Roasted organic tomato soup

Nothing beats fresh organic ingredients, straight from the farm, still warm from the sun. My friend John House recently surprised us all by buying a neat piece of land outside Stellenbosch, and starting his own organic vegetable farm. It's been a year since John started to work the soil at Genesis Farm, and now his crops are standing tall with huge basil plants, different kinds of tomatoes, beautiful peppers and chilli's, and all kinds of other organic produce.

You can immediately taste the difference in a freshly picked organic tomato, straight from the vine: it still tastes of the sun and the earth - sweet, intense tomato flavours unlike any store-bought fruit. So, with my basket filled to the brim with the reddest plump tomatoes, I knew I had to make a proper, chunky roasted tomato soup. I had eaten some really tasty tomato soup at Nook Eatery a few times, and knew they had the recipe posted on their blog. I took a few notes and adapted the recipe for what I had on hand. The soup is intense with real beefy tomato flavours, packed with umami. I used the tomatoes whole - no skins or seeds were discarded (but if you are full of nonsense, feel free to push the cooked soup through a sieve!).


3 T (45 ml) olive oil

200 g leeks, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced/crushed

4 sprigs thyme

about 16 ripe organic tomatoes (medium to large), chopped into chunks

2 cans of whole Italian tomatoes, chopped into chunks

2 T (30 ml) sugar

1 T (15 ml) salt

2 t (10 ml) freshly ground black pepper

3 T (45 ml) red wine vinegar

2 T (30 ml) tomato paste

to serve: handful of fresh basil leaves, more olive oil and fresh cream


Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

In a large heavy based pot on the stove top, heat olive oil, then fry chopped leeks, onion, carrot, garlic and thyme until soft and slightly brown (I didn't chop it by hand, but used a food processor - saved a lot of time).

Add the tomatoes (fresh and canned), as well as the sugar, salt, pepper, vinegar and tomato paste. Stir to mix thoroughly. Transfer to a large deep roasting tray, then put in the oven to roast for 1 hour (stir after 30 minutes).

Remove from oven, discard thyme sprigs, then process untill the right texture is achieved (I found that it stays quite chunky after processing, which is perfect).

Serve with cream (I love lots of cream in my soup) and a dollop of basil paste.

How to make basil paste:

In a large pot, bring some water to a simmer. Have a large bowl filled with iced water ready next to it. Blanche the basil leaves for 3 seconds (not more, not less) in the boiling water, then remove at once with a slotted spoon and immerse immediately in iced water. Remove from iced water, lightly squeeze out excess water, then pat dry with a tea towel. Transfer to a food processor or pestle & mortar, along with enough olive oil to form a paste and a pinch of course salt flakes. Process/pound to a paste. Store in an air tight container in the fridge and use within 3 days.

Ilse van der Merwe


Spinach pizza

It is almost mid-April, and Winter is creeping up on us. Slowly but surely. I know we're only midway through Fall, but with the wind and the rain we've had in the Cape over the past few weeks, I'd say an early Winter is looming. I've never needed an excuse to cook comfort food, but if you need one, "Winter" is it.

After getting my hands on a bunch of freshly picked dark green organic spinach from Genesis Farm outside Stellenbosch, I knew I had to make something where the spinach would be the guest of honour. I mean, I love my spinach and ricotta cannelloni, but it had to be even simpler. And more indulgent. So how about a pizza with pan-fried spinach, garlic, mozzarella, feta and some proper Parmigiano Reggiano? Yes please!

Ingredients for pizza base: (makes 2 large pizzas)

2 cups white bread flour

2 t (10 ml) instant yeast

1 t (5 ml) sugar

1/2 t (2.5 ml) salt

3/4 cup (185 ml) lukewarm water

1 T (15 ml) olive oil

Ingredients for toppings: (for 2 large pizzas)

2 T olive oil

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

400 g organic spinach (swiss chard, with stems), well rinsed

salt and pepper

pinch of nutmeg

250 g mozzarella cheese, grated

2 rounds of feta cheese (roughly 135 g)

1/2 cup grated/shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or good quality parmesan or grana padano)


Mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, then mix well and knead for 5-10 minutes until a soft dough forms. Grease dough lightly with olive oil, then cover and let rise for about 30 minutes until doubled in size.

While dough is rising, chop spinach stems finely, then chop spinach leaves into large chunks.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil and fry chopped stems and garlic for 1 minute. Add leaves and fry until leaves have just wilted. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Place an untreated large (40 cm) untreated terracotta tile on the middle rack of your oven, then pre-heat to 240 degrees C.

Divide dough in 2, then shape each into a ball and roll out on a floured surface in a circular shape - the thinner the better. They should both make 30 cm diameter pizzas. Place each base on a sheet of baking paper on top of a wooden board.

Cover both bases with mozzarella cheese, then with fried spinach, then with feta and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Slide pizzas (one at a time) from the wooden board onto the terracotta tile (the baking sheet goes along for the ride and makes transferring MUCH easier), then bake for 7-10 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown.

Remove from oven, slice and serve.

Ilse van der Merwe


Chilli poppers

I consider myself a modest adventurer when it comes to eating chillies. I know that I love the taste and the idea, but I also know that I break out in a sweat if I eat the proper good stuff. The last time that I had a rogan josh at Stellenbosch's finest Indian dining establishment, I looked like I had just played a tennis grand slam final. Thus, I now to choose my chilli moments with care and precision.

I got a handful of the finest organic green jalapenos from Genesis Farm (between Stellenbosch and Somerset West), and decided to attempt my first chilli poppers in the discreet comfort of my own home. I invited my 2 brothers (seasoned chilli popper eaters) to judge my attempt, much to their delight. And might I say so myself: these little jalapenos resulted in the nicest tasting chilli poppers I have ever tasted! They had a definite heat to them, but not a punishing heat. They tasted fruity, much like a green pepper, but with a bite that only a jalapeno can provide. I filled them with a mixture of cream cheese and cheddar, and deep-fried them in a crust made of breadcrumbs, flour and eggs. I made a lovely tomato salsa with green pepper, red onion and chilli sauce, and we enjoyed the feast with extra guacamole and double cream greek yoghurt. It was a hit!

Ingredients for chilli poppers:

10 whole jalapeno chillies

100-150 g plain cream cheese

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (you can add more cheddar, or even mozzarella)

1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

1 cup breadcrumbs (process 2-3 slices of bread to fine crumbs)

2 eggs, lightly mixed

vegetable oil for deep-frying

Method for chilli poppers:

With a small sharp knife, slice the side of each jalapeno open and carefully remove the seeds and pith. Don't worry too much if it breaks open, you can stick it together again later with the filling. Keep the stems on - they make handling much easier.

Mix the cream cheese and cheddar together, then fill the jalapenos with the mixture, stuffing them as full as you can and closing the slit with a little extra cheese paste.

Dip the filled jalapenos in the eggs, and then in the flour, covering it all over. Set aside to dry for 10 minutes.

Dip them again in the eggs, and then in the breadcrumbs, coating them generously. Set aside.

Heat oil on moderate heat (I prefer a temperature of around 160 degrees Celsius, if you have a thermometre), then drop the prepared jalapenos in the oil in batches of around 5 at a time. Fry until golden brown, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Serve warm with salsa, guacamole and thick yoghurt.

Ingredients for tomato salsa:

2 large tomatoes (I also used a few small yellow tomatoes for colour)

1 green pepper (seeds and pith removed) - or yellow pepper

1/2 red onion

1/2 cup sweet chilli sauce (or sweet pepper chutney)

a generous handful of fresh coriander

a small amount of fresh chilli (optional)

Method for tomato salsa:

Process all ingredients (except chilli sauce) together in a food processor (or dice finely with a sharp knife). Drain for 5 minutes over a colander/sieve, then return to a bowl, add chilli sauce/chutney, and mix well.

For the guacamole:

I kept the guacamole very simple: scoop out the flesh of 2 ripe avocados, season well with salt and pepper, then add the juice of half a lemon. Mix well with a fork.

 Ilse van der Merwe



TEL: 021-842-3175

CELL: 072-125-1539