Thursday, 30 April 2009

Baby Bunny Chows

So Easter has come and gone, and all the bunnies are now half price! I wondered to myself - why does the Easter Bunny bring eggs - surely we should have a Easter Chicken? So I asked Mr Google and this is what I found.

The Easter bunny has its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. The Hare and the Rabbit were the most fertile animals known and they served as symbols of the new life during the Spring season.
This is a little confusing to us in the South, as Easter is the start of winter - but I guess most things are upside down for us!
So with all these bunnies around - I was inspired to make a very well known South African treat - Bunny Chow. The history of which is far more exciting than the Easter Bunny.

The most popular is that the bunny chow was started by a Durban restaurateur who came up with the idea during the apartheid era. "People of colour" (as opposed to the "see-through people") were not allowed, by law, to sit inside his restaurant and he didn’t want to give them a plate to takeaway so he came up with the idea of making a deep hole into half a loaf of bread, filling it with curry and putting the scooped out part back on the top as a form of lid. (Reference here)

One account suggests that Indian migrant workers from India who were brought to South Africa to work the sugar cane plantations of Kwazulu-Natal, required a way of carrying their lunches to the field; the hollowed out loaf of bread was a convenient way to transport their vegetarian curries. Meat based fillings came later. (Reference here)

So again we have one bunny chow and many stories, but whatever you believe, they are very proudly South African and very good to eat.

I made a "nouveau cuisine bunny chow", using mini loaves - we don't work long hours cutting cane, so our appetite is slightly smaller! You can use any curry filling, I made a simple mince curry using the recipe on the Spice Mecca Tastes of the Cape Curry Mince box.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Pot Bread - Hiking part 4

BreaSo the hike is only 13 days away! I have a knot in my stomach the size of an elephant.

We have had this dream for more than a year and having it so close seems almost too real.

We all have our aches and pains, my brother-in-law (injury free until now) even went as far as to break his wrist this weekend so as not to be left out! But nothing is stopping us now – we can’t stop the magic!

My last mission was to produce bread. Normally pot-bread is prepared in a large cast iron pot, lovingly placed next to the fire with coals placed on the lid – this is called a Dutch Oven. A great piece of equipment – if I could take along my ox-wagon but not when I’ve spent R1000 on a sleeping bag that weighs 650g to save weight!

The question is - can you make good fresh bread, in a very light weight 20cm diameter camping pot, where the lid is actually the frying pan and only using a gas burner? The answer is: “Yes you can if you follow my instructions”.

New Age Pot Bread

2 Cups of Cake flour
15ml Baking Powder
10ml Salt
15ml Milk Powder
15ml Sugar
Water to mix

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Add enough water to make a dough.
The dough is very similar to a scone dough.
Grease the inside of your pot well and place the dough in.
Cover tightly with tin foil and the "lid" so it is tight fitting.
Cook on the gas on a very low heat for about 25-30 minutes.
Open the bread, tap the bottom, if it sounds hollow it is cooked.
I turned it over and browned the top a little.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Comfort for Winter

So winter is here in Cape Town. The organizers of the DFL IPL cricket must be wondering why they came to South Africa - we seem to have more rain than England!

This however does not worry me, as I did not not pay Us$150 million for a share in a cricket team. I just got out my slow cooker and make a huge pot of bean and beef rib soup - and then added some feather soft, creamy dumplings, to make sure that the comfort level was a 10!

The soup is really easy - I just throw in lots of vegetables,beans, lentils, split peas and about 500g of short beef rib. Add plenty of herbs, garlic and water close the lid and leave it for about 6 hours. When you are about 10 minutes away from serving, you make these dumplings and serve in huge bowls! Winter at it's best!

1 heaped desert spoon of soft Butter
250ml of Flour
10ml of Baking Powder
2 Egg
Salt and Pepper
Enough lukewarm cream or water to blend .(the cream really does work very well)
Mix the first 5 ingredients together, so the butter is well incorporated into the flour.
Then add enough cream (or water) so the spoon slowly falls over.
Work out all the flour lumps.
Place spoonfuls of the batter on top of your stew. Try leaving a small space between each one. Then close the lid tightly and don't open for 10min.
When they are done, it is time to serve. You have these lovely soft clouds floating on your stew.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Quick as a flash - Hiking part 3

There are days when you feel like cooking and then there are days when you just feel like sleeping. On sleeping days I like to make food that has lots of taste but does not take more than a few minutes to cook.

One of my best finds this year is Nomu Sitr, it is undeniably the most versatile product I have found. It adds flavour and body to any tomato based dish. I always buy the Tomato and Chili, because I love the extra tang. This recipe has evolved as part of my quest to find quick light hiking food and I can't think of anything lighter or quicker.

Flash Cook Tomato Pasta

1 Onion sliced
20-30ml Nomu Stir
10ml Mixed Herbs
Cured sausage sliced
Oil for frying
(Cream for non-hikers)

Cook the pasta according to the instruction on the packet.
Fry the onion and the sausage until soft.
Add the Nomu Stir and enough water to make a sauce.
Cook for 5 minutes, you can add a little of the pasta water.
If you are not hiking and want extra comfort add a good glug of cream.
Serve with cooked pasta.
It really is that simple - and the taste is incredible.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

I am a creature of habit when it comes to breakfast, I never miss it and eat the same thing every morning and never get tired of it. This to most people will seem very boring - for me it's a guarantee to good digestion.

With all the holidays we been having this month, my routine has been shuffled around and I found myself living dangerously! I had toast and marmalade for breakfast yesterday. Not just any toast - homemade rye & caraway bread with my own Seville orange marmalade!

Rye and Caraway Bread

230g Cake (all-purpose) Flour
8g Instant Dry Yeast (just less than one 10g packet)
30 ml Sugar
30ml Sunflower or Peanut Oil
380ml Buttermilk
150g Whole-wheat Flour (I use stone ground flour)
180g Fine Rye Flour
20ml Jenny Morris Caraway seeds
10ml Salt

If you are lucky enough to have a bread machine, add the ingredients as per manufacturers instructions and bake using whole-wheat option with medium crust.
Should you be making this by hand, follow this method.

Here is the recipe for the marmalade.

Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Chain Letters

A few weeks ago I received an email titled “Biscuit Recipe - A must read!!". As a confirmed foodie I had to read it, even though I know you shouldn't open suspicious emails.

Here it is......

My daughter and I had just finished lunch at a Neiman-Marcus Cafe in Dallas. Because both of us are such biscuit lovers, we decided to try the Neiman-Marcus cookie'. It was so excellent that I asked if they would give me the recipe. The waitress said with a small frown, 'I'm afraid not, but you can BUY the recipe.' I asked how much, and she responded; ‘Only two fifty - it's a great deal!'

I agreed to that, and told her to add it to my bill. Thirty days later, I got my VISA statement, and the Neiman-Marcus charge was $285.00. I looked at it again, and I remembered I had only spent $9.95 for two sandwiches and about $20.00 for a scarf. At the bottom of the statement, it said, 'Cookie Recipe-$250.00'. That was outrageous!

I called Neiman's Accounting Department and told them the waitress had said it was 'two fifty', which clearly does not mean 'two hundred and fifty dollars' by any reasonable interpretation of the phrase. Neiman-Marcus refused to budge. They would not refund my money because, according to them; 'What the waitress told you is not our problem. You have already seen the recipe. We absolutely will not refund your money.' I explained to the
Accounting Department lady the criminal statutes which govern fraud in the state of Texas. I threatened to report them to the Better Business Bureau and the Texas Attorney General’s office. I was basically told: Do what you want. Don't bother thinking of how you can get even, and don't bother trying to get any of your money back' I said, OK, you've got my $250, and now I'm going to have $250 worth of fun.' I told her that I was going to see to it that every cookie lover in the world with an email account gets a $250 cookie recipe from Neiman-Marcus... for free. She replied, 'I wish you wouldn't do that.' I said, 'Well, perhaps you should have thought of that before you RIPPED ME OFF!' and slammed down the phone.

Once I read the story, I knew there was something suspicious - I had heard the exact story about the RED VELVET CAKE, a story which dates back to the 1920's! So I went straight to Hoax slayer, and it turns out it was a hoax and that Neiman Marcus was not even making chocolate cookies at the time the email started doing the rounds!

I had never heard of Neiman Marcus before, but apparently they are an extremely expensive shop and after visiting their website I noticed firstly, that they are indeed a very expensive shop and secondly that they did sell chocolate chip cookies. They had however published the recipe and given full permission for people to copy it and give it to as many friends they could.

I have no idea what the Neiman Marcus cookie should taste like and at $24 (R216) for a tin, I probably won't have the pleasure either. I did however try their recipe and it is very good and easy to make and will definitely be stuck into my cookie book to make again.

Of course I did make a few changes, owning to fact that I would not buy a bottle of instant espresso just to make a batch of cookies. Instead I used 3 teaspoons of filter espresso powder and sifted it together with the flour to remove the larger grains. I also used ½ teaspoon vanilla
seeds instead of essence or extract. - just because I love the look of the seeds.

Click here for the recipe.

I have a friend who did make the hoax recipe, which makes a gazillion cookies and she said they were very good too - one wonders why they would want to give the credit to Neiman Marcus for their recipe? In case you want to try that too, you can find it here.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Hidden Treasure

One of my favourite shows is The Antique Roadshow. I am not sure if it's the guy with the funny glasses or the surprise on peoples faces when they find out that Granny's old junk is worth more than their house.

I am not a collector or a hoarder, I'm the kind of person that will give away or throw away anything I no longer use or like. I hate the surfaces in my home to be cluttered with things. My Mother on the other hand, collects and holds on to everything. She has more ornaments in her house than Imelda Marcos has shoes!

There are a few pieces I've always had my eye on, even before I recognized my own fetish for kitchen related gadgets. I know this bowl is terribly kitch, and totally over the top but I really do love it. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it always stood on the sideboard and I was never allow to touch it or maybe I am turning into a sap in my old age. Whatever the reason, I am very proud that it now lives in my house and I can touch it every day.

Of course it will not only be an ornament in my home and I can't wait to use it... Perhaps a creamy blue cheese and cauliflower soup?

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Hiking Recipes - Part 2

The big hike is only 32 days away (and counting) and we are now in the final stages of preparation. Fitness and enthusiasm levels are high, even though I am still recovering from a knee injury, which the physiotherapist diagnosed as a nerve problem. I still experience some discomfort, but the pain is manageable and the stretching exercises are helping tremendously.

So, the pressure is now on to find meals which are easy to prepare but still comforting after a long day's hike. I am scouring the supermarket aisles for products which are light to carry, need no refrigeration and are also dairy free for Keith - did I mention light to carry?

Ina Paarman have a great variety of ready made sauces. I found this Tomato and Chilli sauce which after a little pimping made a fantastic meal - hiking or staying home.

Hiking Tomato and Chilli Pasta Sauce

1 Sachet Tomato and chilli Ready to serve sauce
1 Sachet Tomato Paste (this is optional, but gives great body to the sauce)
30ml Dried Onion Flakes
45ml Dried Mushroom (Porcini works best)
10 - 15 ml Sugar
5ml Dried Chilli (another optional extra)
1 Spicy cured sausage
A little oil for frying
Cooked Spaghetti to serve

In your pot add all the ingredients (except the spaghetti) and simmer for about 15 minutes, until everything is cooked and soft.
Boil the pasta, drain and leave a little of the starch water in the pasta (when you hike you do not take your colinder, so leaving some behind is easy!)
Mix the pasta and the sauce together and leave to rest for a few minutes so the pasta can soak up the flavours.
Serve and eat with gusto!
If you're not hiking this is still a great super quick supper, and even my fussiest eater wanted seconds! You can then use fresh mushrooms and onions.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Curry Consumers

I am a bit of a sucker when it comes to new food products, and especially when the packaging is good.

Spice Mecca have launched two new product ranges - Tastes of India and Tastes of the Cape, both of which are beautifully packaged and with full recipes printed on the back of the box - very handy if you are not an experienced curry cook.

Usually I am sceptical about these kind of recipes - but decided to put them to the test. I bought the Lamb Vindaloo and followed the recipe exactly - even as far as the serving suggestion to make rotis - and it was a huge success. The instructions are easy to follow and produces a great curry.

I am sure all you curry queens (and domestic goddesses) are pulling out your hair at the thought of buying box curry and then following the cooking instructions on the box - but bear with me, I'm still a novice in Indian cuisine so it's all baby steps!

I will definitely be trying out some of the others in the Indian range, which include -
Butter Chicken Makhani, Chicken Korma, Madras Curry, Rogan Josh and Indian Seafood Curry.

Lamb Vindaloo
Spice Mecca Style

2 Heaped Tablespoons Spice Mecca Vindaloo Masala
1 Tablespoon Garlic and Ginger Paste
1-2 teaspoons Salt
6-8 Tablespoons Black Vinegar ( I used red wine vinegar)
1 kg Lamb pieces (or Beef)
2 Onions chopped
Oil for frying
1 tin (410g) Chopped peeled Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Tomato paste
375ml Water
1-2 Teaspoons sugar

Optional : Which I added
3 Chopped Red or Green chillies

Make a paste with the masala, garlic and ginger, salt, chillies and vinegar and marinade meat for 30 minutes.
Braise the onions until golden brown.
Add the meat mixture and braise for 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, water and sugar.
Cook on medium heat for about 10 - 15 minutes - Stir occasionally.
Simmer on a low heat for about 80 - 90 minutes until meat is tender and sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
Serve with steamed rice, rotis and some of this dhal - Yummy!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Brownie Sweetness

Yesterday Moo posted her "Death by Chocolate Cake" and it's a real killer recipe, with 200g of chocolate it's guaranteed to sort out any hormonal chocolate cravings in a single bite.

I didn't have enough time on my hands to make the Death by Chocolate Cake, but still needed something chocolaty to finish off my day. I settled on "Death by Chocolate Brownie", which I am dedicating to Moo - the grand-mother of all good things in the kitchen!

There is a special note for this recipe - use a good quality minimum 70% dark chocolate, you really will taste the difference in the final product.

Mighty Moo Brownies

100g Dark Chocolate (I used 75% Lindt Ecuador)
½ Cup Butter
½ Cup Coconut Oil (optional - you can make this using only butter)
4 Eggs
1 Cup White Sugar
¼ Cup Dark Brown Sugar (you can use more sugar if you like it sweeter)
1 Cup Flour
½ Cup heaped Raw Macadamia Nuts chopped

Melt together the butter, coconut oil and chocolate in a double boiler.
Beat together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy
Add the melted chocolate mixture to the eggs and mix well.
Add the flour, nuts and salt to the mix and blend to combine.
Pour into a 20cm (about 8") square greased baking tin.
Bake at 180°C for 25 -30mins.
It is baked when your insert a tester and it comes out with a little chocolate on.
Be careful not to over bake, otherwise it won't be fudgy.
Remove from the oven and leave in the tin, covered until cooled.
Cut into squares, dust with icing sugar and serve with cream or ice-cream.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Another Fish Cake

You might have picked up from reading this blog that I love fishcakes! They are so easy to make, are very economical and can be eaten hot or cold - anywhere, anytime!

So forgive me if I am boring you with another fishcake recipe, but the great thing is, every time you make them, they can be different. A culinary trip around the world on a fishcake!

Hake Fishcakes

750g raw Minced Hake (I buy this at my local supermarket, but you can mince your own in a processor)
1 Onion finely chopped
30ml Mayonnaise
Juice of 1 large Lemon
52g sachet of Smash (Instant mash potato)
1 Teaspoon of Jenny Morris Zesty Fish Spice (or whatever fish spice you can get)
½ Teaspoon Salt

Mix all the ingredients together and form into patties.
Roll in breadcrumbs.
Fry in a medium hot pan with a little oil for about 5 minutes on each side until cooked through and golden brown.
Serve hot or cold.

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water."

It is not your business to succeed, but to do what is right : when you have done so, the rest lies with God.
C.S. Lewis

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