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Cherry and almond ice cream (and a visit to the Cherry Time Farm)

30 Nov

Decadent, creamy cherry ice cream, with a hint of almond.

A few weeks ago, my family and I had the privilege of joining a small group of guests at the Cherrytime Farm (part of Dutoit Agri) outside Worcester, for picking our own cherries from their cherry trees. I’ve never even seen a cherry tree before, so the prospect of picking plush ripe cherries sounded incredible.

After being welcomed, we roamed the vast orchards in the trickling rain and picked a few bags of the most beautiful fruit you can imagine. Most of my images look enhanced, but the cherries really are that vibrant in real life – you have to see it for yourself to believe it. We even enjoyed a delicious picnic-style lunch in the middle of the orchards – what a memorable day!

Fresh cherries on one of the cherry trees at Dutoit Agri’s cherry farm.
A picture perfect setting for a picnic!

Guests enjoying fresh cherries and snacking on picnic platters.

You can also order these boxes of cherries online.

A peek into our picnic-style lunch. Delicious!

Some of my picked cherries, at home.

Back home, I was so excited about our freshly picked harvest that I didn’t dare to cook them for days – we only enjoyed them daily as it, fresh and juicy and incredibly delicious. My daugher packed a few for her school lunch box daily. Then I used some to cook a fabulous cherry galette for my new seasonal cookbook (part of the Spring chapter, because cherries have a short season of November and December only – look out for the book in stores in September 2021) and a few days later I took on the project of making a proper cherry & almond ice cream from scratch. It was a complete triumph! And with the last few cherries, I made four small jars of cherry conserve that I’ll sparingly use over the festive season.

Note: My recipe for cherry and almond ice cream is not a quick one, it is traditionally custard based and you’ll need an ice cream machine to churn it. I realize that many people don’t have ice cream machines, but perhaps you can subtitute this traditional ice cream recipe for something a little simpler like this no-churn cheat’s ice cream (just omit the coffee & brandy) which is made from whipping condensed milk and double-cream. Continue with swirling in the cooked cherries as per the recipe below, and freeze immediately.

Order your fresh cherries today from Cherry Time online. Having a box of plump, juicy cherries in my fridge has brought us so much joy, I cannot even describe it. Some of the most beautiful and delicious fruit in the world!

My cherry & almond ice cream, ready to serve.

A few scoops of cherry ice cream with fresh cherries – happiness in a bowl!

Ingredients: (makes about 1,2 liters)

For the chunky berry swirl: (prep time – about 20 minutes, plus time for stoning and cooling)

  • 500 g fresh cherries, pitted, halved
  • 70 g white sugar

Add the stoned cherries and sugar to a small saucepan, then place over medium heat. When the fruit starts to release their juice, stir every now and then until the sugar has melted completely – it will take a few minutes. Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes until the fruit is soft but still chunky. Remove from the heat to cool completely, then refrigerate until ready to use.

For the ice cream base: (prep time – 25 min plus 1 hour cooling plus at least 3 hours in the freezer)

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) salt
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 2,5 ml almond extract (optional, but I love the combination of almond with cherries!)
  • 350 ml milk
  • 350 ml fresh cream
  • a handful flaked almonds, toasted (for serving, optional)

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the yolks with the salt, vanilla and almond extract until light in colour. Add the milk and cream to a medium pot and heat until you can just still dip your finger into it. Remove it from the heat and add it in a slow stream to the whisked egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Now pour the mixture back into the pot and place over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens to a very runny custard (it must coat the back of a spoon), but it must not boil. Pour the custard into a plastic container and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours before churning.

Using an ice-cream machine, churn the ice cream according to the manufacturers instructions (mine takes about 45 minutes). When it is ready, pour the chilled chunky berry sauce into the ice cream, giving it a quick few folds with a spoon, then scoop it into a container suitable for freezing. Cover and freeze immediately for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

To enjoy, remove the ice cream from the freezer and let it stand for at least 10 minutes before scooping (depending on the temperature outside, but I like mine a little soft). Enjoy as is, or top with toasted almond flakes for a great extra crunch and some toasty almond notes.

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Dinner at 96 Winery Road (new small plates menu)

9 Nov

One of our favourite plates of the day: 96 Winery Road’s popular “Hollandse Pepper Fillet”.

96 Winery Road has been a popular and prominent family restaurant in the Winelands for the past 24 years. Established in 1996 on Winery Road off the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West, they’ve always been known to serve “real food”, aspiring to the apt definition by Nigel Slater: “By ‘Real Food’ I mean big flavoured, unpretentious cooking. Good ingredients made into something worth eating. Nothing fancy, nothing extravagant, nothing careless or slapdash, just nice uncomplicated food. Simple food cooked with care and generosity.” With their characteristic thatched roof, fireplace and friendly service staff, the team from 96 Winery Road has remained steadfast throughout lockdown, reopening their doors recently with an adapted small plates menu suited to the changing needs of their loyal customers.

The thatched entrance to 96 Winery Road.

My family and I were invited to experience this brand new menu last week and I’m so happy to be sharing our dinner in pictures. Senior Sous Chef Ryan Zaayman and his team treated us to no less than 8 different dishes from the small plates menu (4 plates per person). The menu still contains some of 96 Winery Road’s most popular items like the “Hollandse fillet” smothered in a punchy black peppercorn sauce and served with perfectly golden fries topped with grated parmigiano, but they’ve also added some new items like the “new style kabeljou sashimi” with Ponzu and Japanese mayo – both our favourite dishes of the day. Service is friendly and swift, and we enjoyed a series of fantastic Ken Forrester wines per glass, generously served, of which the wooded Old Vine Chenin Blanc was my personal favourite. Do check out their carafé wine menu, available per 250ml and 500ml.

96 Winery Road is not what you’d call a “trendy hotspot”, but there’s a good reason why they have remained a local favourite and a beacon on the very competitive Winelands restaurant scene for the past 24 years: serving really delicious food paired with great wine, consistently doing what they believe in with skill and integrity.

Small Plates Menu: 2 plates – R210 | 3 plates – R300 | 4 plates – R390 (choose 2, 3 or 4 plates per person)

Panko crumbed Dalewood brie, wild rocket, spicy bacon jam

New style sashimi, Ponzu, fresh ginger, Japanese mayo, coriander, sesame oil

Smoked kudu carpaccio, basil, Grana Padano, Evoo, pistachio nuts

Slow roasted pork belly, baby fennel and apple salad, red wine jus vinaigrette

“Hollandse” pepper fillet”, peppercorn and brandy cream

Confit duck, Korean BBQ sauce, glass noodles spring onion, cashew nuts

Wagyu slider, blue brie, tomato chutney, rocket, coleslaw

Grilled artichoke and baby veg salad, Aioli

Spinach and Ricotta tortellini, exotic mushrooms, beurre noisette, sage

Loin of lamb, hummus, Dukkha, lamb jus, harissa crumble

Prime cut of Cape Wagyu beef, supplement – R150

Desserts:

Crème brulée

Chocolate mousse, meringue shards, strawberries

Lemon tart, raspberry sorbet

A simple, warm interior of wooden tables and chairs, and tiled floors.

New style sashimi, Ponzu, fresh ginger, Japanese mayo, coriander, sesame oil.

Panko crumbed Dalewood brie, wild rocket, spicy bacon jam.

Confit duck, Korean BBQ sauce, glass noodles spring onion, cashew nuts.

Spinach and Ricotta tortellini, exotic mushrooms, beurre noisette, sage.

We enjoyed our small plates menu each with a different wine from Ken Forrester. This is the Renegade.

Loin of lamb, hummus, Dukkha, lamb jus, harissa crumble.

Lemon tart with raspberry sorbet and in the back a plate of chocolate mousse with meringue chards and fresh strawberries.

Senior Sous Chef Ryan Zaayman, who has been with 96 Winery Road since 2017.

Address:

96 Winery Road Restaurant
Winery Road
Zandberg Farm

96 Winery Road is open seven days a week. In the mornings, they serve freshly-brewed coffee and bakes from the oven including stuffed croissants. The new Small Plates menu is available daily for lunch, and for dinner Wednesday to Saturday.

Open times:

Deli – daily from 9h00
Breakfast – Served until 11:00, last orders in at 10:30
Lunch – daily from 12h00 to 15h00
Dinner – Wednesday to Saturday 18h00 to 21h00

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Salty peanut butter & milk chocolate bars

28 Oct

It’s only in recent years that I discovered a much loved American classic – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. If you’ve tasted it, you’d know that it is completely addictive, with a layer of smooth set peanut butter filling encased in milk chocolate. It’s the perfect combination of delicate salty, nutty and creamy, especially for peanut butter lovers, of course. I do love peanut butter, although I’m not that huge on sandwiches – I’d rather just eat it straight from the jar. But if you want your peanut butter fix in a treat form, this is it.

A few years ago, I joined a book club for the first time. It was a small group of friends that all had the same goal in mind – more quality time with like-minded friends. One of the first books we read was Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal, a great read for anyone with a palate for a great story (multiple storylines at the same time) and American food culture. In the book, “Pat Prager” makes these award winning peanut butter squares that end up (spoiler alert) on a world class menu. Well, I tried making my own version of those exact squares, and they are magnificent. The thing is, I knew that the American palate is slightly different to the South African palate, so I adapted it to include less butter, less sugar and more salt. “Pat” specifically used milk chocolate, although I would have chosen dark, and I have to say it works perfectly in this setup.

So here is my version of Reese’s peanut butter cups / Pat Prager’s peanut butter squares, sliced in a bar format (disclaimer: it’s rich, so we did slice a few into squares afterwards for the folks that can’t stand the magnificent overload). It’s an easy no-bake recipe that only requires a food processor. Fabulous treats in a few minutes! Keep these in the fridge, because they set beautifully when colder and melt in your mouth very quickly.

Ingredients:

  • 1 x 200g packet digestive biscuits
  • 100g butter, melted
  • 1 cup smooth unflavoured peanut butter
  • 1 and 1/4 cups powdered icing sugar
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 150 g milk chocolate, melted

Method:

In the bowl of a food processor, add the biscuits and process to fine crumbs. Add the melted butter, peanut butter, icing sugar and salt, and process until well mixed. Turn the mixture out into a medium size square (or rectangular) tin lined with baking paper – mine was 20 x 20 cm. Use a spatula to distribute it evenly and smooth the top. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. In the meantime, break the chocolate into blocks and place in a microwavable jug/bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir gently, then repeat until the chocolate is almost melted. Let it stand to warm through and stir until completely melted and smooth. When the peanut butter filling is cold, pour the melted chocolate over the top and smooth it all over with a spatula. Regrigerate for 10-15 minutes, then cut into bars or squares before the chocolate hardens too far. Store in a container with lid in the refrigerator.

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The Pinotage Burger (with cranberry sauce, brie en braai-spiced fried onions)

8 Oct

The Pinotage Burger, from bottom to top: buttered toasted bun, mayo, lettuce, pickles, 200g beef patty, melted brie, cranberry Pinotage sauce, crispy braai-spiced fried onions, and the top layer of buttered toasted bun. Heaven!

National Pinotage Day is around the corner (12 October) and I’ve teamed up with Middelvlei Wine Estate to bring you the definitive Pinotage Burger to pair with this proudly South African cultivar. Pinotage pairs very well with meat, especially spiced meat like boerewors, lamb, game and even mild curries. In addition, it also pairs well with an added sweeter taste profile like chutney or cranberry jam, so the combination of sweet and salty and spice works like a dream.

When I make burgers at home, I go all out. The sesame bun needs to be buttered and toasted on the inside, the patty needs to be the right size for the bun, the meat should be crusty on the outside and still juicy in the middle and you need all the toppings – mayo, lettuce, pickles (for some sweet-and-sour crunch), some type of cheese (melted, of course) and a decent amount of sauce or relish to avoid any kind of dryness. I’ve chosen my favourite 200 g beef steak patty, pan fried in olive oil to go with slices of melted brie, a 2-ingredient easy cranberry sauce made with Pinotage and some super crunchy, salty, deep fried onion rings spiced with store-bought braai spice! The result is an intensely satisfying burger – rich in flavour and texture, perfectly paired with one of the best Pinotages out there: Middelvlei’s superb Momberg Pinotage 2018. Pinotage was the first wine bottled under the Middelvlei label. It is therefore very fitting that this commemorative, limited edition wine was made from Pinotage in tribute to the 100 years that the estate has been part of the Momberg family.

I urge you to try this recipe – you’ll be richly rewarded!

The cranberry sauce is so easy to make with only 2 ingredients, and it really brings the Pinotage element home.

For the crispy onions: (serves 4)

2 onions, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
2 cups milk, for soaking
1/2 cup flour
3 teaspoons of your favourite braai spice mix
canola oil, for frying

For the cranberry sauce:

100 g dried cranberries
125 ml Pinotage

For the burgers:

4 hamburger buns with sesame, sliced open and buttered
olive oil, for frying
4 x 200 g beef burger patties
a few tablespoons mayonnaise
a few fresh lettuce leaves
some sliced cucumber/gherkin pickles
125 g brie, sliced

Method:

Make the onions: Place the onions and the milk in a mixing bowl and leave to soak for at least 30 minutes (in the meantime, get on with the cranberry sauce below). Place the flour and braai spice in a bowl and mix well. Heat the oil (about 3-4 cm deep) in a pot over medium heat – test a strand of onion to see if it sizzles. Now take the onions out of the milk and drop batches of it directly into the spiced flour, coating it all over, then into the oil. Fry in batched until golden brown, drain on kitchen paper and set aside until ready to serve with the burgers.

Make the sauce: Place the cranberries and wine in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and simmer for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and leave to soak for 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and process to a smooth pulp, adding more wine if you prefer a looser result. Set aside.

Assemble the burgers: Toast the buns in a hot pan on the buttered sides, then place on serving plates. Spread the bottoms of the buns with mayonnaise and top with lettuce and pickles. Fry the patties in the olive oil until brown but still juicy, placing the sliced brie on top of each patty for the last minute and covering the pan so that the cheese can melt. Place the cheese-covered patties on top of each prepared burger bun bottom, then top with the cranberry sauce and fried onions. Serve at once.

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#SupportStellenbosch: a weekend with Kunjani, Fat Butcher, Mason Farming, Koelenhof, Villiera, Joostenberg and Knorhoek

20 Sep

The Stellenbosch hospitality and tourism communities have reopened with wide open arms after a devastating few months due to Covid-19 restrictions and lockdown in South Africa. Most of these establishments are now dependent on the support of locals, which will hopefully carry them through the following few months towards a brighter future. Visit Stellenbosch has come up with a fresh new rewards campaign – #SupportStellenbosch – aiming to stimulate our tourism economy and incentivise our residents to love where they live and experience local. The Support Stellenbosch campaign was specifically designed to call on residents to support local businesses, experience Stellenbosch as tourists and inspire their networks to discover what Stellenbosch has to offer, in times of COVID-19 and beyond.

Additionally, they’ve started the Support Stellenbosch Restaurant Rewards Programme, where restaurant patrons paying any bill over R200 with SnapScan will receive a voucher to the value of 50% of their bill (capped at a maximum of R400) to be redeemed at any participating restaurant within the campaign period. It will not cost restaurants any money to benefit from this campaign. A Restaurant Recovery Fund will finance the reward vouchers and they aim to raise R1.5M, donated by various stakeholders, corporates, and other benefactors. The duration of the campaign will be determined by the amount raised for this fund.

How does the restaurant reward voucher system work?

SnapScan manages the reward voucher system. For every SnapScan transaction of R200 or more, at any participating restaurant, a 50% voucher to the maximum of R400, will be issued to the user’s SnapScan wallet within 48 hours of the transaction. The wallet can be used to pay for future dining experiences during the campaign, and only at the participating restaurants, therefore keeping the funds within the local economy. The full amount of the SnapScan transaction will be transferred to the restaurant, and the reward portion will be claimed from the Restaurant Recovery Fund by SnapScan.

Visit Stellenbosch invited me and my family to explore a few Stellenbosch destinations last weekend, and to share our experiences with you, encouraging more locals (like us) to support our beautiful town and all that it has to offer. There are so many world class experiences at discounted rates available to us all in September and beyond, and our support will make a real difference to the industry as a whole.

Take a look at our weekend in pictures below, and be sure to follow the hashtag #SupportStellenbosch on social media for more ideas and offers. We stayed over at Kunjani Wines guest cottages including breakfast at their restaurant, we had a braai box from The Fat Butcher for dinner accompanied by ‘n farm produce hamper from Mason Farming, we did a wine & sorbet tasting at Koelenhof, we did a tasting and game drive at Villiera, enjoyed lunch at Joostenberg Bistro and another lunch at Knorhoek Wine Estate. We were bowled over by the genuine hospitality, passionate staff, quality offerings, scrumptious food and breathtaking scenery during our weekend. I am so proud to be a Stellenbosch local, and so enthusiastic about sharing more of this town and all it has to offer with you. I hope you will go on your own adventure, supporting Stellenbosch, soon.

 

What a view at sunset from Kunjani’s Shiraz Cottage front porch, where we stayed.

Thank you Visit Stellenbosch and all of the participating destinations for hosting us and for showing us once again how fabulous it is to play, eat and drink right here where we live – the best destinations, restaurants and experiences right here around us. Let’s support Stellenbosch!

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Sticky toffee pudding with figs and walnuts

29 Aug

Le Creuset’s 30 cm heritage roasting dish and 400 ml mug in “Fig” – their brand new colour. This sticky toffee pudding is made with rehydrated dried figs and walnuts – absolutely delicious.

A week ago, Le Creuset SA launched their brand new colour, Fig: a warmer shade of violet with beautiful brownish hues – you can see the colour best (in its full glory) in the signature cast iron pots with lids. They sent me a stunning package with a selection of fig-coloured Le Creuset products (rectangular 30 cm heritage roaster, 400 ml coffee mug, medium spatula etc.) as well as a recipe card and ingredients for a decadent sticky baked pudding with dried figs and toasted walnuts.

I gave their recipe a whirl using my new Fig cookware and what a stunning pudding! Even though fresh figs are not in season, dried figs are easily rehydrated in boiling water before baking and they work incredibly well here. The walnuts also provide a welcome soft crunch and some deeper toasty notes. It’s a large pudding that will feed a crowd of up to 12 people (I suppose you can easily half it, using a smaller baking dish). Warm and comforting, soft and spongey, sticky and saucy – the stuff winter pudding dreams are made of.

I’ve added a few touches of my own with the addition of salt in the pudding battter and in the sauce, a few less walnuts for the final topping and some other suggestions. You can definitely also substitute the dried figs for dried dates – they will work just as well.

Ingredients: (makes one large pudding that will serve up to 12 people)

Note: Slightly adapted from Le Creuset’s fabulous recipe for “Sticky Fig & Walnut Pudding”.

For the pudding batter:

  • 200 g dried figs, roughly chopped
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda / baking soda
  • 400 ml recently boiled water
  • 100 g butter, softened
  • 200 g light brown sugar
  • 4 x free range eggs (or just use large)
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 350 g self-raising flour
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 100 g (about 1 cup) walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 C and spray a large rectangular deep baking dish (I’ve used Le Creuset’s 30 cm heritage dish) with non-stick spray. Place the chopped figs in a bowl with the bicarb of soda and top with the recently boiled water. Stir and set aside to steep.

In a separate bowl, mix the butter and sugar with electric beaters. Add the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix – the mixture will look slightly curdled, don’t be alarmed. Add the flour and mix well, then add the walnuts, steeped figs, and all the liquids of the steeped figs. Mix to a runny batter, scraping the sides. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes at 180 C or until fully cooked and golden brown. While the pudding is baking, make the sauce (you’ll pour it over the pudding as soon as it comes out of the oven).

For the sauce:

  • 350 g light brown sugar (or use demerara for a darker result)
  • 150 g butter
  • 400 ml fresh or longlife cream
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • about 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted, for topping (optional)

Add all the ingredients into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved (watch it carefully as it can easily start boiling and will boil over the sides). Remove from the heat. Pour half the sauce over the freshly baked pudding as soon as it comes from the oven, then serve the remaining sauce on the side. Serve the pudding warm, optionally also with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on the side.

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Almond financiers (a step-by-step guide)

11 Aug

A few years ago, I discovered almond financiers while shopping at Joostenberg Deli. They produce a wide range of French-inspired pastries within their bakery, also including madeleines, croissants, etc. These unassuming little pastries looked intrigueing: no icing, no impressive decoration, just rectangular golden nuggets with their characteristic cracked tops. I’ve always been a sucker for any type of almond pastry, so I expected to love them. But when I finished all six in the packet by myself before even getting home, I knew I was hooked. Crunchy on the outside, densely moist in the middle, with the distinctive yet subtle almond flavour that all frangipane-style pastries are globally adored for.

I’ve since created a recipe for baking my own, using a mini-muffin tin instead of the original iconic rectangular molds that I cannot seem to find anywhere (I suppose they do look like little gold bars, and perhaps therefor the “financiers” name). I’ve baked many batches of these, and they never disappoint. Over the years I’ve adapted the recipe slightly to suit a number of easy substitutions (even using home-ground whole almonds) and to make sure that they didn’t stick to the pan as easily (the purists prefer buttering the moulds, but I honestly think non-stick spray does a better job).  I’ve also found David Lebovitz’s financiers post very handy, and specifically found the comments section very insightful (because so many people wanted to know if you atually stir in the egg whites without giving them a whisk first, and the answer is yes, you stir them in just a gloopy as they are). Apart from turning the butter into browned butter over the stove top, the rest is literally a stir-together vibe – it couldn’t be simpler.

I’ve created a few visuals in my kitchen, showing you what the process and the mixture look like – keep scrolling down to get the full recipe at the end of the post. Have fun in the kitchen and prepare to fall in love with these humble little nuggets.

Browned butter – take a look at the essential darker bits that form at the bottom of the pan. Keep swirling to prevent the butter from burning.

 

Separating my eggs – you’ll only use the whites, so keep the yolks for making custard later.

 

Add the ground almonds to a mixing bowl, along with flour, salt and sugar. Use store-bought “almond flour” (blanched ground almonds) or make your own by grinding whole almonds to a powdery consistency in a blender.

 

Add the yolks to the dry ingredients and mix to a sticky thick batter.

 

Add the slightly cooled browned butter to the batter and stir until fully incorporated.

 

It’s a stirring game – no technique, very easy.

 

Keep stirring until the butter is fully incorporated.

 

Use two spoons to drop the batter into a mini-muffin tin that’s thoroughly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

 

Optionally, top with a few flaked almonds.

 

Bake for 12 minutes at 220 C (or 200 C for fan assisted ovens).

 

Remove carefully from the tin using a sharp small bladed knife, and cool on a rack.

 

 

 

French simplicity at its finest: freshly baked almond financiers, baked in mini-muffin tins.

 

Ingredients: (makes 24 mini-muffin financiers)

  • 100 g salted butter
  • 140 g (1 cup tightly packed) ground almonds / almond flour (or grind your own from raw almonds)
  • 180 g (4/5 cup) light brown sugar (or white sugar)
  • 60 g (1/2 cup) white bread flour (or cake flour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 XL egg whites 
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • about 1/4 cup flaked almonds (optional)

Method:

  1. Make the browned butter: Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling every now and then until melted. It will start to sizzle and bubble with a slightly “split” look. Continue to swirl from side to side (do not stir) every 15 seconds, watching it carefully. The large spattering bubbles will change to a gentler fine coffee-coloured foam – when this happens, check for a golden brown residue on the bottom of the pan. As soon as you spot this golden brown residue starting to form, remove the pot from the heat and keep on swirling until the foam subsides and you are left with a liquid, nutty, brown butter. Be careful not to burn the butter. The butter should now be around 80 ml in total, which is perfect. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220 °C (or 200 °C if using fan-assisted oven). Spray a 24 hole mini-muffin tin generously with non-stick spray.
  3. Add the ground almonds, sugar, flour and salt to a large mixing bowl and stir with a spatula. Add the egg whites and extract and stir well – it will be a sticky, thick batter.
  4. Add the slightly cooled but still liquid browned butter and stir until well mixed. Divide the mixture evenly between the mini-muffin holes using two spoons. Top with some flaked almonds (optional) then bake for 12 minutes until golden brown and risen.
  5. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes in the pan before use a sharp small knife to loosen the sides of the financiers. Leave on a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.
  6. Serve with tea/coffee. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Note: If you are using unsalted butter, rather add 1/2 teaspoon salt. If not topping with almond flakes, the financiers with rise a little more and you’ll see more of the characteristic “cracked” top.

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Classic Cape tomato bredie

3 Aug

Classic South African tomato bredie with rice, served with Cape of Good Hope Riebeeksrivier Syrah (photography by Tasha Seccombe, ceramics by Mervyn Gers)

 

The perfumed fragrance of this humble Cape favourite will seduce you into second helpings. It matches perfectly with the Cape of Good Hope Riebeeksrivier Syrah from Anthonij Rupert Wines – a savoury red wine made from grapes from the Swartland, with light peppery spice notes and plum fruit flavours, bold and structured. Don’t substitute canned tomatoes for fresh ones – the magic lies in using fresh. The colour of your bredie will depend on the colour and ripeness of your tomatoes – don’t be alarmed if it is less red than in the picture, just use the ripest and reddest tomatoes you can find. Use a food processor to help with the dicing, if you want to skip some labour.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 1,5 kg lamb/mutton rib chunks (or neck chops)
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 4 whole cardamom seeds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely grated
  • a knob of fresh ginger, finely grated (1-2 tablespoons)
  • 1,2 kg ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 5 ml sugar
  • 4 medium potatoes, diced (optional)
  • cooked jasmin/basmati rice, to serve

Method:

In a large heavy based pot over medium-high heat, add the oil. Add the rib chunks and fry on the fatty side until brown, seasoning with salt & pepper as you go (fry in batches if necessary). Remove the meat and turn down the heat to low.
Add the onions, cloves, cardamom & cinnamon sticks. Fry until translucent and soft, stirring often. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another minute.
Add the tomatoes and sugar (and potatoes, optionally), and stir to loosen any sticky bits on the bottom of the pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then place the meat back into the pot and stir.
Cover with a lid, then simmer over low heat for about 1,5 hours or until the meat is very soft and falls from the bone. You can remove the bones with tongs at this point, if you want to. Taste and add more salt & pepper if necessary. Serve hot with fluffy warm rice.

Note: This recipe was developed exclusively for Cape of Good Hope Wines, recipe/food preparation/styling by Ilse van der Merwe, photography/styling by Tasha Seccombe.

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Celebrating Bastille Festival with Leopard’s Leap

5 Jul

Leopard’s Leap’s Bastille Festival delivery menu for two, available online at R365 (excl wine and dessert).

 

Franschhoek’s annual Bastille Festival is taking place virtually this year, making room for everyone to enjoy the festival from a safe distance within Covid-19 circumstances. Leopard’s Leap has joined in the French-inspired fun with a delivery menu from their popular rotisserie restaurant. They sent me this week’s classic French menu for two, consisting of the following (R365 for two, available 1-11 July 2020):

Deboned and rolled beef neck bourguignon

Lyonnaise potatoes

Dalewood Camembert (60g) with garlic, parsley, tarragon, extra virgin olive oil and chardonnay

Freshly baked sour dough bread

Grilled and marinated ratatouille vegetables with rosemary and tomatoes

Add your choice of dessert at an extra cost, or kids pizza meals – we tried the Pear, muscat and lemon clafouti with crème fraiche (R60 for two), an incredibly light crumb with the softest fruit, as well as the BBQ Pork Pizza (R85).

We couldn’t help but lay a table to enjoy this feast! What a delightful way to experience some local French flair in the comfort of your own home. Take a look at my pictures:

Two of Leopard’s Leap’s wines that we enjoyed as part of this feast: The Culinaria Pinot Noir Chardonnay (R110) and the Culinaria Grand Vin (R125) – both available for purchase online.

 

Deboned and rolled beef neck bourguignon – meltingly tender and boneless, rich and hearty. I added some of my own rocket leaves for a touch of green.

 

Perfectly golden Lyonnaise potatoes.

 

Grilled and marinated ratatouille vegetables with rosemary and oven dried tomatoes. The portions were very generous – there were two tubs like these, but I only plated one.

 

A beautiful medium-size freshly baked sourdough loaf with butter – perfect to enjoy with the baked camembert.

 

Such a simple addition, but so stellar: baked Dalewood Camembert (60g) with garlic, parsley, tarragon, extra virgin olive oil and chardonnay.

 

Sweet endings with the most delightfully light and moist pear clafoutis with crème fraiche. French simplicity at its finest.

 

Leopard’s Leap’s French-inspired Culinaria wine range is also available for purchase online – free shipping on any online order of 6 bottles or more, and you receive a free recipe booklet (valid 1-11 July 2020). The wines are all designed to be exceptional food partners.

Leopard’s Leap’s Rotisserie Restaurant will reopen for both Bastille Festival weekends (Fri-Sun, 09h00-16h00, 3-5 July and 10-12 July 2020) – the same menu that’s available for delivery. They’ve taken all the necessary safety measures, and luckily they have a lot of open spaces and fresh air.

Follow #FHKBastilleFest to see all the French festivities taking place until 11th July 2020, and check out Leopard’s Leap’s Facebook page.

 

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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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