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.


Saturday, 11 August 2012

Ottolenghi's Granola

I could eat this granola for breakfast, lunch and supper. But to avoid becoming a contestant on Britain's Biggest Losers weight-loss TV show, I will restrain myself. I have put down the Ottolenghi Granola here exactly how is it in their cookbook, but poetic licence maybe used; add whatever you fancy. I am very partial to dried cherries, so I substituted the cranberries for cherries and added poppy seeds and sesame seeds. You add what ever you like. I warn you this is not diet granola, but it is to die for!


Ingredients
60g whole unskinned almonds
40g brazil nuts
40g cashew nuts
300g whole rolled oats
60g pumpkin seeds
60g sunflower seeds
100g dried apricots, roughly chopped
60g dried cranberries
60g dried blueberries

Syrup
¼ tsp salt
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 tbsp sunflower oil
120ml maple syrup
120ml honey


Method

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees. Roughly chop all the nuts and put them in a large mixing bowl. Add the oats and seeds and set aside.

Mix together all the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan. Place over a low heat and stir while you warm the syrup gently. Once it is warm, pour it over the seeds, nuts and oats and stir well with a wooden spoon.

Line a large baking tray baking parchment and spread the granola over it evenly. It should form a layer no more than 1cm thick. If it is too thick, consider two trays. Bake for 40 mins, turning and mixing the granola 2 or 3 times. When ready, it will have taken on a dark, honey-like colour. Don’t worry if it is soft; once it is cool it will turn crunchy. Remove from the oven. While the granola is still warm, but not hot, stir in the fruit.
Leave to cool on the tray and then transfer to a sealed container.

It will keep for 2 weeks.

If you don't have the time, just pop into one of Ottolenghi's shops breakfast.


Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Cherry Cheesecake

I love cheesecake, but I am of the school of thought that a baked cheesecake is far superior to any other form of cheesecake. Oh, but the effort of achieving the perfect, non-cracked cheesecake...'bake for x amount of time, then open the door a little, then a little more, then leave overnight in the oven etc, etc.' Sigh.

So when I was paging through my Nigella Express cookbook and came across this recipe, which Nigella claims to be converted on and it's a fridge cheesecake without gelatine, I HAD to try it. I was not dissappointed. I've added lemon zest and a vanilla pod which definitely elavates the flavours into cheesecake euphoria.

Bye bye tons of effort, hello tons of flavour!

Ingredients

125g digestive biscuits
75g butter
300g cream cheese
60g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla pod scraped
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
250ml double cream
1 x jar of Black cherry conserve

Method

Place the biscuits in a food processor and blitz until beginning to turn to crumbs, then add butter and whiz again to make mixture clump.

Press this mixture into a 20cm springform tin; press a little up the sides to form a slight ridge.
 
Beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar, vanilla extract, vanilla pod seeds, lemon zest and lemon juice in a bowl until smooth.

Lightly whip the double cream to soft peaks, and then fold it into the cream cheese mixture.
Spoon the cheesecake filling on top of the biscuit base and smooth with a spatula. Put it in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to serve the cheesecake, unmould it and spread the black cherry conserve over the top.


Serves 10.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Thai Noodle Soup

I adore Thai Green Curry, but occasionally you fancy all the flavour without the heavy richness of a curry. This calls for easy Thai Noodle Soup.

When I make this soup I haul out all the vegetables in the fridge drawer that are almost past their best and toss them in the pot. Use the recipe below as a rough guide, and throw in whatever you have/fancy. I had a half a cup of corn skulking in the fridge as my toddler would only eat corn and now won't touch it...no matter how many aeroplane or train noises I make!

I like this soup with coconut milk in, but leave it out if you'd prefer a clear soup.


Ingredients
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp fresh chopped ginger
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp fish sauce (or soy sauce)
1 tsp of dark brown sugar
2/3 nests of noodles
1/2 red pepper
1/2 cup of corn
1/2 cup of coconut milk
2 handfuls shredded cabbage or 2 bok choy
2 carrots, cut into strips


Method
In a large saucepan heat 2 tsp of vegetable oil over high heat, cook the ginger and garlic for 30 seconds, do not let it brown.

Add the stock and bring to the boil. Add fish sauce, sugar, noodles, vegetables and coconut milk. Boil for 5 minutes and serve.

Serves 2.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Banana Buttermilk Bread

I'm sure you have a banana bread recipe. I do too. I've been baking my recipe for years and it has never failed me. It hadn't occurred to me to change it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Until I had some leftover buttermilk. My brain started to tick buttermilk...banana...surely this is a recipe for success.

The buttermilk addition makes the banana bread even more pleasing that it already is. (if that's even possible) The buttermilk gives a softer, moister crumb and a lovely golden hue which is very pleasing to the eye. It becomes the colour I imagined banana bread would be.

This does not last very long in my house, between me, hubby and toddler it was tough to get a photograph of the slices before they disappeared.

Ingredients
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a good pinch of salt
100g butter
100g sugar
2 eggs
2 large ripe bananas
1/2 cup buttermilk

Method
Preheat oven to 150°C. Grease a loaf pan.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate soda, and salt; set aside.
Whisk together butter and sugar until light, add the eggs one at a time and the buttermilk. Add the mashed bananas and beat well until smooth. If your mixture looks a little curdled, don't worry.

Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared load pan. Bake for 1hour and 10mins or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Let it cool for 30 mins before slicing and serving.


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Crispy salmon with veggie broth

I had a request from a friend; 'fish, no carbs dish please'. It is the perfect time of year for this request, one is spoilt for choice with spring vegetables. Fresh board beans, fresh peas, green beans and fennel are in order for this dish. This is Jamie Oliver's 'Crispy salmon with spring vegetable broth'. The recipe suggests chicken or vegetable stock, I would go with the vegetable stock for a cleaner taste, I find the chicken stock takes away from the salmon.

Jamie also serves his crispy salmon with aïoli, a fragrant type of homemade mayonnaise. I prefer mine without, but the choice it yours. Below is the recipe for the aïoli if you'd like to add it. The crispy crunchy skin from the salmon perfectly complements the butter soft fresh spring vegetable. Enjoy!


Aïoli 
Ingredients
half a small clove of garlic, peeled
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg yolk, preferably free-range or organic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
285ml extra virgin olive oil
285ml olive oil
lemon juice, to taste

Method
Smash up the garlic with 1 teaspoon of salt in a pestle and mortar (or use the end of a rolling pin in a metal bowl).

Place the egg yolk and mustard in a bowl and whisk together, then start to add your oils bit by bit. Once you’ve blended in a quarter of the oil, you can start to add the rest in larger amounts.

When it’s all gone in, add the garlic and lemon juice and any extra flavours (see above).
To finish off, season to taste with salt, pepper and a bit more lemon juice, if needed.

Crispy Salmon and Spring vegetable broth
Ingredients
425ml chicken or vegetable stock, lightly seasoned
4 baby bulbs of fennel
, stalks removed and herby tops reserved
2 x 170–225g salmon steaks, scored
1 small handful of fresh mint, ripped
1 small handful of fresh basil, leaves picked
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
50g green beans, tops removed
50g podded broad beans
50g podded peas


Method
First, make the aïoli. If you are having it.
Then bring your stock to the boil in a large pan then add your fennel and allow this to boil for 4 minutes while you heat up a non-stick frying pan.
Take your salmon steaks and pat the salmon steaks with a little olive oil, season and place skin-side down in the frying pan. Leave them for 2 minutes to get really crispy then check how they're doing. They'll want around 4 minutes on the skin side and 1 minute on the other. You'll get an idea of how they're cooking as you'll see the salmon change colour.

When the fennel has had 4 minutes, add the green beans and broad beans. Give them a further 2 minutes. By this time you will probably want to turn over the salmon steaks for their last minute. Add the peas to the other veg and cook for a final 2 minutes.


Don't be tempted to overcook the salmon – remove it from the heat. Divide the vegetables between 4 bowls, rip over the mint and basil, ladle over some of your hot cooking stock and place the salmon on top. Serve with a dollop of aïoli, if you are using it.

Serves 4.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Cheese Souffle

Three generations of Royals, 1,000 boats and 1.25 million well wishers, the Diamond Jubilee Flotilla was a sight to behold. The flotilla was based on a famous Canaletto painting, entitled 'River Thames with St. Paul's Cathedral on Lord Mayor's Day, 1746.' The organisers studied this painting to draw a likeness for the day, which they recreated spectacularly well.


River Thames with St. Paul's Cathedral on Lord Mayor's Day, 1746
As one of the spectators on the banks of the Thames, there was red, blue and white as far as the eye could see. Everyone clambered for a spot to see the river, some even climbing on top of bus stops, bins, trees and lamp posts for a view of the Queen, which did not disappoint. She looked radiant in a silver and white dress, embroidered with gold, silver and ivory spots and embellished with Swarovski crystals. Her vessel, a barge! Which I have always likened to a caravan without wheels, but this was a barge with a royal makeover. 'The Spirit of Chartwell' was decorated in red, gold and purple velvet with fresh flowers which cut through the June gloom. The weather itself was truly British..rain. So returning home from the festivities cold, wet and hungry, cheese souffle was the answer for an early hot supper.

I have always been taught to treat souffles with kid gloves. But if you can make white sauce, you can make cheese souffle. Really. Monitor the time and temperature carefully and you'll be home and dry. It makes a lovely light easy supper. Serve with blanched green beans or a salad.

Ingredients
45g butter
45g flour
225ml flour
125g mature cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp french mustard
4 eggs (separated)
Salt
Pepper


Method
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Grease a large souffle dish or 4 individual dishes.

Melt the butter, stir in the flour until smooth and cook over meduim heat for 1 minute. Add the milk and stir well until blended, then bring to the boil, stirring constantly until thickened and smooth. Remove from the heat stir in the mustard, salt, pepper and cheese.

Add the egg yolks one by one whisking well after each addition.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into the cheese mixture.
Pour the mixture into the souffle dish and bake for 30 mins. Munch immediately.

Serve 4.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Jubilee Cupcakes

When I think of great British food, roast beef, summer pudding and cream teas come to mind. I'm talking about cream teas with proper clotted cream. The real yellow stuff which is thick almost butter like with a crust on top. Add lashings of strawberry jam on a fresh scone and you can see why this is one of the nation's favourite tea time treats. In the Jubilee fever I am making a cupcake inspired by my favourite quintessential British tradition; The Cream Tea. Which leads me to my creation...an Earl Grey infused cupcake with a strawberry jam filling and clotted cream icing.

I'll be noshing on one of these as I watch the Thames Diamond Jubilee Flotilla go by, probably under my brollie if weather prediction is correct and cink, cinking to Her Majesty for her epic 60 years!







Ingredients

Earl Grey Cupcakes
200g flour
150g caster sugar
125g butter
125 ml milk
10 ml baking powder
2 eggs
2 Earl grey tea bags
1 jar of strawberry jam

Clotted Cream Icing
40g clotted cream
50g butter
250g sifted icing sugar
5 ml vanilla essence
a touch of milk (if needed)

Method
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.
Put the milk into a pan, bring almost to the boil, remove from the heat and steep the 2 Earl Grey tea bags in the milk for 30 minutes.

Set out 24 paper cups liners in a muffin pan.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one.

Then add all the other ingredients and beat until very smooth and creamy. This is about 5 minutes with an electric mixer.

Divide the batter between the muffin pans, filling to 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and firm. Use a toothpick to check.

Allow to cool. Then carefully cut a out small section of the top of each cupcake and fill with strawberry jam. Then ice cupcake with clotted cream icing.



Thursday, 24 May 2012

Koffie Koekies

Coffee Creams or 'Koffie Koekies', as they are called in Afrikaans, are coffee flavoured biscuits sandwiched with a fudge filling. They are traditional South African biscuits that every good 'boere vrou' (farmers wife) knows how to make. My mother used to make these every year over Christmas in an industrial sized batch to see her through the season's gatherings. I tried to find the origin of these biscuits but didn't have much luck. Only one of my friends from the Free State had heard of them, she said they called them 'crocodile biscuits'. A very descriptive name as the biscuits resemble a crocodiles back remarkably closely. This is due to the way the biscuits are made. The soft dough is put through an old fashioned meat grinder with a cookie attachment which gives the biscuits the lovely ridges and texture like the crocodiles back. One person turns the meat grinder by hand, while the other person catches the dough. A laborious two person job.

I don't have an old fashioned meat grinder or an extra pair of hands, so I roll the dough out, cut them in little rectangles about 5cm long and give them a stroke with a fork to give them texture. If you find making the fudge filling too fiddly, you can sandwich the biscuits together with apricot jam.

When you open a tin of these biscuits the most delicious coffee/caramel smell comes wafting out. They beat any store bought biscuit hands down. They remain one of my very favourite biscuits. Ever.

Ingredients
Biscuits
1 kg cake flour

5 ml salt
330 ml demerara sugar
400 g butter
250 ml golden syrup

15 ml bicarbonate of soda
125 ml very strong black coffee (you can use instant coffee such as Nescafe, but use at least 6 teaspoons)

5 ml vanilla essence

Fudge filling
375 ml white sugar
50 g butter or margarine

125ml double thick cream
30ml milk
5 ml vanilla


Method
Sift the cake flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. Add vanilla to cooled mixture.

Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in a little coffee. Add this mixture and the rest of the coffee, to the cooled butter and syrup mixture. Add to flour and knead well to form soft dough. Cover and leave for several hours or overnight.

Divide the dough into two balls, place the one in the fridge while you work with the other. Roll out thinly and cut the cookies into 5 cm rectangles. Take a fork and scrap the top of the dough, to give it texture. Place on greased cookie sheets and bake at 200 ºC for 10 - 12 minutes until golden brown and baked through. Cool the biscuits on wire racks.

To make the filling, put all the filling ingredients, except the vanilla, into a pan and slowly bring to a boil. Make certain the sugar has dissolved before the mixture boils. Boil for 8 minutes, uncovered. Stir continuously so it doesn't burn. Remove from the stove, and beat with a wooden spoon until thick and cooled.

Sandwich the biscuits together with the fudge filling or apricot jam.


Thursday, 17 May 2012

Hummingbird Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies



I have a friend who is 27 weeks pregnant, lets call her Hayley. She is as glamorous as she was on her wedding day and still bang on trend in her spring coloured jeans. Her perfect pins (she carries all in the front, of course!) would even make a Crayola crayon jealous. Sickening really, how does she do it? When I was 27 weeks pregnant I was already starting to resemble a certain ocean mammal and taking full advantage of the 'eating for two' scenario. What they don't tell you in the pregnancy small print (among many other things) is that once you have finished eating for two, you then have to lose the weight for two. Oh well, I might as well have another cookie...and rub some chocolate in my hair.

This recipe is from Hummingbird bakery, delicious as always. The dough expands a lot, give the cookies ample room to expand like a pregnant lady. If I am feeling naughty I leave out the raisins and add 100g chocolate chips and 100g dried sour cherries.

Ingredients
270g unsalted butter, at room temperature
160g caster sugar
160g soft dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
380g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
110g rolled oats
220g raisins

Method
Preheat the oven to 170C. Put the butter and sugars in a bowl and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition. Turn the mixer down to slow speed and beat in the vanilla extract.

Sift together the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon in a separate bowl, add the oats and mix well. Add to the butter mixture and beat until well mixed. Stir in the raisins with a wooden spoon until evenly dispersed.

Arrange equal amounts of cookie dough on the prepared baking trays. Make sure that the cookies are spaced apart to allow for spreading while cooking.

Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes, or until golden brown and firm.Check them regularly to make sure they are not burning.

When you are happy that they are cooked through, remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly on the trays before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes 20 cookies.

I did have a chuckle when I read this quote: Being slightly paranoid is like being slightly pregnant - it tends to get worse. Molly Ivins

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Chicken and Chips Pie

This recipe is especially for my friend Olga, who can make me laugh no matter how dire the situation or weather.

Oh the weather of Britain, what a talking point at the moment! April certainly lived up to its folklore forecast, it was one of the wettest months on record, May bank holiday weekend was a washout and the month of May is set to be the coldest May for 100 years. Today is no exception, it is a cold, wet, rainy day in London. I'm recovering from a 24hr stomach bug while looking after my active toddler and expecting 6 people for dinner. Groan. This calls for cheats Chicken and Chips pie. The beauty of this recipe is to add whatever you have/fancy; green peppers, celery or a cup of cooked rice to make it go further, great for big families. Perfect comfort food in the coldest May in a 100 years.

You can make filling in advance, but don't add the potato chips until it's time to bake or they'll go soggy. You may need to bake a little longer as the filling will be cold. It's best to stick to salt and vinegar pototo chips, other pototo chip flavours don't do this recipe justice.


Ingredients
4 chicken breasts
300ml of chicken stock
150g button mushrooms
a bunch of spring onions
2 tablespoons of cornflour
2 tablespoons English mustard
1 cup of crushed salt and vinegar potato chips (I used Pringles)
100ml double cream
1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
a knob of butter
Black pepper
Salt

Method
Cut the chicken breasts into 1cm strips. Put a glug of olive oil and a knob of butter into a large wide saucepan. Add the chicken and cook for about 3 mins until chicken is white and sealed.

In the meantime, slice up the button mushrooms and spring onions and add to the saucepan with the two tablespoons of cornflour and stir in well, cook for 2 minutes.
Add the 2 tablespoons of mustard, the double cream and 300ml chicken stock. Stir well.
Pick the thyme leaves and stir into the pan with the nutmeg, a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Tip the filling into an ovenproof baking dish. Top with the crushed salt and vinegar potato chips and bake for 20mins at 180 degrees or until filling is bubbly and chips are golden.

Serves 6.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Speedy Steak Supper


I vaguely remember the days of having a long, hot, deep bubble baths with a cold G&T in hand. The bliss of soaking and sipping. Washing the work strains and stresses away...pause, fast forward to present day. My bath is a quarter full of lukewarm water and I am sharing it with a small wriggly toddler, eight squeezy octopuses, five fairies, three ducks, two cars and a giraffe. No time for relaxing, need to get unwilling toddler out of bath, dressed, brushed, bedded and produce a meal for husband that will be arriving from work starving at any moment. Supper coming up in 15 minutes, seriously 15 minutes.

Lamb steaks or duck breasts can be substituted for the beef steaks, both meats work superbly well with these flavours.

Ingredients
2 steaks
150g couscous (75g per person)
Half a pomegranate
A handful of chopped mint
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon
Black pepper
Salt

Method
Put the couscous into a large bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and just enough boiling water to cover the couscous. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside.

Season the steaks with black pepper and salt. Put the steaks into a very hot griddle pan. Cook for about 6 minutes in total, turning every minute. This will give you a lovely pink steak, around 8 minutes will give you a more medium/well done steak. Set steaks aside on a board to rest.

Now, deseed the half pomegranate and finely chop the mint. Take the plate off the couscous and fluff with a fork. Add the pomegranate seeds, chopped mint, olive oil, a good squeeze of lemon, black pepper and salt. Taste and tweak accordingly.

Put a nice big heap of couscous on a plate, slice steak and lay on top of couscous. I like to drizzle the resting juices of the meat over the steak for more flavour. Garnish with mint leaves and tuck in!

Serves 2.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Tomato and Blue Cheese Tart with Rocket

Vegetarians....the word conjures up all kinds of emotions and opinions. We have a few in the family (my husbands side of course, ever heard of a vegetarian from the Karoo?) I don't know how my husband comes from the same family, as he considers any 'proper' meal to contain meat ... chicken passes as a vegetable! I saw an apron with this saying on it: 'Vegetarian is an old Red Indian word for bad hunter.' Maybe it should read 'bad hunter but good gardener' as my in-laws all seem to be expert gardeners. I love gardening but I'm not a vegetarian, but if I was this would be the type of food I'd like to eat. This recipe comes from Rick Stein's 'Food Heroes' recipe book. The book starts with a quote from legendary Irish cook Myrtle Allen, this book is about people producing 'common things uncommonly well.' This recipe is certainly not common and it is indeed uncommonly delicious. Even my husband agreed, I know, I almost fell off my chair in shock at his admission. I used baby plum tomatoes which makes the cooking time for the tomatoes much shorter than the original recipe and Rick Stein uses Blue Vinny cheese (Dorest farmers being the Food Heroes), but any good blue cheese will do.

So in preparation for the in-laws onslaught, this is the perfect lunch for the herbivorous.


Ingredients
750g baby plum tomatoes
450g puff pastry
100g blue cheese, thinly sliced
1 tsp thyme, leaves only
1 tbsp olive oil
handfuls rocket
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper



Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthways and place them cut-side up in a lightly oiled, shallow roasting tin. Season sea salt and black pepper and roast for 5 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 150°C and roast them for a further 20mins until they have shrivelled in size but are still slightly juicy in the centre. Remove and set aside.

Increase the oven temperature to 200°C. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 30 x 37.5 cm rectangle. Lift it onto a lightly greased baking sheet, prick here and there with a fork and bake blind for 18-20 minutes until crisp and golden.
Arrange the tomatoes haphazardly over the tart base, leaving a narrow border free around the edge. Crumble over the slices of blue cheese, sprinkle over the thyme leaves and drizzle over the olive oil. Return the tart to the oven for 5-6 minutes until the cheese has melted.

Remove the tart from the oven and scatter the rocket over the top. Cut it into 8 pieces, sprinkle with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve.

Serves 8.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Pears, Choc-kit biscuits and Brandy pudding

This recipe is especially for Kirsten, who's husband JP has a choc-kit addiction.
For my non-South African readers, a choc-kit biscuit is a sandwiched chocolate-filled oats and coconut biscuit (cookie). If you make this recipe, any biscuit with a chocolate centre will do the trick.

This recipe originated from my mother out of necessity, as in the Karoo guests regularly arrive unexpectedly at the farm. Often it is visitors who have read the book about our family farm written by my great aunt Eve Palmer the Plains of Camdeboo, someone wishing to view the small private museum, or old friends who are simply passing by. In true Karoo hospitality they are always invited in for a meal and this recipe is a life saver for unexpected guests. All the ingredients are in the store cupboard and the pudding can be thrown in the oven as the meal begins and whisked out just as this it needs to be served.

Half a pear and a biscuit per person. This recipe is to serve 6, adjust for as many guests as you have. You can also substitute the pear for half a yellow cling stone peach, which is equally as delicious. I'd also say use the best brandy you can, Cognac is even better.


Ingredients
6 canned/tinned pear halves
6 choc-kit biscuits
6 tbsp brandy

Place the pear halves in an oven proof dish. Top each pear with a choc-kit biscuit and drizzle the tablespoon of brandy over the choc-kit biscuit, making certain it absorbs well into the biscuit.

Pour a little of the pear juice into the bottom of the oven proof dish, cover with tin foil and place in the oven for 20mins at 160 degrees. Pears just needs to be warmed through and the biscuit becomes a nice soft boozy, gooey topping.

Serve with a dollop of ice-cream or thick cream.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Poached Chicken Legs with Dumplings

Let's be honest, when one is thinking about what to make for dinner poached chicken doesn't exactly jump to mind first. But this dish will NOT disappoint you. The chicken stays moist and tender and comes with a built-in comforting broth and herby dumplings. Yum, yum.

This recipe comes from Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Heaven cookbook, he recommends using suet to make the dumplings which has a distinct lightness and richness. I have tried the butter version dumplings and would recommend you use suet. The suet does not have a meaty taste at all, it just imparts a rich flavour which is why it was ideal for so many traditional English dishes like Christmas pudding, mince pies, roly poly and steak and kidney pie. Dumplings have a bad reputation for being heavy, doughy and tasteless, but a well made dumpling is unsurpassable.

After eating this dish I was in a happy trance-like-state for the rest of the evening. Definite 'chicken soup' for the body and soul. I omitted the turnips simply because I didn't have them and by using chicken stock instead of water you get a lot more flavour. I also like to have pittas or a crusty bread when I serve this to soak up all the broth at the end. 

Ingredients

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large chicken legs
3 large carrots, peeled
2 medium onions, peeled
2 sticks of celery, peeled
3 large turnips, peeled
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
a sprig of fresh thyme
2-3 sprigs of fresh parsley
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
1 litre good chicken stock or water

Herb dumplings
225g self-raising flour
115g suet
1 tbs chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Method

Season the chicken legs and place them in a large pan. Chop the vegetables into large pieces and add to the chicken. Cut the garlic cloves in half and add to the pan along with the thyme, parsley sprigs, star anise and the bay leaf. Add enough chicken stock or water to just cover the chicken and vegetables. Put the pan on a medium heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for about 1 hour, skimming the liquid when necessary to achieve a good clear broth.

While the chicken is cooking, make the dumplings by mixing the flour and suet with a pinch of salt, the chopped parsley and enough cold water to make the mixture into a soft dough. Roll into small balls.

Towards the end of the cooking time, remove some of the pouching stock to a second pan and bring to a simmer. Drop the dumplings into the stock and poach for 10 - 15mins until soft and puffed up.

Serve and scoff immediately for best results.

Serves 4.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Rhubarb and Vanilla Jam

When I think of making jam, I think: 'oh groan...who has the time to be standing in front of the stove stirs vats of jam?' But revelation! The secret is not to make too much in one go, how much jam do you want taking up your cupboard space anyway? I thought I'd try something other than a crumble with my rhubarb. It's sweet sour earthy flavour is unique. What a wonderful underrated vegetable, or is it a fruit? Well, in the US it is classified as a fruit due to a court ruling back in the 1940's and in the UK it is defined as a vegetable. So it's a vegetable that likes to go incognito and often pops up in the most unusual places like desserts and jams.

A word of warning, this rhubarb and vanilla jam is so delicious it is like eating pudding. I ended up eating mine out the jar.


Ingredients
400g rhubarb
400g jam sugar
1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways
juice of half a lemon

Method
Put a small plate in the freezer. Chop rhubarb to 3cm pieces. Put the rhubarb into a preserving pan or your largest saucepan with the sugar and halved vanilla pods.

Heat gently, stirring, until all the sugar has dissolved, then squeeze in the lemon juice and increase the heat. Make certain all the sugar has dissolved before boiling. Boil for about 10 mins, skimming off the scum as you go. (the fruit should be soft).
Setting point when surface wrinkles
Test for setting point by spooning a little onto your chilled plate. After 1-2 mins, push your spoon through the jam - if the surface wrinkles it is ready, if not, keep cooking for 2-min intervals, testing in between. Or if you have a sugar thermometer it should reach 105C.

Once the jam is ready, let it cool for about 15 mins before ladling into warm sterilised jars and sealing. Will keep for 6 months in a cool, dark place. Serve on croissants or fresh bread.

Makes two medium sized jars or 4 small jars of jam.

NOTES:
First time jamers: you are a first time jam maker you may find this link very useful. Ten steps to jam making by Delia.

Sterilising jars: Wash your jars in hot, soapy water, then leave in a low oven to dry completely. Keep them warm. Alternatively, run the jars and lids through a hot dishwasher cycle, then let them dry.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Ottolenghi's Flourless Chocolate Cake


Oh the wonderful, sensory overload of Ottolenghi.
I have been beating a path to their front door in Notting Hill for quite a few years and my wallet and waistline have felt the effects. But the food is outstanding. Their philosophy is to keep food as natural as possible in a Mediterranean-style cuisine which packs an unapologetic flavour punch.

The window displays alone are worth a visit. The aim is to display all food in the same way that a market stallholder does: show everything you got and don't interfere with it too much. I have heard Ottolenghi's food being described as 'food porn'. Brilliant and so true. Eat your heart out Amsterdam.

The salads are sublime and a selection of cakes, cookies and pastries to make your heart skip a beat. (oh wait, or is that the sugar overload?) My personal favourite is the Flourless Chocolate Cake. Which I have daringly taken the challenge to make. Can it possibly measure up to the shop bought version? You'd better believe it.

This Flourless Chocolate Cake, is also known as Ottolenghi's Chocolate Fudge Cake in their cookbook. It is decadence in abundance. Two things I will say if you make this cake is: 1.) It requires a little patience. 2.) Do not think about the calorie content, at all.

If you are ever in London, I highly recommend popping into one of Ottolenghi's shops.


Ingredients
240g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
265g dark chocolate (52% cocoa solids) cut into small pieces
95g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) cut into small pieces
290g light muscovado sugar
4 tbsp water
5 large eggs (separated)
a pinch of salt
cocoa powder for dusting

Method

Preheat the oven to 170˚C.

In a large bowl combine your chocolate and butter. Both should be cut up into small pieces. At the same time mix the sugar and water into a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Make certain the sugar has melted before it boils. Once boiling pour over the chocolate and butter until it is all melted together.

Stir the egg yolks into the chocolate one at a time and reserve the whites in another bowl.  Let the chocolate cool room temperature. Then whisk the whites and the salt until firm and fold into the chocolate. This is when I prepared my springform cake tin. Something to do while waiting for the chocolate mixture to cool.

Pour 2/3 of the mixture into your cake tin and cook for 40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Then set aside until completely cool.

Then pour the remaining mixture over and cook for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick shows a moist crumb. Set aside to cool and dust with cocoa and/or icing sugar.

This is everything it should be: dense, dark, rich, fudgy and chocolately. If you don't manage to eat it all in one sitting, it will keep for 4 days at room temperature.

Serves 10.

If you need tips on lining a springform cake tin, this is a good guide. How to line your springform cake tin.