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Baked chocolate port pudding (self-saucing)

17 Jun

A warm, comforting, unpretentious chocolate pudding with a rich chocolate port self-saucing bottom. I served it here with macerated mulberries and a glass of De Krans Cape Ruby on the side.

 

Winter has arrived in full swing and with it comes the urge to cozy up and indulge in a few comforts. Two of my favourite winter comforts in the Boland are steamy baked puddings and fortified wines. But if I can combine the two, I’m in heaven.

I’ve seen quite a few recipes for baked puddings with Cape Tawny, but I haven’t yet come across a baked pudding featuring Cape Ruby. De Krans makes one of the best Cape Ruby‘s out there – an award winning wine that doesn’t come with a debilitating price tag. At R85 a bottle it’s affordable, and once opened it can last on the shelf for a few months. I’ve created a self-saucing chocolate pudding featuring De Krans’s Cape Ruby in the sauce. The result is a dark, sultry chocolate pudding with the underlying flavour nuances of fortified red fruit – amplified with the addition of a glass of Cape Ruby on the side.

It’s easy to make and you can optionally serve it with vanilla ice cream and/or some poached red fruit like mulberries, black figs, cherries or plums (canned fruit is also fine) – even quince or pears will work.

This is a wonderful pudding to make for this weekend’s upcoming Father’s Day celebrations. Remember to rather underbake this pudding (like a fondant) than overbake it – otherwise the saucy business at the bottom will disappear. For extra sauce lovers, I’ve included a simple chocolate sauce recipe at the bottom that you can use to elevate the sauce levels upon serving.

Hope you’re staying safe and warm this winter.

Note: While most self-saucing chocolate pudding recipes serve 6, I’m always looking for leftovers. That’s why this is a bigger pudding – not necessarily to serve more people, but to have more servings for the few who are already enjoying it.

A glass of De Krans Cape Ruby is the perfect pairing for this pudding.

 

Ingredients: (serves 8)

For the batter:

  • 1,5 cups (185 g) cake flour
  • 1,5 (7,5 ml) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2,5 ml) salt
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (40 g) cocoa powder
  • 90 g butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) milk
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 1 XL egg

For the topping:

  • 1 cup (250 ml) De Krans Cape Ruby
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) water
  • 1/3 cup (40 g) cocoa powder (plus more for dusting, optionally)
  • 1/3 cup (70 g) caster sugar

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160 C and grease a large deep baking dish (about 2 liter capacity) with non-stick spray.

Make the batter: In a large bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cocoa powder together. In a second bowl, whisk the melted butter, milk, vanilla and egg together, then add it to the dry ingredients and stir until well mixed. Pour into the prepared dish and smooth the top.

In a small pot over stovetop, heat the Cape Ruby and water to boiling point. While it is heating, mix the cocoa powder and caster sugar together and spoon all over the top of the batter. When the Cape Ruby and water mixture reaches boiling point, pour it all over the cocoa sugar topped batter. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is solid and the inside is a little still soft.

Serve warm, dusted with a little cocoa powder, with (optionally) poached/macerated fruit and vanilla ice cream.

For an even saucier option, make a simple chocolate sauce on the side:

  • 60 g/ml butter
  • 1 cup (200 g) white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3/4 (180 ml) cup water
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and cocoa powder and stir until well mixed. Add the water and stir well, then bring to a simmer. Stir often and simmer for 2 minutes, taking care not to let it boil over the sides. Remove from the heat, then add the vanilla and salt and stir to mix. Serve warm over ice cream and puddings. Will keep regfrigerated for at least a week.

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Step-by-step: How to hot-smoke trout at home

22 May

Flakes of hot-smoked trout and creamy tartare sauce on seed loaf. A stunning yet simple lunch.

 

There are few things as delicious as hot-smoked trout. Perfectly flaky, buttery and tender, with a deeply aromatic smoky flavour. Hot-smoking is a technique that uses medium high heat and smoke to cure and cook fish simultaneously (different from cold-smoking that cures meat without cooking it), adding depth of flavour unlike regular cooking techniques like baking or pan-frying. 

As many of you know, my brother-in-law Gerhard Compion is a trout farmer on Lourensford Estate. Like so many other farmers, he’s been severely affected by Covid19 circumstances and has had to adapt his fish crop for 2020 to a much smaller projected demand for harvest season later this year. This means that he had to prematurely harvest a large quantity of plate-size fish recently, in order to cut his losses in feeding these little guys into becoming big fish later this year (with possibly no market for them). These stunning, premium quality plate-sized trout have been gilled and gutted, vacuum sealed and flash-frozen in packets of about 1 kg each (2-3 fish per packet; some packets weighing slightly more than 1kg, but not less). 

Gerhard’s beautiful trout are now available for sale at the Coffee Company at Lourensford Estate in Somerset West at R120 per 1kg packet – they have an online shop section and they deliver daily in immediate surrounds and weekly in Cape Town. Lourensford Estate will officially open to the public from next week Monday, so then you’ll be able to buy & collect the fish directly from their coffee shop’s freezer, if you prefer. 

The fish will only be available while stocks last for a limited time of up to 3 weeks, so stock up! Trout freeze exceptionally well.

Below is my step-by-step guide for how to hot-smoke trout at home. If you’re not into hot-smoking, the fish can also be braaied over medium-hot coals over a grid (stuffed or not) or baked in the oven at 200 C for about 15-20 minutes.

Start with clean, fresh trout that are gilled and gutted. If your trout are still frozen, place the vacuum-sealed packet of trout in a bowl/basin filled with room temperature to slightly tepid water for about 20-30 minutes — this is the best way to thaw it. Now open the packet, rinse the trout under running cold water and pat dry.

1.Using about 1,5 cups regular table salt or medium grain salt (a 500g bag of salt is very cheap, mostly under R10), sprinkle a thin layer of salt in a roasting tray, then place the trout on top. Cover the fish generously with more salt, also generously salting the insides of the bellies. Leave to “cure” for 20 minutes, then rinse the trout again and pat dry. Note: this process firms up the flesh and gives it more flavour.

2. Prepare your smoking tray: using a regular steel roasting tray, line it with foil. Sprinkle a thin layer of sawdust (“French Oak Wine Barrel Sawdust” is sold at many supermarkets in the braai section – it costs around R47 and will last you a long time). Place a steel rack (regular cooling rack for baking) on top.

3. Lay the trout on the rack, and cover the tray tightly with foil.

4. Place the prepared tray over direct heat (like a gas flame or oven hob) and heat until the sawdust starts to smoke – if you’re doing this in your kitchen on the stove, make sure you have extraction, otherwise rather do it outside on a camping-style gas hob or over a fire in your braai place. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and smoke for 20 minutes in total without removing the foil cover. Throughout this process, you’ll see some whifts of smoke escape from the sides of the foil – if the smoke disappears, just turn the heat up a litle until it starts to release more smoke. The skin of the fish will turn a deep copper colour when cooked.

5. Carefully transfer the fish to a plate and peel the top layer of skin away. Moving with the grains of the bones, scoop the cooked flesh outwards to achieve boneless chunks. Enjoy as is, or with a salad, or on a sandwich, or in a pasta.

 

Hot smoked trout open sandwiches with easy tartare sauce.

 

Here’s an easy recipe for enjoying your hot-smoked trout on open sandwiches with tartare sauce:

For the easy tartare sauce: (makes about 1 cup)

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 heaped teaspoon wholegrain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons grated gherkins

Method: Mix together and refrigerate until needed.

For the sandwiches: (serves 6)

  • 12 slices seed loaf, buttered if needed (or bread of your choice)
  • a few dollops of tartare sauce (see above)
  • a few chunks hot-smoked trout (see step-by-step how-to above)
  • fresh dill, to serve
  • fresh lemon slices, to serve
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method: Lay the slices of bread on plates, then top with tartare sauce, trout and some dill. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice, a sprinkle of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.

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Chocolate eclairs with salted caramel custard and pecan brittle

28 Apr

 

During lockdown, many of my readers have shared how they are cooking recipes from my blog. It’s such a wonderful feeling – to know that my recipes can provide others with a little pleasure and inspiration during a very uncertain and serious time! Thank you so much for all of your feedback, photos, comments and shares. It makes me feel warm and valued, and it is a shining beacon carrying me through this uncertainty with all of you.

I am at a point where I’m searching for recipes that will bring the most amount of joy, for the least amount of money. With a limited spectrum of recreation and entertainment available during lockdown, baking and cooking has become just that: a recreational activity. Yet with limited funds because of limited (or no) work opportunities, many of us need to get really creative in making the most of what we have, while still feeding our families. Every now and then, a special homemade treat can provide some kind of light hearted escape from the gloom that otherwise hangs over all of us. And for me, in allowing myself this special joy, I choose hope.

One of my friends, Anele Horn, recently sent me a photograph of her homemade chocolate eclairs – she used a recipe from my blog that I haven’t made in years. Then I remembered that basic eclairs (choux pastries) are made of a handful of very simple ingredients: water, flour, eggs, sugar, salt. I also remembered that a custard filling can be made of very simple ingredients too: milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cornstarch. I found a recipe online for making salted caramel flavoured custard, because hey, it sounded like a good idea. With the addition of a simple caramel syrup (made from sugar and a little water) and some salt, I made a salted caramel custard perfect for piping into the choux buns, without buying a single exotic ingredient. So when my husband went to buy a few essential fresh supplies, I asked him to buy 2 slabs of the cheapest dark chocolate he could find (they costed R11,99 each) for the topping. I found a handful of pecan pieces in our cupboard (the last of my “lockdown” nut supply) and with a little extra effort I made a simple nut brittle (using just sugar and the nuts) that I chopped up for decoration at the end.

 

These were some of the best sweet treats we’ve had the pleasure of enjoying in the past 5 weeks, and we only spent R24 (excluding the cost of the basic ingredients that we had in the house). The recipe makes about 21 medium size eclairs. I do hope that you’ll try it – SO worth the effort!

Notes for substitutions: You can also use whipped sweetened cream to fill the eclairs, and a very economical cocoa glaze for the top (if you have cocoa powder and icing sugar in your pantry). And yes, you can certainly also use cheaper peanuts for the brittle!

Notes on effort/skill levels:

  • The choux buns are moderately easy to make, but the following tools will make the process easier: a digital scale, an electric mixer (stand mixer) and a piping bag. Without these, you’re going to apply some decent elbow grease for mixing, and you won’t be able to pipe rows (just use two spoons instead to create round choux “balls”).
  • The salted caramel custard requires medium skill levels and time. It is best to make it the day before you want to make the eclairs, to split the effort into 2 days. Make the caramel first, let it cool, and then use it to make the custard. Let the custard cool completely before making the choux buns.
  • The nut brittle requires medium skill levels, but only because you’re working with very hot melted sugar that requires timing – otherwise it’s a simple recipe with only 2 ingredients. It is an optional extra, but I promise you it delivers BIG on added texture, luxury and flavour.
  • To melt chocolate: I do it in the microwave, so it should be easy enough. Just follow the instructions and be patient.

 

Ingredients: (makes about 21 medium size eclair buns)

For the salted caramel custard filling: (recipe adapted from Jo The Tart Queen)

  • 200 ml (170 g) white granulated sugar
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) tap water
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) hot water from a recently boiled kettle
  • 500 ml (2 cups) milk, preferably full-cream
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 125 g egg yolks (about 7 XL yolks)
  • 50 g (about 7 tablespoons or 105 ml) cornflour
  • 50 g butter, cubed
  • salt, to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon salt flakes, but if you’re using fine salt, use less)

To make the caramel: place the sugar and tap water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Let it come to a boil without stirring, only tilting the pan now and then. Boil until it changes colour to a light golden, and get your hot water ready. When it reaches a darker amber caramel colour, carefully add the hot water all at one (if will splutter!), then remove from the heat at once, tilting it from side to side to mix. Set aside to cool completely – you’ll use it later for the custard.

To make the custard: Place the milk and vanilla in a medium size pot over medium heat. While it is heating, whisk the yolks with the cooled caramel in a mixing bowl, then add the cornflour and whisk again to mix well. When the milk just starts to simmer, pour it carefully into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Now pour the mixture back into the pot and place over medium heat. Stir constantly, until the custard starts to thicken. Continue stirring until it makes a few slow boiling bubbles, then lower the heat to very low and cook for at least another minute or too until it becomes very thick. Remove from the heat, then  stir in the butter.  When melted, season with salt – you don’t want the salt to be overpowering, but you want to taste it. Transfer the custard to a wide container and cover with a layer of clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming, then leave to cool fully. Keep refrigerated until ready to use (will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator).

For the choux pastry:

  • 250 ml (1 cup) water
  • 2,5 ml (1/4 teaspoon) salt
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) sugar
  • 65 g (1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon) butter, cubed if cold
  • 140 g (250 ml / 1 cup) white bread flour or cake flour
  • 3 XL eggs

Method:

Preheat the oven to 220 C. Add water, salt, sugar and butter to a small saucepan. Heat until the butter melts, then bring to the boil. As soon as the mixture starts to boil, add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, cooking the paste until it thickens and pulls into a ball (it takes about 20 seconds for the mixture to form a ball). Remove from the heat at once and transfer the ball to the bowl of an electric mixer (if doing by hand, transfer to a large mixing bowl). With the K-beater fitted, turn on the mixer on medium-low, releasing steam from the hot flour mixture. Now add the eggs one at a time, mixing until it comes together before adding another (it will look like it is splitting at first, but be patient, it will come together). Continue until the mixture is smooth and glossy but still stiff enough to hold shape. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag, then pipe buns of about 8 cm long and 2,5 cm wide on a greased/lined baking sheet, leaving enough space between them for swelling (or use two spoons to drop balls of paste on the baking sheet). Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220 C for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 160 C for 25-30 minutes (smaller buns will take 10-15 minutes) until the buns are golden brown and crisp to the touch. Remove from the oven and pierce with a small sharp knife to allow steam to escape. Leave to cool completely before filling.

For the nut brittle: (optional)

  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecan nuts

Have a small baking tray ready, lined with non-stick baking paper. Place the sugar in a small pan or pot over moderately high heat. Leave until the sugar starts to melt (without adding any liquid), gently tipping the pan from side to side. When the sugar has melted, it will change colour. Watch it carefully, gently tipping the pan now and then, until it is a deep amber colour. Remove from the heat and add the nuts at once, tipping the pan to coat all over (only a few seconds). Tip out on the lined baking tray, using a silicone spatula to remove from the pan (work quickly before the caramel hardens). Use the spatula to flatten the brittle slightly. Leave to cool completely, then chop into smaller pieces for topping your eclairs. (Preferably don’t make this too long ahead, as it will become sticky again on standing. Keep in an airtight container, when completely cooled.)

For assembly:

  • about 150-180 g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Remove the cooled custard from the fridge, use a whisk to mix it to a smooth consistency, then transfer to a piping bag. Cut the buns open on one side horizontally, then pipe the filling into each one. To melt the chocolate, place it in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds at a time, stirring inbetween with a spatula. After about the third or fourth session, it should be warm enough and fully melted. Spread each bun with chocolate on top (or transfer the chocolate to a small plastic bag or piping bag, and snip off the one corner to neatly pipe onto the buns). Top with a few shards of brittle. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

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Smoked snoek and artichoke pie

24 Apr

An old-fashioned smoky fish pie is one of the most comforting dishes to eat in my opinion, and a firm favourite from my childhood days.

 

I’ve been craving a smoked fish pie for weeks (because of a packet of smoked snoek in my freezer) and I finally got to baking one. This must be one of the most comforting things to eat – creamy and packed with smoky flavour, plus an easy press-in crust with zero sogginess that’s made with cheese, resulting in a crispy, flaky coating all around the pie that tastes like grilled cheddar crackers.

I’ve combined a few recipes into one, consulting my sister’s notes from her handwritten recipe collection plus her favourite recipe from Kook & Geniet, as well as Heilie Pienaar’s chapter for savoury pies and tarts from The Ultimate Snowflake Collection cookbook. I wanted something that had an easy, tasty crust (not store bought puff pastry) that required little skill, plus something that wouldn’t require me to separate eggs and fold in whisked egg whites at the end. I don’t mind making a white sauce for a base, as it was specifically the mouth-feel that I was after, but I didn’t want to use a separate pan for frying any other ingredients like onions.

The cheesy crust bakes to a golden crispy perfection all around the filling.

 

The result was the following: I used Heilie’s recipe for a press-in crust (no rolling out of dough) that involves flour, digestive bran, butter and cheese (you already know this is going to go well) and a white sauce based filling that involves stirring in a few whole eggs at the end. Into the filling went deboned flaked smoked snoek, chopped canned artichokes (you can also use canned white asparagus or mushrooms), chopped gherkins, more cheese, Dijon mustard and some parsley (use dried herbs if you don’t have fresh).  It gets baked for about 40 minutes at 180 C, filling your kitchen with the most delicious smell. It’s a deep pie, so you can use a large spoon to dish up generous helpings. Creamy, smoky, cheesy filling with a crisp bite of tangy gherkins here and there, coupled with a heavenly toasted flaky cheese crust. Serve with a crisp salad, if you want to.

This is what the press-in crust looks like before adding the filling.

 

Note: I used a round baking dish of 25 cm diameter and a depth of 5 cm. That means you can use any deep baking dish (round/square/rectangular) with a similar depth and a total volume of around 2,4 liters.

Ingredients: (makes one large pie; serves 8)

For the press-in crust: (crust recipe from Heilie Pienaar’s “Spinach & Cheese Pie” featured in The Ultimate Snowflake Collection)

  • 200 ml (110 g) cake flour
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup or 20 g) digestive bran
  • 125 g cold butter, cubed
  • a pinch of salt
  • 250 ml (1 cup) grated mature cheese like cheddar/gruyere etc. (I’ve used Dalewood’s Huguenot)

For the filling:

  • 60 ml (4 tablespoons) butter
  • 60 ml (4 tablespoons) cake flour
  • 500 ml milk
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) Dijon mustard
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) ground nutmeg
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 4 XL eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2-3 cups (about 325 g) boneless flaked smoked snoek (start with about 500 g snoek with bone-in; I ordered a large frozen packet from Wild Peacock Products)
  • 1 cup mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 cups canned artichoke hearts/quarters, chopped into smaller pieces (or substitute with canned chopped asparagus or mushrooms, or any cooked chopped vegetables of your choice, like peas/spinach/corn/broccoli/cauliflower/courgettes etc.)
  • about 1/3 cup gherkins, chopped
  • a handful fresh parsley, finely chopped

Method:

For the crust: place the flour, bran, butter & salt in a food processor and pulse until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the cheese and process until its starts to clump together. Turn it out into a large greased baking dish of about 2-2,5 liters (I used a round 25 cm dish with a depth of 5 cm).  Using clean dry hands, press the crust evenly into the bottom and sides of the baking dish. Distribute thicker patches to cover the base and sides all over. Set aside.

For the filling: before you start, make very sure that your smoked fish is completely free of any small bones – this will take a little time, but it’s essential. Now make a white sauce: in a medium size pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir for a minute. Add the milk all at once and stir vigorously with a whisk until it starts to thicken, getting rid of any lumps. When the sauce has thickened to the consistency of a medium-runny custard, remove it from the heat. Add the mustard and nutmeg and season with salt & pepper. Stir well. Add the eggs and stir very well until it’s smooth and incorporated. Add the snoek, cheese, artichokes (or veg), gherkins and parsley. Stir well, then transfer the filling into the prepared baking dish. Smooth the top. Bake at 180 C for about 40-45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown (the top of the filling won’t brown too much). Remove from the oven and serve hot with a crisp green salad.

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One-pot pasta with chicken, broccoli and cheese

22 Apr

If minimizing dirty dishes is something that appeals to you, this comforting one pot pasta with chicken, broccoli and cheese is heaven sent.

 

I’ve been seeing so many recipes for one-pot pasta dishes, where the pasta gets cooked in the pot’s liquid along with other ingredients. I’ve always wondered if it’s really possible to get a good result – or is it just a spoof? Wouldn’t the dish be too stodgy at the end? Well, I finally tried it myself – hugely successful!

If I would have cooked a chicken broccoli cheese pasta dish before, I would have dirtied possibly three to four different pots/pans plus a colander, but in this case it’s all happening in one large pot. Easy, quick and really simple. No bechamel to be made, no cream used, and the results are wonderfully creamy and absolutely delicious.

This is comfort food at its best.

I made a video of the recipe for my friends at Le Creuset – you’ll find it here on their IGTV feed.

Cooking video screenshot while filming for Le Creuset’s IGTV.

 

I served this one-pot pasta dish with a few crispy croutons on top for crunch.

 

Ingredients: (serves 6-8)

(Note: This recipe can easily be halved to serve about 4 people. Just use a medium size pot, perhaps 24 or 26cm diameter.)

  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 1 kg boneless skinless chicken, cut into bite size chunks (I used thighs)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) smoked paprika
  • 2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock
  • 4 cups (1 liter) milk
  • 500 g uncooked pasta (preferably bite size shapes – I used rigatoni)
  • 400 g broccoli, cut into bite size chunks
  • 2 cups grated mature cheese (I used Dalewood’s Huguenot, but cheddar will also work)
  • about 1 cup small croutons*, for serving (optional)

Method:

In a large pot (I used a 30cm Le Creuset round casserole) over high heat, heat the oil and add the chicken. Fry for a few minutes until brown, stirring. Season with salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Turn the heat down and remove the chicken from the pot with a slotted spoon (you’ll add it back later). Now add the onion and fry over medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and fry for another minute, then add the stock and milk and bring to a simmer. Add the pasta, stir, put a lid on (keep a small gap open to prevent the liquid from boiling over the edges) and cook for about 8-10 minutes until almost al dente, stirring every now and then (it should still be a little firm). Add the browned chicken back to the pot, plus the broccoli, and stir. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heat. Add the cheese and stir briefly until just melted. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve at once, optionally topped with small crispy croutons.

*To make small croutons: cut 2 slices of good quality bread like sour dough loaf into very small cubes. Add it to a pan with a splash of olive oil, salt & pepper, and optionally a few fresh thyme leaves. Fry until golden, then set aside to cool.

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Crumbed hake fingers

13 Apr

If you’re wondering what to do with that packet of frozen hake fillets in your freezer, this is a pretty good call. It’s the same recipe than what I’d usually do with chicken strips (my daughter loves it), and it’s a great way of stretching a fillet into a satisfying crunchy snack for everyone. You can for sure also do larger fillets, just cook it a little slower to make sure the thicker fillets are all cooked through before the crumbs turn too dark.

I always use wholewheat bread to make crumbs for frying snacks like these – they add a wonderful extra layer of texture and it’s a great way of getting more fibre into the younger ones. Of course you won’t eat deep fried fish every day (there are many other ways to enjoy hake, like this recipe for baked fish with harissa), but it’s a very satisfying and delicious treat that the whole family will love.

Serve you crumbed hake fingers with some fresh lemon wedges, and a creamy dipping sauce of mayonnaise, yoghurt, wholegrain mustard and honey.

 

If you’re living in Stellenbosch, you can order frozen hake fillets from Wild Peacock during the lockdown period – they deliver. Otherwise, most supermarkets should stock them in the frozen isle.

Note: The fillets are easier to cut and handle when they’re not completely thawed – hake can be very tender and might fall apart, especially if you handle it with a blunt knife. Slice and crumb them while they still have a slightly frozen centre. And don’t bother trying to remove the thin layer of skin, it holds the flakes together and is undetectable when eaten.

Tip: If your hake is very soft, try slicing it lengthways into fingers, rather than widthways.

 

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • about 6 slices wholewheat bread, processed to crumbs in a food processor
  • 1/2 cup flour (cake flour or white bread flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika (optional)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 5 XL eggs
  • about 800 g hake fillets, sliced into fingers of about 1cm thick
  • canola oil, for frying (or sunflower oil – you’ll need about 3-5 cm deep oil in your pot)
  • a few lemons, sliced, for serving

Method:

Prepare a prep station for crumbing your hake: Place the sliced hake strips in a bowl. In a second wide bowl, mix the flour and paprika and season generously with salt & pepper. In a third bowl, whisk the eggs. Keep a clean tray handy for placing the crumbed strips on. Now start crumbing: using clean hands, dip each piece of hake into the seasoned flour, then into the egg, then into the crumbs (I place it on the crumbs, then pat more crumbs on top of it). Note: This is messy business, so you might want to wash your hands every now and then because it will build up – but I promise you it’s fun. Line up a dedicated helper at each station if you want to.

Place each crumbed fish finger on the tray and continue until all the strips are crumbed. Let them dry out slightly for about 15 minutes while you make the dipping sauce (see below). When you’re ready, carefully heat the oil over medium high heat until hot but not smoking (test a small piece of crumbed fish, if it sizzles, it’s ready). Keep a plate handy topped with kitchen paper for draining the excess oil (rotate with fresh sheets every now and then). Fry the fish in batches until golden on both sides (turn them using 2 forks). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Serve hot with the dipping sauce and slices of fresh lemon.

For the dipping sauce: (optional – you can also just serve it with mayonnaise or tomato sauce)

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) plain yoghurt (I prefer double cream)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) wholegrain mustard (or just use Dijon, if you don’t have wholegrain)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) honey

Method:

Mix all the ingredients together and serve with the hot crumbed hake fingers.

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A simple white bread loaf (with video)

9 Apr

I’ve had many requests for posting a simple bread recipe, so here it is. A simple white bread loaf that doesn’t need any special tools (other than a mixing bowl and spoon, baking tins and your oven – and yes, you can also bake it on a fire in a pot). You’re going to have to knead it, so if you’ve never done it before, just give it a try. It’s quite therapeutic – anyone who’s done it before will agree. Then the dough simply rises in the tins, so you’re not going to have to knead it a second time.

Here are a few handy tips to keep in mind when baking this bread:

  • What type of flour works best? I’ve listed white bread flour (I prefer stoneground), but you can also use cake flour, wholewheat flour etc. for a variety of end results. Remember, stoneground white bread flour can “take” more water than regular commercial white bread flour or cake flour, so adjust your liquid quantities accordingly (less water for fine cake flour). If your mixture is very sticky after adding the liquid, just keep adding a little flour while kneading until your dough is soft and not sticky.
  • Why milk? Milk will keep your loaf softer for longer, but you can certainly substitute the milk for more water of the same quantity.
  • What if I don’t have bread tins? You can bake the shaped dough free-form on a roasting tray, or you can bake it in cleaned canned-food tins (those large 800g food tins work well), or you can bake it in in a ceramic or glass baking dish (like the one you use for lasagne etc.). You can also bake it in an oven-safe pot (no plastic handles allowed). For very large pots, use all of the dough, and increase the baking time to 1 hour (cover the pot with a lid for the last 20 minutes).
  • Should I grease the tins? Absolutely yes. The bread will stick to the tins if you don’t, and it will break when you try to turn it out. Use oil, butter or non-stick spray.
  • Can I bake this bread on a fire? Yes, in a cast iron pot, over mild coals, with a lid on (coals on the lid as well), for about 1 hour.
  • Can I half the recipe to only make 1 loaf? Yes you can, but while you’re taking the time to make one loaf, it makes sense to make a second one for tomorrow, or for the freezer (and bread flour gets sold in neat 1kg packets). Frozen bread can be thawed on the counter, and then refreshed in the oven at 180 C for about 10-15 minutes – as good as freshly baked.
  • For a softer crust: If you prefer a softer crust, wrap your freshly baked loaves in a clean cloth while they’re cooling. This way the crust will steam and soften while cooling. Don’t try to slice the bread when it’s straight from the oven, give it at least 15-20 minutes to cool (otherwise it will make dense “clots”).
  • How to store: Wrap in a plastic bag and keep in a cool, dry place. The bread is always best on the day it was baked, served warm, but it will last for a few days on the shelf, and tastes great when toasted.

 

Ingredients: (makes 2 medium loaves, or one extra large loaf)

  • 1 kg white bread flour, plus a little extra for kneading (I prefer stoneground unbleached white bread flour, see my tips above)
  • 1 x 10g packet instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) salt
  • 1,5 cups (375 ml) warm water
  • 1,5 cups (375 ml) milk (use a little less milk if you’re using cake flour or commercial bread flour)
  • vegetable oil, for brushing

Method:

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Stir to mix. Add the water and milk, then stir with a wooden spoon until you have a sticky mixture. Turn it out on a lightly floured surface, then start folding the dough over, and over, and over (see video). Keep on kneading for at least 5 minutes (up to 10 min), adding a litle more flour if the dough is too sticky, kneading until the mixture is smooth and elastic and not sticky at all. Cut the dough in half, shape into oblong loaves, and place in two greased tins (brush with oil or spray with non-stick baking spray). Cover loosely with plastic, then leave to rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes or until doubled in size. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 220 C. Remove the plastic, then bake the loaves for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked. Remove from the oven, turn out of the tins (be careful, very hot!), wrap in a clean cloth and leave to cool at least 15-20 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature with your choice of butter/jam/cheese etc, or dip into soups and stews.

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Yesterday’s-roast-chicken and vegetable soup (plus how to stretch a roast chicken into 3 different meals)

7 Apr

While we’re all at home, we’re trying to make the most of lockdown spending quality time with our families. A lot of comforting home cooking is going on. Part of the goal is to stretch food as far as we can and not to waste a single crumb. A few days ago, I made my first trip into town after the lockdown started. Among a few essentials, I bought one “boerhoender” from my local butchery – a 2,4 kg chicken for R170 in total (great deal). I knew I had to make it count, so I planned to get at least 3 different meals out of it.

On day one, I made a chicken pot roast – in my oven at 180 C, 0n a bed of quartered onions and potatoes, sliced carrots and garlic, some herbs, lots of salt & pepper, and good quality olive oil. If you follow my Instagram stories, you might have seen it. We’re a family of 3, so we usually go for the thighs, legs and wings first (and of course, some of the crispy roasted skin).

My chicken pot roast iphone-photo that I posted to Instagram stories (check out my highlight “Lockdown Diary”). This is my 30cm Le Creuset casserole, to give some scale to the chicken.

 

I then removed the breasts, chopped them up, added mayonnaise and some leftover chopped fresh coriander (optional), seasoned well with salt & pepper, and those will be our chicken mayo mix for sandwiches on another day. To the fridge it goes (it will be good for at least 3 days).

This photo is from an earlier post in 2014 – chicken mayo with fresh herbs on toasted sourdough bread. If you don’t have fresh herbs, just mix the chicken with mayonnaise and season well with salt & pepper. Any bread will do! (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

 

On day 2, I made a very hearty chicken and vegetable soup using the leftover chicken carcass (with little meat left but all of the goodness of the roasting pot). I skimmed off most of the fat before doing so, but I do love some of those comforting fatty droplets on the surface of the soup – delivering a velvety mouthfeel with every spoonful. You can add whatever you have in your vegetable pantry, mostly finely chopped or shredded – I used more potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, cabbage and a few ripe tomatoes. To that, I added a few stock cubed dissolved in water and a few aromatics from my spice cupboard (again, use what you have on hand). The result is a large pot of hearty, fragrant, comforting soup to count as lunch or dinner, plus a few portions for the freezer. If you want to stretch it even more, serve it over freshly cooked pasta. It’s a super versatile and economical way to use one chicken!

This is my 26 cm Le Creuset casserole, showing you how generous the yield is for this left-over recipe. Chunky and hearty, yet soft and fragrant.

 

A hearty chicken and vegetable soup, made with yesterday’s chicken pot roast. You’ll see some of the original larger pieces of vegetables poking through here and there. The orange colour is from the carrots and tomatoes, but also from a hint of curry powder.

 

Ingredients for Yesterday’s-roast-chicken and vegetable soup: (makes about 3,5 liters)

  • leftovers of a homemade roast chicken, including everything that remained in the pot (sticky bits, vegetables, carcass, gravy – skim off any excess fat)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped (or roughly grated or shredded in a food processor)
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled & roughly grated
  • 1/4 large cabbage head, finely chopped or shredded
  • a few rosemary sprigs, woody stems discarded (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary /dried mixed herbs)
  • 2 liters chicken stock (about 5 stock cubes dissolved in 2 liters recently boiled water)
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Optional aromatics:

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon fennel (ground or seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder

Method:

If you’re refrigerated the leftovers the day before, return it to a clean large pot (at least 6 liters capacity).  Add the onions, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, potatoes, cabbage, herbs and stock. Add whatever aromatics you want – look at the list above to see what I’ve added, giving the soup a deep, fragrant quality without being spicy. Stir well and bring to a boil over high heat, then turn down the heat and simmer slowly for 1,5-2 hours. Turn off the heat. Remove the leftover carcass with tongs (be careful), and shred any leftover meat into the soup, discarding the bones. Season well with salt & pepper. Serve in bowls with some bread, or over freshly cooked pasta. I love to grate some mature cheese over it, but that’s optional. Bon appetit!

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Canned tomato stew with sausage, heerenbone and roasted tomatoes

3 Apr

My “slightly dressed up” canned tomato stew with heerenbone, chorizo and roasted tomato halves. You can also use canned beans of your choice, and any other sausage or bacon instead of chorizo (or no meat at all).

 

Canned tomatoes must be my number one favourite pantry item. They’re just utterly versatile – pizza base sauce, soups, stews, curries, the list is endless. This simple tomato stew can be dressed up or down. If you have some sausage or salami or bacon, add that (I saved a piece of chorizo for a special occasion like this – something I don’t buy often, but it adds so much flavour and goes a long way). If you don’t have meat or don’t want to add meat, just add a few extra spices like chilli flakes, paprika (preferably smoked) and cumin. Same with the beans: if you have canned butterbeans in your pantry, use that. I discovered my last bit of heerenbone straight from the Sandveld at the back of my cupboard (thank you Paula Smit) and decided to go the whole nine yards with soaking overnight and then cooking slowly for 2 hours and dressing them in fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil (with lots of salt & pepper). They are so incredibly silky, its unreal.

Then, to dress it up even further (only if you want to, still using very basic stuff) I roasted a few halved tomatoes from the buy-bulk-and-save bag I bought a few days ago, perfectly ripe now. They make a stunning “meaty” vegetable addition to this stew, and look beautiful too. A few fresh coriander leaves add great freshness, but again, not a necessity. A swirl of plain yoghurt can work too, as will a good glug of extra virgin olive oil to round it off.

 

Getting back to basics: you’re already winning with a can of whole tomatoes, an onion, some garlic, a can of your favourite beans and some great quality olive oil. Food for kings!

Ingredients: Heerenbone (based on Mariana Esterhuizen’s recipe)

  • 1,5 cups dry heerenbone
  • water for soaking and cooking
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt, pepper
  • juice of a lemon
  • a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Place the heerenbone in a bowl and top with about 2 liters room temperature (cool) water. Leave to soak at least overnight (12 – 18 hours) – the beans will swell to double in size. Drain the water off, then add the beans to a pot and top with fresh water. Add the garlic clove and bay leaves, then bring to a simmer. Simmer slowly for about 2 hours, or until the beans are just tender but not mushy. Drain (remove the garlic and bay leaves) and transfer to a bowl, seasoning with salt & pepper and drizzling with the lemon juice and olive oil. Set aside to cool.

Ingredients: Halved roasted tomatoes

  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, halved horizontally
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar
  • a few teaspoons fresh herbs like thyme/rosemary, chopped (or use dried mixed herbs)

Preheat oven to 200 C. On a standard baking tray, drizzle the surface lightly with oil and use clean hands or a pastry brush to coat the surface all over. Arrange the halved tomatoes cut sides up, then drizzle with more oil, Season with salt, pepper, sugar and herbs, then roast for about 1 hour or until the edges start turning dark and the tomatoes are very fragrant. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Ingredients: Canned tomato stew (serves 4-6, depending on the addition of the beans and roasted tomatoes)

  • 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped/grated
  • a few sprigs thyme and rosemary, twigs discarded, leaves roughly chopped (or use 1-2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs)
  • 200-300 g sausage*, sliced
  • 4 x 400 g cans whole tomatoes, pureed using a blender or stick blender (or food processor)
  • 15 ml (1 teablespoon) smoked paprika (if you’re not using sausage/meat, you can also add a few other spices like 1 teaspoon chilli flakes, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin etc.)
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) sugar
  • salt & pepper, to taste

In a large pot, add the oil over medium-high heat. Fry the onion until soft but not brown, then add the garlic, herbs and sliced sausage. Fry, stirring, until it starts to brown. (Note: At this point, you can reserve a few slices of sausage to top your final dish, if you want.) Add the pureed canned tomatoes, stir and bring to a simmer.

*Cured sausage like chorizo works great, but you can certainly also use any other kind of fresh sausage or boerewors; I prefer pork-based sausage for this recipe, but use whatever you have – chopped bacon also works. If you’re using fresh sausage, fry it in a pan first before slicing it up and adding it to the onions, this way the slices will stay in tact. The other option would be to remove the casing from the start, and treating the fresh ground sausage meat like you would treat mince, breaking up the lumps in the pan.

For serving:

  • fresh coriander leaves (optional)
  • a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • a drizzle of plain yoghurt (optional)

Ladle the warm tomato stew into bowls, then top with beans, coriander and a drizzle of olive oil (and optionally yoghurt, expecially if your stew is very spicy). The stew and beans freeze very well – store them together in the same container/s.

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3 Seed granola with pecans and olive oil

2 Apr

Since my husband started following an almost wheat-free lifestyle more than a year ago, his breakfast choices changed from regular toasted bread and wheat cereal to other options like rye toast, cooked oats and wheat-free granola. I’m usually apprehensive to make granola, because it somehow always feels like a very luxurious and expensive thing to make. I do, however, believe in knowing what’s in your food (keeping it real and keeping it simple) so when I stumbled upon Food 52’s legendary granola made with extra virgin olive oil, I realized that most of the ingredients overlapped with my recipe for all-in-one breakfast rusks (sans the buttermilk, brown sugar, eggs, flour and bran flakes). With a few simple substitutions from Food 52’s original recipe, the following ingredients are mostly always in my pantry: oats (regular, not rolled), sunflower seeds, linseeds (instead of pumpkin seeds), sesame seeds, desiccated coconut (instead of coconut flakes), pecan pieces (much cheaper than whole pecans), maple flavoured golden syrup (because my daughter loves this on her pancakes, and it is a fraction of the price of real maple syrup), extra virgin olive oil and salt. I left out the addition of brown sugar completely, because the syrup adds more than enough “dark” sweetness on its own.

The result is a deeply flavourful, nutty, crunchy and slightly salty granola with a sultry savoury note and a comforting mouthfeel from the olive oil. The recipe fills just more than a 3 liter container, lasting quite a long time in our household. It is easy to make and it smells heavenly too.

Have a look in your pantry and see what you can come up with in terms of combinations – I’m sure most other nuts will also work instead of pecans (or leave them out completely) and you can also use other seeds if you prefer to. Regular golden syrup or honey will also work instead of maple flavoured syrup (or if you’re lucky to have some real maple syrup – go ahead!).

It sure is a very luxurious breakfast, with a slur of milk and a few slices of banana, but this batch just came straight from my basic pantry stock and it feels like I hit the jackpot.

Ingredients: (recipe adapted from Nekisia Davis’s Olive Oil & Maple Granola via Food 52)

  • 3 cups regular oats (or rolled oats)
  • 1 cup hulled raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup linseeds
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup (100g) raw pecan pieces (or whole pecans, coarsely chopped)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup maple-flavoured golden syrup, depending on how sweet you like yours (or honey / maple syrup / golden syrup)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:

Preheat your oven to 150 C. In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients and mix well until coated all over. In a large deep roasting tray, spread out the mixture evenly and bake for 15 minutes x 3, removing the pan after each interval and stirring the granola well. After 45 minutes, the granola should be well toasted and fragrant. Leave to cool completely in the pan, stirring now and then to prevent too much clumping (a few smaller clumps are always welcome). Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Serve in bowls with a splash of milk or yoghurt, with or without sliced fresh fruit.

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