Showing posts with label Jane-Anne Hobbs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jane-Anne Hobbs. Show all posts

Monday, 3 December 2018

My Mum's Classic Christmas Cake

This is a dense, boozy, spicy Christmas cake that evokes many happy memories. My Mum Jenny Hobbs made this every year when we were kids, using a recipe inherited from her own mother, and I have used the same formula (with a few tweaks of my own) for the past 20 years.

You'll find the recipe directly below and, underneath that, my detailed cook's notes. Whether you serve this cake naked, or add a cloak of home-made marzipan, or add marzipan and Royal icing is up to you - isn't it interesting how people have emphatic opinions about what should go on top of a Christmas cake? Is a luscious, almondy layer of marzipan enough? Or must every fruit cake be smothered with a swirly frosting of deliriously sweet, tooth-cracking Royal icing? You tell me!

My Mum's Christmas Cake

I've halved my Mum's original recipe, which is so enormous that it requires a gigantic mixing bowl and very strong arms. But still, this halved formula will make a cake that easily serves 10 people.

Classic Christmas Cake 

For the fruit/nut mix:
½ cup (125 ml) dried apricots
½ cup (125 ml) pecan nuts
½ cup (125 ml) walnuts
½ cup (125 ml) glacé cherries
800 g mixed dried fruit (including candied peel)
½ cup (125 ml) flaked or slivered almonds
2 Tbsp (30 ml) cornflour

For the cake:
500 g unsalted butter, very soft
250 g brown sugar
4 extra-large free-range eggs
500 g cake flour, sifted
60 g cornflour, sifted
½ tsp (2.5 ml) nutmeg
½ tsp (2.5 ml) ground cloves
1 Tsbp (15 ml) good instant coffee
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) syrup or honey
the finely grated zest of a lemon
the juice of a lemon
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract or or 2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla essence
1 tsp (5 ml) almond extract
a pinch of salt

For feeding the cake:
brandy

For the marzipan:
1 cup (250 ml) whole blanched almonds
1 cup (250 ml) almond flour
1 cup (250 ml) icing sugar
1 egg white (from an extra-large egg)
a few drops of almond extract
3 Tbsp (45 ml) smooth apricot  jam

For Royal icing: 
650 g icing sugar, sieved
3 egg whites
the juice of a lemon
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) glycerine [optional]


Some of the ingredients for a double batch.
Heat the oven to 150 ºC.

Prepare a deep 24-cm springform tin. Place the tin's base on a doubled-up sheet of baking paper, draw around it with a pencil, and cut out the two circles. Put the base into the ring, snap it shut and press the paper circles onto the base, buttering each one generously.

To line the ring, cut a long strip of baking paper double the height of the tin. Fold it in half lengthways and butter it on both sides. Press the strip, folded side up, around the inside of the ring.

Now prepare the fruit and nuts. Roughly chop the apricots, pecans and walnuts, and cut the cherries in half. Put them into a big bowl along with the mixed dried fruit and almonds. Add 2 Tbsp cornflour and toss well, using your hands, so every piece is lightly coated. Set aside.

To make the cake batter, cream the softened butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, beating well between each addition.

When the mixture is smooth and creamy, add the sifted flour and cornflour and mix well. Stir in all the remaining cake ingredients and then add the fruit and nut mixture. Stir well to combine (this is a very stiff batter - please see my tips in Cook's Notes, below). 

Mix to a very stiff batter.
Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top. Place on the centre rack of the oven and bake for about two hours and 20 minutes. You will know the cake is done when it is deep brown on top, and feels firm all over when you press it with your fingertips. At this point, stick a wooden skewer into the cake. If the skewer comes out dry, with no wet batter sticking to it, your cake is ready.

Check on your cake after about 90 minutes - if you notice that the top is browning quickly, and/or the raisins are burning, cover it loosely with a sheet of tin foil.

Remove the cake from the oven, and immediately pour over 3 Tbsp of brandy - the cake will sizzle satisfyingly as you do so. Now cover the tin loosely with foil and let it stand for a day.

To 'feed' your cake: leave it undisturbed in the tin, loosely covered. (It's important not to seal the top of the cake too tightly, or the alcohol will not evaporate.) Use a slim skewer to poke about 12 deep holes right to the base of the tin.  Every two or three days (depending on how boozy you want your cake), trickle a little brandy over the top, and tilt the pan as you do this so the alcohol seeps evenly into the holes.

To make the marzipan, blitz the whole almonds to a fairly fine powder in a food processor fitted with a metal blade (but don't overprocess them, or they will become oily). Add the almond flour, icing sugar, egg white, and a few drops of almond extract, to taste, and pulse until the mixture forms a smooth ball.  If the marzipan isn't clinging together, add a few drops of water and pulse again.

While the marzipan is still warm and flexible, roll it out into a thin sheet big enough to cover the whole cake (see Cook's Notes). It's best to do this between two sheets of baking paper.

Warm the apricot jam and brush it all over the top and sides of the cake. Drape the marzipan over the cake, pressing down lightly and easing it down the sides. Trim the excess marzipan all the way round the base of the cake.

For Royal icing, lightly whisk the egg whites until just frothy. Add the sifted icing sugar, a spoonful at a time, stirring well. When the mixture is thick, stir in the lemon juice and (optional) glycerine. (The glycerine prevents the icing from setting to rock hard). Using an electric beater, whisk the icing for ten minutes, or until it is glossy, white and standing in stiff peaks. 

Dollop the icing on top of the cake and use a spatula to spread it evenly across the top and sides. Using a swirling motion, create little spikes and peaks for a snow-scene effect. Set aside, uncovered, to dry for at least 12 hours, then transfer to a cake tin.

Makes 1 fruit cake, enough for 10. 

Cook's Notes
  • This recipe is easily doubled, but mixing such a large quantity of batter takes powerful arms and a very big mixing bowl. Use a cake tin about 28 cm in diameter and at least 7 cm deep, and insulate the tin by wrapping a double layer of brown paper around the outside and securing it with wet string - this will prevent the outside of the cake burning before the inside is cooked. A bigger cake will take between 2½ and 3 hours. 
  • Add the fruit and nut mixture to the batter in batches, using a wooden spoon and a stabbing motion. This is a very firm mixture, so take your time. If the batter seems impossibly thick, add a little milk. 
  • You can make this cake up to six weeks in advance, but I always start three weeks ahead. Add the marzipan and Royal icing a few days before Christmas.
  • To figure out the size of the marzipan circle, place the end of a piece of string at the base of the cake, drape it across the top, and then take it down to the base on the opposite side - this is the diameter of your circle, but add 1 cm to be on the safe side.
  • You can use all almond flour for the marzipan if you're in a hurry.
Swirl the Royal icing to create little frosty peaks.
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Friday, 18 December 2015

Pavlova with Poached Apples and Caramelised Verjuice Syrup

Apples and almonds have a great affinity with Verjuice. Although apples are not a traditional topping for a Pavlova, they work beautifully in this recipe, with its extravagant, brittle nest of almond-scented meringue, its clouds of whipped cream, and a reduced Verjuice syrup that’s just on the point of turning to caramel. The Pavlova should be made 8-12 hours ahead of time, and you can also prepare the apple filling well in advance.

Pavlova with Poached Apples and Caramelised Verjuice Syrup

This is another in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice (available at Woolies), and I hope you'll give this recipe a bash, even if you're mortally afraid of making anything involving temperamental meringue.

My attempts at making billowing pavlovas and snowy, crisp meringues were spectacularly flat, sticky failures for many years, but eventually I nailed them, and I haven't had a flop since.  I hope my method works for you - and it it doesn't, please drop me a line on Facebook so I can assist you.

Pavlova with Poached Apples and Caramelised Verjuice Syrup

For the Pavlova:

5 extra-large free-range eggs
a pinch of Cream of Tartar
250 g caster sugar
2-3 drops of good almond extract

For the filling:

5 large crisp apples, peeled, cored and quartered (I've used both Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, with good results)
1½ cups (375 ml) Verjuice
½ cup (125 ml) caster sugar
1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream
¼ cup (60 ml) flaked almonds, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan

First make the Pavlova. Heat the oven to 160 ºC, fan off. Separate the eggs and place the whites in a spotlessly clean bowl together with a pinch of Cream of Tartar (you'll find this in the baking aisle of supermarkets). Keep the yolks for making mayonnaise.

Using an electric beater or a food processor fitted with a balloon whisk, beat the egg whites for 2-3 minutes, or until they are standing up in firm - but not dry - peaks.

Add a third of the caster sugar at a time to the whites, whisking well for a few minutes between each addition. When you've added all the sugar, drop in the almond extract, to taste, and continue beating for another 3-4 minutes, or until the meringue is very thick, firm and shiny (with no sign of grittiness when you rub a blob between your fingers).

Your mixture should hold its firm billowing shape without drooping. If the meringue seems thin or floppy, your Pavlova will collapse in the oven, and you'll need to chuck out the mixture and start all over again.

Line a baking sheet with lightly oiled baking/greaseproof paper (put little blobs of meringue on four points under the paper to stick it down). Draw a plate-sized circle on the paper, spread a third of the meringue mixture over it to form the base of the Pavlova, then place big, generous dollops of the remaining meringue around the edges to form a basket. A huge metal spoon is the right utensil for this.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of your preheated oven, and immediately turn the heat down to 110 ºC (oven fan off). Bake for an hour and a quarter, then switch off the oven (don't open the door!) and let the meringue case dehydrate, undisturbed, for at least 8 hours, or until it is crisp and dry.  If you'd like a Pavlova with a slightly squidgy centre, let the case dry out for 6 hours.

To prepare the apple filling, put one cup of Verjuice and the caster sugar into a pan.  Bring to a gentle bubble, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Add the apple quarters and poach, covered, for 9-11 minutes, or until they are just soft.  Set aside to cool completely.

To assemble the dessert, remove the apples from their syrup with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Add the remaining ½ cup of Verjuice to the syrup, turn up the heat and boil over a medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until the syrup has reduced by about two thirds, is turning to an amber colour, and is thick, glossy, and producing plenty of big lazy bubbles. Watch the mixture like a hawk – you want it to be just on the point of caramelising.

Whip the cream until it's thick and billowy, pile it into the Pavlova and arrange the apple pieces on top.  Drizzle the hot syrup over the top, scatter with toasted almonds and serve immediately.

Serves 6. 

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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Chicken Liver Paté with a Jellied Verjuice Topping

A fine, smooth chicken liver paté is a splendid starter for a celebration, and specially for a festive feast, for so many reasons.  You can make a glorious paté several days in advance; it will cost you peanuts. And because this is such a rich and indulgent snack, a little goes a long way, particularly if you have plenty of snappy little gherkins, salty capers and Melba toast or crackers.

This recipe is based on my Low-Carb Silken Chicken-Liver Pâté with Green Peppercorns, but instead of sealing the dish with clarified butter, I've topped it with a wobbling layer of sweet, tart, lightly jellied Verjuice, which contrasts beautifully with the rich metallic taste of the livers.

Chicken Liver Paté with a Jellied Verjuice Topping


Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier.  He says: "Monis Medium Cream: Traditional Flor Method" 

It looks like: The Monis look is a classic one and very clearly states the type of wine – degrees from driest to sweetest on the label. In the glass the wine is gem bright pale gold amber.

 It smells like: Barley sugar sticks and pine needles. 

 It taste like: Silky smooth. Honey. Christmas Cake spices. Touches of windfall citrus and plump raisins.


Chicken Liver Paté with a Jellied Verjuice Topping

For the paté:

500 g chicken livers, thawed
120 g salted butter
6 spring onions, white and pale green parts only, sliced
1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Verjuice
3 Tbsp (45 ml) cream
a pinch of nutmeg, to taste
salt &  milled black pepper

For the jelly: 

½ cup (125 ml) Verjuice
3 ml (a heaped half-teaspoon) powdered gelatine

To serve:
crusty fresh bread or crackers
capers

Trim and rinse the livers, and set aside in a colander.

Melt all the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the spring onions and thyme, and cook them gently in their bath of butter for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are soft but not browned.

Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute, with out allowing it to burn. Now turn the heat up, add the livers and fry briskly for 3-5 minutes, or until the livers are lightly browned on the outside, but still rosy in the middle.

Tip the livers and their juices into a blender.  Deglaze the pan with 2 Tbsp Verjuice, stirring and scraping to dislodge any bits.  Bubble for 30 seconds, remove the thyme and pour the pan juices into the blender.

Blitz to a fine, smooth paste, then add the cream, and whizz again until just combined.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then pour into a paté dish (or individual pots), and smooth the top. Cover with clingfilm and chill for 3 hours.

To make the jelly, pour the half cup of Verjuice into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatine on top and leave to ‘sponge’ for 3 minutes. Set the bowl in a pan of simmering water, halfway up to its waist, and leave until the mixture is clear.  Allow to cool for 3 minutes, then pour the jelly over the paté in an even layer. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and black pepper, then refrigerate until the topping has set.
Serve with bread, crackers and capers.

Serves 6-8 as a snack.


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Saturday, 14 November 2015

Camembert Baked in Vine Leaves, with Verjuice-Poached Grapes

Need a gorgeous Christmas curtain-raiser? Try my jewel-bright starter, which combines hot oozing Camembert with sharp-sweet grapes lightly poached in Verjuice.  (If you don’t have fresh vine leaves, use blanched baby spinach leaves to wrap your cheese.)

Camembert Baked in Vine Leaves with Verjuice-Poached Grapes
and oven-baked croutons. (Plate by David Walters.)



Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier.  He says: "Asara Vineyard Collection Pinotage Rosé 2015." 

 It looks like: Packed in a Burgundy shaped flint bottle with a gold screwcap and elegant label. In the glass it is a beautiful dusky pink, inviting you to take a sip. 

 It smells like: Watermelon sorbet, spun sugar and roadside brambles. 

 It taste like: Fresh red and black berries, the fullness of honeydew melon, crisp, fresh and a lovely harmony right through to a long aftertaste.


This is the second in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice, and I do hope you'll put this show-stopper on your Christmas table this year. Why? You can make it well ahead of time, it doesn't take long to fling together, and it's a simple starter that draws appreciative gasps from guests.

Camembert Roasted in Vine Leaves with Verjuice-Poached Grapes

For the grapes:

1 cup Verjuice
4 large vine leaves, or 6 baby spinach leaves, stalks removed
1 Tbsp (15 ml) honey
1 large sprig of fresh thyme
a big bunch of sweet red grapes

For the cheese:

1 x 250 g just-ripe Camembert
1 sprig of fresh thyme
milled black pepper

To serve:
oven-baked crouton tatters (see Cook's Notes; below), or Melba toast

Heat the oven to 180 ºC.

First prepare the vine leaves and grapes. Pour the Verjuice into a shallow pan and bring to a simmer. Spread a large sheet of clingfilm on the counter.  Blanch the vine leaves by dipping each one in the simmering Verjuice for 10 seconds. Snip off the stalks and spread the leaves on the clingfilm to dry. If you're using baby spinach leaves, you'll need to blanch them a little longer - they should be soft and floppy.

Add the honey and thyme sprig to the pan, then lay the bunch of grapes in the pan, on its side. Poach at a gentle simmer for about 7 minutes, turning the bunch often, or until the skin is splitting and fruit is just beginning to collapse. Remove the grapes and set aside to drain in a colander.

Turn up the heat and boil the Verjuice until it has reduced by about half, and is thickened and glossy. Set this syrup aside.

Cut an X shape across the top of the Camembert, about 5mm deep, and push a few sprigs of thyme into the slits, using the back of a knife.  Wrap the cheese in the blanched vine leaves.  Set the cheese on a sheet of baking paper, wrap up to a loose parcel, and secure with kitchen string or raffia.

Place on a baking sheet and bake at 180 ºC for 7-12 minutes, or until the cheese feels very soft and oozy.

Remove the baking paper, and place on a platter.  Arrange the poached grapes around the cheese, drizzle them with the Verjuice syrup, and serve immediately with crisp golden croutons (see below) or Melba toast.

Serves 4 as a starter or snack.

Cook's Notes:

To make oven-baked crouton tatters, heat the oven to 190 °C, fan on. Tear a day-old baguette, or white rolls, into big rough scraps, and arrange them on a non-stick baking tray.  Drizzle very lightly with olive oil, toss well to and bake for 7-10 minutes, or until they're golden brown and crunchy.  Put the croutons on a wire rack and allow to cool - they will stay crisp for a few hours, depending on the humidity in your kitchen.

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Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Cold Cucumber, Herb & Yoghurt Soup with Verjuice Granita

I hope you'll enjoy this cold yoghurty cucumber soup, topped with feathery flakes of frozen Verjuice. With its lovely contrast of herbal creaminess and sweet, crunchy acidity, this is a splendid starter for a blazing day. There are deep, clean, singing flavours here that make you want to drink it in buckets, as if it is exactly what your body craves.  This low-carb recipe is suitable for diabetics.

Cold Cucumber, Herb & Yoghurt Soup with Verjuice Granita 



Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier.  He says: "Klein Constantia Metis Sauvignon Blanc 2014." 

 It looks like: Packed in the bottle embossed with the Constantia logo, the fusion of philosophies is reflected in the flower on the label that is a hybrid of the South African Protea and French Iris. In the glass a pale gold with green amber flashes. 

 It smells like: Pure classical good Sauvignon aromas. White fleshed peaches and nectarines. Grapefruit oil. 

 It taste like: Rich, vibrant palate. Generous fruit, blackcurrant leaves, almost savoury. Minerals present in the exciting lime squirt in the long aftertaste. This is a laster if well stored could go up to 8 years after vintage.


I've had fun this month developing a series of new recipes using Verjuice, and this is the first of nine. Are you familiar with Verjuice?  It's a delicate, slightly tart, somewhat sweet, unfermented juice made from unripe grapes, popular as an acidulating agent in Roman times and the Middle Ages.

In recent times, this ingredient's been revived by Maggie Beer, one of Australia's best-loved cooks, food writers and restaurateurs. My aunt, the brilliant Gilly Walters of Wedgewood Nougat fame, introduced me to this ingredient some years ago, and I always have a bottle of it in my kitchen. What I love about Verjuice is that it doesn't have any of the throat-raspiness of vinegar - it's a gentle ingredient that sings sweetly in the background.

Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some of my new Verjuice recipes with you, and I hope they encourage you to experiment with this intriguing ingredient over the festive season (you'll find it at Woolies).

When I first wrote this recipe down, I recommended serving it immediately, but I found that its flavour developed and mellowed over the next day, so feel free to make it up to 24 hours in advance (but keep it in the fridge, tightly covered, in a non-metallic bowl).

Make sure the serving bowls are very well chilled, or make pretty ice bowls in which to serve this beautiful starter.

Cold Cucumber, Herb & Yoghurt Soup with Verjuice Granita 

For the granita:

½ cup (125 ml) Verjuice

For the soup:

2 chilled English cucumbers (about 700 g)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Verjuice
1 cup (250 ml) Greek yoghurt
1 small clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup (80 ml) chopped curly parsley
1/3 cup (80 ml) chopped chives
3 Tbsp (45 ml) chopped dill
1 tsp (5 ml) Tabasco sauce
3 Tbsp (45 ml) cream
salt & milled black pepper

First make the granita.  Pour the Verjuice into a small metal pan and freeze for 45-90 minutes, or until just frozen - the time it takes will depend on how efficient your freezer is.  Use a fork to scratch and scrape at the surface to create light, feathery crystals. Return the dish to the freezer.

Lightly peel the cucumbers, leaving a little green skin here and there. Roughly chop and place in a food processor with all the remaining ingredients, except the cream and seasoning.  Whizz until very smooth. Now stir in the cream and season to taste with salt and plenty of black pepper.

Serve immediately in chilled bowls, topping each serving with a heaped spoonful of Verjuice granita, plus a scattering of chives or dill fronds.

Serves 4.  

(Note/Disclaimer:  I was paid a professional fee to develop these recipes and supply photographs, but this fee did not include featuring them on my blog and elsewhere. This I do because I'm pleased with these dishes and want to share them with you.)


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Saturday, 15 August 2015

#RealFood For Kids: Low-Carb 'Grannies in Blankets'

This is a new twist on a beloved South African dish: Ouma Onder Die Komberse. Big, juicy meatballs are flavoured with nutmeg, onion and lemon zest, wrapped in soft cabbage ‘blankets’, then baked in a creamy lemon sauce.

The paragraph above comes directly from just-published Real Food: Healthy, Happy Children, by Kath Megaw (Quivertree, 2015), and I'm honoured to have been asked to contribute some of my low-carb recipes to the book.

South African paediatric dietician Kath Megaw is a leading fundi on low-carb and ketogenic diets for children. "Wait!" I hear you cry. "Low carb for kids?" Yes, that's right, but I can assure you that this is not some faddish, irresponsible book leaping onto the banting bandwagon. It's a painstakingly researched, well-informed, sensible guide that advocates a return to real, 'living' food using the wholesome unprocessed ingredients so familiar to our grandparents.

If you're looking to banish sugar, stodge and boxed foods from your family's diet, you've found the only guide you'll ever need, whether you're pregnant, or feeding a baby, or a coping with teens who have hollow legs. If you still need convincing, click here to listen to a podcast of Kath talking about her book, and here to read more about her low-carb philosophy.  

When I first picked up my copy of this hefty 300-page book at last week's launch, I was astonished at how much detailed information is packed between the pages. It's bursting with tips, tricks and accurate nutritional info, with lovely photographs and illustrations adding whimsy along the way. Journalist and cookery writer Daisy Jones, who wrote the text, has a chatty yet precise style, and she's brilliantly conveyed Kath's 20 years of clinical experience in this field.

What's pleased me so much about contributing to this project  is seeing my name on the same line as Phillippa Cheifitz's.  Phillippa, who wrote many of the gorgeous recipes in the book, is one of the grande dames of South African cookery writing, and I have greatly admired her since I cooked my way through her inspiring Cosmopolitan Cookbook in my twenties.

I hauled my tattered, cake-spattered copy of that book to the launch, and my day was complete when Phillippa graciously signed it for me, 29 years after I bought it.

I'm so looking forward to trying the recipes on my own family - specially the mouth-watering treats from the party food section.  (My beloveds feel so deprived of puds these days.)

Nutty Exploding Apples with Vanilla Custard: another of my recipes
from  Real Food: Healthy, Happy Children

Now to the recipe. I've used a Swedish-style creamy sauce to cloak these cabbage-wrapped meatballs, but you could also bake them in a fresh tomato sauce.  Meatballs tend to be a little dense when they don't contain breadcrumbs, but I've found that a big dollop of natural Greek yoghurt helps to tenderise them. This #LCHF recipe is suitable for diabetics.

Low-Carb 'Grannies in Blankets' 

12 outer leaves from a cabbage (or baby savoy leaves)
2 lemons
salt and milled pepper, to taste
1 large onion, peeled
900g beef mince
1 extra-large free-range egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated
3 tbsp thick Greek yoghurt
1½ tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 cup cream
4 tbsp finely chopped parsley
butter, for greasing

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (fan off).
2. Trim away the thick lower ‘ribs’ of the cabbage leaves. Bring a large saucepan of water to a
rolling boil, then add a wedge of lemon and a pinch of salt. Plunge the leaves into the water,
partially cover with a lid and blanch for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the leaves are wilted.
3. Drain (reserving the poaching water), then run the leaves under cold water for 3 minutes and
set aside to drain further.
4. Grate the onion on the fine tooth of a grater to create a soft, juicy pulp. Tip this into a large
mixing bowl and add the mince, egg, garlic, yoghurt, nutmeg and the zest of 1 lemon, plus
seasoning. Combine the mixture well using your hands., then roll the mince into 12 balls, each
about the size of a golf ball.
5. Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and brown the meatballs on all sides, in batches,
over a medium-high heat – this should only take a few minutes per side as they should be nicely
caramelised, but still raw on the inside. Set the meatballs aside on a plate.
6. Turn up the heat and add the vinegar, plus half a cup of the cabbage poaching liquid. Let this
mixture bubble vigorously for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it has reduced by half.
7. Remove the pan from the heat, wait a minute, then stir in the cream. Return the pan to a
medium heat and let the sauce bubble for 1 minute, stirring now and then, until it has slightly
thickened. Now stir in the juice of half a lemon and the parsley and set aside.
8. Pat the cabbage leaves very dry on kitchen paper. Tuck a leaf around each meatball and arrange
in a buttered baking dish. Pour the sauce around and over the cabbage parcels and cover the dish
loosely with tin foil. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the ‘grannies’ are cooked right through.


Serves 4-6 Per serving: energy: 514 kcal protein: 33g fat: 39g carbs: 7g ratio: 1.0 :1

Recipe courtesy of Quivertree Publications

More of my meatball recipes:

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Sunday, 14 December 2014

Nougat and Ice Cream Cake with Hot Raspberry Sauce

Here is a lovely family recipe that takes all the hassle out of preparing a hot-weather festive dessert. You can make this easy ice cream cake a day or two - or four! - in advance, and I promise your friends and relatives will love it.

Nougat and Ice Cream Cake with Hot Raspberry Sauce. Photograph by
Michael Le Grange, courtesy Random House Struik 

This recipe first appeared in my 2012 cookbook, and it was inspired by my aunt Gilly Walters, the wizardess who started Wedgewood Nougat in her home kitchen many years ago.  

Gilly is hands-down the best home cook I've ever met. Her exquisite food has inspired and delighted me for over 45 years, ever since I sat down at her table as a child, and scoffed myself sick on her feather-light scones.

These days, Wedgewood is a thriving enterprise exporting its nougat and heavenly Angel's Biscuits all over the world.  These are still made by hand in a hi-tech factory in the Natal Midlands, and the business - a model of social responsibility - is managed by my three cousins, brothers Jon, Steve and Paul Walters.

Cook's Notes:

  • Please choose a proper dairy ice cream for this cake, not the frozen ‘desserts’ that pass for vanilla ice cream. 
  • After you've taken it out of the freezer, let the cake stand at room temperature for 5–10 minutes, or until just soft enough to slice with a knife you've dipped in very hot water. 
  • How much lemon juice and icing sugar you add to the raspberry sauce will depend on how tart or sweet they are to begin with; adjust as necessary.
  • If you're making the ice cream cake a few days ahead, wrap it tightly in clingfilm so it doesn't pick up any whiff of freezer. 
  • As I mentioned in the original intro to the recipe (see below) you can add other goodies of your choice to the mixture.  I can recommend finely chopped dark chocolate, and a few drops of good almond extract


Nougat and Ice Cream Cake with Hot Raspberry Sauce

'My aunt Gilly Walters, a superlative cook and the inventive brain behind one of South Africa’s best-loved nougats, showed me this method of adding whipped cream and chopped frozen nougat to good shop-bought vanilla ice cream. What I love about ice-cream cakes like this is that they look spectacular and are so versatile: you can add anything that takes your fancy to the mix – chopped dark chocolate, nuts, liqueur, and so on.'

For the biscuit crust:

1 x 200 g packet shortbread biscuits
6 Tbsp (90 ml/90 g) very soft butter

For the filling and sauce:

2 litres full-cream vanilla ice cream
1 x 110 g bar nutty nougat, frozen solid
10 Romany Creams, or similar chocolate biscuit
1 cup (250 ml, or 1 x 250 ml tub) fresh cream
3 cups (750 ml) frozen raspberries
about 3 Tbsp (45 ml) icing sugar (see my Cook's Notes above)
a little lemon juice

Take the ice cream out of the freezer and let it soften slightly.

In the meantime,  make the crust. Whizz the shortbread biscuits to a fairly fine crumb in a food processor. Place in a bowl, add the soft butter and stir well to combine. Wet the base of a non-stick 24-cm springform cake pan and cover with clingfilm. Tuck the edges of the plastic under the base, pulling it quite tight as you fasten it in the ring. Press the biscuit mixture evenly onto the lined base and refrigerate it while you making the filling.

Using a heavy knife, chop the frozen nougat bar into pea-size pieces and cut the chocolate biscuits into big chunks.

Whip the cream to a soft peak in a large bowl and, working quickly so the mixture doesn’t melt, fold in the slightly softened ice cream, nougat, biscuits and half the frozen raspberries.

Tip the mixture over the crumb crust and, using a spatula, swirl the top into generous waves and ripples. Cover and freeze.

Put the remaining raspberries, the icing sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice (see my notes above) in a small pan, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a stick blender or food processor, whizz to a purée.

Strain the sauce if you’d like it fine, or leave it slightly rough. Set aside to reheat later.

Loosen the edges of the ice cream cake by briefly pressing a hot kitchen cloth against the sides.

Slip a spatula or palette knife between the crumb base and the clingfilm and loosen it by using gentle levering movements, turning the pan as you go. Slide the cake onto a plate or cake stand, leaving the base and clingfilm behind.

Cut the cake into slices using a knife dipped in boiling water. Reheat the raspberry sauce and serve separately, in a pretty jug.  Or you can leave the cake whole, and pour the hot sauce all over the top, as shown in the picture above.

Makes 1 x 24 cm 'cake'; serves 8-10.

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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Christmas Gammon in a Wonderbag, with an Oros, Brandy & Ginger Glaze

One of the highlights of my year as a food writer is sharing a new Christmas gammon idea every November, because these recipes are always so warmly received. Much head-scratching went into this year's recipe, and I hope you'll like it. I've varnished this gammon with an Oros glaze because I wanted to use a South African ingredient I know will strike a chord with anyone who grew up drinking this iconic orange squash. (My recipe for Gammon Glazed with Brandy and Coke remains one of the most popular on this blog.)

Christmas Gammon Glazed with Oros, Ginger & Brandy, with my favourite
topping of fresh pomegranate seeds & pink peppercorns.  For a plainer
version studded with cloves, please scroll down the page. 

Oros has a distinctive sherberty taste and a lurid orange colour, which is part of its appeal. (It's free of tartrazine, if you're worried about that). My family were sceptical when I announced this as my choice of glaze. "Seriously, Mom? Oros?"  But the result was spectacular: citrussy and spicy, with glorious sunset colours.


Wine recommendation from Michael Olivier: He says: "Corder Cool Climate Elgin Syrah 2013. Matured in a combination of French and America oak barrels for 14 months.  Lots of fruit and spice which will meet the gammon perfectly."

It looks like:  Deep plum at the core, gem-bright purple garnet around the edges.

It smells like: Ripe bloodplums, pepper and oak spice.

It tastes like: Brambles and elderberries and spicy plums.  Soft and easy to drink with gentle ripe tannins which make it a excellent food wine.  Long and gently waning aftertaste.


I have used my trusty Wonderbag to come up with a recipe for tender, succulent gammon. I've had many successes and failures cooking Christmas gammons, and after testing this recipe several times, I'll never cook a gammon another way. The meat is deliciously soft and juicy, because its flavours don't leach out into the boiling liquid.  If you don't have a Wonderbag (and I urge you to buy one) you can simmer your gammon in stock, in the usual way. You'll find full instructions at the end of the recipe.

I made two versions of this, with two slightly different glazes: one with white wine wine - which preserved the glorious orange Oros colour - and the next with brandy, which produced a richer burnish. The first I studded with cloves (my family detested these) and the second with my favourite choice of gammon topping: fresh pomegranate seeds and a scattering of crunchy pink peppercorns.

If you don't fancy my Oros glaze, you'll find links to my other gammon recipes at the end of this page.

For this gammon, I used white wine, plus a studding of cloves. My
family didn't like the cloves, but I think they are very Christmassy.
Plate by David Walters

>> To see my gammon glazes of Christmasses past, plus three other recipes using the leftovers of a gammon, please scroll to the very end of this page.



Christmas Gammon in a Wonderbag, with an Oros, Brandy & Ginger Glaze

1 x boneless uncooked gammon, 1.8 kg to 2 kg, skin on
1 onion, peeled and thickly sliced
water, plus ginger ale or your favourite lager, to taste (see recipe)
2 bay leaves
1 star anise
half a stick cinnamon
1 grape-sized knob fresh ginger
1 small wedge of fresh lemon
4 whole cloves
5 allspice berries (optional)
1 tsp (5 ml) coarsely cracked black pepper

For the glaze:

1 cup (250 ml) Oros, or a similar sweet orange squash
½ cup (125 ml) white wine, or ¼ cup (60 ml) brandy
finely grated zest of a small lemon
4 tsp (20 ml) brown sugar
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) powdered ginger

To cook the gammon: place the sliced onion in the bottom of a pot big enough to fit the gammon, with some room around it. Put the gammon on top of the onions. Do not remove the netting around the meat.

(If you don't have a Wonderbag, please scroll down for my instructions about boiling a gammon.)

Fill the pot to a depth of 2 cm with water. Now add enough ginger ale or lager to bring the level of liquid up to 4 cm.

Add all the remaining spices and bring to the boil. Now turn the heat down to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and simmer for exactly 45 minutes.

Without opening the lid (which will cause the temperature in the pot to drop), place the pot in the Wonderbag, quickly cover with the cushion, and draw up the strings. The residual heat in the meat and pot will finish the cooking process. Set aside on the counter for at least six hours, or overnight, without opening the bag.

In the meantime, make the glaze. Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan, stir well and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat to medium and bubble briskly for about 15 minutes, or until the glaze has reduced by two thirds. You might find that the mixture seethes up in the pan: to prevent it from boiling over, stir it now and then, and place a spoon across the top of the pot.

Remove the gammon from the pot (reserve the gorgeous cooking liquid for soup, stock or gravy) and place it in a roasting dish. Use a pair of scissors to cut through and remove the netting. Now gently peel off the gammon's skin, making sure to leave a generous layer of fat behind. With a sharp knife, score the fat in a neat diamond pattern.  If you like, you can press a clove into the intersection of the diamonds.

At this point, you can put the gammon in the fridge for several hours - preferably overnight.  I recommend overnight, because it allows the meat to cool right down before it's glazed.  If you try glazing it while it is still hot, and not properly rested, the juices will leak from the meat and dilute the glaze.

Turn the grill to its hottest setting, and wait 15 minutes for it to heat to blazing.  Pour the glaze all over the gammon (don't worry if most of it runs off) and place the roasting dish about 20 cm below the grill. Watch it like a hawk, turning and tilting the pan often so the parts furthest from the heat brown evenly.  Use a big spoon to trickle the glaze over the gammon every few minutes.  It's really important to give the gammon your full attention while it's glazing - I put on a pair of oven gloves and perch myself on a chair in front of the oven.

When your gammon is sizzling and the fat layer a lovely rich golden colour all over, remove the tray from the oven, place it on the countertop, and tuck a folded-up cloth underneath one end to set it at a tilt. Continue for the next 10-15 minutes scooping and dribbling the run-off glaze gathering in the pan's corners over the gammon. As the glaze cools, it will cling to the fat.

Serve warm or cold, with pickles and potato salad, or as part of a Christmas feast.

Serves 6 as a main course with veggies and/or salad. 

To boil your gammon (This method comes from last year's gammon recipe):

1 x boneless uncooked gammon, 1.8 kg to 2 kg, skin on
1 can (340 ml) ginger ale
1 can (340 ml) lager of your choice
2 bay leaves, dried or fresh
3 cloves
10 peppercorns
½ tsp (2.5 ml) coriander seeds
1 star anise
1 grape-sized knob fresh ginger
1 small wedge of fresh lemon
1 onion, cut in half, skin on
1 large carrot, cut in thirds
a few stalks of parsley
water, to cover

Boiling a gammon in stockPut the gammon into a big deep pot and add all the remaining stock ingredients. The liquid in the pot should be at a level of about 2 cm above the top of the gammon.

Bring the gammon to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer at a very low burble, covered with a tilted lid, until it is cooked through. Please use your common sense here. I find that the cooking times given on the packaging for bone-out raw gammon (usually 55 minutes per kilogram) are excessive.

Every now and then top up the pot with more water, and skim off any mocha-coloured froth as it rises.

When the gammon is cooked, remove it from the pot, cover with clingfilm and let it sit for two hours on the countertop. Alternatively - and I recommend this method, as it allows the meat to cool and contract, without drying out - let your gammon cool overnight in its stock. (I always freeze the stock in small plastic boxes for use in future soups and stews.)

Now glaze as described above.

My other gammon glazes, plus five recipes using the leftovers of a gammon:


Christmas Gammon with a Beetroot & Wasabi Glaze

Christmas Gammon with a Pomegranate and Pink Peppercorn Glaze


Christmas Gammon with a Sticky Orange & Ginger Glaze
Christmas Gammon with a Sticky Orange & Ginger Glaze

Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy & Coke
Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy & Coke

And here's what to do with left-over gammon:

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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Low-Carb Wine-Braised Leeks with Cream, Thyme & Parmesan

A dish of silken baby leeks cloaked in a wickedly creamy Parmesan sauce. The leeks take about half an hour to braise in their bath of wine, garlic and thyme, but once they're tender, the sauce takes just a few minutes of brisk bubbling to reduce and thicken. This dish is low in carbohydrates, and suitable for diabetics and anyone on a low-carb #LCHF regime.

Low-Carb Wine-Braised Leeks with Cream, Thyme & Parmesan.
This beautiful plate by my uncle David Walters, Master Potter of Franschhoek.

Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier.  He says: "Boland Cellar Granny Smith Nouvelle 2014. Nouvelle is a grape developed by Chris Orffer at the University of Stellenbosch by crossing Semillon and Ugni Blanc. First planted on the Geldenhuys family farm Klipvlei near Perdeberg, Nouvelle is grown in the Swartland, and it's a belter. 

 It looks like: Lime-green tinge of youth. Packed in a green-tinged bottle, with Granny Smith dancing on the label. 

 It smells like: Well - Granny Smith apples and fynbos herbs scrunched in your hand. 

 It taste like: Yes, you guessed, Granny Smiths again - and vibrantly so. A real thirst quencher: zesty, crisp and dry. A nice counterfoil to the leeks and cream.


I'm mad about baby leeks, and feature them often on this blog (recipe links below).  One watchpoint: even the slimmest leeks can be stringy, so be sure to keep them bubbling in the wine until they're as tender as a kiss.

If you don't cook with wine, you can use a cup of chicken stock in its place.

Here are more of my baby leek recipes. The first one is low in carbs, and the second and third are too, provided you omit the breadcrumbs and croutons.

Low-Carb Wine-Braised Baby Leeks in Prosciutto

Braised Baby Leeks with Halloumi 'Popcorn' and Frizzled Prosciutto

Salad of Warm Baby Leeks with Blue Cheese and Chilli Croutons



Low-Carb Wine-Braised Leeks with Cream, Thyme & Parmesan

750 g baby leeks
3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half lengthways
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup (250 ml) cream
½ cup (125 ml) finely grated Parmesan, plus a little extra for topping
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

Fry the leeks in the oil until they take on a little
colour here and there. 
Trim the bases of the leeks and cut off the upper dark-green parts (freeze these for using in your next chicken stock).

Heat the olive oil in a large shallow pan and fry the leeks over a medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes, or until they take on a little colour here and there (see picture, left).

Add the garlic and fry for another minute, without letting it brown.

Pour in the wine - it will bubble furiously -  and add the thyme sprigs.

Now turn the heat right down, cover with a tilted lid and simmer for 25-35 minutes, or until the leeks are very - and I mean very - tender.

When almost all the liquid has evaporated, add
the cream.
Take off the lid. The liquid in the pan should have reduced to just a few tablespoons. If it has not, continue cooking the leeks, uncovered, until there are just a few tablespoons of liquid left in the pan.

Turn up the heat again, pour in the cream, and bubble briskly for a few minutes, or until the cream has reduced and thickened to the consistency of thin custard.

Stir in the Parmesan, turn the heat right down, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for a further minute, or until the cheese has melted.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt - the Parmesan is salty enough in its own right.

Remove the pan from the heat. Now add a spritz of lemon juice - just enough to give the sauce a little acidic lift.

Remove the garlic pieces and the thyme sprigs.

Serve hot, with an extra grating of Parmesan.

Serves 4 as a side dish. 


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Friday, 31 October 2014

Luscious Low-Carb, Sugar-Free Vanilla Cheesecake with a Nut Crust

I have made many cheesecakes in my life and this one is, I think, the very best. The baked part is luscious, dense and creamy, with an almond-flavoured nut crust, while a top layer of barely jellied vanilla-scented sour cream adds a delicious final flourish. You won't believe, when you taste this, that it contains not a speck of sugar.

Luscious Low-Carb, Sugar-Free Vanilla Cheesecake with a Nut Crust. In this version I used
crème fraîche for the topping, which creates lovely swirls. 

Wine recommendation from Michael Olivier:  He says: "KWV Classic Collection Red Muscadel. We have the most underrated and under-priced sweet fortified wines in South Africa. This is pure Red Muscadel juice fortified with grape spirit and matured in large French oak barrels for a year. The most perfect wine for a rich and creamy cheesecake. You want something to cut through the cream and to make a statement. A wine that’s packed with flavour, and yet is not all about sweetness. The acidity offers contrast and the alcohol a little oomph. Do serve it chilled and in a wine glass, not a mean little liqueur glass. And pour it over ice if it takes your fancy."

It looks like: Gem bright like a ruby tinged amber. Pretty ‘cathedral windows’ appear on the side of the glass when you swirl the wine. 

It smells like: Berries and raisins and a whisper of oak. Begs you to go in and taste it. 

It tastes like: Phwoar! Big waves of fabulous fruit, raisins, red and black berries, a wash of the alcohol and oak, a little acid twist and an aftertaste that slowly rides off into the sunset.


For sweetening, this cheesecake relies on a little Xylitol, plus Canderel sweetener in powder form, which I find the least offensive of sugar substitutes. (I tried, while testing this recipe, using powdered stevia, but I found its bitterness impossible to disguise). The choice of sweetener is yours; please see my Cook's Notes at the end of this page. This recipe is ideal for anyone on a low-carb #LCHF regime, and suitable for diabetics.

Because this is an expensive cake, containing four tubs of cream cheese, I've provided detailed instructions so it turns out perfectly for you every time.

The most important thing is to use top-quality vanilla for the filling, and excellent almond extract for the nut base. I use this lovely vanilla paste from Yuppiechef, but if you can't find it, you can use good vanilla extract, plus the scraped-out seeds of a vanilla pod.

Also: don't over-cook the cheesecake, which will result in a somewhat dry and crumbly result. Baking the cheesecake nestled in crumpled foil, in a bain-marie, is crucial, as is judging when to take it out of the oven. Follow my instructions in the recipe closely, and you cannot go wrong.

I use low-fat Lancewood Cream Cheese for my cheesecakes, but you can choose any similar product.

In this version I used sour cream, which creates a perfectly smooth topping.



Luscious Low-Carb, Sugar-Free Vanilla Cheesecake with a Nut Crust

For the crust: 

¾ cup (180 ml) whole nuts of your choice - I use a mixture of almonds, walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts
1 cup (250 ml) almond flour
3 Tbsp (45 ml) melted butter
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Xylitol, or more, to taste
a few drops of good-quality almond extract

For the filling:

4 x 250 g tubs cream cheese, at room temperature (see Cook's Notes at the end)
1/3 cup (80 ml) Xylitol
2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla extract, or 1 Tbsp (15 ml) vanilla paste
1 Tbsp (15 ml) cornflour or flour
4 extra-large free-range eggs
3-5 paper 'sticks' Canderel sweetener, or a sweetener of your choice (see recipe)

For the topping:

1 Tbsp (15 ml) water
1 tsp (5 ml) gelatine
1 cup (250 ml) sour cream or crème fraîche
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract, or 2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla paste
1 'stick' Canderel powder, or a sweetener of your choice (see recipe)

First prepare your tin. Generously butter the sides and bottom of a non-stick 24-cm springform cake tin, or similar. Cut a long strip of baking paper to roughly the same width as the height of the tin, and use it to line the sides of the tin.  Now butter the baking paper, or varnish it well with cooking spray.

Heat the oven to 180 ºC.

Put the nuts into a dry frying pan and toast them gently over a medium-low heat for a few minutes, tossing frequently and watching them closely. Chop into small bits, tip into a mixing bowl and add the almond flour, melted butter, Xylitol and almond extract.

Stir well, then press evenly onto the base of the tin.  My top tip for an even crust is to put a small drinking glass (such as a shot glass) on its side, rim pointing towards the edges of the tin, and roll it around in a circular fashion.
Press the crust into a springform pan lined with baking paper.
Bake the crust at 180 ºC for about 10 minutes, or until it's just beginning to turn golden at the edges. Watch it like a hawk, as it burns in an instant. Take the tin out of the oven and set aside to cool. Turn down the oven to 170 ºC.

In the meantime, make the filling. Put the softened cream cheese - see Cook's Notes, below - in a large mixing bowl. (I make this in a jiffy using my faithful Kenwood mixer, but if you don't have a similar gadget you will need to whisk this by hand, or use a rotary beater).

Add the Xylitol, vanilla and cornflour, and whisk till smooth and combined. Now add the eggs, one at a time, beating hard.  The mixture might take a while to come together, but if you work patiently, it will soon form a beautiful smooth cream. Now sweeten the mixture to taste, with a sweetener of your choice.  I find that four sticks of Canderel are enough.

Pour the cheesecake mixture over the crust, aiming at the centre so it spreads evenly to the edges.

Make a foil 'nest' for your cheesecake. This image
comes from my recipe for Cinnamon-Stencilled
Cheesecake
, where I did  not line the tin with
baking paper. 
Place the tin on two large squares of tin foil, then bring up & crumple the foil to create a 'nest' that will keep the water from seeping into the base.

Fill a large roasting pan to about the half-way mark with hot water, and place in the oven.  Slide your foil-wrapped baking tin into the water bath, and bake at 170 ºC for about an hour, or until the cheesecake is lightly freckled with brown, set at the edges, and has the slightest wobble in the middle.

Turn off the heat, open the oven door a crack and leave the cake to cool completely in the oven.

Refrigerate, in its tin, for 4 hours (or overnight), until very cold.

To make the topping, put the water in a teacup or similar small bowl and sprinkle the gelatine over it. Set aside for a minute or two to sponge.

Place the cup in a pot of simmering water (the water should come half-way up the sides) and stir occasionally as the gelatine melts. When the liquid is clear, set the cup aside to cool slightly.

Whisk the sour cream or crème fraîche in a bowl to loosen it, then whisk in the gelatine, vanilla paste (or extract) and sweetener. Pour the mixture over the top of the chilled cheesecake and smooth the top (see Cook's Notes if your cheesecake has shrunk away from the sides of the pan).  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Release the cheesecake from the tin by briefly pressing a hot cloth against the outside rim  (I do this by wetting a dishcloth, and microwaving it until very hot.)

To serve, cut into thin slices using a big knife dipped for 45 seconds in a jug of boiling water.

Makes 1 cheesecake; serves 8-10. 

Cook's Notes
  • It really doesn't matter which non-nutritive sweetener you use in any of the three layers of this cheesecake, because the sweetener will not affect their textures.  
  • The cream cheese should be soft, or you will find it difficult to beat to a smooth mixture. Leave the tubs on your counter for at least 6 hours, so they can come up to room temperature. If you're in a hurry, take the lids and foils off the tubs, arrange them in a circle on your microwave's turntable, and blast on high for 45 seconds at a time, until the cheese has softened.
  • If you find your cheesecake has shrunk away from the edges of the pan, leaving a gap into which the topping will run, here is what to do:  ease the cake out of its ring. Wrap a long strip of acetate (available from stationers) around the cake to form a close-fitting collar, and secure with sticky tape. Pour over the topping and refrigerate. The acetate will peel away easily once the topping has set. 

MORE OF MY CHEESECAKES:

Cinnamon-Stencilled Cheesecake

Hazelnut and Chocolate Cheesecake

Buttermilk Cheesecake with a Strawberry Topping


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Saturday, 11 October 2014

Seared Beef or Venison ‘Carpaccio’ with a Thai-Style Dressing

Carpaccio is a brilliant choice of starter or snack if you're on a low-carb or diabetic regime. I'm always astonished when people tell me they don't fancy carpaccio, because to my mind the combination of rosy leaves of beef fillet, sharp salty Parmesan shavings, fruity olive oil and a spritz of lemon juice is the food of the gods. It may seem like heresy to tinker with this formula by using a zippy Asian dressing, but the result is sensational. Follow my measurements to the letter, though, because the punchy ingredients will overpower the delicate meat if they're not used with restraint.

Seared Gemsbok 'Carpaccio' with a Thai-Style Dressing.
Plate by David Walters, Master Potter of Franschhoek


Wine recommendation from Michael Oliver. He says: "Du Toitskloof Tunnel White."
 Go to the end of this page for more detail about this wine pairing.

It’s impossible to produce paper-thin slices of carpaccio at home unless you have an industrial slicing machine, or you freeze the fillet first. I don’t have the former and won’t ruin the texture of the meat by doing the latter, so my solution is to flatten the leaves of fillet with a rolling pin.

I usually make this with beef, but it's also excellent with good-quality venison fillets. In this picture, I used gemsbok from the Gardens Continental Butchery in Kloof Street, which was as tender as a baby's cheek.

Strew the top of the dish with any tiny leaves or micro-herbs you can find - I used the tiniest flat-leaf parsley leaves, from the heart of a plant that cheekily seeded itself in a crack between two paving stones in my garden.

The recipe contains a very small amount of sugar (essential to create the perfect hot-sour-sweet-salty balance that characterises Thai food) but if you're on a punishing no-carb regime, you can leave this out. Or add a whisper of your favourite sugar substitute.

This recipe - which serves 6-8 as a starter - comes from my book Scrumptious: Food for Family and Friends, and is reproduced here courtesy of Random House Struik.

If you like this recipe, try my low-carb Halloumi and Beef Carpaccio Salad with Crisp-Fried Capers, and Low-Carb Seared Tuna with a Burnt Tomato & Caper Dressing



Seared Beef or Venison ‘Carpaccio’ with  a Thai-Style Dressing

750 g fillet steak, or the equivalent weight of venison fillet
a little olive oil, for rubbing
4 tsp (20 ml) oil, for frying
small herb leaves, for garnish
white and black sesame seeds, for garnish

For the dressing:

2 limes (see Cook's Notes, below)
1 tsp (5 ml) white sugar
3-cm piece of lemon grass, bruised, peeled and finely sliced
1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 small green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sunflower oil
1 tsp (5 ml) finely grated palm sugar (or ordinary sugar)
1 tsp (5 ml) soy sauce
1 tsp (5 ml) fish sauce
2 drops sesame oil

Rub a little olive oil all over the fillet. Wrap the meat lengthways in a large sheet of clingfilm and twist the ends in opposite directions to create a tight Christmas-cracker shape. Tuck the ends underneath and chill for at least 2 hours, or until needed.

Heat the oil in a large pan and, when it is blazing hot (but not yet smoking), quickly brown the meat on all sides. This should take no more than 2-3 minutes - less, if you have a slim venison fillet - and the meat should remain quite raw inside. Place in the fridge to cool for 15 minutes.

Cut the fillet into slices 3-4 mm thick. Place the slices between two sheets of clingfilm and use a rolling pin to thin and gently stretch the meat to the desired thickness. Alternatively, you can use the back of the blade of a heavy knife to stretch and flatten the slices.

To make the dressing, cut the limes in half and dip the cut end in the white sugar. Place them, sugar-side down, in a hot non-stick frying pan. Cook until the cut surface is nicely browned and caramelised. (If you're on a sugar-free regime, leave out this step and squeeze the lime juice directly into the dressing.)

Cool the limes for a few minutes, then squeeze the warm juice into the jug attachment of a stick blender. Add all the remaining dressing ingredients and whizz at high speed until well combined. The dressing should be slightly coarse, with tiny 'bits'.  If you don't have a blender, very finely slice the ingredients and pound everything together with a mortar and pestle before whisking in the liquid dressing ingredients.

Spread a little dressing on the base of a platter or several smaller plates. Arrange the meat slices on top and drizzle with the remaining dressing. Strew over the herb leaves, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Serves 8 as a starter.

Cook’s Notes

The fillet can be seared, sliced and refrigerated, and the dressing made, up to 3 hours in advance, but put them together just before you serve the dish or the dressing will ‘cook’ the fillet. If you can’t find fresh limes, use lemons instead.

Wine pairing by Michael Olivier

It looks like: Very refreshing in a dew dropped bottle. Pale golden straw in colour with some lime green flashes around the rim of the glass.
It smells like: Grapey, fresh, yellow apples and a lime squirt.
It tastes like: Crisp off-dry fruity.

This is a non-vintage wine.

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Thursday, 2 October 2014

Deep-Dish Quiche with Blistered Tomatoes, Peas, Ham, Basil & Mozzarella

I made this quiche to use up a left-over ball of shortcrust pastry and a cup of peas. Every Sunday morning, I clear out my fridge and its veggie drawer, which always resembles a compost heap, no matter how hard I try to keep it organised.  (Try my recipe for Quick Nourishing Green Soup, which is a smart way of using up leaves and herbs that have wilted in the cold but are still perfectly good for eating.)

Deep-Dish Quiche with Blistered Tomatoes, Peas, Ham, Basil & Mozzarella

Wine recommendation from Michael Oliver. He says: "Haute Cabriere Unwooded Pinot Noir 2014".
Go to the end of this page for more detail about this wine pairing.

You can add anything you like to this quiche - how about some crisped bacon bits, pitted black olives, feta cubes or left-over shredded roast chicken?

If you don't have a deep quiche pan, you can make it in a bigger shallow one, but please reduce the baking time by about 10 minutes.

A quiche like this takes some time to make and bake, but I love the slow Sunday ritual of sloping into the kitchen in my pyjamas to make pastry and chop ingredients, while listening to rousing classical music. And then, of course, triumphantly presenting the puffed-up quiche to sleepy-heads who wake up late and hungry.

I have given you quite detailed instructions, below, about how to make a rich, blind-baked quiche pastry. Here are my top tips for making pastry.



Deep-Dish Quiche with Blistered Tomatoes, Peas, Basil & Mozzarella

For the pastry: 
250 g cake flour
150 g cold butter, cut into small cubes
a pinch of salt
about 90 ml ice-cold water (see recipe, below)

For the filling: 
1 punnet (250 g) ripe cherry tomatoes
1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
8 large free-range eggs
¾ cup (180 ml) cream
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup (250 ml) cooked peas
150 g mozzarella, grated
5 thin slices ham, fat trimmed, chopped [optional]
4 Tbsp (60 ml) finely chopped chives
10 big basil leaves, torn into little pieces
100 g Parmesan, finely grated

To serve:
fresh pea shoots or baby rocket leaves

Heat the oven to 190 °C.

First make the pastry. Put the flour, butter and salt in a bowl, and lightly rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the cold water, bit by bit, until the pastry holds together. Knead lightly with your fingertips and press into a ball. (You can do this quickly in a food processor fitted with a metal blade: use the pulse button to process the flour and butter to crumbs, then add the cold water in small splashes, through the tube of the jug, until the pastry just comes together and forms a ball. Don't over-process the dough).

Flatten the pastry ball into a rough disc, wrap in clingfilm and put it in the fridge to rest for 15-20 minutes.

While the pastry is resting, prepare the filling. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a fierce heat.  When the oil is shimmering, add the tomatoes.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, tossing frequently, until the tomatoes are blackened and blistered in places, but still fairly raw on their insides.  Set aside on a plate.

Now get ready to roll out your pastry. Sprinkle a little water on a marble slab, or your counter-top or a large wooden board. Press a long piece of clingfilm to this wettened surface and place the pastry disc on top. Cover with another length of clingfilm. Roll out the pastry to a rough circle about 22 cm in diameter and around 2 mm thick. (Roll the pin away from you, but give the pastry/clingfilm 'sandwich' a quarter turn every two rolls). Lightly grease a deep 18-cm-diameter quiche dish. I use a fluted metal pan with a loose bottom, but a ceramic or glass flan dish will do.

Peel off the top layer of clingfilm. Now flip the pastry over and drape it over the quiche dish, without removing the upper layer of clingfilm. Gently ease the pastry into the dish, getting well into the corners, and letting its edges drape over the rim. When the pastry is sitting comfortably in the dish, run a rolling pin firmly over the rim to remove any overhang.  Peel off the top layer of clingfilm.

Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork, and lightly press down on it a circle of baking paper or tin foil cut to about the same size.  Fill the paper with 2-3 cups of rice or dried beans, and bake blind at 190 °C for 10 minutes, or until the outer rim feels somewhat dry when you tap it with a finger.

Carefully remove the paper with the rice or beans and return the case to the oven. Turn the heat down to 180 °C and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, or until the base of the pastry is a light golden colour and feels dry to the touch.

Meanwhile, put the eggs and cream in a bowl and whisk by hand for 2 minutes, or until well combined and slightly frothy. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Pour the slightly frothy egg/cream mixture into the quiche dish. 
Remove the pastry case from the oven and sprinkle over the peas, mozzarella, ham, chives and basil.  Drain the blistered tomatoes in a sieve, discarding the juice, and arrange them on top.

Pour the whisked egg/cream mixture into the pastry case, and top with grated Parmesan.

Bake the quiche at 180 °C for about 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden, and ever so slightly wobbly in the middle.  If you're using a deep quiche dish, this can take up to 40 minutes.  And if the rim of the pastry darkens beyond golden-brown, cover it with strips of tin foil.

Remove the quiche from the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes.  Serve warm, topped with pea shoots or rocket.



Makes 1 x 18 cm quiche; serves 6, with a salad. 




Wine pairing by Michael Olivier

Haute Cabriere Unwooded Pinot Noir 2014

It looks like: A garnet, a bright gem that you can see through.

It smells like: Elegant red berries, pomegranate and cranberry.

It tastes like: Sumptuous berries and cherries with a gentle undertow of mushrooms crushed underfoot on the forest floor.


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