One of the things I really enjoyed in my interview with Paul Maciel is that he spoke about how foods fit into a traditional Italian meal. He said that pasta is a traditional part of the diet but it’s not eaten in the large portions we South Africans are used to seeing. He inspired me to create a South African-sized, Italian-inspired dish that celebrates pasta.Lemony squid ink spaghetti with Zucchini and basil #pescatarian #delicious #fastPasta is a topical dish in my office with people confessing an absolute love for the dish but knowing that the portions they eat are simply too big. One of the easiest ways to add bulk to a meal is to add vegetables. Now I know what you’re thinking – pasta made out of vegetables (like carrot noodles, zucchini noodles and their friends) does not taste like pasta. I agree! So I’ve taken a small portion of delicious pasta and added bulk to the meal by putting the vegetables into the dish instead of serving them on the side.

Zucchini being spiralized #InspiralizerI have created more of a pasta dressing than a real sauce for this dish and part of the reason for this is traditionally, pasta is meant to be the star of the show and not the sauce. If you’ve already scrolled ahead and read the ingredients, you will know that I have used anchovies in the dressing. Before you run away screaming, I’d like to reassure you that a little anchovy goes a long way without overpowering the dish with fishiness. Anchovies are an amazing little fish. In her 2014 book, Star Fish, Daisy Jones lists anchovies as one of the ten sustainable fish we should be eating (squid is listed too by the way). Two small anchovy fillets per person will really add a salty punch (they’re salted before they are stored in oil) and satisfying umami flavour. Daisy says you’ll find anchovies in all manner of meat dishes such as osso bucco and I love adding a few to slow roasting lamb shanks. They really enhance meaty flavours. Trust us on this one…Ingredients for lemony squid ink spaghetti #Pescatarian #pasta #quick #freshI chose squid ink pasta mainly because I thought it would contrast beautifully with the green zucchini noodles. My enjoyment of a meal really rockets when the dish delights my eyes first. Feel free to enjoy any other pasta with the dish, I would encourage a shape that is similar to your vegetable noodles to make eating them easier to eat.Lots of steam coming off the pasta and zucchiniPasta dressing with some pasta cooking water added #anchovy #lemonThe first time I tried this dish I could not find fresh ricotta and so played around with peppered feta. I have since tried the fresh ricotta and while it’s more of a pure Italian dish using fresh ricotta, I really love the intense feta flavour in the dish.

The following recipe is perfect for one hungry woman. Men may want to add some more vegetables and cheese or just add a bigger side salad. I find the dish incredibly fast if you prepare all the ingredients first or while the pasta is cooking – but be warned, even that happens quickly.Lemony squid ink spaghetti with zucchini and basil #pescatarian #fresh #pasta #Inspiralizer

Lemony squid ink spaghetti with zucchini and basil
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Nathalie Mat, RD(SA)
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1
Light pasta dish with a simple lemony, satisfying dressing
  • 40g squid ink spaghetti
  • 1-2 Tsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or minced
  • 200g spiralized zucchini (roughly one large zucchini)
  • ½ cup frozen petit pois
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 50g crumbled fresh ricotta (or feta if you couldn’t find any fresh ricotta cheese)
  • Baby basil leaves (or 2-3 large basil leaves) to garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. If there’s just one of you, like there was when I took these photo’s a medium pot will do. Salt the water lightly and place the pasta in to cook.
  2. At the same time in a very small pan or pot, heat the oil with the garlic and anchovy fillets over gentle heat, we don’t want to burn the garlic. With a bit of stirring, the anchovies will dissolve into the oil. Once the anchovies are dissolved and garlic is translucent, squeeze the lemon juice into the sauce and season with black pepper. You might want to add one or two tablespoons of the pasta water to the dressing at this point to add some volume to it (read: make it go further so it can coat all the veggies!)
  3. When the pasta is practically done, throw in the zucchini and peas. The idea here is just to blanche them, not to boil them.
  4. When the water comes back to the boil, drain the whole lot. Place the drained pasta and vegetables back into the warm pasta pot and toss with the dressing. I used tongs to lift up the ingredients and make sure they all had a splash of the dressing.
  5. Immediately place into a pasta plate, sprinkle with the crumbled cheese and herbs, maybe some more black pepper and enjoy while piping hot.


Do not expect left-overs #delicious

If this was your first experiment with anchovy fillets, leave a comment and share how you found them! You’re also welcome to share any changes that you made and loved.

Arye and I have been chatting about the three main “macro’s” or major nutrients: protein, fats and in this episode: carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are not in fashion at the moment with lentils and lollipops unfortunately being thrown into the same basket. This is a huge topic to cover in a short space of time so as always, you are welcome to drop me a line and ask for more insight.

In short, not all carbohydrates are the same. When we do eat starchy foods, we should choose that are high in fiber and limit those that are high in sugars to make sure that we have stable blood sugar. If in doubt, you most probably do not eat enough fiber – most South Africans do not!

Sugar is not the devil but it is also not a saint. Avoid adding sugar to your drinks and limit eating sugary foods. If in doubt, visit a dietitian in your area!


Paul Maciel is the owner and Chef of Pronto Italian Restaurant and Bar in Craighall. He’s a busy man, moonlighting as the Secret Jozi Chef and managing the brand new cooking school underneath Pronto called The Cookery. Pronto is the restaurant that my husband and I chose for our first date, making it a special place for me and making Paul a person I was keen to interview!

Laughing Paul Maciel in the CookeryPaul talks about food in the same way a sommelier describes a wine. He likes to know the story of where food was grown and the path it took to get to his kitchen. His love of food is obvious and it is clear that he doesn’t think of food as mere combinations of ingredients. Paul wants to invoke emotions and memories when he creates a dish.

Growing up in a big family with a mixed heritage of one Indian and one Portuguese parent, Paul was raised on a variety of flavours. Weekend breakfasts were a huge affair with several courses starting at 9:00 and lasting until 11:30. He tells a story of fighting with his siblings for his turn to churn custard into ice cream and the awe that this process held for him. Custard went in and like magic, ice cream came out. Paul’s love of food is tied to the memories created while cooking and eating with those he loves.

The Cookery being set up for the dayPaul’s mission in opening the Cookery is to break the misconception that we were sold in the 1980s that you don’t need to cook. There is sound research around children’s eating habits that confirms this: children that are involved in food preparation or simply eat with their parents are likely to eat a wider variety of foods and weigh less than children that do not eat with the rest of their family. Eating together provides an opportunity for a family to share their day but is also a space where parents can model healthy food behaviours.

So, what’s happening in Paul’s kitchen? Pronto originally started out as a deli but people wanted food to eat there and then. In time, Paul realized that a restaurant was what people wanted. That was 12 years ago! Paul’s own health story – I’m a dietitian and I believe everyone has a health story – had him starting a delicatessen, not eating much food in the day then eating the left-over muffins when he left work. His weight ballooned up to 140kg. Eventually he realized things had to change and started eating more regular meals. Paul’s recipe like many people’s is small regular meals and exercise. He eats good quality bread and pasta and prefers less refined foods. Diet food is a no-no for Paul, he believes food should have calories.

Fresh ingredients at the cookeryOriginally Paul did not think he and I were on the same page in terms of being interviewed. He thought I wanted a healthy eating spin when all I wanted to do was explore vegetable preparation. A go to dish at home for him is a simple broccoli dish: lightly steamed broccoli tossed with olive oil, lemon, garlic and pine nuts. The dish is great hot or cold. We both agree that people get into a vegetable rut which is part of the reason they get bored of eating vegetables. He uses a long list of salads that he rotates in his house to keep his vegetable intake varied.

Paul’s favourite kitchen gadget is his appetite (I did not see that one coming). Rather than being about the equipment, his kitchen adventures are driven by a need to mix things up and try new things. His appetite is his inspiration.

Knife selection used during classes at the Cookery - run by Paul MacielWhile chatting, Paul rattled off several dishes that involve either polenta or a risotto as a base with mostly vegetarian toppings such as polenta with sage butter, porcini risotto and butternut and feta risotto. Much of the flavour of these dishes comes from cooking food in stages to really bring out their flavour, for example first roasting butternut before adding it to a dish. These are the type of dishes he’ll rustle up quickly at home during the week. His go-to dish at the restaurant has been the same for years: the penne Salsiccia, their signature dish of fennel infused pork sausages cooked with plum tomatoes, chilli, red wine and herbs. I personally love the sauce with their polenta. If watching your waist, share the pasta and a green salad with a friend. As a general rule, remember to check the menu outside of the salad section as great dishes such as the ricotta, rocket and pine nut salad may have been listed elsewhere. In this case it’s under the antipasti section.

Paul Maciel loves food that is simple and honest. When we start with good produce, we don’t need long ingredient lists to make flavourful and delicious food. I think many people get stuck in a food rut, making the same dishes day after day. I love the idea of a vegetable recipe list that can be rotated in a household, especially as new vegetables come into season. Not everyone has the same inspiring palate as Paul but we can certainly steal some of his ideas and add them to dinner inspiration list to use when shopping.

Paul Maciel - Secret Jozi Chef standing in the Cookery in CraighallKitchen inspiration from Paul

  • Enjoy being in the kitchen.
  • Trust yourself more – celebrity chefs make things look harder than they really are
  • If in doubt, olive oil and lemon are great classic flavours to use with vegetables.

After the interview with Ariel Cohen I was inspired by two things: firstly, Ariel suggested making improving acceptance of a new dish by making it look like a familiar dish. He gave the example of trying a chickpea burger as in introduction to vegetarian eating. Secondly, he uses dates to sweeten the food in the Free Food* kitchen. I thought of a way I could use dates and vegetables in a dish and the idea of carrot cake popped into my head. Most people know (and enjoy) carrot cake and by making this into a breakfast dish I’m able to sneak in some vegetables into breakfast. Everyone wins!

With all the debate that is going around carbohydrates, I want to say that balance is key. While I may be avoiding the addition of refined sugars in this recipe by using dates – too much of anything whether oats, dates and even carrots – can become problematic. We should eat a varied diet that does not focus heavily on any one food or group of food. This takes me back to the first South African Food Based guideline “Enjoy a variety of food”. Dietary diversity is used in nutrition research as a marker of the quality of a diet. Let’s keep eating a mix of foods!

Large flake oats #satiety #fibre Milk pouring into panI love a warm bowl of oats for breakfast, especially in winter. One of my fast, go-to breakfasts is a bowl of large flake oats, sprinkled with spices and once cooked, a swirl of nut butter. Large flake oats take a bit longer to cook than the instant variety but also take longer to digest, leaving you fuller for longer. Adding nuts to the breakfast increases the fat and protein content of the dish. This is not a bad thing as the presence of fat and protein in the stomach slow down the speed with which food moves through the digestive system. Slower digestion equals a slower release of energy. In practical terms, you won’t be hungry in the middle of the morning.

Date being chopped into spiced carrot cake oats #refinedsugarfreeI tend to eat a small breakfast and so I have written the recipe for carrot cake oats as a single small portion double everything but the spices to make a larger portion. The recipe can easily be multiplied to make enough breakfast to last two to three days in the fridge once cooked.

Spiced Carrot Cake Oats
Recipe Type: Breakfast
Author: Nathalie Mat, RD(SA)
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1
Spiced carrot cake-inspired dish. Lovely in winter for breakfast and a great change from your usual oat-based breakfast.
  • ½ cup (125ml) low fat milk
  • Scant ¼ cup (20g) large flake oats
  • ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) cinnamon
  • Pinch mixed spice
  • 1 date (about 10g), chopped
  • ½ medium carrot (40g), grated (if you like a really thick oat consistency, do not double this amount for a bigger portion)
  • 4 Pecan nut halves(10g), lightly toasted
  1. Place milk, oats, spices and dates in a small pan on the stove.
  2. Bring to the boil over moderate heat and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes until oats start becoming creamy. Cooking the oats can be done in the microwave: place all ingredients in a large flat bowl (to prevent spilling over), cook for 90 seconds, stir and cook for another 90 seconds.
  3. Mix in the grated carrots, top with the lightly toasted nuts and serve. Depending on consistency, some people may want some additional milk.


Spiced Carrot cake oats #Vegetarian #breakfast #spices

Let me know how you enjoyed the recipe and if you have any clever ways of including more vegetables where they aren’t expected…

In this episode of the Informed Appetite, Arye and I talk the basics about fat: what are fats, are they bad for you and should Arye really be afraid of them?

Short answer: no!

Fats are an essential part of our diet. Some are better for us than others, especially from a heart perspective. Fats have numerous roles in the body and they do help to make food tasty (and food preparation easy). If you have 12 minutes free, take a listen to see if there are things about fat you did or did not know. There’s even some stuff on everyone’s favourite:  coconut oil.

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Nathalie Mat RD(SA)

011 442 7277

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