Thursday, 24 February 2011

Chocolate and Orange Cake

 This weekend at the at Food Blogger Indaba 2011, I learnt the importance of giving my readers what they want, without sacrificing my own need to express my own personality and passions. I think that chocolate is a safe bet on both accounts.

I also learnt to play with flavours and ensure that while they must be creative, they still need to work well together. I decided to add a new flavour to my classic Martha's Chocolate Cake. I wasn't too adventurous, adding orange with chocolate, but I will say that the result was a huge success. Chocolate and Orange work so well together, it's a marriage made in heaven -Homemade Heaven!

Chocolate and Orange Cake

Chocolate and Orange Cake

4 eggs separated
4 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
1¼ Cup of Sugar
1 cup of Milk
200ml of Soft Butter
1¾ cups of Flour
2 Tablespoons Coco powder (do yourself a favour and buy the expensive one) I only use Nomu.
1 Tablespoon of corn flour (cornstarch)
Finely Grated zest of 2 un-waxed Oranges - about 2 packed teaspoons.

Pre Heat your oven to 180ºC
Separate 4 large eggs.
Whisk the whites until they come to soft peaks.
Keep the whisk running and . . . .
Add 1 teaspoon of baking powder,
Add 1¼ cup of sugar,
Add the egg yolks and whisk for 1 more minute.
Stop the whisk
Put 1 cup of milk and 200ml of soft butter in the microwave for 1 minute.
Sift together 1¾ cups of flour,
2 dessert spoons coco powder
1 dessert spoon of corn flour (cornstarch)
3 teaspoons baking powder

Alternatively add the milk mixture and the flour mixture to the egg and sugar mixture,
stirring well after each addition.
Stir in the Orange Zest.
Pour the mixture into 2 prepared cake tins and bake for 35 minutes at 180°C.
Once it has cooled you can sandwich it together and frost with your favourite topping.

I adapted this wonderful "cheat" filling recipe from my good friend Nina at My Easy Cooking.

1 Packet chocolate instant pudding
250ml Cream
 50g Chopped 70% dark Chocolate

Mix the above together and fill and frost the cake.
Decorate the top with the chopped chocolate.

This is a very moist cake, and when you use the Dutch process cocoa it comes out very dark and chocolaty.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Finger Licking Crispy Chicken

Finger Licking Crispy Chicken
 While researching this post, I started looking into what fast foods South African's love the most. According to Grow South Africa, KFC is South Africa’s biggest quick service restaurant brand.

This is great news if you own KFC stocks or a KFC Franchise, but it is certainly not good news for South Africa's growing obesity problems. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) did an independent survey which showed that 61% of South African's are either over-weight, obese or morbidly obese.  

More shockingly was that the GSK survey found 52% of the morbidly obese people thought that they were "somewhat health or healthy" and that 47% have no health concerns whatsoever.

To add to the problem of growing obesity, we are including our children in the lifestyle of unhealthy living, with 17% of children between the ages of one and nine already being classified as obese.  For some parents it's more about ignorance, as 23% of parents have no idea what their children eat during the day.

Here is the source for the above information via Health 24

Sadly this all boils down to, as a nation we seem to think we're healthier than we are.

All seems like bad news, but the survey did find that in our tough economical climate 87% of South Africans still eat a home cooked meal. 

Fast food is attractive, it's well packaged and marketed, millions of Rands are spent in advertising aimed especially at children. That being said it is expensive and filled with empty calories, loaded with salt, fats and preservatives, all which make it tasty and in some cases even addictive. This doesn't count the "free" frizzy drink that comes included, to wash down all that finger licking "goodness".

The solution? We need to empower ourselves with recipes and food choices that are quick to prepare, do not require expensive or hard to find ingredients. Best of all would be if most of the ingredients can be bought well in advance, for those days when time is at it's most precious. 

This recipe I have for you, is certainly a finger licking family treat. It is quick to prepare and all the ingredients you can have in your pantry, fridge or freezer well in advance.

Finger Licking Crispy Chicken
Serves 4

4 Chicken Breasts sliced lenghwize into quarters
½ cup of Plain Flour for Dredging
1 Cup of Fine Breadcrumbs for coating
6 Teaspoons of
Pesto Princess Olive Tapenade (or any good quality olive tapenade)

2 Teaspoons Olive Oil
4 Teaspoons Butter

Mixed Green Salad leaves to serve.

Dip the chicken into the flour, shake off the excess
Coat the chicken pieces with 4 teaspoons of the tapenade
Coat the chicken with bread crumbs and allow to rest in the fridge for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile heat a non-stick pan over medium heat.
Add the oil and the butter until butter is starting to bubble.
Add the chicken pieces to the pan and fry until golden brown, turning only once.
The chicken does not take long to coat, so be careful not to over cook, 
or the chicken will dry out.
Drain the chicken on kitchen paper and serve on a bed of washed salad leaves and
topped with a little extra tapenade (the reserved 2 teaspoons).
This is great served with warm crispy rolls and coleslaw.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Pita Pockets of Pleasure

Life has a way of catching up with you. I can go weeks without anything happening, and then I have a month like this past month and it seems I've lived a whole year in 3 weeks.

Travelling, work commitments, family worries and health issues have filled my days with joy and pain. Slowing down is not always an option. In times like these you need meals that are not time consuming, but still give you the much needed nutrition to fuel your body for long hard days.

I only got home last night at 7pm, after another emotional day. I'd started at 5.15am, doing my daily workout - a much needed drug - and ended it by making a scrumptious supper, which only took 10 minutes to prepare.

 In times like these I am so grateful for the love and support I get from Keith as well as my family and friends, without them I wouldn't have the strength to see my way past my morning shower! I owe so much to these people, I pray that when they need me, I'll be the rock they can stand on.

These Pita Pockets of Pleasure are filled with goodness to fill your tummy and fuel your body for peak performance.

  Pita Pockets of Pleasure
Serves 3

6 Pita Breads - toasted in the oven
300g Thinly Sliced Steak (or ready sliced stir-fry steak)
1 Can Butter Beans (Drained and Washed)
½ Cup Beef Stock
1 Heaped Teaspoon of Wholegrain Mustard
Seasoning to taste

Chopped Tomato, Cucumber and Lettuce

Fry the steak in a little oil in a hot pan until starting to brown.
Add the Beans, Mustard and the Beef Stock and allow to reduce for 5 minutes.
Season to taste.
Allow your diners to fill their hot pita pockets with meat and salad.
Serve with lots of serviettes!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Punching Plums

The shops are full of the summer fruit delights. Plums are so cheap, it's like Jamie Oliver always says "Cheap as old chips"! Although  I must say, I'd rather have a bag of plums, than a bag of old chips.

I have bought a few bags which I plan to make into plum jam, like I did last here. (See post). The rest are being eaten fresh, baked into cakes or poached as I did last night.

This simple poached plum is wickedly deceptive. You see the beautiful soft plums, the thick red syrup and think it's a harmless poached plum. That's until you take your first bite and you're caressed with a hint of fresh lime, a sticky sweetness of sugar and right when you think you have had it all, the chili kicks in and says "hello" to your mouth!

Poached Plums with a Punch

2 Cups of Water
1 Cup of Sugar
1 Fresh Lime cut in Quarters
½ -1 Dry Red Chili (depending on your tastes)
8-10 Plums (sore the top of the plum with a X)

Boil the Water, Sugar, Lime and Chili in a saucepan until the sugar has melted and reduced by ¼.
Add the plums and gently simmer for 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat, remove the chili and leave to cool to room temperature or chill in the fridge.
Serve the plums with the syrup and some ice-cream to cool the palate.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Figs in a Basket

During my last trip to Johannesburg I lost my camera. I left it behind in the Wimpy after a wonderful breakfast and a Wimpy coffee.

I was so devastated by my stupidity that I didn't blog for a whole week. I just don't have the money to replace it now and while I am looking around for a good deal, I do not want to settle for the first good buy I find.

I was convinced that I would not be able to blog, as I have this feeling that without the food porn, my blog will just be so boring, due to my lack of creative writing. My words certainly don't paint a picture.

Keith suggested I use my phone, I laughed at him. Please, did he not know the quality of pictures that were required for a food blog? But alas, between I rock and hard place, I just couldn't let my blog sit idle for months on end until I could decided and afford a decent camera.

So I settled with the phone camera, and while I am sure the critics out there will notice, I am quite impressed by the quality.

I made this simple starter with the bounty of purple figs I am getting from my own tree.

Phyllo Baskets With Figs and Blue Cheese
Makes 4 baskets

1 Sheet of Phyllo Pastry cut into 16 squares
4 Fresh Figs cut in quarters
60g Blue Cheese
Balsamic glaze for garnish
Rocket leaves for serving
Butter for the pastry

Preheat your oven to 190ºC
Grease a muffin pan with butter (only 4 holes need greasing)
Brush the Phyllo squares with soft butter and line each muffin cup with 4 squares.
Place the figs in the pastry cups and bake for 15 minutes.
Crumble the cheese over the baked figs and bake until pastry is golden and cheese is melted.
Drizzle some balsamic glaze on the plate, make a small bed of rocket and place the fig baskets on the rocket.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Simple and elegant.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Shosholoza Meyl

When Keith told me he'd booked us a weekend away on the Shosholoza Meyl, I jumped for joy. I had never been on a sleeper train and had grown up listening to stories from my Mom and Dad about train holidays, dining carts and old world charm.

We started our trip by catching the morning commuter train through to Cape Town. Once at the Cape Town station, we found the correct platform and sat in eager anticipation for our trip to begin.

The train left on time and we started the 26 hour trip to Johannesburg. We were lucky (shrewd) enough to make "friends" with the train manager and secured a 4 berth cabin for the entire trip. While I am sure there are many couples who wouldn't mind being in a 2 berth cabin, Keith and I have been married long enough to enjoy a little more space.

Travelling slowly through the suburbs of Cape Town and then heading out of town and through the wine country was amazing. The only problem was, that within 30 minutes of being aboard, my eye lids started to feel like lead! It turns out that train travel is the strongest sleeping pill known to man. You simply can not help being lulled into sleep, with the occasional bleary eyed glance out the window to inspect the passing stations and sidings.

 The Shosholoza Meyl offers dedicated safe passenger train travel services in South Africa on Tourist Class basic sleeper trains and Premier Classe deluxe sleeper trains. 
During the day, sleeper compartments convert into suites with hot and cold water from a basin stowed underneath the fold-up table. Communal toilets and showers are available at the end of each coach. The toilets are cleaned regularly and the showers are spacious, I really enjoyed showering and looking out the window watching the sun setting over the Karoo.

 Bedding can be purchased on board from the attendant at R40 p/person. Bringing your own bedding is advised. We did take our sleeping bags, but also opted for the bedding - which was very clean. They come at 6pm and make your bed.

The food on the train is acceptable, certainly not gourmet, but I could not fault it. Keith thoroughly enjoyed the beef curry with rice and sambles, which despite the low price (R30), was made from top quality slow cooked beef with no fat or gristle. I had the fried hake with chips and salads (R35). I have certainly had better, but would not hesitate to order it again and did in fact finished the entire generous portion.

Coffee and tea is brought to your cabin at 7am.

Security and service on the train is top class. Refuse bags are provided to each cabin and collected regularly. The staff are helpful, friendly and willing, we did not meet one staff member who did not seem to be enjoying their job.

Train travel is certainly not for those who have tight schedules, but if you're looking for a wonderfully relaxing way to travel around South Africa, with the added advantage of seeing the countryside I would highly recommend the Shosholoza Meyl.

 The price is very reasonable, Cape Town - Johannesburg was R480 (on Tourist) per person and occasionally they offer special discounted rates. There is a Premier Class from Johannesburg - Cape Town but this is not always available and you will need to check before booking. We travelled Tourist class and as you can see from my account were more than happy with the accommodation and service.

Click here for more information on the Shosholoza Meyl.

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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