Saturday, 3 December 2011

Smiling Nut

Butternut Squash Soup
Hello everyone, its Ralph here.

Olga has recently had a lot on her mind with family responsibilities so I decided (with some subtle prompting :o) ) to write a blog post for something I made for her recently. she has not had a lot of time for cooking or baking due to the absolutely amazing job she is going supporting her parents, so when I found a gap I went for it.

I got home the other day and got out 3 books. Cooking for Geeks, Cooking for Dummies and an Ina Paarman recipe book. I read one or two pages of the Ina Paarman book but, naturally, every recipe contains one or other Ina Paarman sauces or powder, so I decided to go for one of the other two books for slightly more adventure. I opened Cooking for Dummies somewhere around soups, and thought that soup would be a good idea seeing as Olga is addicted to eating Woolies oven rolls with soup, or cheese, or chili-mayo or anything for that matter. There were none that jumped out at me from that book, so I opened Cooking for Geeks. I was hoping I would find a recipe in this book for that night because Olga gave it to me recently as a present (this is without doubt one of the most thoughtful presents anyone has ever given me). If you are at all interested in the science of cooking you should check it out. It's especially great if you are interested in the science of food AND you are a geek :o)

I quickly settled on "Butternut Squash Soup". Its from the section called "Choosing Your Inputs: Flavours and Ingredients." Olga doesn’t like spicy butternut soup, so she almost never orders it when we are out, and as luck would have it this was a very plain soup. The author does go on to provide a long list of things that can be added, but I kept it as simple as possible.

Butternut Squash Soup

Purée in a food processor or with an immersion blender:

2 cups (660g) butternut squash, peeled, cubed, and roasted (about 1 medium squash)
2 cups (470g) chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock
1 small (130g) yellow onion, diced and sautéed
1/2 teaspoon (1g) salt (adjust to taste)

I would say that this is very easy, but quite time consuming unfortunately if you only use the oven for the butternut. I always find that sautéing onions takes a lot longer than planned as well.

This post was called Smiling Nut because my plan was to draw happy faces on the soup at the end with the cream, but as you can see from the pictures the cream just went all over the place :o)

Monday, 21 November 2011

Learning to Make Things Pretty

Summery Cupcakes

Recently, my wonderful Anibug and I went for a beginners decorating class with Renette. We made these gorgeous summery cupcakes.

All in all it was a wonderful class! For someone like me, who's been playing with decorating for a while, it might be a bit underwhelming. But I loved meeting Renette and buying some tools. And I definitely learned a trick or two. I'll definitely look into doing more classes!

Thanks Renette!

A quick sidenote: this will be my last post for a week or two. My dad was in a car accident and is currently in hospital, so I've spent the whole past week visiting him, and this is the last of the posts I wrote before the accident.

Friday, 18 November 2011

I Say Tomato

Cream of Tomato Soup

Wow I love this soup.. I found it in a magazine once. It was the first tomato soup I'd ever made. And now I will dedicate at least part of my life to making more tomato soup.

This was my one treat to myself. Out of the two weeks that Ralph was away, I managed to have 2 nights alone at home. On the first night, I made this soup and had it for supper, and on the second, I just had it for supper. It defined my happy alone time, and made it super happy. It's got all these great veggies in it, and only a little bit of cream. I could eat it without bread for a super healthy meal, and did I mention is tangy and absolutely gorgeous?

I've never been a fan of spending time alone. Growing up I always wanted to be around people ALL the time. I always make plans with people, and I honestly, honestly can't remember spending time alone at home. This time I've found myself really wanting it, craving it. Just a night or two of wallowing on the couch, watching series, and eating whatever I want. I have to say, I'm now a big fan of it! I'm not naturally a relaxed person, but when I'm alone I find I'm at least a little so. I won't hesitate to do it again.

Tomato Soup

2 onions
2 - 3 celery sticks
2 x 410g cans chopped tomatoes
20 - 40 ml tomato paste
1 - 2 potatoes
1 cube chicken stock
250 ml boiling water
30 ml sugar
black pepper
6 bay leaves
250 ml milk or cream

1) Chop and sautee onion and celery until soft.
2) Add everything except coriander and cream and simmer until potatoes are cooked (about an hour).
3) Add coriander, and cook for a further 5 minutes.
4) Remove the bay leaves, and blend soup until smooth.
5) Add cream or milk (I do half-half).
6) Season to taste and serve.

Here's a hint: do not serve during summer! I ate a bowl of this and spent the rest of the evening trying to cool down. Then the next evening I had another bowl, just because it was sooo good that I didn't care :-).

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Exploding Blueberries

Blueberry Muffins

Don't they just kindof scream 'healthy happy home'? I've made blueberry muffins before, but always with canned blueberries. This time there was a sale on fresh blueberries, and I just had to make something with them.

I made these for my office. I'm really loving my new job, and I wanted to spoil my coworkers with a nice breakfast. It worked really well! All the muffins got eaten, even though they weren't my best ever. I always think about just how lovely it is when someone makes me breakfast or a treat, and giving other people that happy feeling is awesome!

I love how the blueberries exploded in the oven to make streaks on the muffins. Unfortunately, the muffins weren't the greatest. I think this is partly because the recipe is for canned blueberries, not fresh, and partly because I was distracted with cooking supper at the same time. Still, they were wonderfully edible.

I loved going completely overboard with cooking and baking while Ralph was away. I know he doesn't like it when I get completely overwhelmed with doing 10 things at a time. I don't tend to hold back too much when he's around, but I didn't hold back at all while he was away!

Blueberry Muffins
From The Ultimate Book of Baking by Heilie Pienaar

Makes about 16 muffins

280 g cake flour
15 ml baking powder
pinch salt
160 g sugar
100 ml cooking oil
2 extra large eggs
200 ml milk
5 ml vanilla essence
425 g can of blueberries in syrup

1) Preheat oven to 180 C.
2) Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together in one bowl.
3) Mix the oil, eggs, milk and vanilla essence together in a different bowl.
4) Mix the two mixtures together and mix gently.
5) Drain the blueberries, and add to the mixture. Mix gently.
6) Split into muffin tin, and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden on top.
7) Cool on a rack, and eat for a delicious semi healthy breakfast.

I loved having these with tea for breakfast. They were such a lovely start to the day. Next time I make them with fresh blueberries, I plan to add more milk to make them moist. Otherwise, I can't wait.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Love Affair with Baking Books


I ordered this book at the beginning of September, and it just just got here today!! I'm SO excited about it that I had to put it up! Can't wait to get through it! Will have to wait till tomorrow..

Salty, Cheesy Comfort

Chicken Risotto

It's something I spend AGES dreaming about and looking forward to. I love the warm, salty, gooey comfort it provides. I feel like there's nothing it can't fix with its dreamy hugs..

There's a terrible secret about Ralph, a dark mystery that threatens our relationship every day. He passionately and unapologetically doesn't like risotto. So.. When he goes away I make a giant batch of risotto and just wallow in it.

When I was still at varsity I think there were only 2 things I knew how to cook: brownies and risotto (there was this packet cheese sauce mix I used to add cheese and bacon to, but I don't think it counts). I would make GIANT batches of it, and my mom and I would eat it for like a week.. I LOVED it. When studying, I would just eat bowlful after bowlful. It always brings back the best memories. 

Chicken Risotto

4 large leeks
4 chicken breasts
1 - 1.5 liters chicken stock
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup white wine (I used Splattered Toad)
1 1/2 cups grated pecorino cheese
salt and pepper

1) Chop the leek into small pieces, and the chicken into bite size pieces (I like to make the chicken pieces quite small).
2) Take a non stick frying pan and fry the leeks in olive oil until soft. Add the chicken and fry until it's cooked and browning. Turn off the heat and set aside.
3) Get a medium pot out (the one in which you make the non-huge soups), and put a good couple of glugs of olive oil in. Set on a medium heat.
4) Add the rice, and stir until it is well coated.
5) Add the wine to the rice, and stir until it gets absorbed.
6) Add about a cup of chicken stock, and let the rice cook, while stirring occasionally, until the stock gets absorbed. Add another cup, and once that's absorbed, add the leeks and chicken.
7) Keep adding stock and waiting for it to be absorbed until the rice is soft and the sauce is gooey.
8) Add the pecorino cheese and stir through.
9) Add salt and pepper to taste.
10) Serve on cold winter nights, or just sad or anxious nights to make yourself feel warm and hopeful.

So it turned out I made too little.. I had Tessa and Andrew (Ralph's neighbors) over. Two lessons I learned here: Firstly, not everyone likes chicken risotto as much as I do (while I was licking my lips, Andrew was trying his best to get through a couple of mouthfuls) and, if you're going to have people over for supper, there won't be as much risotto leftover! I had to make a whole other batch to have for lunch this week :-).

Friday, 11 November 2011

What's better than a cherry?

Cherries dipped in white chocolate

I know- this is a hack of a recipe.. But it's cherry season! I want to celebrate! I didn't want to cook cherries in something, and I did have a dream bar at home..

I wish I had more photos, but.. well these were too good to photograph properly before eating.. They were the perfect dessert, healthy fruit, with a thin layer of yummy, yummy chocolate.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about healthy food. With Weight Watchers, I'm forced to be constantly aware of my weight. Lately, it's been a bit of an issue. I've been trying to get back into a good exercise and eating routine. So I'm trying really hard to do some form of exercise most days, and eat more fruit and veggies in general. These cherries for dessert were both enticing and nutritious. I think Joan (my Weight Watchers group leader) would be proud!

These were super easy. I put a bowl over a pot of gently boiling water, broke the chocolate into blocks, put it in the bowl, and stirred continuously. When the chocolate was melted, I dipped the cherries in it.. As it's summer here, when we ate the cherries the chocolate was still soft. It was lovely. However, I did put the cherries in the fridge overnight and took them to work as a Friday treat for everyone. By then, the chocolate had set and was crunchy and decadent.. The cherries weren't sour, but were definitely not too sweet. They went perfectly with the chocolate.

Cherry season is just beginning so I'm hoping to make more things really soon! For now though, I have special stuff planned for Ralph's return this weekend..

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Best Mac & Cheese

My Mac & Cheese

This is it: my mac and cheese. The one I measure all others against. The one that NEVER loses. The one that gets me the most compliments ever time- no fail. You know how everyone talks down a bit about the old style mac and cheese. The one you have to make a roux for? Fortunately and unfortunately, this is that one.

I'm having a super sad day today. My grandma left this morning and I won't see her for another year. She's so wonderful, loving and kind. Every time I think of her sweet happy face I want to cry. Ralph is on holiday, so I get to wallow on the couch alone at home. I do wish I had his warm hugs around..

Ralph was away last week as well, so I thought I would use the opportunity to have a nice quiet evening with Lauren, my roommate. Yes, I have a home, with a roommate- the place where I don't spend any time between visiting family and Ralph's kitchen- I mean Ralph. I do have great news on that front- I've bought a house, with it's own tiny kitchen! I'll be moving in there at the end of the month- can't wait! I plan to take my cooking to a whole new level.

But back to the point- supper for Lauren! I went all out: proper mac & cheese, roast veggies and cherries dipped in white chocolate for dessert (will post next time!). I wanted to have a warm and wonderful evening with the sunniest, cheeriest, warmest person in my life. Lauren rounded the evening off with a nice bottle of Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc.

My Mac & Cheese

fried crispy bacon (optional)

2x 410g cans chopped tomatoes
dried origanum
salt and pepper

120 g butter
about 3 cups flour
about 1 litre of milk
2 cups grated cheddar
1/2 tsp nutmeg

250g elbow macaroni

1) Put both cans of chopped tomatoes in a small pot and boil to reduce. When they're not so thin anymore, add origanum, salt and pepper to taste (and smell FANTASTIC). I tend to add chillies here, either dried, or my favourite Edrico's chillies.
2) At the same time, cook macaroni until al dente. I specify elbow because it find it a bit more whimsical than straight. Am I easy to amuse? Yes, and proud of it! Mix the macaroni with the tomato sauce, and bacon, if you made some.
3) Preheat oven to 180C. Now it's time for the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a smallish pot. Now, start adding the flour, table spoon by tablespoon, until the mixture looks like really dense mash. Stir it around for a bit and let it fry. Turn the heat down to low.
4) Start adding the milk, bit by bit, whilst whisking the mixture to make sure no clumps form. If they do, just keep whisking, but with more feeling! Keep adding milk until the mixture has the consistency of normal milk. Increase the heat to medium and stir as it thickens up. Be patient. It will thicken.
5) Just before it boils, take it off the heat. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir. Now add the cheese in handfuls and stir lots- keep aside a bit though. Add to the macaroni and stir.
6) Tip macaroni into a baking dish, sprinkle with cheese, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until it browns lightly on top.
7) Get ready- this is really, seriously, this-is-not-a-test delicious. Enjoy!

Now, I don't tend to go halfway with comfort dishes like this. I made a WHOLE lot. So I have frozen a ton for Ralph and I to have when he's back, and had a yummy lunch the next day. Now to lie on the couch and watch 30 Rock...

Monday, 7 November 2011

Honey Honey

Honey Candied Apples

Mmmmm the perfect semi healthy treat. I've been wanting to play around with candied apples for a while, and JUST before the weekend, I saw this post by Cook Like a Champion. They rounded off my weekend perfectly. Ralph took these amazing, kindof serene photos of them. I just want to frame them and put them up at my house!

I made these the weekend of the dirty witches fingers and the rose cupcakes, but these were kicking the other two's butts by miles. Why? You ask. Well, I made these to take to friend's house for a braai. These friends, Belinda and Gareth, always have get togethers at their house. They always go to so much trouble, and we always have a wonderful time.

I was playing walking their toddler daughter around the house, when she spotted these in the kitchen. I gave her one, and she continued to eat it ALL DAY. First, she licked off ALL the caramel. And then, for good measure, she ate the apple as well. Apparently the next day she was looking for more. That just means the world to me- no approval is more important for baking than a child's in my opinion.

These were the first candied apples I've ever made. I was so excited. I cleaned the apples thoroughly and Ralph poked the sticks through, and I loved drenching them in the caramel, it's so decadent. I love how it flows off and makes a pool at the bottom. It's just beautiful..

Honey Candied Apples
From Cook Like a Champion

8 - 10 small apples, and same amount of kebab sticks or lollipop sticks
1 cup cream
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup honey

1) Line a tray or baking sheet with a silicone mat. I wouldn't use wax paper here, as the caramel gets quite sticky.
2) Make an ice bath in a large bowl, and make sure your pot fits in and reaches the bath.
3) Wash the apples throughly, and stick sticks through them deeply.
4) Pour the cream into a small pot, add the salt, and heat on a medium heat until bubbles form around the sides.
5) Now, add the honey, bring to the boil, set the heat to medium, and keep stirring continuously with a rubber spatula.
6) You will notice that the nature of the mixture changes, first it boils almost normally, then it boils really high, and when it's ready, it actually settles down again (all in all around 20 minutes). For people who are not fans of rough guides, take a candy thermometer, when the mixture reaches 125 C, it's ready.
7) Take the pot off the heat and set on the ice bath- keep stirring. You'll notice it get thicker, that's when it's time to dip the apples. I used the spoon to pour caramel on them too :-)- I'm not really a minimalist.
8) Put the apples on the silicone to set.

It made me feel like a little kid again, eating these. Belinda and Gareth's daughter enjoyed hers so much that she rubbed it on just about all her toys, clothes, aunties and uncles!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Roses are Pink

Piped Rose Cupcakes

These were dainty and gorgeous, and gentle and delicious. I think that they would be perfect for a bridal shower. I really must keep them in mind. They were so simple and yet so lovely, sweet and feminine. The boys didn't care though- these got devoured! Gorgeous photos you say? Thank you Ralph!

I've been really wanting to make these for a while, and at the same time just dreading them. In the end they actually turned out quite pretty, but I do think I'll keep trying until they resemble Martha's a bit more. Martha's are just so pretty. I don't tend to be good at the detailed things, so I was really hoping that I wouldn't mess them up completely! I have learned a lesson, mostly through decorating: it's mostly about having the courage to try. Things never turn out quite as badly as you think they might! Now I just need to learn this lesson better and not take so long next time.

I bought this book for myself for my birthday. It seems to be fashionable to buy yourself birthday presents, and I had been eyeing this book for months.. I'm super happy I bought it, as it's taken me to a whole new level of baking. I'd never before made such complicated icings, I mean- 5 egg whites? Recipes REQUIRING you to have a stand mixer? I only have a hand- held one, and I have no idea what a paddle attachment is or what it does! Learning these new techniques has been a real adventure.

Now for this recipe, I only used Martha's instructions on how to pipe the icing. I made my favourite standard vanilla cupcake, and plain plain vanilla buttercream. An aside on the buttercream- if you've been reading my brownie posts you'll know that I love baking for my friend Ane. She's a cook and baker's best friend. She just enjoys food so much, she thinks about it, dreams about it.. Kindof like me :-). Now she LOVES buttercream, so although Martha recommended Swiss meringue buttercream, I made normal buttercream instead, as I was making the cupcakes for a braai at which I knew I would see Ane.

I did feel a little guilty making these girly pretty cupcakes for an event which was actually held for a male friend who's visiting from Australia. But I didn't consider one thing: guys will eat ANYTHING. Even if it's pink. Even if it's a flower. As long at it's yummy it's getting eaten. These cupcakes practically disappeared off the tray!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Payback for Hansel and Gretel

Dirty Witches Fingers

I know- everyone's Halloween recipes went out AGES ago. I just didn't feel right making these cookies ahead of time. It's like celebrating your birthday early- it just feels wrong! These cookies were amazing: they look so euwww and taste so great- perfect Halloween.

Aren't they gorgeous? Ralph took the most amazing photos- and got the props! I found these a long time ago on Cake Journal, and bookmarked them with the intention of making them for Halloween. I came across Martha Stewart's recipe for them more recently, and I just trust her so much that I decided I had to try them. I didn't like that Martha painted the 'nails' though, and rather went with Cake Journal's more dirty and creepy look for the fingers (or at least I REALLY tried).

These were a real hit- and I took them everywhere. I took some to my neighbour's house as a snack with  wine, I took some to a welcome party for an old friend and I even took some to work. I really enjoyed the suspicious looks these got! They really looked dirty, and the nails look SO REAL! Then, when you bite into them they're so sweet and delicious, and the nut is slightly salty and crunchy- just gorgeous.

Dirty Witches Fingers
From Martha Stewart, look adapted from Cake Journal

2 eggs
113 g unsalted butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
5 tblspn plain white sugar
pinch salt
1 2/3 cups flour
30 blanched almonds

1) Line two baking sheets with silicone or wax paper. Preheat oven to 180 C.
2) Split one egg, set aside the white, and mix the yolk with the other egg.
3) Cream the butter, both sugars and salt.
4) Add the egg mixture. Mix thoroughly.
5) Add the flour, and mix until well blended.
6) Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
7) Unwrap, break in half, putting the other half in the fridge.
8) Break half into 15 pieces. Roll each into a long finger on a lightly floured surface, squeezing to make knuckles. When you're done, use a small knife to make indentations on the back of the knuckles. Brush with the egg white that you set aside. Finally, push in the almonds for nails.
9) Bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden around the sides.
10) Repeat for other half.

These make the house smell like cookies. I love that.. Ralph's house is quite small, and so the smell is there and then it's gone,. It's sad cause you don't walk around the house smelling yummy things. But for those few minutes while these cookies are baking, I am completely home at heart. I'm going to warn you- you might not want to eat these when they come out- they look TOTALLY eeuuwes! But just try one, and they'll grow on you!

PS. Check out my facebook page!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Bringing cabbage back

Golubtsi (Russian Stuff Peppers and Cabbage)

This is my last Russian food recipe for now. My wonderful grandma is going back to live with my brother for another year before she visits again. She misses him madly when she visits here, and my parents and I madly when she's with with him. Anyway, from grandma with love, I give you golubtsi.

I love that I can pretend I'm eating healthy when I'm eating them. They are wrapped in cabbage and peppers right? And cooked in a tomato sauce? I spent a weekend with my grandma relaxing and cooking, and this was our main event. Everyone was so excited- especially my dad. 

When I was little, I refused to eat peppers. So my mom used to cook golubtsi, because they had the gorgeous tomatoey sauce, meat and sour cream (what DON'T we eat with sour cream?), and she would feed them to me, with a teeny tiny bite of pepper in every bite. When I eat these I remember those times- how awesome was it that she would create these tiny perfect bites for me? I LOVE my mom.

Tiny Grandma

2 1/2 cups beef mince
2 1/2 cups pork mince
2 1/2 onions, liquidised
1/2 - 3/4 cup long grain rice, cooked until just fluffy, but not done
1 cup fresh cleaned parley
2 cups fresh cleaned coriander
salt and pepper

1 head of cabbage
5 small peppers

125g tomato paste

1) First, prepare the mince. Mix the beef mince, pork mince, onions, and rice together. Chop up herbs and mix them in. Add salt and pepper. Now is the icky bit. You kind of have to taste it. I KNOW!! But just do it, and then you will probably need to add some salt as the mince has to be oversalted.
2) Now you need to prepare the veggies. Cut holes in the tops of the peppers, and clean them through the holes. For the cabbage, remove the leaves as carefully as possible to try to keep them whole. If they do tear, it's not a tragedy! What you will need to do is boil the cabbage leaves to soften them, then put them in a colander to cool enough for you to touch them.
3) Now, take a large soup pan, and put some oil at the bottom. 
4) The bottom layer will be made of cabbage. Take a leaf, and begin by cutting out the hard bit. Then cut the cabbage leaf into strips roughly 4 cm in width. You should have roughly 3 - 4 strips per leaf.
5) You can now start to wrap the mince in the strips of cabbage kindof like we did the strawberry pancakes. Don't worry if it's a bit messy- they don't need to be perfect. Layer them in circles at the bottom of the pot.
6) The next layer will contain the peppers. They are super easy to stuff. Layer them in circles on their sides on top of the cabbage.
7) Top up the rest of the pot with more cabbage wrapped mince.
8) Now, dissolve the tomato paste in approximately 500 ml of hot water, and pour into the pot, it should reach the top, but top it up if it doesn't.
9) Now, put the pot on a medium-high heat until it boils, then put it down to medium- low, cover and let it boil for approximately 3 hours. The main point is to make sure that the peppers have cooked through and are soft.
10) Serve with sour cream, and pretend you're eating a salad.

This is one of the foods that my dad phones about and threatens me to stay away from. Don't worry- I'm fully capable of fighting him for them!

PS. I created a facebook page, so I can post the recipes I make, and ones I wish I'd made.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Berry Nice

Kisel (Thick Russian Berry Drink)

I remember growing up drinking this. It SO fruity and refreshing in summer. I remember I didn't like to eat the fruit, so my mom would make sure I only got the juice. I think it was a way to keep me in vitamins, even when I crinkled my nose at healthy foods- and a good one!

I made this with my mom. She spends months finding the right berries at the shops and green grocers. It's such a treat when she finally makes this- especially now that I'm old enough to appreciate the yummy fruit and gorgeous colour. It was much easier than I had always thought it was.

One thing I learned here though- always over-sweeten! The berries are super sour, and will absorb the sugar. Which brings me to another point: if you do drink it as soon as it's ready, it's going to be sour. Don't freak out and add sugar, just let it sit overnight and it will be perfect the next day!

From my mom

1 1/2 cups frozen cranberries
2 1/2 cups frozen black currant
1 cup frozen mixed berries
1 jar cherries in syrup
2 cups sugar
3 heaped tblsp potato flour

1) Get that really big soup pot that you never use, fill it just over halfway with water, and set on a medium to high heat.
2) Add sugar to make the water just slightly overly sweet- about 1 cup. Wait for it to get to almost boiling.
3) Now add the frozen berries- don't add the cherries quite yet.
4) Keep it on a high heat, but don't let it boil properly. While it's heating up, squish the berries against the sides. It really helps with the aroma. I think I squished almost all of them, and it turned out beautifully.
5) Once it's heated through, add the cherries with their syrup.
6) Now, taste the kisel, make sure it's slightly overly sweet. Add sugar if needed.
7) Now is the tricky part. wait until the kisel is about to boil. Put the potato flour in a jug and fill it up with cold water. You now need to mix continually. As soon as the kisel boils, add the potato flour mixture, but you now need to mix the kisel continually, until it thickens.
8) Now it's done. Let it stand for at least an hour before trying to drink. But like I said- it will be sour on the first day. Once it's cooled, keep it in the fridge. It's SUPER refreshing on hot days.

You can make this with any fruit and berries that you want- go wild!

I've been drinking this kisel every night this week. We've had this long heat wave and no rain, so it's really helped me through. Ralph isn't one for berries, but he did taste and say that it isn't horrible- I'm counting it as a win!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever

Pancakes with Strawberry Filling and Topping

I promised some Russian cooking. This is a very mild version- no strange stuff in this one, just yummly pancakes filled with delicious strawberry filling, with even more delicious strawberry topping.

We started off with the strawberries. Take about two punnets, cut them up quite small, cover in 2-3 tablespoons of sugar, and leave overnight, until they let off lots of juice and look like this (mmmmmmm.....):

Now it's time to make the pancakes:

From tiny grandma

2 eggs
2 tblsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tblsp sunflower oil, plus extra for frying
cup flour
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 cups water (approximately)
1 tblsp plain yoghurt (optional)

1) Whisk together eggs, sugar and salt.
2) Add sunflower oil and whisk.
3) Add flour and whisk.
4) Add milk, bit by bit. Whisk thoroughly.
5) Now add bicarb.
6) Add just over a cup of water to begin. The mixture will be very thin, don't worry about this, we're actually trying to make it as thin as possible. Save the rest of the water to add while you're frying.
7) Add the yoghurt.
8) Now, set aside for 30- 40 minutes.
9) The frying is the fun part! Take a large heavy bottomed non-stick pan, and place it on a medium-high heat. Here's the cool part: take a potato, and cut a piece off with a flat bottom and stick it firmly on a fork. Then take a small bowl and put some sunflower oil in it, and place the potato inside. When you need to oil the pan, just take the potato out, shake it off, and use it to rub oil onto the pan. Do this before every pancake.
10) Wait for the pan to heat up nicely before oiling for the first time. Then pour in pancake mixture, approximately 3 - 4 tablespoons, and swirl it around to create the pancake shape. you can add more for a better shape, but careful about making the pancake too thick.
11) Once the pancake is browned around the edges, you can run a knife along them to make sure it's coming off, then use a spatula to turn it over. Don't worry too much about tearing, they're pretty sturdy. Once they're turned over they're done after a minute or two.

12) If your pancakes aren't super thin, you can add more water to the liquid. In fact after making a few pancakes, you will need to water down the mixture a bit, as the bottom of it does get thicker. Careful though- too much water and they become hard to work with.
13) Stack them on a plate and allow to cool slightly.

14) For the filling, put the pancake down on a board, dark side up:

Take a tablespoon of strawberries from the filling, draining off the sauce. Put the filling towards the bottom of the pancake, and sprinkle with sugar:

Now follow the pictures below, fold over the bottom, then one side, fold over, then fold the other side, and then just roll the rest up:

15) Now, just stack them into a disk and store in the fridge until you need them.

16) To make the sauce, use the sauce leftover sauce drained from the strawberries, and add sour cream to taste. You should be able to mix it without all the lumps in mine!
17) Traditionally, these are warmed on a pan with butter, and eaten with the sauce. But you can warm them in the microwave, or even eat them straight out the fridge, dipping in the sauce (I didn't! It's just an idea that appeared in my brain and went away! I definitely did NOT eat about 5 straight from the fridge because they were so yummy.. Did NOT.)

These are amazing- even just the pancakes. I'm SO making these for Ralph for breakfast this weekend! He's going to freak OUT! Thanks to my wonderful grandma for the awesome recipe!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Very Mac & Cheese

Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese

I'm a little one note lately aren't I? Mac & cheese this and that. But I'm hunting for the right one! I'll post my own recipe for mac & cheese here sometime too. Most of the reason I keep making it is because it's just so pleasing and comforting- and fun at the same time! I apologise for the pictures on this once in advance the do not do this yummy dish justice!

Ralph's been working super hard lately, and has still found time to be just ridiculously nice to me. The only way I know of to say thank you to him for his kindness and look after him is by cooking. I found this recipe on Confessions of a Foodie Bride- I just LOVE the photos she takes.. All her food is colourful and he articles are so sweet and happy.. The posts mostly come through when I'm falling asleep (too late!), and they make for the most wonderful bedtime story.

The recipe I found had peas and chicken in it though, but because Ralph doesn't like peas and I'm not too keen on chicken lately, I substituted. I couldn't figure it out for a while, but then it came to me: pumpkin and bacon! The carrots were just an extra yummy veggie to have on the side - I boiled them in sugar water for the whole cooking time, and they came out soft and gorgeous. They went perfectly with the salty cheese and bacon- yum!

I always look out for the quicker suppers, because with the running and work there's so little time, and I don't want poor Ralph eating supper after 8. I tend to make 8- I try for before though! Anyway - the main  point is the speed of the recipe and how it compares to the yumminess of the dish. For this recipe it's a win-win!

Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese
From Confessions of a Foodie Bride

250 g macaroni
1/2 cup low-fat plain yoghurt
8 strips back bacon
200 g cheddar cheese
200g butternut, cut into pea-sized cubes

1) Cook the butternut in a covered bowl in the microwave- it should be done in 5 minutes.
2) Fry the bacon until it's crispy. Then cut up into small pieces.
3) While the bacon is frying, cook the macaroni until al dente. Drain, saving a cup of the drained water, and put the macaroni back in the pot.
4) Add a big handful of cheese, the yoghurt and 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the macaroni and stir thoroughly. Add the rest of the cheese in handfuls, adding some more pasta water to thin out the sauce.
5) Finally add the bacon and pumpkin to the mixture and stir well.

I suppose there's little that can beat the combination of pasta, bacon and cheese- but the addition of pumpkin and carrots? Wonderful.



For some reason we've just never had luck with hamburgers. They've just never turned out that good, and the motivation to keep trying eventually dissipated. I'm so glad it came back long enough to try these.. They were the yummiest, most satisfying supper.. I'm definitely making these again- they were so easy and a definite winner. Ralph is super picky about hamburgers- and I got compliments and dreamy looks for these!

So I'm getting really into this whole blogging thing. I've really enjoying this new routine of thinking about what sort of thing I want to make for supper, looking for recipes on all my favourite websites during lunch at work, deciding how to specialise the recipe I find, shopping for ingredients, smiling at Ralph from the kitchen while I'm cooking, and having yummy supper with him. I do love me a good routine.

We've started running again, and we had a great one (ran a bit) the night I made these burgers. It's so nice to have a fulfilling supper like this after some exercise. I wanted something more healthy than chips on the side, so before we left, I put some butternut in the oven on a low heat, and by the time supper was ready they were amazingly soft and delicious.

I had decided to look for a nice burger recipe, and it took me longer than usual. Everything had weird ingredients. Until I found Pink Parsley's Green Chilli Burgers. The burger recipe looked so easy- and quick enough for an after-work, after-run supper. Also, we've been in love with Edrico Chillies for over a year now, but we recently bought fresh bottles, and I just had to try the chillies mixed with mayonnaise as a topping for the burgers.

From Pink Parsley

Makes 4 burgers

600 g extra lean mince
1 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
2 garlic cloves
salt and pepper
1 tsp chilli flakes

2 leaves lettuce, shredded
4 rolls
1/4 cup mayonnaise (about)
2 tblsp Edrico chillies (or chopped chillies in a sauce)

1) Mix the mince with the Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, salt, pepper and chilli flakes. Break up into 4 patties. Heat up some oil in a non-stick pan, and start frying the patties on a medium heat. Plan to only flip them once, so give them lots of time to get cooked on one side.
2) While they're frying, mix the mayo and chilli sauce make sure that you mix them to the heat you like.
3) Once that's done, cut the rolls in half, and put them under the grill to toast a bit.
4) Now you're ready to set up the burgers. Get the roll, put the cooked patty on one side, the lettuce on the other side, with the mayo mix on top of the lettuce.

What a comforting homey meal. I really recommend making the pumpkin. I used the leftover mayo sauce for dipping, and something about the vinegary taste of the chillies, mixed with the tangy taste of mayo, and the sweetness of pumpkin- it was absolute heaven.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Butterfly Cupcakes

So the other week, to cheer myself up, I bought a butterfly cake tin. The thing with such detailed tins is thinking about beyond how pretty the detail is. Did I think about whether the detail would even be visible under the icing that I would put on the cupcakes? No. Did my mind go further than 'ooooh pretty butterflies!!!'? No, it did not.

So when I decided to come up with some pretty cupcakes to make for Sophie's birthday (see butterfly Barbie ice cream cake post), I was sure that I could use my tin to make gorgeous ones. I changed my mind as soon as it was time to go from these gorgeous things:

To something that would accentuate the pretty details.. I just couldn't figure out a good way to point out all the little delicate decorations. So, I went to a more 'hey look- pretty colours!!' approach:

I was a bit conflicted about how these turned out initially, and I'm still changing my mind about them every few minutes. Next time I'll definitely go for a small pipe and more detail, but the bottom line is: these cupcakes were yummy, and the kids loved the decorations!

I used my favourite Nigella fairy cakes for the cupcakes themselves, and made vanilla buttercream for the icing. I raided the cupboard for decorations and came up with some nice pearls and hearts, which seemed to work nicely!

Ralph took all of these gorgeous photos. He makes my baking look like I see it through my rose coloured  lens eyes, and I'm glad that it's how the world gets to see it.