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Nutty seed brittle

8 Oct

Chards of beautiful nutty seed brittle (photography & styling by Tasha Seccombe)

Chards of beautiful nutty seed brittle (photography & styling by Tasha Seccombe)

After Nicola and Tasha suggested that we shoot a type of brittle, I did some research and put a recipe together from my previous experience with sugar caramel. Nut brittle makes such a beautiful gift, and everyone loves the seductive crack of nuts and hard caramel. When it was time to test it, I learned  the hard way that a brittle is not always as simple as it seems.

Tasha also tested it at home, and after batch number three she got some beautiful results. With her husband John’s help, they used a sugar thermometer to determine the exact stage of when to take the sugar from the heat and added a few handy tips which will make your first try a big success.

In the process, we both realized that non-stick cookware is not the best thing for making sugar caramel. Rather use a stainless steel or cast iron pot/pan. Also, it is best to warm the nuts in the microwave or oven before adding them to the caramel – this ensures that the caramel doesn’t cool down too quickly after adding the nuts and will be easier to transfer from the pan to an oiled or lined tray.

Although this recipe takes a little patience, the results are well worth it!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups mixed nuts and seeds (Tasha used a mixture of almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and linseeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt flakes

Method:

  1. Line a regular baking tray with baking paper. Keep an oiled silicone spatula handy for later.
  2. In a medium size heavy-based pot or pan (not non-stick), carefully heat the sugar over medium heat until it starts to melt – don’t stir, just tilt the pan to swirl slowly. Bring to a simmer when all has melted, then cook for about 1015 minutes until it starts to turn lightly golden in colour. Use a sugar thermometer to monitor the temperature: we’re aiming for 150-155 C.
  3. In the meantime, sprinkle the nut mixture with salt, then heat them in the oven for a few minutes on 180 C. When the caramel has reached hard crack stage (150 C), add the nuts and swirl to coat them evenly. Transfer the mixture to the lined tray, then use the oiled spatula to quickly flatten the surface. Leave to cool, then cut/break into blocks/chards.

Note: Sugar caramel is very hot and must be handled with caution.

Credits:

Recipe & text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography, recipe adaptation, styling &  food preparation: Tasha Seccombe & John Seccombe

As seen on The Pretty Blog.

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Preserved quinces in vanilla syrup

5 Oct

Preserved quinces in syrup (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

While many South African cooks and food writers often reminisce about their childhoods filled with quince memories, I only discovered these strange fruit in my adult years. At a friend’s mom’s house, she treated us to her very own preserved quinces with a swirl of canned evaporated milk. It was simply delicious.

Eighteen months ago, I read up on membrillo – a preserved fruit “cheese” made from cooked quince paste. I stored the paste in wax paper and have been maturing it since in a cool dark place in my garage, sampling the batch as it got older. Membrillo is a unique product – a thick, almost spreadable paste that can be cut with a sharp knife and enjoyed as a preserve with cheeses.

A few weeks ago, I found another tray of perfectly yellow and unblemished seasonal quinces at my local farm stall. Although quinces are a prize ingredient, they are very tough to work with. After skinning and coring them, my hands were ruined by their harsh, dry flesh (I would recommend wearing kitchen gloves if you have sensitive hands). Still, it’s such a satisfying process to see how these hard, almost inedible raw fruit can be transformed into something so delicate in flavour, colour and texture.

They are fantastic enjoyed as a dessert straight from the jar with a scoop of ice cream or cream, but they are also great to cook with (especially in venison roasts).

Ingredients:

  •  about 16 large quinces (not too ripe)
  • water for soaking
  • a squirt of lemon juice
  • 6 cups water
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods, sliced open lengthways, seeds removed and set aside
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Method:

  1. Peel and core the quinces, then place them immediately as you go into a large mixing bowl filled with water and a squirt of lemon juice. This will prevent them for discolouring while you work.
  2. In a large stock pot, place the water, sugar, vanilla pods, vanilla seeds and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Drain the water off the quinces, then add the fruit pieces to the hot syrup (do this in batched in order to prevent crowding). Poach each batch for 15 minutes or until tender (depending on the size of your fruit pieces), then remove with a slotted spoon.
  4. Pack the warm cooked fruit tightly into sterilized glass jars, then fill up with hot syrup to cover the fruit. Cover with sterilized heat proof lids.
  5. Rinse the stock pot used for the syrup, then fill it half-way with warm water and bring to the boil (we are creating a water bath). Using tongs, place a cotton dish cloth at the bottom of the pot, then place the filled closed fruit jars on top of the cloth (to prevent the glass from touching the bottom of the pot). The water should just cover the glass jars. Bring to a slow simmer, then cook for 25 minutes.
  6. Carefully remove the jars from the boiling water, then set them aside to cool to room temperature. If sealed correctly, the jars will last in a cool dark place for up to 1 year.
Quinces change colour from white to a delicate pastel coral after being cooked. (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Quinces change colour from white to a delicate pastel coral after being cooked. (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Credits:

Recipe, text & food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

As seen on The Pretty Blog.

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Two of the best malva pudding recipes

22 Jul

Marvellously moist malva pudding (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Marvellously moist malva pudding (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

This is my third post about malva pudding in the past 3 years – just shows how much I love this classic South African dessert! I first posted about it in  August 2011, then again in March 2012 – the second one a malva pudding with a twist.

The recipe that I’ve followed since 2011 is originally by Helmine Myburgh from her book “So eet ons aan die Kaap” (1990) – an old-school illustrated Afrikaans cookbook. Helmine’s recipe was then included in  Huisgenoot’s Top 500 Wenresepte (2006), and I was completely hooked. Her pudding was the most velvety version that I had come across, and I loved the smooth fine texture.

Then I discovered Michael Olivier’s post about Maggie Pepler’s malva pudding recipe from the late 1970’s. Michael worked with Maggie at Boschendal’s restaurant, and asked her to teach them how to make this pudding from her original recipe. I’ve made Maggie’s recipes also a few times, and I have to say that it just remains a show stopping dessert every time.

A few weeks ago, I served Maggie’s malva pudding to my #Stellenblog colleagues and guests as part of a local food demonstration, and everyone raved about the lightness of the texture. It’s like a sea sponge, so delightful, with creamy caramel flavours.

I’ve decided to post both recipes – both are classic, and quite similar in ingredients. Just a note on the batter: it’s quite thick and sticky, and spreads out thinly in your baking dish. Don’t worry, it rises quite a bit, and with the added soaked-up sauce it becomes even higher. The biggest difference? Helmine’s malva pudding has a slightly finer, smooth cake texture, while Maggie’s pudding has a unique spongy texture. Both taste absolutely heavenly – check the quantities of cream, eggs and sugar in both, and see which one tickles your fancy!

Helmine Myburgh’s malva pudding: (see photograph)

For the batter:

  • 20 ml butter
  • 250 ml caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 12,5 ml fine apricot jam
  • 5 ml baking soda
  • 125 ml milk
  • 5 ml brown vinegar
  • 250 ml cake flour, sifted
  • a pinch of salt

For the sauce:

  • 250 ml cream
  • 180 ml sugar
  • 125 g butter
  • 125 ml boiling water
  • 5 ml vanilla essence

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a deep medium-sized ovenproof dish.
  2. With electric beaters, cream butter with caster sugar. Add eggs one by one, and mix well after after each addition.
  3. Add apricot jam and mix well.
  4. Stir baking soda into the milk, then add the vinegar to the milk. Now add the milk/baking soda/vinegar mixture alternately with the sifted flour and salt to the butter/sugar mixture, mixing well between each addition.
  5. Pour batter into greased baking dish, and bake for 45 minutes in the pre-heated oven or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. The pudding becomes dark on top very easily, so keep an eye on it while baking, and cover it with foil for the last 15 minutes, if necessary.
  6. While the pudding is baking, mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a small saucepan on the stovetop. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Cover with a lid to keep warm.
  7. When pudding is done, remove from oven, then pour over all of the sauce. Leave to stand for at least 15-30 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream, custard, whipped cream, or all of the above.

Maggie Pepler’s malva pudding: (as published by Michael Olivier)

For the batter:

  • 250 ml flour
  • 15 ml bicarbonate of soda
  • 250 ml sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 15 ml apricot jam
  • 15 ml vinegar
  • 15 ml melted butter
  • 250 ml milk

For the sauce:

  • 125 ml cream
  • 125 ml milk
  • 50 ml sugar
  • 125 ml hot water
  • 125 g butter

Method:

  1. Set oven at 180°C. Grease, with butter, an ovenproof glass or porcelain container approximately 23cm x 23cm x 5cm.  Do not use an aluminum, enamel or any metal container.
  2. Cut a piece of aluminum foil to cover it while the pudding is in the oven and grease it well with butter on one side.
  3. Sift the flour and the bicarb into a bowl and stir in the sugar.
  4. In another bowl beat the egg very well and add the remaining ingredients (excluding those for the sauce) one by one, beating well .  Using a wooden spoon beat the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, cover with the foil, greased side down and bake for 45 minutes in the present oven until well risen and brown If not sufficiently baked the dessert will not take up all the sauce making it stodgy inside.
  6. When the pudding is almost done, heat the ingredients for the sauce, ensuring that you melt all the sugar and butter.  When the pudding is done, remove from the oven, take off the foil and pour over the sauce.  The pudding will take up all the sauce.  Serve hot, warm or at room temperature, though warm is best, with a little thin cream or a vanilla custard.

Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe sourcing, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

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Donna Hay’s baked lemon pudding

26 Apr

Donna Hay's baked lemon pudding (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Donna Hay’s baked lemon pudding (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Donna Hay‘s recipes and photographs. She is such an inspiration to me, with her iconic light blue styling, simple cooking methods and modern approach to food in general.

Donna uses whole lemons (yes, skins, pith and all) to create this simple pudding that almost resembles a baked lemon curd. It reminds me very much of the middle layer of a South African lemon meringue pie – tart and tangy, yet thick and indulgent. She suggests that you serve it hot or cold with vanilla ice cream – I agree, the ice cream is a must.

I found that this pudding works best when baked in smaller ramekins, preferably not too deep (I’ve tried baking it as one big pudding and I don’t recommend it). Adjust the baking times according to what you have in your kitchen: deeper and larger ramekins will bake a bit longer.

Ingredients: (recipe from Fast, Fresh, Simple by Donna Hay)

  • 1 medium/large thin skinned lemon
  • 330 g (1 1/3 cup) caster sugar
  • 30 g butter, melted
  • 3 egg yolks (I used XL)
  • 180 ml (3.4 cup) single pouring cream
  • 30 ml cornstarch / corn flour (Maizena)
  • vanilla ice cream, to serve

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 169 C (325 F).
  2. Cut the lemon into 8 pieces and remove any seeds. Place in a food processor with the sugar and process until very smooth.
  3. Add the butter, egg yolks, cream and cornstarch and process until smooth.
  4. Pour into 4 greased 1-cup capacity (250 ml) ovenproof ramekins/pie dishes. Bake for 22-24 minutes or until just set.
  5. Serve warm or cold with vanilla ice cream.

Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

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Hot cross bun pudding

16 Apr

A moist and decadent hot cross bun pudding, perfect for Easter! (photograhy by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

A moist and decadent hot cross bun pudding, perfect for Easter! (photograhy by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

I love the idea and smell of a tray of fragrant hot cross buns – not only for Easter, but anytime of the year. The thing is, they need to be really fresh in order to be enjoyed as they are, maybe with a few lashings of farm butter. Otherwise they can be quite disappointing.

Well, here’s a way of turning your store-bought hot cross buns “the day after” into something a bit more crave-worthy: a bread and butter pudding. In this case, no butter is added, so we’ll just call it a hot cross bun pudding.

I’ve used a combination of cream, milk and eggs to make the custard base, then added some finely grated orange rind, mixed spice and some chopped dark chocolate to the party. The trick is to let the buns soak for 30 minutes to an hour to get really soft, that way you won’t be stuck with dry pieces here and there.

This pudding is fabulous for your Easter celebrations this long weekend, and I promise your family will go back for seconds. No extra custard is needed, but a scoop of vanilla ice cream won’t hurt.

Ingredients:

  • 500ml (2 cups) cream
  • 250ml (1 cup) milk
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) caster sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • about 15ml finely grated orange rind
  • 5ml ground mixed spice  (a mixture of ground cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves)
  • 6-8 hot cross buns (I chose ones with added pecans & cranberries)
  • 80-100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. In a mixing bowl, add cream, milk, sugar, eggs, orange rind and mixed spice. Whisk to combine thoroughly, and to make sure the sugar has melted.
  2. Cut each hot cross bun in half horizontally, then arrange the bottom halves inside a medium size deep baking dish. They should fit snugly, so cut them to size if needed.
  3. Pour the custard mixture over the bun bottoms, so that they are just covered with the mixture, then sprinkle with half of the chopped chocolate. Now arrange the top halves of the buns on top of the bottom layer, pressing down gently, and pour the rest of the custard mixture over the buns until you almost reach the rim of the baking dish (you might still have some custard mixture left, wait for the buns to soak up some of it, then pour over some more). Sprinkle with the rest of the chocolate.
  4. Let the pudding soak for 30-60 minutes, then bake in a pre-heated oven at 160 C for 55-60 minutes. The top should be golden brown, and the middle should still have a slight wobble to it. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for about 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

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Chocolate peanut butter sundae with cheat’s roasted banana ice cream

15 Apr

Chocolate peanut butter sundae with extra hazelnuts and a quick roasted banana ice cream (photography  by Daniela Zondagh)

Chocolate peanut butter sundae with extra hazelnuts and a quick roasted banana ice cream (photography by Daniela Zondagh)

Woolworths recently approached me to become involved with their very exciting Flavour Society campaign (#wwflavoursociety), where the flavour of the month is chocolate. Check out their amazing pin board this month on Pinterest.

As a part of this campaign, they asked me to develop a special recipe of my choice using chocolate. Seeing that I’m already a sucker for all things cocoa, there was no problem in finding inspiration. I thought about doing a chocolate cake, or maybe a chocolate terrine. Or what about some chocolate truffles? It had to be something that really tickled my emotional connection with chocolate, and maybe something that brought back some sweet childhood memories – an easy recipe with maximum results and instant drool-worthy craving satisfaction. So I decided to make a chocolate sundae. When last did you have one?

As an adult, I don’t order a chocolate sundae very often these days. But if someone would offer it to me, there’s just no way of saying no. In fact, now that I think of it, it’s probably the best way of ending any dinner – offering your guests something that would make them feel like kids again.

So here’s a recipe for some of the best chocolate peanut butter sundae sauce you’ll ever taste, plus a recipe for making your own cheat’s versions of roasted banana ice cream using real bananas, brown sugar, and a tub of store-bought vanilla ice cream. Add as many extra chopped nuts, fresh banana, pieces of fudge or whipped cream as you want. It’s going to be a messy, happy, affair – I can promise you that. I’ll be the one drinking the sauce from the jug.

Warm chocolate peanut butter sundae sauce - good enought to eat from the pot! (photography by Daniela Zondagh)

Warm chocolate peanut butter sundae sauce – good enought to eat from the pot! (photography by Daniela Zondagh)

Chocolate peanut butter sundae sauce:

Serves 6

  • 200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) smooth peanut butter
  • 250ml (1 cup) cream
  • 45ml (3 Tbsp) golden syrup
  • 15ml (1 Tbsp) butter
  • a pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat on the stove top, then stir regularly until the chocolate has melted and the sauce is smooth and glossy. Use a wire whisk right at the end to whisk the mixture vigorously if it still looks grainy – it should be totally smooth.

Cheat’s roasted banana ice-cream:

Serves 6

  • 3 large ripe bananas
  • 15ml (1 Tbsp) demerara sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 2 litres store-bought vanilla ice cream

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 220C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
  2. Peel the bananas and half them lengthways. Place the bananas on the lined baking tray and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake for 10 minutes at 220C, then remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. In the meantime, take the ice-cream out of the fridge to become soft – about 30 minutes.
  3. When the bananas are cool, transfer the bananas to a blending cup and use a stick blender (or food processor) to blend to a smooth pulp.
  4. Transfer the ice cream to a large mixing bowl and add the banana pulp. Mix thoroughly, then return to the ice-cream container and refreeze for a few hours until it is hard enough to serve with an ice-cream scoop.

For assembling the sundae:

Makes 6 large sundaes

  • 1 batch chocolate peanut butter sundae sauce, warmed
  • 1 batch cheat’s roasted banana ice cream (or your favourite flavour store-bought ice cream)
  • about 250g roasted nuts (I used hazelnuts, but peanuts also work very well)

Method:

In a tall glass or dessert bowl, place some nuts at the bottom, then follow with a scoop of ice-cream, more nuts, and more ice cream. Top with hot chocolate sundae sauce and more chopped nuts. Serve immediately. The sauce will get thick and fudgy when left to cool on top of the ice-cream.

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Peach galette

28 Feb

Seasonal peach galette with vanilla ice cream (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Today is the last official day of summer in SA, so I’m going to sneak in one last sunny recipe. When summer fruit is abundant, there’s just no better way to use them than in a rustic French fruit galette (or crostata, like the Italians call it). The pastry is buttery and flaky, the fruit is tender and intense, and the result is just so much more than the sum of its original parts.

To make this galette even tastier, I make a batch of almond paste (marzipan) and coarsely grate this over the prepared pastry base before arranging the fruit. This adds a delicious soft and gooey aspect to the tart, as well as that almond flavour that I love so much. If you don’t like almonds, you can leave this out completely.

The recipe for the pastry comes from one of my food icons, Ina Garten. She had a specialty food store called The Barefoot Contessa for many years (now also the name of her famous American TV show), and baked hundreds of crostatas in her years. I love the texture of this pastry and didn’t want to change a thing about it. Ina’s recipe makes enough for two delicious galettes, so you can freeze the second half for another time if you like.

Pastry: (makes 2 standard sized galettes)

(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 water

Almond paste: (enough for 2 galettes)

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

Filling: (enough for 2 galettes)

  • 1 egg, lightly whisked (for brushing)
  • 6 large cling peaches, peeled and sliced (pits removed) – or use any other seasonal fruit except strawberries and bananas
  • 15-30 ml cinnamon sugar

Method:

For the pastry: Place the flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor. Pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add the iced 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 floured surface. Press into a disk shape, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

For the almond paste: Place all the ingredients together in a food processor. Process until it comes together into a ball (add more icing sugar if your mixture is too sticky). Remove and refrigerate (for at least an hour) in an airtight plastic bowl.

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 almond paste all over the brushed egg pastry surface, then cover with peach slices. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, then bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack before serving with vanilla ice cream (serve hot or at room temperature).

 Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Prop Styling: Nicola Pretorius

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Brown sugar & espresso pavlova with figs and nuts

6 Jan

Brown sugar and espresso pavlova with seasonal fruit, nuts & honey (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

It’s no secret that I love to serve pavlova as a festive dessert. I just love the look of the large lavish meringue, crisp on the outside and puffy like a cloud on the inside. It never seems to shake he wow factor either – people are just amazed by it.

The other up-side is that it doesn’t feel like a heavy ending to an extended festive meal. It just melts in your mouth, and along with some tart fresh seasonal fruit (which sometimes steal the show on their own) it’s the perfect dessert.

For an extra special end to a summery dinner, I love to make this brown sugar & espresso pavlova topped with Greek yoghurt & cream and then some figs, berries, toasted nuts and a good drizzle of dark honey. The brown sugar and espresso turns the white meringue into a pale brown pearly beauty, a nice twist on a classic favourite. I use a mixture of Greek yoghurt and cream to top the meringue, and the best seasonal fruit and berries that I can find. Although berries and figs can be quite expensive these days, keep in mind that the rest of this dessert is fairly cheap, so don’t be afraid to spend a little more on the fruit.

Ingredients for meringue:

  • 6 XL egg whites
  • 500 g light brown sugar
  • 5 ml caramel essence (optional)
  • 15 ml instant espresso powder (not ground beans!)
  • 15 ml sherry vinegar
  • 15 ml corn flour (Maizena)

Method:

  1. Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl, then whisk with an electrical whisk until it starts to form soft white peaks. Start adding the sugar  gradually, just a bit at a time, and keep whisking until all of the sugar is incorporated, whisking for another few minutes until you have a thick glossy mixture.
  2. Add the caramel essence, espresso powder, vinegar and corn flour, then whisk for another minute to mix well.
  3. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking tray, then gently spread it into a circular shape of about 23 cm diametre. Smooth the top slightly – it really doesn’t have to be perfect!
  4. Bake for 15 minutes at 150 C, then turn down the oven to 120 C and bake for a further 1h15min. Turn off the oven and leave to cool completely, preferable overnight (without opening the door).
  5. To assemble, remove the baking paper and place the meringue on a serving platter.
  6. Whisk the cream until it holds shape, then fold in the Greek yoghurt. Spread this mixture gently over the top of the meringue.
  7. Arrange fruit on top, add chopped nuts and drizzle with honey. Slice and serve immediately.

Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

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A New Year’s eve cocktail party with Poetry Stores: Part 3

19 Dec

A New Year’s eve cocktail spread from “The French Affair” by Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

For my last collaboration project with Poetry Stores this festive season, I’ve chosen some fabulous snacks for a glitzy New Year’s eve cocktail party. The recipes all come from The French Affair by Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen (available from Poetry Stores for R375) – a beautiful hard cover book with amazing photographs and mouth-watering recipes. Jan Hendrik played the part of both recipe writer and photographer, and I have tremendous respect for the amount of work that went into this book! He did an amazing job.

I have chosen a selection of cold cocktail snacks, including vichyssoise (a traditional French cold potato & leek soup), old-fashioned prawn cocktail with Marie Rose sauce, roasted pepper and tomato tart with anchovies, and dark chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing. All of these go well with a glass of bubbly, so don’t be shy to drink while you snack!

Thank you so much to Rilee Palmer from Poetry Stores for this amazing opportunity to work with your in-store books, homeware and kitchenware. It was an absolute feast of a project, and I look forward to many more of these in 2014.

We have used some of Poetry‘s beautiful pewter (silver metal) homeware: trays, flower shaped bowls and Moroccan inspired candle holders. They are available in different sizes and are the perfect way to create a festive atmosphere! They also make great gifts.

(Please note: Linen, cutlery and vintage copperware are the photographer’s own.)

Vichyssoise (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Vichyssoise:

  • 3 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups chopped leeks (white part only)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup double cream
  • chopped chives for garnishing

Method:

  1. Simmer the vegetables in the stock for 40-50 minutes, partially covered. Season with salt.
  2. Blend in batches using a blender or food processor until you get a very smooth consistency. Strain through cheesecloth to remove any lumps or pieces (optional).
  3. Add the cream, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or cold, garnished with chives.

Red pepper, anchovy and tomato tart (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Sweet red pepper, anchovy and tomato tart: (serves 6-8)

For the filling:

  • 350 g ripe red tomatoes
  • 4 medium red peppers
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 ml smoked paprika (or paprika)
  • 50 g anchovy fillets in oil

For the pastry:

  • 110 g cake flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 50 g butter, softened
  • 15 ml finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 5 ml chopped thyme

Method:

  1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Butter a 23 cm loose bottomed tart tin.
  2. Skin the tomatoes by placing them in a large bowl of simmering water for 2 minutes. Remove from the hot water and cover with cold water. Slip off the skins and cut in halves (or in thick slices if the tomatoes are very big).
  3. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Slice each pepper into 3 strips and mix with the tomatoes, oil, garlic and some seasoning. Spread out on a baking tray and roast for about 50 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Start cutting in the butter with a palate knife, then start rubbing it in lightly with your fingers until they mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the parmesan and thyme and 1 teaspoon of cold water. Bring the dough together and shape into a ball. Add more water if necessary. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  5. Roll out the pastry on a flat work surface lightly sprinkled with flour. Line the tart pan with the pastry, and prick with a fork to prevent it from rising. Bake at 180 C for 20 minutes or until a light golden colour. Cool slightly.
  6. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and yolks and paprika along with the oil from the anchovy fillets. Arrange the peppers, tomatoes and anchovy fillets in the tart shell. Increase the oven temperature to 190 C, then pour the egg mixture into the tart shell and bake for 35 minutes, or until firm in the centre. Serve at room temperature.

Chocolate and apple sauce cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and fresh cherries (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Chocolate and apple sauce cupcakes: (serves 12)

For the cupcake mixture:

  • 3/4 cup (185 ml) cocoa powder
  • 1250 ml cake flour
  • 5 ml baking powder
  • 5 ml salt
  • 250 ml butter
  • 250 ml sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 250 ml dark chocolate chips

For the frosting:

  • 250 ml cream cheese
  • 60 ml créme fraiche or sour cream
  • 60 ml butter at room temperature
  • 2.5 ml vanilla extract
  • 500 ml icing sugar, sifted

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. Combine the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar with electric beaters. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add the vanilla, then stir in the  flour mixture and apple sauce alternating between them. Fold in the chocolate chips and mix well. Bake for 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out relatively clean (the chocolate chips will be melted, so it cannot come out 100% clean). Let it cool completely.
  5. To make the frosting, combine the softened cream cheese, creme fraiche, butter and vanilla and beat until creamy. Slowly add the icing sugar and beat on a medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl until smooth and fluffy. Spread or pipe the frosting evenly over the cooled cupcakes and top with berries or chopped nuts.
  6. Credits:All recipes by Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, from his book The French Affair (available from Poetry Stores at R375).
    Food preparation & text: Ilse van der Merwe of The Food Fox

    Photography: Tasha Seccombe

    Styling: Ilse van der Merwe & Tasha Seccombe

    Homeware: Poetry Stores

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A Christmas picnic table with Poetry Stores: Part 2

17 Dec

My Christmas picnic spread (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

With only one week to go until Christmas, everyone’s planning their spreads and feasts. A lot of us will not only have a Christmas eve dinner, but also a Christmas day lunch. I love to go traditional for a Christmas dinner with a hot roast and lots of sides, but when it is daytime I really prefer a cold Christmas spread, casual yet indulgent – something that you can even take on the road and have as a picnic in a beautiful location.

My choices for the perfect Christmas picnic table comes from The Picnic Cookbook by Annie Bell (R285 from Poetry Stores). Annie’s recipes are simple but scrumptious, and her book is a great choice for any al fresco feast. The maple roast ham is glazed with a beautifully dark mixture of black treacle, maple syrup and English mustard – easy to make ahead and simply delicious served cold or at room temperature. I’ve also chosen Annie’s recipe for gravadlax, a wonderful alternative to cold smoked fish. I used locally farmed trout instead of salmon for the gravadlax – use what you prefer and what you can afford. For a salad I chose Annie’s couscous salad with pistachios and pomegranate – one of the most beautiful salads to look at with bright green and red specs! I also made her aubergine veggie roast with goat’s cheese and tomatoes.

For dessert I tried Annie’s recipe for salted caramel millionaire’s shortbread – my favourite recipe of the day. These indulgent treats are totally amazing, a little over the top but perfect for a Christmas feast.

Me and Tasha used a selection of Poetry‘s beautiful wooden boards (oval wooden board = R399) to put this spread together, as well as some of their pretty colourful little bowls and placemats (pom-pom placemat = R99). For the shortbread we used a dainty white cake stand (R250) which also comes with a glass dome lid. All of these make beautiful Christmas gifts, so get to Poetry Stores this week and browse their full collection.

Maple roast ham with Dijon mustard, and aubergines with goat’s cheese and tomatoes (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Maple roast ham: (serves 6-8)

  • 1 x 2kg unsmoked gammon, boned and rolled
  • 3 outer stalks of celery, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 carrots, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 leek, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 30 ml maple syrup
  • 5 ml black treacle
  • 10 ml English mustard
  1. Place the gammon in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Discard the water and start again with fresh water to cover, this time adding the chopped vegetables and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then maintain at a gently simmer over a low heat for  50 minutes. If necessay, top up with boiling water halfway through.
  2. Heat the oven to 180C. Tranfer the gammon from the saucepan onto a board using two forks. Remove any string around the ham and pull off the rind. Slice the fat at 2cm intervals with a criss-cross pattern, without cutting down as far as the flesh.
  3. Blend the maple syrup, treacle and mustard in a bowl and use this to coat the ham evenly oall over. Place the ham in a roasting tin and pour some stock to cover the base and prevent the drippings burning. Roast for 35-45 minutes until the glaze is mahogany coloured and dry. Leave to cool, then carve at home before your picnic.

Gravadlax with mustard sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Gravadlax: (serves 6-8)

  • 100 g rock salt
  • 100 caster sugar
  • 20 g yellow mustard seeds
  • a small bunch of dill, finely chopped, plus some to serve
  • 900 g salmon/trout fillet, skin-on, pin boned
  • little gem heart leaves or buttered rye bread to serve

Method:

  1. Comine the salt, sugar, mustard seeds and dill in a bowl. Scatter a quarter of the salt mixture over a piece of clingfilm large enough to wrap the two fillets up in when placed on top of each other. Place one fillet skin-down on top, scatter over 2/3 of the reamining mixture, then lay the second fillet on top so the thick part of the fillet is on top of the thin part of the fillet, and they lie flesh to flesh. Scatter over the remaining salt mixture, wrap in the salmon up tightly and then in foil.
  2. Weight the salmon down by placing something heavy on top, then refrigerate for 48 hours, turning the parcel every 12 hours. The sugar and salt will draw the juices out of the salmon and turn into a sticky bring.
  3. Unwrap the salmon and rinse the marinade off the fresh side. ome of the mustard seeds and dill should remain but you will get rid of the excess salt and sugar. Place the fillets skin-side down on the work surface, then pat dry with kitchen paper. Press some chopped dill into the surface.
  4. Trim the edges of the fillets, then slice the gravadlax diagonally off the skin, thicker than you would slice a smoked salmon. Serve with mustard sauce.

Mustard sauce:

  • 150 g soured cream
  • heaped tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • heaped tablespoon wholegrain mustard
  • 15 ml caster sugar

Mix it all together, then leave to stand for 15 minutes for the sugar to melt. Stir again and serve cold.

Couscous salad with pistachios and pomegranates (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Couscous salad with pistachios and pomegranate:

  • 250 ml vegetable stock
  • sea salt
  • a pinch of saffron filaments
  • 200 g couscous
  • seeds of 1 medium pomegranate
  • 75 g shelled pistachios
  • 90 ml chopped coriander
  • 90 ml chopped mint
  • zest of a lemon (finely grated)
  • 15 ml lemon juice
  • 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • pomegranate syrup, to serve (optional)

Method:

  1. Bring the stock to the boil in a small saucepan, season with salt, and add the saffron. Pout this over the couscous in a large bowl, then cover and set aside for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through to break up the lumps. Leave to cool completely.
  2. Mix the pomegranate seeds, pistachios, herbs and lemon zest into the couscous. Whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil and some salt, them pour over the salad and toss to coat well.

Aubergine veggie roast with goat’s cheese and tomatoes: (serves 6)

  •  3 aubergines, sliced into 3cm thick rounds
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 300 g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 150 g young firm goat’s cheese, cut into 1cm thick dice
  • coarsely chopped parsley

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Lay the aubergine slices out on a couple of baking trays. Brush with oil on both sides and season with salt & pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, then turn and cook for another 15 minutes until golden brown.
  3. At the same time, scatter a little salt over the tomatoes in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Transfer the aubergines to a large roasting dish that holds them in a single layer. Pour 3 tablespoons of oil over the tomatoes, and gently toss, then mix with the goats cheese. Pile this on top of the aubergines, them return to the oven for 5 minutes to warm through. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Scatter with parsley.

Salt caramel millionaire’s shortbread (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Salted caramel millionaire’s shortbread:

For the shortbread:

  • 225 g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 115 g ground almonds
  • 5 ml vanilla extract

For the caramel:

  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 70 g caster sugar
  • 15 ml golden syrup
  • 275 g Caramel Treat (or dulce de leche)
  • 1/3 teaspoon sea salt

For the top:

  • 200 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 25 g white chocolate chips (optional)

Method:

  • Place all the ingredients for the shortbread in a food processor and whizz to form a dough. Press into a buttered baking tin (27 x 18 cm), then prick with a fork and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Pre-heat oven to 140 C, then bake the shortbread for 45 minutes. Leave to cool.
  • Place all the ingredients for the caramel in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring well. Simmer gently for 8 minutes, stirring often, then pour over the shortbread base and leave to cool completely.
  • Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, then pour over the caramel and smooth the top. If you want to marble the surface, melt the white chocolate in the same way, then drop 1/4 teaspoons on top of the dark, marbling it with a cocktail stick. Work quickly.
  • Set aside in a cool place until set but still soft, then cut into squares and chill. Store in an airtight container.

 

Credits:

All recipes by Annie Bell, from her book The Picnic Cookbook.

Food preparation & text: Ilse van der Merwe of The Food Fox

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Ilse van der Merwe & Tasha Seccombe

Homeware: Poetry Stores

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