tsp of lemon zest
1 tsp of dijon mustard
2 Tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp of sugar
1 tsp of salt
½ tsp of black pepper
500g of best quality lamb chops you can find

Add all the marinade ingredients into a zip lock bag. Mix them around in the bag until well combined. Add the lamb chops to the bag. Squeeze out the air and seal the zip lock. Arrange the chops until they are lying flat and covered with marinade. Tuck any extra length of bag underneath the chops. Allow the chops to marinade for at least 4 hours up to 24 hours in the fridge. 

When you are ready to use the chops, make sure all the side dishes you are planning to serve have been prepared. Preheat the oven on grill and fan and place the rack at the top of the oven.

Pour the marinade into a sauce pan and start to simmer it on medium high heat to reduce this to a sauce. Place the chops into a roasting pan and once the oven is as hot as it can go slip the chops under the grill. The length of time to grill them differs depending on how hot your oven can go and how thick the chops are. I grill mine for about 4 - 5 minutes until the fat is caramelised and meat has browned. Then I flip the chops and grill them for a further 2 minutes or so, again until the fat has just caramelised. 

It is vital to rest the meat once you take it out the oven. I like to rest my chops uncovered as I don’t want the steam to soften the crispy bits. But if it is very cold in the kitchen you can cover them with foil until ready to serve. I like to rest my chops for a good 5 - 8 minutes before serving. I usually plate up my side dishes and finish off my sauce while waiting for my meat. The sauce should have reduced to a thickish syrup. I like to add extra sugar, salt and sometimes a dash of cream to balance the flavours in the sauce. 

Then tuck in and enjoy immediately!