Thursday, 30 May 2013

Espresso Cake for Baby Shower

Little girls are soft, pink, pudgy, wet, and cause for great celebration. A colleague of mine is said baby's daddy-to-be, and he'd been asking for this cake for almost a year now (We both love Smitten Kitchen). I'm not a huge fan of coffee, and so I've just be putting off, but I wish I hadn't. This cake is so balanced, the smooth softness of the cake, the creaminess of the icing, the bitterness of the coffee, and even that slightly drunken rum taste.

I work as a programmer in finance, so for the past couple of years I've been working almost exclusively around men. I have to say.. I miss girls SO MUCH. I miss drinking tea, caring about each other's lives and having all this wonderful support that women provide for each other. However, every now and again, I'm allowed to have feelings around here and I go all out!

One great thing about working with men- if I make them a cake, they eat it! Even if they're supposed to be on a diet.

Espresso Chiffon Cake with Fudge Frosting
From Smitten Kitchen

60 ml (1/4 cup) canola oil
6 eggs, separated
90 ml espresso (for those of us who don't own a machine- this is roughly a triple espresso)
10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup cake flour
250 ml (1 cup) sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar

80 ml (1/3 cup) espresso
125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar
80 ml (1/3 cup) dark rum

180 g dark chocolate (I used Bournville)
4 1/2 cup icing sugar
360 g unsalted butter
45 ml milk
45 ml cream
1 tblsp vanilla extract

1) Preheat oven to 180 C. Get 3x 8 or 9 inch cake tins, and line the bottom with wax paper. Don't grease.
2) Combine canola oil, egg yolks, espresso, and vanilla in a medium bowl.
3) Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl.
4) Beat the egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy, add sugar gradually, and beat to soft peak stage.
5) Fold together egg yolk mixture and dry ingredients.
6) Add a large spoonful of the egg white mixture, and fold in gently.
7) Add the rest of the egg white mixture and fold in completely.
8) Split the mixture between the pans. Bake cakes for about 15-20 minutes depending on depth, until a toothpick comes out clean.
9) Take tins out, and let the cakes cool in them.
10) Mix together espresso, sugar and rum in a small bowl.
11) Melt the chocolate, cool, then place all the ingredients for the icing in a bowl and mix until smooth.
12) Now, take you final serving plate, and begin with the first cake. Place it in the centre, and use a brush to soak it with the syrup. Then add about a 2 cm layer of icing.
13) Add another cake on top, repeat the soak and icing.
14) Add the final layer of cake, soak, and now ice all around the cake, piping around the edges.
15) Decorate at will!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Vetkoek and Mince

In my mind, this is just the best South African meal. Ralph's cafeteria used to make it as a special on Thursdays and I would exercise extra hard just so that I could go over there and have some. I guess people who haven't tried it would compare it to a curry sloppy Joe? Except the vetkoek itself is so much better than just some roll.

I made this as the main course for our Mother's Day meal. Vetkoek is very similar to a dish my grandma used to make, and both my mom and I love to be reminded of her. In her recipe, she would make a mince mixture, and fold the dough around it, leaving some of it peeking out. I can still picture her tiny hands (is Radiohead playing in your head right now?) smoothly and professionally pulling and squeezing the dough wrap around the mince. 

I know people feel content with buying their mom presents and special meals for Mother's Day, and I tend to do the same. But is there ever really enough you can do to show your mom just how important she is? Does spending a day in the kitchen making her one special meal tell her how much it means to you that she made you mashed potatoes every day for months when you were little and refused to eat anything but that and pickles?

Vetkoek and Mince
From The Ultimate Book of Baking by Heilie Pienaar (no longer in print)

4 cups cake flour
15 ml sugar
3 ml salt
10 g instant dry yeast (1 packet)
30 ml sunflower or canola oil (I would even use olive)
About 400 ml lukewarm water
Sunflower or Canola oil, for deep frying

2 onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped (or crushed)
500 g lean beef mince
20 ml curry powder
5 ml masala
3 ml turmeric
2 ml ground cumin
3 medium potatoes, chopped into small cubes (I like very small)
1 medium carrot, grated
About 250ml beef stock

1) Whisk together flour, sugar, salt and yeast. 
2) Add oil. 
3) Add water, bit by bit, until the dough comes together. It should be quite soft. 
4) Knead until it becomes smooth and elastic. 
5) Place in a bowl covered in a damp cloth to rise, until doubled in size.
6) Knock down and knead a bit. Then divide into balls. I made roughly tennis-sized balls, but traditionally you would want them flattish and about double the diameter.
7) Heat the oil in a deep pot (oil should be at least 8-10 cm deep) on a medium heat. Fry the dough balls until deep brown. The larger the balls, the lower the heat, as you want them to cook through. Drain on a kitchen towel before serving.
Now for the mince:
8) Heat some oil in a large pan, fry onions until translucent, add the garlic and fry until fragrant.
9) Add the mince, and fry until brown and caramelised.
10) Add the spices and cook for a couple of minutes. It should start smelling pretty fantastic.
11) Add potatoes and carrot, and add enough stock to cover everything. Cook until potatoes are tender, and sauce has thickened.
12) Serve warm mince inside the vetkoek, preferably very fresh, as it has a wonderful crunch when it is.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Roast Garlic and Bacon Guacamole for Mother's Day

I feel like it's almost cliche to talk about how wonderful my mom is.. I mean.. Doesn't everyone just adore their moms? Who else do they call when they're happy, sad, bored or insecure?

She's always good for a hug, a kiss and just passionate support for everything from looking for a new job to trying to make the perfect fried egg. She wants to buy me something pretty, even when she really shouldn't. 

She wants to make me a giant beer glass full of lemon tea and cheese sandwiches when I'm sick, because she knows that there's a time to stop worrying about your diet and just relax. Even if I don't agree, I can rarely resist.

My mom and I used to experiment with guacamole all the time. We loved avocados so much. Only recently did I go to a proper Mexican restaurant and find out the right way to do things. I got myself a pestle and mortar, and so far I've been pretty successful! This was my latest experiment, and I have to say, I'll be adding roast garlic to many other dishes now! Thanks so much Alaina from Fabtastic Eats!

Roast Garlic and Bacon Guacamole
Adapted from Fabtastic Eats

1 full head of garlic
5 rashes of bacon, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 green chillies, diced
small handful of Coriander, chopped
3 avocados
1 lime, juiced

1) Preheat oven to 220 C. Cut of the top of the head of garlic, so that the tips of the cloves are exposed. Place on a piece of foil large enough to wrap it. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, wrap it up, and roast it for 30 minutes.
2)  While the garlic is roasting, fry the bacon until crispy.
3) Get out a pestle and mortar, add the onion, pepper, chillies, and coriander in, and pound them for a while to get out the juices, flatten them out, and mix them together.
4) In a medium bowl, dump out the contents of the mortar, peel and deseed the avocados, and add them too.
5) Mash the mixture through with a fork.
6) Season with salt and white pepper (if find white pepper works nicely with avo), and add a tablespoon or so of lime juice.
7) Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into the mixture and work through.
8) Finally, add the bacon.
9) Taste and correct for seasoning and you can add more lime juice if you like.
10) Serve fresh. (we found the little bit of leftovers we had got very garlicky in the fridge overnight) (but we ate them anyway)

Monday, 20 May 2013

My First South African Recipe: Sean's Bobotie

What happens when people who were your boyfriends family suddenly become yours? Something definitely, definitely happened to me. It's not quite like suddenly you're happy to lie on a couch in your pyjamas with them, but this gorgeous familial affection definitely takes root inside of you.

I don't know if Ralph felt the same way about my family, but there was definitely something tangible that changed in my relationship with his family the day we got married. Even though we had technically been family for years, together on Christmas, birthdays and visits, now we're solidly so.

One of the family members I gained that wonderful day was Sean, my brother in law. I don't know if he knew quite what this gift of a simple recipe would end up meaning to me. I made this one evening while waiting for Ralph to get home. When he did the first thing he said was "I was hoping that smell was coming from here". Could I ask for more?

From Sean, copied almost directly

25ml olive oil
12.5ml butter
2 medium onions, chopped
2 garlic gloves, chopped
1kg beef mince
2 tblsp medium curry powder
10ml turmeric
25ml smooth apricot jam
3 slices white bread
3 eggs
375ml milk

2 eggs
180 ml milk

1) Preheat the oven to 180 C.
2) Melt the butter in the oil in a deep pan.
3) Fry the onion until translucent, then add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes.
4) Add the mince, and brown nicely. 
5) Add salt, pepper, curry powder and turmeric. (Add a bit less curry powder if you don't like hot food)
6) Soak bread in water, squeeze out and crumble (more like mashing.)
7) Beat the eggs and milk together, and add, together with the bread and jam, to the mince. Stir thoroughly.
8) Pour into a greased baking dish.

9) Bake for 30 minutes.
10) Whisk together eggs and milk for "custard" topping. Pour over mince.

11) Bake for another 30 minutes. Serve with or without rice to hungry loved ones on cold nights.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Mom's Super Moist Silky Chocolate Cake

A few months ago, I went to my friend Joe's wedding. It was the sweetest wedding, and his wife Zeldine looked so amazingly gorgeous and happy it was like an advertisement for marriage! 

Their cake, instead of the usual tall fondant-covered detailed showpiece, was a discreet yet stylish looking cake encircled with sheets of chocolate. My first thought was - bah! I could do that! I was being a complete idiot.

When it was time to cut the cake I was the first in line for a slice, curiosity having gotten the best of me. It was the kind of cake I would buy and guilt eat by myself. It was a tall gooey chocolate cake, layered with chocolate ganache and hazelnuts. It was fireworks, and clouds and dreamy bliss and no more troubles. It was true love.

I swore I would work on replicating this cake until I got it right! I remembered a cake of my mom's from when I was little that I thought might be similar to Joe's one. I finally got her to dig up the recipe for me, and made it just a couple of days later.

What happens here is, you bake a very simple cake, that is quite dry, then soak it with an evaporated milk mixture. The cake soaks it up like a big sponge, and there's just enough to make it super moist without going gooey.

I can't think of a better way to tell someone you love them than this cake. This one is very similar to Joe's cake- no wonder it was chosen for a wedding. You know "falling in love pie" from Waitress? I'm sure that this is the cake version of it..

Chocolate Cake
From My Mom

250 ml (1 cup) cake flour
60 ml (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
250 ml (1 cup) sugar
10 ml (2 tsp) baking powder
1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt
125 ml (1/2 cup) oil
125 ml (1/2 cup) boiling water
4 eggs, separated
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

1 can (410 g) evaporated milk
125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar
1 tblsp bourbon (or a chocolate, coffee or cream liqueur)(optional)
200 g wholenut chocolate

1) Preheat oven to 180 C. Prepare a 8-9 inch cake tin.
2) Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt.
3) Whisk together the oil, boiling water, egg yolks and vanilla extract in a separate bowl.
4) Add the wet ingredients to dry and mix thoroughly.
5) Beat egg white to stiff peaks. Add one large tablespoon of the egg whites to the egg mixture, and gently stir in with a large metal spoon. Add the rest of the egg whites, and fold them in gently.
6) Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
7) About 15 minutes before the cake comes out, take 3/4 of the evaporated milk, sugar and bourbon and heat them gently in a small saucepan until the sugar has dissolved.
8) Take the cake out, take it out of the cake tin, place on your serving plate. Gently pour spoonfuls of the evaporated milk mixture on top of the cake, letting it absorb.
9) Heat up the rest of the evaporated milk with the chocolate in the same saucepan until the chocolate is completely melted. Pour over the cake.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Simplest Chicken A La King

Sometimes things are exactly as they seem. Not like low fat cream cheese, or chocolate covered raisins both of which I occasionally eat because, even though I know better, they seem healthy. But sometimes that cake you see in the window really does taste as good as it looks, a book is as good as its cover and that sweet looking girl smiling at you really does become your best friend.

This recipe is like that. One day, I was heading home from work, and even though in general I'm not a fan of onions, mushrooms or peppers, I was craving chicken a la king. So I bought the obvious components, went home, and made an amazing meal. I've since made this multiple times- even without chicken as a pasta sauce. It's so simple, not too unhealthy, and an easy pleaser.

I had a friend, Sarah, over for supper and I wanted to make a nice stewey meal that goes down so well on these cold evenings. This went down really well, so I hope she'll let me feed her again!

Chicken a la King

4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 green peppers, sliced thinly
250 g white mushrooms, sliced lengthways
60 ml cream
about 1 tsp corn starch

1) Put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan, and add the chicken pieces. Fry them until they are fully cooked, and browning. Season generously and set aside.
2) Using the same pan, add the onions. Cook until softened.
3) Add the peppers, cook until softened again.
4) Add the mushrooms, cook until reduced and softened.
5) Add the chicken, stir through.
6) Take the pan off the heat momentarily, and add the cream. Cook for a while to absorb the different flavours. Taste and correct seasoning.
7) Take a pinch of corn starch, and sprinkle it gently on top of the dish, stir through and check how think the sauce becomes. If it's not thick enough, repeat.
8) Serve with pasta or with a healthy alternative. Await complements.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Grandma's Pickle and Cold Meat Soup (Solyanka)

This soup was once sure sign that my grandma was visiting. My parents are big fans of german viennas and cold meats, and this soup is made from leftovers. And it's tangy, meaty and very warming on a cold night.

I love this soup so much. I love feeling this presence in my house, like my gran is just around the corner. Both my brother and I have been trying to recreate her recipes lately. I'm hoping it's going to become a bit of a project. Watch out for the Napoleon!

Cold Meat and Pickle Soup
From Tiny Grandma

2 - 3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cups (more or less) chopped cold meat (non smoked viennas, ham etc)
100 g tomato paste
1 cup chopped pickled gherkins (I used Beit Hashita)
Sour Cream as needed

1) Take a medium soup pot, and fill it with water. Salt the water. Once it boils, add the potatoes.
2) In the meantime, warm up about two tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sized pan on a medium-high heat, and add all the cold meats. Fry until nicely browned.
3) Add the tomato paste, stir through and cook for about 5 minutes.
4) Once the potatoes are cooked through, add cold meat mixture to the pot, at the same time as the pickles.
5) Taste and correct for seasoning.
6) Add a dollop of sour cream when serving. Prepare for very happy loved ones.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Vegetable Roses

Roast vegetables are wholesome, soft, slightly crunchy and sweet.. And boring.We've been making the same roast veggies for supper for years and years. They're wonderful, but I crave just a tiny bit of creativity.

One great thing about Ani is she really, really appreciates even my borderline failed experiments. She was so excited when she saw these! 

I thought they turned out really well. The colours didn't pop once they were cooked, but they did keep their shape and were a unique and beautiful addition to our plates. I drizzled beurre blanc on top to give it a bit of smoothness and make it that little more sophisticated. Unfortunately, I added a bit too much liquid to these, so there was a bit of soup at the bottom, but everyone loved them anyway. I have, however, reduced the liquid amount below.

Vegetable Roses

Whole butternut, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
Baby marrows, or even marrows if you can get them
Broccoli, broken up into florets
Chicken Stock

1) Use the peeler to make long slices of the butternut.
2) Do the same with the marrow.
3) Line a ramekin with the butternut and marrow slices, alternating them.
4) Keep some room in the middle for broccoli. Put a tiny bit of butter in there (I'd say about 1/4 of a teaspoon) and a tablespoon of chicken stock.
5) Fill the middle with broccoli.
6) Place ramekins in a baking dish, and cover with foil.
7) Bake at 180 C for about half an hour, uncover and bake for a further 10 minutes. Watch for the browned bits, make sure they don't burn.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Beurre au Citron du Bonheur

No, I don't speak french. I wish I did though.. I've made butter sauces twice now, so I'm sure I'm just about there. I loved speaking my horrible broken French in Paris.. It was absolutely magical for me! Less magical for the locals though..

Now I know I'm overly emotional, and I get overly attached and in general I'm a bit of a nutter (not necessarily the cute kind), but I'm inspired by this magic potential I find all around me at the moment.

Take this tiny flat I moved into over a year ago. It was dirty, I couldn't afford to have it repainted the the garden was overwhelmed with weeds. I moved in (Ralph came along to stay 'for a few days'), washed it from top to bottom, watered the garden..

The pale lemon yellow walls inspire happiness now. The garden, with bright plants, tomatoes and chillies brings serenity. It's magical that this tiny apartment means so much to me now that I can't bear to think of leaving it not matter how tight our fit is.

Butter sauces are definitely magical too. Plain old fried or steamed Hake with steamed broccoli? Blurg.. But pouring on just a tiny drizzle of this this shining naughty sauce is enough to mellow the harsh tones and add a tang, which turns it into a very enjoyable healthy supper.

Beurre Au Citron
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking

60 ml lemon juice
salt and white pepper
120 g butter, cubed into roughly 1 cm cubes

1) Pour the lemon juice, with salt and pepper into a small, heavy based saucepan.
2) Bring to the boil,and boil until there is about 1 tablespoon of liquid left.
3) Take the saucepan off the heat, and add  cube of butter, start whisking.
4) When it starts melting, add another cube, and place on a low heat.
5) Keep adding the cubes, one by one whilst whisking continually.
6) Serve with fish, chicken or veggies. Not suitable for non- lemon lovers!