Saucy Chef: Light Meals for Spring

Spring is in the air! Be on the lookout for the leaf buds & blossoms!
September 7th 2020

 It certainly has been a cold winter thus far, and I’m sure that we all look forward to some warmer weather and of course the prospects of some early rain – perhaps in a months’ time?  Pretty please!

Gerda and I have been living either on our farm or in Dullstroom for the past 29 years, and the weather patterns have resulted in less and less rain, over the last 10 years. Our annual average rainfall up to 2010 was 1050mm per year, based on a 25 year average. However, for the last 10 years we haven’t had more than 750mm per year and our annual average is now down to 900mm.

The summer rainfall patterns seem always to go hand in glove with the nature of the winters we experience:
Cold = good rain, not so cold = poorer rain? I think that the national weather pattern confirms this. The whole country, including the Cape, has been in a rather serious drought for the last number of years.

Now, my hope is that after this exceptionally cold winter that we have had, we might just have some good rain, as they are having in the Cape at present.
Weather, especially rainfall, has a direct effect on people’s moods.  Let’s not try to pre-empt the coming summers rainfall, but we can at least, hope on the bright side!

In anticipation of the warmer days ahead,  and the vague possibility of some early rain, I’m going to suggest  3 really, easy but none the less hearty lunch time recipes to help change your mood. Try them on weekends when you should be focusing on yourselves and your families:


As served at the Tonteldoos Bistro as a starter, with Tzatziki and a small side salad.
One can increase the size of the Phyllo squares to 300mmx300mm, with more of the spinach filling, as a light meal. Almost like a mini Spanakopita.

 Ingredients:                                                                       Makes 5 parcels
Phyllo pastry sheets cut to 200mm×200mm square:  10 squares
Melted butter (infused with crushed garlic):  100ml
Creamed spinach (see recipe):  5 tblsp
Feta cheese:  5 tblsp
Black pepper to taste
Fresh thyme (chopped):  1 tblsp or more
Sesame seeds:  1 tblsp
1 Egg (whisked lightly)
Tzatziki (see recipe): 5 tblsp

  1. Lay out the 10 phyllo pastry squares and brush both sides with the garlic infused melted butter.
  2. Lay the squares out in 2’s one on top of the other. Rotate the top square by 45°. You now have 5 prepared Phyllo squares ready for filling.
  3. To the center of each phyllo square add 1 tablespoon of creamed spinach (see recipe) and one tablespoon of crumbled feta. Sprinkle with the chopped thyme and some fresh ground black pepper and sesame seeds.
  4. Now lift up the edges of the phyllo to form a small bag / parcel. Pinch the sides slightly to close the parcel properly.
  5. Baste with a coating of egg.
  6. Bake the 5 parcels in the middle of a preheated moderate oven at 150º C for about 10 – 15 minutes being careful that they do not burn at all.
  7. Serve one parcel on 1 tblsp of Tzatziki (see recipe) with a small side salad as a starter, or larger parcels as a light main meal.


Can also be used for eggs Florentines or as a filling for pancakes, wraps or on baked potatoes using a garnish of crumbled feta cheese for vegetarians, or crisp fried pancetta or both. 

Spinach washed and chopped (stalks removed):  1 bunch
Black pepper to taste (generous)
Ground nutmeg to taste (generous)
Salt to taste
Flour:  1 heaped tblsp
Butter:  1 heaped tblsp
Milk:  ½ cup
Cream:  2 tblsp

  1. Steam the spinach for about 2-3 minutes. You might have to add a little more water.
  2. Drain in a colander.
  3. Melt the butter in a pan, add the flour and fry gently for about 1 minute. Add the milk and cream and whisk gently into a smooth béchamel sauce,  adjusting the milk if necessary.
  4. Add the drained spinach, season with salt, black pepper and the ground nutmeg to taste.
  5. Serve as a vegetable or as a filling with crumbled feta cheese in pancakes, wraps or on
    baked potatoes garnished with crisp fried pancetta. The French would save any left-over spinach and refresh with a new batch of spinach and the addition of a healthy knob of butter – Repeated day after day – Rich but delicious!


This is an excellent, versatile and healthy Greek contribution to our lives.
Can be used with Phyllo parcels or with roast shoulder or leg of lamb

 Ingredients:                                                                          makes 200ml

Greek yoghurt (don’t try ‘low fat’ yoghurt):  200ml
Garlic (finely crushed in salt):  2 cloves
Chopped thyme:  1 tblsp
Chopped mint:  1 tblsp
Lemon juice:  1 tblsp
Black pepper generous grinding
The Greeks add grated cucumber but I prefer to leave this out – it becomes too watery.

  1. Mix together all ingredients
  2. Taste for salt
  3. Serve with Phyllo parcels with spinach and feta. Also excellent as a sauce with roast lamb leg or shoulder.


2. OVEN-DRIED TOMATO, GORGONZOLA & THYME TART with OLIVE OIL & ROCKET                            

   very good looking light meal to be enjoyed out on your patio with family or friends                            

Ingredients:                                                                       Serves 8

Well ripened, but firm vine or plum tomatoes:  750g
Puff pastry (frozen is OK):  450g
Gorgonzola cheese (crumbled with your fingers):  150g (use the real Mc Coy)
Fresh young thyme sprigs:  1tblsp
Olive oil:  2 tblsp
Muscovado sugar:  1 tsp
Dried oregano:  1tsp
Balsamic vinegar:  1 tblsp
Wild rocket leaves 1 handful
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste:

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°C.
  2. Slice the tomatoes in half, crossways and place them side by side in an open roasting pan, with the cut side upwards. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a little muscovado sugar. Season with salt, black pepper and a little dried oregano. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 160°C and continue for about another 1 hour until shriveled up and only slightly juicy in the center of each tomato.
  3. Remove from the heat sprinkle over the balsamic vinegar and set aside.
  4. Increase the oven temperature to 200°C. Roll out the pastry, on a lightly floured surface, into a 35×40 cm rectangle. Carefully lift it onto a lightly greased or floured baking sheet. Prick it here and there with a fork, and bake blind for about 15-20 minutes, until crisp and golden. Remove from the oven, carefully turn it over and bake for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Arrange the tomato slices randomly, with the cut side upwards, over the pastry base (don’t waste any juices that might have formed), leaving a narrow border free around the edge. Sprinkle the crumbled gorgonzola evenly, and drizzle over some olive oil.
  6. Return to the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes only until the cheese has melted.
  7. Remove the tart from the oven, allow to cool for a minute or two, then scatter the rocket leaves and the thyme sprigs over the top. Slice into 8 portions, drizzle over a little more olive oil and serve as a light lunch out on you patio, with a glass or two of good red wine.


             Delicious served with a good salad. Ideal for a Sunday evening family meal

Ingredients                                                                              Serves 4

800g Potatoes (peeled and sliced thinly)
1 Onion large (sliced)
1tsp Crushed garlic
2 cups Spinach (chopped)
8 Sundried tomatoes (cut into strips)
250g Ricotta cheese (crumbled)
10 Large eggs
3 tblsp Full cream milk
50g Hard cheese (grated)
2 tblsp Fresh thyme (chopped)
1 tblsp Oil
Bacon or Pancetta enough for 4

  1. Steam the potatoes gently for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Fry the bacon or pancetta until crisp. Deglaze with some honey and a tablespoon water. Set aside to keep warm
  3. Steam the spinach until just wilted (for about 4-5 minutes). Drain, season lightly with salt, black pepper and nutmeg. Toss and set aside.
  4. Gently fry the onion the sundried tomatoes and the garlic in a little oil until soft and lightly browned. Set aside.
  5. Using an oven proof, greased, baking dish of about 30cm x 40cm, arrange the potato slices on the bottom. Then a layer of spinach, then the onion, then the ricotta cheese.
  6. Whisk the eggs with the milk until light and frothy. Whisk in half the grated hard cheese, the thyme and some salt and black pepper, to season.
  7. Gently pour the egg mix over the vegetables and ricotta. Sprinkle the remaining hard cheese over the top and bake in the center of a preheated oven at 190°C for 30 minutes until the egg has set and turned a golden brown.
  8. Serve,  garnished with the crisp fried bacon or pancetta. Drizzle the deglaze juices from the bacon over the frittata. Serve with a mixed salad.