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.

Monday, 17 October 2011

We All Scream For Another Barbie Cake!

Ice Cream Barbie Butterfly Cake

I think I've mentioned before how much I love Ralph's nieces. Sophie's birthday party was this weekend and, like her sister, she wanted a Barbie cake. After seeing NuNuZa's AMAZING butterfly Barbie cake I decided that it was the way to go. With a couple of requested adjustments, it turned out beautifully!

Sophie loves ice cream cake so that's what was requested, and Sophie's mommy had already asked me to rather not use any fondant, as kids like the butter icing better. Both of these made my life so much easier- no cake to bake, and decorating would be much easier with just butter icing. Also- I asked Ralph's mom to help with the cake- it was so comforting to have her help with a terrifying new kind of cake!

For the cake itself, I just bought creamy vanilla ice cream. I rented a butterfly tin from Kadies, so all we needed to do was press the ice cream into the tin. Now- a few tips for this: I would put the tin in the freezer for a while before putting ice cream in it (I didn't do this, but I think it would have helped the ice cream melt less). Also, Kadies told me not let the ice cream melt while I was working on it, and I did this as best I could as well. The cake came out delicious, so I agree that this was the way to go.

Once the cake was in the freezer, we got around to dressing the Barbie. I bought pre-coloured black, red and pink fondant, rolled it out and cut out heart shapes. Then I layered the shapes to make her dress.

The first thing to do is, measure that the board you're going to put the cake on fits in the freezer. Then, decide where the cake will go on the board. You will need to put something down that will make the cake stick to the board.  I ran into a lady a Weight Watchers who told me I must use Ice Cap sauce if I wanted to stick anything to ice cream. I'm SO glad I met her. I bought the sauce and poured it on the board where I was going to turn out the cake, and when I did put the cake on the board, it stuck SO nicely. Now is a good time to put the cake back in the freezer while you get the icing ready.

I then made pink, purple and red butter icing and loaded up some piping bags. Everything has to be ready whenever you take the cake out of the freezer. I did the icing in 3 turns, returning the cake to the freezer in between. We took it out one last time to stick the letters and candles on. The Barbie went on just before serving.

Transporting the cake included ice bricks, an aircon on full, a freezing Olga and a melting cake! It was an easy and delicious cake to make and a big crowd pleaser!!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Not Quite Mac & Cheese

Three Cheese and Bacon Macaroni

So I think I mentioned that I've been a bit lazy with cooking lately. Well.. Not so much lazy as overbooked. I'm trying to spend time with my grandma while she visits, and so I'm not home for the usual baking and cooking adventures. I wanted to make one nice thing for us for supper this week, and with Ralph's love for bacon and mine for pasta, we were easily led to this.

Now I can't say that this was my favourite pasta, but that's not to say it wasn't nice. Ralph enjoyed it and even had it for lunch the next day. I was looking forward to another alternative to mac & cheese and this just didn't have the elements I love about mac & cheese. Mac & cheese for me just has to be saucy, and mine tends to have something healthy snuck in (kindof like this one). I compensated for the lack of veggies in this pasta by making some sauce out of cherry tomatoes, and serving it alongside. A good note on miniature tomatoes: if you're planning on making a sauce, either buy the small ones, or cut the big ones up. I bought big ones and used them whole, and the sauce took a little longer to make that I would have liked. I'm completely hooked on this tomato sauce by the way- I want to make it with everything!

I tried to make the recipe a tad healthier by using turkey rashers instead of bacon, as we've been meaning to try them out. It made for a nice warm supper after a long day (Ralph and I are trying to get back into running again), but it just didn't give me that 'ahhhh.....' moment that I get when I know I've made us a gorgeous hugging meal that we deserve after such a long day.

Three Cheese and Bacon Macaroni
Adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures, originally from Everyday Food

200 g curly macaroni
5 turkey rashers
2 cloves crushed garlic
3 extra-large eggs
380 ml evaporated milk
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar
1/2 cup grated gouda
1/2 cup parmesan

1) Preheat oven to 250 C or highest below.
2) Boil curly macaroni for 6 minutes, until not quite done. Drain and place into a large bowl.
3) At the same time, fry the turkey rashers until nice and crispy, then add garlic and stir through. Take out of the pan and add to the bowl. Try not to take too much oil along.
4) Whisk the eggs and the milk together. Add the cheeses and spices and mix well. Add to the bowl and mix well, but gently.
5) Tip into an oiled oven pan (I used a large glass rectangular one).
6) Put in the oven for about 12 minutes. DO NOT wait for it to boil or brown on top. I'm used to things cooking in the oven, but due to the eggs this simply solidifies. I overcooked mine a bit by waiting for too long. Not badly though- but don't make the same mistake.

All in all it was a pleasant supper, and a brand new experience in cooking (evaporated milk!). Also - turkey rashers aren't so bad! I do Weight Watchers so it's nice to have an almost viable alternative to bacon (Ralph would want me to add that NOTHING is an actual alternative to bacon)! He took the photos, but we were both so exhausted from our long (5 - 6km) run (slowish walk) that the photos didn't come out too well. I think the two I used are great though!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Giggling Dogs

Snickerdoodles (Sniggerpoodles?)

These aren't really famous in South Africa, and I really, really, REALLY wonder why. I made these just before bed, and fell asleep to the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg. What a wonderful way to live.

I found this recipe in Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess. I was sitting around late on Sunday afternoon, and looking for something to make that would mean that I wouldn't have made nothing over the weekend, but wouldn't take too much effort either. I thought I would make something super easy and quick after supper, but still delicious enough that I could feel fulfilled from the weekend.

I was very suspicious of these cookies. You can't quite tell when they're done because they're so dark from the cinnamon, so I overbaked them a little. Then I just couldn't bring myself to try one. I'm not a huge fan of cookies. In fact, I only really made these because Nigella says they're a cross between cake and cookies so I thought that would be great.

I took some to work on Monday morning, dipped them in tea and fell in love.. If there's one thing you will do with these cookies, you have to dip them in tea!! I mean.. It turns out they're amazing anyway.. But you know how you fall in love with someone because of one thing, but then love everything about them? That's how it was for me with these marvellous cookies.

From Nigella

250g cake flour
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
125 g butter
100g plus 1 tblsp caster sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tblsp cinnamon

1) Preheat oven to 180 C
2) Sift the flour, nutmeg and baking powder into a bowl.
3) In a separate bowl, cream the butter and all except 1 tblsp sugar. Then add the egg and vanilla.
4) Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and mix with a spoon until it's smooth and consistent.
5) Mix the tablespoon of sugar with the cinnamon, and put onto a flat plate.
6) Take just over a tablespoon at a time from the dough with your fingers, and roll between your palms to form a sphere.
7) Roll the spheres in the cinnamon mixture, and place onto a lined baking tin. I lined mine with silicone liners (the second time I made these they were much more uniform, but that doesn't matter :-) ):

8) Bake these for about 15 minutes. It's slightly difficult to tell when they're done, but the second time around I took them out after 15 minutes exactly and they were perfect.

Ralph came up with the happy photos for these delicious little guys, that naughty kitty came all the way from Boston to be in these photos! I can't believe I doubted these swonderful (I said swonderful!) cookies. They lived up to their reputation: a cookie that turns into cake when dunked in tea! I almost made another batch tonight. Going to have to fight the urge tomorrow! One day at a time!

Update: I ended up making these again two days later. I wanted some for the office and the first batch was so good that it all got finished.. I'll start fighting the urge tomorrow again!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Brownie Experiment: Death by Brownie Brownies

American Chocolate Brownies

These brownies are just SO decadent.. My second attempt in the brownie experiment was a divine success..

When I was still in university, I had this friend, called Niqui. She was raising 3 girls and all her cooking was fantastic. I was in awe of her, and her brownies were always better than anyone else's. I got her recipe and I was soon making this for my friends on all special occasions (at varsity I knew how to make 3 things: meringues, brownies and crumpets). I lost the recipe a few years ago, and with losing weight and trying to stay healthy, I was really hoping not to find it again.. But oh I did..

When I found this recipe again I immediately invited Brandon and Ane for supper. They had to try these! They're the reason for the Brownie Experiment, and Brandon is one of my favourite people in the whole world, and Ane is quickly becoming one too. I want to make them brownies all the time!!

American Chocolate Brownies
From Niqui

200 ml buttermilk
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt

3 heaped tblsp cocoa
3/4 cups sunflower oil
1 1/2 cups water
200g margarine

1) Preheat oven to 160 C. 
2) Mix buttermilk and bicarb in a jug, and allow to foam.
3) Beat the eggs until they turn pale yellow.
4) Sift together the flour, sugar and salt.
5) Put the cocoa, sunflower oil, water and margarine in a pot, and bring to the boil.
6) Add the boiling liquid to the flour mixture and mix well.
7) Add the beaten eggs and mix well.
8) Add the bicarb mixture and mix well.
9) Pour into baking tray, I used a largish rectangular glass tray.
10) Bake for 1 1/4 hours, or until the brownies come away from the sides of the dish.

Fudge Topping

3 tblsp cocoa
125ml margarine
3 tblsp buttermilk
500g icing sugar

11) Just before the brownies come out, melt all the ingredients in a pot, on a medium heat.
12) Pour over brownies as they come out, and allow them to cool fully before cutting up and serving.

I love watching Ane eat brownies. She just loves them so much. I think if I saw her more often I might just spend my life baking brownies for her- a very fulfilling career choice.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Grandma Russia


I've been brought up on Russian food, so I'm really used those tastes being the ones associated with feeling at home and happy. I really struggle to make most Russian dishes, because they involve mincing your own meat at home, which is difficult and.. Well it's a little gross.. But not borsh- it's warm, creamy and it just hugs you.

I love making these homey gorgeous meals at Ralph's house. I spend a lot of time here, and I really like to make it feel like a home, which to me means making it smell nice, and be full of warm food and treats. My grandma has been visiting for the past month, and whenever she visits she teaches me recipes when we spend time together. This time I was determined to actually make something besides a book full of recipes I've never tried.

I really struggle with the vague recipes that eastern Europeans tend to have. They tend to go something like "add some meat and then add spices until it tastes right". This one isn't that different (I've tried to make it more concrete), but there's no minced beef!

This recipe has every vegetable I have ever thought of, and some that I only imagined when reading stories about horrible witches who feeds kids horrible vegetables (or something like that?). I'm not gonna lie, it took a while, but it was SO worth it. This soup was AMAZING! Great feedback from Ralph- and enough for me not to have to cook for a couple of evenings. One thing though- it ended up being a bit more dense than soup should be, so perhaps dial down the veggies a bit. I'll update the recipe when I make it again though.

Oh I should mention- earlier this week we had leftover soup with these rolls that Ralph made- super yum!

From my super tiny grandma

500 g chuck beef
6 marrow bones

2 tblspn oil
2 onions
1 carrots
1 beetroot
1/2 celeriac
1 green pepper
2 small parsnips
1 tin tomato paste

3 medium potatoes
1/4 large cabbage

1 tsp salt - probably more
1 tsp sugar
3 - 4 bay leaves
1/4 tsp citric acid
freshly ground pepper
aromatic pepper (found in pickle mix)

fresh flat leaf parsley
fresh coriander
3 - 4 cloves garlic, crushed

sour cream
mustard (optional)

1) First, wash the meat and remove all the fat and sinews. Fill a pot with the beef, the marrow bones and water, and set on a medium heat. Remove foam forming before it boils with a tablespoon. Once it does boil, put it on a low heat and half cover with the lid. It's going to cook like this for 2 1/2 - 3 hours.
2) While the meat is cooking, clean the onions, carrots, beetroot, celeriac, green pepper and parsnips. Cut the onions into half moons, and slice the pepper into thin slices. The rest of the cleaned veggies get grated.
3) Put the oil in a large pan, and add the onion. Fry until the onion is golden. Now add the grated veggies and pepper. Put a lid on and stir occasionally. Cook until the veggies are soft. Now, add the tomato paste, mix through and continue cooking the mixture shortly.
4) Now, peel the potato (submerge in water to keep from browning) and shred the cabbage (it should make one full bowl, so you might not use all of it).
4) Once the meat is cooked and tender, cube the potatoes and add them. When the potatoes are cooked through, add the veggie mixture and the cabbage.
5) Now add (stir in between!) salt, sugar, bay leaves, citric acid, pepper and aromatic pepper.
6) Turn off the heat.
7) Add chopped parsley and coriander, and crushed garlic.
8) It gets better after standing for a bit, especially the next day.
9) Serve with sour cream, and on cold winter nights, add a teaspoon of mustard. Don't worry- it won't taste like mustard, but it will warm you up.

I feel like a really good cook having made this. Every Russian home must have their own version of borsh, and now I have mine! I've decided to learn to make some more Russian dishes, so expect more posts on those soon!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Nana Banana

Banana Muffins

It's difficult to talk about what made me want to make these muffins, because I can't remember what life was like before I knew they existed. I just know it was worse.. Much MUCH worse..

They weren't supposed to mean anything to me.. They were the one night stand of baking, with whom you fall in love and one day you tell the story of how you met to your grandchildren. I was making proper Russian Borsh (I'll post about it later in the week), and I thought, wouldn't it be nice to have banana bread to have for tea and for breakfast. Banana bread really means home to me- and that seems to be my most often used reason for baking things.

Unfortunately, I only have 2 loaf tins, a teeny one and a farm sized one. Neither of those would do for this loaf. So the decision was quickly made to make muffins instead. Also, I used wholewheat flour for these instead of cake flour (residual guilt from not using wholewheat flour in the pumpkin pancakes last week) so that they were a bit more healthy. It was the greatest decision I ever made. Picture tears in my eyes when I tell you, these muffins are the ones for me.

Banana Muffins
From The Ultimate Book of Baking by Heilie Pienaar

125 g unsalted butter
200 g sugar
2 extra large eggs
280g wholewheat flour
5 ml baking powder
2 ml salt
5 ml bicarbonate of soda
100 ml milk
1 cup mashed bananas (I used 4 small ones)
30 ml fresh lemon juice
5 ml vanilla essence

1) Preheat over to 180 C.
2) Cream butter and sugar
3) Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
4) Whisk the wholewheat flour, baking powder, salt and bicarbonate of soda together in a bowl.
5) Add the milk, about half at a time, alternately with the flour mixture, to the butter mixture, mix thoroughly in between.
6) Add the lemon juice to the bananas and add to the mixture, along with the vanilla essence. Mix well.
7) Turn into either a 23 cm loaf pan (and send me pictures) or into a muffin tin - it makes about 16 muffins. The loaf cooks for 50 - 55 minutes, and the muffins 15 - 20 minutes.

Ralph taught me the way to eat banana muffins. He cuts them in half, and toasts them in the oven (I like to put them in the microwave for 10 seconds too) and carefully smears on some marge.. And for breakfast, lunch and supper (I can't help it- I think about them all the time) you're in heaven.. Probably why they never last. Next time I'm definitely making some to freeze!

Monday, 3 October 2011


Pumpkin Pancakes

Breakfast for supper- it's like a dream. From watching TV I've been brainwashed to think of two meals as taboo and just completely wonderful: ice cream for breakfast, and breakfast for dinner! Sorry about these photos- I took the with my phone quickly before we ate!

I'm not really big into change. I wouldn't be that person that sees something like squid, goes out and buys something I've never eaten before, and cooks a dish with it. I have to take small steps in almost familiar territory but I still get there! For example, a couple of years ago I would refuse to go near anything that contained onions, and now, here I am, making and eating bacon carbonara!

This time, as usual, I was looking around for something that doesn't take to long to put together but is still wonderfully delicious, as I really try to super yummy things for Ralph. The thing that really sold me on these pancakes was the blog post by The Curvy Carrot, the things that she said about pumpkin pancakes just stuck them in my mind. I love the healthy twist on the pancakes, but I ended up using a more simple recipe from Baking Bites, just because I wanted to use thing I already had in the house. Also, the recipes mention pumpkin spice, which I haven't found in South Africa, so I read up a bit and put together a combination of spices that worked wonders for me.

Once the idea of breakfast for dinner was agreed (actually I only thought it was- Ralph thought 'pumpkin pancakes' meant that I was telling him to make normal pancakes for supper), all that we needed was bacon and a nice tomato sauce that was very much like the tomato herb pan sauce to complete the meal.

Pumpkin Pancakes
Adapted from Baking Bites

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup mashed pumpkin  (I used butternut. I microwaved it and mashed it)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp oil
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1) Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl (flour,baking powder,soda,salt,nutmeg,cinnamon,ginger) and whisk to mix around nicely.
2) Put the rest of the ingredients (wet ingredients) in another bowl, whisk these nicely too.
3) Put the wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix well.
4) Fry pancakes on a medium heat. I fried two at a time on my medium pancake pan. They are ready to turn over when they resemble this:

It was one the best evenings I had in a while. Ralph's mom decided to join us at the last minute, and we had a lovely family supper at home. I love making food for people I love, and I'm so happy when they enjoy it. This meal was such a hit. The pancakes are soft, delicious, mushy, and sweet the bacon is salty and crunchy, and the tomato sauce brings everything together with a herby tangy flavour.

I'm so happy to finally be able to make pancakes that rise but aren't dry or flavourless! Ralph makes the best pancakes hands down, which usually means that he's the one making breakfast. At least now I can give him a break and a treat every now and again.