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Cherry Brandy Brownies

6 February 2014 in Baking, Desserts, Easy to prepare

Hi there……long time no see!

Hopefully my mojo is back to stay cos Himself was bemoaning the fact that the quality of his food has declined since I took my blogging break. Cheek of the man! ;)

These are grown-up brownies, I made them for Christmas Eve and they have quickly become a family favourite. You need to buy yourself some glace cherries or if you’re feeling flush then some maraschino ones. Then you need to soak the cherries in brandy (or spirit of your choice) for at least a week beforehand.

 

Brandy soaked cherries (see above) as many as you like hic!

180g butter

160g dark chocolate

1 TBS of the liquid from the soaked cherries

175g castor sugar

3 extra large eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

110g cake flour

1/4 tsp salt

I used this particular chocolate because our local supermarket was selling it at R4 a bar, bargain!  just use as good a quality chocolate as you can.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and grease a suitable dish/pan (I used my new Le Creuset baking pan which is 23 x 23 cm and bakes like a dream)

Using a thick bottomed pan, melt the butter and the chocolate over a gentle heat, put aside to cool.

In a large bowl beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and the cherry liquid until combined.

Add the cooled choc mix to the egg mixture a little at a time, then add the flour and the salt.

Arrange the cherries in your dish, I use 2/3 of them, pour over the brownie mix and put the rest of the cherries on the top.

Bake for 25 minutes

 

These brownies are really good, they have a nice fudgy texture and the booze soaked fruit is just the cherry on top! :)

 

Steamed Ginger Pudding

6 August 2013 in Easy to prepare, Economical

My mojo was last seen cavorting with the fairies at the bottom of my garden and so I decided that instead of staring blankly at the ingredients parking-off in my kitchen, I would try out  recipes from some of the lovely cookbooks that I have been fortunate enough to win.

First up, I choose Jane-Anne Hobb’s book Scrumptious, not because I know her, nor because of the tempting array of things to cook, no, it was because I happened to have all the ingredients for her Steamed Ginger Pudding in the house! :) Another bonus was that I got to use some of the preserved ginger that I made, interestingly I am still getting traffic and comments on that post. Click on the photo to be taken to the recipe, much cheaper than buying it.

As there are only the two of us, I decided to halve the quantities of Jane-Anne’s recipe but otherwise I didn’t deviate from the original as shown here.

Steamed Ginger Pudding

100ml golden syrup

4 Tbsp (60ml) finely chopped preserved ginger

1 Tbsp (15ml) syrup from the ginger jar

juice of 1 large lemon

200g butter, softened

11/3 cups (330ml)  white sugar

4 extra large eggs

11/3 cups (330ml) cake flour

5 tsp (25ml) ground ginger

11/2 tsp (7.5ml) baking powder

a pinch of salt

a little milk (see recipe)

2 Tbsp (30ml) very finely grated lemon zest

Put a large heavy-bottomed pan on the heat, with enough water to come halfway up your buttered pudding bowl, which should  have a capacity of about 1.5 litres. Cut a circle of foil big enough to cover the bowl and overlap  the edges by at least 5cm. Make a generous pleat in the circle of foil to allow for expansion, and – for ease of lifting the pudding from its water bath – make a ‘handle’ using a double length of string attached on either side to the string securing the foil (see pic further down).

Pour the golden syrup into the pudding bowl and add the ginger pieces, the ginger syrup and squeeze over the lemon juice, but do not stir. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer put the butter and sugar together and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, beat between each addition. Sift over the flour, ginger, baking powder and salt. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar mix adding just enough milk to achieve a soft dropping consistency. Stir in the lemon zest.

Carefully pour in the batter into the pudding bowl, don’t fill to the brim, there should be at least 2 cm clearance. Cover with the foil and tie with kitchen string.

Put the bowl into the pan of boiling water, cover with a lid. Cook, keeping the water at a gentle burbling boil for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, or until the surface is puffed and firm to the touch.

Top up the pan with water as necessary. run a knife around the edges of the pudding  to loosen it, then invert it onto a heated plate.

This pudding is best as it comes out the of the pot, but you can steam it in advance, set it aside to cool and then reheat it, unopened, in the same pot of water for about 15 minutes.

  

Predictably Himself scoffed most of this pudding and has asked that I make it again! I liked the slighly acidic bite the lemon gave it and the crunch of those little golden nuggets of ginger…..oh sh*t I sound like Nigella! :)

Serve with custard, cream or ice cream….

 

Two easy winter recipes and some exciting news!

25 July 2013 in Easy to prepare, Taste of Durban

Everybody loses their mojo now and then, I think mine’s run off with the missing socks, hence the lack of posts from me lately. I have been cooking, but mostly my easy old favourites like my yummy oxtail and my Chinese style chicken soup. Click on the photograph to be taken to the recipe.

Early on Monday morning I had a call from Dstv to tell me that I was a finalist in a competition to win a trip for two to The Taste of London 2014.  (Food24 Editor Caro was there this year click here to see her photographs)

Tomorrow Himself and I will be off to The Taste of Durban, where on Saturday evening I will compete against two other finalists in a cook off. Apparently we will have to replicate a dish from one of the chefs and will be judged on taste and technical ability…..my nerves!

We will be staying at The Suncoast Towers for the weekend and will be at the show Friday evening and virtually all of Saturday, I can’t wait.

So cross fingers, hold thumbs and send positive thoughts my way!

Taste of Durban

Return of the Bread Maker…..

16 July 2013 in Baking, Easy to prepare, Economical

Hands up those of you who haven’t used your bread machines in a long, long time?

Raise your arm if you threw in the towel after yet another loaf of dense bread,so heavy you could use it as a door-stop?

I can answer yes to all-of-the-above, which is appalling considering my friend Kerry lugged my machine all the way from England for me (they were much cheaper over there, back in the day). Mine has been languishing in a cupboard in my laundry…….until we went for lunch with our friends Micheal and Pieter. Micheal served a lovely crusty bread with his homemade roasted tomato soup. If it hadn’t been for the shape I would have been convinced it had been baked in the oven!

Needless to say, I left their place clutching the recipe and the very next day I dusted off my machine and made a loaf – sadly, it wasn’t anything like his :(

It transpired I was using the wrong flour (duh) and he forgot to mention that he didn’t use the milk powder! The next attempt was perfect and I’ve made it 3 times since. Fluffy and light with a smashing crust, it’s the best bread I have ever made in my bread maker!

 

Hint – I like to use Spray & Cook on the paddle in the container to make removal of the bread easier.

Put the following ingredients into the bread maker in this order:

2 tsp dried instant yeast

350g white bread flour – sifted

1 tsp sugar

1 TBSP soft tub margarine

1 tsp salt

2 TBSP sesame seeds

125ml plain yogurt

150ml warm water

I set my machine to dark crust and the basic programme of 3 hours.

When your machine indicates the bread is ready remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Using oven gloves to hold the container remove and place on a rack to cool, if you leave the bread in the container you won’t get such a good crust.

 Nothing nicer than fresh bread and real butter!

Spring rolls without the guilt!

3 June 2013 in Chinese, Easy to prepare, Economical

I shall lean closer to the screen so you can see the word ‘SUCKER’ stamped on my forehead. Princess Gilly (29) doesn’t live with us, but she does pass our house every day on her way to work, and one of us rushes out with her daily take-a-way. There’s usually yoghurt, fruit, something sweet like a cupcake/muffin and her lunch…..which cannot include bread.

I have become quite inventive and as such, have stopped eating quite so much bread myself. This cheese and grated veggie slice is a favourite.

Her Highness is getting a couple of these tomorrow.

I spotted the rice paper wraps in my local supermarket and decided to give them a go at the weekend, Himself and I thoroughly enjoyed them, you have to have them with the dipping sauce though, which isn’t quite so guilt free. OK I lied with the title….sous me!

They are so easy to prepare, you can use virtually any ingredient you fancy, I used some beef fillet and a variety of veggies. We enjoyed these for lunch but they would also make a great starter. I haven’t given exact quantities as it depends on how many rolls you are making, but I made 5 with the fillings I had.

First make the dipping sauce so that it can cool…

Dipping Sauce

1 cup of sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup vinegar

1 tsp grated garlic

1 tsp grated ginger

2 TBS fish sauce

2 TBS sweet chilli sauce

1 TBS fresh lemon juice

Put the sugar, water and vinegar in a thick bottomed saucepan.

Bring to a boil and turn the heat down a little so it’s still boiling but more of a rolling boil for another 5 minutes.

Take off the heat and add the fish sauce, garlic, ginger and chilli sauce, simmer for a couple of minutes, remove from heat and add the lemon juice.

Cool and put in the fridge where it will thicken, I made half this amount for the two of us and there is still half left to give you an idea of quantity.

The Rolls

Fresh green sprouts thinly sliced

Baby corn sliced into slivers

Fresh bean sprouts

Julienne of carrots and celery

Spring onions chopped into 4cm lengths

Snap Peas chopped finely at an angle

Thinly sliced cooked beef fillet (you could also use cooked chicken or prawns)

You need a bowl wider than the wrappers filled with warm water and a damp tea towel.

Take a wrapper and leave it in the water for about 30 seconds, remove it and place it at the edge of the tea towel and fold the towel to cover it, leave for at least another 30 seconds. Repeat with a second wrapper and so on, it’s important to keep it covered so it doesn’t dry out.

Take the wrapper and keep it on the towel (if you put it on the counter it will stick, trust me)

Place your ingredients on the wrapper as shown below, as you can see I kept everything in a line to make for easier rolling.

Roll as tightly as you can till about halfway then turn in the sides and continue rolling.

The roll will keep it’s shape, the spring onion tie is for effect only.

If you prefer your rolls deep fried, and let’s face it,  who doesn’t? then here are two options for you. The traditional deep fried way or using a Philips Air Fryer, which is a healthier version. Click on the photo to be taken to the recipe.

Spring rolls, deep fried and airfryer cooked

Meat and potato pies made from leftovers

28 May 2013 in Budget Beater, Cheap and cheerful, Easy to prepare, Economical

As there are only two of us I often have the dilemma of leftovers, Himself loves pies and these are so easy to make and a little meat goes a long way.

 You could also use leftover roast chicken, you can add veggies the list is endless. All you need is approximately….

200g cooked meat cubed (I had leftover beef pot roast)

A couple of cooked potatoes diced

Some cooked diced onion

Leftover gravy

Seasoning

Pastry

250ml cake flour

125mls butter or hard margarine such as Stork

Pinch of salt

Iced water

Egg-wash for brushing over pies (1 egg mixed with a dash of milk)

I make my pastry in my Kenwood mixer, but you could use a food processor or make it by rubbing the fat into the flour with your hands.

Place butter, flour and salt into a bowl.

Rub (mix) them together until they resemble breadcrumbs.

With the machine still running add the iced water gradually until you achieve a dough.

Place in the fridge for 15 minutes to rest.

Mix the meat, onion and potatoes with a little of the gravy, you don’t want it too wet.

I use my pie maker to make circles of pastry (cheap and available at most plastic shops) but you can easily cut round a side plate or a saucer depending on what size you want.

Place some of the mix on one side of the circle of pastry and fold over, remember to brush the edge of the pastry with water to ensure the pastry sticks. Use your fingers or a fork to crimp the edges together.

Brush with egg wash and place on a greased baking tray.

Bake until golden and crisp @ 180c

Makes 6 pies

 Serve with gravy.

 

Matt Preston’s Cola Baked Sticky Chicken

13 May 2013 in Cheap and cheerful, Easy to prepare, Economical

I’m a big fan of  Masterchef Australia, even if we are only viewing the 2011 series, I much prefer it to the British version.  I ensure that we are parked in front of the tv with our dinner trays on our laps by 6pm promtly Monday – Thursday.

This is Matt Preston’s recipe that I found on the Masterchef site, apparently he has a cookbook coming out soon.  He is a curious looking man, however I find myself strangely attracted to him.  I mean, he wears the oddest clothes and those cowboys boots…well! *shakes head*

I had an issue with the timing as my oven is not the fan type and after two hours the sauce wasn’t thickening so I decided to up the temperature to 175c and that seemed to do the trick.

I used (skinned) chicken drummettes instead of wings and decided to marinade them overnight in the sauce, Matt doesn’t do that. I’ve no idea if it made them better than Matt’s as I’ve never used the recipe before, all I know is that they were tender and completely delicious.

 

750ml Cola

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3 cloves garlic grated

1 large brown onion grated

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1kg chicken wings cut at the joint

Juice of one lemon

Preheat oven to 140c fan forced (I think they mean thermofan)

Arrange chicken in a single layer in a deep oven tray and pour over the cola mixture.

Bake for 3 – 3.5 hours or until sauce is thick and very sticky. ( I did 2 hours @140 and then 1.5 hours @ 175)

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potato and Banana Bake

8 May 2013 in Cheap and cheerful, Easy to prepare, Economical, Vegetarian

I based this recipe on one in a very old cookery book called Be Bold With Bananas which was produced by the Banana Control Board way back in the *mumbles*. Now I know you are thinking ‘”this bird has a thing about sweet potatoes'” and you would be right, I love them and they are plentiful at the moment.

However, be very thankful I cooked the bake, I was sorely tempted by this photo…not! Food styling has come a long way hey? *sniggers*

I mean the banana thingy is phallic enough, but no, they reinforce the inference with a candle in the background…bold indeed! :)

Anyway, back to my side dish, yes it is sweet, and fattening, but it was delicious served with a simple grilled pork chop and some wilted spinach, so it balanced out…right?

This would also go down well at a braai.

100ml sugar

2 TBS butter

250ml orange juice

125 ml water + -

125 ml raisins/sultanas

500g orange sweet potatoes peeled and sliced

1/2 tsp salt

2 bananas peeled and sliced

breadcrumbs – optional

grated Parmesan cheese – optional

Preheat your oven to 180 c

Melt the butter in saucepan, add the orange juice and the sugar and heat to dissolve the sugar.

Add the raisins and  potatoes with enough water to just cover them, cook until tender.

Add the salt and the bananas for about a minute.

Grease or spray your dish, place a layer of sweet potatoes, then the bananas, then another layer of potatoes, try and make sure all the raisins are underneath so they don’t burn.

Reduce the remaining liquid in the pan over a high heat until it is thick and syrupy, pour over the potatoes

Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and Parmesan.

Cover with foil or a lid and bake for 15 minutes, remove foil and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes to crisp and brown the top.

If you also love sweet potatoes, you might like my previous post, sweet potato mash Irish style, click on the photo to be taken to the recipe.

Sweet Potato Mash – Irish Style

2 May 2013 in Cheap and cheerful, Easy to prepare, Vegetarian

I don’t like potatoes much…I can hear the incredulous gasps! I will probably eat one roast potato with a roast and a couple of chips with a steak, but I’d rather have an extra veg truth be known. I feel the same way about rice, unless it’s got all kinds of goodies in it I will pass, now pasta that’s another story all together, it’s the one starch I really like.

I do like sweet potatoes though and the addition of the cabbage and spring onions was really enjoyable. My apologies to the Irish for bastardising their national dish Colcannon.

750g  orange sweet potatoes

200g piece of cabbage shredded very thinly

1 cup spring onions chopped

30g butter

salt and white pepper

Peel the potatoes, slice them into even pieces and boil in salted water until tender.

Drain the potatoes really well.

Mash half the butter into the potatoes (I use a potato ricer to avoid any lumps) and put aside.

Melt the remaining 15g of butter in a frying pan and stir fry the cabbage until soft, don’t overcook it, you want a bit of crunch.

Stir in the spring onions.

Add to the potatoes, combine and season to your taste.

If you would prefer this delicious Italian Onion Mash pictured below then click here

Homemade stock – so easy!

24 April 2013 in Easy to prepare, Economical

There is one, and only one factor about winter that I embrace wholeheartedly… comfort food! I love winter fare, gimme some tasty soup and crusty bread and I’m a happy bunny. Himself loves stew and dumplings, thus my slow cooker works overtime.

Stew and dumplings

The base for a really tasty stew/soup/casserole is good stock, it’s so easy to make and it makes all the difference to the flavour.

1 kg marrow bones (I got from Pick n Pay  R12.99 a kg)

1 slice of beef shin chopped

1 large onion

Celery tops or 1 large stick of celery

1 large carrot

Fresh Parsley

1 tsp peppercorns

2 bay leaves

Oil

4 litres of water

Preheat your oven to 200C

Roughly chop the veggies and place on a baking sheet with the marrow bones, drizzle with oil.

Roast until the meat is browned (about 45 minutes) you don’t want it to burn, just colour.

Place everything in a slow cooker and add the water.

Cover and set the slow cooker on high for a couple of hours and then on low for another 6 hours.

Obviously you can also make stock on the stove, the beauty of the slow cooker is that it does it’s own thing and I am not tempted to stir it (stirring makes the stock go cloudy)

When it’s cool, transfer to a pan and put it in the fridge overnight or until the fat congeals on the top making it easier to remove.

When all the fat is removed, heat the stock and strain,  then boil it until it is reduced by half. you don’t have to do this step but I’m a bit short of freezer space.  All you do when using the reduced stock is add the same amount of water to reconstitute it.

Easy peasy hey?!