Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Cupcakes and Weekends

I love birthdays, it makes no difference if it's mine or a complete stranger's - I can't help being happy when someone says "Birthday"!

February is a big birthday month for our family - my sister and my Mom are both February babies. This weekend we went to Stilbaai to celebrate my Mom's special day. It was so good to have 4 days of family, lots of sun and good fun.

We started the weekend with the Noordkapper hike along the coast from Jongensfontein (The Fountain of Youth) to Stilbaai (Still Bay), where we were met by my father who had laid on a beach fish braai (BBQ) and picnic - talk about living!

The simple things in life are really the best, especially when you can share them with the people you love the most.

Of course, no birthday is complete without cake and as the official family baker I decided a plate of "Over the Top" cupcakes would fill the spot, after an afternoon of hiking and picnicking. I used Lady Raven's recipe as my base, with a few changes to suit the ingredients I had on hand. They were totally fantastic thank you Raven.

Raven's Cupcakes
Adapted by Rose and Thorn

1 Cup Light Brown Sugar
½ Cup Soft Butter
2 Eggs
1¼ Cup Self-Raising Flour
¼ Cup Cocoa (replace with self-raising and a teaspoon of vanilla for plain cupcakes)
½ teaspoon Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
½ Cup Buttermilk

Set oven to 180°C.
Line a 18 muffin tray with cupcake paper.
Cream to the sugar and butter, until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, mixing well after each addition.
Sift in the dry ingredients and mix to combine.
Add the butter milk and mix until smooth.
Spoon into the batter into the cupcake papers (¾ full - don't overfill them)
Bake for about 20 minutes.
Leave to cool slightly before removing from the pan.

Once completely cooled, decorate with lots of butter icing, a finely chopped peppermint crisp and for added sparkle some edible fairy dust!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


Oosterzee- the original Starck family home.

Yesterday, I spent one of the most enjoyable afternoons ever in the company of a lady I am privileged to call my friend. This lady is 88 years old, and has more energy than this 36 year old "girl" (as she calls me). Here I am bragging about 40km hikes and 10km personal best times and there she is so full of energy I could hardly keep up!

Carol took us (my mother- in- law Pat and I) on a guided tour of The George and Annie Starck Home. When I say guided tour, I mean we saw everything, met every person and got the full history of how this home came to being.

Before beginning the 2 hour tour, we had tea with Carol's house-mates. Sitting and drinking tea, talking to people in their 80's and 90's is a privilege I wish more young people took advantage of - however trite that might sound. These are people who have seen it all. Where age is not a number, it's a badge of honour! As one lady said "Getting old is hard work and definitely not for babies!"!

I have not verified the history, though I did Google, "George Henry Starck", but it would seem we have an un-sung hero. So I thought I would share the little I know, and give you the opportunity to see how one man through insight and generosity became the answer to pray to a part of our community that is so often forgotten.

George Henry Starck was born in the England and due to the economic pressures of the day (post WW1?), found himself in South Africa. Things didn't seem to go so well at first, so he decided to travel back home and try again. While he was at the train station, the news came over the radio that WW2 had ended. As a man of obvious foresight, he realised that this would mean many soldiers returning home and all needing furniture.

George then made lots of furniture and money and travelled extensively, collecting beautiful pieces all around the world. When he died in 1958, he left a very large piece of land, a legacy and the family home "to serve those in need". The George and Annie Starck Home is now a beautiful place of refuge for many elderly.

Some of the Starck collection pieces

I have been to many "old age homes" and have always left feeling depressed and sick to my stomach, but yesterday I left thinking, "I can't wait to get old!". The care and love in this place is an example of how our elderly should be honoured in their last years. Even the frailest, living in what is affectionately called "God's waiting room" , look genuinely happy, well cared for and clearly loved. The frail care centre is called "Mary Port", which was the last port of call for ships leaving England.

At 5pm the diner bell rang and I can give you this warning when visiting an old age home, when you hear the bell, STAND BACK, those old people take getting to the dining room pretty seriously!

The bell was our cue that the tour was over and we went home with a warm feeling in our hearts that there are still places where those brave soldiers can find rest.

A view from the Main house,
overlooking a few of the group homes,
which house 10 residents,
together with a house mother and father.

I hope you enjoy these photos, I could not decide which to show, so I apologise for going "mad" and showing you too many!

Pat, Me and Carol

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Hiking Food - Part 1

Many of you may be wondering why on earth would a reasonably sane woman (generally speaking) want to walk 40 kms in the blazing hot sun? Perhaps she lost her car in a high stake poker game or her mind in cyberspace?

I have shared that we are doing the Fish River Canyon Hike in May this year(Deo Volente) . This hike is 85kms (58miles) long and we plan to do it in 5 days. No facilities are available and hikers sleep outdoors for the entire trip as well as carry all food provisions! The terrain consists of rocks, boulders, sand and a number of river crossings. Temperatures can go down below zero at night, but quickly pick up during the day to a moderate 20 to 28 °C . Mad or brave ? - you decide.

Because you have to carry everything you eat and then have to carry all your trash out again, planning meals is a very important part of the preparation. Everything you take has to weigh as little as possible, but still provide enough energy to hike approximately 20kms per day.

I have decided to try to prepare meals that we can look forward to in the evening, rather than just concentrate on loading calories. This is the first in a series for the next two months in which I will share my meals.

Tuna and Smash Fish Cakes
Serves 2

1 Sachet John West Tuna (Tins are wasted weight)
1 85g Sachet Smash
1 Tablespoon Dried Onion Flakes
¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Chilli Flakes
Water - room temperature

Mix all the ingredients together, except the water.
Slowly add enough water until you have a mixture that you can form into patties.
Fry in a little hot oil until golden brown.
Do not move them around to much and work gently while they are frying, as they will fall apart very easily.
Serve hot or cooled.

These are very nice little fish cakes and work very well indoors too. When making them at home I would roll them in breadcrumbs first and then fry them.
The total uncooked weight is less than 200g.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Broken Promises

I usually don't try to break my promises. I like this old Chinese Proverb, "A broken promise - is worse than a broken bone" . A promise which is kept is simply the fulfilment of an obligation. It takes many kept promises to build up trust and one broken promise to destroy it. The value of a promise depends entirely upon how highly you value the integrity of the promiser.

So with that said, I am not going to give you the bread roll recipe I promised yesterday, but have to delay it for a few days - sorry to those who came especially to see it.

Speaking of the Chinese, they really make good soup. They don't make great cars, beer or clothing but they sure do know how to make good food and present one of a kind Olympic Games! You also have to admire their "We'll do it our way"attitude, that would make even Frank Sinatra proud.

A must have at any Chinese diner is chicken and sweetcorn soup, made so hot it burns your mouth and everything north of the knees. Recreating the authentic Chinese restaurant chicken and sweet corn soup has been one of my long term projects, and while I still can't get it to be that hot, I have the taste just right.

The secret is in the simplicity of the ingredients, this is a KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) recipe.
I do apologise for the photograph, I can't seem to get the soup shot right yet (another work in progress).

Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup
Makes for 8

400g Skinless, boneless Chicken Fillets
4 Sweetcorn on the cob (remove the leaves and hair)
Salt and White Pepper
1 Chicken Stock cube
1 pinch of Sugar
10ml Peanut Oil
10ml Sesame Oil
30ml Corn Flour mixed with cold water (use more if the soup is not thick enough for your taste)
2 Medium Eggs beaten

Boil the chicken and the sweetcorn, in about 2.5 litres of water on the cob for about 20 minutes until soft.
Drain (and keep) through muslin (or a clean tea towel) the cooking liquid into a clean pot.
Replace the cooking liquid back on the stove.
Shred the chicken and remove the corn from the cob.
Place the chicken and corn back into the pot and all al the ingredients, except the cornflour and the eggs.
Cook on high heat for 2-3 minutes and then add the cornflour and keep stirring while the mixture thickens and turns white - another 3-5 minutes.
Slowly pour the beaten eggs into the soup and keep stirring to break up and make threads.
You do not want lumps of egg.
Continue to boil for another 2 -3 minutes and serve HOT!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Fall Back Food

We were talking the other day, about those people who find their "soul mate" and those who settle for the "fall back guy/girl". So who exactly is the "fall back guy"?

I found these comments on Yahoo answers which explains it out quite clearly :-

Question :
Is it ok to have a fall back boyfriend everytime a relationship goes wrong ?? Even if its the same fall back guy every time??

Answer # 1
No, duh. But if this guy sticks with you through all your crap, and is always your fall back, maybe he's the one you should be with.

Answer #2
No, this basically makes you a cheap and trashy person

Answer # 3
Hey - if he's willing to take you back every time - go for it

These answers have a some truth in them (my personal favourite is # 2), though they do seem a little trite (worn with use).

So where am I going with this? and how does this have any relevance to food? Well I have a fall back food. When nothing inspires me and I don't actually feel like thinking about putting any effort into cooking (yes those days happen, mostly when it is so hot)!

While I might not have the inspiration to make something great, I certainly want a meal that looks and tastes like it comes straight out of "The Handbook for Domestic goddess's".

So this is where, enter stage left - comes the humble chicken wing! Highly underrated by many, but never failing to deliver a great dinner, packed with flavour with minimum effort.

Spicy Fall Back Chicken Wings

8 Chicken Wings (tips removed)
8 Fresh Red Chillies finely chopped (depending on how hot you like it)
45ml Nomu Tomato and Chilli Pesto (straight from the tin)
45ml Tomato Sauce
10ml Smoked Salt (Available now at Pick'nPay)
¼ cup Olive Oil
15ml Castor Sugar (or honey)

Marinade the chicken in a bag with all the ingredients for about 2-3 hours(nap time).
Place all the ingredients in a baking tray.
Bake in a hot oven, 200°C for about 1 hour.
Remove from the pan in the last 10 mins and set over a rack, so they finish cooking out of the oil and crisp up.
Serve with bread rolls, chips , salad or just on their own.
These will also work very well cooked over coals.

Here are the bread rolls I made with the wings.
I'll share the recipe for them tomorrow.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Flashy Food

Usually when you talk about something flashy, it's over the top. My flashy food was more in the line of "ready in a flash"!

It started out as being a well planned meal, but I think I did too much mental preparation and too little actual work. The next thing I knew, Keith was going to be home in 25 minutes, hungry and all I had was a pack of tenderized steak sitting on the counter! Ooops - where did the time go?

Lucky for me (actually good planning) I have 4 large bunches of spinach growing in my garden, which is a great fall back ingredient in my kitchen. I also had half a punnet of mushrooms, that were rapidly approaching expiry. As I searched deeper into the fridge, I found the spring onions that where supposed to have gone into a salad. This meal was well on it's way to fantastic! Together with the chillies growing in my garden, nothing could stop me now!

Flash Gordon Stir Fry

350 - 500g Tenderized Steak
2 Cups Shredded Spinach or Swiss Chard
½ a punnet Button Mushrooms
1 Green Chilli thinly sliced
30ml Sesame seeds

The Sauce
Pound together the following
Juice of ½ a lime
4 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 Garlic Cloves
1" Piece of Ginger
2 Chillies (to taste)
2 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Tablespoons Tamarind

Rub the sesame seeds into the steak, pushing them into the cuts in the meat.
Slice the meat into bite size strips.
Heat your wok until smoking, and add a little oil.
Flash fry the beef strips in batches, so you get a nice brown crust on them.
Remove from the wok.
Once the meat is all done, add it back to the wok, together with the and spinach mushrooms.
Keep everything moving in the pan, and add the sauce.
Stir fry for a few minutes, you can add a little water if you think it is too dry.
Just before serving, add some finely chopped spring onion (white and green part).
Serve on a bed of buck-wheat noodles.

Monday, 9 February 2009

De Kelders to De Mond

This was our Saturday hike - 40 kms in extreme heat along the pristine coastline east of Hermanus. I could not decide which photos to share, so I thought I would treat you to a whole collection. To view entire album click here.

And of course there is always food involved - Here you have my Homemade Heaven Whole-wheat Seed Bread, with roast beef, lettuce, gerkin, tomato, onion and horseradish.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Waiter, there's something in my... Mango Soup

There is a saying that goes, "May your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions", and I think that is a very good description of me. I love making resolutions - I have Monday resolutions, end of the month resolutions, no money left before pay-day resolutions, birthday resolutions and of course my favourite New Year resolutions!

One thing I resolved to do this year is enter more blog challenges. As Jeanne, the beloved Cooksister, is my "Blog Godmother", I decided that I would start off with a bang and do a "Waiter, there's something in my... sweet/savoury swap!" challenge. I had plenty of time, and then, would you believe, I had none!

Lucky for me, Jeanne as a South African, knows that a deadline is actually the date you remember you late and then you have the extension - the actual closing date! So thanks so the extension I am able to do my first "Waiter, there's something in my...!" challenge.

Mango Soup with Coconut and Almond Breadsticks

I did not come up with a totally original Mango soup recipe. The original is here, but I did pimp the mangos, because my mango was not perfectly ripe.
I cut the mango into cubes and then cooked it slightly with a little castor sugar and the juice and zest of 1 lemon. I also added a pinch of chilli flakes.

The Coconut and Almond Breadsticks
An Rose & Thorn creation

100g Self Raising Flour
25g Ground Almonds
80ml Coconut
20ml Sugar
5g Instant Dry Yeast
30ml Coconut Oil
125ml warm Milk
Castor Sugar for rolling

Sift the flour and add the dry into a bowl.
Mix the warm milk and the coconut together.
Add the liquid to the dry and mix until you have a soft dough.
Dust your work surface with castor sugar and roll the dough into 6 /8 thin ropes.
Place on your baking tray, leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170°C for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve with the soup, or eat as a very tasty biscuit.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Food in Heaven

I love thinking about what heaven is going to be like. No pain, no suffering, everyone happy and definitely no cats! I also wonder how great the food will be. There is one thing which I know will be on the menu every day - Crème Caramel , well at least in the heaven I'm going to.

When I was very young, my parents used to do the month-end shop on a Friday afternoon. My sister and I were allowed to pick one "treat" for ourselves for an after dinner treat. This was not a decision which you would rush into, it had to be carefully thought out and weighed against what the other was buying - lest you were "out treated"! Nothing is worst than sitting watching what you missed out on.

There was one thing, which I settled on more often than anything else - those little pots of crème caramel with the fluted sides. I would sit for about ½ hour and slowly eat my treat and then as a double treat, I had a cute little cup to play house with the next day!

Now before all of you start thinking, "Shame this girl grew up dirt poor" - we didn't. We had plenty of nice things, but that Friday shopping treat was something that at 5 or 6, I could decide on all by myself and that made me feel like a " very big girl"!

There is a great benefit to growing up, I can buy those little pots of delight when ever I want, but as you can imagine I don't, they no longer thrill me as they did all those years ago. I have moved on to bigger and better things, like making my own crème caramel.

Crème Caramel
Makes enough for 8

450g Sugar
3 Tablespoons Water
6 Eggs
10ml Vanilla Extract
1 Litre Milk (I used 2%)
Water for Baine Marie

Combine 200g of Sugar with water in a saucepan.
Cook over high heat until brown.
Pour the caramel in your mould and spread to cover base.
In a large bowl and add remaining sugar.
Beat until thick and creamy.
Heat the milk until just before the boil.
Pour the hot milk over the eggs, beating all the time.
Leave to rest for a few minutes.
Remove the foam from the surface.
Spoon the egg mixture over the caramel.
Place your water-bath (Bain-marie) in the oven, one which is large enough to fit your mould(s).
Bake in the oven for 30mins at 160°C. It must still be slightly wobbly.
Remove and cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for about 1½ hours.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Addiciton to Food

When I hear the word addiction I always have a negative mind picture. It can be anything from a heroin addict lying in an alley, to a designer label, over their head in debt yuppie, addicted to spending. But I never think of a thirty-something (more something than thirty) mother and wife spending her life looking for recipes!

I guess it is always easier to see the faults in others and ignore the fact that you have 4 very large over-filled files, 100's foodie magazines (growing monthly), six bookshelves filled with cook books and the food channel running 24/7 - all in the hope that you'll find "just one more perfect recipe"! I even get at least 5 daily recipes emailed to me from various sites, as well as the countless hours spent visiting blogs.

But sometimes you can actually find "the one." You will have all the ingredients and the time - this is my drug of choice!

Yesterday, while reading another cookbook and watching the Food Network (at the same time), I heard them say "Spiced Rubbed Pork Fillet"! They were speaking my language, a secret code that only foodies understand. I quickly grabbed my pen and started writing down the ingredients - and would you believe it - I had everything on the list. So I rushed into the kitchen and produced "The One"!

James Tanner's Spiced Rubbed Pork Fillet - This is a perfect summer dish.

I also made the "Romesco Sauce", but I'll give you my version - "Rose- esco Sauce".

2 Red Peppers - Cut and quartered, seeds removed
1 Onion (I used a plain white one) - peeled and quartered
4 Fresh Green Chillies - remove the stem
2 Large red Tomatoes - Stem removed and quartered
10 -15ml Dried Red Chilli
5 -7ml Smoked Salt
60ml Toasted ground Amonds
Olive Oil
10-15ml Apple Cider Vinegar

Put all the vegetables in a roasting pan, with the smoked salt and a little olive oil and roast for 60 minutes at 140°C.
Place all the ingredients in the blender, together with the almonds and the vinegar.
While the machine is running add a little olive oil (about 15 -30ml) to form a creamy sauce.
Check the seasoning and adjust to taste.

This is a great sauce for any meat and will work especially well for braai (BBQ) meat.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Sword Fighting

When ever I feel like treating myself to excellent service I visit my fishmonger! Yesterday, not only did I feel like being treated like a princess, but I was also craving fish, something gamey with a nice salty sauce!

As I arrived, the sign outside showed I was in the right place - Marlin and Swordfish, both on special and I love specials!

I settled on the swordfish (my favourite), as well as some monkfish for another day.

The sword fish needs very little advance preparation. I simply marinated it for 20 minutes in lemon juice, Jenny Morris Chilli and Lime (you can use plain chilli pepper if this is not available) and a little olive oil.
I then heated my griddle pan until smoking, cooked the one side for about 3 minutes, turned the fish and switched off the heat and then left it for another 4 minutes. It is very important not to over cook fish - you want it soft and juicy. I served it hot on a bed of grilled courgettes.

The green sauce is super easy and very good with fish. The qualities are a little vague, you will need to adjust to your personal taste.

Green Sauce

5-8 Green Olives (pitted)
3-4 Anchovy fillets
15 -20ml Sliced Jalapeño chillies (the ones that are pickled in a jar)
Juice and Zest of 1 Lemon

Pound all the ingredients together, taste and adjust to your liking.
Serve with fish.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Beautiful World

In preparation for our 5 day hike in May (The Fish River Canyon), Keith and I are training hard, we are however, blessed to live in a hiker's paradise.

This weekend we went on a 36km hike in the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve. It was exhausting, but undeniably one of the most beautiful places on earth!
Here are a few pictures I took while I was still strong enough to hold the camera!

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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