Showing posts with label South African recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South African recipes. Show all posts

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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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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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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Friday, 24 January 2014

Buttery Tomato Tart

This intensely flavoured tomato filling contains a scandalous amount of butter, but it’s worth every calorie. You can use any creamy soft white cheese, but avoid pungent goat’s milk cheeses. Steer clear of rocket too, because its aggressive pepperiness will overwhelm the star ingredient.

Buttery Tomato Tart
Buttery Tomato Tart: an easy recipe, and no soggy bottom. Photograph
by Michael Le Grange, courtesy of Random House Struik.  

This easy recipe comes from my book Scrumptious: Food for Family & Friends, and it's one I make often when cherry tomatoes are in high season, as they are now in South Africa.

I have a few vines growing in my garden, but I have to say they are not a patch on the glorious sweet tomatoes spilling out of supermarket shelves.  I've tried growing many different varieties of miniature tomatoes over the years, under the most organic of circumstances, but every summer I'm disappointed by my crop because their skins are so leathery. Sure, they have a wonderful and mysterious grassy taste that is quite absent in supermarket tomatoes, but they're really not suitable for a dish like this because I'd have to peel every one of them. And who has time for peeling cherry tomatoes?

For this recipe, in order to prevent soggy-bottom syndrome, I pre-bake the pastry cases and pile in the filling  just before I serve them.  You can prepare both the filling and the pastry cases in advance - see my Cook's Notes at the end of this page.

Please don't skimp on the butter or cream in this recipe. They are the best friends of tomatoes.

Buttery Tomato Tart 

8 Tbsp (120 ml/120 g) butter
2 tsp (10 ml) olive oil
1 kg ripe, sweet cherry tomatoes
2 thumb-length sprigs fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped or grated
a pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
salt and milled black pepper
6 Tbsp (90 ml) fresh cream
2 rolls ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed
a beaten egg, for brushing

For the topping: 

150 g mild, creamy white cheese, such as feta, ricotta or proper mozzarella
a handful of fresh baby herb leaves: oregano, marjoram or basil

Heat the butter and oil in a large pan and add the whole tomatoes and herb sprigs. Cook, tossing often, over a high heat, for 5-7 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened. Using a potato masher, lightly crush the tomatoes to release their juices.

Add the garlic and chilli flakes and season with salt and pepper. Turn up the heat and cook at a vigorous bubble for 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and reduced slightly. Stir in the cream and bubble for another few minutes. Discard the herb sprigs and keep warm.

Set the oven to 180 °C and heat two baking sheets. Unroll each puff pastry cylinder and roll out lightly to increase its size by about 2 cm on all sides.  Using a sharp knife, trim a 1-cm-wide strip off each edge. Brush the pastry with beaten egg and prick all over with a fork. Place the strips of pastry around the edges of the rectangle to form a raised border. Mark a chevron pattern on the border, using a knife. Brush the borders with egg.

Cut out two rectangles of foil exactly the same size as the base (measure by placing the foil over the pastry and running your thumbnail around the inside edge of the border). Place the foil on top of the pastry. Lift the pastry sheets, on their paper, and place them on the hot baking sheets (you may need another pair of hands for this). Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 10–15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and crisp. Don’t worry if the middle of the pastry puffs up; it will soon subside.

Peel off the foil and place the pastry bases on wire racks so the bottoms remain crisp. Just before you serve the tarts, spread the warm tomato filling over the bases. Scatter with nuggets of cheese and a sprinkling of baby herb leaves. Slice into squares and serve immediately.

Serves 8 as a snack.

Cook’s Notes
  • The pastry bases can be prepared, ready for cooking, up to 8 hours in advance and kept covered in the fridge. 
  • Once baked and cooled, the pastry bases will remain crisp for at least two hours at room temperature, depending on the humidity in your kitchen.
  • Bring the pastry up to room temperature before it goes into the oven. 
  • You can prepare the tomato sauce up to 24 hours in advance and warm it gently before spreading it over the pastry.

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Thursday, 2 January 2014

Roasted Grapes with Blue Brie, and frozen grapes as a snack

Grapes are in high season here in South Africa, and for the past two weeks I've experimented with different ways of serving this glorious fruit.  Sure, the best way to demolish a bunch of grapes is to eat them very cold and fresh on a sweltering summer's day, but still I'd like to draw your attention to two lovely alternative ways of using grapes: slow-roasting them to a gentle collapse to draw out their perfumed juices, and freezing them to create crunchy little flavour bombs.

Oven-Roasted Grapes with Blue Camembert
Roasted Grapes with gorgeous Blue Brie from Dalewood Fromage. 

The recipe in the picture above - roasted grapes with blue brie - is inspired by a sublime dish of gently stewed sweet grapes with thick Greek yoghurt. My friends Michael and Michelle Karamanof, who own a house in Kythera, Greece, made this for me a few years back, and it's a dish that has stood out in my memory.

I've served this version with both the roasted grapes and cold fresh ones, for a pleasing contrast.

Oven-Roasted Grapes with Blue Camembert
Pressed Cheese with Roasted Grapes and Caramel-Dipped Fresh Grapes.
Plate by David Walters
In this second picture, above, I've whipped together crumbled blue cheese, mascarpone and chopped-up blue camembert, then pressed this sinful mixture over a layer of stewed grapes in a clingfilm-lined dish.The first time I made this, it was very tasty, but lacked texture, so in the second version I served it with fresh grapes dipped in a thin, brittle caramel. If I make this again, I will probably add some toasted macadamia nuts to either the cheese mixture or the caramel-dipped grapes.

Oven-Roasted Grapes with Blue Camembert
Frozen grapes: crunchy little flavour bombs. 
Finally, the frozen grapes. These have a wonderful, refreshing, sorbet-like texture, especially if you leave them to stand for five minutes after you take them out of the freezer. They are very good served piled on a platter alongside thin shavings of good Parmesan, or - if you are feeding children - with chips of dark chocolate.  This is an excellent way to preserve grapes for future fruit smoothies, and you can also use them instead of ice cubes to chill a glass of white wine in a hurry, without diluting the wine. In this picture I've rolled the grapes in sugar, because they were rather acidic, but this isn't necessary if you've chosen a nice sweet grape.

To roast grapes:

Heat the oven to 160 ºC. Place a few bunches of sweet seedless black or red table grapes on a sheet lined with two sheets of baking paper. Roast for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the grapes, or until they have just collapsed, are slightly shrunken, and the juices are running. Pick up the edges of the baking paper and tip the grapes and their juices onto a platter. Serve with cheese.

To freeze grapes:

Wash a few whole bunches of seedless grapes and set them aside until they're dry. Put them in a freezer bag or lidded plastic container and freeze for 3 hours, or until solid. Take them out of the freezer 5 minutes before you serve them, or they'll crack someone's teeth, but don't leave them on the counter for too long as they defrost and soften quickly. These keep well in the freezer for up to a month.

For the pressed cheese: 

Oven-Roasted Grapes with Blue Camembert

Wet a small mould and line it with a sheet of clingfilm, letting the edges drape down over the sides. Line the bottom of the mould with a single layer of roast grapes, and a little of their juice.  In a separate bowl, beat together equal quantities of mascarpone, crumbled blue cheese and finely chopped brie or camembert.

Season generously with black pepper and pack the mixture into the mould on top of the grapes. Flip the clingfilm edges over the top of the cheese and press down firmly to level the surface. Chill for an hour or two, or until firm.  If you'd like a (marginally) lighter mixture, use fat-free cream cheese instead of mascarpone.

For the caramel grapes:

Set a piece of baking paper on a board. Put a cup (250 ml) of caster sugar and a third of cup (80 ml) of water into a small, deep saucepan. If you have a saucepan with a white lining, use it, as this will allow you accurately to judge the colour. Bring gently to the boil, then turn the heat up a little and let the syrup bubble vigorously until it turns pale gold. At this point, watch it like a hawk, as caramel burns in an instant. Don't be tempted to stir - rather give the saucepan a gentle swirl. When the caramel is a beautiful rich golden colour, remove it from the heat. Don't wait too long: it will continue to darken by several shades after you take it off the heat, especially if you are using a thick-based saucepan that retains heat.

Stick a thin skewer deep into a grape, tilt the saucepan and dip the grape into the caramel. Now lift the grape high above the saucepan, allowing the caramel to run off and form a fine strand. Hold it there until the strand has hardened a little, then snip through it with a pair of kitchen scissors.  Place the grape on its side on the baking paper and repeat the process with the rest of the grapes.

If the caramel runs too reluctantly off the grape, you will need gently to rewarm it over a low flame. If it refuses to coat the grape or form a strand, you will need to cook the caramel for longer.

Serves 4-6 as a snack, with crackers

Oven-Roasted Grapes with Blue Camembert
Roasted Grapes with Pressed Cheese. 
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Monday, 18 November 2013

Glittery Christmas-Tree Bread with Garlic & Rosemary

Here's the first of my Christmas recipes for 2013: an easy flat-bread made with supermarket dough, cherry tomatoes, olives and caperberries. And for a funky festive finish, a snowstorm of edible glitter.  (Cake glitter is normally associated with cupcakes and other dreadful instances of kitchen juvenility, but even so I keep a stash of it in my baking drawer for strewing over savoury dishes, such as Home-Made Glitzers.)

Glittery Christmas-Tree Bread with Garlic & Rosemary
I sketched this on my iPad while I was plotting Christmas recipes.

I hope this festive flatbread will draw gasps from your guests as you carry it triumphantly to the table. The hot bread smells gorgeous with its lashings of fresh garlic and olive oil, and looks so pretty all bedecked with rosemary and glitter. Even the fussiest kids will, I hope, show an interest.  Sure, they may pick out the pimento-stuffed olives and caperberries, but they'll wolf down the hot bread.

Glittery Christmas-Tree Bread with Garlic & Rosemary
This is so quick and easy to make if you use supermarket dough.

You can ring the changes by adding any ingredients you fancy: pork chipolatas, bacon bits, shaved vegetables, nuggets of feta, and so on.

Glittery Christmas-Tree Bread with Garlic & Rosemary
Puffed up and crusty, and studded with edible decorations.

If you can't find packets of fresh dough in your supermarket, make your own by using one kilogram of bread flour to one 10-gram sachet of instant dry yeast, plus a teaspoon of salt, another of olive oil, and just enough warm water to bind the mixture into a pliable dough.

 Knead it well, let it rise until doubled in size, punch it down in the usual fashion and continue with the recipe.  Here are good basic instructions for bread dough.

Glittery Christmas-Tree Bread with Garlic & Rosemary

1 kg ready-made white or wholewheat bread dough
500 g cherry tomatoes (about 24)
16 pimento-stuffed green olives
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
½ cup (125 ml) olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated
flaky sea salt
freshly milled black pepper
12 caperberries, well drained [optional]
edible cake glitter

Heat the oven to 200 ºC.

Lightly dampen a large baking tray and cover with a sheet of baking paper.  The water on the baking tray will help the paper to stick.

Dust some flour over the top of the paper, then pull and push the dough into a rough tree-shaped triangle. You will find that the dough creeps back, but if you persist with pulling and stretching, you'll eventually have an acceptable shape.

Glittery Christmas-Tree Bread with Garlic & Rosemary
Use a pair of sharp scissors to snip the dough.
Using a pair of kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, cut diagonal slits in the dough to form the 'branches' of the tree.

Don't worry if these aren't perfectly symmetrical - the bread will do its own thing in the oven as it rises and crisps up, and there really is no point in faffing about when you should be relaxing on the lawn with with a gin and tonic.

Press the cherry tomatoes deep into the dough.  Cut the olives in half crossways and push them into the dough between the tomatoes. Strip the leaves off the rosemary sprigs and scatter them between the tomatoes and olives.

Glittery Christmas-Tree Bread with Garlic & Rosemary
A flurry of edible glitter goes over the bread as
it comes out of the oven. 
Now, using your fingertips, make deep dimples all over the bread.

Mix the olive oil and garlic together in a bowl and paint this all over the bread, using a pastry brush or your fingertips.

Generously scatter the bread with flaky salt, grind over plenty of fresh pepper and bake at 200 ºC for about 30 minutes, or until the bread is well risen, golden brown and crisp on top.

Remove the bread from the oven, let it cool for 5 minutes, then arrange the caperberries on top.

Trickle a little more olive oil over the top, and dust lavishly with cake glitter.

Serves 6-8 as a snack. 

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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Warm Lamb and Potato Salad with a Mint Dressing

The most important criterion for me when I’m cooking for a small crowd (and I’m talking about 10 people or more) is that every key element of the dish can be prepared many hours in advance, then heated, assembled and dished up with minimum fuss, at the last moment, so it arrives at the table fresh, hot and delicious. This is the fourth in a series of recipes for Woolworths, pantry sponsors of MasterChef South Africa.

An easy way to stretch an expensive leg of lamb between many mouths.
Obviously this is not possible for MasterChef contestants faced with the challenge of catering for a horde (given the tight time-frames of reality TV).  But for home cooks, painstaking planning and preparation are the secrets to success when you’re expecting a flock of hungry guests. A recipe that allows you partly to cook the ingredients well ahead of time, without any significant loss of freshness, flavour or texture, is the best bet, because all you need do is take 20 minutes or so to finish them off in pan or oven, fling the dish together and carry it triumphantly to the table.

This recipe for a warm salad of garlicky, rosemaried lamb, baby potatoes and peas allows you to do just that, and it’s economical in the sense that it stretches a single leg of lamb (which is ruinously expensive these days, for reasons I cannot understand) between many mouths. In the recipe below, I’ve given instructions for preparing the dish well ahead of time and then assembling it at the last minute.

You’ll save a lot of money if you buy a whole leg of lamb and debone it yourself (see Cook’s Notes, below), or ask your butcher to do it for you.

It’s important to serve this warm, as it’s the heat of the potatoes and lamb that releases the minty, mustardy, lemony flavours of the dressing.

My other recipes for Woolworths #wooliespantry: 

Curried Lamb Ribbetjies with Mint Yoghurt
Champ with Chives and Garlic
Gin-Cured Gravadlax with Crisped Capers

Warm Lamb and Potato Salad with a Mint Dressing

1 x 3.5 kg leg of lamb, deboned and butterflied
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil, plus extra for frying
a large lemon
milled black pepper
3.5 kg new potatoes
olive or sunflower oil, for frying
4 cups frozen baby peas
baby mint leaves, to garnish

For the dressing:
4 tsp (20 ml) good Dijon mustard
1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
6 Tbsp (90 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp (2.5 ml) white sugar
flaky sea salt
milled pepper
1 cup (250 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
a big handful of fresh mint leaves (about ¾ cup, loosely packed)

Lay the butterflied lamb, skin side down, in a large non-metallic dish. Scatter over the rosemary sprigs and garlic slices and drizzle with 3 Tbsp olive oil. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the lamb, then slice the squeezed-out lemon halves and arrange them on top of the lamb. Season well with milled black pepper (but no salt). Fold the lamb ‘butterfly’ in half to enclose the filling and cover the dish with clingfilm. Marinate in the fridge for 24 hours (a minimum of 12), turning the lamb over once or twice during that time.

Now prepare the potatoes. Cook them in plenty of boiling salted water for 10 minutes, or until just tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, but not squashy or falling apart. Drain in a colander for 10 minutes, return them to the empty pot and cover.

To prepare the dressing, put the mustard, garlic, lemon juice, sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper into a bowl and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Whisk in the oil to form a smooth emulsion. Cover and set aside at room temperature.

Now sear the lamb (you can do this up to eight hours ahead and keep it, loosely covered with clingfilm, in the fridge). Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a large frying pan or a heavy-based roasting pan until blazing hot and shimmering, but not yet smoking. Scrape the garlic, rosemary and lemon slices off the lamb (don’t leave a trace of garlic behind, as it will turn bitter in the pan) and season with a little salt on both sides.

Sear the lamb in the hot oil for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned and caramelised. Cover and set aside (at room temperature if you’re planning to assemble the dish within two hours, or in the fridge if you’re preparing this well in advance.)

About 45 minutes before you’re ready to serve the dish, heat the oven to 190 ºC. Put the lamb in a roasting pan and roast for 20-25 minutes, or until it’s cooked through, but still a pale rosy pink on the inside (how long this will take depends on your oven and the thickness of the lamb; see Cook’s Notes.) Cover loosely with foil and set aside to rest for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, finely chop the mint leaves, stir them into the dressing and check the seasoning. Add a few tablespoons of water to the pot containing the potatoes, set it over a low heat and gently reheat for 7-10 minutes. Put the frozen peas into a pot of rapidly boiling salted water and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Cut the hot potatoes in half and arrange them on a large, warmed platter. Drain the peas and scatter them on top. Pour the pan juices that have accumulated under the lamb into the bowl containing the dressing and whisk well.

Cut the lamb into thin slices and arrange the pieces on top of the potatoes. Pour over just enough of the minty dressing to coat the potatoes and lamb, and garnish with small mint leaves. Check the seasoning and add more salt if necessary.

Serve immediately with a leafy green salad scattered with crunchy croutons.

With salad, serves  8-10.

Cook's Notes:
  • It’s not difficult to debone a leg of lamb: use a very sharp knife to release the flesh from the bones, using long sweeping strokes. Don’t worry if the lamb ‘butterfly’ looks a little ragged: no one will notice once it’s sliced. If you’re not confident about doing this, have a look on the Internet for an instructional video.
  • To test whether the lamb is done to perfection, cut a small, deep slit in the thickest part of the meat. If it’s still a bloody pink inside, let it roast for 5-7 more minutes, then check again.
  • You can use large potatoes for this dish: boil them in their skins, taking care not to overcook them. Reheat them whole, then cut into thick slices.

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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas Gammon with a Sticky Orange and Ginger Glaze

I'm a bit bored with honey-and-mustard glazes, so this year I thought I'd try burnishing a Christmas gammon with a sticky Asian-style glaze flavoured with ginger, soy sauce and fresh orange juice. The combination of smoky gammon and sweet, spicy citrus was delicious, and I'm going to use the same glaze for the ham I'm planning for Christmas Eve. What a pity that the gammon itself was neither succulent nor tender. Although the flavour was good, it was thoroughly overcooked, and I'm still fuming about this.

A gorgeous glaze, but the ham was a long way off tender and juicy.  
I don't usually moan on this blog about products that disappoint me (do you find whining blog posts as boring as I do?) but I'm annoyed enough to make an exception here. I decided to bake rather than boil my gammon this year, because the giant bone-in gammon I bought last year collapsed into sodden shreds in the pot. (We had to rush out and buy an emergency gammon because all that was left was a pile of grey mush. The same thing happened to a reader of this blog, who had bought the same joint from Woolworths.)

Baking the gammon in liquid would, I figured, prevent any chance of collapse, and I was also interested to see if baking would produce a texture superior to that of a boiled gammon. I bought a boneless gammon (again from Woolworths), and carefully read the cooking guidelines on the packaging, which gave instructions for both boiling and baking. I thought it odd that the cooking time for both methods was identical (namely, 30 minutes per 500 g, plus 25 minutes extra), given that the recommended temperature for baking the meat was 160ºC.   How could a gammon baked at  this temperature require the same cooking time as one simmered on the stovetop at 100ºC, the boiling point of water? Still, I decided to cast my doubts aside and follow the instructions to the letter. After all, I'm always telling people to follow the damned recipe.)

The gammon after 3 hours in the oven: rather shrunken.
My gammon weighed 3.4 kg, so the cooking time added up to just under 4 hours (an hour per kilogram, plus an extra 25 minutes). I baked the gammon in a deep roasting pan, half submerged in a mixture of stock and beer.

The instructions advised covering it tightly with foil, which I did, and I added an inner layer of wet baking paper secured with string, because I was worried about the meat drying out. After it had been in the oven for 3 hours, I did a finger-poke test. The meat felt hard, and I could see through the foil that it had shrunk to about two thirds of its original size.  At this point I whipped it out of the oven, but it was too late. The meat was flavoursome enough, I suppose, but had lost all its juiciness, and was a long way off tender.  I served it to my guests (it was too late to make anything else) but I wasn't happy about it, and I gave myself a good kick in the pants for not trusting my instincts and cooking it at a much lower temperature.  (I have pointed out, on Woolworths' Facebook page, that their instructions are incorrect, but have received no response.)

I am going to try the baking method again with the next gammon, but this time will set the oven to 100ºC. I'll let you know how it turns out.

In this recipe, because I don't want your gammon ruined too, I've given you instructions for simmering the meat on the stovetop in a beery broth (this is the same liquid and method I use for cooking my Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy and Coke).

Christmas Gammon with a Sticky Orange and Ginger Glaze

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
2 carrots, scraped and roughly chopped
a small stick of celery
a few parsley stalks
1 tsp (5 ml) whole black peppercorns
water, to cover
whole cloves, to stud

For the glaze:

the finely grated zest of a large orange
juice of two oranges
3 Tbsp (45 ml) Kikkoman soy sauce
3 Tbsp (45 ml) rice vinegar
3 Tbsp (45 ml) soft dark sugar
2 Tbsp (30 ml) honey
2 Tbsp (30 ml) grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
the juice of half a lemon

Make a note of the weight of the gammon before you discard the packaging. Put the gammon, ginger ale, beer, star anise, bay leaves, cloves, onion, carrots, celery, parsley stalks and peppercorns into a deep pot. Add enough water just to cover the gammon to a depth of 1 cm. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat so that the gammon cooks at a 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. Turn off the heat and leave the gammon in the liquid to cool completely.

Put all the ingredients for the glaze, except the lemon juice, into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Bubble the the glaze for about 10 minutes, or until it has reduced by about half, is slightly syrupy and is forming big, slow-popping bubbles. Remove it from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Lift the gammon out of the cooking broth, pat it dry on kitchen paper and place in a roasting pan. (Strain the stock and freeze it for future use in stews and soups). Peel away the rind and discard it. If there is a very thick layer of fat below the rind, scrape most of it away, leaving behind a thin layer. 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 pan under the hot grill, on the middle shelf of the oven.  Every two minutes or so, baste the meat by scooping the glaze off the bottom of the pan and trickling it all over the top and sides.  Leave the oven door slightly open and watch it like a hawk: the glaze burns easily. When the gammon has a rich, sticky crust, and there is just a little glaze left in the bottom of the pan, remove it from the oven.  Let the pan cool for 10 minutes then, using a pastry brush, paint any remaining glaze over the top and sides of the gammon (or dribble it on with a teaspoon).  Serve hot or cold, with a green salad and potatoes.

Serves 8-10 as part of a festive feast

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Thursday, 8 December 2011

Boozy, Fruity Trifle Cake for Christmas

I couldn't decide between a chocolate-nutty cake or a boozy-fruity one for this, my second Christmas recipe for 2011, so I asked my Facebook friends which one they'd most fancy on the table this year. Although a few were doggedly in the chocolate camp, most voted for a boozy/fruity pudding.  My friend Fiona Snyckers summed it up very well: "When Pooh Bear was asked to choose between honey or condensed milk, he got over-excited and said 'both!'. But if I have to pick one, I'd say boozy-fruity because it's a once-a-year thing. You can have choc-nutty every other day of the year. Christmas is all about the brandy-soaked cherries."

Boozy, Fruity Trifle Cake for Christmas 

My sentiments exactly. I'm not sure what to call my new Christmas confection, because it's something of a hybrid: part trifle and part cheesecake, with a nod to a classic Italian zuccotto. With a creamy, fruity filling and a lining of booze-soaked Madeira cake, it's sure to appeal to guests who are expecting a wickedly rich, Christmassy-tasting dessert at the end of a festive meal.

This is easy to make and can be prepared a day (or even two) in advance, although the whipped-cream icing should be made and spread over the cake not more than an hour before you serve it. 

I used a delicious Klein Constantia sweet dessert wine for soaking the Madeira cake, but you could use sherry, hanepoot, port or any similar fortified wine.

You can add anything you like to this filling. I used toasted slivered almonds for crunch, and crushed Amaretti biscuits for their lovely bitter almondiness, but I think what would make this pud perfect is some sour-sweet brandied cherries (thanks for the suggestion, Fiona). I didn't have any of these to hand when I made this,  but I'm soaking fresh cherries in brandy as we speak for use on the big day.

Part trifle and part cheesecake, with a nod to a classic Italian zuccotto

Boozy, Fruity Trifle Cake for Christmas

2 Madeira-cake loaves (trifle sponges)
1 cup (250 ml) sweet dessert wine, or similar
3 Tbsp (45 ml) tepid water
4 tsp (20 ml) gelatine powder
400 g cream cheese (I use full-fat cream cheese, but you could use a half-half mixture of full-fat and low fat)
2/3 cup (160 ml) icing sugar
1 cup (250 ml) fruit mincemeat, from a jar
2/3 cup (160 ml) slivered almonds, lightly toasted
16 Amaretti biscuits, lightly crushed
3 Tbsp (45 ml) brandy or whiskey
1 cup (250 ml0 cream

For the icing:
350 ml cream
3 Tbsp (45 ml) icing sugar
a few drops of vanilla extract

Grease a 24-cm spring-form cake tin and line it with baking paper. (Cut out a circle for the base, and a long strip of paper that's the same width as the height of the cake ring. Alternatively, you can line the tin with several sheets of clingfilm.)

Cut the Madeira loaves horizontally (that is, with your bread knife held parallel to the chopping board) into long, 1-cm thick slices. Each slice will be about as wide as the cake tin is high. Pour the dessert wine into a shallow dish. Quickly dip each slice into the wine and then press the slices one by one around the edges of the tin. Use more dipped slices to line the bottom of the tin, pulling them into pieces if necessary and fitting them together like a jigsaw. Don't worry if the sponge lining looks uneven and messy: the whole cake will be covered with whipped cream. Reserve any left-over slices of cake for the topping. Put the tin in the fridge while you make the filling.

Put the tepid water in a teacup-sized bowl, sprinkle over the gelatine powder and set aside to 'sponge' for a few minutes. Place the bowl 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, remove the bowl and set aside to cool for a few minutes. (Alternatively, you can melt the gelatine very gently in a microwave oven.)

I served this on my Mum's silver tray.
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and icing sugar, until smooth. Stir in the mincemeat, almonds, crushed Amaretti biscuits and brandy (or whiskey). Stir in the melted gelatine.

In a separate bowl, whisk the cream to a soft, thick peak. Gently fold the cream into the cream-cheese filling mixture. Pour the mixture into the cake-lined tin and smooth the top. Dip the remaining slices of Maedira cake in the leftover wine and press them lightly over the top surface of the cake.  Cover the tin with clingfilm and refrigerate.

An hour or two before you're ready to serve the cake, make the icing. Whip the cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract to a firm and voluptuous (but not stiff) peak.

Take the cake out of the fridge and gently loosen it from its mould. Invert the cake on a serving platter and gently peel away the baking paper or clingfilm.

Spread the whipped cream evenly in a fairly thin layer all over the cake and decorate with silver balls, or chocolate shavings, or brandied cherries, or other festoonments of your choice.

Serve cold.

Makes one cake; serves 8-10

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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Cream of Watercress Soup with Wobbly Eggs

Liquid-centred 'poached' eggs add a touch of drama to this clean-flavoured watercress soup. This isn't a complicated recipe, but it does require some attention to detail.  The trick is to get the eggs just right, because most of the fun in eating it comes from puncturing the egg with your spoon and swirling the golden yolk around the bowl.

Cream of Watercress Soup with Wobbly Eggs
Cream of Watercress Soup with Wobbly Eggs

I am a great fan of watercress, and think it's a most under-appreciated ingredient.

Rocket is partially to blame for this, because this ubiquitous leaf, with its delicious, peppery twanginess, has a habit of hogging all the limelight, especially in salads.

Watercress -  now abundant on local supermarket shelves - is often considered a second choice to rocket, and I can't understand why. Watercress has a fresh bite and a lovely clean metallic taste, and is as good raw as it is lightly cooked.

This is a good light soup to serve, sequinned with olive oil and generously doused in cream, to friends on a cool spring evening (and there seem too many of those in Cape Town these days). However, since neither the most experienced cook nor the most foolhardy one should consider dangling over a hot stove poaching eggs the old-fashioned way when there are guests to greet and wine to quaff, I recommend that you use a clever restaurant trick:  partially cook the eggs in clingfilm ‘purses’ well ahead of time and then quickly reheat them minutes before serving.

Cream of Watercress Soup with Wobbly Eggs

2 packets of watercress, about 80 g each
1¾ litres (7 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
3 medium potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
6 Tbsp (90 g / 90 ml) butter
6 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced
5 Tbsp (75 ml) cake flour
the juice of half a lemon
200 ml cream
salt and milled black pepper
8 large, very fresh free-range eggs
a little olive oil
a few extra watercress or parsley leaves

Rinse the watercress, pick off the leaves and set them and the stalks to one side.

Heat the chicken stock in a large pot, add the watercress stalks and potato slices and cook at a brisk simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the potato is very tender.

Melt the butter in a separate large pot, add the leeks, cover the vegetables with a circle of baking paper (or the wrapper from a block of butter) and cook over a low heat for 7-9 minutes, or until very soft. Remove the paper, stir in the flour and cook for another minute. Turn up the heat slightly, add the reserved watercress leaves and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes, or until the leaves have wilted but are still a fresh green colour. Now add the hot stock and potatoes, stir well, bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Squeeze in the lemon juice, then blend to a smooth purée (but not too fine; the soup should be flecked with green). Reheat the soup, mix in the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make the eggs in advance. Line a teacup with a large square of clingfilm and generously brush the inner surface with sunflower oil. Break an egg into the cup, bring up the edges of the plastic, twist them together to make a ‘purse’ and then tie into a knot, as if you are knotting a balloon. Make sure there is not too much air between the egg and the knot. Repeat with the remaining 7 eggs. Fill a big bowl with iced water and 10 ice cubes.

Bring a pan of water to a very gentle rolling boil, add 4 of the egg purses and poach for exactly 3  minutes. Plunge the purses into the iced water and chill for 5 minutes. Cut through the knots with scissors, gently peel away the plastic and place the eggs on a plate. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Cover the plate with clingfilm.

When you’re ready to serve the soup, slip the eggs back into a pan of gently boiling water and reheat for exactly 1 minute (set your oven timer to remind you!). Fish the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and drain quickly on kitchen paper. Ladle the hot soup into bowls and top each one with a puddle of cream, a poached egg, dots of of olive oil and a few leaves of watercress or flat-leaf parsley.

Serves 8.

Cook’s Notes
  • This soup can be made up to 4 hours in advance, but no longer, or it may lose its colour.
  • Poach the eggs up to 4 hours ahead, and keep them in the fridge. It’s a good idea to poach a few extra eggs, just in case the yolks break or the whites refuse to come away from the plastic. Practise poaching an egg the day before if you’re not feeling confident.
  • Try this soup with other tender fresh leaves, such as sorrel, rocket or baby spinach.
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Monday, 8 August 2011

Chicken Soup with Braaied Mielies, South-African Style

This homely soup, containing kernels of barbecued sweetcorn, was one of the recipes I entered into a recent soup competition. To my chagrin (well, rage, actually: think Rumpelstiltskin-style gnashing of teeth and stamping of feet) it didn't win the grand prize of fifty thousand rands' worth of luxury-supermarket vouchers. The winning recipe was a mutton curry soup by Kelly Chrystal of Durban. Although I want to bludgeon this Kelly person and steal her prize, I am very much looking forward to tasting her interesting soup when it hits the shelves next year.

Braaied-Mielie and Chicken Soup: Creamy, with a Hint of Chilli
Chicken Soup with Braaied Mielies

This soup recipe is inspired by a quintessential South African dish: fresh ears of sweetcorn (what we call 'mielies') cooked to a nutty goldenness over blazing coals. Sweet, slightly charred mielie kernels chewed straight from the cob. Sprinkled with salt. Eaten in a woodsmoky beam of sunshine. With melted butter trickling down your chin.

Forgive me for coming over all rhapsodic, but I can't help it. I hope you get the picture.

In this recipe, I've combined a thick, creamy homestyle chicken soup with freshly braaied sweetcorn. If you don't have hot coals to hand, you can cook the sweetcorn under a very hot grill (see recipe, below).

This is a long recipe because it requires a good home-made chicken stock.  You can cheat by using a stock cube, but I hope you don't.  There really isn't any substitute for proper chicken stock.

Braaied-Mielie and Chicken Soup

For the chicken stock:
a large free-range chicken, trimmed of excess fat
2½ litres water
1 cup (250 ml) white wine
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) sea salt
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled and roughly sliced
a very thin slice of lemon, peel on
2 bay leaves
1 tsp (5 ml) freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves
a large stalk of celery
8 stalks fresh parsley
3 sprigs fresh thyme

For the soup:
3 tablespoons (45 ml) softened butter
8 large ears of fresh sweetcorn, husks and silk removed
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 cup (250 ml) milk
1 tsp (5 ml) dried chilli flakes
2 tsp (10 ml) good dried oregano
a quarter of a whole nutmeg, finely grated
a pinch (1 ml) of ground cloves
the juice of a small lemon
6 Tbsp (90 ml) cream
3 Tbsp (45 ml) chopped fresh parsley
salt and milled black pepper, to taste
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

To top:
Extra chopped fresh parsley, or snipped chives

First make the stock. Place the chicken, water, wine and salt  in a large pot. The chicken should be just submerged in liquid; if it is not, use a smaller pot. Bring gently to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Skim off any foam as it rises.

Add the onions, carrots, lemon slice, bay leaves, pepper and cloves. Using kitchen string, tie the celery stalks, parsley stalks and thyme sprigs into a bundle and add to the pot. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Take the whole chicken out of the stock and cut off the breasts and legs. Cover these with clingfilm and set aside. Return the chicken carcass to the stock and simmer very gently for another hour.

While the chicken is simmering, rub the softened butter over the mielies and sprinkle with a little salt. Braai over medium-hot coals until the mielies are brown and toasted, and just cooked through. (But don't overcook: the kernels should retain a good crunch). If you don't have a braai, cook the mielies under a blazing oven grill, turning frequently, until golden and toasty, and charred in little flecks. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Using a sharp knife, remove all the kernels, cutting close to the cob. Set the kernels aside.

Take the chicken carcass out of the pot and set aside on a plate to cool. Fish the bay leaves, lemon slice and the bundle of celery, parsley and thyme out of the stock and discard. Leave the cooked onions and carrot in the stock. Add the cubed potatoes, milk and half the braaied mielie kernels. Turn up the heat and cook at a lively simmer for 20 minutes, or until the potato cubes are tender and cooked right through.

In the meantime, pull the cooked chicken away from the carcass and from the set-aside breasts and legs, discarding any skin or fat. Tear the chicken into little shreds and flakes, and set to one side.

Liquidise the soup, in batches, until smooth. Pour the soup back into the pot. Add the remaining braaied mielie kernels, along with the reserved chicken pieces, chilli flakes, oregano, nutmeg, ground cloves and lemon juice. Stir well. Turn on the heat and simmer gently for another ten minutes.

Just before serving, stir in the cream and parsley, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Add a spritz of lemon juice - just enough to 'lift' the flavour.

Serve piping hot, with a shower of finely snipped chives and crusty bread rolls.

Serves 8

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Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Dried Naartjie Peel, and a South African Milk Tart to go under it

During naartjie season, you might be forgiven for thinking my house has been invaded by swarms of starving monkeys, so many blazing-orange peels are draped over cushions and tossed in spirals on the carpets. I exaggerate, of course, but my kids do love naartjies [a South African word for tangerines or clementines] and they eat them by the bucketload in winter.

South African Milk Tart with Dried Naartjie Peel
Dried naartjie peel adds a lovely old-fashioned fragrance to milk tart.
I've no doubt that a similar surfeit of naartjie peels led early cooks at the Cape to dry these fragrant skins and pound them to a powder to use in both savoury and sweet dishes. References to dried, ground naartjie peel abound in old South African recipes:  'No well-stocked 18th or 19th century kitchen was without a jar of dried naartjie peel,' write Magdaleen Van Wyk and Pat Barton in their book Traditional South African Cooking (2008).

In her esteemed cookbook Traditional Cookery of the Cape Malays (1959) Hilda Gerber gives a recipe for koesisters that contain 'a little stamped dried naartjie peel'.  A similar recipe for koesisters appears in the Cape Malay Cookbook by Faldela Williams.

A recipe for 'Krapkoekies' [literally, 'scratch biscuits'] in The Imperial African Cookery Book: Recipes from English-Speaking Africa by Will Sellick contains both dried naartjie peel and cardamom.

Dried naartjie peel was also used in oublietjies (light, crisp wafer-like biscuits bought to South Africa by the French Huguenots; these were cooked in a special waffle iron and rolled to form a cylinder) and in sweets.

In his book Tavern of the Seas, famous raconteur Lawrence Green wrote, 'For the children there would always be tameletjies, the sweets made of sugar, water, eggs, naartjie peel and dennebol pits.' What Green calls 'dennebol pits' are denne pitte, or pine nuts. Tameletjies are a type of nutty, sticky toffee, also known as stick-jaw or sticky jaw. According to Van Wyk and Barton, tameletjies have been eaten at the Cape since the early days of the French Huguenots: 'Years ago, these sweets were sold by Malay street vendors but these days they seem to be made only for special private feasts.' Here's their recipe for tameletjies.

Dried naartjie peel - along with fresh - was probably used in early versions of Van Der Hum (a famous South African liqueur made of brandy, spices and naartjie peel) and it's also occasionally used as a flavouring in savoury dishes, including bobotie, spicy dish of custard-topped mince that is regarded by some as South Africa's national dish. Here's a contemporary recipe for a lamb potjiekos (pot-stew) containing dried naartjie peel.

I oven-dried a whole lot of naartjie peel recently and have had great fun experimenting with this unusual  ingredient. It has a lovely pungent aroma and is delicious combined with other spices such as nutmeg, mace, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. The ground peel does have a fleeting bitterness (no doubt due to the fact that I dried it without removing its white pithy underside) but it is not at all unpleasant. I suppose you could use a potato peeler to shave off pithless flakes of the peel, but this is a laborious business because naartjie peel is so oily and flexible.

To dry naartjie peel, place the peels - torn into big strips -  on a rack in a sunny place and allow to air-dry naturally. Or, if you're in a hurry, put them on a rack set over a baking tray and place them in the oven. Turn the oven to its lowest setting and allow them to dry out overnight, or until they are quite crisp. The peels will dry out faster in a fan-assisted oven.  Store the peels in an airtight jar and use a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle to blitz a few pieces to a powder whenever you need them for a recipe.

By far and away the most famous dish using dried naartjie peel is milk tart, or melktert. Most modern recipes call for a piece of fresh naartjie peel to be placed in the milk to infuse, but older recipes incorporate the dried, ground peel into the mixture.

I like a delicate, wobbly, custardy milk tart, but my kids do not; their tastebuds have been ruined by flabby white supermarket milk tarts containing not a trace of egg and far too much cheap cinnamon.  This recipe is a compromise (and I've added some cream and a vanilla pod for extra decadence).

Milk tarts are traditionally made with flaky or puff pastry, but I prefer a shortcrust pastry. You can make your own - recipe here - or use a good frozen pastry of your choice.

South African Milk Tart with Dried Naartjie Peel 

a deep 23-cm pie dish lined with shortcrust pastry, and baked blind

For the filling:
1 litre full-cream milk
125 ml (½ cup) pouring cream
a strip of fresh naartjie (tangerine) peel
a vanilla pod, halved lengthways
a 5-cm quill of cinnamon
2 extra-large free-range eggs
6 Tbsp (90 ml) cake flour
2 Tbsp (30 ml) cornflour [cornstarch]
200 ml caster sugar
1 Tbsp (15 ml) dried, ground naartjie peel

To top:
caster sugar
dried, ground naartjie peel

Put the milk, cream, naartjie peel, vanilla pod and cinnamon quill in a large saucepan, place over low flame and bring very slowly to the boil. As soon as the milk begins to seethe and rise in the pan, remove it from the heat, cover and set aside for 15 minutes to infuse. Strain the milk into a jug or bowl and discard the peel, vanilla pod and cinnamon.

Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk them lightly. Add the flour, cornflour, caster sugar and one-third of the warm, strained milk. Beat together, using a wire whisk, until quite smooth. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and add the remaining two-thirds of milk.  Cook, over a low flame, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and smooth; it should have the consistency of a thick white sauce. Don't allow the mixture to boil. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie dish and bake at 160ºC for 25-35 minutes, or until the filling has set, but is still rather wobbly in the middle. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Put the ground naartjie peel and caster sugar into a tea strainer and sift this mixture all over the top of the tart.

Makes one 23-cm tart Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Festive Turkey Stuffing with Green Peppercorns, Pork Sausage, Apple and Thyme

I've used squashed green peppercorns as an ingredient for my turkey stuffing this Christmas not only because I want a change from the usual apricot-bacon-nut theme, but also because 2010 has been my personal Year of Pepper. I've always been partial to this splendid, much-adored spice - the king of spices, don't you agree? - but in recent months my love of pepper has developed into something of a craving.
Festive Turkey Stuffing with Green Peppercorns, Pork Sausage, Apple and Thyme
Image from Wikipedia Creative Commons
I just can't get enough of the dark, warm, aromatic, citrussy scent and taste of peppercorns. White pepper, in particular, has featured in several of my recipes this year - it's my personal blogging mission to revive this rather neglected and unfashionable ingredient - and I am also very fond of green peppercorns in brine.

In this recipe, I've combined crushed green peppercorns with grated fresh apple, pork-sausage meat, breadcrumbs, thyme, lemon zest, onions, garlic and nuts to create a light, flavoursome stuffing that I think will be a good accompaniment to my run-of-the-mill supermarket turkey. I can't offer you a photograph, because I haven't stuffed the turkey yet, but I have fried up a few small patties of the stuffing to check the balance of flavours and the seasoning, and I'm very happy with the result.

I've used chopped, lightly toasted Brazil nuts in this stuffing because I love their slightly bitter, woodlandy taste - a bit like chewing on a branch, I always think - but you could quite easily use any similar crunchy nuts, such as macadamias or cashews. If you're making the stuffing in advance, as I've done, add the toasted nuts just before you stuff the turkey.

I found that this stuffing held together so well that I didn't need to add any egg. But if your stuffing mixture doesn't come together smartly when you squeeze a ball of it in your fist, add a beaten egg.

For the breadcrumbs, use slices of white or brown bread (or rolls) that are at least three days old. If your breadcrumbs are too soft and fluffy, the stuffing will be stodgy and pasty. Tear the bread slices into tatters and whizz them up, in batches, in a food processor or liquidizer.

Festive Turkey Stuffing with Green Peppercorns, Pork Sausage, Apple and Thyme

4 tsp (20 ml) olive oil
1½ cups very finely chopped onion (a very large onion, or two average-sized ones)
2 cloves fresh garlic, very finely chopped
the finely grated zest and juice of a lemon
2 red apples, cored
6 pork sausages (Eskort or Woolworths)
4 large sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped (about 2 tablespoons of leaves)
4 tsp (20 ml) Madagascar green peppercorns
1 tsp (5 ml) flaky sea salt
5 cups (very loosely packed) fresh breadcrumbs
100 g chopped Brazil nuts (or similar; see my notes above)

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium flame. Add the finely chopped onions and the garlic, turn down the heat and cook very gently for 7-10 minutes, tossing now and again, until the onion is soft and transluscent. Don't allow the onion or garlic to brown.

Place the lemon zest and juice in a large mixing bowl. Grate the apple, skin and all, on the coarse side of a cheese grater, and tip the gratings directly into the bowl containing the lemon juice. Toss well so that the apple is coated with lemon juice. Squeeze the filling out of the pork sausages (discard the sausage skin) and add it to the mixing bowl, along with the thyme leaves and the cooked onion and garlic.

Put the green peppercorns in a mortar with the salt and pound them to a rough paste. (Or, if you don't have a mortar, squash them on a chopping board using a rolling pin or a heavy-based pot.) Add the pepper paste to the mixing bowl. Using your hands, squeeze and squish the contents of the mixing bowl together. Now tip all the fresh breadcrumbs into the bowl and, using a fork or your fingertips, lightly mix until combined. Don't overwork the mixture, or it will turn into wallpaper paste.

Toss the Brazil nuts in a hot, dry frying pan, over a medium flame, until lightly toasted. Lightly mix the nuts into the stuffing mixture.

At this point, it's a good idea to test the stuffing for flavour and seasoning. Take a small ball of the stuffing, press it into a little patty and fry it in hot oil until lightly browned. Taste the patty, add more salt if necessary, and then cover and place in the fridge until you're ready to stuff your turkey.

Makes enough stuffing for a large turkey. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Layered Christmas Ice-Cream Cake with White Chocolate and Berries

Here's an extravagant, multi-layered ice-cream cake that looks festive, tastes dreamy and packs - at least in one of its layers - a happy Christmassy punch. It's easy to make, and I guarantee it will wow a crowd, from oldies who love traditional fruity, boozy flavours to kids who crave chocolates and sweeties. In short, I've designed this cake to please everyone.

Layered Christmas Ice-Cream Cake with White Chocolate and Berries

A few years back, someone came up with the idea of crumbling a Christmas pudding and mixing it with vanilla icecream: a good idea, all right (no one who lives in a hot climate wants to eat hot Christmas pud) but the recipe had an inherent flaw - kids didn't like it. This ice cream lets you slice off the bits you know the kids will devour, and keep the fruity, brandied layer all to yourself.

Instead of Christmas pud, I've used squashed-up mince pies.  Please trust me on this - it works - but do buy mince pies with a nice, crumbly, shortbready pastry.

The layers have something for everyone.
The casing, which consists of chocolate modelling paste,  is a bit fiddly to make, sets rock-hard in the freezer and is a tough nut to crack (and eat). It's there to look lovely, and to contain the berries, but if you don't feel up to making it, leave it out. Instead, pile whipped cream (look, it is Christmas) all over the top of the cake and stack the berries high. Liquid glucose is available from specialty baking shops.

I wanted to include popping candy in this cake (à la Heston Blumenthal) but I found that the minute the icecream softened slightly, the little granules started to explode. You could, however, mix them into the modelling paste, where they will remain stable until stuck into a small, hungry mouth. (And yes, I tested this.)

Use a very large, deep, non-stick round baking tin for this cake. If you don't have one large enough, use a cake tin (the sort you store cakes in) that you have lined with  several sheets of clingfilm.  Start the cake up to a week in advance of your feast, but keep it covered in the freezer to prevent it from absorbing freezer whiffs.

You need a very large flat platter for this cake. If you don't have one, use your glass microwave turntable, as I did (but I take no responsibility if it gets broken during the festivities!).

You can use any combination of nuts, fruits, sweeties and liqueurs for this cake. Rum-soaked raisins would be nice, as would cherries in brandy. Don't add too much alcohol to the mix, though, as it can inhibit the freezing of ice cream.

The white-chocolate collar is entirely optional.

Layered Christmas Ice Cream Cake with White Chocolate and Berries

2 x two-litre tubs of  real (dairy) vanilla ice cream

For the first layer:
4 mince pies
3 Tbsp (45 ml) brandy
100g chopped pecan nuts, or mixed nuts of your choice
½ cup (125 ml) cream, whipped until firm

For the second layer:
120 g chocolate chips, or a chopped-up bar of your favourite chocolate
2 Tbsp (30 ml) good-quality instant coffee
3 Tbsp (45 ml) cocoa powder
½ cup (125 ml) cream, whipped until firm

For the third layer:
4 Crunchies (chocolate-covered honeycomb bars)
6 ginger biscuits, crumbled
3 Tbsp honey, slightly warmed so that it's runny
½ cup (125 ml) cream, whipped until firm

For the white chocolate:
250 g white chocolate
150 g liquid glucose

For the topping:
Assorted berries, fresh or frozen, or a mixture of both

Make the first layer. Take two-thirds (about 1.3 litres) of the first tub of icecream, place in a large mixing bowl and allow to soften slightly. Crumble the mince pies and add to the ice cream along with the brandy and nuts. Mix quickly and thoroughly.  Fold in the whipped cream. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin (see above) and smooth the top with a spatula. Allow to freeze until firm.

Repeat the same process with the next two layers, using 1.3 l of ice cream at a time, and allowing each one to freeze until firm.

To remove the cake from its tin, briefly warm the sides (click here to find out how to do this easily) and invert onto a large platter. If the surface of the cake looks crinkled as a result of lining the tin with clingfilm (and if you're not making the chocolate case), smooth with a heated spatula.  Put the cake back in the freezer.

Now make the casing. Melt the white chocolate in a metal or glass bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Don't allow it to overheat, as white chocolate is tricky and tends to 'seize'. Gently heat the glucose in another pot (or in the microwave) until it is slightly runny. Remove the chocolate from the heat, tip in the glucose and beat hard, until the mixture forms a ball and comes away from the sides of the pan. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 20-30 minutes, or until it's cool enough to handle, but still pliable. Roll the modelling paste into a long sausage and place it between two sheets of baking paper. Roll out into a long strip that is a little taller than your cake, and long enough to wrap all the way round it.

You need to work quickly here, and to apply very firm pressure. If the paste becomes too stiff, fold it, still in the baking paper, in half, and place it in the microwave for a few seconds at a time to warm up.

When the strip is long enough, trim one edge with a sharp knife to make a straight line. Leave the other edge wavy.  Remove the cake from the freezer and wrap the chocolate paste around it, wavy side up. Seal the join with light pressure.  Replace in the freezer.

Just before serving, pile the berries into the centre of the cake.  Use a very hot knife (dip it in boiling water, or heat over a flame) to slice the cake.

Serves 12

Note: The idea for this chocolate casing comes from the June 2008 issue of BBC Good Food magazine. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly