Monday, 24 March 2008

Happy Holiday Part 1

Well, I am on holiday. I doubt for the next 2 weeks I will be able to blog about any food I am making, perhaps I'll review a restaurant or two.

So far since leaving home, I have travelled to Joberg, Ballito and now the Drakensberg.

We attended a wedding in Ballito. It really was a very good wedding, and we partied until late into the night. We slept over in a delightfully rustic holiday resort, called Cane Cutters.
It is the perfect place to go if you have children of any age - babies to late teens. There are activities or everyone. Live music, pony rides, quad biking, trampolines, swimming pool .... the list goes.We left Balito early on Sunday morning and took a slow drive up to the Drakenberg. We stopped at Howick Falls. I was very disappointed to see that the top of the falls has been converted into a laundry for the informal settlement. I can not believe that they allow such a beautiful natural heritage site to be desecrated like that. Never the less, taking them out of the picture, it is still beautiful.The only foodie thing I have experienced that is worth telling you about is the delicious homemade ginger beer I had with my lunch today. The rest of the meal was unpleasant at best!
The service was possibly the worst I have ever had, but the ginger beer was really really good!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Butter Fish Tikka

I have never bought butter fish before yesterday, but it definitely will not be the last either. After visiting my new favourite fish shop (Fish 4 Africa in Monte Vista), I bought 800g which is enough for 5 portions. I was amazed at how cheap it is, only R20 a kilo! No bones, just beautiful thick fillets of firm white fish.

I decided that it would be perfect for Tikka fish. This is another dish which is very easy to make ahead of time and requires only a few minutes of preparation. You then pop it in the oven for 20 minutes and VoilĂ ! A perfect meal. You can also cook this on the braai (BBQ), which is even more authentic, as this would traditionally be cooked in a tandoori oven.

Don't be put off by the list of ingredients, like all Indian food, the combination of the spices is what makes it so good. It is not a hot spicy dish and is suitable for anyone.

Tikka Fish

500ml Plain Yogurt
1 finely chopped Onion (I minced it)
15ml minced Ginger
10ml Crushed Garlic
2 teaspoons Cumin powder
2 teaspoons Coriander powder
1½ teaspoons Smoked Paprika
1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
½ teaspoon Turmeric Powder
2 teaspoon Chilli Powder or flakes
3 teaspoons Garam Masala
1½ tablespoons Lemon Juice (or lime)

Mix all the ingredients together in marinading bag (Ziploc) or dish.
Cut you fish into portions, mine are about 1½" thick and 2" wide.
Leave to marinade for at least an hour, but up to 4 hours is best.
Pre-heat your oven with the grill element only.
Place a wire rack into a baking sheet (line it with foil to make cleaning up easier) and heat in the oven. The fish must not be cooked on a flat surface, otherwise it will stew. I used my metal cooling rack in a large roasting pan.
Place the fillets on the rack and cook for 20 mins, until fish is cooked through and turning colour.
You should try for the "slightly char grilled" look - see picture.
You don't turn it while cooking.

I serve mine with rice and a tomato curry sauce.

I am off on holiday today for 2 weeks. I hope to catch up with everyone while I am away, but we will have to see what's on offer in ..... If I let you know where I’m going, I won’t be on holiday.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Pretty Sour Plums

I love fruit. Easy, portable, healthy, almost perfect in every way. Well, I did say almost perfect, except when you buy big black plums that are so sour they make your eye-lashes curl. What disappointment !

But, I have found the perfect solution to sour plums - cake!

This upside down plum cake is a wonderful dessert. It is sweet and sour, healthy (relatively speaking) and oh so easy.

Upside Down Spiced Plum Cake
Serves 6 -8

175g Butter
175g Sugar
3 Eggs
175g Flour
5ml Baking Powder
2.5ml Baking Soda
5ml Ground Cloves (you can substitute this with ginger, mixed spiced or cinnamon)
60g Flaked Almonds
6 Plums (cut in half and pips removed)
150ml brown sugar

Pre heat the oven to 180°C.
Grease and line a 23cm round cake tin.
Beat the eggs and butter until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Fold in the sifted dry ingredients and the almonds.

Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly at the bottom of the greased pan.
Place the plums cut side down into the sugar.
Spoon the cake mixture carefully to cover the plums. Smoothing the top.

Bake in the oven for about 60 mins., until cooked through.

Turn out on a plate serve warm or at room temperature with custard, cream or ice-cream.

Everyone is a genius at least once a year. A real genius has his original ideas closer together.

Slow food

Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

Now I know it is not always possible to spend 4 hours in the kitchen preparing a meal, but sometimes we need to just slow down and make something special. Serving a meal which took time and effort, really can be rewarding, to you and those who dine with you.

Yesterday I took this time, and the result was both nutritious and comforting.

Braised Beef Rib

1kg Beef Rib ( Ask you butcher to cut them into 3" pieces)
1 Onion
1 carrot

1 Tin tomatoes
2 10cm Sprigs Rosemary
5 10cm Sprigs Thyme
2 whole Fresh Green Chillis
30ml Fresh minced Ginger
2 fresh minced Garlic Cloves

5ml Black Pepper

Brown the meat, the onions and carrot on high heat.

Put all the other ingredients in together with a ½ cup of water.
Turn the temperature on the lowest (or place it in the oven).
Check on the food occasionally and add a little water if and when necessary.
Slowly cook until the meat is very tender.
At this stage you can add some frozen peas, or fresh beans if you like.
Serve with steamed rice.

It is my anniversary today, and I would like to thank my Keith for the best 13 years of my life. This song tells it exactly how it is for me...
It's always been a mystery to me
how two hearts can come together
and love can last forever.
But now that I have found you,
I believe that a miracle has come,
when God sends the perfect one.
Now gone are all my questions about why and
I've never been so sure of anything in my life.
I wonder what God was thinking when He created you,
I wonder if He knew everything I would need,
because He made all my dreams come true.
When God made you.
He must have been thinking about me.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Health Matters

Staying in good health is a day by day decision. While many people think of it as a up hill battle, it really does not need to be. Making small changes and planning your eating as carefully as you do your TV viewing or browser bookmarks, you can enjoy a healthy diet without loosing out on anything.

Fast food is often referred of as "junk food" and health food is spoken of in the same tone of voice as "death sentence". This need not be the case. Making your own "fast food" can also be "heath food". You'll save money and calories and you do not have to loose out on taste. You also won't suffer from the post grease indigestion and guilt!

These chicken burgers are so tasty, that even the most dedicated burger lover will ask for seconds.

Chicken Burgers
Makes 9 Burgers

800g skinless chicken Breasts
1 egg
15ml Cornflour
15ml minced ginger
1 clove of garlic
5 ml salt
1 green chilli
Zest of 1 lemon
Black Pepper

Place all the above in your food processor and process until smooth.
If you don't have a food processor you can buy plain chicken mince and finely chop the rest of the ingredients.
Let the mixture stand in the fridge for about an hour, if you have the time.
Form the mince into patties and fry in a hot pan in a little olive oil.
They cook very quickly so take care not to overcook as they will dry out.

To serve, take one burger bun (I used a soft whole-wheat bun), and spread with some mayo.
Top with a lettuce leaf, a patty and a thick slice of tomato.On the side , I served oven-baked Sweet Potato chips, which are also very quick and make a lovely change from normal potato chips.

Sweet Potato Chips

Peel your sweet potato and cut into chips.
Coat with a little olive oil and sea salt.
Place in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 15 - 20 mins until done.
Serve with your burgers.

Common sense is in medicine the master workman.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Chook for Tea

My sister left South Africa 8 years ago, and now is more Australian than Waltzing Matilda! It still amazes me when we speak, that even though Australian's speak what is supposed to be classified as "Queen's English", I very often have to ask her to explain herself in South African. Even Microsoft has 13 variations of English - what exactly is "English (Zimbabwe)"? Is it English which inflates at 66,000% per annum?

Okay, this is a food blog and I certainly will not open this up to a debate on the use of the letter "u" in flavour or colour!

In South Africa, we had "chicken for supper", in Australia we had "chook for tea", whatever takes your fancy, this is a winner of a dish!

Chutney & Mayo Chicken

1 Whole Chicken cut into 8 or 10 pieces.
1 cup of Chutney (I only use Mrs Balls)
1 cup Mayo

Mix together and place in the oven at 200°C until cooked.

It really can't be more simple, or more tasty. It is also great for entertaining large groups of people.

I also made an "experimental" Cauliflower dish. Which was very nice change from the usual.

1 Packet of Cauliflower
3 fresh tomatoes peeled and chopped
1 Onion chopped
½ teaspoon of dried Chili
¼ teaspoon of Cumin
¼ teaspoon of dried Coriander
½ teaspoon of turmeric
4 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
¾ teaspoon of sugar

Fry the Onion and the Cauliflower for a few minutes until the onion starts to soften.
Add all the other ingredients and a drop of water and turn down the heat and cook for about 15 minutes.

Always be a first rate version of your self
instead of a second rate version of someone else.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Praises all Round

I do not think I am usual in enjoying praise. I don't think there are many people who have prepared a meal and not basked in the praises of satisfied diners. You only have to see how many food blogs are out there, to know how many of us are eager to share our latest kitchen delights. Now when great praise comes after minimal effort, it is almost as satisfying as a private joke.

I have a "secret" recipe for Fairy Cakes, filled with cream and apricot jam. They are so simple to make, and the results are so spectacular, that everyone will think you are a professional baker and there is no end to the praise you will get.

Fairly Fairy Cakes
Makes 18

4 eggs
1 cup Sugar
1 pinch of Salt
1 Cup of Flour
1 Teaspoon of Baking powder
½ Teaspoon Bi - Carbonate of Soda (optional for extra rising)
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract or Essence

250ml Whipped Cream
Apricot Jam (homemade style is best, as it is usually more tart than the "cheap 'n nasty" tinned stuff).

Beat the eggs and the sugar until it is light and fluffy. Don't hurry this step as this will determine how light and fluffy the end result is.
Add the salt, sifted flour and the baking powder and stir gently in a figure 8, with a metal spoon. Don't knock out all your hard work in step one.
add the Vanilla.
Grease your muffin trays very well. This is enough mixture for 18.
Fill only to the half-way mark, as they rise very well and if they go over the top of the muffin hole, they are very difficult to take out.

Once they are cool, make a slit about a 1/3 of the way down and spread some jam on and add a nice dollop of fresh whipped cream. Dust the top with icing sugar and you have a beautiful treat worthy of praise!!

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add,
but when there is nothing left to take away.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

No Instructions Needed

I managed yesterday to buy the most beautiful peaches. They are soft and juicy and need nothing added, but of course I did...

This is so simple that I am not going to call it a recipe, just an idea for pure pleasure.

Simple Poaching Peaches (and pears)

2 parts water
1 part sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
a large hand full of fresh lemon thyme

Put everything in a large pot (depending on how many fruit you poach).
Boil the syrup until it starts to thicken and the flavours infuse.
Place the fruit in the liquid and poach until fruit is just soft.
Turn off the heat and then remove the fruit and cool the fruit in the fridge.

To serve place a pool of the syrup at the bottom and let the fruit float on top.

Love is a fruit in season at all times, and in reach of every hand.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Close by no Cigar

If you have been reading my posts, you will know that I have been going through a rough time trying to get my kitchen mojo back. Nothing seems to come out right. Yesterday I decided to throw caution to the wind and make another new delight.

Things were going really well, until I tried to take the cake out of the baking tin and the whole thing fell into 1000 pieces! Yes, another "Flip, another flop" came straight to mind.

I am going to give you the recipe and a warning that you should not be in such a hurry to take it out of the baking tin while it is too hot. If you do, then you can save face by serving it with custard, al la Rose. I have shown above what your cake should look like, unfortunately mine was not as pretty, but the taste was great.

Apple and Almond Cake
Wheat Free and Sugar Free

2 large Cooking apples unpeeled, cored and diced
1 tsp lemon juice
3 organic or free range medium eggs
150g Xylitol
250g ground almonds
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
40g flaked almonds for sprinkling on top

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a cake tin (20cm/8 inch) with baking paper and grease the sides with a little oil or butter.
2. Place the apple and lemon juice in a saucepan and simmer, covered, until the fruit softens but still retains some chunks. Place in a mixing bowl and stir in the ground almonds, cinnamon and baking powder. Set to one side.
3. Beat the eggs and Xylitol in a clean mixing bowl until they become pale and creamy and start to thicken slightly (the whisk should leave a trail when lifted out of the mixture).
4. Gradually fold the apple and almond mixture into the beaten egg, using a metal tablespoon, taking care not to knock all of the air out of the egg. (This is easiest done by drawing a figure of eight shape with the spoon as you fold).
5. Quickly pour the cake mix into the prepared tin, sprinkle with the remaining flaked almonds on top and bake for around 45 minutes . The cake is so soft and squidgy that a skewer inserted may not come out completely clean, but when it is done the top should be golden and fairly firm to the touch.
6. Serve warm with custard.

Life’s real failure is when you do not realize how close you were to success when you gave up.

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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