Master of the microwave? Mouth-watering recipes for amateur cooks

Posted by Anita Froneman on 3 November 2021

By Ryan Enslin 

The title to this piece is rather tongue in cheek, because, well, I can’t cook. It’s more than that – I have no actual interest in learning to cook. At all. Tell me to wash lettuce, chop some avo and hand me a glass of wine, I’m there and willing. But really, the whole meal? Nooit.

Roll on the lockdown and life as we know it has been turned on its head. All around me I hear friends talking about new skills and talents they have discovered and nurtured during this time. As for me, what superpower have I honed during the pandemic so far?

Well, my backlog queue of writing is (somewhat) shorter than what it was at the beginning of 2020. But is that it? Eish. So, I decided to challenge myself and learn how to cook a whole meal.

As a disclaimer, let me state up front that the smorgasbord of delights I prepared was done in the microwave. That’s just the way it went down, I’m coming off a low base here.

Let me share my menu with you.

Starters

To start, I pulled used some goat’s cheese I had in the fridge and paired it with predictable crackers. Easy-peasy, first course done.

Mains

For mains, I opted for a white wine risotto. Truth be told I forgot to buy the parmesan, so it ended up as a White Wine and Goat’s Cheese Infused Risotto. Straight outta Joburg. Here’s how to make it using four ramekins, I opted for two larger mugs:

  • Start by adding ½ tablespoon of butter to each ramekin together with a spoonful of chopped onions (from ½ an onion). Microwave for 90 seconds on high, stirring after 30 seconds.
  • Then, add a pinch of garlic, ¼ cup of rice Arborio rice (I used Basmati rice) and 2 ¼ tablespoons of broth (which I made from 1 stock cube). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and heat at 50% for 120 seconds. Remove, stir. Repeat.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of wine per ramekin. Cover again with plastic wrap and heat for 120 seconds at 50%.
  • Add the goat’s cheese and you’re good to go!

A Little Something Sweet

To finish off the meal, I made a cake. Well, an Oreo Mug Cake, but a cake nonetheless. Follow along with me:

  • In a large mug (think soup mug size), whisk together 6 tablespoons of milk and 1 tablespoon of oil.
  • In a small bowl, mix ¼ cup of flour, 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 lightly crushed Oreos, 2 tablespoons of sugar, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt.
  • Add the flour mix to the mug and mix well until there are no lumps. At this point the recipe looked way milkier than what I had, so I think the 6 tablespoons of milk is incorrect, so I liberally added more milk.
  • Sprinkle on chopped chocolate and extra crushed Oreos, if that’s your thing.
  • Microwave on high for 80 seconds.
  • Allow to cool slightly and Oreo heaven awaits.

Since I am feeling more confident in my cooking abilities, I asked Chef Ashleigh Levin, author of Home Cooked and Heart Warming, to share a winter meal recipe with me. I’m feeling like I may just be able to use the oven as I hone my new skill set.

Fillet Steak and Secret Sauce

Ashleigh shares that this recipe initially came from her dad eating a steak at the family’s favourite restaurant. No sooner had he finished ‘the best steak of his life’ and he had secured the recipe, which Ashleigh has continued to work on ever since.

Ingredients

  • Butter and vegetable oil for browning
  • 3 kg whole fillet steak
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sauce ingredients

  • ½ bottle white wine
  • 200g butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Aromat
  • ½ teaspoon paprika (not smoked)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 500ml double cream
  • 2 bays leaves

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C.
  2. When the oven is ready, add a generous tablespoon of butter and a good glug of vegetable oil to a large, deep, thick-bottomed skillet and turn the plate to a medium to high heat. The combination of the fats is what stops the butter from browning, so try to use both, if at all possible.
  3. Pop the whole fillet into the skillet, turning regularly until all sides of the meat are evenly browned.
  4. Remove from the stovetop, put the meat into a baking dish and place it on the middle shelf of the preheated oven.
  5. Check the meat’s progress regularly with your thermometer and once the internal temperature reaches 50°C, remove it from the oven and place it on a board to rest for 10 – 15 minutes.
  6. Just before you are ready to serve the meat, prepare the sauce – I tend to use the same skillet that I cooked the meat in, to not waste any of the delicious juices and flavours.
  7. Start with the white wine first, cooking it off a little before adding the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has started to thicken slightly.

Ashleigh shares a few serving suggestions for this dish: I tend to prepare the meat a couple of hours in advance and just leave it to rest until serving time. When you are ready to serve, slice the fillet into thick slabs (about 15mm each) and add to the warm sauce. Serve immediately.  The sauce heats the meat up plenty, so don’t worry about reheating before popping it in with the sauce… and that’s it.

As a dish, it’s rich and decadent – perfect for dinner parties and probably the most delicious thing your guests will eat all year.

Parting Thoughts

Ok, so Ashleigh’s dish is a proper meal, not some quick-sticks microwave dish I made. But it sounds rather yummy, enough so that I may just Google how to pre-heat my oven.

Or maybe I will stick to my microwave magic for now and prepare this meal for a group of friends. Maybe. That achievement in itself is nothing short of a superpower, at least in my little life.






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