Honey raisin crunchies

I have fond childhood memories of the crunchies my Granny made when we visited her in Joburg. Chewy, buttery and delicious, they were amongst my top favourite tea time treats. Part of the allure was that it was such a novelty. Back then Pretoria and Johannesburg were very far apart and we didn’t visit often. We would sit with the grown ups nibbling on crunchies and other delights whilst sipping on tea out of my Granny’s beautiful china tea cups. How novel and grown up it was. Afterwards we would play with the old toys Granny had collected over the years, many of which belonged to our aunt and uncles – my children still play with them when we visit her and she still makes crunchies almost every time! But most children these days are precocious and find out more on the internet for newer toys when they get bored of the old ones.

honey raisin crunchies
Crunchies in our biscuit tin!

My mother gave me this recipe after she made them as a treat for her grandchildren. It differs from the traditional South African crunchies in that it is made with honey instead of golden syrup and with the addition of raisins. I have had this recipe, in my mother’s handwriting, tucked away in my Cook and Enjoy recipe book for a very very long time. I rediscovered it while cooking dinner the other night and it just seemed like the right time. I probably don’t need to mention this, but the rolled oats used in the recipe are the same as the oats one would use to make oats porridge… I have a slightly embarrassing story on how I discovered that myself… for another day!

I adapted the recipe slightly on a whim, using half raisins half cranberries. I also doubled the recipe and spread the mixture in a large metal oven pan. Apparently using a tin is important as the crunchies will continue “cooking” after they have been taken out of the oven. Since I doubled the recipe I had to adjust the cooking time to 30 minutes in total. The crunchies will be soft and crumbly while hot, but will firm up as they cool. This is a great recipe to bake with the kids in the holidays as it makes for a tasty, healthy(ish) snack!

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Strawberry & turkish delight meringues

We recently celebrated a family member’s birthday with one of Nico’s specialities, Eton mess. I have always loved the combination of sweet meringue, fluffy whipped cream and tart fresh strawberry, but hadn’t eaten it in this manner until Nico returned from his first trip to London. Nico’s dessert was made with store-bought meringue nests, but it inspired me to make homemade meringues, with the bonus of more Eton mess!

While searching for recipes I was intrigued by a blog post on strawberry meringues with their beautiful white, red and pink marbled swirls, which were adapted from a Valentines raspberry meringue recipe – what a sweet idea! I also referenced my trusty copy of Cook & Enjoy for its meringues recipe to come up with these strawberry & turkish delight meringues.

The chunky strawberry jam I used gave the meringues an extra chewiness. It also, along with the food colouring, added a whimsical pink colouring to these cookies. If you would like a more natural treat you can omit the food colouring.

The turkish delight meringues I made for one of the children’s birthday parties in the past were very popular, inspiring the use of rose water here too. Of course this can be substituted with vanilla essence or left out entirely to let the strawberry jam flavour feature on its own.

I used a tablespoon to spoon out the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet, so my meringues turned out to be huge and took much longer than anticipated to bake. Next time I will use teaspoons to shape smaller meringues! If you find the meringues are not cooked to your satisfaction at the end of the hour you can bake them for longer, checking at 10 – 15 minute intervals.

Overall this is an easy recipe to make. It does take a while to dry out the meringues, so I would suggest planning ahead when making them. These meringues were gobbled up by the children so quickly, I had to hide some for our Eton mess!

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Foolproof plum tart

Some three weeks ago our local Food Lovers Market had a special on plums, something to the tune of 3kg for R20. The going rate at the time for plums from one of the other major retailers was R24.99 for 750g. Bargain right. And since I had an insatiable craving for the Victoria plum, I immediately purchased three bags. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Three bags full.

Naturally, many of the plums were still quite tart and would benefit from ripening at home. As the days progressed, they became sweeter and sweeter. The kids faces were often smeared with the plum juice and the ever present sticky hands and fingers. A success in my books.

Many a recipe was also tried during our “plum harvest” – including a family favourite – cinnamon caramelised plums with vanilla ice cream. Simple yet, effective. Watch out for the post on that. I even made ostrich kebabs with grilled plums. The pairing of the gamey ostrich and the plums worked perfectly.

On my return from a recent trip to Tanzania, I noticed the last batch of plums were reaching full maturity – super sweet with a light tart finish. I had to do something with them before they went off.

Plum torte (tart) came to mind. I had never made one before and I have mentioned that baking wasn’t really my forte. That said, I was looking forward for that bite of sweet & tarte torte. Searching through pinterest, I noticed that the vast majority of pins reference one specific recipe – Marian Burros’s recipe for Plum Torte.

As it happens, this recipe has been around for ages and published annually by the New York Times from 1982 until 1989. It had to be fool proof right?

So here’s my, slightly adapted version of that recipe.

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Plum tart out of the oven
Plum tart out of the oven

Plum tart sliced
Plum tart sliced

The dish came out perfectly. It may look different from the stylised pictures of the New York Times or elsewhere on the internet, but the proof is literally in the pudding. The entire family tucked in and my three year old son had more than one helping. Definitely one to keep in our family cookbook.




Traditional malva pudding

image

The recipe for a South African traditional malva pudding has been in our family for ages.

It is extremely easy to make and a sure treat for any Sunday lunch or whenever it fancies you really.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla essence
  • 2 Tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 Tbsp white grape vinegar
  • 2 tsp bicarb of soda, dissolved in a little water

For the syrup

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 125 ml butter
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla essence

Method
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Mix all the ingredients for the batter together and add the bicarb mixture right at the end. Pour into a deep dish or 2 smaller dishes. Bake for 1 hour.

In the meantime prepare the syrup sauce by combining all the ingredients and cook over medium to low heat.

Once the malva is cooked and ready, poke a few holes in it for the sauce to seep in and cover completely with sauce.

At this point you could return it to your oven for 5 minutes to caramelise even more, but this is not necessary.

Once the malva has soaked up all the sauce, serve with cold custard and/or vanilla ice cream.




Salted almond butter and banana no churn ice cream

I’ve been wanting to make home-made ice cream for ages now, but most recipes require a key utensil, an ice cream maker.

Since I don’t have an ice cream maker, and not really looking forward to eating ice cream with a knife and fork (have you seen a brick of ice cream before?), it never seemed a likely culinary endeavour.

Even the so-called no churn recipes involved some weird ingredient which didn’t really fit in with our new LCHF (low carb, high fat) lifestyle.

Most recently however I stumbled upon a few recipes for no churn paleo friendly ice cream. These recipes sometimes have no more than two or three ingredients,  which seemed simple enough.

The key ingredient turns out to be frozen banana. Yep, no eggs, no cooking, no condensed milk or extra sugar just banana. Now true LCHF followers would shy away from bananas for their high natural sugar content, but it is ice cream we’re talking about here…

So I combined a few of these recipes and experimented with flavours to bring you salted almond and banana no churn no cook ice cream.

Ingredients
5 frozen bananas
2 tablespoons almond or other nut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
50g dark chocolate, chopped (optional)
1 cup cream (optional)
1 hand full of almonds, crushed (optional)

Method
Chop the frozen bananas in a food processor till it starts to resemble a crumble.
Add the almond butter and the salt.
Continue to process the dream scoops cream until creamy and smooth.
At this point I added the optional chopped chocolate, crushed almond and a cup of cream to give it an even creamier, chocolattey, nutty texture. Almost like a tin roof ice cream you get from Woolworths.
You may go so far as to swirl in a tablespoon of honey, but this defies the low sugar idea. Just make sure nobody is watching 😉

That’s it. Scoop it in a freezable container and freeze it for at least 3 hours (that’s how long we could last waiting for it).

Best banana almond ice cream I ever tasted.




Thai chicken curry and white chocolate cardamom mousse for dessert

A few weeks ago we visited the Fourways Farmers market, curious to see and sample some fresh local produce and home made treats.

Victoire was looking for cardamom pods for some time and as luck would have it, managed to not only find a vendor that had cardamom, but also a smörgåsbord of other fresh herbs, spices and tidbits for our cooking endeavours. He even made up some barbeque spice for us. Watch out though, if you don’t pay close attention you’ll end up with some really hot spices and a huge dent in your pocket.

Inspired by the cardamom find, I happened to recall a recipe for white chocolate cardamom mousse from Nigel Slater’s Real Food cookbook – something I wanted to try for a long time. So this weekend, I finally got all the ingredients together for the decadent dessert.

Check out this quick Vine video of me whipping up the white chocolate cardamom mousse.

Read more about this recipe here.

With dessert sorted, I decided to continue on the fragrant Asian theme and make a Thai chicken curry for a change.

This one is very simple and is quite adaptable to whatever vegetables you have in your fridge.

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The dish turned out deliciously fragrant with just a hint of heat. The family gobbled it all up with no left-overs for a snack or work lunch. That to me is a sign of a successful dish.

We ended the meal off with the white chocolate cardamom mousse – a very rich, velvety finish to a delicious meal.

 




Nutella and banana parcels

Nutella and banana parcels

This recipe for nutella and banana parcels is incredibly easy and always a winner with friends and family. You can’t go wrong with chocolate right?

Ingredients:

  • 1 roll of frozen puff pastry (save yourself a lot of time by buying the ready made stuff and thaw it in the fridge)
  • 1 cup of Nutella
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 egg

Caramel:

  • 75g castor sugar
  • 2Tbs cold water

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 220 C
  2. Thaw the frozen puff pastry in the fridge – check the pack for detail.
  3. Once thawed, dust a working surface with a bit of flour and roll out in a square
  4. You have two options here, depending on how you want to present the final dessert – either in a log or if you want to be more cheffy, make individual parcels (like a samosa)
    • For the log – Nothing too fancy, just spread the Nutella on the puff pastry and top with slices of banana. Beat the egg and brush the sides of the square with the egg (this helps to ‘glue’ the log together). Carefully roll the pastry lengthwise (otherwise it gets too thick) into the shape of a log. Using a fork, press the edges together to seal. Finally brush the log with the rest of your egg so it goes golden brown when cooked. (approx 30-40 mins)
    • For the samosa (or samoosa as we like to call it) – cut the pastry into approx 10cm squares (you should be able to get around 12+ squares out of a roll of pastry). Dollop (or pipe) some Nutella in the one corner. Top with sliced banana and top with another dollop of Nutella. Brush the sides of the square with the egg and fold the one corner of the pastry over the Nutella & banana to form a triangle. Using a fork, press edges together to seal. Finally brush the triangles with the rest of your egg so it goes golden brown when cooked. (approx 15 mins)
  5. To make the caramel, take the smallest pan you, have add the castor sugar and the water and heat to a boil. Just as it starts to change to a light golden colour take it off the heat and pour the caramel out on a baking tray lined with wax paper to cool. Don’t take your eye off the sugar as it starts to boil as it will burn very quickly and you’ll have to start over. The sugar is also extremely hot, so be careful not to touch it. Once cooled down, break into shards.
  6. To serve, cut your log into desired lengths and place on your plate. If you really want to show off you could use a small sieve and dust the tops with some icing sugar and then drizzle it with melted chocolate. Add a scoop or two of ice cream and place some caramel shards in the ice cream. Slice up some cape gooseberries (or strawberries) and perhaps top with a sprig of mint or some finely sliced basil.
  7. This dish goes well with a cup of espresso to finish



Gingerbreads

ginger biscuits

I had a craving for some ginger biscuits this morning and while Victoire popped out, I decided to rustle up a quick batch of these ginger tea-time treats.

Ingredients

  • 100g softened butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1tsp ground ginger

Method
Preheat your oven to 150 degrees C.

Cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Sift in the flour and ginger.

Mix well to bind it all together and form into small balls, about a tablespoon of the mix. This is a fairly dry mix so don’t be alarmed when it’s not too sticky.

Place the balls on a baking sheet (about 15 per tray). The balls flatten out in the cooking process, so space them well apart.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes till lightly browned. They will come out slightly soft to the touch, but will harden when cooling on a wire rack.

Serving suggestion
I did mention that these were a tea-time treat, so get that big pot of tea going, because once you’ve had one of these you’ll be dunking them by the handfulls.




Cheese and herb muffins

Savoury tea treats
Roasted vegetable tart (left) & Cheese and herb muffins (right)

I have a new “go to” recipe for a savoury option for tea! These muffins are moist, full of flavour and super easy. What a pleasure. I made them for my birthday tea party last weekend, but they could also be a wonderful accompaniment to a hot soup on the suddenly cold winter days we’re having. The recipe has been adapted from the “Cook and Enjoy” (“Kook en Geniet”) recipe book.

Ingredients:

  • 500 ml (2 cups) cake flour
  • 20 ml (4 tsp) baking powder
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) cayenne pepper (or a little less if you prefer less of a “bite”)
  • 500 ml – 750 ml (2 – 3 cups) grated cheese
  • handful fresh chopped herbs, such as thyme, origanum, chives, rosemary, parsley
  • sprinkle dried mixed herbs (optional)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk
  • 120 ml (8 Tbsp) + “a bit” melted butter
  • 1 egg, well beaten

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and grease a muffin pan with 12 large hollows
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients
  3. Add the cheese and herbs to the dry ingredients
  4. Blend the milk, butter and egg
  5. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Do not stir, but mix by folding in the liquid until the flour is just moistened. The mixture will look lumpy
  6. Drop uniform spoonfuls of the dough into the muffin pan hollows and bake for 10 – 15 minutes (I usually bake for 20 minutes, but insert a skewer to check for done-ness at 15 minutes)



Chocolate fudge cake

Our Mothers’ Day tea on Sunday turned into lunch at short notice, and I was tasked with bringing dessert! I’m one of those people who prefer to bake something homemade than buy, but I’m not ashamed to resort to a Woolies alternative if pressed! And believe me, it does not take much to foil my well-intentioned baking plans, being four months pregnant and with an active one year old running around. So I had to come up with a good, easy, recipe quickly. Thankfully I had spotted a delicious-looking recipe on one of my favourite foodie blogs, The Gorgeous Gourmet, a few days previously, so this was a great excuse to try it!

I made the Chocolate fudge cake with caramel icing, go check out the recipe and bookmark it, you’ll thank me later 🙂  The only adaptations I made were to use Decaf plunger coffee (for the kids’ and my sake), and I added halved strawberries in addition to the chopped Rolo, who can argue with strawberries and chocolate?

I will spare you the drama I went through in baking this cake, too much to mention! None of it relating to the recipe at least! I will say that when using spring form cake tins you should make sure they are airtight, or line with baking paper for good measure, and nothing will change the flavour of even slightly rancid butter, so always make sure you have enough fresh butter and check the butter before you start, especially for the icing… 🙂 Yip, I had to make the icing twice…

Here’s the end result:

Chocolate fudge cake with caramel icing

The cake was moist and gooey around the outside, pure bliss. The caramel icing, however, was not a hit. It was very sugary-sweet and not caramel-y at all – perhaps it was something I did, I’m not sure… Thankfully Candice has promised to have a look at the recipe to make it more caramel-y for me, if so, this will be my go-to cake for a very long time.

If you would like to try out other icings you could do a organic chocolate ganache or sandwich the layers with white chocolate mousse and dust the top with cocoa powder/icing sugar. Let me know if you find a winning combination!




Beta Test: Rolo Brownie Bites with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

I have been a huge fan of The Cupcake Lady‘s cupcakes ever since I tried a couple at Gina‘s birthday party last year. They really are “heaven in paper cups”! Imagine my joy when I saw that there was an opportunity to be a beta tester for one of her new creations… Doubly so since Nico’s birthday was approaching and I had not yet thought of a birthday gift, nor had the time to bake anything for his office. Perfect.

The inspiration for this beta test was chocolate, how divine. It was not easy to choose just one item, but those were the rules so…

Here’s the list of chocolate temptations:

  • Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes with Cookie Dough Butter Icing
  • Dark Chocolate Cherry Fudge
  • Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies
  • Perfect chocolate chip cookies
  • Rolo Brownie Bites with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

ALL of the goodies sounded delicious, but since Nico and I have been on a quest for the perfect chocolate brownie I knew I had to go with that one.

I received 18 brownie bites, and tasted about 3 or 4 of them for this review, the rest went to Nico’s office.

Ok, so on to the review of the brownie bites…

These brownies are delicious, and ultra sweet. They are very close to the “perfect” brownie Nico and I have been looking for with a fudgy consistency rather than a cakey one. The brownie is nicely chocolatey, a little crumbly, and contains nuts – walnuts and pecan I think. Add to that a gooey Rolo caramel center, yum. The cream cheese frosting adds a hint of sour to balance the sweet of the brownie, however I’m not sure it adds enough contrast to justify its presence. These bites could easily be served without it. Being bites they are quite tiny, I felt that I had hardly savoured the full flavour of the bite before it was gone. I would suggest making them slightly bigger, perhaps a mini-bar instead.

Similar feedback was received from Nico’s colleagues. The bites were described as “fantastic”, “a foodgasm”, “very rich rather than sweet”, and “it is absolutely awful that there are so few of them”. As for the size, the general consensus was that the brownie should be bigger – about three bites in the shape of a bar.

So there you have it! What a treat to be able to trial these delicious desserts. I really hope that I’ll get another chance to try some more of The Cupcake Lady’s creations in the future.




Macadamia and Cranberry Nougat

Who can resist the challenge of making your own nougat? Certainly not me! Well, although this is not a complicated recipe, it proved quite stressful, mostly my worrying about whether I had done everything correctly. In the end everything worked out fine – even though the nougat did lose its shape, melting into a mound of chewyness, it was delicious… and that’s all that counts!

Macadamia cranberry nougat

Lessons learnt:
This recipe calls for several unusual ingredients and utensils, the rice paper you should find at a Chinese store, liquid glucose is not stocked by the supermarkets but I found some at a small baking shop, and a sugar thermometer is quite essential for a variety of edible goodies including sweets and jams.
Make sure that you get the correct rice paper! You will need the thinnest paper you can find, usually found in rectangular sheets. The thick rice paper used for spring rolls is no good for this sweet…
The nougat turned out to be very sticky making it difficult to cut and almost impossible to get out of the tin. I would suggest lining the sides of the pan with rice paper as well to assist with the removal of the sweet.

Recipe source:
Food & Home Entertaining, December 2009

Ingredients:
450 g (2 1/4 cups) sugar
250 ml (1 cup) liquid glucose
80 ml (1/3 cup) honey
2 sheets rice paper (plus extra for lining the sides of the tin)
2 extra-large egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
250 g macadamia nuts, toasted
60 g dried cranberries
cornflour, to serve

Method:
Place the sugar, glucose and honey in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Keep brushing the sides of the pan with extra water to prevent any sugar crystals from clinging.
When the sugar has completely dissolved, increase the heat and bring the syrup to a rapid boil until 140 degrees Celsius is reached on a sugar thermometer.
Line the base of an 18 x 28 cm rectangular cake tin with rice paper (remember the sides as well as the base!)
Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until soft peaks form. Add the sugar mixture in a steady stream until it is incorporated and continue beating for about 5 minutes until the mixture is slightly cooled and thickened. Add the macadamia nuts and cranberries, whisking them in by hand.
Pour the mixture onto the rice paper and press gently with a spoon to flatten. Cover with another piece of rice paper and allow to set for a few hours before cutting.
Cut into desired shapes, using a very sharp knife. Dip each piece of nougat in cornflour to give it a very light coating before wrapping in parchment paper or cellophane wrapping.




Old-fashioned fudge

Nico & I have been meaning to make fudge for ages, so when we decided to make edible gifts this year fudge was definitely on the menu. We found a recipe in the December issue of the Food & Home Entertaining magazine, incorporating glace ginger. Not sure about what the ginger would be like we decided to leave it out, but if you want to try it out just add 80 g finely chopped glace ginger with the vanilla essence and a sliver of ginger on top of each square to decorate.

Lessons learnt:
This recipe seriously bombed out for us, in a good way! Whilst stirring the mixture it started forming small darker bits giving the impression that it was overcooking. We immediately removed the fudge mixture from the stove, stirred in the vanilla essence and poured it into the buttered pan. When it had set what we had was a soft butter toffee and no fudge. Delicious none-the-less!

When we reheated the toffee to use as a sauce over our Christmas ice cream it started going fudgey… So one can make 2 different sweets from this yummy recipe. If yours does turn into toffee you can dip squares into melted chocolate to contain the toffee (it tends to lose its shape when out of the fridge, not runny but not firm either).

Luv Toffee

Recipe source:
Food & Home Entertaining, December 2009

Ingredients:
15 ml (1 tbsp) golden syrup
190 ml (3/4 cup) milk
500 g (2 1/2 cups) sugar
125 g butter
1 x 397 g tin condensed milk
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

Method:
Melt the syrup, milk, sugar and butter in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
Add the condensed milk and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until pale golden brown, about 25 minutes
Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and beat for 15 seconds
Pour into a buttered pan and allow to cool and set
Cut into squares and wrap.




Edible gifts

I have been longing to bake for ages, especially since I got married, but haven’t really found the time for it. Well, I decided this holiday was going to be different. Since Nico & I aren’t going away it’s a perfect opportunity for us to embark on the great adventure of homemade edible gifts.

Firstly, what to make? Easy, plenty of magazines touting “edible gifts” articles at this time of year. Not so easy was the task of agreeing on what to make. Nico wanted to make easy stuff, I wanted to make exciting stuff I’ve never tried before. So we went shopping for the exotic ingredients required for my chosen recipes, spiced chocolate and almond macaroons, and macadamia and cranberry nougat. Suffice to say neither were close to easy, in spite of being labeled “a little effort”, and neither turned out the way they were expected to.

Then I decided to make fudge. We had been meaning to make some for quite a bit of time now, so it was high time… This really wasn’t my finest hour.

Find the recipes and lessons learnt here:

Kudos to anyone who attempts this every year – homemade gifts are hard work! Subsequent to my embarking on this journey I have discovered Beth’s variety of chocolate truffles… if only I had discovered this before! Although I am sure the heat wave we’ve been experiencing in sunny South Africa would’ve made truffles a nightmare for me… that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself 😉