Time for a little focus…

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Some people say that one’s blog should have a focus, a specific thing that you write about, something that you are trying to achieve etc.  When  I started out I was clueless, still am really, but I wanted to pretty much just document the food we were making at home as a way to remember what we had done, what we thought about it, what we would do again etc.  We love experimenting with food, and it’s not often that we make the same thing twice – unless it’s a real winner, like Moroccan lamb, although it’s often still variations on the theme. So I enjoy keeping track of what we’re doing and how we did it – a common problem with experimenting, can you repeat it?!

This year I have just landed the job I have waited for, not foodie related, but it’s going to take a little more of my time and energy than what I have done up until now, so I think I need to be a little more organised.  For the past 10 months (5 months not working at all and 5 months working at a random job) I have used free time during the day to contemplate our evening meal and then gone to the shops on the way home from work in the mid-afternoon.  I know, I know – who in their right mind goes shopping everyday for groceries!!  But let me tell you, when I was unemployed those daily trips to the store were my saving grace and I would have gone loopy had I not had the focus of planning our meals and doing the shopping for them. But now it’s not that realistic, plus I have a million recipe books at home that I have not been using enough because I tend to use the internet to hunt down ideas and recipes.  So my plan is to become more organised, to plan our meals for the week (at least Monday through Thursday) and to do one big shop a week.  That way I’ll have more time to actually cook (and maybe fit in some exercise to counteract all my eating!) and enjoy it.

My plan is a little vague at this point, but I think it will go something like getting on board with Meat Free Mondays, making the French Fridays With Dorie challenge recipe on a Tuesday (ready to blog for Friday), a recipe from one of my recipe books on Wednesday, and perhaps a bloggers recipe on Thursday – or in no particular order really.  It may shift from week to week as I may do a few other bloggy type challenges from the blogosphere, and may feel like something in particular one day, but at least I’ll have something to aim for.

I think I’m going to try to post my plan on a Sunday, perhaps offer inspiration to others, and then through the week I’ll post about the good stuff we are eating J  Don’t hold me to anything, but I’m going to try!

In My Kitchen – January 2012

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A new year and getting involved in new things, like Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’s In My Kitchen monthly glimpse into our homes. Fun and a good way to find out about new things. Love the idea Celia:-)

So, without further ado, in my kitchen this month are…

My new Dorie Greenspan recipe book – Around My French Table – loving it!

20120104-191956.jpgOur little kitchen herbs – parsley, basil and coriander – so happy with how they are doing, boyfriend has sneaky green fingers! Thank goodness, cos I definitely do not!

20120104-192020.jpgKeeping with the latest trend in microherbs, we’ve decided to grow herbs from seed until the leaves are just sprouting and then to use them in salad.  They’re delicious and pack a serious flavour punch. This is just a couple of days growth on cotton wool, reminds us of growing beans on cotton wool as kids :-)

20120104-192028.jpgThe latest addition to our Nomu collection of rubs, we’re completely in love with the Moroccan one, but are yet to try out the Spanish one – I see prawns in our future very soon.

20120104-192037.jpgSalted caramel – found it in Woolies over Christmastime, not sure what to do with it now!  Any ideas?  Use by date is looming, so it may just have to be consumed as is…I think I can probably handle that!

20120104-192045.jpgA beautiful pressie from a special friend.  Lots of love in our kitchen x

20120104-192057.jpgAnd that’s January in our kitchen folks :-)

Red onion marmalade

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Happy New Year people!  Wow, 2012 already – I think it’s going to be a goodie :-) I have so many things to post – lots of Christmas recipes, lots of things I’ve been trying out since Christmas using all my awesome pressies and lots of tastilicious things we’ve cooked up while we’re on holiday!

One of my Christmas presents from my sister was the wonderful recipe book, Relish by Sonia Cabano, which I have been looking at longingly for a few months in the bookstore. It is a book full of beautiful photos and recipes of sauces, seasonings, relishes, preserves and much more. Something that I really love about it is the fact that it is written by a South African, which makes the content so much more relevant and the ingredients easier to find!

I’ve been itching to create something from the book since she gave it to me, which was our early Christmas, so it’s been a while! A couple of nights ago, after a day of babalas, brought on by our having spent the previous day at the cricket Test match in Durban, I decided we needed a meat and three veg kind of a meal to get us back on track and to provide some much needed comfort to the sore heads. Steak, mashed potatoes, steamed zucchini and butternut – some kind of perfection.

But, because this is me we’re talking about, I also wanted to try making something new and exciting…hence the reach for the Relish recipe book and the discovery of the Red Onion Marmalade recipe. The marmalade is said to accompany steak very well, as well as pork, smoked chicken and cheese (I can vouch for the latter, having had cheese and marmalade on toast for breakfast a few times since!).

It was super easy to make and worked, I think, perfectly. I am consistently amazed every time I have some by how, despite the onions being sliced extremely thinly and being cooked for half an hour, they remain crunchy. Crunchy, and sweet and tangy, and good.

Even better, they can be stored in a sterilized jar in a cool, dark place for up to 2 months – I can think of a few people who will be recieiving foodie gifts of red onion marmalade this year. Once open the need to be kept in the fridge…and to be honest, mine have been sitting in the fridge, in a regular plastic container since I made them – so far they have lasted a week and counting.

I added a little something extra to ours – a few paprika peppers, we had spotted them in the store and since they’re not something we see often we pounced on them. Red onion marmalade seemed like a good partnership for them and it was.

Recipe

(Adapted from Relish)

Ingredients

  • 300 g red onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 paprika peppers, thinly sliced
  • 22 ml olive oil
  • 2 ml salt
  • 38 g brown sugar
  • 28 ml red wine vinegar
  • 4 ml dried thyme

Directions

  1. Cook the paprika and red onions in the oil over a medium heat until soft and translucent. Keep stirring them for about 30 minutes, but don’t let them brown.
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    Thinly sliced red onions and paprika - love the colour!

  3. Add the other ingredients to the onion and paprika and stir, if you have residual liquid in your pan at this stage, simmer until thick and the liquid has essentially evaporated.
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    -Addition of the red wine vinegar enhances the amazing redness of the onions and makes them look so rich (‘scuse the sideways pic!)
  4. Serve with your chosen meat or cheese, etc. Store in the fridge or in sterilized airtight jar in the cupboard, until opened.
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A close up attempt to show the colour and shininess

Easy peasy, enjoy x

Christmas!

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Merry Christmas everybody! Very belated I know, but it is the silly season and it has been busy!

We had a wonderful Christmas…or two;-) The first was the weekend before Christmas with my folks and my sister and we got to host it at our house – much excitement! I’ll blog about the food soon I hope. It was a wonderful weekend though, and I was very spoilt with pressies! Some of which are already in action in our kitchen, some that I’m still itching to try out!

Our second Christmas was with boyfriends folks on the farm in northern KwaZulu Natal, that was on actual Christmas Day, though much activity on Christmas Eve as is the German tradition. I was very touched that boyfriend and I were tasked with cooking Christmas Eve dinner and pudding and his mom and I had lots of fun in the kitchen, while the boys played in the workshop. We were ridiculously spoilt all over again and it was a lovely weekend:-). Some photos of some of my lovely pressies…so spoilt!

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Fantastic frittata – Round 2 Bacon, basil and zucchini

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Bacon and zucchini frittata

We went to a baby shower brunch on Boxing Day, it was fairly random – cutesy and all that, but a little awkward when you don’t know anyone and feel a little lost. But, the stand out of the morning for me was a quiche!

A bacon and zucchini quiche to be precise. With a hint of basil pesto, I think. Simple, but delicious. What was particularly surprising for me was just how fresh and flavourful the zucchini tasted – I don’t know how they achieved it, but I knew I wanted to recreate it.

Only trouble is I find quiche too rich. I’m not sure why, perhaps an overindulgence in my youth or a remnant from when I didn’t eat eggs, either way eggs are rich, and egg and pastry is just a step too far for me!

My solution? Frittata. Kind of like quiche but without the rich pastry. I decided to add some fresh tomatoes as well, again to counteract the eggy richness,and a couple of shallots as well.

I microwaved the zucchini for a few minutes until it was just cooked. The shallots were sliced and sautéed briefly; the bacon (the best bacon from boyfriend’s folks’ church bazaar!) was fried until cooked; and then the chopped zucchini and tomato was added and mixed with a couple of dollops of basil pesto. Over this I poured 5 beaten and seasoned eggs, let it cook on the stove over a medium heat until the edges have firmed up. I then popped it in the oven (still loving my little red cast iron pan) until the top had browned.

20111230-094126.jpgCooking on the stove top until the egg is firm around the edges of the pan

We ate it with creamed sweetcorn and a little of the red onion marmalade I’d made the previous day (keep watching for that recipe).

We enjoyed the frittata, it was full of flavour and the tomato worked well to combat the richness. Unfortunately the zucchini didn’t stand out like it had in the quiche, I think partly because of the amazing bacon which has a really bold flavour – that’s what you get when you buy the real deal, rather than the crappy store-bought stuff!

All in all though, while it wasn’t what I was aiming for it still made a quick and tasty dinner, and a lekker leftovers breakfast! Perhaps I need to give in and make quiche to get the zucchini like I want it…or just ask for the recipe instead of trying to recreate it!

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The finished product - fresh out the oven

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Daniela’s macaroons

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We went to the Shongweni Farmer’s Market this morning. It was insanely busy, but much to my delight I found Daniela’s macaroons – happiness

I’ve have heard such wonderful things about these macaroons and have been eager to taste the famous macaroon.

Well, they didn’t disappoint – a thin layer of crunch on the outside, followed by the softest, lightest inside and the two halves delicately surrounding the creamy centre of ganache.

Bliss

Check out their website at www.danielas.co.za

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Oats too easy to make a crunchie

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Blueberries and crunchies - snacking at work!

Crunchies are nostalgic. For boyfriend and I happy childhood memories go hand in hand with thoughts of crunchies. Both of our moms used to make crunchies and we’re both big fans.

More than once since my domestication started he has mentioned these crunchy, oat and coconut biscuits made with butter, sugar and Golden syrup. So I have been sitting with them in the back of my mind for a while. I’m also loving the tradition of Christmas baking (though our waistlines are not!) and I’m really keen to bake lots of tasty goodness in the lead up to the holidays.

I think, perhaps, on looking for a recipe, that crunchies are very South African. Recipes I found on other sites and blogs and in recipe books were for a very different biscuit. Who knew!

Thankfully I found a recipe on the Drizzle and Drip blog and a lovely post about her crunchie memories and her grandmother.

Her recipe claims to be legend and she is not kidding – they worked out perfectly!

The one thing about crunchies is that everyone has their preference – either super crunchy or a little gooey in the middle. Now, I’m not fussy, I think each type of crunchy has its place – sometimes its the crunch and sometimes that soft, chewiness that I’m after.

Our batch worked out rather well – I had inadvertently managed to squoosh the mixture down unevenly – leaving us with some very crunchy crunchies and some softer ones. Unexpected bonus!

Another thing is that the recipe seems to be very forgiving – I made a bit of a hash up when I added sugar to the flour instead of to the butter. Oops.  Have you ever tried to separate flour and sugar?! Not even sieving worked very well. Thankfully, it seems to have made little difference – I just separated as best I could and carried on.

Recipe
(adapted from Drizzle and Drip)
Ingredients

  • 2 c Oats
  • 1 c Coconut
  • 1 c Flour
  • 230 g Butter
  • 1 c Brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Golden syrup
  • 1 tsp Bicarbonate of soda

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180 °C. Prepare a baking tray.
  2. Mix together the flour, oats and coconut in a bowl.
  3. On the stove top melt the butter and then add the sugar and syrup. Heat until the butter is bubbling.
  4. Add the bicarbonate of soda to the butter, stir through and remove from heat. Watch out for this step, the bicarbonate makes the butter bubble up suddenly and you need to make sure your pot is big enough to accommodate this!
  5. Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients and mix together.
  6. Put the mixture into the tray and press down until it all comes together in a solid layer. Using the back of a spoon for this works best.
  7. Pop into the oven and bake for 15 minutes at 180 °C, then turn the oven down to 160 °C and bake for a further 5 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Cool in the pan before slicing.

Store them in an airtight container and they will last for weeks – if you can keep your hands off them! Enjoy!

My mom also used to cover them in chocolate icing on occasion – just a simple icing sugar, cocoa and water icing. She would just pour this over before slicing. My chocolate addiction loves this version too ;-)

Aside

My new recipe book that I am completely in love with…

For months I have resisted buying it, looking at it longingly every time I went to the book store, feeling guilty because I already have so many recipe books! Finally, yesterday, my resistance crumbled and I just did it!

Nigel Slater’s Tender Volume II – the fruit guide!  It is the hard cover edition and it is so lovely.  I am admittedly having a small love affair with fruit at the moment – it’s berry season in SA and I’m loving it :-) And there are plums and nectarines….”heady sigh”!

There is such a wealth of information in this book, all in Nigel’s wonderful writing, which for whatever reason really strikes a chord with me.  He goes into detail on some of my favourite fruits, on some I don’t know at all (guess they’re a UK thing that hasn’t reached our sunny shores yet) and plenty more – mostly sweet recipes, but some savoury too. I’ve already bookmarked our dinner for next week!

I really enjoy a recipe book that is more than just the recipe – some background information about ingredients, interesting tidbits for reading…I’m definitely one of those people who is quite happy to read a recipe book like a novel.  Of course, what Nigel has now achieved is that I want an orchard, or at least a garden big enough to have fruit trees…not easy to accomplish in Umhlanga of the small gardens and (I think!) unfriendly gardener’s climate! Sigh…

If anybody loves me and wants to buy me Volume I (the veggie version) that would be lovely – wink, wink, nudge, nudge :-) I haven’t actually seen that volume anywhere, but I do love online shopping!  Of course, since I’m now telling the world that I want it you would possibly do well to compare notes! And it must, of course, match my volume II, because I’m anal like that about book series!

Can’t wait to get home this afternoon so that I can peruse it somemore…please hurry up hours!

What to do with ridiculously ripe bananas? Banana muffins :-)

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Banana muffins and a cup of tea...happiness :-)

A few weeks ago we travelled up to the edge of Mpumalanga via Zululand for an engagement party – I don’t recall ever having travelled that direction before, so I was pretty excited. I do love a road trip ;-)

Unfortunately it was pouring with rain for most of the journey, but it finally cleared up after a couple of tense hours in the pouring rain. And, how lush and green everything looked up in the hills of Zululand – it was so pretty.

Anyhoo…the point of that story is that on our way home we stopped at one of the fruit markets, where the locals sell a huge range of fruit. Of course, it is all individual stalls, all selling the same fruit, at pretty much the same price and so the moment you drive in you are accosted and surrounded by women shouting at you to buy their produce! We headed for the quietest woman and proceeded to buy from her…much to the disgust of the masses around us.

We bought some avocado pears, which were a little past their best by the time we ate them, and a bunch of bananas. The only trouble is that all the fruit sits out in the sun all day and I think ripens really quickly as a result – so in a matter of maybe 2 days our beautiful bananas were black, squishy and growing mould! Sigh…

Of course, my Dad has always said that the best bananas to use for banana bread are over ripe ones and so I set to work hunting down a recipe…the folks are having their kitchen redone and so setting my Mom the task of trying to find her recipe was a little mean given that everything has been moved and packed away while they are without kitchen cupboards! She found me a recipe, but it wasn’t the one from my childhood…I had also in the meantime found one that looked easy enough and so off I went to mash the already practically mashed bananas just a little more.

We made jumbo sized muffins, no dainty little muffins for us – they were delicious for breakfast or just as a snack. They were wonderfully moist, with that lovely stickiness that is unique to banana-ry baked goods and they smelled heavenly :-)

I’ll make them again, and I’ll try it out as a loaf recipe – it may well become the banana bread recipe we go to every time, unless my Mum can find hers once their pretty kitchen is completed ;-)

Here’s the recipe, maybe you’ll like it enough for it to become your one and only banana muffin recipe too! I may add some nuts next time… X

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 large bananas, mashed – make sure they’re ridiculously ripe, it’s just better that way!
  • 1/2 c sugar – I used brown sugar cos it’s what I had and it gave them a lovely hint of caramel
  • 1 slightly beaten egg
  • 1/3 c butter, melted
  • 1 tsp baking soda }
  • 1 tsp baking powder } Can anyone tell me why a recipe would have both baking soda and baking powder? Novice baker here!
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/2 c flour

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 °C.
  2. Mix banana, sugar, egg and butter together.
  3. In another bowl mix the baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour.
  4. Mix everything together.
  5. Pour into muffin pans and bake at 180 °C for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Enjoy with a cup of tea…mmm :-)

Chorizo and veg frittata

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The remains of our frittata - sorry we couldn't wait to eat it!

I’ve wanted to make a frittata for a long time and finally, after finding myself with a surplus of eggs and no clue what to make for dinner, it dawned on me that it had to be a frittata.  After reading a few recipes it became clear that what I needed was a frying pan that could function on the stove top, as well as in the oven.  Now you might say this isn’t really necessary, and you’d probably be right, BUT, considering I have been obsessed with making an apple tarte tatin of late (for which one needs a dual functioning pan), this was like the excuse I’d been waiting for  – to buy one wouldn’t be completely unreasonable!

I know…I can convince myself of anything :-)  The next trick was to find one at a reasonable price (the very thing that had put me off buying one just for a tarte tatin) – they are all ludicrously expensive, brand name products – do normal people not want such items?!  I had searched the dreaded mall for ages (and not for the first time) when I “figuratively” stumbled across one – and it was cheap…and it was on sale, so even cheaper!  Guilt be gone :-)

It’s red, it’s little and it’s perfect for frittata…and, I think, for tarte tatin too.  Not that I’ve actually gotten round to trying that yet…very hard to want to cook delicious things all the time and to want to lose weight ;-(

Anyway, back to the frittata…

The general idea seems to be to cook up a whole lot of whatever you like in a pan, beat up a lot of eggs and pour them over, cook it on the stove top until the edges have become firm and then whack it in the oven to brown the top.

I used up whatever veg we had in the fridge (lots of people use a frittata to clean out the fridge!) and added some chorizo sausage…it was so easy and a really tasty supper, served with a simple salad.

I don’t have an official recipe…but basically I fried up some red onions, sliced potatoes, zuchinnis and chorizo, added some salt and pepper and some origanum in the red pan.  Then I lightly beat about 6 eggs, seasoned and poured over the fry up in the pan.  I cooked it on the stove top on a medium heat (no mixing or stirring or anything) and then once the edges were firm I popped it in the oven until the top was nicely browned.

Now, the idea is that you should be able to take the frittata out of the pan, but I think that given the fact that my new cast iron pan is not properly sealed yet it is not so non-stick, so our frittata stuck…but maybe next time :-)

Frittata is definitely an awesome way to use up left overs and empty out the fridge.

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