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A New Home and Choc Chip Cookies

May 4, 2012 in Cookies, Food Photography, Home-made, Pastries and Sweets, Sweets

This is more of a catch-up post on what I have been up to. But I will add some foodie stuff in…I can’t resist it.
Last year my husband and I decided that we had had enough of the rat race and merely existing instead of living was not an option for us. We made a decision that Cape Town was going to be our new home. Things just started falling into place and everything that was meant to happen, happened. It just felt so right – even though the two or three months leading up to the “Big Move” were stressful, it was worth the wait. I guess we are extremely lucky and very blessed.

We drove down over five days with the kids and doggies in two cars, stopping along little towns and places we never knew existed.  What a great trip!
The booking of places to sleep overnight was very last minute so we often found ourselves booking into what was available in the nearest town. There are some strange places out there!!! We were very fortunate in our choice of accommodation though. When we eventually got to Cape Town it was already rather late and I just could not find an affordable pet friendly place to stay. Luckily my husband had packed the tent in the car ‘in case’. Thank goodness for that – we camped out for the night at the Noordhoek Caravan Park very unprepared. Pouring rain, hole in the tent…. ( advise to parents: check tents after teens have taken it out for the weekend). Anyway, it was all very exciting and certainly not the worst experience we’ve had. The next day the removal van was on time, waiting for us to arrive. The move went rather smoothly which I am grateful for. So, here we are ready to take on the ‘Mother City’.

That was two months ago and it has been hectic settling into the day to day routine. Don’t know about you but I detest having to fill out forms. And after filling out many of them we finally have internet access, phone lines and all those ‘techie’ things that we rely on.   We just need to change our pace slightly. There is just so much to see and do in Cape Town and we are enjoying every minute – with cameras around our ‘Vaalie’ necks. I am still trying to find where to buy my favourite ‘foodie goodies’ but discovering new things is part of the plan.

So now, it’s me and my blog. I have so much to catch up on and share with you.

With a big move comes insecurity. Especially for kids. Lots of hugs and comforting food makes it all feel like home.
Here is my family’s favourite comfort food at the moment. Good Old Choc Chip Cookies.

These have certainly earned the title of “comfort food’. After all, if there’s chocolate in them, there is comfort.
I baked a big batch of these before the trip, hoping it would last….NOT!  So now, I bake two batches at a time and store them in the cookie jars. Still doesn’t last.
What makes your Choc Chip Cookies different? A special ingredient or a specific method you use? I am always keen to try new Choc Chip Cookie recipes.




Notice, my cookie jar is still full! That’s because the kids were still asleep when these were baked.

 

Many hands…make a lot of soup

July 29, 2011 in Food Culture, Home-made, Photography, Soups

67 minutes for Mandela

What great timing! I got to try out my new little Nikon Coolpix for this post. It’s not too bad for taking pics on the fly, but I still prefer the ‘mamma’ camera.

67 minutes for mandela

The staff and kids at the school made a hearty vegetable soup again this year to share with strangers. They went out onto the pavement and offered it to the passing pedestrians making their way to work in the morning from the station. The passers-by really appreciated this, especially on a cold winter’s morning. That is the school’s contribution to the ’67 minutes for Mandela’ initiative. It doesn’t have to cost you a fortune to give a little of yourself to others. Your time is the greatest gift!
Everybody got stuck in. Chopping veggies, slicing carrots, peeling potatoes…and crying over onions. It’s always a great feeling interacting with the school children on another level. Even the ‘naughty kids’ were proud to be helping out.

I love a good vegetable soup.

I am sure most South Africans are familiar with the ‘vegetable soup packs’ that you find at the supermarkets. They normally contain leeks, radishes, tomato, onion and a few carrots. I often buy these, add a few green beans or butter beans, some slices of chouriço and beef brisket… and a great veggie soup is born. This soup is very affordable, chunky, healthy and really simple to make. It takes you about 67 minutes to make altogether, but the time you spend preparing is minimal.

We decided to call it ‘Beanie weather’ Soup because that day was one of the coldest days here in Pretoria this winter and those who did not wear a beanie really felt it.

This photo was taken with my normal camera.
Beanie vegetable Soup

Recipe: ‘Beanie Weather’ Vegetable soup

Ingredients

  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced into quarters
  • 1 tomato, sliced into quarters
  • 1 large potato, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup chopped leeks
  • 1 radish, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tin butter beans
  • 1 cup green beans, chopped
  • 1/2 chouriço, sliced
  • 1 cup cubed brisket or similar cut suitable for stewing
  • 1/2 cup risoni (pasta resembling rice grains)
  • 100ml olive oil

Instructions

  1. Into a large pot, add all the sliced and chopped raw vegetables. Leave the tin of butter beans for later.
  2. Add the meat and chouriço.
  3. Pour enough water into the pot to cover the vegetables.
  4. Place on the stove and bring to a boil.
  5. Turn the heat to medium and allow to cook for 20 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Prick with a knife to test.
  6. Remove the meats and set aside on a plate or bowl.
  7. Add the tinned beans to the soup.
  8. Remove the pot from the stove and using a stainless steel masher or an electric hand blender, mash all the vegetables to a smooth consistency. If you prefer a chunkier soup, you may want to use the stainless steel masher.
  9. Place the pot back onto the stove on low heat.
  10. Add the olive oil and the risoni.
  11. Finally, add the meat and chouriço pieces back into the soup.
  12. Allow to simmer on low for approximately 15 minutes longer.

Variations and Tips

You can use rice instead of the risoni. You can also leave the meats out of the recipe.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 35 – 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

“Masterschlep”

July 22, 2011 in Food Culture, Food Photography, Home-made, Photography, Recipes

Making pizza has always been a “schlep” for me. I would rather get take out pizza than spend hours in the kitchen trying to get the right results. Not anymore!! I sound like one of those familiar ads – ‘But that’s not all…’

I watched one of the Masterchef episodes where they made pizza dough. It looked so damn easy. Normally you have to stretch and work that dough, flip it in the air like you see chefs do, massage it some more…. – phew, I am exhausted just writing about it. I was sold – off to the Masterchef website, jotted down the recipe and made it – again and again and again…

Recipe: Masterchef Basic Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 400ml lukewarm water
  • 14g fresh yeast or 1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast
  • 15g castor sugar
  • 700g “00” flour, plus extra for dusting (bread flour)
  • 30g gluten flour, optional
  • 30g table salt
  • 60ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 50ml milk

Instructions

  1. Add 2 tablespoons of the water to the yeast and massage it into a paste with your fingers. Add the remaining water and the sugar and stir to combine.
  2. Tip flour, gluten if using, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer with the dough hook attached. Turn mixer onto low speed and add yeast mixture. Let it mix for 2 minutes until the dough comes together. Add oil and milk and mix for another 4 minutes until smooth and elastic.
  3. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour. Remove dough from the mixer, scraping the dough hooks. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes, dusting with more flour when necessary. Shape the dough into a ball.
  4. Lightly dust a clean chopping board or baking sheet with flour. Place the dough on the board and cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm, draught-free place to prove for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Cut the dough into 120g portions and roll into balls. Cover with the tea towel and set aside on the floured board to rise for a further 30 minutes or doubled in size.

Quick notes

The gluten flour is not necessary.

Preparation time:

Number of servings (yield): 8

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

With the Masterchef pizza dough you can do all the stretching and shaping on the counter without the sticky mess. The quality of the flour though makes a difference. Another tip is to use a mix of semolina and flour dusted on the counter surface for rolling the dough on. Semolina is coarser then regular flour and prevents the dough from sticking.

I remember in my student days, in the ceramics class we got taught to knead pottery dough. Use both hands and with the corners of the palms , push down on the dough and form a donald duck face. I didn’t think I would ever use those skills – but here I am, using it in the kitchen.

This pizza dough takes the “schlep” out of making pizza. They don’t call these guys Masterchefs for nothing.

The great thing about making pizza at home is that you can top it with whatever you fancy and each one in the family can have their individual pizza. I love it. You can also make a simple focaccia if you’re not in the mood for heavy toppings. I like focaccia because it’s basically a carrier for the garlic, olive oil, herbs and coarse crunchy salt. A real treat!
I am sharing my pizza and focaccia recipe with you. I hope you will be just as inspired to make your own pizza as I was. I am not buying take out pizza ever again!

If you have a non-glazed terracotta tile it works wonders in the oven. It dry cooks the pizza from underneath. I haven’t managed to get one yet, so I used the bottom of a cake tin. It’s on my long list of things to do soon! Of course, if you have a pizza oven – all the better.

Focaccia

Focaccia

Recipe: Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 120g pizza base (see recipe above) makes a large pizza
  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 100ml oilve oil
  • coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • flour for surface

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 250 degrees C.
  2. Place the pan bottom or the terra cota tile in the oven to heat on the top rack.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and garlic. Be careful not to burn the garlic or you will get a bitter taste.
  4. Remove from heat and let it stand for 5 minutes.
  5. With a brush spread the olive oil and garlic onto the pizza base. As much as you like.
  6. Sprinkle some coarse salt on.
  7. Remove the tile from the oven and place the pizza base onto it.
  8. Put it back into the oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes, depending on how brown you would like it.
  9. Remove from oven and serve hot.

Variations and Tips

You may like to replace the dried herbs with fresh herbs.

Sprinkle some grated parmesan onto the pizza for extra cheesy flavour

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 1

Culinary tradition: Italian

 

Bacon Avo and a Touch of Tabasco Pizza

This is my favourite. Bacon and Avocado Pizza with a touch of Tabasco sauce. I like the contrast in flavours – the buttery avo, the hot tabasco sauce and salty bacon.

Bacon and avo pizza

Recipe: Bacon Avo and a Touch of Tabasco Pizza

Ingredients

  • 120g pizza base (see recipe above) makes a large pizza
  • olive oil
  • minced garlic
  • fresh or dried oregano and basil
  • whole peeled tomatoes or good quality tomato paste, I like to use Ina Paarmans basil and tomato paste.
  • 3 bacon rashers, cut into small pieces and fried
  • 1/2 an avocado, slices into thin wedges
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • salt if needed

Instructions

  1. Place a terracotta tile into the oven pre-heat oven to 250 degrees C.
  2. Prepare the pizza base.
  3. Brush the base with olive oil, especially around the edges.
  4. Add some garlic and salt if desired.
  5. Smear some tomato paste over the whole surface.
  6. Sprinkle with oregano and basil.
  7. Add the pieces of bacon.
  8. Sprinkle the grated mozzarella over entire pizza – liberally.
  9. Add some more herbs if you like.
  10. Insert the pizza into the oven on a terracotta tile or baking tray.
  11. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes.
  12. Remove from the oven and add the sliced avocado.
  13. Drizzle with desired amount of tabasco sauce.

Quick notes

Please read the notes on the Masterchef pizza on how to prepare the dough.
Each 120g portion of dough makes a large plate size pizza.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 1

Enjoy…and hope the pics inspire you!

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