Siba Mtongana, The Lazy Makoti: top chefs share their top tips with us
To help you cook Christmas lunch like a pro, we’ve called in the experts on to offer their top tips for the holidays
If you are willing to be creative and adventurous, the way you style and shape your dishes can bring a fun element to your Christmas lunch.
I love to use a small, beautiful bowls as a base for a cake stand. Simply turn it upside done, place a slate or plate on top of it, and there you go — you have an impromptu cake stand.
Another example would be, instead of serving a trifle in a flat dish, it is a better idea to use a glass bowl so that you can see the beautiful layers.
Mash-ups are quite trendy at the moment, and are a lovely way to modernise traditional family favourites. Mash-ups are the combination of two recipes to form a completely new offering. I just love the idea of surprising my family and friends with an unexpected twist. My pappiza is a great example. I use pap as a base, and we then top it with the traditional pizza toppings: it is so simple, yet delicious. You get the traditional flavours that you are used to, but with a stunning new twist in the taste and form.
Rise to the top
To minimise the amount of work that you do on Christmas Day, choose a dessert that can be made in advance.
Malva pudding is a great go-to recipe: it’s simple to make, and has very few ingredients. For Christmas, I’d jazz it up a little by including some minced fruit, just to add that festive touch.
If you find yourself out of self-raising flour, adding one teaspoon of baking powder per cup of flour will do the trick; should you run out of buttermilk or yoghurt you can mix two tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar into 500ml of milk, leave to stand at room temperature for five minutes, and use it as a substitute.
Unsalted butter is best to use when baking because this allows you to control the amount of salt in the recipe. Salted butter is fine to use if it is all you have.”
You don’t have to do it all, menu-wise or physically. Delegate to survive, and preparation is crucial. Gravy can be prepared the night before and popped into the freezer. When defrosting it the next day, you can add the juices from your roast before serving.
Also remember that curries tend to taste better the following day, so these can also be prepared the night before.”
Wine and dine
Don’t make the mistake of leaving red wine at room temperature. This works wonderfully for European countries, but the temperature is just too high in South Africa. Putting the wine in an ice bucket or fridge 30 minutes before serving is ideal.
When it comes to serving, always pour less than half a glass to give the wine space to breathe. An hour of decanting makes a difference for full-bodied red wines, this also applies to some white varietals, such as chenin blancs, some chardonnays, and some blends. If you want to play it safe, get a red blend, either a cabernet, merlot blend, or shiraz blend. That way you can accommodate different tastes.
Meat the standards
The rule of thumb is to let meat rest for one minute per 100g. I wouldn’t leave it to rest for longer than 20 minutes though, as you will be left with a cold dish.
When checking if meat is ready, remember that poultry should never be pink — there is no such thing as medium-rare chicken. If you’re using a thermometer, chicken should have an internal temperature of 73°C. If you don’t have a thermometer, and you’re roasting a whole bird, check between the thigh and body of the bird — if the meat is white and the juice comes out clear when you tug at the joint, it’s cooked through.
Spoilt food can become dangerous, it is important to keep raw meat sealed and refrigerated. Look out for any mould, greenish-grey colouring on the meat, and foul smells, as these are indicators of spoiled meats.”
This article first appeared in the December 2017 print edition of Sowetan S Magazine