Category Archives: Cook

Spicy prawn & coconut cream soup

Spicy prawn & coconut cream soup

There has been no time for cooking these last two months. Dinner has consisted mostly of Grand Chicken Ranch burgers from McDonald’s (the three lettuce leaves, slice of tomato and single onion ring constituting my 5-a-day as far as I am concerned) or toast. So it’s been rather nice to have someone to cook for and have a bit of time to get into the kitchen again. Even if that kitchen is a desk and toaster oven in a tiny Chinese hotel room, and finding ingredients for a specific recipe could mean a three hour round trip to the Avo Lady. If you’re in Shanghai, you can find lemon grass here (and only here, as far as I have been able to tell).

This is one of my all-time favourite recipes. The extremely obliging people at  Woodall Country House & Spa in the Sundays River Valley were kind enough to pass the recipe along after my book club spent a pampered weekend there a few years ago, reading nothing but wine labels and enjoying their exceptional cuisine and warm hospitality. It is dead easy and very, very good. The butternut blends to a velvety, smooth soup without the need for straining and the Thai flavours turn what would ordinarily be standard weekday fare into something a little special.

Thai butternut soup

Serves 4 Read the rest of this entry

Cooking with kids: Ye ol’ standby muffins

Cooking with kids: Ye ol’ standby muffins

A guest post by Miss Rachel Carlin

My mom always told me that there are two things every girl should have: aKiddie muffins qualification and a driver’s license. I have increased the list to include a dress that makes you feel like a diva, a string of pearls and a flattering bathing suit. I would like to add a sub clause to this. Anybody who spends a significant time with children, be it as babysitter, parent, grandparent or teacher should have at least one book they know off by heart that they can “read” to the child whilst fantasising about an ice cold glass of bubbly to be had once the child is in bed; a simple craft activity using an old loo roll; and a basic muffin recipe.

As that great purple dinosaur keeps telling us, sharing is caring, so here is my basic muffin recipe. Think of it as the maxi dress of baked goods: pretty good for most occasions and one size fits all. I halve the amounts (well, not the egg) and make mini muffins. I add sprinkles to the batter and make rainbow muffins.  I mash up bananas and add cinnamon for – and here is the kicker – banana and cinnamon muffins. I have even added grated apple, blue cheese and walnuts and served them to adults. If I add anything obviously savoury, I omit the sugar and vanilla essence.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup regular flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/8 C butter, softened
  • ½ C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t Vanilla essence

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C
  2. Line a 12 muffin pan with muffin casings.
  3. Sift the flour with the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  4. Cream butter with the sugar until light and fluffy in a large mixing bowl. Obviously the softer the butter, the easier this is.
  5. Add egg to sugar and butter mixture and beat well.
  6. Add flour mixture to wet mixture and mix until smooth.
  7. Pour into the muffin casings and bake for approximately 20 minutes.
  8. Turn out and cool.

If you are that way inclined, you could ice the little darlings. And also the muffins.

Banger & bacon breakfast scones

Banger & bacon breakfast scones

How do I love thee bacon? Let me count the ways. Last weekend I loved it chopped up and turned into breakfast burgers. A great TV meal for when no one can tear themselves away from the Super Rugby for long enough to locate the knife and fork lying in front of them. I wanted to serve these banger and bacon patties on scones so as to be more breakfast-like, until I remembered I can’t actually make scones. While they taste good, they look a little like doughy, cellulite prone pucks, and could probably be used successfully in a short ice hockey warm up match. The problem, I suspect, is that the scone dough should be just, just mixed and then left alone, whereas I like to prod and knead and poke and generally overwork the whole thing when I should actually just have walked away. Just ask any ex-boyfriend of mine. Then I remembered how Americans serve their scones (or biscuits) drenched in gravy, and my problem was solved! I made scones using a recipe from that old standby of South African housewives everywhere – Kook en Geniet – adding a packet of brown onion soup powder to the dry ingredients to get the onion flavour I was looking for without having to do any actual work. I then drenched the whole lot in mushroom sauce to hide how ugly my baking had turned out. Hollandaise would work well too. Top with a poached or fried egg and breakfast is sorted!

Banger and bacon burger

Serves 6:

Ingredients

12 pork banger sausages, filling removed from the casings

250g streaky bacon, finely chopped. (Place the bacon in the freezer for half an hour before cutting to make it easier to slice.)

1) In a mixing bowl, add the bacon to the sausage filling and combine well. Shape into burger patties, about 10mm thick. If you want a thicker patty, fry the bacon, allow to cool and then add it to the sausage filling. If the mixture is too sticky to work with, lightly flour your hands and the working surface to make it easier.

2) Heat a very small amount of oil in a pan and fry the patties, turning once, until brown on both sides.

 

 

 

 

Cong you bing revisited

Cong you bing revisited

I have not been sleeping well at all. My bed has once again become that magical place where I suddenly remember everything I was supposed to do that day, but didn’t. And I know that once I crawl out from beneath that white duvet I will once again, in a foggy haze of procrastination, forget everything that I vowed to do in the wee hours of the morning. So I have taken to sleeping with a pen and notepad next to my bed so that I can jot down things in the dark as I remember them and clear them from my mind. This hasn’t worked as well as you would think. Upon waking this morning I found a message to myself reminding me to “Char doc squikle skorf”. While I don’t think this was intended to be an inspired grill idea, it did remind me that I still need to post my cong you bing recipe. I have adapted the recipe from one found at Traditional Chinese Recipes to more closely resemble the thin and crispy pancakes that our local vendor made. It is essential that you make the dough two days before you intend to use it to allow the gluten to bind. This is a great recipe to use when doing a Mongolian grill and everyone can get their hands dirty cooking their own (in which case most of the pancakes will, in all likelihood,  be wonky, a little burnt and the object of much ridicule).

Cong you bing

Ingredients Read the rest of this entry

Cooking with kids: Simple soufflés

Cooking with kids: Simple soufflés

By Rachel Carlin

When I am not mentally menu planning for the fantasy Bistro that I wish I owned with my favourite girl cousin by marriage, I am taming ankle biters. I am very lucky that this is a job I love and that it brings me a lot of joy. It also allows me on a Tuesday to bring my other love, cooking, into the classroom.

Cooking with children doesn’t need to be dull. It doesn’t need to involve chocolates, sprinkles and E numbers. It can be fun, yummy for both big and small and strangely rewarding when no child is hurt in the making of the dish!Simple souffles

This is one of my favourites. I cannot seem to name it, so the working title is:

Simple Soufflés

Makes 6 little soufflés

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices of white bread
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 100g cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried mixed herbs
  • Some oil for brushing

 Preheat the oven to 200 C

  1. Grate the cheese and place in a bowl. – Teacher’s tip – allow your Read the rest of this entry

Peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake

Peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake

When Nigella first described this recipe as a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup in cheesecake form, she had me at Reese. It’s a baked peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake. I don’t need to say any more.

Peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake

The ingredients should be at room temperature before you start. Read the rest of this entry

Bernice’s lamb chops

Bernice’s lamb chops

This is one of those recipes that you’ll probably either love or hate. Personally, I love it! It is the meal I would choose when I finally snap in Telkom one day, wipe out the lot of them, and have to pick something to eat before they eventually flip the switch and fry me. It is a quintessential part of some of my earliest food memories. Monday night was not only Knight Rider night (back before he became The Hoff and crushing on him was no longer cool), but it was also the night my brother and I stayed with my dad and Bernice, our nanny, made her famous chops and chips. Bernice might not have been the creator of the dish, but it is a testament to how important she was in our lives that we chose to name this dish after her, despite her tendency to chase us around the house with a wet rag when she was displeased about something. And now, more than twenty years later, my dad still makes it for us whenever we go and visit there. So I’m quite aware that the love I feel for this particular dish is heavily influenced by the memories it evokes and is not based solely on its gastronomic merit. I do, however, still believe it is simply delicious in the truest sense of the word. All the flavour comes from just two ingredients – lamb and onions. But don’t let the simplicity of the components fool you – preparing this dish requires patience and a good, uninterrupted, 2 hour chunk out of your day. It is best served with the type of shoestring fries that are so crispy that trying to impale them on a fork results in little bits of golden potato flying across the room and hitting the wall with a satisfyingly crunchy thunk. This necessitates really getting your hands in there to pull the chops apart bite by bite, scoop up a few chips and shove the whole lot in your mouth with your fingers, which is just messily wonderful! I would also strongly recommend having it with a good tomato sauce. I don’t believe in dousing meals in condiments that could potentially detract from the flavour, but in this instance the tangy sweetness of the tomatoes contrasts beautifully with the salty sweetness of the caramelised onions.

Bernice's chops & chips

Serves 4

Ingredients Read the rest of this entry

Lemon meringue ice cream

Lemon meringue ice cream

Let me preface this post by saying that I really suck at making meringues. This is mildly embarrassing as I have an aunt whose meringues would put Nigella to shame. So if you’ve landed here in the hopes of finding a fool proof way of making light and airy meringues, then you better move along. These meringues are strictly for fools and were sort of stumbled upon when the very first thing I baked in my new and unknown little toaster oven was a dish that required precision temperatures. Clever. So I was toggling between bake and grill and 210º and 100º to try and reach the magic 120º for the sustained period required when making meringues the way they should be when I thought buggr’it, they’re going in at 150 for half an hour. This is higher than you’d normally bake meringues. The result of a lower temperature is an airier but drier meringue because the whole thing is baked through slowly and the air bubbles are trapped in a permanent state of sugary suspension. Fortunately, I like my meringues a bit on the gooey side when I bite into them. (Which also explains why mine are rather ugly… But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that looks are less important than personality anyway.) So the higher, shorter temperature worked a treat to get them golden on the outside but still uncooked enough on the inside that when I opened the door and they cooled down too quickly, the entire lot collapsed into a cracked heap of toasty, marshmallowy goodness.

If I lost you at “toggling”, then I suggest you completely ignore the entire section on meringues below and try Nigella’s cappucino pavlova instead. Needless to say, omit the espresso. The ice cream recipe is a fantastic vanilla standby as, unlike most homemade ice creams, it doesn’t require you to break up ice crystals every now and then like some sort of demented, commando going character from Basic Instinct. Make a batch and then add whatever flavours you want to zhush it up a bit. Here lemon did the trick.

Lemon meringue ice cream

Use 8 individual tart tins or one large one.

Serves 8 Read the rest of this entry

Biltong & Blue Cheese Dip

Biltong & Blue Cheese Dip

The silly season is in full swing. Time to overeat, fight the masses to get your last minute shopping done and exercise your rage control as drivers everywhere forget the basic rules of the road. I say rather stock up your freezer and spend your precious time catching up with friends and family over glasses of chilled wine (or mulled, should it be winter where you find yourself) and tables full of good things to eat. If you need something quick and easy to serve as a snack when people are getting peckish, try this spread-slash-dip to serve with crackers or melba toast. I got the idea after trying a so-so-ish biltong spread bought at the shops. Upon inspecting the label I realised that there was, in fact, absolutely no biltong in it whatsoever. I was sure that adding biltong to a biltong dip would be the natural first step to improving it. Genius right? But please don’t entertain the idea of using that horrible powdered biltong instead of the good stuff. That’s only good when it’s dusted by a little grey-haired lady on to marmite slathered bread cubes and served on a paper doily with a nice cup of tea at the NG church’s bazaar where, let’s be honest, it is damn awesome. Adding blue cheese to anything, of course, makes it better. It also means that this dip packs a serious flavour punch. If Ye Old Ranch is the party dip equivalent of the mousy girl who sits timidly in the corner, looking a little lost and only spoken to when asked where the toilet is, then this dip is the loud guy adjusting his crotch, hocking one back and drawling “Are you talking to ME?”.

Biltong and blue cheese spread

Ingredients Read the rest of this entry

Medley of Seafood

Medley of Seafood

I had one of THOSE days again. I pretty much went into panic mode about my occupational / living / geographical status.

Don’t get me wrong, being a lady of leisure and traveling all over the place is bloody, damn awesome. Particularly as I somehow managed to find a husband who will virtually beg me to spend a bit of money on myself and never makes me feel guilty that his was the career we chose to nurture while I get to sleep in late when I want to. But every now and then – between the lunches, and copious amount of reading and experimental cooking time – I suddenly realise “Holy crap, I don’t have a job. My husband is a contract worker. We don’t know where the next job will be. When don’t know WHEN the next job will be! We don’t know where we’ll be next week, let alone next month!! I don’t even know what to fill in when asked for my residential address!!! I don’t know what to fill in where Facebook asks what city I live in!!!! I can’t breathe!!!!!”.

But on days like this, there is one thing I can count on to quiet the voices, ease the pressure, still the storm and envelope me in a warm, cuddly haze of happiness: Food. Those dishes that evoke a happy childhood memory, or remind you of a special time and place with special people or, simply, remind you that no matter how crazy and unpredictable and scary your life might seem right now, you can always count on a few things to stay the same. The right meal can achieve all that. Your favourite spaghetti bolognaise recipe will taste today like it did last week or last year or the first time you closed your eyes and savoured that second mouthful (the first mouthful you just shoveled down of course, because it was just spaghetti right, how good could it be?). This is one of those dishes. A very special take on something resembling a bouillabaisse that reminds me of home and my mom. It is also one of the first things I remember making after I discovered that I rather loved cooking, so adding a bit of orange zest to some fish was very shoo-wow! Some people would get comfort from aunty’s cottage pie or granny’s chocolate cake or matron’s mash. I found it in a bowl of my mom’s seafood broth.

What dish do you choose when you’re in the mood for a bit of nostalgic psychotherapy? Google Analytics tells me there are loads of you out there reading my blog, but you’re all rather quiet. I’d love to hear from you! What passes for mash in Jakarta, Nottingham, Madrid, Glenorchy or Roodepoort?

From Elsa van der Nest’s fabulous book, Simply Entertaining.

Serves 6

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