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Nutty cranberry breakfast bars

18 Nov

Soft and chewey breakfast bars with nuts & cranberries (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

When I was in primary school, there were a handful of kids whose lunch boxes looked very different from the rest of us. They had these amazing treasure chests filled with biltong, individually wrapped cheese blocks, boxed juice and – behold – granola bars. We envied them at each break time when they casually grazed on their royal snacks. I sometimes tried to swop my very average brown bread sandwiches with them (sorry Mom), with no success, obviously.

Now that I’m a fully grown adult, I still think of granola bars or breakfast bars as a royal snack. They are so luxurious, and I absolutely love making them at home. This specific version is not the hard and crunchy type, it is a soft and chewy version filled with amazing goodies like mixed nuts, cranberries, seeds, honey and banana. It contains no flour, no butter, and no added sugar, believe it or not!

Because this bar is so soft, I dip the bottom in chocolate to provide extra support when it sets, and to add some of that royal touch that I loved so much as a child. I can guarantee some serious envy from your colleagues when you’ll open this snack at tea-time. Jealousy, to be exact.

Enjoy every bite – it’s so delicious you won’t believe that it’s a healthy snack!

Ingredients:

  • 100 g mixed nuts
  • 2 cups all bran flakes, crushed to a volume of about 1 cup
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 100 g dried cranberries (make sure they don’t stick together)
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 80 g dark chocolate

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  2. Roughly chop the nuts, then spread them out on a baking tray. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes, then set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add the toasted nuts, crushed all bran flakes, oats, sunflower seeds, cranberries, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix well.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, mix the mashed bananas with the honey, then mix this with the rest of the ingredients in the large mixing bowl.
  5. Line a 23 x 23 cm baking dish with baking paper, then spread out the mixture in the lined baking dish. Smooth the surface with wet hands, pressing down on the mixture to compact it gently. Bake for 20 minutes at 180 C.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the tin. Remove the uncut slab with lining onto a wooden board, then cut in bars and discard baking paper.
  7. Melt the chocolate carefully over a bain marie or in the microwave, then dip the bottom of each bar in the chocolate (or use a brush to “paint” the bottoms with chocolate). Place these on a clean sheet of baking paper to set. Transfer them to your fridge if you want it to set quicker.
  8. Store in a closed container in the fridge for up to a week.

Credits:

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

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

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Eggs benedict royale

23 Jul

The ultimate Eggs Benedict! (Photograph by Tasha Seccombe)

I’m not a huge breakfast person during the week – I usually prefer some rooibos tea with home-baked rusks when I’m on the go. But give me a lazy late-morning brunch over a weekend and I’m in heaven!

Brunch is not something that you can rush. It should be approached with no regard for time. Take your time to lay the table beautifully, or if you are going to eat in bed, make sure you are going to be extra comfortable with a tray on your lap or a side table. I usually love having baskets full of muffins, scones and croissants for my guests to choose from, with various jams and cheeses and farm butter. For the warm course of the feast, I like to serve really soft scrambled eggs with parmesan shavings and a very small drizzle of truffle oil. I also like extra crispy fried streaky bacon, and sometimes some pan-fried tomatoes.

But for the really special occasions, I love to serve eggs benedict – my favourite breakfast of all time. This is my “royale” twist on the classic eggs benedict: I serve the softly poached eggs on a sliced croissant instead of an English muffin, with loads of smoked Hickory ham, topped with smoked mozzarella. I then grill the lot before I add the poached eggs and warm hollandaise sauce. This is quite a rich breakfast or brunch meal, but the flavour combinations are superb! Serve individually plated servings to a small group of 1-4 guests, not a huge crowd – you need to time your eggs and grilled cheese to be ready at the same time. Your guests will feel really special to be served such a treat!

PS: For the Hollandaise sauce, I take a shortcut and whizz it up in a blender, using warm melted butter. No need to whisk anything on the stove over a double boiler. It makes you want to eat eggs benedict everyday. ๐Ÿ™‚

Ingredients for 2 portions:

  • 2 croissants, sliced open lengthways
  • 4 slices of smoked Hickory ham (or a smoked ham of your choice)
  • 100-150 g smoked mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 4 free range eggs, as fresh as possible
  • 30-45 ml white vinegar, for poaching
  • some chopped fresh parsley for serving (optional)

Ingredients for Hollandaise sauce:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 15 ml water
  • 15 ml lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 125 ml butter, freshly melted and very warm

Method:

  1. For the sauce: in a small blender, blend/process/whizz the egg yolks, water, lemon juice and pinch of salt for a minute. With the motor running, add the warm melted butter in a very thin, steady stream. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Sauce will thicken on standing – add a teaspoon of warm water and whizz again just before serving, if necessary (I always make this just before serving, it is really best served when freshly made!)
  2. Pre-heat grill of oven and set baking tray 2/3 to the top. Arrange sliced croissants on another baking tray, then top each with 2 slices of ham and enough smoked mozzarella. Grill
  3. While grill is heating up, heat some water (about 5 cm deep) in a small sauce pan on the stove top. Add vinegar and bring to a very slow simmer. With a spoon, stir the simmering water for a few seconds to create a slow whirlpool. Gently break the eggs in the middle of the whirl, only 2 at a time. Simmer very slowly for 3-4 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and briefly blot the spoon with the egg on a piece of kitchen paper to remove excess water before arranging on top of the grilled croissant. Top generously with hollandaise sauce.

Credits:

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: Nicola Pretorius & Tasha Seccombe.

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Poached summer fruit with spiced yoghurt

28 Feb

Poached nectarines, pears and strawberries with cardamom and cinnamon spiced yoghurt (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

While the days are getting slightly shorter as we move towards the end of February in the Cape, the bountiful summer fruit harvests are almost beyond their peak. I love buying large lugs of locally grown fruit from Blue Jay Farm Stall around the corner from where I live. For a small household, it is almost impossible to eat all the fruit while it is still at it’s freshest, so it is time to make one of my ultimate breakfast treats: poached summer fruit with spiced yoghurt.

It is amazing how the colour of fruit change when you poach them – some intensify, like peaches, while others become a softer shade of pink, like strawberries. I just adore the texture of poached fruit when they are truly poached to perfection: not mushy, but soft and evenly delicate. I serve them for a real breakfast treat with double-cream greek yoghurt, lightly spiced with cardamom, cinnamon and honey. You can also serve them for dessert, with spiced mascarpone or thick cream.

It is always best to use fresh vanilla pods in your poaching liquid, but if you – like me – don’t always have access to the beautiful yet expensive real vanilla pods, just use a teaspoon or 2 of vanilla essence.

There is no need to skin your fruit – the skins are really good for you, and it means a lot less effort!

Ingredients for poached fruit:

600 ml water

375 ml (1 and a half cups) sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla essence (or seeds of 1 vanilla pod)

3 peaches, 3 pears, and a cup of strawberries (ripe, fresh fruit)

Method:

  1. In a medium-sized pot on the stove top, heat the water, sugar and vanilla and bring to a simmer.
  2. Half the large fruit and remove the pits/stones. Remove green tops from strawberries and keep them whole.
  3. Start with the larger fruit, and cook them in the liquid in batches, about 3-5 minutes at a time, untill just tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Cook the strawberries last, for just 1 minute, remove and set aside. Reserve the cooking liquid.
  4. Cool the fruit and liquid slightly, then return the fruit to the liquid to cool completely in the fridge.

Ingredients for spiced yoghurt:

  • 250 ml (1 cup) double cream greek yoghurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of fine cinnamon
  • seeds of 3 cardamom pods (remove husks and use a pestle and mortar to pound the seeds to a fine powder)
  • 2 teaspoons honey

Method:

Mix all of the ingredients for the spiced yoghurt together. Taste, and add more spices if desired. Serve with the poached fruit and a little of the poaching liquid.

Tip: the poached fruit will keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for a few days. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Credits:

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

Recipe development and preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photographed byย Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius,ย Ilse vand der Merweย andย Tasha Seccombe

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