Tag Archives: chocolate

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)


  • 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


  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


  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


  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


  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)


  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


  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)


  • 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.



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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Chocolate oil cake

11 Sep

Flourless chocolate oil cake, dark and moist (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

My good friend Inke Gouws Sandri shares my love for baking. We were pregnant at the same time in 2010 (our babies even had the same due date), and during that time we met up regularly for a good slice of cake or a proper French pastry at Nook Eatery in Stellenbosch.

She also sends me great recipes that she comes across, knowing that I would certainly appreciate it as much as she does. This recipe is one of them: a flourless chocolate olive oil cake by Nigella Lawson. Made with ground almonds, this gooey dark cake is perfect as a dinner party dessert, but you can also substitute the almonds for regular flour for a more economical, “lighter” cake. It doesn’t really need any frosting,  but Inke told me that she has iced hers with a chocolate orange ganache and it was heavenly – even her Italian husband raved about it.

I prefer to use canola oil instead of olive oil, as olive oil can sometimes give a bitter aftertaste to the cake. Also, canola oil is much healthier with it’s high Omega 3 & 6 content, and provides a fantastic moist texture to the cake.


  • 150 ml canola oil
  • 50 g good quality cocoa powder, sifted
  • 125 ml boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons best vanilla extract
  • 150 g ground almonds (or 125 g cake flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 170 C. Grease a 23 cm springform cake tin with a little oil and line the base with baking paper.
  2. Place the cocoa, boiling water and vanilla in a small mixing bowl, and whisk until you get a thick paste.
  3. In another mixing bowl, combine the almonds with the bicarb or soda and the salt. Mix well.
  4. Place the sugar, oil and eggs in a bowl of an electric mixer and whisk/beat for about 3 minutes on high speed until you get a thick mixture.
  5. Add the cocoa mixture, mixing well, then scrape down the sides and add the almond mixture. Mix well, then scrape down the sides and mix for one last time.
  6. Pour this dark liquid batter into the lined tin, then bake for 45 minutes or until the sides are set and the centre still looks slightly damp (but not runny). A cake tester should come out with a few sticky crumbs, not clean.
  7. Remove the cake from the oven, then let it cool on a wire rack (in the tin) for 10 minutes before easing the sides with a spatula and then releasing the spring. Remove the tin and bottom, then leave to cool on a wire rack to cool completely, or eat while still warm with some ice cream. Sift lightly with cocoa powder or icing sugar, or drizzle with ganache of your choice.


This post was especially 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 & Tasha Seccombe.

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Tanja Kruger’s dark chocolate fondant

19 Aug

An oozing dark chocolate fondant – the perfect ending to a romantic dinner (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

After his trip to Belgium in January, my brother brought me a huge chunk of fabulous Belgian dark chocolate. Fighting my urge to devour it before I would have to share it with anyone else, I decided to look for a fabulous recipe to make the ultimate chocolate fondant.

After searching for a week or two (and not finding the right recipe), I vented my frustration on Twitter. To my surprise, Chef Tanja Kruger from Macaron Restaurant at Majeka House in Stellenbosch responded with a message that she would send me her chocolate fondant recipe via email. What a treat! Chef Tanja is on the culinary Springbok team, and her modern food creations at Majeka House have gained her tremendous respect not only in South Africa, but all over the world. This recipe contains very little flour, and is almost like a chocolate soufflé – so light in texture, yet perfectly rich and deeply satisfying to eat. You can make the mixture ahead of time and refrigerate it for a few hours, then just pop it in a pre-heated oven when you’re ready for dessert. The exact baking time will vary according to the size of your ramekins, anything from 10-15 minutes. Be sure to test one ahead of time to ensure a perfect result.

On the 14th of February this year, I made Tanja’s classic chocolate fondant as the star dessert for my husband on our 9th wedding aniversary dinner. It was a total hit! Thanks Chef Tanja for sharing this recipe with me – it has already become a firm favourite in our household.

PS: Macaron restaurant just revamped their a la carte menu, and will be launching it this month. Be sure to check their twitter account for more details.

Ingredients: (makes 6 medium size fondants)

  • 250 g dark chocolate (Tanja uses 61% Extra from Valrhona)
  • 250 g salted butter, cut into cubes
  • 120 g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 15 ml cake flour


  1. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heat proof glass bowl over a pot with simmering water. Make sure that the bowl doesn’t touch the water, it should only be the steam that heats the bowl. Stir every now and then. When the mixture is smooth and glossy, remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  2. In the meantime, whisk the caster sugar, eggs and egg yolks together until they are very light and fluffy.
  3. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and fold it in until you get a smooth mixture.
  4. Now add the flour and lightly fold it in until just combined.
  5. Pour into well-buttered ramekins, then refrigerate for 2-3 hours before baking.
  6. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 10-12 minutes (up to 15 minutes for bigger ramekins). The centres should still be runny, but the outside should be firm.
  7. Use a small sharp knife to loosen the edges, then carefully turn the fondants out on dessert plates. Serve immediately, with a dollop of thick cream or a scoop of ice cream.


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

Food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius & Tasha Seccombe.

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My Mother’s saucy chocolate pudding

16 Apr

My Mom’s saucy old-school chocolate pudding (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

For many of the festive lunches and dinners we had when I was still a child, my Mother made a decadent yet simple saucy chocolate pudding. This is the old-school kinda chocolate pudding, made with cocoa powder (no real chocolate). This obviously also made the pudding much cheaper, but it was a sure crowd pleaser every time my Mother served it.  Vanilla ice cream completed the picture of “ebony and ivory” delight.

Apart from festive occasions, we also had it every now and then for dessert after a scrumptious Sunday lunch on colder days. My Mother knew how much we loved it, so she always made a double batch of pudding. After dinner, when the family took their regular Sunday afternoon naps, I would sneak into the kitchen. The house would be quiet except for the soft rumbling of the refrigerator. I knew the leftover pudding would be in the cooled oven, so I would grab a spoon and quickly finish half of whate

ver’s left before anyone else could get to it. No guilt – just pure pleasure.

Ingredients for batter: (serves 6)

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 50 g butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

 Ingredients for sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 50 g butter


  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C. Grease a medium sized oven dish, about 20 x 20 cm big and 5 cm deep.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder together in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add the sugar, milk, melted butter and vanilla, then mix well (use a hand whisk or a wooden spoon). Pour the batter into the greased oven dish.
  4. Add all the ingredients for the sauce into a small saucepan, then bring to the boil over the stove top. Simmer for 5 minutes, then pour over batter – don’t stir. Place the batter and sauce mixture into the oven, then bake for about 25 minutes at 180 C. The batter will cook while the sauce will sink to the bottom to create a thick and saucy base.
  5. Remove from the oven, then let it cool for about 15 minutes before serving warm with vanilla ice cream.


This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog.

Recipe testing, text and food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from thefoodfox.com

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe and Nicola Pretorius

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Angel cake with white chocolate ganache and banana cream

19 Feb

Angel cake with white chocolate ganache and banana cream filling (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

This Valentines Day will mark the 1 year anniversary of working with the fabulous food team from The Pretty Blog, Nicola and Tasha. I wrote my first post for TPB exactly one year ago for a dark chocolate tart with fresh berries, and we felt so exhilarated with the results of our very first picture!

But more importantly, this year on the 14th of February I’ll also be celebrating my 9th wedding anniversary. So many things great things have happened in my life over the past year, and I am so very thankful for the overwhelming support and love from my family! One year ago, I was still struggling to get to grips with my choice to make a complete career change from the music management industry to the food industry as a writer and recipe developer. Things weren’t always easy and I (we) had to make a lot of sacrifices. One year later, I am so excited about where I’m heading, with extremely exciting projects lined up for 2013 and 2014. But the biggest thing that I have learnt over the past year, is how important my husband and my little daughter are to me, and how very lucky I am to have them both in my life.

If there was ever an angel, it is my husband, Schalk. We have been together for 13 years, and he has been my absolute rock. These days it is very rare to find a love that is so complete and so full of joy, friendship and adventure. I love him even more today than the day we got married.

Ingredients for angel cake:

  • 175 g cake flour
  • 15 ml baking powder
  • 5 ml cream of tartar
  • 2 ml salt
  • 45 g cornflour
  • 12 XL egg whites
  • 315 g caster sugar
  • 2 ml almond essence

Ingredients for white chocolate ganache:

  • 160 g white chocolate (I used 2 x 80g slabs of Nestlé Milky Bar)
  • 150 ml fresh cream

Ingredients for banana cream filling:

  •  250 ml cream
  • 15 ml caster sugar
  • 5 ml vanilla essence (or 2 ml vanilla extract)
  • 1 banana, mashed

Method for angel cake:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, salt and cornflour.
  3. In another large mixing bowl, beat/whisk egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the caster sugar while whisking continuously, until you reach medium peak stage (between soft peaks and stiff peaks). Add the almond essence and whisk for a few seconds.
  4. Add dry ingredients to egg whites, then fold in gently with a metal spoon until the mixture is smooth. Pour into an ungreased 24 cm loose bottomed angel cake pan or ring pan (I used a normal loose bottomed cake pan and placed a drinking glass in the middle to create the distinctive angel cake hole).
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes until done, then remove from the oven and leave in the pan to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack. Cool completely.

Method for white chocolate ganache:

  1. Break chocolate into small blocks into a glass mixing bowl.
  2. On the stove top in a small sauce pan, bring the cream to a boil, then quickly remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Leave to melt for 2-3 minutes, then stir gently until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool to the desired consistency while filling the cake with the banana cream (I love a slightly more spreadable ganache, but you can also drizzle it over the cake white it is still a bit warm and slightly runny).

Method for banana cream:

  1. In a mixing bowl, add the cream, sugar and vanilla. Whip the mixture with a whisk or electric beaters, until it is stiff enough to hold shape (don’t over-beat!)
  2. Add the mashed banana, then fold it into the cream. Use a sharp knife to cut the cake horizontally in 2 layers, then fill generously with the banana cream and carefully put the top layer back in place. Then spread/drizzle the top with the white chocolate ganache.

PS: I used Heilie Pienaar’s recipe for angel cake from her new book “The Ultimate Snowflake Collection”. She used a passion fruit glaze icing for her cake, but I prefer to top mine with a decadent white chocolate ganache and fill it with a banana cream filling.

PPS: This cake is best the next day, but the banana cream have a tendency to turn dark after 24 hours. My advice would be to make the cake ahead (the previous day), store it in an airtight container, then fill and ice the cake a few hours before serving.


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

Food & recipe: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius and Tasha Seccombe.

Plate: Poetry

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Classic chocolate brownies

30 Jul

Donna Hay’s classic chocolate brownies (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

I dream about chocolate brownies at night. They are some of my favourite indulgent treats, my go-to decadence, my secret “sinful” food affair.

I would sometimes eat brownies when I’m alone in my car, where I wouldn’t have to share them with anyone else. I like them fudgey, dark and very chocolatey. This is Donna Hay’s recipe for classic chocolate brownies from her Magazine, October/November 2011. She did an 11-page spread on these brown beauties, featuring not only the classic version, but also caramel crunch brownies, cookies and cream blondies, coffee meringue brownies, dark chocolate and raspberries brownie tarts, brownie cookies with peanut butter frosting, choc-peppermint brownies and toffee pecan and caramel brownies. Now if that doesn’t have you drooling, I don’t think you’re human!

Donna’s classic brownie features 400 g dark chocolate, which sounds like a lot, but it makes a fabulous crunchy top and a deliciously chewy centre. Half of the chocolate gets melted in the batter, and the other half gets chopped and mixed with the batter. That means you get fabulous chunks of chocolate inside the brownie, which adds great texture.

I used a slightly cheaper dark chocolate with some almonds in it, as opposed to the more expensive, best quality 70 % dark chocolate. It really still tastes fantastic! If you would like to go the same route, substitute the flour with a mix of flour and cocoa powder to make sure the brownie is really dark.

Serve them at room temperature, or just slightly warmer if you like the chocolate to be gooey. Heavenly squares of dark, dense, fudgey, chewy chocolate.


  • 400 g dark chocolate, chopped (preferable 70 % cocoa solids)
  • 250 g butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar (I use 1 cup light brown sugar and 1 cup treacle sugar)
  • 6 eggs (I use XL)
  • 1 cup flour (or 200 ml flour and 50 ml cocoa powder, if you are using cheaper dark chocolate)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  2. Place half of the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Place the sugar, eggs and flour in a bowl with the chocolate mixture and mix with a hand whisk to combine.
  4. Stir through the remaining chocolate pieces and pour batter into a lined/greased baking tin, about 20 x 30 cm.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked. Cool in the tin, then cut into squares.

These brownies will keep in an air-tight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.


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

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Tasha Seccombe & Ilse van der Merwe.

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Banana and vanilla cream eclairs with nutella

2 Apr

My ultimate banana eclair with vanilla cream and Nutella (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

Sometimes you need to throw caution to the wind. In food terms, that would mean: ignore the kilojoules, and go for pure pleasure. These long eclairs (or choux buns, as they are also referred to) are filled with slices of fresh banana and sweetened vanilla-pod cream, then topped with pure Nutella spread straight from the jar. It is the stuff childhood dreams are made of.

I am a huge fan of Limnos Bakers – a patisserie chain throughout the Cape Town Metropolitan area. They make one of the best (my favourite) banana eclairs ever: a long choux bun filled with banana mousse and fresh cream, topped with banana fondant. It is so delicious my mouth is watering as I’m typing.

Generally speaking, many people struggle to bake eclairs. Somehow, they have gained a reputation as a tricky customer. With a few handy tips, you won’t have to fear these beauties anymore:

  1. Don’t let the water and butter mixture boil before the butter has completely melted (otherwise the liquid will reduce).
  2. Always use large eggs at room temperature – not medium, not extra large, not jumbo.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, taking care to fully incorporate each one before adding the next.
  4. Don’t overbeat the mixture. Beat it until the eggs are fully incorporated and the mixture is just glossy.

I use the recipe for choux paste out of Larousse Gastronomique – my food bible. It is simple and classic.

Ingredients for choux paste: (makes about 40 small buns or 20 large buns)

  • 250 ml (1 cup) water
  • large pinch of salt
  • 2 t (10 ml) sugar
  • 65 g butter, cut into small pieces
  • 250 ml (125 g) flour
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature


  1. Add water, salt, sugar and butter to a small saucepan. Heat gently until the butter melts, then bring to the boil.
  2. As soon as the butter starts to boil, take the pan off the heat, then add the flour all at once and cook the paste until it thickens, stirring with a wooden spoon. It takes about a minute for the mixture to form a ball. Do not overcook the mixture or beat it too vigorously as it will become greasy.
  3. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time (do it by hand with a wooden spoon or with a stand mixer using the  beater attachment), continuing until each one is fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Use a piping bag to pipe long buns on a greased/lined baking sheet, leaving enough space between them for swelling. (or use a spoon to drop balls of paste on the baking sheet)
  5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 180 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes (smaller buns will only take 10-15 minutes). The buns should be golden brown.
  6. Transfer cooked choux pastries to a wire rack to cool and slit them open to allow steam to escape. This will allow the steam to escape, and keep them crisp on the outside while moist on the inside.

Fillings and toppings:

  • 250 ml cream
  • 2 t sugar
  • seeds of one vanilla pod
  • 3-4 fresh bananas, sliced lengthways
  • 1 jar of Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread
  1. Whisk the cream with the vanilla and sugar untill stiff. Fill the pastries with a slice of banana and some vanilla cream.
  2. Heat the Nutella carefully in the microwave for a few seconds, untill slightly more runny and easier to spread. Be careful not to overheat, as it will split! It happened to me for this shoot! Don’t worry too much, you can add a little water at a time and stir the Nutella well to form a slightly more runny chocolate sauce, which also works well as a topping.

Sweet dreams everyone!


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

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Pictures: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius, Tasha Seccombe & Ilse van der Merwe.

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Chocolate tart with fresh berries

13 Feb

Chocolate tart with fresh berries (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

I got married 8 years ago on the 14th of February 2004 – it was the first Saturday in February that suited everyone. Although we’d been dating for 4 years prior, it came as a surprise to most of our Rock ‘n Roll industry friends that we had decided to actually tie the knot. In a church. A real wedding, with a white wedding dress! (OK, ivory white…)

My parents were extremely excited about our decision to get married. Now their daughter wouldn’t “live in sin” with her boyfriend anymore, and my Mom could plan the wedding to her heart’s content. She was an amazing wedding planner, presenting me with options about the flowers, the catering, the décor, and all I had to do was choose the best option. We had a lot of help from friends to make this the most affordable wedding ever: I made my own dress (yes, I can sew), my best friend volunteered to do my make-up (www.marnimakeup.co.za), our sound engineer friend lent us his PA system for the music and speeches, another photographer friend took fantastic pictures for free, my Dad’s friend down the road lent us his beautiful car for the bridal transport – the list goes on. We chose not to have an elaborate wedding cake, but rather had a fantastic dessert buffet which everyone loved.

We danced to ACDC’s Thunderstruck untill after 04h00, my wedding dress black from all the spillage on the floor. We went home, shoeless, abundantly opening all the presents without even making notes of whom to thank for what. We fell asleep just before the break of dawn, with smiles on our faces, thankful for the best day of our lives.

Since then, the 14th of February doesn’t hold a corny air of kitsch Valentines teddies and cheap (yet expensive) red roses. It is our special day. A reminder of the choice that we made to share our lives forever. And we choose to celebrate it each year with great food and lots of great wine – no gifts. I am a lucky woman, being married to an angel of a man. The love of my life.

If you would like to spoil your love this Valentines Day with a decadent treat, be sure to make this immaculate chocolate tart. It is a very simple recipe, but gets raving reviews every time.


  • 200 g packet of Baker’s Nutti Crust cookies (caramel oats biscuits)
  • 60 g butter, melted
  • 225 g dark chocolate (use the best quality you can afford)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) cream
  • zest of half an orange, peeled into strips (not grated)
  • about 250-500 g berries of your choice (eg. raspberries, blackberries)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. In a food processor, process the cookies to fine crumbs. Add the butter and process untill mixed.
  3. Transfer crumbs to a fluted tart tin with removable base. Using a cup with a flat bottom (I use a measuring cup), flatten the crumbs on the bottom and onto the sides. Bake for 10-15 minutes untill just slightly darker in colour. Set aside to cool.
  4. Break the chocolate into blocks in a medium size glass bowl.
  5. In a small saucepan, add the cream and orange rind. Heat untill boiling point, remove from heat at once, quickly remove orange rind with a slotted spoon, then pour immediately over the chocolate. Stir with a spatula untill fully melted, smooth and glossy.
  6. Pour warm chocolate mixture into baked base, then chill in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight.
  7. Remove from fridge, carefully remove the fluted side of the tin, top with berries, and sprinkle with a little sifted icing sugar if necessary. Serve cold.


This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog:

Text, recipe, testing and preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox

Photographed by Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius, Ilse vand der Merwe and Tasha Seccombe

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The flourless chocolate cake that broke my food processor

12 Oct

Sophie Dahl's flourless chocolate cake

While watching “The Delicious Miss Dahl” the other day on BBC Lifestyle, I jotted down Sophie’s recipe for a decadent flourless chocolate cake. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of being introduced to a flourless chocolate cake: it is a thing of beauty. Prepare to indulge in a magnificently rich, dense, moist cake made with lots of dark chocolate, sugar, butter and eggs. It rises high in the oven, almost like a soufflé, then sinks back down in the pan while cooling, creating this chocolatey, moussey, soufflé/cake creation.

So how can this meltingly soft cake break a food processor? (my prized almond-coloured Kitchen Aid food processor, I might add…). Well, let me explain. According to Sophie, she doesn’t melt her chocolate before adding it to the mixture. She just chops her chocolate in her food processor along with the sugar. So that is what I did. But then in my case, one of the blades came off and it kept on processing with the loose blade inside – THE HORROR. It sounded like I was trying to process metal (well, actually I was).  So I continued to finish the batter in my stand mixer.

Did I use chocolate that was made of diamonds? Nope, just regular dark chocolate, not even the great quality 70% stuff. So hopefully the kind people at KitchenAid can repair the damage, and hopefully I didn’t completely savage the rest of the machine’s insides. I suppose it was the universe’s way of trying to tell me to bake less. Or to be more persistent. I choose the believe the latter. I’m sure your chocolate wouldn’t break your food processor too. Just be carefull, I would say!


  • 300 g/10½ oz dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  •  225 g/8 oz caster sugar (superfine sugar)
  • 175 ml/6 fl oz boiling water
  • 225 g/8 oz salted butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
  • 6 free-range eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • whipped cream and fresh berries to serve


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. For the cake, grease and line the base of a 23 cm/9 in springform baking tin with baking parchment.
  3. Blend the chocolate and sugar in a food processor until a fine powder forms (some small chunks can do no harm). Add the boiling water, butter, egg yolks, coffee powder and vanilla extract and blend until well combined.
  4. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then gently fold into the chocolate mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  6. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin, then transfer to the fridge for 2-3 hours.
  7. To serve, carefully remove the cake from the tin, carefully remove the baking parchment, and place on a serving plate or cake stand. Serve with cream or crème fraîche topped with the berries of your choice.
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