Tag Archives: The Pretty Blog

Spinach & ricotta gnudi with chicken and herb broth

29 Jun

Spinach & ricotta dumplings in a light and fragrant broth, topped with parmesan cheese. (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Spinach & ricotta dumplings in a light and fragrant broth, topped with parmesan cheese. (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Although most people associate soups with substance and texture, there is something strangely mesmerizing about an understated, translucent broth. This fragrant liquid can pack surprisingly bold flavours and is a fantastic vessel for carrying beautiful treasures like bright vegetables, botanical herbs, curly noodles or delicate dumplings.

My recipe for spinach & ricotta dumplings in a chicken & herb broth is actually 2 dishes in one. The dumplings are cousins of Italian gnocchi – a comforting dish that I usually serve with a bright red pommodoro sauce and grated parmesan cheese. The broth is a light version of traditional American chicken soup that is often associated with “getting better soon”, but also fabulous as a flavoursome home-made stock for making risotto.

This is one of the most comforting meals that I can possible imagine, especially in the cold weather that we’re experiencing in the Cape Winelands. Serve it as a light lunch/dinner with grated parmesan cheese and some buttered toast to soak up the broth.

TIP: Make the broth first, then keep it warm while you cook the gnudi. The broth also freezes well.

For the chicken broth: (serves 6)

  • 1,5 litres (6 cups) water
  • 400 g frozen chicken necks, thawed
  • 1 large knob of ginger, sliced
  • 2 cups sliced leeks
  • 3 celery sticks, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled & sliced
  • a handful of parsley stalks
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1-2 chicken stock cubes, crumbled
  • salt & pepper

Method:

Place all the ingredients for the broth in a medium stock pot and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and cover with a lid, then simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and leave to infuse for another 30 minutes, uncovered, then strain through a sieve. (Keep the solids for processing with your next soup or use in your next stew.)

For the gnudi/dumplings:

  • 15 ml olive oil
  • 200g baby spinach leaves
  • 450-500g ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) finely grated Parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano Reggiano, or Grana Padano) plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) all-purpose flour plus more
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley (optional)

Method: In a large pan, heat the olive oil and sauteé the spinach over medium heat for about 5 minutes until just wilted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, add the ricotta, egg and yolk, salt, pepper, parmesan and flour. Roughly chop the cooked spinach, then add it with the parsley to the rest of the ingredients. Mix well with a wooden spoon until it starts to form a coarse-looking ball. Lightly dust a rimmed baking tray with flour. Using 2 large dessert spoons, shape heaped tablespoonfuls of dough into football shapes, then place on the floured tray and dust with a little more flour (you should have about 30). Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Carefully add the gnudi, then cook for 4 minutes until cooked through and tender (gnudi will quickly float to the surface; continue cooking or they will be gummy in the center). Using a slotted spoon, remove gnudi from water and divide among bowls.

To assemble:

  • 1 batch chicken broth
  • a cup of finely chopped mixed vegetables (leeks, celery, mushrooms)
  • 1-2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely grated
  • a handful of parsley leaves
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • cooked gnudi (about 4 per person)
  • finely grated parmesan cheese

Method: Bring the broth to a slow simmer. Add the finely chopped vegetables, ginger, garlic, parsley & chickpeas, then remove from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls with the freshly cooked gnudi, then top with grated parmesan. Serve immediately.

Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog.

Text & recipe: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography & styling : Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Lamb & feta burger with mint pesto & yoghurt

25 Mar

Lamb & feta burger with  mint pesto (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Lamb & feta burger with mint pesto (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Being able to make a really good burger at home is one of the most satisfying things any meat-lover can do. Many of us grew up having take-away burgers as a special treat on weekends when we were children. My siblings and I loved almost any take-away burger, because the ones we tried to make at home just never tasted as good.

Well, the tables have turned. I now believe that anyone can make a burger at home that can beat the best gourmet burger in most restaurants. If you use care and source the best ingredients you can find, you can make a pretty amazing burger – so amazing that you might not want to get take-aways ever again.

Although I’m a huge fan of the classic beef burger with cheddar cheese and pickles, this juicy lamb burger is a total knock-out for a special occasion.

Here are my top 3 tips for creating an awesome burger:

  1. Buy fresh, soft burger buns, and always toast the sliced sides with butter before assembling your burger.
  2. Use coarsely ground great quality fresh meat for your pattie. That means 100% leg of lamb or 100% pure beef rump.
  3. Don’t overcook your meat – it should still be juicy in the middle.

Ingredients: (makes 4 large burgers)

  • 600 g boneless leg of lamb, minced (ask your butcher to do that for you)
  • 2 rounds (about 80g) of feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 punnet fresh mint
  • 1 punnet fresh parsley
  • 50 g cashew nuts
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil, plus more for frying
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 round soft hamburger rolls, buttered and toasted in a pan
  • double cream yoghurt (the thickest you can find)
  • a handful of watercress
  • finely sliced cucumber

Method:

  1. Mix the lamb mince, crumbled feta, salt & pepper in a mixing bowl – using clean hands works best. Divide the mixture into 4 balls, then flatten them carefully, shaping the edges to form a round disk. Always make the pattie a bit wider and thinner than the end product that you have in mind, because they shrink back to a thicker, smaller pattie in the pan. Set aside.
  2. For the pesto: in a food processor, add the mint, parsley, cashews and olive oil. Season with salt & pepper, then process to a course paste. Scoop into a smaller serving bowl and set aside.
  3. In a non-stick pan, heat some olive oil over moderately high heat, then fry the patties about 3-4 minutes a side, taking care when you flip them over because the feta tends to stick (use a spatula). You are looking for a crisp outer layer and a juicy center. I prefer my center to still be pink. Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate to rest.
  4. To assemble the burgers: Place the bottom half of a toasted bun on a plate, then add the watercress, burger pattie, some yoghurt, some pesto, some cucumber and then the top half of the bun. Enjoy!

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

Assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Chocolate churros

16 Feb

Mexican-style churros with a spiced chocolate sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Mexican-style churros with a spiced chocolate sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

If you love Spanish or Mexican food, then you probably already know churros. These deep-fried crunchy treats dipped in spiced chocolate sauce are the naughtiest but best way to end a Spanish feast.

I’ve experimented quite a bit with the consistency of the churro dough. With less water, you’ll get a result that holds shape better and can be piped in longer beautiful star-shaped fingers (with a star nozzle). They are crunchy with a small chewy center. With a little more water, the result is less beautiful to look at (slightly shapeless balls), but the texture resembles French canelés – very moist and chewy.

For the photoshoot, we made the churros with a little more water to show you the result. All of us preferred the “ugly” churros to the beautiful ones, but the choice is yours. Same fantastic taste, slightly different texture.

Ingredients for churro dough:

  • 2 cups (250 g) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 200-350 ml boiling water
  • 50 g melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla essence / extract
  • cinnamon sugar for dusting (mix 1/2 cup sugar with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
  • about 750 ml canola oil for frying

For the chocolate sauce:

  • 250 g dark chocolate
  • 250 ml fresh cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Method:

  1. For the sauce: Heat the cream over the stovetop in a small saucepan. Cut the chocolate into smaller chunks, then add it with the spices to the cream as soon as it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat immediately and stir for a while until the chocolate has melted completely and you have a smooth sauce. Set aside.
  2. For the churros: Combine dry ingredients for churro dough in a medium sized bowl. Mix all wet ingredients and add it to the dry, mixing well until all is combined. Add more water if necessary to create the desired consistency – the mixture should be able to just hold shape.
  3. Put the dough in a piping bag fitted with star nozzle, then let it rest for 15 minutes.
  4. Heat the oil in a heavy based pot to about 180 C, then pipe the churro dough into the oil (about 10 cm long). Fry until golden on both sides, turning them with two forks. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, then serve with warm chocolate sauce.

Credits:

Recipe, text & food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe of The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Black buffet casserole: Courtesy of Le Creuset South Africa.

Pan con tomate

6 Jan

Pan con tomate: toasted bread with freshly grated tomato and garlic (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Pan con tomate: toasted bread with freshly grated tomato and garlic (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Here at the demo KITCHEN we’ve done quite a few Spanish-themed dinners over the last few weeks. The three course dinners consisted of some of my favourite traditional Spanish dishes: pan con tomate (toasted bread with fresh garlic & fresh tomato), paella with chicken & black mussels, and spiced chocolate churros.

I want to share two of these recipes with you, starting with pan con tomate (next time we’ll get to the churros). This is one of those dishes that is deeply satisfying because of its simplicity, but only if you choose the ingredients well. Buy great quality bread (or bake your own), choose only the ripest reddest firm tomatoes, use a robust extra virgin olive oil, and eat it as fresh as possible.

Although the original way to eat pan con tomate says that you need to rub a tomato half straight onto the toasted bread, I find that it can be a messy affair and not everybody likes to get their hands dirty. Use a course grater to grate the tomato from the cut side, so that you are left with the skins.

This is a fantastic start to a lazy summer lunch or dinner. Add beautiful shavings of ham, stuffed olives and cheese, and you have a perfect simple tapas spread.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 4 x panini sticks, sliced horizontally in half (small baguettes, or just use normal baguettes)
  • cold pressed extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • 2 garlic cloves, skins removed
  • 1 -2 large ripe tomatoes, halved and coarsely grated from the inside out (discard the skins)
  • salt flakes & cracked black pepper

Method:

  1. Toast the bread cut-side down in a hot griddle pan or over an open fire. Remove from heat and quickly drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Now use a clove of garlic to rub onto the bread, all over the surface.
  3. Top with freshly grated tomato, then season well with salt & pepper. Enjoy 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

Assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Retro trout mousse

5 Jan

Light and creamy trout mousse with cucumber "scales" (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Light and creamy trout mousse with cucumber “scales” (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

A few years ago I came across a Church bazaar in Stellenbosch that specializes in selling used goods, almost like a “white elephant” table or a car boot sale. Many of the vendors had kitchenware at their stalls. I was amazed at this treasure cove filled with stuff that I could use for food styling and photography, but also for cooking.

It was a total blast from the past. I bought many different items, including a 60 year-old meat carving set with wooden handles (from an 82 year-old lady that got it as a wedding present back then), a crate filled with vintage Consol and Ball jars dating from the 1950’s (perfect condition), a 1970’s mandolin cutter (that would later chop off the tip of my finger) and a beautiful copper fish mould that looked like it had never been used.

I’ve used the copper mould a few times and absolutely fell in love with the retro-ness of it. I had a recipe for a salmon mousse that I adapted for using with fresh trout. After turning out the mousse on a plate, Tasha broke the news to me that she thought it was way too ugly and that we needed to make it look prettier (the mousse lost the scale patterns on the surface because I had to dip the mould in warm water from the outside to turn it out successfully). I then sliced some fresh cucumber with my mandolin cutter like they did back in the heydays of moulded fish dishes, and the result was quite astonishing to all of us. Totally retro, totally fabulous.

This is a great way of stretching one trout fillet into a crowd-pleasing starter. It is light and creamy and perfect for summer entertaining. Enjoy.

Ingredients:

  •  one fresh trout fillet, about 350g
  • 1 cup water
  • 20 ml (4 teaspoons) powdered gelatine
  • 1/2 cup cooled chicken stock
  • juice of a small lemon
  • a large handful of chives/dill/parsley, chopped
  • 250 g plain cream cheese
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup cream, whipped
  • thin cucumber slices and green leaves/microherbs, to serve

Method:

  1. Place the trout fillet and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Close the lid and simmer for about 8 minutes until the trout is just cooked. Remove the fish from the water and leave to cool slightly, the remove the skin and bones and flake the meat.
  2. In a cup, mix the gelatine and chicken stock, then leave to sponge for 10 minutes. Transfer to a small saucepan and heat while stirring to melt the gelatine without boiling. When melted, remove from the heat to cool slightly.
  3. In the bowl of your food processor, add the flaked fish, cooled gelatine mixture, lemon juice, herbs and cream cheese. Process to a smooth pulp, then season generously with salt & pepper.
  4. Now add this mixture to the whipped cream and fold in gently to mix thoroughly. Transfer the mixture to your fish mould (sprayed with a non-stick spray), then cover with plastic wrap and leave to set in the refrigerator for 3-6 hours.
  5. To unmould, dip the mould on the outside in hot water for about 3 seconds, then carefully turn out on a large plate. Decorate with cucumber slices and greenery, then serve with crackers.
Trout mousse on melba toast (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Trout mousse on melba toast (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

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

Assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Ilse van der Merwe & Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Baked fish with harissa

12 Nov

Baked hake with harissa on caulirice (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Baked hake with harissa on caulirice (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

This whole food revolution (banting diet, paleo, whatever you want to call it) hasn’t exactly caught my attention. Maybe it’s because I’m a sugar loving pastry addict, to be honest.

To me, healthy eating involves balance and care when it comes to choosing ingredients. I don’t eat salad all day, but I also don’t cook with over-processed goods. Still, I do admire the fact that butter, cream and bacon fat has become such popular items in househoulds all over the world. Those three have been on my list of favourites for years.

I bought Tim Noakes’s book a few months ago, and to my surprise I was delighted by the content. The recipes were simple, full of flavour and very much the stuff that I love to cook at home. Of course some ingredients were slightly different (like the wheat flour substitutes), but the dishes were beautifully photographed, had great variety and looked delicious.

At The Demo Kitchen people often ask me for low-carb menus, so I was forced to start paying attention. This recipe is inspired by Dr Noaks’s book – fresh hake fillets baked in a spicy tomato sauce that include home-made harissa paste. The harissa keeps for weeks in the fridge and is great on almost anything. I especially also tried his cauli-rice, as so many of my friends love eating it.

This is a great, flavourful dish for anyone – banter or non-banter. Serve with couscous or rice if you don’t like cauliflower.

Harissa paste (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Harissa paste (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients for harissa paste:

  • 40g dried smoked red chillies, soaked in 125 ml boiling water for 10 minutes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 15 ml ground coriander
  • 15 ml ground cumin
  • 15 ml fennel seeds
  • 2,5 ml salt
  • 60 ml olive oil

Method:

In a small food processor bowl, process all the ingredients together to get a slightly chunky paste. Place in a glass jar, cover with a little extra olive oil, then cover and refrigerate until needed. Will keep for at least 2 weeks in the fridge.

Ingredients for spicy tomato sauce:

  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 30 ml butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2,5 ml) cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) smoked paprika
  • 2 cans whole tomatoes, diced, or processed to a pulp
  • 2 tablespoons (60 ml) harissa paste
  • rind of a small lemon, finely grated
  • salt & pepper

Method:

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and butter, then fry onions over medium heat until soft.
  2. Add garlic and fry for a minute. Now add spices and fry for another minute.
  3. Add tomatoes and harissa paste, then bring to a slow simmer and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add lemon rind and season to taste with salt & pepper. Set aside.

For the baked hake:

  • 1.5 kg white fish fillets, portioned into individual pieces
  • 1 batch spicy tomato sauce (see above)
  • fresh coriander leaves, to serve
  • cauli-rice or cous-cous or rice, to serve (optional)

Method:

  1. Grease or line a large baking tray, then lay the fish portions out without them touching one another. Cover with a generous layer of sauce, then baking at 200 C for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness and size of the fish. Do not overbake.
  2. Serve hot topped with fresh coriander leaves.
Hake fillets with a spicy tomato sauce, ready to to into the oven (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Hake fillets with a spicy tomato sauce, ready to to into the oven (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

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

Assistant: Elsebé Cronje

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

 

Classic mojitos

10 Nov

Mojitos with white rum, lime, mint & soda (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Mojitos with white rum, lime, mint & soda (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Silly season is upon us. I can feel it in the warm air here in Stellenbosch, and smell it on the slight breeze that is blowing through the bright green oak trees. It’s a feeling of “the year is almost over and it’s time to let your hair down”.

Although we live in wine country, my friends and I just love a good cocktail to start a relaxed dinner party. Some cocktails have a reputation for being “chick drinks”, but not a mojito. Classic mojitos are loved by pretty much everyone. They are just so intensely fresh tasting with all the mint and lime muddled in there, and I love the way that they’re mostly served in whiskey glasses. You can make yours as strong or as sweet as you want, or add a little more soda and it’s a light and refreshing spritzer.

When limes aren’t available, we just substitute them with lemons. Cheers to the summer season everyone!

Ingredients (makes 1 mojito, adjust according to taste):

  • about half a lime, cut into small wedges
  • about 4 mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 25-50 ml white rum
  • ice cubes
  • soda water

Method:

  1. Add the lime wedges, mint leaves and sugar in a short glass. Use a muddler (or back of a wooden spoon) to crush the mixture slightly and release the lime juice.
  2. Add a few blocks of ice, then add the rum and top with a little soda water. Mix with a spoon or straw, and serve at once.

Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog.

Text, recipe & food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Baked caramel cookie sandwiches (alfajores)

27 Oct

Butter biscuits with baked caramel (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Butter biscuits with baked caramel (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

The South Americans have a dessert called “alfajores” – crumbly biscuits sandwiched together with thick and creamy caramel. A few years ago, I tasted this for the first time in a Peruvian retaurant in Cape Town. It was absolutely heavenly.

Thanks to my Donna Hay fixation, I recently came across her recipe for homemade dulche de leche. In South Africa, we know it as “caramel treat”, or boiled condensed milk. Donna bakes her condensed milk in the oven, then whisks the mixture afterwards to form a delicious and beautiful caramel that is even tastier than the boiled version. We made easy butter cookies to use as sandwiches, and the result was totally out of the world.

This is a great dessert for your summer braai this season. Make the cookies and the caramel a few hours ahead, then just quickly assemble when it’s time for the sweet stuff. Even the most hardened braai kings will weep for this one, trust me.

Ingredients for the caramel: (makes 2 cups)

  • 2 x cans condensed milk  (about 400g each)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 220°C.
  2. Place the condensed milk in an ovenproof baking dish and cover tightly with aluminium foil. Place the baking dish in a larger deep-sided baking tray and fill with boiling water until it reaches ²⁄³ of the way up the sides of the dish. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until caramel in colour.
  3. Spoon the caramel into a bowl and whisk until smooth. Spoon into sterilized glass jars and cover with lids. Keep in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Ingredients for butter cookies:

  • 250 g butter, cubed
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup corn flour (corn starch / Maizena)
  • 5 ml vanilla essense
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons cold water

Method:

  1. Place all the ingredients except water in a food processor. Process until it forms “crumbs”.
  2. Add the water a little at a time until the mixtures just comes together in a ball. Remove from the processor.
  3. Divide into 4, then roll out each part between 2 grease proof baking sheets to prevent it from sticking. Roll out to a thickness of about 5mm, then remove top layer of baking paper and cut into rounds.
  4. Place rounds on a lined baking tray, then bake for about 12 minutes at 180 C until just lightly straw coloured, not too dark. Remove and cool on a rack.
  5. When completely cool, sandwich together with the caramel.

Credits:

Text: Ilse van der Merwe

Recipe for baked caramel: Donna Hay

Recipe for butter cookies: Ilse van der Merwe

Assistant & food preparation: Elsebé Cronjé

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

Pear & blue cheese quiche with rocket & pecans

18 Oct

Pear and blue cheese quiche with rocket & pecans (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Pear and blue cheese quiche with rocket & pecans (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

There are few things as underrated as a good quiche. It’s so easy to make and one of the best options for a light lunch or a tea table during Spring time.

I love the combination of pears, blue cheese, rocket and pecan nuts in a salad. I’ve decided to combine the quiche and the salad to create a fresh and vibrant meal-in-one. A festive salad on top of a beautiful quiche – what could be better than this?

Goats cheese also works very well in this combination, so use whatever you prefer.

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 sheets filo pastry
  • 100 ml butter, melted
  • 4 eggs
  • 250 ml full cream milk
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 small pear, coarsely grated (no seeds)
  • 125 g blue cheese
  • a bunch of rocket leaves (toss in a drizzle of olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice)
  • a handful of pecan nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • 1 small pear, thinly sliced

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 220 C.
  2. Lay the pastry sheets out on a flat surface, then use a pastry brush to cover them with melted butter. Place the sheets on top of each other inside a greased loose bottom tart tin (about 23 cm). Trim the edges if you prefer, or leave them hanging over the edge. Place the lined tart tin inside a bigger rectangular baking tray.
  3. Beat the eggs & milk and season with salt & pepper. Pour the mixture into the lined tart tin, then add the grated pear and crumbled blue cheese (save about 1/3 of the cheese for later). Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and the middle just set.
  4. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes. Top with rocket leaves, the rest of the blue cheese, the pecan nuts  and some sliced pear.

Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog.

Recipe, text & food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe

Assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

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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