and anything to do with food.

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About Paula Mainstone
Personal Chef - Cape Town

Simple, Healthy but Super Delicious Food

I love watching food shows, reading recipe books, tasting new foods, recipe testing & development and lately have discovered baking.

I love savouring the different layers of Asian cuisine, the umami in Japanese, the rich sauces of France, the simple fresh ingredients of Italy, the flavours of my heritage, Portugal.

My love of cooking started when my husband’s (personal trainer) clients started asking me to cook healthy dishes for them.

I then worked at Ginger & Lime Food Studio for 6 years where we concentrated on interactive cooking sessions with our guests, did all sorts of private functions – from baby showers to birthdays, Masterchef  cookoffs, etc. 

This is where my love for private cheffing began – to go into someone’s home and get them to enjoy my love of cooking – whether they do an interactive session with me or I cook a sit down dinner – I love the intimacy, social interaction and freedom to cook something delicious for them.

During lockdown I started food.made.simple on Instagram to help people cook simple, healthy and delicious meals.

Just before and after lockdown, I participated in 2 TV cooking competitions with other team members – one of which I won dish of the day with fabulous prizes and the other, our team won the episode.

I also won a fantastic 1st prize in the lunch category (decadent burger with papaya compote and fresh papaya salsa) for Neofresh.


This is a simple but impressive starter that is quick to make especially when you have guests over. The combination of sweet and salty in one dish is heavenly.


  • 3 Figs (make sure that they are ripe)
  • About 80 g of soft blue cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Honey
  • Fresh sprigs of thyme
  • 6 slices of Parma ham

Paula Mainstone


  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees
  2. Cut a cross into the top of the fig and gently open like the petals of a flower
  3. Place on a baking tray and stuff the cheese into the centre, drizzle with a little honey, place a sprig of thyme over cheese and finish off with a drizzle of olive oil
  4. Bake for about 10 min or until the cheese has melted
  5. Place on serving platter and put the Parma ham slices in between
  6. Serve as is or with some crackers or warm toasty ciabatta bread

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This is my go to quick, simple but nutritious dish when I don’t have much time to cook. Each element takes minutes to cook and the dish is made more substantial with the addition of the cooked potatoes, eggs and the aubergine on the side.

The fish can easily be substituted with chicken, beef or pork and although I love these flavours on the braai, it can also be done in the oven under the grill.



  • 2 Corn on cob, barbequed
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 – 2 potatoes, boiled
  • 1 – 2 eggs, boiled
  • handful lettuce leaves 
  • handful edamame beans
  • juice of 1 lemon 


  • 1 aubergine, sliced in half lengthways and flesh cut crisscrossed in diamond shape
  • harissa paste 
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper 


  • 400g tuna fillets, cubed
  • olive oil 
  • lemon, thick slices, sliced in half
  • salt and pepper
  • bay leaf twigs, soaked in water

Paula Mainstone


  1. Brush corn with olive oil and salt
  2. Barbeque until slightly charred
  3. Set aside to cool
  4. Brush aubergine with olive oil and brush fresh side with harissa paste, salt & pepper
  5. Barbeque both sides until flesh is soft
  6. Brush tuna cubes with olive oil , salt and pepper and thread with lemon slices onto bay leaf twigs
  7. Barbeque for 30 seconds each side
  8. Remove from barbeque and drizzle with lemon juice
  9. Toss all salad ingredients together, arrange skewers on top of the salad and serve with choice of dressing on the side.


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Quick Tomato & Chickpea Soup

Winter is here and we all crave comfort food. Here is a quick, healthy and budget friendly recipe which can be made in bulk and frozen.

You can elevate this simple quick recipe to a more intense flavour if you have time on your hands.

Roast whole plum tomatoes and whole garlic with thyme/rosemary, coated in olive oil until tomatoes burst open, then follow the next steps to making the soup


  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar / Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1 onion, chopped 
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 sachet tomato puree
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • About 750ml hot water
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika 
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp sugar
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh basil leaves
  • fresh grated parmesan
  • 1/2 chorizo 

Paula Mainstone


  1. Gently fry onions in about 1-2 tbls olive oil, once translucent, add in the garlic and stir
  2. Add paprika, dried herbs and crumble in stock cube – stir to coat onions
  3. Add tomatoes, 1/2 sachet tomato puree and sugar – cook for 1 minute
  4. Add splash of vinegar / Worcestershire sauce and the water and cook for about 15 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally
  5. Add chick peas and cook for another 15 minutes, add water if evaporating too much – check for seasoning – add salt & pepper
  6. Chop up some basil leaves (retaining some for decor) and add to soup
  7. Take soup off heat, let it cool down a bit and blitz ( you can blitz it completely smooth or leave it a bit chunky for texture)
  8. Can be reheated – Enjoy!!!!

Garnish soup with fried chorizo bits, crispy crunchy chickpeas, grated parmesan and fresh basil leaves.
*Crunchy chickpeas – drain and dry off, put into a baking tray and splash with olive oil. Spice up with salt, dried herbs, smoked paprika and sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Grill in oven until crispy (stir / shake tray every 5 – 10 min) and leave to cool down in open oven – aids the crispiness.

Serve with Landskroon Pinotage

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Upper Bloems Vegetarian Pickled "Fish"

There are three main elements to this dish, each of which needs to be made separately: curried aubergine, caramelised onion petals, and seasoned cream cottage cheese. The dish is garnished with pomegranate kernels, coriander, and mint.
The curry base is best made the day before so it can sit and the flavours can develop even more.


For the onion petals:

  1. 2 small red onions

For the curry base:

  1. 1 onion, diced
  2. 11/2cm of ginger, finely diced
  3. 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  4. 1 stick lemongrass, bruised
  5. 2 lime leaves
  6. 1/2 tsp whole cumin
  7. 1/4 tsp cardamom
  8. 1/2 Tbsp coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
  9. 1 bay leaf
  10. 1 tsp turmeric
  11. 3 1/2 tsp mild curry powder
  12. 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
  13. 1/4 small tin whole, peeled tomatoes
  14. 600 ml vegetable stock
  15. 1 – 2 tsps corn flour mixed with a little water

For the curried aubergine:

  1. 1 medium aubergine peeled and cut into 1.2cm cubes
  2. Enough rice flour to coat the aubergine cubes in
  3. Sunflower oil (enough to ‘shallow fry’, depending on the size of your pot)

For the pickling liquid:

  1. 62.5 ml white wine vinegar
  2. 62.5 ml white balsamic vinegar
  3. 37.5 g sugar

For the seasoned cream cottage cheese:

  1. 62.5 ml smooth cottage cheese
  2. 30 ml thick Greek yoghurt
  3. 1/4 clove garlic grated (on a micro plane)
  4. 5g mint
  5. Juice of 1/4 lemon & drop of white vinegar
  6. 1/4 tsp salt

Paula Mainstone


Start on the curry base. Sweat the onions, ginger and garlic in a saucepan until translucent. Add the lemongrass, bay and lime leaves and sweat for another minute. Then, add all the spices and cook until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and cook for one minute. Add the stock and let simmer for about 15 min.

 Start on the onion petals next. Peel the onions but keep them whole, and keep a bit of the bottom to hold the onion together. Bring salted water to a simmer. Once simmering, add the onions and blanch for 5 minutes. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and place in iced water to stop the cooking process. Pat them dry and slice them in half lengthwise, then season with salt and a sprinkling of castor sugar.

  1. While you wait for the sauce, fully coat the aubergine cubes in the rice flour. Pour a good amount of oil into a pan on high heat and deep fry the aubergine cubes in small batches on a medium heat until they’re golden on the outside. Drain and place the aubergine pieces on a paper towel.

Next, start the pickling liquid. In a pan, mix together white wine vinegar, white balsamic vinegar and sugar and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the heat.

Add 1-2 tsps of the pickling liquid to the curry base (taste after the 1st tsp and if needed, add in the 2nd tsp), place the pan back on the heat and stir in the corn flour to allow it to thicken. Let the sauce cool completely.

Heat some oil in a pan over high heat. Place onions in a pan, cut-side down for a few minutes until they get some good colour. Allow to cool completely and then pull apart the “petals”. When you get to the smaller ones inside, set them aside to add to the curry sauce.

Finally, add the aubergine to the sauce and mix in. Use equal amounts of aubergine and curry.  Allow to marinate for a day before using.

Before serving, stir fresh coriander through the pickled, curried aubergine. In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese and yoghurt, grated garlic clove, mint, vinegar, lemon and salt. Once the mixture has come together, place in a piping bag.

To assemble, use a tablespoon to scoop curry into the onion petals. Pipe a small dollop of the cream yogurt onto the top, and sprinkle with pomegranate kernels and herbs.

This recipe was created by Andre from Upper Bloem Restaurant. I was intrigued and excited to recreate it, with 1or 2 adaptations with what I had available at home.

The sweet crunchiness of the red onions with the mild fragrant curry and the creaminess of the cream cheese, along with pops of pomegranate and fresh herbs was a mouth explosion.

Served as a canapé or starter, it is visually beautiful.

I paired it with a Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc

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Sunday lunches are my best

This is when I have time to be creative and experiment and put all my love and attention into a meal.

Time to layer and infuse flavours to give the dish depth, time to savour with family and friends

Cape Malay Sauce


  • 1&1/2 TBS Curry Powder
  • 1/2 TBS Tumeric
  • 5 pcs Star Anise
  • 3 whole Cinnamon Sticks
  • 1 TBS Coriander Seeds
  • 1/2 TSP ground Black Pepper
  • 1/2 TSP Salt
  • 1/4 TSP Chilli Flakes
  • 1/2 Chicken stock cube
  • 1/2 TSP crushed Garlic
  • 1/2 Can Tomatoes
  • 250 ml Water
  • 1/2 can Coconut Milk/Cream
  • 1/2 chopped Onion


  1. Dry roast all the spices on a low heat until fragrant
  2. Add the onion & fry gently, then add in the garlic
  3. Add canned tomatoes, crumble in the stock cube
  4. Add the water, coconut milk/cream
  5. Simmer for about 10 min, stirring occasionally to reduce slightly
  6. Strain through a sieve – the liquid should be glossy
  7. Discard what’s left in the sieve

I love to add in some homemade prawn stock especially if I’m cooking  mussels in the curry sauce.

Paula Mainstone

Lobster Tails


  • Lobster tails (I bought mine frozen, deveined and cut in half)
  • 2 TBS Butter
  • 1 TBS Olive oil
  • 1 Garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 TBS finely chopped parsley
  • Squeeze of lemon juice




  1. Combine ingredients in a pot over medium heat and let melt & infuse
  2. Coat the tails in the butter sauce
  3. Grill in the oven / on a Weber until pink and done

Serve Cape Malay Curry Sauce with poached mussels, blanched asparagus, Lobster tails, edamame beans, spring onions & finely sliced red chillies with a side of thin noodles (coated with sesame oil & sesame seeds) & half a griddled lemon/lime.


Suggested wine: 21 Gables Chenin Blanc

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Chocolate Torte with Berry Coulis & Fresh Fruit

Ingredients for Chocolate Torte

  • 250g Marie / Tennis biscuits
  • 100 g melted butter (or more if needed to make the crust buttery)
  • 250ml fresh cream
  • 50 g demerara sugar
  • 300g of 85% dark chocolate OR 150g dark &150g milk chocolates
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste/extract
  • a handful assorted berries of your choice


  1. Blitz biscuits in a food processor until the crumbs are fine
  2. Add the melted butter to the crumbs and stir and break up with your hands until the biscuits are a little sticky (add more butter if still too dry)
  3. Empty the biscuits into a 32cm rectangular / round baking dish and press down with a spoon to flatten to make it smooth
  4. Refrigerate to firm up the crumb mixture
  5. Chop up the chocolate into small pieces and place into a large bowl
  6. Heat the cream and sugar gently until all the sugar has dissolved. Take off the heat and add in the vanilla
  7. Pour heated cream mixture onto the chocolate and leave for 2 minutes to soak in, then stir thoroughly until the chocolate is silky smooth
  8. Pour the chocolate mixture into the the chilled tart abe and refrigerate again for 2 – 3 hours until it is firm.

Cut into squares /long narrow rectangles/slice. Serve with berry coulis, fresh fruit & a sprig of mint.

This is a great dessert for a dinner party as it can be made ahead of time and you can really jazz it up with different toppings, edible glitter & decorations

Paula Mainstone

Ingredients for Berry Coulis

  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup strawberries  
  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar (start with 1/2 cup – taste and add rest if needed)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (to taste)

The berries can be fresh or frozen. Cut the strawberries up into smaller pieces


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan
  2. Simmer on a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved
  3. Taste and adjust the sugar by adding in a little more if needed – heat to dissolve again
  4. Let the berry mixture cool down a little, then puree in a blender
  5. Pour back in the saucepan – add some more lemon juice if required – let reduce until it has reduced but still has a pouring consistency 
  6. Strain though a fine sieve to get rid of the seeds

The coulis should be sweet with an underlying tartness from the lemon juice. Any leftovers can be frozen and defrosted for another purpose. Can be mixed with yogurt/labneh over pancakes/flapjacks or with cream for a cake topping, on icecream and much more.

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Prawn Fried Rice

• 2 tbsp oil
• 12 shelled prawns
• 1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 spring onions, finely sliced (keep some aside for garnish)
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1 – 2 cups cooked rice
• 1 tsp sesame oil
• 1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
• Handful fresh coriander

Paula Mainstone

1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok/big non stick pan
2. Add prawns and stir fry until pink & cooked – remove from pan & set aside
3. Heat remaining oil & gently fry garlic,spring onion, red pepper & lastly ginger for a few seconds
4. Add 1 tbsp soy sauce to the eggs & pour into the hot wok, cook until just set
5. Add cooked rice, break up the egg & heat through
6. Add the rest of soy sauce & sesame oil
7. Serve topped with sesame seeds, fresh coriander & sliced spring onions
8. Enjoy!

Suggested wine: Haute Cabriere Chardonnay Pinot Noire

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