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Beef & stout pie with sour cream & thyme pastry

17 Jul

There are few things as comforting than a homemade pie on a cold winters day. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

I wish I was in a winter cabin in the woods somewhere, slowly simmering this pie filling while attending to the beautiful sour cream pastry. You don’t need to actually be in a cabin to enjoy these, but wouldn’t it be fantastic if we all could linger for a few days in a woodlands hideaway, sipping on steamy drinks next to a fireplace, slowly preparing comforting dishes throughout the day to enjoy when the sun goes down. Time stands still, the quietness fills the air with tranquility and the earthy smell of the thick pine needle carpet outside seeps into your clothes.

This hearty beef & stout pie with sour cream & thyme pastry is simply perfect for a cosy winters holiday. Don’t rush it – enjoy every moment of the preparation process like healing therapy for your soul. It’s totally worth it.

Beef & stout pie with sour cream & thyme pastry: (serves 4-6)

Tip: Start making this pie in the morning if you want to serve it for dinner. It takes a few hours to prepare, but I promise it is worth every minute.

For the filling:

Time: 30 minutes prep plus 3 hours simmering plus cooling.

Tip: Make the pastry while the filling is simmering.

  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 1 kg beef cubes
  • salt & pepper
  • 30 ml flour
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves
  • 15 ml tomato paste
  • 440 ml stout
  • 500 ml beef stock
  • 15 ml Worcestershire sauce
  1. In a large dutch oven / cast iron pot, heat the oil and fry the meat over high heat in batches, giving it some colour and seasoning it with salt & pepper as you fry. Add a little flour to each batch as it is frying, using all the flour by the last batch. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside (it will still be raw on the inside).
  2. If the pot is smoking hot at this point, remove it from the heat and give it a few minutes to cool. Turn the heat down to medium, then add a little more oil and fry the onion, garlic and celery until soft.
  3. Add the bay leaf, cloves, tomato paste, stout, stock and Worcester sauce, stir well and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom to loosen and dissolve any sticky bits (covering the pot with a lid will help).
  4. Return the meat to the pot, then simmer over low heat for 3 hours, covered, until the meat is very soft and the gravy is dark brown and rich (stir once or twice during the process).  Pour some excess liquid off and keep aside for serving as gravy later. Use a fork to pull some of the meat apart, keeping some cubes whole.
  5. Cool the filling completely before baking in the pastry.

For the sour cream & thyme pastry:

Time: 30 min prep plus 2h30 resting.

Tip: For a more classic version, leave out the thyme leaves.

  • 3 cups (750 ml) white bread flour
  • 5 ml salt
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 250 ml cold butter, cubed
  • 250 g sour cream
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked, for brushing
  1. Mix the flour, salt & thyme together. Rub the butter into the flour mixture using your fingers. When it starts to resemble coarse bread crumbs, add the sour cream and cut it in with a knife. Continue to mix until the mixture comes together in a non-smooth ball of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangular shape. Turn the dough so that it lies horizontally in front of you (divide it into thirds in your mind), then fold the right side over to the middle, and the left side over the folded part, to form three layers. Turn the dough over, turn it 90 degrees, and roll out again, folding it in the same way. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.
  3. Remove from the fridge and repeat the rolling and folding process. Return to the fridge for another hour.

To assemble the pie:

Time: 20 min assembling plus 1 hour baking.

  1. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface (the dough should be very smooth by now) to a long rectangle with a thickness of about 5 mm.
  2. Spray a medium size deep pie tin with non-stick spray, then line the bottom of the tin with pastry, easing it gently into the corners and taking care to not stretch the dough too much (leave the edges overhanging for now).
  3. Fill with the beef & stout mixture, then use a pastry brush to lightly brush the edges where the top layer needs to stick. Lay the rest of the pastry on top, cutting a hole in the middle or making slits here and there for steam to escape.
  4. Use a sharp knife to neatly trim the sides, then use a fork to press grooves into the edges. Use any leftover pastry to cut out shapes, or to make a plait for decoration. Brush with egg all over, then bake at 180 C for about 1 hour or until golden brown and cooked.
  5. Serve hot, with steamed veggies, the reserved gravy and mashed potato.

Beef and stout pie, perfect to make on a cosy winter holiday. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

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All-in-one breakfast rusks

10 Jul

Delicious buttermilk rusks with various seeds, nuts, oats, coconut and olive oil. (Bowl by Le Creuset. Linen napkin by HAUS.)

 

I’ve published the recipe for these winning rusks twice before – one of my first posts ever on this blog in 2011 and again on Die Kos Vos last year. These buttermilk rusks are exceptionally delicious, packed with oats, bran, coconut, pecan nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and linseeds. I enjoy them with coffee or tea, first thing in the morning, then I’m good to go. These days I make the recipe with olive oil instead of canola oil, which brings a wonderful richness to the taste that I prefer. The oils and seeds contain precious Omega-3, -6 & -9 that keep our hearts healthy and enough fiber to keep our digestive systems in mint condition.

For smaller households I’ve found that a halved recipe is more than adequate. It fills one standard baking tray (roughly 51 rusks, depending on how thick you cut the fingers) and will last for many weeks after being dried out, stored in an airtight container. Take a smaller container to your office for a fantastic teatime snack.

Watch my video for an easy how-to guide. Happy baking!

Ingredients: (makes about 51 medium size rusks)

Note: This is the halved recipe. Feel free to double it up for a bigger batch.

  • 500 g self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup linseeds (flax seeds)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup regular oats
  • 1/4 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup bran cereal flakes
  • 50 g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 XL egg
  • 1 cup olive oil (or canola oil)
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Pre-heat oven to 180 C and line a standard shallow baking tray (about 30 x 40 x 2 cm) with grease-proof baking paper. Place the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Add the sunflower seeds, lin seeds, sesame seeds, oats, coconut and bran flakes. In a smaller bowl, mix the egg, oil and buttermilk, then pour over the dry ingredients and stir until it starts to come together. Use clean hands to work it into a ball, but don’t knead. Transfer the mixture to the lined baking tray, pat out evenly to fill all the corners, then bake at 180 C for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and cooked. Remove from the oven, then carefully turn it out on a wire rack to cool.

When cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board, then cut into rectangular fingers. Remove an oven rack from the oven, then preheat oven to 100 C. Arrange the fingers slightly apart on the oven rack, then dry out for 3 hours or until crisp but not dark. Let it cool completely then store in an airtight container. Serve with tea or coffee (to be dipped).

Tip: Save money by buying the exact quantities of seeds and nuts at a weigh-and-pay store.

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Indian Made Easy with Poetry Stores

6 Jun

An easy Indian spread from Amandip Uppal’s new book Indian Made Easy, available from Poetry Stores (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

 

This new book from Amandip Uppal, Indian Made Easy (available from Poetry Stores), is simply stunning. I love the lay-out, the fonts, the simplicity of the colours and the photographs too. Amandip also chose to do something interesting with her recipe lists, listing fresh ingredients together, spices together, and pantry ingredients together. It makes a lot of sense when you shop for the ingredients, or when you get everything together before cooking, but I found that some inexperienced cooks might become confused mid-cooking when an ingredient is mentioned but it does not appear in the order of the cooking process.

For my readers’s ease, I’ve rearranged the ingredients below in the order of how it will be used. Amandip’s recipes are really flavorful and beautiful to look at – an easy intro to the fabulous world of Indian cooking. Plate up on Poetry‘s beautiful new dark blue “lace” tableware.

Charred Broccoli with Chilli and Fennel (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Charred Broccoli with Chilli and Fennel (serves 4)

Recipe from Indian Made Easy by Amandip Uppal.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 large red chilli, seeded (optional) and thinly sliced
  • 600 g broccoli spears, cut down the middle lengthways
  • salt, to taste
  • 2,5 cm piece ginger, peeled and cut into julienne
  • toasted coconut, pomegranate seed and coriander (page 238, for garnish)
  • handful of coriander (for garnish)

Heat the oil in a large deep frying pan over low-medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and fennel seeds and fry until the crackle and pop.
Add the garlic, chili and broccoli and fry until the broccoli is slightly charred in colour. Reduce the heat, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes, until cook the through.
Uncover, season with salt to taste and add the ginger. Toss through and gently cook for 20 seconds.
Garnish with a scattering of tasted coconut, pomegranate seeds and coriander and more coriander leaves and stalks.

My notes: This recipes is also excellent served at room temperature.

Plain naan bread with spinach & mint yoghurt (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Spinach & Mint Yoghurt

Recipe from Indian Made Easy by Amandip Uppal.

  • 5-6 mint leaves
  • a large pinch of dried mint
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
  • a large pinch of salt
  • 225 g cooked spinach, chopped
  • 225 g natural or Greek-style yoghurt
  • 2 cm piece ginger, peeled & grated (for garnish, optional)
  • fine slivers of red chili (for garnish, optional)

Put the mint leaves, dried mint, garlic, cumin seeds and salt in a mortar. Grind with the pestle to make a smooth paste. Place the spinach into the bowl, together with the mint paste and stir in the yoghurt. Garnish with the ginger and chilli, if liked.

Plain Naan (makes 7-8)

Recipe from Indian Made Easy by Amandip Uppal.

  • 7 g sachet dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon golden caster sugar
  • 200 ml warm water
  • 400 g strong bread flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 2 tablespoons melted ghee or oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or melted butter, for brushing after baking

Mix the yeast, sugar and water. Stir well with a fork and leave for a few minutes. Place the flour, 2 tablespoons gee or oil and salt into a wide bowl and make a well in the centre.
Using one hand, pour in a little of the yeast mixture and with the other hand use a fork to gradually bring the flour in and mix together. Keep pouring a little water while mixing. Flour your hands and begin to knead and form a ball. Add enough water to make a soft, but not sticky dough and keep kneading for about 5 minutes, or until smooth pliable and soft. The consistency should bot be very soft or hard. Cover and rest for 20-25 minutes.
Using slightly oiled hands, divide the dough into about 8-10 equal sized balls. Place on a lightly oiled tray, leaving gaps in between each ball and over with a damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place for about 20 minutes until the balls have doubled in size.
Preheat the grill to medium-high with a heavy based baking tray on the top shelf. Roll out the dough balls thinly and evenly. One by one, place the rolled out naan onto the baking tray, brush lightly with water and grill for about 1-2 minutes on both sides, or until lightly browned and puffed up. Lightly brush with ghee and serve hot.

My notes: The recipe didn’t state how/where to roll out the dough, so I did it on a floured working surface (some naan recipes call for an oiled surface). Be sure to also dust the baking tray lightly with flour to prevent the naan from sticking to it.

Classic lamb curry (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Classic Lamb Curry (serves 4)

Recipe from Indian Made Easy by Amandip Uppal.

  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 small green chillies
  • 4 cm piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 x 250 g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, plus a large pinch for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 kg leg of lamb, chopped into 2,5 cm cubes
  • 2 tablespoons Greek-style yoghurt, whisked with 200 ml water
  • 3 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves

In a blender or using a mortar and pestle, grind the onions, green chillies, ginger, garlic, oil and tinned tomatoes into a smooth paste.
Mix the paste with the garam masala, cumin, ground coriander, chilli powder, turmeric and salt. Place the lamb in a large bowl and cover in the paste, making sure all the pieces of lamb are well coated.
Put the lamb in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat, cover and cook for 35-40 minutes, stirring frequently until the meat is tender and the oil has separated.
Add the yoghurt, then cover and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring constantly over a low-medium heat.
Remove from the heat, then sprinkle with the chopped coriander and a large pinch of ground cumin and serve.

My notes: I’ve found that the meat needed longer time to cook than mentioned 35-40 minutes. I cooked mine over a low heat, covered, stirring every now and then to prevent the bottom of the pot from turning too dark, for about 2,5 hours until it was really tender.

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Gin soaked cupcakes with green olives, lemon & poppy seeds

18 May

This is practically an edible cocktail: gin soaked cupcake with green olives, lemon and poppy seeds. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Enjoying a cocktail in an edible format is strangely satisfying, especially if it is a contrasting treat like a cupcake. Boozy cupcakes? Yes please!

These almost-martini cupcakes are super moist and absolutely delicious – the green olives leaning a surprisingly pleasant savoury element – soaked with a gin & lemon syrup right after baking. An ultra smooth not-too-sweet cream cheese icing (with a splash of gin, of course) rounds these grown-up treats off. They’re easy to make, they’re not too frilly or fussy, and they taste fantastic with just the right amount of “kick”.

Add these to your repertoire for the next party – any gin & tonic or martini lover will certainly come looking for more!

This recipe was created in association with New Harbour Distillery‘s Spekboom Gin & Buffet OlivesQueen Green Olives.

Perfect for a grown-up party! Made with New Harbour Distillery Spekboom Gin and Buffet Olives Queen Green. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

For the batter:

12 queen green olives, pips removed (I used Buffet Olives Queen Green)
finely grated rind of a lemon
15 ml poppy seeds (plus extra for sprinkling over the icing)
125 g cake flour
125 g sugar
125 g soft butter
5 ml baking powder
2,5 ml baking soda
2 XL eggs
30 ml milk

Preheat oven to 180 C. Line a 12-hole cupcake tin with baking paper or cupcake liners. Place all of the ingredients except for the milk in a food processor and process for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides, then process again, adding the milk as it mixes. Process until very smooth, then divide the mixture between the 12 cupcake moulds. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked.

While the cupcakes are baking, make the syrup:

125 ml (1/2 cup) gin (I used New Harbour Spekboom Gin)
125 ml (1/2 cup) lemon juice
250 ml (1 cup) sugar

Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan, then bring to a simmer. Stir until the sugar has just melted, then remove from the heat. When the cupcakes are ready, poke a few holes in each one with a sosatie stick. Spoon a tablespoon of syrup (15 ml) over each cupcake, then repeat with a second round, giving the syrup some time to get absorbed. Let the cupcakes cool completely before icing.

For the icing:

250 g plain cream cheese, at room temperature
125 ml (1/2 cup) icing sugar, sifted
15 ml gin (I used New Harbour Spekboom Gin)

Use electrical beaters (or a wooden spoon and some elbow grease) to beat the cream cheese, icing sugar, and gin together in a mixing bowl until smooth and fluffy. Top each cooled cupcake with a generous dollop – I use the back of a teaspoon, but you can also use a piping bag.

To serve: Sprinkle with some poppy seeds, then garnish with cocktail sticks skewered with slices of lemon & green olives.

Mothers Day Lunch with Poetry Stores

12 May

A delectable home cooked feast from Barbara Joubert’s book KOSTALGIE, available from Poetry Stores. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

There’s nothing that says “I love you” like a thoughtful, scrumptious and beautiful home-cooked meal. The recipes in Barbara Joubert’s (Afrikaans) book Kostalgie are the perfect choices for a Mothers Day lunch at home, with flavours and influences from her travels all around the world.

I have never made caramelized figs before, and they truly are just magnificent to look at. Almost too beautiful to eat! With the creamy custard tart, they are the stuff dreams are made of.

I love slow roasted pork – it seems to always get raving reviews in my house. I opted for serving the pork with buttery beans instead of potatoes, because of my choice of pasta and tomatoes as a side dish (a stunning meal on its own too).

Have a happy Mothers Day everyone!

Barbara’s book, the homeware and beautiful black floral scarf are all available online and in store from Poetry Stores.

Tagliatelle with burst tomatoes, blue cheese and rocket. Photography by Tasha Seccombe

Homemade tagliatelle with burst tomatoes and blue cheese (serves 6)

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

For the tagliatelle:
300 g (535 ml) cake flour
3 eggs
20 ml olive oil
10 ml water

For the burst tomatoes:
125 ml olive oil
3 garlic cloves
550 g small red and yellow rosa tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper
a handful fresh basil leaves
100 g blue cheese
40 g rocket

For the tagliatelle:
Place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer with dough hook. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs. Switch the machine on at low speed. Add the olive oil and water. Increase the speed until a soft dough forms. If the dough is too stiff, you can add a little water. Knead for 10 minutes with the machine, then take the dough out and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for 1 hour at room temperature. If you have a pasta machine, sprinkle a little flour on your working surface and on the rollers of the machine. Cut the dough into smaller pieces. Set your machine on number 7 and feed the dough through. Set it one setting lower, feeding the dough through until you get to number 1 (the thinnest setting). Hang the pasta sheets over the back of chairs for about 20 minutes to dry out a little. Attach the tagliatelle attachment to the machine, then feed the sheets through the cutter. Place the bundles of cut tagliatelle onto a baking tray sprinkled with flour. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a little olive oil, then add the pasta and cook for 3-5 minutes. Drain and top with the roasted saucy tomatoes.

For the burst tomatoes:
Heat olive oil in a large deep pan. Add the garlic whole and fry for about 2 minutes to flavour the oil. Add the tomatoes and fry until they burst. Season with salt & pepper. Tear basil leaves in pieces and mix with the sauce. Cut slices of blue cheese and arrange on top of the pasta. Sprinkle with rocket and serve.

My notes: A good quality store bought tagliatelle will also work well, if you don’t have a pasta machine.

Overnight leg of pork, so soft that you can pull it with a fork. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Overnight leg of pork (serves 6)

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

100 ml olive oil
2 kg leg of pork (I used boneless)
juice of a lemon
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 bay leaves
250 ml white wine
8 baby leeks
1 x 439 g can chestnuts

Preheat oven to 200 C. Place half the olive oil in a roasting tray. Place the pork in the bowl and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Rub the garlic all over. Season with salt & pepper, then add the rest of the olive oil. Place in oven with skin side down. Remove after 30 minutes, then turn the leg over with skin side up. Cover with foil. Lower heat to 140 C, then roast for 6 hours.
Remove the netting around the meat, then add the bay leaves, wine, leeks and chestnuts. Roast uncovered for an hour at 180 C. Remember the skin won’t be crispy. The meat will be soft enough to pull apart with forks.

My notes: The original recipe calls for leeks, which were unfortunately out of stock everywhere at the time of the shoot, so I substituted these with slices of red onion. I also couldn’t find chestnuts, but I’m sure these will be stocked at a good exotic speciality store.

Custard tart with caramelized figs. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Custard tart with caramelized figs (serves 8-10)

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

For the dough:
200 g (360 ml) cake flour
50 g (60 ml) caster sugar
100 g (110 ml) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
45-60 ml cold water

Place the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor. Mix until the butter is well incorporated. Add the yolk and mix. With the motor running, add the water spoon by spoon, until it just comes together. Remove from mixer and cover with plastic wrap. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200 C. Roll out dough on a floured surface. Line a greased 18 cm tart tin with the dough, then prick with a fork all over. Line with baking paper on top and fill with dried beans. Bake blink for 10 minutes at 200 C. Remove paper and beans and bake for another 5 minutes until the base is cooked.

For the filling:
10 egg yolks
20 g (40 ml) cornflour
125 g (150 g) caster sugar
2 ml vanilla powder
200 ml milk
500 ml cream

Whisk the yolks, cornflour, sugar and vanilla together with an electric mixer in a mixing bowl. Heat the milk and cream together in a pot, but don’t let it boil. Add the cream mixture to the egg mixture and mix well. Pour back into the pot, then continue stirring over medium heat until the custard thickens. (You don’t want to make scrambled eggs!) Pour the custard into another bowl and place a piece of wax paper on top to prevent a skin from forming. Let it cool to room temperature. Pour filling in baked tart base and bake for 20 minutes at 180 C. Let it cool overnight, preferable in the fridge.

For the caramelized figs:
500 g (625 ml) sugar
100 ml water
about 25 small figs

Put the sugar and water in a large pot with a lid and place over medium heat until the sugar has melted. Now remove the lid and let it boil until it reaches a light caramel colour. The caramel will continue to darken, so remove from the heat immediately. Carefully dip the figs into the hot caramel and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper to cool. Place on top of the cooled tart when ready to serve.

My notes: The recipe doesn’t mention what size eggs to use, but I found that XL is adequate. I found that I needed to increase the baking time for the base and for the assembled tart to achieve a golden brown result. I couldn’t find small figs, so 9 large ones were enough as a substitute. Don’t caramelize the figs long before you’ll be serving the tart, as the caramel will eventually start to melt as the figs release steam and water, and you’ll be left with syrupy half-coated figs. (Remember, the caramel will harden on standing in the pot, so when you’re done dipping the figs, carefully add some boiling water to the caramel and leave to soften before cleaning.)

This post was created in collaboration with Poetry Stores.

Caramel, pear & pecan lattice pie

18 Mar

Pear and pecan nut lattice pie with extra pie crust shapes on top (photography by @Tasha Seccombe)

These days there are so many beautiful lattice pies all over Pinterest. The most beautiful golden strips of pastry, cut into so many different shapes, criss-crossed and layered, covering delicious fruit fillings. They’re almost too beautiful to eat.

I absolutely love the combination of pears, pecan nuts and caramel. I made a pear and pecan tarte tatin a few years ago and it still beats most apple versions by miles. So if you love a good pecan nut pie, this is something similar but with a fruity layer of pears at the bottom that adds to the moistness of the pie. Crunchy, buttery, gooey, fruity, nutty – the best of a pecan pie and a tarte tatin rolled into one.

Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche (or thick cream) and a swirl of caramel sauce.

Caramel sauce, for assembly and for serving (photography by Tasha Secombe)

Choose firm pears for baking (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Layers of pear and caramel sauce (photography by @Tasha Seccombe).

Note: Shop-bought shortcrust pastry delivers a fantastic visual result, but nothing beats the flavour of homemade all-butter sweetened shortcrust pastry with added vanilla. The choice is yours. I’ve found that the home-made pastry does lose some of its shape during the baking process, but by baking a few decorative shapes separately (like cookies on a baking sheet, baked for a shorter time than the actual pie) and placing them on top of the pie afterwards, you still get a phenomenal result.

Ingredients: (makes one medium size pie)

For the pastry:

  • 100 soft butter
  • 125 g caster sugar
  • 1 XL egg
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 250 g cake flour
  • a pinch of salt

Using an electric whisk, whisk the butter until creamy in a mixing bowl. Add the caster sugar, egg and vanille and whisk until well combined. Add the flour and salt and whisk until the mixture starts to come together. Turn out on a clean working surface and knead lightly until it comes together in a ball. Flatten slightly to make a disk shape. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

For the caramel sauce:

  • 125 g butter
  • 250 ml demerara or muscovado sugar, tightly packed
  • 125 ml cream
  • a pinch of salt

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the sugar and stir. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has melted and the mixture starts to become foamy. Add the cream and stir until it is completely smooth. Add the salt, stir and remove from the heat.

Assembling the tart:

  • 1 batch pastry
  • about 3 firm pears, peeled and cored and finely sliced
  • 100 g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 batch caramel sauce (you’ll use the other half for serving)
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked (for brushing)
  • some granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Roll out half the refrigerated pastry on a well floured surface to a thickness of about 5 mm. Line a greased fluted 23 cm pastry tin with the pastry, and trim the edges neatly. Use a fork to prick the pastry all over. Arrange the sliced pears (overlapping) on the bottom, filling it about 2/3 to the top. Drizzle with some caramel sauce. Arrange the chopped pecan nuts on top of the pears. Pour the rest of the caramel sauce all over the nuts and pears. Roll out the second half of the pastry, then cut out strips for plaiting and shapes for decoration (place some of the loose shapes on a separate lined baking tray, keeping them neatly in tact for decoration). Top the pie filling with the pieces and strips of pastry, making your own decorative pattern/design and trimming the edges neatly. Carefully brush with egg, then sprinkle with sugar.

Bake the pie at 180 C for 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly then remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack. Bake the extra pieces of pastry on the baking tray for about 8-10 minutes until golden brown – they’ll brown much quicker than the assembled pie.

For serving: carefully remove the fluted ring, then top with extra pastry shapes. Serve warm or at room temperature th a dollop of cream, ice cream or creme fraiche and more (warmed) caramel sauce.

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Spicy dhal with naan bread

21 Feb

Spicy dhal with fresh coriander and warm naan bread (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Few smells bring more comfort than that of a fragrant curry – not only in colder months but also at the height of summer. Curry doesn’t have to be expensive and complicated though, and it also doesn’t need to be meaty.

This simple spicy dhal recipe is absolutely delightful. If you have most of the spices in your cupboard, you’d be amazed at how cheap this hearty meal will work out. If you’ve never had dhal before, see it as a warm “dip” for naan bread. It is comfort food to the max.

This recipe is by far my favourite starter or side dish when I’m serving Indian food.

Tip: To turn this recipe into a heartwarming soup, add a cup or two of your favourite warmed stock to the finished dhal. Blitz with a stick blender for a smoother result (optional). Adjust seasoning and serve in mugs, topped with a dollop of plain yoghurt.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • about 400 g red lentils
  • 10 ml turmeric
  • 60 ml butter
  • 15-20 ml cumin seeds
  • 15-20 ml garam masala
  • 10 ml ground coriander
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 30 ml fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1-2 small fresh green chillies, finely sliced (leave seeds in for a more spicy result)
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh coriander leaves (to serve)

Method:

  1. Place the lentils and turmeric in a saucepan and cover with enough cold water to come to around 5cm above their surface (no salt added yet). Bring to the boil, then stir in the turmeric. Reduce to a simmer and skim off any scum that rises to the top. Cover partly and simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until tender.
  2. Meantime, in a small frying pan, dry-fry the cumin seeds over a medium heat until toasted and fragrant (just 1-2 minutes). Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Melt half the butter in the same frying pan and gently fry the chopped onion, garlic, chilli and the grated ginger. Once the mixture is golden, mix in the toasted cumin seeds, garam masala and ground coriander. Remove from the heat.
  4. Give the lentils a good stir. They should have the consistency of porridge – thicker than soup and looser than hummus. Add more water as necessary and mix in your aromatic fried mixture. Season to taste with salt & pepper, then stir in the remaining half of the butter.
  5. Serve with naan bread, topped with fresh coriander leaves, or with a side of basmati rice and greens.

For the naan bread:

  • 5 ml instant yeast
  • 60 ml warm water
  • 5 ml sugar
  • 300 g (2 cups) white bread flour
  • 10 ml cumin seeds or fennel seeds
  • 5 ml salt
  • 5 ml baking powder
  • 15 ml vegetable oil
  • 60 ml yoghurt
  • 60 ml milk
  • clarified butter, for brushing

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, mix the yeast with the warm water. Stir in the sugar and leave it in a warm place for five minutes until the yeast is covered with froth.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together the flour, seeds, salt and baking powder. Stir in the oil, yoghurt and milk, then stir in the activated yeast mixture. Mix well and knead until you have a soft, pliable dough (add a little more water if you need to). It should take about ten minutes.
  3. Place the dough in a mixing bowl, cover it with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for 20-30 minutes.
  4. When doubled in size, divide the dough into 4 balls and place on a floured surface or board. Roll each into a long oval shape about 0.5cm thick. Don’t roll them out too thinly. Toast in a dry non-stick pan for 5-7 minutes, turning them over half-way (or bake in a hot oven at 220 C for about 8 minutes). They are ready when they have puffed up and are golden on the outside.
  5. Brush with warm clarified butter as soon as they are cooked. Serve immediately.

Blueberry and almond crostata

22 Dec

Crumbly, gooey blueberry & almond crostata (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

A few years ago I posted this recipe for a peach galette. By the way, the French call it a galette, the Italians call it a crostata. Now that I’ve given all the credit to the French previously, I suppose it’s time to give the Italians a turn.

Since the first time that I made this rustic free-form tart, it has become my secret weapon. I’ve made it numerous times with cling peaches, sometimes with nectarines and once with plums. Every single time the result has been magnificent: buttery, flaky pastry enveloping an oozing almond paste centre along with slightly tart and soft fruit on top. It’s a revelation to many who taste it the first time. The simplicity and intensity of it all is just superb. And can you imagine adding a dollop of creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream? The stuff dreams are made of, literally.

Almond paste: (enough for at least 2 crostatas)

  • 100 g (250 ml) ground almonds
  • 250 ml icing sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon almond essence
  • 1 egg white, lightly whisked

Pastry: (makes 2 medium size crostatas)

(Recipe for pastry by Ina Garten)

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • ¼ cup caster sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 250 g cold butter, diced
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) ice cold water

Filling: (enough for 2 crostatas)

  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • about 1,5 cups fresh blueberries – or use any other seasonal fruit except strawberries and bananas

Method:

For the almond paste: Place all the ingredients except the egg white in a food processor. Add half the egg white and process until it comes together into a ball (add more egg white until you get to the desired consistency, add more icing sugar if your mixture is too sticky). Remove from the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 3 hours. It won’t ever freeze solid because of the sugar content, but it is much easier to handle when it is hard enough to grate.

For the pastry: Place the flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor. Pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add the icy water all at once while the motor is running. As soon as the dough starts to come together, remove it from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Press into a disk shape, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to firm up.

To assemble: Pre-heat oven to 220 C. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a thickness of about 5 mm. Transfer carefully onto a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush the top of the pastry with egg, leaving a 3cm border around the edges. Coarsely grate the frozen almond paste all over the brushed egg pastry surface, then cover with blueberries. Fold the edges over carefully, keeping the look of the edges rustic. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack before serving with vanilla ice cream (serve hot or at room temperature).

Scott’s bread

11 Jan

Freshly baked ciabatta loaves, made with Scott's bread recipe (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Freshly baked ciabatta loaves, made with Scott’s bread recipe (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Scott Armstrong joined the team at The Demo Kitchen in May 2015 as an intern – part of his practical experience (food media) for his chef’s course at the Institute of Culinary Arts. He was a quiet guy from the get-go, but I immediately realized what he’s made of after I plunged him into the deep side with a four-day cooking demo marathon at the Good Food & Wine Show.

Scott was always 30 minutes early for work. He skated here with headphones in his ears. He had loads of initiative and brought new recipes to the kitchen often. He had a very small notebook where he wrote down recipes like a journal, the pages falling apart from steamy kitchen environments.

The best recipe that Scott had introduced to me last year, is this bread recipe. He made paninis for our sandwiches everyday, and they were absolutely drop-dead delicious. I love a good bread recipe, and this one may be the best I’ve come across that doesn’t use a mother starter dough or several hours of double proofing or a wood fired oven. You do, however, need a stand mixer because the dough is super runny. You’ll also need a dough scraper for cutting and handling the proofed dough, otherwise the portions are very difficult to transfer to the baking tray. Expect to clean your mixer afterwards, because the sticky dough creeps up into the motor mechanism. But I promise you, it’s all worth it.

Transferring the proofed dough from the bowl to a floured surface. As you can see, it is very runny. (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Transferring the proofed dough from the bowl to a floured surface. As you can see, it is very runny. (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Thank you Scott for sharing this recipe with me. I’ll treasure it while I watch you excel at your promising career as a darn good chef.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg white bread flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 15 ml dried yeast
  • 15 ml salt
  • 1 liter lukewarm water

Method:

  1. Place the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (K-beater, not dough hook). Mix on low-speed.
  2. With the mixer running, add the water all at once. Mix for a couple of seconds on low-speed, then turn up the speed to maximum and mix for 8 minutes continuously.
  3. Scrape down the runny dough from the beater using a spatula, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to proof in a warm place until doubled in size (it reaches the top of the my KitchenAid’s bowl) – about 45 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, pre-heat your oven to 230 C. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper (or use a sieve and dust with flour). Also, dust a large clean working surface with flour.
  5. Remove the plastic wrap and use a spatula to turn out the bubbly dough onto the floured surface – do not punch down the dough. Sieve more flour over the top of the dough, then use a dough scraper to cut squares or rectangles out of the dough. Transfer each one as soon as it is cut, using the dough scraper, to the baking tray. The dough will feel light as air at this point, almost like marshmallows, but is very runny and should be handled with lots of dusted flour and a light touch. Leave a little space between the dough portions, as it will rise more in the oven.
  6. Bake at 230 C for 10-15 minutes until golden brown, depending on the size of your paninis. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.
  7. Serve as sandwiches filled with your choice of filling, or slice up and use as a dipping bread for antipasti platters.

Tip: Keep left-over bread wrapped in plastic bags, and give it a quick refresh in the oven before serving to return it to its full glory.

Credits:

Recipe adaptation, food preparation, food styling & text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography, food styling & prop styling: Tasha Seccombe

This post has also been featured on The Pretty Blog.

Milk tart

25 Aug

Traditional baked milk tart (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Traditional baked milk tart (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

If there was ever a prize for the most popular sweet treat in South African heritage recipes, it must surely go to the milk tart. You’ll find more recipes for milk tart in local cook books, websites and blogs than probably any other local dish. Why? Because it’s so flipping delicious, of course! Even superstar Jamie Oliver included a recipe for SA milk tart in his recent book, Jamie’s Comfort Food, causing a stir on Instagram with the pictures.

Traditional milk tart is usually flavoured with lemon or naartjie rind, cinnamon and a drop of almond essence – no vanilla. This sets it apart from many other custard tarts across the world, many of which come quite close to what we know and love as milk tart in South Africa.

I’ve only published one recipe for milk tart on my blog before, so it was time for a revisit of this stunning South African classic. The previously published recipe is for a crustless version with a fantastic texture – light and almost foamy because of the added whisked egg whites.

The recipe that I am writing about today is more traditional, made with good quality store-bought puff pastry (takes quite a lot of work out of the equation) and with a filling that is silky smooth and not too sweet. It makes 2 standard 20-23 cm round shallow milk tarts or one large deeper tart if you have a very big tin and want to feed a crowd. Tasha had this magnificent vintage fluted deep pie dish, so I made it in her tin and the result was quite spectacular.

Don’t be alarmed if your tart cracks on the surface – mine did because of it’s size. Doesn’t change the taste at all, of course, and just adds to the home-baked authenticity.

Tip: Use loose-bottomed tins if you want to turn out your tart. Otherwise, use authentic enamel tins or other oven-proof dishes and slice the tart straight from the tin/dish.

Ingredients: (makes 2 medium tarts or 1 large)

  • 400 g puff pastry, thawed
  • 1,25 liters (5 cups) milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 large piece of naartjie peel
  • 125 ml sugar
  • 125 ml cake flour
  • 60 ml butter, cubed
  • 6 egg yolks
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond essence
  • ground cinnamon for topping, finely sieved

Method:

  1. Grease your baking tin/s with non-stick spray and pre-heat oven to 200 C.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry to fit your baking tin/s. Line the tin/s carefully with the pastry, trimming the edges and gently pressing the pastry into the fluted edges. Line with non-stick baking paper and fill the surface with uncooked rice or beans (for blind baking). Bake blind for 15 minutes, then remove the rice/beans and paper and return to the oven for 5 more minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool while making the filling.
  3. Turn down the oven to 180 C.
  4. In a medium pot, heat the milk, cinnamon stick and naartjie peel over medium high heat.
  5. While the milk is heating, mix the sugar and flour together in a large bowl. When the milk is reaching a temperature where you can just stick your finger in it, pour it over the sugar and flour. Stir well with a whisk, then return it to the warm pot.
  6. Turn down the heat to low and continue to stir until the mixture thickens (do not boil) – it will take 5-10 minutes. When it is thick, remove from the heat and quickly stir in the cubed butter and egg yolks. Add the salt and almond essence and stir until smooth and glossy.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared pastry tin/s, sift over a thin layer of ground cinnamon, then carefully place in the oven (the mixture will be quite runny, so work carefully). Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down further to 160 C and bake for another 15 minutes (smaller tarts) – 30 minutes (large tarts), or until the centre of the tart is just tenderly cooked and still slightly wobbly. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely (the tart needs time to stabilize, so don’t slice while it is still hot).
  8. Slice and serve warm (reheated) or cold.

Credits:

This post was written by Ilse van der Merwe for The Pretty Blog.

Text and food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from thefoodfox.com & The Demo Kitchen

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

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