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The missing ingredient

South Africa’s celebrated All Sorts Cook and bestie in the kitchen,
Chantal Lascaris shares her secrets on quick-fix substitute ingredients – and the one (maybe two) ingredients you can never ever replace.

“I once made a delicious butter chicken recipe for a group of friends and left out the rice – by accident. You can imagine my horror! Don’t judge. It happens. Even the most experienced of us in the kitchen can trip up – and that’s okay.”
Cooking, for Chantal Lascaris, has always been about experimenting with flavours and different ingredients, and, she says, most importantly cutting yourself some slack when you get it wrong.

“As a professional cook, the aim of course is to not get it wrong as best as you can, and so I’ve learnt over the years how to switch things up. You may not always have the correct ingredients in your cupboard – or you may over spice or under spice a pot of food (or, hey, leave out the other half of your meal altogether!). When this happens, we tend to believe there is no way out. Oh, but there is. There always is.

“Believe it or not, the cooking process comes with forgiveness. They’re called ’substitutes’ – and they work. Just when you think you’re doomed to fail because you’re missing an ingredient that the recipe calls for, think again. Most often, you’ll be able to replace a missing ingredient in the pot with a little something else that’ll do just as well.

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“Parsley. Lime. Walnuts. Even Sumac. They’re all replaceable. Except garlic. Garlic and – wait for it – love. In my book, these royal two are THE only ingredients you can never replace. You’ll always, always need an extra stash of these lying around, because they matter more than you think. Firstly, garlic is not only the king of flavour but its immune boosting properties are essential to our health. And secondly, love is the queen of everything.”

Our lives, says Chantal, are incredibly frenetic. And with a million things to attend to and business as usual, we hardly have time anymore to think of dinner or to shop for ingredients. So it’s comforting to know that more often than not, when there’s something missing in your bag of tricks, there’s always another chef’s trick you can reach for.

In her latest release, The Ultimate Salad Book, Chantal brings together her passion for healthy living and an invigorating variety of flavours, resulting in a collection of recipes that will have you upping your salad game in no time. Besides being delicious, and really achievable for even nervous cooks, salads (if eaten daily) add a huge boost to your body’s daily nutrient consumption. This month we’re loving the smoked salmon and citrus salad … but plan on trying loads from the collection. There are basic, vegetarian and three-ingredient salads, as well as those highlighting fish and seafood (why not try the sweet and sour oyster salad for two this Valentine’s Day?), poultry and meat, fruity options (the grilled peach split is just made for sharing), and a good selection of dressings, too. Struik Lifestyle, around R400, available at exclusivebooks.co.za


This unusual pairing of salty smoked salmon and sweet orange makes for a delectable flavour combination. The punchy rocket is the perfect foil for the citrusy dressing. Not to be outdone, there’s the zing of the radish, the coolness of the cucumber and the creamy avocado, all brought together to create a salad packed full of sunshine flavours.

You’ll need: 2 cups rocket, 2⁄3 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb, 10cm diced cucumber, 1 sliced avocado, half a cup thinly sliced radish, 200g smoked salmon ribbons, one segmented orange. For the dressing: Quarter of a cup orange juice, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp honey, and salt and pepper to taste
To make: Place half the rocket on a platter and scatter over half the fennel, cucumber, avocado and radish. Add the remaining rocket and top with the remaining fennel, cucumber, avocado and radish. Drape the smoked salmon ribbons over the top and tuck the orange segments in between. Whisk the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad.

This is a twist on the classic American diner dessert. Instead of overripe bananas, I’ve grilled the peaches to give them a delicious, caramelised texture. Peaches are an ancient fruit, thought to have originated in China over 7 000 years ago. They’re high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. They also contain beneficial plant compounds such as antioxidants, which can help protect your body from aging and disease. The riper and fresher the fruit, the more antioxidants it contains.

You’ll need: 1 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp honey, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 4 ripe peaches (halved), vanilla ice cream for serving, 4–5 digestive biscuits (crushed), store-bought caramel sauce for serving, ½ cup cream, whipped (optional), thinly sliced nectarines for serving

To make: Combine the olive oil, honey and cinnamon and brush over both sides of the peach halves.

Heat a greased griddle pan and grill the peaches cut-side down for 3–4 minutes. Turn and cook for another 3–4 minutes.

Serve the grilled peaches with a scoop or two of ice cream, sprinkle over the crushed digestive biscuits and drizzle over some caramel sauce. Add a dollop of whipped cream, if using, and finish it all off with a couple of slices of nectarine. Serve immediately.


Compiled by: Kym Argo

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