Sunday, 31 March 2013

Mediterranean Vegetable Stack

Happy Easter! A mediterranean vegetable stack is on the menu today, as I am with the vegetarian side of the family this year. (already dreaming of the big lamb feast next year) When I close my eyes, I can imagine myself eating this in a cafĂ© in Tuscany.

This is a genius recipe which I can claim no credit for, it's my mums made-up creation. It is especially good if you are in the need for speed. I’ll admit I’m not a fan of microwave cooking, but the cooking time for this entire dish is more than halved. So it just makes sense. If you are not strapped for time, by all means do each veg in the oven or on the stove top.


Choose your veg to be of similar shape and size, this makes for a nice uniform stack that doesn’t topple over easily.

1 large aubergine
2 large tomatoes
4 mushrooms

4 tsp basil pesto
Handful of basil leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Italian herbs
Salt & Pepper


Slice aubergine in about 1-2cm discs, season well with salt and pepper.
Place in a microwavable dish cover with cling fling, pierce a few holes and microwave for 7mins.
Pop the aubergines under the grill to colour and dry out. Turn once, grilling both sides.
Cut tomatoes in similar sized rounds, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add a pinch of sugar if tomatoes are not properly ripened.
Place in a microwavable dish cover with cling fling, pierce a few holes and microwave for 3mins. Do it for longer if you prefer a more cooked tomato.
Drizzle mushrooms with a little olive oil and season with Italian herbs and salt and pepper.
Place in a microwavable dish cover with cling fling, pierce a few holes and microwave for 4mins.
Now stack, start with aubergine, a few basil leaves, tomato, mushroom and basil pesto.

Top with some nice melting cheese and grill again until cheese is melted.
Serve and scoff straight away.

Serves 4

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan Crisps


My sister is a clever old thing: Editor, cookbook writer and restaurateur. She recently launched a cookbook, ‘Roots, Shoots & Leaves’, it is a vegetarians dream and an inspiration to those of us who find potato bake an adventurous veggie dish. Cover to cover, it’s packed with heirloom vegetables, drooling soups and sexy salads.
Here is an extract from her book:

'Why do I love heirloom vegetables? What is it that attracts me to them? For a start, it’s the rich romantic history inevitably attached to these ancient varieties. By definition, a true heirloom is one that has been open-pollinated (by bees or the wind), nurtured and handed down from one family member to another. I have always been drawn to the gnarled and knobbly shapes of those ancient varietals with their quirky names – Box Car Willy tomatoes, Purple Dragon carrots, Painted Lady beans – and all the unusual colours. Who knew that once upon a time carrots where purple? Long before the Dutch started mass-producing carrots and developing strains that were orange (to suit the nation’s favourite colour), carrots were long and thin – and purple! And before mass production, vegetables tasted the way they were meant to taste – full of flavour, with vibrant colours, interesting shapes and superior texture.' 

Roots, Shoots & Leaves, by Bernadette Le Roux is available at Exclusive Books, Wordsworth and selected Pick n Pay stores countrywide. Or from her website www.livetoeat.co.za.

I am particularly fond of this recipe as it tastes like posh cauliflower and cheese sauce, but in a liquid form. I like a little melba toast with this too. Very moreish indeed!
 
2 leeks, finely sliced
1 small onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon (15 ml) butter
1 tablespoon (15 ml) oil
400 g cauliflower, broken into florets
1 potato, peeled and diced
2 cups (500 ml) vegetable stock, preferably homemade
1 cup (250 ml) cream
1 tablespoon (15 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Dijon mustard
1 cup (250 ml) grated Parmesan, for the crisps
snipped chives, to serve
 
Sauté the leeks, onion and garlic in the butter and oil until softened. Add the potato and stock, bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, until the potato has started to soften. Add the cauliflower and simmer for another 6 to 8 minutes, adding more stock if necessary. By this time the vegetables should be tender.
 
Remove from the heat and blend to a silky smooth consistency. Stir in the cream, lemon and mustard, and keep warm while you make the Parmesan crisps.
 
Using a greased baking tray, make 4 piles with the grated Parmesan and spread out slightly. Place in the oven under the grill, and grill until the Parmesan melts down and turns golden. (Watch closely!). Remove from the oven and leave to cool. When the Parmesan cools it will harden, forming the ‘crisps’.
 
Garnish the soup with snipped chives and serve with Parmesan crisps on the side.



Serves 4

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Cheese Muffins

I love a cheese muffin, but when I say cheese muffin, I mean CHEESE muffin. When every single bite is packed with chewy, cheesy flavour.

Often when I go to a baby shower or kitchen tea, the invitation states to bring a plate of eats. When you get there, you find the table heaving with cake and sweet treats. So bringing a savoury plate is a welcome change and these muffins 'whoosh' off the table.

I made these cheese muffins in paper cases, but in hindsight I'd grease the muffin pans instead and forget about the paper cases. Then you can cut the muffins in half, decorate with cream cheese and smoked salmon and arrange on a platter.

Ingredients

1 egg
190ml milk
250ml cake flour
10ml baking powder
375ml cheddar cheese, grated
2ml dry mustard powder
1ml cayenne pepper (optional)


Method

Preheat the oven to 220°C and grease a muffin pan.
Beat the egg and add the milk.
Sift all dry ingredients, add the cheese, then add the egg mixture. 
Mix well to make a thick batter.
Spoon mixture into muffin pan until ¾ full.

Bake at 220°C for 10 minutes

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Panettone French Toast

Happy New Year! I've got a feeling in my bones that 2013 is going to be epic. For so many friends and family 2012 was a tough year. But with a new year comes new hope and perspective. Do you know that most businesses work on a five year plan. So shouldn't we take the time to plot a road map for our own lives at least once a year? 

I like making a few New Years resolutions. I know, by February they will all be forgotten or fizzled out, but it's a good time to take stock. I am in two minds whether to post mine here, because my faithful readers will hold me to it. (yes Mom, I'm referring to you) The usual resolutions are come to mind...lose weight, go to gym more, drink less wine, spend more time as a family, save more money, count to 10 when my toddler breaks something like my iphone, be kinder to my in-laws three Maltese yapping poodles etc. I have a few others too but let's stick to these for now.

So on the first resolution to 'lose weight', I kicked off the New Year with Panettone French toast. I got it for Christmas and it would have been a sin to leave it in the cupboard, besides I have the rest of the year to stick to my resolutions. Enjoy it! It is truly delicious!

Ingredients

4 eggs
1 cup milk
Zest of 1 orange
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Method

Preheat oven to 180C.
Cut the panettone in half and then cut slices from it.
Beat the eggs, then stir in the milk, orange zest, cinnamon and salt.
Dip the slices of panettone briefly in the egg wash, until well coated on each side.
Melt some butter or oil in a frying pan to coat the pan.
Over medium heat, fry the slices of panettone until golden brown on both sides.
Place the slices in the oven for about 5 minutes to ensure the egg is cooked right through.
Serve with syrup, fresh berries or even mascarpone and grilled peaches.



 Makes about 8-10 slices.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Chocolate covered Strawberries

My head is spinning as I adjust to a Southern Hemisphere Christmas. I have become accustomed to mulled wine, autumn's harvest of nuts, winter vegetables and steamed puddings. Not the bountiful summer fruits which I am faced with. In 35 degree heat, a hot Christmas pudding hardly seems appropriate. (don't worry I still forced myself to eat it)

So to freshen up our Christmas dessert, these chocolate covered strawberries graced our table along with the Christmas pudding, peppermint crisp tart, banoffee pie and ice cream.

*Note: It is very important to dry the strawberries well. The chocolate will not coat the strawberries if they are not well dried before you start dipping. Water repels chocolate and will cause the chocolate to seize, becoming a grainy, clumpy mess in the bowl. 

Ingredients

160g milk chocolate, chopped
60g white chocolate, chopped
450g strawberries with stems (about 20), washed and dried very well

Method

Put the milk chocolate and white chocolate into two separate heatproof medium bowls.
Fill two medium saucepans with a couple inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat; set the bowls of chocolate over the water to melt. Stir until smooth.
 
Once the chocolates are melted and smooth, remove from the heat. Line a sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper. Holding the strawberry by the stem, dip the fruit into the milk chocolate, lift and twist slightly, letting any excess chocolate fall back into the bowl. Set the strawberry on the parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the strawberries.

Dip a fork in the white chocolate and drizzle the white chocolate over the dipped strawberries.

Best eaten within 24 hrs. (not really a challenge)


 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Borough Market




It's funny how you when you leave a place, you realise how much you enjoyed it.
Despite all it's shortcomings: the dodgy District Line which always had delays, packed public transport, miserable weather, carrying your brollie in your handbag all the time, escalator etiquette, please stand on the right! etc. But there are lots of good things, no great things like Borough Market. Oh my beloved Borough Market, how I miss thee.
 
I wanted to share a little of this wonderful place with you. It's difficult to decide where to start because this is the ultimate foodie destination in London. If you are a food loving tourist, you owe yourself a visit to this market while you are in London.

First things first, go with an empty stomach and wear comfortable shoes.
 
I arrive as early as possible, the first stop is Monmouth Coffee which opens at 7:30am. By arriving early, you are right there when the market opens at 9am. Then you can get great photographs without the crowd in the way and you can take your time sampling all the delicious food at it's freshest! I caffeine myself up and map out who and what I want to check out, using Borough market's very useful and printable interactive map online.

Now the food, I won't go on endlessly about the array of stalls of fine and unusual foods. There is almost everything you can think of. Cheese lovers you are in trouble, the cheeses! I could go into a cheese coma. Baked items are too many to try, spices, fish, oysters, beer, drinks, mushrooms, fruits and vegetables. There is so, so much choice. Price wise I'd say it's above average but its definitely worth it. Take cash, it will be much easier.

On Saturdays the market gets packed, literally shoulder to shoulder. As I grow older my ability to cope with large crowds seems to be diminishing exponentially, so I try to be done just before the lunch time rush. Have an early lunch and take a stroll down the South Bank.
 
Yes, it gets crowded and touristy, but it's still amazing. Londoners enjoy this Aladdin's cave of wonders, and we tourists will have the privilege of plundering it occasionally. 





Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Jam Crumble Biscuits

It's been a while. A lot has happened since my last post. (which was 3 months ago, eek!)
It's not that I haven't been cooking. Boy, have I been cooking! I've recently completed the Essential Certificate, a professional cookery course at Leith's School of Food and Wine in West London, which I massively enjoyed. Will definitely post some of the recipes soon.

Then I moved countries. Bye bye London, England...Hello Durban, South Africa.
Packing up ones entire life, OK 9 years of it, it was still a daunting task. Boxes packed, car taken to the docks to be shipped, accounts closed, farewells said, last stroll along the South Bank and last Borough market visit (sob!) So you get why I haven't been blogging?
I knew you would.

A new chapter, a new city. Durban. My husband's family is from here. It's humid and hot, and don't even get me started on the rain! Seriously, we have had more rain in Durban in the last 6 weeks than I have had in an English summer. The thing about London is that we are organised for this kind of weather, Durban on the other hand, is not. South Africa is all about the great outdoors, so there are no indoor play centres. Spur? Wimpy? You can only eat so many R20 fry ups. What to do with a 2 and a half year old?

Bake!

To set us off on rediscovering great South African classics here is a recipe so easy, my daughter and I whipped these up on one of the many rainy afternoons. We pretended to 'tickle' the butter and flour which is a good way of explaining the rubbing-in method to a little person. You can also use any type of jam, but apricot jam is the die hard South African favourite.

Ingredients

375g flour
225g butter, cubed
145g granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 large egg
1/2 a tin/bottle apricot jam

*optional 1/2 tsp lemon zest

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180°C.

Rub the chilled cubed butter into the flour until well mixed and resembling breadcrumbs. Or alternately pulse it a few times in a food processor. *Add the lemon zest here if you decide to use it.

In a separate bowl, beat together the egg and sugar, add the vanilla essence.

Then mix together the liquid and dry ingredients, using a knife to begin with, so that you handle the mixture as little as possible. The heat from your hands can melt the butter making the dough greasy, which will affect your end product.

Take roughly one-third of the mixture and set it aside. Roll out the remainder and place in a baking tin. Then smear the jam evenly across this surface, leaving about 1cm around the edges. Next, take the final third of the mixture and grate it through the coarsest setting over the jam, ensuring a relatively even distribution over the top. Make certain the jam near the sides are covered.

Bake for about 30 - 45mins or until golden brown on top.


Makes about 24 squares.