Showing posts with label Scrumptious South Africa Jane-Anne Hobbs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scrumptious South Africa Jane-Anne Hobbs. Show all posts

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Chicken with Roasted Onions, Grapes & Verjuice

When I made a serious effort to learn to cook in my early twenties, it seemed terribly important to impress dinner-party guests with fiddly platings and pointless twirls and swirls. (Thank goodness the ubiquitous sauce/plate skidmark had not yet been invented, because who knows what horrors I would have perpetrated on the plate.) These days, in my fifties, I have a much more uncomplicated approach to entertaining, and when I'm expecting guests I pour all the effort into creating simple, delicious dishes that sing with clean flavours.

Chicken with Roasted Onions, Grapes & Verjuice

This is the sort of food people want to enjoy when they eat in your home. Of course there is a place for exquisite cutting-edge cuisine that looks like a flower garden exploded on a plate, but that place is not your family table. Honest food made with love and good ingredients will always knock the socks off your guests - and I promise you that most professional chefs melt into puddles of delight when presented with a homely classic such as roast chicken, a rustic veggie soup or a fall-apart beef stew.

This unusual but delicious combination of clean fruity flavours highlights the versatility of Verjuice, which lends a pleasant sweet acidity to this rustic dish.  It takes a little time to fry the chicken pieces and onions before they go into the oven, but it’s well worth the effort, because the sticky golden residue that forms on the bottom of the pan adds gorgeous flavour to the final dish, and the chicken pieces look so beautifully golden and rustly.  

This is the penultimate in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice (available at Woolies),

Chicken with Roasted Onions, Grapes & Verjuice

20 (about 750 g) small pickling onions
3 Tbsp (45 ml) oil, for frying
12 free-range chicken pieces (breasts, thighs & drumsticks)
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
½ cup (125 ml) Verjuice
½ cup (125 ml) dry white wine
1 bunch red grapes, stripped from their stems
1 bunch green grapes, stripped from their stems
salt and milled black pepper

Heat the oven to 180 ºC.  Cover the onions with boiling water and set aside for 15 minutes (this loosens their skins).

In the meantime, heat the oil in a large shallow pan and fry the chicken, in batches and skin-side down, over a medium-high heat, until the skins are crisp and a beautiful golden brown.  (Don’t turn the pieces over or let them cook through.)  Set aside on a plate.

Cut each blanched onion in half lengthways, trim the tops and bottoms, and slip off the skins.  Fry, cut side down, in the hot chicken fat left in the pan, for 3 minutes, or until nicely caramelised. Watch them like a hawk so they don’t burn. Carefully turn the onions over using tongs and fry for a further 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.

Add the bay leaves, thyme sprigs and garlic to the pan and cook over a low heat for a minute, without allowing the garlic to brown.

Deglaze the pan with the Verjuice and wine, stirring and scraping to loosen the golden sediment on the bottom of the pan.  Tip any juices that have accumulated under the chicken into the pan. Simmer over a brisk heat for two minutes to burn off the alcohol.

Arrange the chicken pieces and onions in a roasting tray, and tuck in the grapes.  Pour the hot wine/Verjuice mixture around the chicken, and scatter over the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.  Season to taste with salt and milled black pepper.

Bake at 180 ºC for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the grapes are beginning to collapse.

Serve immediately with a crisp green salad, plus crusty bread to mop up the juices.    

Serves 4-6.

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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, 16 December 2015

Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Verjuice-Gooseberry Compote

A delicate, barely set vanilla cream topped with a glorious sunset-orange compote of Verjuice and Cape gooseberries. Verjuice enhances the tartness of gooseberries, and the contrast of cool and creamy with sharp and sweet is sublime. You can prepare this dessert well in advance and merrily assemble it at the last minute.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Verjuice-Gooseberry Compote

This is another in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice (available at Woolies). If you don't have Verjuice, poach your gooseberries in a light sugar syrup (see Cook's Notes at the end of this page).

Like this recipe? Try my Fresh Plum Jelly with a Lemon Panna Cotta Topping.

Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier. He says: "Asara Vine Dried Sauvignon Blanc 2014 - a stunner of a natural sweet wine."

It looks like: Packed in a 375 ml Alsatian Flute.  In the glass a golden straw - and please serve it in a decent sized glass..

It smells like: Soft dried apricots and sliced lime poached in fynbos honey. 

It tastes like: Rich and unctuous: desiccated pineapple rehydrated in fynbos honey. Guava, yellow Canary melon.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Verjuice-Gooseberry Compote

For the panna cotta:

300 ml cream
300 ml full-cream milk
5 Tbsp (75 ml) caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, or a few drops of good vanilla extract
4 tsp (20 ml) tepid water
2 tsp (10 ml) gelatine powder

For the compote:

200 g Cape gooseberries
½ cup (125 ml) Verjuice
2 Tbsp (30 ml) caster sugar (or more, to taste: see recipe)

Put the cream, milk and caster sugar into a saucepan.  Split the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape out the seeds and add them to the pan (or add the vanilla extract, if you’re using that).  Bring gradually to just below the boil, over a low heat, stirring now and then.

When the sugar has dissolved, take the pan off the heat and gently press a sheet of clingfilm directly onto the surface of the mixture (this will prevent a ‘skin’ forming).  Set the cream aside to infuse for 45 minutes, or until it has cooled to blood temperature.

Put the water into a small teacup or ramekin, sprinkle over the gelatine and set aside to ‘sponge’ for 3 minutes.  Now place the cup in a pan of simmering water (the water should come halfway up its sides) and leave it there for a 3 minutes, or until the gelatine has melted and the liquid is clear.  Whisk this into the cream mixture, then strain the cream through a fine sieve into four wine glasses.  Chill for at least 5 hours, or until the panna cotta has set, but is still very wobbly.

To make the compote, put the gooseberries, Verjuice and caster sugar into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, skimming off any white foam as it rises.  If the gooseberries are very tart, you may need to add a little more sugar.   Simmer for about 7 minutes, or until the fruit is just beginning to collapse.  Remove from the heat, tip into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until very cold.

When you’re ready to serve, remove half the whole gooseberries from the bowl using a slotted spoon and set aside.  Use a potato masher or fork lightly to crush the remaining berries.  Spoon a layer of the crushed fruit over the top of the panna cottas, and top with the whole berries you put aside

Serves 4.

Cook's Notes: 

If you don't have Verjuice, poach your gooseberries in a light sugar syrup.  Here's how: put ½ cup (125 ml) water into a saucepan and add 4 Tbsp (60 ml) caster sugar - or more, to taste, depending on how sour the fruit is.  Bring gently to the boil, stirring occasionally. When the sugar has dissolved, add the gooseberries and continue with the recipe (paragraph 4, above).

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Sunday, 23 August 2015

Easy Upside-Down Pear & Almond Cake

A light, almond-scented cake that's best served warm with clouds of whipped cream, and preferably on a Sunday afternoon when the rain is pelting down and Monday's looming like an unwelcome house guest. This doesn't take much effort to make, and to make it even easier, I've used tinned pears. You can, of course, buy fresh pears, peel them and poach them, but why go to all this effort? I'm a huge fan of South African tinned fruit, which in my opinion is of outstanding quality.

Shower your Pear Cake with toasted, flaked almonds & icing sugar.

The first time I tested this recipe I used a sponge-cake formula, but despite its high butter content it was curiously dry. The second time, I went with a lighter, fat-free batter, which puffed up beautifully and was still airy the next day, when the cake had cooled and was dispatched to school and work in various lunchboxes. Another tweak I made to the second version was using double the quantity of tinned pears.

There are four watchpoints in this recipe: first, be sure to line your tin properly with baking paper, to prevent the cake burning and sticking at the edges.  Second, take your time beating the eggs and sugar to the ribbon stage - the mixture should be very pale, thick and fluffy before you add the flour. It's fairly quick to do this if you have an electric whisk or similar appliance, but if you are making this by hand you will need to put in a lot of elbow grease.

Third, don't be tempted to open the oven until about three-quarters of the way through the baking time. After that, you can take the occasional peek.  If you notice that the cake is browning too quickly in certain areas, rotate the tin (I have to do this as my oven has notorious hot spots), and cover it with a loose dome of tin foil.

Finally, don't over-scent your cake. Good almond extract has a powerful flavour, and must be used sparingly.  If you can't find proper extract, and you're using synthetic supermarket essence, I suggest you add a few drops at a time, tasting the mixture as you go.

Easy Upside-Down Pear and Almond Cake

2 x 820 g tins of pear halves
4 large free-range eggs
1½ cups (375 ml) caster sugar
1½ cups (375 ml) cake flour
2 tsp (10 ml) baking powder
a pinch of salt
3/4 cup (180 ml) milk
½ tsp (2.5 ml) almond extract 

For the glaze & topping: 

½ cup (125 ml) reserved pear juice (see recipe)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) smooth apricot jam
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
a handful of toasted almond flakes
whipped cream

Heat the oven to 170° C, fan on, or 180° C if your oven has no fan.

Open the tins of pears and drain the fruit for ten minutes in a colander set over a large bowl.  Reserve the pear juice.

Now prepare your tin. Generously butter the sides and bottom of a non-stick 23-cm springform cake tin. Cut a circle of baking paper to the same size as the base, press it down firmly, and spread a thin film of butter over it. Now 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.  Butter the baking paper.

Neatly arrange the drained pear halves on top of the paper-lined base of the cake tin, cut-side down and narrow ends pointing to the centre. If you like, you can tuck a whole blanched almond into the hollow of each pear.  Slice any extra pears in half, lengthways, and arrange them over the top.

Put the eggs and caster sugar into a big bowl and whisk at high speed with a hand-held rotary beater or similar appliance until the mixture has almost doubled in volume and is very pale, thick and fluffy.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the egg mixture, and gently stir until everything is well combined. Now stir in the milk and almond essence to create a fairly slack batter.

Pour the mixture all over the pears, and gently shake the pan so the batter penetrates to the bottom of the tin. One sharp tap on the counter will allow any bubbles to escape.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the cake is well risen, firm to the touch, and a wooden skewer pushed into the cake comes out dry.

Paint the warm glaze all over the top of the cake.
While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze. Put 125 ml (half a cup) of the reserved pear juice into a saucepan and cook over a high heat for about 5 minutes, or until it has reduced by half. Now stir in the apricot jam and bubble over a medium heat for another 5 minutes, or until the mixture is syrupy and producing big, lazy bubbles. Add a spritz of lemon juice and let the mixture cool to lukewarm.

When the cake is ready, put the tin on your counter, wait for three minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen it.  Release the spring.

Put a plate on top of the tin, turn it over, then remove the base and carefully peel off the baking paper.

Using a pastry brush, paint the warm glaze all over the top, letting it dribble down the sides of the cake.

Scatter the toasted almonds over the top, sift over a little icing sugar and serve warm, with whipped cream.

Serves 8. 

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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Low-Carb Silken Chicken-Liver Pâté with Green Peppercorns

If you're looking for a brilliant snack to serve friends and family over the festive season, try this velvety chicken liver pâté with green peppercorns.  My formula is the culmination of many years of making retro party pâtés, and I hope this easy, inexpensive dish will knock the socks off your guests. (Scroll to the end of this page for links to more of my potted pleasures).

My Low-Carb, Silken Chicken Liver Pâté with Green Peppercorns. 

Wine recommendation from Michael Olivier: He says: "Leopard's Leap Culinaria Muscat de Frontignan Collection 2013, made from Muscat de Frontignan grapes from Robertson. A sweet wine goes very well with paté."

It looks like: Elegant packaging. The wine is pale salmon in colour. 

It smells like: Rose petals and Turkish Delight.

 It tastes like: Rich and sweet grapiness. Though not cloying in its sweetness. Percent balance of beautiful aromas, luscious sappy fruits, good counterbalancing acidity and a long gently waning aftertaste with an undertow of rose geranium.

I can't bear gritty, greyish chicken-liver pâtés: for me even to consider eating liver (shudder), the mixture must be very smooth and fine, with a complex flavour, a boozy undertone and a slight rosy blush on the inside. I've added Madagascan green peppercorns to this recipe because I love the way the way their peppery pop surprises your tongue and adds lovely contrast to the richness of the livers.

There are two important watchpoints here: Don't overcook the livers - a gentle pinkness as you cut into the pâté is essential - and do strain the mixture through a fine sieve to remove any gristle and ensure a silken result. The clarified butter topping isn't essential to seal the top of the pâté, but it looks so pretty, with its scattering of both crunchy pink peppercorns and brined green ones.

This recipe is low in carbohydrates and suitable for diabetics. If you're on a #LCHF regime, I suggest you serve it with slim discs of cucumber or crisp celery sticks, or caperberries, as shown in the picture above. If you're not banting, serve this with slices of fresh baguette or Melba toast.

Low-Carb Silken Chicken-Liver Pâté with Green Peppercorns 

500 g chicken livers, thawed
150 g (150 ml) salted butter
a small onion or two shallots, peeled and very finely chopped
1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp (30 ml) brandy, plus an extra teaspoon
2 Tbsp (30 ml) cream
4 tsp (20 ml) brined green peppercorns
a grating of whole nutmeg
salt and milled black pepper, to taste

To top:

50 g (50 ml) salted butter
a few green peppercorns
a few red peppercorns
a sprig of thyme

Trim any gristle or unpleasant-looking bits off the chicken livers, rinse under cold water and drain for 10 minutes in a colander.  Pat them dry on kitchen paper. If they are of unequal size, cut the biggest ones in half.

Melt 100 g of the butter in a large frying pan, over a medium heat, and add the onion and thyme sprig. Cook gently for 4-5 minutes, until the onion bits are soft. Don't allow the onions to brown  - they must seethe happily in their bath of golden butter, without catching. When the butter begins to turn a rich golden-brown at the edges of the pan, add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

Now turn the heat right up and tip in all the chicken livers. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, turning them over now and then. The butter should bubble enthusiastically, and the livers must must take on a little colour, while remaining pink in the middles. To check, cut the biggest piece in half - it should be rosy, but not raw, on the inside.  Remove the livers with a slotted spoon and put them in a blender.

Add the brandy to the pan - stand back, in case it ignites - and bubble furiously for a minute or two, or until the alcohol has burned off and the liquid has reduced by about half. Remove the thyme sprig and pour the hot pan juices into the liquidizer.

Put the cream, the remaining 50 g butter and 1 tsp brandy (to taste; you might want to add a little more) into the goblet, and blitz to a smooth pureé.

Put a fine sieve over a bowl and tip the warm mixture into it.  Strain it through the sieve by pressing down on the mixture with the back of a large spoon.

Stir in the green peppercorns and a little freshly grated nutmeg, to taste.  Season with salt and black pepper. Let the mixture cool to for a 5-10 minutes (this is to prevent the peppercorns sinking to the bottom), stir well, then pour into a clean pâté dish. Smooth the top to as level as you can get it.

Scatter over a few more green peppercorns, and some pink peppercorns if you fancy those, and lightly press a sprig of thyme to the centre. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 2 hours.

To prepare the clarified butter, melt 50 g butter in a pan or your microwave.  Place a new or laundered cloth (a dishcloth like this is perfect) in a sieve, and pour the butter through the sieve over the pâté, to form an even layer.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Serve with crackers and pickles.

Serves 6 as a snack or starter.

Like this recipe? Try some of my other potted pleasures:

Potted Pork Shoulder with Green Peppercorns

Easy Duck Rillettes

Potted Pork Belly with Mace & Pepper

Old-Fashioned Potted Salmon or Trout

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Saturday, 9 June 2012

Pork Steaks with Wine, Tarragon and Mustard

I don’t need any encouragement to come up with a recipe that uses wine, because it’s one of those ingredients that adds instant flavour and complexity to so many home-cooked dishes. Here, I’ve paired juicy pork steaks with a voluptuous sauce of cream, mustard, tarragon and Nederburg’s 2011 Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend, created specially for Masterchef, in collaboration with Woolworths.

This is the seventh in a series of recipes for Woolworths South Africa, pantry sponsors of MasterChef South Africa.

Tarragon is a tricky herb to grow, and you don’t often see it fresh in the shops, but I’ve found that good-quality dried tarragon is a perfectly acceptable substitute. In fact, I’m at a loss to explain why dried herbs are so often considered inferior to fresh ones. Sure, some herbs (such as basil and parsley) do not lend themselves to drying, but others, and especially dried oregano, mint and tarragon, are valued ingredients in my spice drawer. For example, dried mint, much used in Moroccan cooking, is quite distinct in taste and aroma from fresh mint, with a peculiar charm all of its own. Top-quality dried Greek oregano has a heady pungency that leaves its fresh form in the starting blocks. Tarragon’s flavour does tend to intensify with heat, however, so use it sparingly.

You can use medallions of pork fillet for this dish, but I find they dry out quickly in the pan. I prefer Woolies’ pork steaks because they’re so lean, sweet and succulent (and, besides, I appreciate how economical pork is compared to beef or lamb). This is a quick, easy dish to make, but be sure to serve it piping hot from the pan, while the sauce is still smooth and silken.

My other recipes for Woolworths #wooliespantry:

Pork Steaks with Wine, Tarragon and Mustard
4 large pork steaks, or 8 small ones
3 Tbsp (45 ml) flour
white pepper
2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
1 Tbsp (15 ml) butter
1½ cups (375 ml)2011 Nederburg Sauvignon/Chardonnay blend, or similar
¾ cup (180 ml) water
2 tsp (10 ml) dried tarragon
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Dijon mustard
½ cup (125 ml) cream

Trim any visible fat from the pork steaks. Put the flour on a plate and season it with salt and a little white pepper. Heat the olive oil and butter in large, shallow pan that will fit all the steaks on one layer. While the fat is heating, dip each steak in the seasoned flour, then shake to remove any excess. When the fat is very hot, but before the butter begins to brown, fry the steaks for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until they have a nice golden crust, but are still slightly raw on the inside. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl. Drain any excess fat from the pan, but don’t wipe it out.

Pour the wine and water into the pan and stir to dislodge any brown bits on the bottom. Bubble briskly for 4-5 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by about a third. Now turn the heat right down and stir in the tarragon, mustard and cream. Simmer for two minutes, then return the steaks (and any juices that have accumulated underneath them) to the pan. Cook at a gentle burble for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly, and the steaks are cooked through. Shake the pan occasionally, and don’t allow the sauce to reduce too much or become gloopy – it should be just thick enough lightly to coat the back of a spoon. Check the seasoning, adding more salt and white pepper if necessary, and serve immediately, with crushed baby potatoes and mangetout, or mash and peas.

Serves 4.

Cook's notes: 
  • Use a pan with a large surface area so that the wine and water reduce quickly. For a really glossy, rich finish, stir a teaspoon of butter into the sauce just before you serve it.
  • You can use medallions of pork fillet for this dish, but take care not to overcook them, as they toughen easily.
  • If you can find fresh tarragon, use that instead, but do so judiciously, as it has a more intense flavour than dried tarragon. Use one tablespoon of chopped leaves, and then taste the sauce at the end to see if you need to add more.
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Friday, 4 November 2011

Chakalaka Soup with Little Boerewors Balls

My upside down, inside-out version of a much-loved traditional dish. Chakalaka is a highly spiced Southern African vegetable relish usually eaten cold as an accompaniment to braaied (barbecued) meat. Here I've reinvented it as a soup bursting with punchy flavours. Topped with juicy mini-meatballs made from the squeezed-out insides of boerewors, this is a dish that will bring tears to the eyes of chakalaka devotees (and more so if you increase the quantity of fresh chillies specified in my recipe).

Chakalaka Soup with Little Boerewors Balls
Chakalaka, said to have been invented by Johannesburg's migrant mine workers, usually includes chillies, peppers and curry spices, plus - depending on who's making it - carrots, beans, cabbage, and so on.

You may be wondering why I've turned a relish into a soup. Well, because I love soup, I really do. Also, I like turning recipes around to see what happens.

This soup is good on its own, but the little spicy meatballs make it special. (I'm  grateful to my friend Nina Timm of My Easy Cooking for showing me how to make instant boerie balls.)

You can leave the baked beans out of the soup, if you like (as I did in the photographs, because I wasn't in the mood for beans) but I recommend including them because they help thicken the soup. If you can't find authentic South African boerewors, use a raw, loose-textured sausage and, before you roll it into balls,  mix in a teaspoon or so of toasted ground coriander, plus some of the spices listed in this recipe.

This is also very good with chopped green beans and cauliflower florets. If you don't have tomato juice, use a tin or two of chopped Italian tomatoes and a little tomato paste instead.

The chickpea flour and spices are used to give the meatballs a nice toasty crust. Chickpea flour, also known as channa flour, is available from spice shops.

Chakalaka Soup with Little Boerewors Balls

3 Tbsp (45 ml) sunflower oil
4 carrots, peeled
3 small green peppers, finely sliced lengthways
4 onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 green or red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (or more, to taste)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 Tbsp (30 ml) grated fresh ginger
6 large, ripe tomatoes
4 cups (1 litre) tomato juice (the sort you’d use for a tomato cocktail)
3 cups (750 ml) water or vegetable stock
2 tins baked beans in tomato sauce
2 tsp (10 ml) medium-strength curry powder
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) cumin
salt and milled black pepper
½ cup (125 ml) finely chopped fresh parsley or coriander

For the boerewors balls: 
500 g slim boerewors, or similar sausage
½ cup (125 ml) channa [chickpea] flour
1 tsp (5 ml) paprika
½ tsp (2.5 ml) turmeric

Heat the oil in a large pot. Dice two of the carrots and set the others aside. Fry the diced carrots, pepper slices, onions, celery, chilli, ginger and garlic over a medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes, or until softened but not brown. Roughly chop the tomatoes, place in a blender and pulse to form a rough purée. Pour the purée, the tomato juice and the stock into the pot and cook at a brisk bubble for 30 minutes, skimming off any foam as it rises. Stir in the baked beans, curry powder and cumin, season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

For the meatballs, squeeze the boerewors filling from its casing and roll into balls the size of a marble. Combine the channa flour, paprika and turmeric on a plate and lightly roll the balls in the mixture. Fry in hot oil over a medium heat for 4 minutes, or until cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper. Coarsely grate the remaining two carrots. Serve the soup piping hot, topped with hot frikkadels, grated carrot and a shower of parsley.

Serves 8. 

Chakalaka Soup with Little Boerewors Balls

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Sunday, 3 July 2011

Double-Craggy Garlic Bread with Herbs, Lemon and Peppered Cream Cheese

Garlic bread was one of the first eating sensations of my childhood, and I hold it personally responsible for my life-long addiction to both garlic and melted butter. It's not something I make often (I make weak stabs at keeping my family's diet wholesome), but I do think this great classic of the Sixties and Seventies needs to be given the respect it richly deserves. I've called my new version 'double-craggy' because the bread is sliced in a grid formation, and I've done this - licking my lips as I slice this way and that - in order to maximise the surface area to be basted with garlicky, herby butter.
Double-Craggy Garlic Bread with Herbs, Lemon and Peppered Cream Cheese
Double-Craggy Garlic Bread with Herbs, Lemon and Peppered Cream Cheese
The first time I tasted garlic bread was when I was six or seven, at a birthday party, and I have never forgotten that first heavenly bite. Our friends, the Spences, lived not far from our house, near Swartkop in Muldersdrift, some 30 km north of Johannesburg. Situated close to the famous Sterkfontein Caves and the Cradle of Humankind, Swartkop is a twin-peaked hill that was a distinctive feature in a landscape of rolling golden grassland, or veld. It probably has townhouse developments gnawing at its lower slopes nowadays - I haven't been there for years - but when I was a child, it was the closest thing to a mountain I'd ever seen. In our family, it was always called 'Bosom Mountain'.

Anyway, the Spences lived just under Bosom Mountain, in a big house thatched with shiny grass the colour of a lion's pelt. Malcolm Spence (who died this year, at 73) was an interesting and clever man who - according to his obituary - had the distinction of winning the 400m bronze medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics,  in what has been billed as 'one of the greatest sprint races of all time'. Malcolm apparently didn't like to talk about his triumph, but on this occasion I remember him showing all the kids a jumpy black-and-white movie of his famous sprint (projected onto a white bedsheet nailed to the wall, which was how we watched movies in those days). After that, we watched an old and terrifying film about a sabre-toothed tiger that lived in a cave. Petrified, I crawled under a blanket and stuck my thumb in my mouth, vowing never to go to a birthday party at the Spences again.

But all was made right when Naomi Spence called us to the table. She'd made three or four loaves of garlic bread, tightly wrapped in foil and packed with garlic, chopped fresh curly parsley and lashings of farm butter. There was a cake too, strewn with little silver balls, and iced Marie biscuits with hundreds-and-thousands, and orange-skin wedges filled with red jelly, but all these delights paled when I tasted the garlic bread. I ate a lot of it, and threw up on the back seat of the car on the way home. This may have been the bumpy farm road, but it was probably the butter.

I can't eat garlic bread without remembering that party, and here's my attempt to recreate a special food memory. I've used a flat-topped, poppyseeded potbrood here, but any big loaf of good, fine-textured white bread will do. Don't worry if stalagmites of bread fall off when you've cut it in a grid pattern: tie everything loosely together with a piece of string or raffia, and remove the string just before you serve the bread.

Double-Craggy Garlic Bread with Herbs, Lemon and Peppered Cream Cheese
A fabulous crowd-pleaser for a braai.

Double-Craggy Garlic Bread with Herbs, Lemon and Peppered Cream Cheese

a large, circular loaf of bread, a day or two old
1 cup (250 ml/250 g) salted butter
8 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated
the finely grated zest of a lemon
1 cup (250 ml) chopped fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, oregano, rosemary, thyme, or whatever you have to hand)
freshly milled black pepper
125 g pepper-crusted cream cheese or goat's milk cheese

Heat the oven to 190 ºC. Place the loaf of bread on a board. Using a very sharp serrated knife, cut the bread, to within a centimetre of its base, into thick (2 cm) slices. Now turn the loaf the other way, and cut across the slices to form a grid. Take your time about this, and use quick, light, sawing motions, pressing the slices you've just cut firmly together.

Melt the butter in a pan set over a medium heat (or in your microwave oven) and stir in the garlic, lemon zest, fresh herbs and pepper.

Squeeze the base of the loaf gently to splay out the 'fingers' of bread and, using a pastry brush or a turkey baster, liberally coat each finger of bread with the flavoured butter.

Brush the top and sides of the bread with more melted butter. Tie a piece of string or a strand of raffia firmly around the loaf. Put the bread on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Cover lightly with a sheet of tin foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until it's beginning to crisp and turn golden. Take the loaf out of the oven, and crumble the peppered cream cheese over and around the 'fingers' of bread. Bake for a further five  minutes, or until the cheese is hot and just beginning to bubble.

Serve immediately.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

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Monday, 13 December 2010

Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy and Coke

I've recently updated, retested and rephotographed this recipe - one of the most popular on my blog  - for the fourth issue of Crush Online!, and here it is again in all its gammony glory.

Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy and Coke.

It seems to me that there is a glut of pork in South Africa right now, as the hams and gammons I've seen in the shops are astonishingly inexpensive. I bought a 2.6kg gammon last week for just over a hundred rands, and very good it was too. Scroll to the end of this post, and I'll give you some great tips for stretching a gammon like this over two - or even three - meals.

Brandy and Coke is one of South Africa’s favourite tipples, particularly during the festive season, so what a lekker combination, I thought, with which to glaze a Christmas gammon. Coca-Cola makes an excellent glazing liquid because it cooks to a delicious dark stickiness, being so sweet and spicy (do you know that the top-secret formula is believed to contain vanilla, cinnamon, coriander and citrus fruit?).

In this recipe, a whole gammon is simmered in a beery liquid containing all the usual Christmassy spices, plus some whole star anise, which gives the meat a delicate aniseed flavour. If you don’t like aniseed, leave the star anise out. This is excellent served warm with boiled new potatoes and a green salad, or cold with mustard, pickles, home-made mayonnaise and hunks of crusty bread.

Whether you use a gammon with a bone in or one without is your choice, but please note that the cooking times differ (see recipe). Don’t throw the cooking liquid out: it's wonderfully flavoursome and aromatic, and makes an excellent stock for  soups and stews (see my notes at the bottom of this page).

 Sticky, sweet and so easy to make.

Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy and Coke

For the gammon:
a large gammon, weighing 2.5 to 3 kg, bone in or out
one can (330 ml) ginger ale
one bottle (330 ml) of your favourite beer
2 whole star anise
3 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
1 thumb-length quill of cinnamon
a large blade of mace (or a quarter of a nutmeg, grated)
1 tsp (5 ml) whole black peppercorns
water, to cover
whole cloves, to stud

For the glaze:
one can (330 ml) Coca-Cola
4 tsp (20 ml) Dijon mustard
1 tsp (5 ml) hot English mustard powder
100 ml brown sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) good instant coffee
1 Tbsp (15 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbsp (45 ml) brandy (Klipdrift, if you want to be authentic)

Weigh your piece of gammon, or make a note of the weight printed on the label. Put the gammon, ginger ale, beer, star anise, bay leaves, cloves, onion, cinnamon, mace and peppercorns into a large, deep pot. Add enough water just to cover the gammon. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat so that the gammon cooks at a slow simmer. Partially cover the pot with a tilted lid. If you’re using a boneless gammon, cook the meat for 30-40 minutes per kilogram. If you’re using a gammon with a large bone, cook it for 45-55 minutes per kilogram, or according to the instructions on the wrapping. Check the pot now and then, and top up with more water if necessary.

Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy and Coke
Poaching the gammon in a rich, aromatic stock.
Turn off the heat and leave the gammon in the liquid to cool completely. (It’s a good idea to boil the gammon the day before, and to leave it overnight to cool.)

Preheat the oven to its hottest setting (220-240 ºC.) Pour the Coca-Cola into a large, fairly shallow pan (a wok is ideal), turn on the heat and bubble briskly until the liquid has reduced by half. Whisk in the Dijon mustard, the mustard powder, the sugar and the coffee powder. Turn up the heat and boil fast, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced and is slightly syrupy. At this stage, you should be left with about 200 ml of liquid. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and brandy.

Fish the gammon out of its cooking liquid, pat quite dry and place in a roasting pan. Carefully peel away the rind and discard. Using a sharp knife, score the top of the gammon in a diamond pattern. Stud the gammon with whole cloves.

Pour the glaze over the gammon and place the roasting pan in a blazing hot oven. Cook for 20-30 minutes (how long this takes will depend on the heat of your oven), basting the meat every four to five minutes by scooping the glaze off the bottom of the pan and trickling it all over the top and sides. The glaze will thicken and reduce as time goes by: watch it like a hawk, as it burns easily.

When the gammon has a mahogany-brown sticky crust, and there is just a little glaze left in the bottom of the pan, remove it from the oven. Using a pastry brush, paint any remaining glaze over the top and sides of the gammon. Set aside to rest for ten minutes, then serve hot with boiled new potatoes and a green salad. If you’re serving this cold, store it, uncovered, in the fridge, for up to four hours.

Serves 8-10 as part of a festive feast

A Gammony Meal on a Shoestring

As I mentioned above, gammons are very inexpensive at the moment, so here's a way of stretching a large gammon over two meals. This will serve six people for two meals, or more if you have an enormous gammon. And you might have some left over for sandwiches!

Boiled Gammon with Root Vegetables and Parsleyed Béchamel Sauce
Boil the gammon as described above, but omit the star anise and the ginger ale. Half an hour before the end of the cooking time, add a selection of vegetables to the pot: halved or quartered potatoes in their skins, thickly sliced carrots, parsnips and turnips, and some peeled, quartered onions.

In the meantime, make a parsley sauce (recipe below).  Remove the gammon from the pot, pull off the rind and discard. Scrape away most of the white fat with a knife. Slice some of the hot gammon and place it on a large, deep platter. Surround the gammon with the cooked vegetables, and ladle over a little hot stock. Serve immediately, and pass the parsley sauce around in a jug.

Hearty Soup with Tomatoes, Lentils and Gammon
Put the remains of the gammon in the fridge.  Strain the stock into a large bowl and refrigerate.

The next day, remove any fat that's congealed on top of the stock.  In a separate, large pot, fry chopped carrots, onions and celery in a little olive oil, until softened. Add the cold stock, two bay leaves, a large sprig of thyme, two cloves of crushed garlic, two tins of peeled, chopped tomatoes, and a large handful each of brown and split red lentils.  Simmer for an hour. At this point, you can whizz the soup a little with a stick blender, or you can leave it chunky. If the mixture seems very thick, thin it down with water

Now season the soup with herbs, spices and condiments of your choice: a little cumin and paprika, perhaps, some pungent dried oregano, chilli flakes, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and so on.  Twenty minutes before you're going to serve it, dice the remaining gammon and add it to the pot. (Some quartered, boiled potatoes will stretch the meal even further.) Season generously with salt and pepper and serve hot, with a scattering of chopped fresh parsley, a dollop of cold natural yoghurt and some crusty bread.

Parsleyed Béchamel Sauce
3 T (45 ml) butter
3 T (45 ml) flour
350 ml cold milk
350 ml hot ham stock
1 tsp (5 ml) Dijon mustard
juice of half a lemon
½ cup (125 ml) finely chopped fresh parsley
salt and white pepper

Put the flour and the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Using a whisk, stir briskly until the butter melts, and allow to cook for two minutes. Now tip in a cup or so of the cold milk, whisking well as you pour. When the mixture begins to thicken, add the remaining milk and the ham stock, turn up the heat to its fullest setting, and continue whisking until the sauce has thickened and come to the boil. Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and allow it to bubble gently for another two minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the mustard, the lemon juce and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 700 ml Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Borscht in Small Glasses: Iced Beetroot and Gin Shots

Beetroot and Gin Shots
Iced Beetroot and Gin Shots
Here's an idea for a zinging cocktail: cool, earthy beetroot soup, spiked with gin and served in smoking-cold shot glasses. I made this, last weekend, for my husband's 50th birthday party. I laughed my pants off when a guest (my sister, I think it was) said: 'What's good about this recipe is that it contains Vitamin C, and Vitamin G.'

Vitamin G being, of course, neat gin, a nutritious basic foodstuff for anyone over the age of 40. Or fifty.

Earlier that morning, in a pre-party kitchen frenzy, I'd wrapped six tennis-ball-sized beetroot in foil and put them in the oven, with a view to making my beetroot hummous. When I took the parcel out of the oven at noon, I was feeling grumpy, footsore and frazzled, and wondering how the hell I'd feed the 40 people expected at the party, considering I'd made only three trays of  hors d'œuvres (or horse-da-oovrays, as they are known in my family).

But my mood improved when I opened the foil and inhaled the glorious scents of earth, water, stone and blood: what I craved, I realised on the spot, was a borscht (of corscht!); very cold, with ginsk. And spring onionsk.

If you've read this far down, you must be a lover of beetroot.  And, if so, I don't think I need to sing its praises to you.

Here's what Tom Robbins had to say about beetroot in his novel Jitterbug Perfume:  "The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious." 

You do need a good vegetable stock to give this soup some depth. In this recipe, the peelings of the baked beetroot are combined with basic vegetable flavourings to make a tasty broth.

A big mistake I made, on the eve of this party, was that I didn't chill the soup for long enough. It needs to be very cold (but, then again, not so icy that it numbs your tastebuds).  Next time, I'll chill the shot glasses in the freezer before I serve it.

Beetroot and Gin Shots
6 large beetroot, or 12 smaller ones

For the stock:
1 stick celery, chopped
3 stalks parsley
a large carrot, scraped and roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 clove
1  bay leaf
6 peppercorns
½ tsp (2.5 ml) caraway seeds
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
1.2  litres water
beetroot trimmings [see recipe]

To serve:
white pepper
1 tsp (5 ml) Tabasco sauce
300 ml gin, or more, to taste
small spring onions, trimmed

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Trim the leafy tops off the beetroot, leaving 5 cm of stalk intact. Wipe the beetroot with a cloth, but don't wash, peel or cut them. Wrap them in a double layer of foil and place in the oven.  Bake until completely tender when pierced with a sharp knife (how long this will take will depend on the size and age of the beetroot; for baby beetroot, an hour is enough. Very elderly beets can take up to 3 hours.)  Remove the packet from the oven and allow to cool.

Put a piece of newspaper or greaseproof paper on your kitchen counter. Trim the beetroot of stalks and roots, slip off their skins, and set all these trimmings to one side. Quarter the peeled beetroot and place in the goblet of a liquidiser.  Blitz until you have a fine purée (if the mixture is too thick for the blades to turn, add a little water).  Pour into a large bowl and refrigerate.  Now make the stock:  put the reserved beetroot trimmings into a saucepan and add the remaining stock ingredients. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for an hour, topping up with water every now and then if necessary, and skimming off any foam.

Strain the stock through a colander onto the chilled beetroot purée.  Add the Tabasco sauce and season with white pepper, and a little more salt, to taste. Stir well.

Now pass the soup through a fine sieve. Place in the fridge again and chill for two to three hours. An hour before serving, place the shot glasses and the gin in the freezer.  Remove the soup from the fridge and stir in the cold gin.  Put the soup into a jug with a sharp pouring nozzle and fill each glass almost to the brim.  Add a spring onion to each glass. Serve immediately.

This recipe makes 36 shots of 60 ml (4 T) each, or two litres of soup (which will serve 8 people, as a starter). Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy and Coke

Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy and Coke
'Brandy and Coke is something of a national institution among a certain stratum (and age group!) of the South African population,' comments my friend and fellow food blogger Jeanne Horak-Druiff.  "I would rather die of dehydration than order a brandy and Coke in a bar, but my father has had a brandy and Coke before dinner every Saturday night since I can remember."

She's right: this potent combination is practically compulsory if you own a) a pair of bollocks and b) a set of braai tongs.

Suiping of brandy and Coke reaches a peak just before rugby matches and during the December hols: you can be certain that, as we speak, South Africans are lounging around pools, braais, campsites and back yards knocking back Klippies (Klipdrift brandy) and Coke by the barrelful.

So what better combination, I thought, with which to glaze a Christmas gammon?

Coca-Cola makes an excellent glazing liquid because it cooks to a dark sticky glaze, and is so sweet and spicily zingy (do you know that the top-secret Coke formula is believed to contain vanilla, cinnamon and citrus?).

The gammon is boiled in a liquid that contains ginger ale, beer, the usual Christmassy spices and some whole star anise, which gives the meat a delicate aniseed flavour (entirely optional).

Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy and Coke

For the gammon:
One 2.5 kg uncooked gammon, bone out, skin on
330 ml (1 can) ginger ale
330 ml (1 can) beer
2 whole star anise
3 bay leaves
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 thumb-length quill of cinnamon
a blade of mace (or a grating of nutmeg)
15 ml (1 Tbsp) white peppercorns (black will do)
enough water to cover

For the glaze:
330 ml (1 can)  Coca-Cola
20 ml (4 tsp) Dijon mustard
5 ml (1 tsp) hot English mustard powder
100 ml brown sugar
15 ml (1 Tbsp) lemon juice
30 ml (2 Tbsp) brandy (Klipdrift, if you want to be authentic)
whole cloves

Put all the ingredients for the gammon in a large saucepan and add just enough water to cover the gammon. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a lively simmer. Cook for 20 minutes per 500 g (for a 2.5 kg piece, 1 hour and 40 minutes), topping up with liquid now and then if necessary. Turn off the heat and leave the gammon in the liquid to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 200 ºC. Pour the Coca-Cola into a saucepan, turn on the heat and allow to bubble briskly until the liquid is reduced by half. Whisk in the mustard, mustard powder and the sugar, turn up the heat and boil rapidly for two minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and brandy.

Fish the gammon out of the cooking liquid, pat dry and place in a roasting pan. Carefully peel away the rind (using a knife to ease it off, if necessary) and discard. Use the tip of a sharp knife, or a craft knife, score deep diagonal lines across the fat, first one way, and then the other, to form a diamond pattern. Press a clove into the middle of each diamond.

Pour the glaze over the gammon and place in the hot oven. Baste every five minutes, scooping the glaze off the bottom of the pan and trickling it over the the top of the gammon (it will thicken and reduce as time goes on). Roast until the glaze is dark and sticky. Remove from the oven, trickle any glaze left on the bottom of the pan over the gammon and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Or cool completely and enjoy it cold.

Serves 10 as a buffet dish.

PS The two photos above were taken on my new veranda, and in my lovely new kitchen in Hout Bay. I'm sorry there's been such a long silence, but now that I'm unpacked and settled in I look forward to diving into the kitchen and cooking up a storm. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Zaheera's Easy Sweetcorn, Coriander and Chilli Crustless Egg Tart

I am smitten by this most unusual crustless egg tart. Although cheekily spiked with fresh coriander, green peppers and a little green chilli, it is a surprisingly delicate dish, with a lovely trembling texture and a crunchy topping of poppy seeds.  This is, to me, a perfect family recipe: easy to make, economical and just so moreish that I suggest you double the quantities.

Zaheera's Easy Sweetcorn, Coriander and Chilli Crustless Egg Tart
I first tasted this, cold and cut into squares (and it is just as good cold as it is warm) at a school-mommy tea party, and I begged Zaheera, who made the dish, for the recipe.

She sent me her hand-written recipe a few days later, which I promptly lost. While packing my house this weekend (we're moving to Cape Town in three weeks' time), I found her recipe tucked into my diary, and fell on it with joy.

This is the first recipe I've ever come across that contains coarsely grated green (bell) peppers.  It's never occurred to me to grate a green pepper, but what a good idea.

You can omit the minced green chilli if you don't like hot food, but do consider leaving it in: this dish has the mildest bite, which is beautifully balanced out by the sweetness of creamed sweetcorn.

Thanks, Zaheera!

Zaheera's Easy Sweetcorn, Coriander and Chilli Crustless Egg Tart

1 x 410 g tin creamed sweetcorn
1 fresh green chilli, deseeded and finely minced or chopped
½ cup (125 ml) chopped fresh coriander [cilantro]
½ cup (125 ml) coarsely grated green pepper [bell pepper]
60 g (60 ml/4 Tbsp) cold butter, grated on the coarse side of a cheese grater
3 extra-large free-range eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup (125 ml) cake flour
2 tsp (10 ml) baking powder
¾ cup (180 ml) grated Cheddar
½ tsp (5 ml) salt, or more, to taste
freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp (15 ml) poppy seeds (or toasted sesame seeds)

Preheat the oven to 180 °C.

Butter a 20-cm round or square ceramic dish, or a non-stick metal quiche dish.

Put all the ingredients, except the poppy seeds, into large bowl, and mix well. Pour the mixture into the buttered pan and sprinkle the poppy seeds on top.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until slightly puffed and golden-brown on top.  Serve warm or - if you're making this as a snack - allow to cool and cut into small squares.

Serves 4 as a main course, or 8 as a snack.

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Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Whisky and Orange Dark-Chocolate Truffles

Dusted with cocoa powder and chilled for an hour or two, these truffly-looking nuggets of orange- and whisky-scented dark chocolate make a lovely finish to a meal. You can add any type of liqueur or flavouring agent to this basic recipe: try it with Frangelico and toasted hazelnut chips, or with a dash of good almond extract and a coating of finely chopped toasted almond flakes.

Good-quality, 75-percent-cocoa- solids chocolate is important for this recipe. I use Belgian chocolate chips which I get from my local baking shop. These truffles freeze well, so it's worth making a double batch and keeping them for future pudding emergencies.

The only really tricky part is keeping your palms cool enough to prevent the truffles getting sticky as you roll them. A good tip is to fill a jug with iced water, and to press your palms to the glass to cool them (scraping any chocolate residue off your skin first). It's quite difficult, also, to judge when the mixture is firm enough to be formed into balls. If you've let it get too hard, use a stout-bladed knife to cut it into chunks, and leave at room temperature for a hour or so.

I always melt chocolate in the microwave because it's so quick and effortless, but if you feel like faffing around with a double boiler or a glass bowl set over a pan of boiling water, be my guest.

This recipe is adapted from Phillippa Cheifitz's The Cosmopolitan Cookbook (1986) which, 20 years after I bought it, is still one of my most treasured recipe books (Phillippa used Cognac in her truffles).

Whisky and Orange Dark-Chocolate Truffles

350 g good dark chocolate (see notes, above)
1/2 cup (125 ml) cream
3 T (45 ml) whisky
the finely grated zest of 1 small orange
3/4 cup (180 ml) icing sugar, sifted
1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted, for coating

Place the chocolate, broken into pieces, in a glass bowl and melt in a microwave oven or over a pan of simmering water (see notes above). Stir well until smooth and glossy, and then mix in the cream, whisky and orange zest. Now tip in the sifted icing sugar and mix until smooth. Press a piece of clingfilm onto the surface of the mixture and place it in the fridge for about an hour, or until firm enough to handle.

Tip the cocoa powder onto a plate. Dig out spoonsful (each about the sized of a large marble) of chocolate paste and roll quickly between your palms to form balls (or ovals, to resemble real truffles). Place the balls on the plate of cocoa powder and roll them about so that they are thoroughly coated. When you've made all the balls, place them in a sieve or colander and shake gently to remove any excess cocoa powder. Cover and place in the fridge for two hours, or until firm.

Makes about 35. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly