Monday, 28 February 2011


Bigos is a traditional Polish hunter's stew. Recipes differ from region to region and (of course) even from family to family. Many years ago, I worked for the town council of a small town in South Africa. Part of my role was to promote a sense of community, and I put together events and projects to this end. One such was a recipe book using recipes supplied by the townspeople. This recipe was one such, provided by a Polish woman who lived in the town. She told me that in bygone days, a family would keep a pot of bigos going, sometimes for weeks on end, adding to it as needed.

If you have a crock pot/slow cooker, this recipe is ideal. Since I don't have one, I either use my pressure cooker (adjusting the times below) or a casserole dish in the oven.

Of course, if you have any Polish heritage of your own, you will probably have a different recipe. This is is just one option.

750g sauerkraut (I use the one with carrots in it, but there is much debate among Poles as to whether or not bigos should contain carrots)
1 onion, finely chopped
45ml flour
30ml butter
175ml white wine
500ml stock (not mutton/lamb - I use chicken or vegetable)
Paprika to taste
Any smoked meat, chopped into bite-sized chunks

  • Simmer the sauerkraut in stock for about an hour to an hour and a half.
  • Fry the onion in the butter until soft. 
  • Add the flour to the onion and stir over low heat for a further minute.
  • Add onion and meat to the sauerkraut and transfer to a casserole dish (or a pressure cooker).
  • Add wine and paprika. Mix well.
  • Cover and bake slowly (about 150C) for at least an hour. If you're using a pressure cooker, it will obviously take far less time. But, if you're using a slow cooker, you can safely leave it for several hours.
  • Serve with boiled potatoes and/or dark rye bread.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Easy bran muffins

I've had a few (good-natured, and wholly insincere) complaints about waistlines and calories lately, so I thought I'd address that... sort of.

Do you remember when muffins were a semi-healthy, high-in-fibre snack? More closely related to a scone than a cupcake? Perfect with a scraping of butter, a little cheese, a smidgen of jam? Currently, cupcakes are very 'in' and the only difference I can see between them and the thing that has been known as a muffin for the past decade or so is that a cupcake is iced (frosted).

This recipe came from my sister back in the days when a muffin was a bran muffin.

Oven temperature

2 eggs
375ml brown sugar
100ml vegetable oil (I used sunflower)

500ml milk
625ml plain flour
12ml bicarbonate of soda
Pinch salt
5ml vanilla extract
500ml all bran flakes (you know: the breakfast cereal?)
250ml seedless raisins

  • Preheat the oven.
  • Beat together the eggs, sugar and oil.
  • Mix in the milk.
  • Sift in the flour, salt and bicarb, and beat well.
  • Add the vanilla, bran flakes and raisins and mix well with a spoon.
  • Spoon the mixture into muffin pans (about half full to allow space for rising) and bake for 15-20 minutes until firm to the touch. They may form some pretty odd shapes, but what the heck? They taste the same! You should get about 18 muffins.
  • Serve with a scraping of butter, a little cheese and/or a smidgen of jam... oh, and a cup of tea (or coffee, of course).

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Roast beetroot with rotmos

I had been married to my Swede for many years before I finally got to visit Sweden for the first time. His family hails from a tiny island off the west coast of the country, where we had a large 'gathering of the clans' the year my husband turned 40. Not purely because it was his 40th, but also because that was the year his sister turned 50, his cousin turned 40 and his Mom turned 75. I think there were a few other big events that year, but I can't remember what they were... which is a little sad, because we are now exactly 10 years down the line, which means we're in for another round of them!

Anyhoo, while we were there, my in-laws rustled up a meal that has since become a regular on my table: smoked sausages with beetroot and rotmos (root mash). So today, you get two recipes in one. Mainly because they aren't really 'recipes', strictly speaking.

On that occasion, they simply boiled the beetroot, and ate them with far too much butter. You could try that... only it's probably a good idea to cut back on the butter! I often roast a variety of vegetables together: potatoes, carrots, parsnips, bell peppers, beetroots and onions. You could try that, too.

But today, it's just the beetroots on their own. And this is how you do it.

Oven temperature

Peeled and quartered
Beetroot, one per person, peeled and quartered
A little oil
Some fennel or cumin seeds (optional)

  • Preheat the oil in a roasting dish.
  • Place the beetroot quarters in the hot oil and sprinkle with a few seeds (if you're using these).
  • Roast until done (about 40 minutes), turning every 10 minutes or so.

While that's happening, let's get cracking on the rotmos. This is made on the hob.

Boil together
Potatoes, one per person, peeled and cubed
Carrots, one per person, peeled and chopped
Swede (rutabaga), one small, or half a medium sized one, peeled and cubed
Butter, milk and salt (optional)
  • Boil up the vegetables together until they're soft.
  • Mash them all up together, using a little butter, milk and salt to get it just the way you like it.

Serve with the roast beetroot and smoked sausage. Of course, if you're a vegetarian, you could just leave out the sausage, or replace it with a veggie option.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Cheesecake (non-baked)

Cheesecakes come in all sorts of varieties. This one requires no baking. However, you could replace the crust suggested here with the one given for milk tart, and bake that blind before pouring in the filling. That works really well, too. At some point, I will post a recipe for a baked cheesecake.

I was first given this recipe by a colleague in the mid 80s.

1 pkt Hobnobs, Nice biscuits or ginger nuts (or, if you live in South Africa, Tennis biscuits), crushed
60g butter or margarine at room temperature

12.5ml gelatine
125ml water
250ml whipping cream
250ml cream cheese
Small pinch salt
1 tin condensed milk
15ml lemon or lime juice (I prefer lime)

  • Mix the butter and crushed biscuits.
  • Press into a pie dish and refrigerate while making the filling.
  • Add gelatin to water and heat gently until dissolved.
  • Leave to cool, but not for too long, or it will set too much to be of use.
  • Beat cream until almost stiff.
  • Stir in all remaining ingredients (gelatine last of all). Do not use an electric beater to blend in the gelatine, or you will wind up with strings of goop in your cheesecake.
  • Pour gently into crust.
  • Refrigerate until set.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Beef and bacon casserole

This is one of those recipes cut out of a magazine years ago and pasted into my recipe book. No family story. However, I'm a bit of a sucker for anything that calls for bacon... and I have passed that addiction on to my younger son who gives this recipe a decided thumbs up.

Oven temperature

500g stewing steak, cubed
50ml flour
50ml oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
200g baby onions/shallots, peeled and left whole
150g rindless back bacon, chopped
50ml tomato puree
5ml each dried oregano and dried rosemary (or about 15ml of fresh)
Pepper to taste (you won't need salt - there's enough in the bacon)
200ml red wine (or beef stock if you're teetotal)
285g can of creamed mushrooms

  • Coat meat in flour. 
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan and brown meat.
  • Add garlic, onions and bacon and saute for 5 minutes.
  • Add tomato puree, herbs, pepper and wine and simmer uncovered until the sauce has reduced by half, stirring occasionally. This will probably take about an hour.
  • Place meat mixture in ovenproof casserole dish, pour creamed mushrooms over.
  • Stir gently, cover and bake until the meat is tender (about 35-40 minutes).
  • Serve with rice and a lovely leafy salad (or some veg, if you prefer).

Monday, 21 February 2011

No-bake chocolate 'cookies'

I've had this recipe since I was in primary school in the 70s! I think I got it from a recipe book compiled to raise funds for some or other initiative. I used to make these cookies quite often (unsupervised) when I was a child. I also used to try to make toffee, which was less successful. It used to drive my mother crazy when she came home from work to find complete chaos in the kitchen. How I didn't burn down the block of flats (apartments), I have no idea!

500ml sugar
110g margarine or butter
250ml dessicated coconut
125ml cocoa powder
125ml milk
750ml rolled oats
5ml vanilla extract

  • In a large saucepan, boil together the sugar, butter/marg, coconut, cocoa and milk for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Cool slightly and then stir in the oats and vanilla. Mix well.
  • Now you have two choices:
  • Option 1: press into a shallow baking tray, cut into squares and leave to set.
  • Option 2: (the messy version) roll tablespoon sized portions into balls in your hands and roll them in coconut (not included in the ingredient list), before placing them on wax-proof paper to set.
I used to go with option 2 as a child, but I tend to go with option 1 these days.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Pea and hock soup

This recipe comes from my BFF, Lynda Choice. Our two families spent a lot of time together when we were living in Cape Town. We also often wound up spontaneously eating together about once a week. Lynda and I would be working on something together, and get totally caught up in what we were doing. We would fetch the kids from school and go back to her house to carry on with whatever-it-was. At some point, I would phone John and tell him not to bother going home after work, but to come to the Choice's house instead. We would eat together, bath our kids together and then put our kids in Mark and Lynda's bed until we were ready to leave, at which point, we would carry two sleeping boys to the car and take them home.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I miss the easy fellowship of that relationship!

Watching Mark and Lynda in the kitchen together was most entertaining. They cooked as a tag team. Their kitchen was tiny, and neither of them is sylph-like, but they moved around each other like Morecambe and Wise in that most famous sketch. Lynda would get things going and Mark taste this, check on that, and make suggestions all the while ("Babe, this needs some X"; "Lyndie, are you going to put some Y in the such-and-such?"), which Lynda took completely in her stride. If John had tried that, I'd have probably whacked him over the head with a 'paplepel' (it translates as 'porridge spoon', but that does it no justice whatsoever).

Anyhoo, this is Lynda's pea and hock soup recipe (more or less), it makes a large quantity!

1 whole (small) smoked pork hock or eisbein - these are difficult to come by in the UK, and quite expensive, so I tend to have to make do with a bacon roast (about 1kg), but it is a poor substitute
Whole bag of green split peas (about 500g)
1 can peas (optional - I tend to leave these out)
125ml pearl barley
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1litre chicken stock
2 bay leaves

  • Basically, it's a case of just bung everything in a large saucepan and cover generously with water - the peas will absorb a lot of water as they cook. You don't need any salt, because the meat is full of the stuff.
  • Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally. If you have a pressure cooker, about half an hour to 45 minutes at pressure will do the trick.
  • Remove the meat joint, chop it up into bite-sized pieces and return them to the saucepan.
  • Serve with crusty bread - preferably one of those tear-n-share loaves with bits of onion or sundried tomatoes in them.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Milk tart

This is very much an Afrikaans tradition, although it bears some resemblance to an English custard tart. Of course, there are myriad different ways of making it, and everybody's Granny's recipe is 'the best ever'. Some of them involve baking the crust and filling together in the oven, some are crustless, some use a biscuit base.... the variations are endless. In this recipe, the crust is baked blind, and the custard prepared on the hob.

This recipe came from my sister-in-law, Ann, and has become one of my signature dishes. The crust is so delicious, I could eat it without the filling! In fact, I use this crust recipe any time I need a shortcrust pie base, omitting the sugar for savoury dishes.

Oven temperature

250ml plain flour
20ml sugar
100g butter, melted
Pinch salt

500ml milk
30ml butter
2 eggs
60ml sugar
30ml cornflour
2.5ml almond essence (and this is the critical factor, for me!)
Ground cinnamon. Lots of ground cinnamon.

Poke it full of holes...
  • Make the crust first. Sift the dry ingredients together.
  • Stir in the melted butter.
  • Press into a pie plate and prick it all over with a fork.
  • Bake for about 10-12 minutes until turning golden.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • While the crust is cooling, or once it has already cooled, you can begin on the filling.
  • Gently heat the milk, sugar and butter together until the sugar has dissolved. Leave it on the hob for now. You will come back to it.
  • Mix the cornflour with a little cold milk.
  • Beat the eggs and add the cornflour mixture.
  • Bring the warm milk mixture on the hob up to the boil, taking care not to scald the milk.
  • Add the cornflour/egg mixture, stirring gently and taking care not to set the eggs as you pour. I find this works best if I pour a little of the hot mixture into the eggs first to raise the temperature, and then add that back into the saucepan.
  • Keep stirring until the sauce thickens, and it just reaches boiling point (signified by the occasional, large bubble that 'gloops' up to the surface).
  • Remove from the heat and add the essence. It is very easy to forget this step. Don't. It's what makes all the difference.
  • Pour into the pie crust.
  • Sprinkle liberally with ground cinnamon. Leave to cool.
  • Serve as a dessert or with tea/coffee.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Kåldolmar (Swedish cabbage rolls)

This is another one of my mother-in-law's recipes. She taught me to make these many years ago. I have to confess, though, that mine are never as good as hers. This is a great dish for a cold night. It can also be scaled up for larger groups.

Oven temperature

400g mince
70g raw rice
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch mixed herbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Large cabbage (you won't need the whole thing, but you need the larger leaves on the outside)
Little oil
175ml red wine
30ml flour
15ml golden syrup/honey
Cream (optional)

  • Boil the rice in water with a little salt until cooked.
  • Add mince, eggs and seasonings. Mix together.
  • Boil or steam whole cabbage leaves until softish and pliable.
  • Place one heaped tablespoon of filling into the centre of each cabbage leaf. Fold in the sides, and roll the cabbage leaf.
  • Brown the rolls in a little oil in a frying pan.
  • Place in a casserole dish.
  • In the pan, mix the little bits and bobs left behind from the rolls with the flour, syrup and red wine. Add a little water.
  • Pour over the rolls in the casserole dish.
  • Bake for 1.5-2 hours.
  • Thicken sauce with cornflour if necessary and add a little cream (optional... and decadent).
  • Serve with boiled potatoes.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Things I have in my kitchen (equipment)

I guess everyone has their own idea about what constitutes essential kitchen equipment, and I have often been surprised at what I find in friends' kitchens. Not all my friends have had electric kettles (jugs, to you Aussies) or even toasters. A saucepan on the stove, and a griller do those two jobs just as well.

When I first got married, I had a kettle, a griller, and an electric frying pan. That was it. No stove (cooker, to you Brits), no microwave. But it worked. We did get a stove within the first year, I have to admit, and I have added a great many bits of kit since then.

I prefer not to have a whole array of 'single function devices', so I don't have a dedicated crepe maker, egg poacher, omelette maker or any of those things. So what do I have? I'm going to take as a given that you expect me to have things like a kettle, toaster, stove, fridge and microwave, as well as a fairly standard selection of saucepans, casserole dishes and knives, okay?

Starting with 'things that plug in':
  • Electric beater. Non branded and used to death!
  • Food processor. Jamie Oliver... and fabulously compact! I use pretty much all the fittings to varying degrees, and would be pretty lost without it. My previous one broke and I was bereft until I replaced it.
  • Coffee grinder. Non branded. Often pressed into service for grinding spices, too.
  • Breadmaker. I very rarely use this, but it was a gift and it makes the most fabulous bread. I keep it because I am useless with yeast. Useless, I tell you. Any time I try a recipe that involves yeast, we have a disaster on our hands. But not with my breadmaker. You should taste my kardemummakrans (I'll have to share that recipe with you, won't I?)!
Non electricals:
  • My cookie gun has featured on this blog before
  • Three tier steamer saucepan. This is how I cook vegetables... almost every day. I hardly ever immerse my veg in water.
  • Microwave steamer. I use this primarily for fish (when making fish pie) and asparagus, but it does get used for other things, too.
  • Pressure cooker. I don't have a slow cooker/crock pot, but I am addicted to my pressure cooker. My mother didn't have one when I was a child (still doesn't has far as I know), and nor did any of my aunts, uncles or grandparents. By contrast, everyone in my husband's family appears to have one. So as soon as we got our first stove, my husband went out and bought me a pressure cooker. I was terrified of the thing. The first time it hissed at me, I ran to the bedroom and hid under the bed! Now I use it several times a week in the winter and slightly less often in the summer. Stews, soups, potroasts... I can't imagine being without it.
  • Silicon baking 'tins'. How did I ever cope without these?
  • Sugar thermometer. I use this when making things like lollipops, fudge, jam, etc.
  • Several coffee plungers in different sizes and two teapots.
I think that's about it... although I'm bound to remember something else when I go downstairs to make a cup of tea later.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Red velvet cake

I have to admit this is a last minute substitution. I have a carefully drawn up schedule of what I am going to post on each day on this blog (mainly because I have to make it and photograph it myself in preparation). But today, at the last minute, I threw the schedule out of the window in favour of a spot of whimsy. It's Valentine's day, after all.

Now I don't subscribe to excessive silliness on this day, but I do like to give (and receive) a card and some little gesture of romance (flowers will do nicely, thanks, hon). This year, I also indulged in a little baking... purely because I found heart-shaped silicon cupcake and sponge moulds in my grocery store and was tickled pink with them. I actually bought them so that my son could make something special for his lovely girlfriend, but then I felt compelled to try them out myself first (as you do).

I made a batch of heart shaped cupcakes for the visitors' room in church yesterday, using a lime and coconut cupcake recipe I got from the Kitchen Crusader (just yum). Her recipe left me with a whole lot of icing, though, so - naturally - I had to find a use for it. I decided made a heart-shaped cake using a recipe for red velvet cupcakes. The recipe I found originally called for cream cheese icing, which I have already described as part of the recipe for banana, carrot and nut cake. I found it worked just fine with the lime and coconut. Feel free to make your own substitutions. That's the joy of baking, after all!

Oven temperature

140g plain (cake) flour
20ml cocoa powder
2.5ml bicarbonate of soda
2.5ml baking powder
125ml buttermilk
5ml vinegar
2.5ml vanilla extract
25ml red food colouring (liquid) or 2.5ml red paste
55g butter at room temperature
175g sugar
2 eggs

50g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
60ml coconut milk
7.5ml lime juice

  • Preheat the oven.
  • Grease a 20cm cake tin (unless you're using silicon, of course, which needs no such folderol) or line a 12 hole muffin pan with paper cases
  • Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarb, baking powder and salt together, ready for later use.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and food colouring. Do not be tempted to lick your fingers (as I did) if this mixture splooshes you... bleagh!
  • Cream the butter and sugar together well.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.
  • Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the red mixture, about a third at a time, beating well after each addition. Keep going until you've mixed the whole lot together.
  • Either pour it into the cake tin or divide it between the paper cases.
  • Bake in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes for cupcakes, or 25 for a single cake. Test with a skewer (it should come out dry) or by pressing gently (if the cake springs back when pressed gently, it's done).
  • Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack. Wait until it has cooled before icing it.
  • Use an electric beater on the butter until it's very pale.
  • Add the icing sugar, about a third at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Add coconut milk and lime juice and beat well until completely combined.
  • Spread the icing on the cupcakes/cake and decorate as required.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Tres leches cupcakes

This Christmas past, one of my Facebook friends shared a picture of some tres leches cupcakes he had made with his family. I was intrigued, since I have (just) enough Spanish to figure out that 'tres leches' translates to 'three milks'. He told me a bit about them and I decided they weren't a million miles away from the very first recipe I shared on this blog. They sounded rather decadent and sweet enough to meet the approval of my sugar-mad husband and sons.

So I found a recipe and gave them a whirl. They aren't difficult, but they are a bit of a faff, so don't try them if you're in a hurry.

They were utterly delicious, very sweet, and com-puh-letely decadent. Dieters need not apply. Fortunately for those of you who care about these things, there is still nearly a month before the beginning of Lent! Oh... and also not suitable for those with a dairy intolerance (unless there are non-dairy equivalents for all tres of the leches). Sorry Catherine.

You will need waxed cupcake cups (about 24) and muffin pans. Place a cupcake case into each muffin space.

Oven temperature

6 large eggs, separated

1ml baking powder
1ml salt
250ml sugar
125g butter, melted and cooled
250ml plain (cake) flour
175ml evaporated milk
125ml cream
175ml sweetened condensed milk
Whipped cream (optional)
Ground cinnamon

  • Beat the egg whites, baking powder and salt until it is stiff enough for you to be able to mould it into soft peaks with the beater blades (not quite the stiff peaks needed for meringues).
  • Add the yolks and the sugar and mix until creamy - this shouldn't take more than a minute. From this point on, it's probably best to set aside the electric beater and work with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  • Fold the butter in gently.
  • Blend in the flour, a little at a time.
  • Half-fill each of the cupcake cake cases - you're going to need a little space later, so don't overfill them.
  • Bake for about 20-25 minutes (adjust if you have a fan-assisted oven).
  • While the cupcakes are baking, mix your milks together. You might find this easier if you warm them slightly, but don't let them come anywhere near boiling point.
  • Remove your cupcakes from the oven and poke them full of holes using a skewer of some description (I used a metal meat skewer, which worked fine. I found some recipes that suggested tooth picks, but I found those too thin).
  • Pour a little of the milk mixture over each cupcake. It will soak in. Repeat until all the milk has been used up. You may have to wait a little while between repeats, to let the milk soak in.
  • Leave them to cool.
  • Top with whipped cream, if you're going that route, and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon.
  • Serve as a dessert or with coffee.

  • I reckon you could probably do this just as well with a cupcake recipe that calls for fewer eggs and more baking powder. That would certainly make it easier on the pocket!
  • You could also try this with a cupcake recipe that involves cocoa powder - I suspect that would be heavenly!
  • Being married to a Swede, I have noticed that they tend to use cardamom where I might use cinnamon, and it tastes absolutely wonderful, so you might try ground cardamom over the top as an alternative. Nutmeg would probably also work, if you prefer that.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Roast parsnips

Don't be alarmed by that white substance between the parsnips in the photo. All will be revealed...

All the years I lived in South Africa, I had no idea what a person would do with a parsnip. Their Afrikaans name (witwortels) translates to 'white roots' (mind you, carrots are simply called 'roots' in Afrikaans, so it's hardly surprising), which I didn't find helpful. I never bought them, because I had no idea how to prepare them, and because I had the weird notion that they would taste like turnips, which I don't enjoy. The only time I ever consumed them was when my sister in law grated them into a soup, which of course gave me no indication as to how they would taste alone.

One of the 'bank staff' members at my very first job in the UK was appalled to discover this gaping hole in my culinary experience, and shared her recipe with me. I wish I could remember her name. Mea culpa... but we didn't work together very long.

I have since discovered there are a great many things you can do with a parsnip, but this remains my favourite, so I share it with you. My husband says 'they're like sweeties', my elder son snarfs them with relish, but my younger son is not a fan. His girlfriend is mad about them, however, but never gets them at home, so we kidnap her for dinner if I'm ever making them.

Oven temperature

Parsnips (as many as you need)
Cumin seeds (optional - these were not part of the original recipe)

Coated and sprinkled
  • Peel the parsnips and cut them into large pieces (I usually cut them in half across the middle and then cut the fatter top part in half again, vertically)
  • Steam them over boiling water for about 5 minutes until they are just starting to soften.
  • While the parsnips are steaming, preheat some oil in your roasting pan in the oven.
  • Make a half-and-half mixture of cornflour and grated Parmesan and coat each piece of parsnip in this. I usually use a Tupperware lunch box, in which I gently shake the parsnips one at time (it only takes a few seconds for each one).
  • Pop the parsnips into the preheated oil in the roasting pan and sprinkle each one with a few cumin seeds.
  • Roast for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden on all sides. They should crisp up nicely.
  • Don't feel you can only serve these with a roast joint. They are utterly delicious with pork chops, steak, grilled chicken.... you name it!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


This is another traditional Afrikaans recipe. The name literally translates as 'milk food', but there is no satisfactory English equivalent.

My father's side of the family was Afrikaans, but none of them ever mentioned melkkos, as far as I can remember. I was married with children when a friend of mine (who has since passed away) introduced me to it. Her recipe is a modern variation. I will provide that, as well as a more traditional model.

Charnel's version
This version calls for something a bit pasta-like.You could go the lazy route and just use fresh (not dried) pasta from the store, tagliatelle for preference. However, if you're going to follow the recipe:

2 large eggs
250ml flour
Pinch salt
3 cups milk
Cinnamon sugar to taste

  • Beat eggs lightly. 
  • Add salt and flour and mix well.
  • Add just enough water to create a stiff dough and knead it until it is elastic.
  • Roll it out thinly (about 1/2cm) on a floured board and cut it into thin strips with a sharp knife.
  • Gently bring the milk to the boil in a large enough saucepan.
  • Add the strips and boil gently for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, and taking care not to burn the milk.
  • Serve hot with cinnamon sugar.

More traditional version
You will notice that this version doesn't include eggs.

190ml flour
30ml butter
Pinch salt
1 litre milk
Cinnamon stick
Cinnamon sugar to taste

  • Sift the flour and salt together.
  • Rub in the butter with your fingers to get a sort of crumbled mixture.
  • In a large enough saucepan, gently bring the milk to the boil with the cinnamon stick.
  • Add the flour mixture a little at a time while stirring gently. It will be lumpy... that's the point.
  • Simmer for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning the milk.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick and serve hot with oodles of cinnamon sugar.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Barbara's crustless savoury tart

This is one of my Mom's recipes. I realise she hasn't had much of a look-in on this blog so far. This is partly because she only came to enjoy cooking in her retirement, by which time I had long since left home. My Mom had the disadvantage of being the daughter of a good cook and then the daughter-in-law of an even better cook (nothing my Mom ever made was good enough for my Dad).

After my parents split up, my Mom was a single parent, working full time. Cooking was something to be done as quickly and easily as possible each evening after work, in order to get the kids fed on a severely limited budget. Our meals tended to be very ordinary.

These days, my Mom is much more daring. This recipe dates back to my teens. Back then, it was quite adventurous by my Mom's standards.

Double recipe, single dish
The recipe makes two tarts. You can halve it, of course. When I made it on this occasion, I put the whole double recipe into a single large pyrex dish and it worked just fine. I didn't even increase the time (but then, I have a fan-assisted oven, which makes a significant difference).

Oven temperature

250g bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 thick slices of bread (about 2cm), crusts removed
625ml milk
30ml butter/marg
6 eggs
500ml grated cheese (mature cheddar works well)
1 tin corned beef (aka bully beef), mashed/chopped
5ml chopped parsley and/or chives
5ml English or Dijon mustard (optional - I leave this out)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Fry the bacon and onion together lightly. You shouldn't need oil - there is enough fat in bacon.
  • Place the bread, milk and butter into a saucepan and boil gently for 5 minutes.Mash the bread and leave to cool.
  • Beat the eggs in a large bowl.
  • Stir in the cheese, bacon and onion, bread and milk mixture.
  • Add remaining ingredients.
  • Pour into two pie plates and bake for 30 minutes until the egg has set.
  • Eat hot or cold with salads.
Try using different meats. Frankfurters work really well, and if you have a few slices of ham left over from making the kids' sandwiches, chuck them in, too.
You could also try it with vegetables. It's a great way to deal with a few leftover vegetables. Broccoli works brilliantly, as do peas, grated carrot and chunks of potato. Just cook them lightly first.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Things I have in my kitchen (ingredients)

From the very outset, I have aimed to share with you a range of recipes that could be prepared in the 'average' kitchen. Of course, there is no such thing as an average kitchen. There is quite probably an ingredient in your kitchen cupboard that you buy as a matter of course, but that I wouldn't even think of, unless I was trying out a recipe that called for it. And a lot of that will have to do with your culture, the part of the world you live in, the things you grew up with, the things your family members will/won't eat, the allergies and intolerances you have to cater for. All of that stuff.

In this post, I thought I'd look at ingredients. In about a week's time, I thought I'd do a similar 'stocktake' of equipment.

So what sort of things do I have in my kitchen? I'm not talking here about the sort of thing I buy every few days, like dairy products, fruit, vegetables or meat. I'm talking about the sort of ingredients I keep in the cupboard. These are the things I am never without (if I can help it). In case you're wondering about the order, I am working through my cupboards, top to bottom and right to left.

  • Red lentils
  • Green or brown lentils
  • Kidney beans (and possibly a couple of other varieties)
  • Barley
  • Split peas (green for preference, when I can get them)
  • Pasta (dried) - at least one packet. I prefer to use fresh, but it's nice to have a fallback just in case
  • Oriental noodles
  • Rice - brown Basmati for preference
  • Couscous - the quickest, easiest starch to prepare
  • Cook-in sauces - I always have one or two of these to hand, in case I need to turn out something 'exotic' at short notice. I don't use them very often, I have to admit
  • Vegetable stock - I swear by Vecon, even though I have to make a special trip to the health shop to get it
  • Meat stocks - I keep the jellied Knorr stocks in a few different varieties
  • Herbs and spices - far too many to name!
  • Salt and pepper - in various form
  • Flour - strong (bread) flour and plain (cake) flour of various types, including a plain, self-raising variety
  • Evaporated milk - I use this in various dessert recipes, and it makes a great standby dessert poured over canned fruit, or mixed into a jelly instead of half the water
  • Jelly powder - I can usually be depended upon to have about 6 boxes of this in a range of flavours. I have to get it from the 'South Africa shop' because UK jelly comes in cubes (and is only available in a tragically limited range of flavours). I use it to make desserts (obviously), but I have a salad recipe that needs peach jelly powder
  • Canned fruit, including canned granadilla (passion fruit) pulp, which I have to get from the aforementioned 'South Africa shop'
  • Flavourings: vanilla extract, almond extract are standards, others come and go
  • Baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar - how would I bake without them?
  • Cocoa powder
  • Custard powder
  • Cornflour (maizena)
  • Sugars: white sugar, brown sugars (various types), caster (which used to be spelled 'castor') sugar, icing sugar
  • Coconut - sadly my husband doesn't eat this, so I don't get to use it as often as I would like
  • Raisins (and occasionally candied citrus peel, currants and sultanas)
  • Sago, semolina, polenta and oats
  • Olive oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil - I tend to use olive oil for most things, so I buy a fairly cheap version of extra virgin
  • Balsamic vinegar - I use this pretty much anywhere vinegar is called for (including on my chips). I very seldom have any other kind of vinegar to hand. Needless to say, I have a cheap version for daily use and a more expensive version for specialist use!
  • Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, teriyaki sauce, sweet chilli sauce
  • Bottles of minced lemongrass, ginger and chilli paste. I use these a lot, so I go for the lazy option!
  • Oh... and of course ketchup, mayo (not the tangy kind), chutney (Mrs Ball's for preference) and barbecue sauce
How about you? How do we compare?

Friday, 4 February 2011

Shena's sausage and apple pie

This is another recipe from my aunt Shena. It's good comfort food when the weather is cold and apples are plentiful. I can remember eating it at her house as a child of ten. Her cooking seemed so exotic to me at the time. Now that we live in a house with an apple tree, this is a recipe that comes in handy.

Oven temperature
180C and then 220C/grill

You can either use (shortcrust) ready pastry or make your own with
250ml flour
100g butter, melted
Pinch salt

450g pack of sausage meat/sausages
Medium onion, finely chopped
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Pinch of sage

3-4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
A little milk
60ml grated cheese (sharp cheddar is best)

  • Because potatoes take a fair while to cook, it's best to get them going first. Boil the potatoes until soft. While this is happening, you can get on with the other steps.
  • If you're using ready pastry, line a pie dish and bake the crust blind in accordance with the package instructions. If you're making your own (and it's dead easy, honest), sift the flour and salt, then add the butter.
  • Mix until you have a manageable dough.
  • Press into a pie plate and prick repeatedly with a fork until there are holes all over the place.
  • Bake at 180C for about 10-12 minutes until it begins to turn golden, then set aside. While it's baking, you can get on with the next bit.
  • If you're using sausages, squeeze out all the meat. If you're using sausage meat, you're a step ahead of the game. Place the meat into a frying pan with the chopped onion, apple and sage and fry until done, turning, mixing and blending the ingredients as you go. I don't use any oil - there is enough fat in the sausage meat.
  • Spread the meat mixture over the pastry base.
  • Mash the potatoes with a little milk until you have an easily spreadable, soft mash.
  • Spread over the sausage meat.
  • Sprinkle with cheese.
  • Pop into the oven at 220C for about 10 minutes.
  • If necessary, pop under the grill to brown up that cheese topping.

Serve hot with vegetables of your choice.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


When I was at boarding school, one of my classmates used to bring home-made lollipops back to hostel with her after holidays. There was a range of flavours, but my favourite was licorice. Sharon shared the recipe with me and it went into my beloved book, but I couldn't find out how to flavour the licorice ones. Of course, we lost contact after school.

When my children were little and money was tight, I used to make a lot of their sweets myself and we had a thing called 'Mom's tuck shop' every day after lunch, when they could spend a few cents from their pocket money buying sweeties. In case you're horrified by the idea of my taking money from my children, see this post on my learning blog. The lollipops were a regular feature at the tuck shop, but never in licorice, because I didn't know how to make them, and none of the baking shops could suggest anything that might work.

Nearly thirty years later, via the wonder that is Facebook, I found myself back in contact with Sharon and was able to ask her the identity of the mystery ingredient. It turns out it was aniseed oil. That sounded pretty straightforward, but that was before I discovered that aniseed oil isn't freely available in UK shops. I finally found and ordered some online, which arrived less than 24 hours later (hence the link to the purveyor, with whom I am impressed).

So yesterday, I made licorice lollipops.

And today you get the recipe.

200g sugar
125ml water
Few drops of flavouring of your choice (be adventurous - I'm trying cardamom next!)
Few drops of colourant of your choice (optional - see note below)
About 15 lolly sticks

Pour blobs onto baking paper...
  • Over a low heat, dissolve the sugar in the water, stirring all the while.
  • Boil without stirring until the mixture reaches crack point (about 150C). If you go over crack point, it will change the texture of the sweet completely, but it will still be entirely edible.
  • While this is happening, spread a sheet of baking paper on your counter top.
  • Remove from the heat and, using a fork (this is important), stir in the flavour and colour.
  • Pour blobs of the mixture onto the baking paper.
  • Press a stick into each blob, and add a little extra mixture to cover the stick.
  • Leave to set.
  • When cooled (if you have any left), wrap each lolly in cling film or wax wrap.
Note about colourant:
Bear in mind that some colourants have additives that can make kids quite hyper. Since you're already presenting them with pretty much pure sugar, you want to avoid this is possible, right? If you're only making one flavour at a time, you don't need the colourants to differentiate between them. If you're making a larger batch and a range of flavours, consider colour coding the ends of the sticks with a felt tip pen as an alternative to colouring the mixture. Just a thought. You will notice from the picture at the top that I haven't used any colour at all.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Korvsoppa (Swedish sausage soup)

There is a bit of a story behind this recipe, and I hope I can tell it without sounding bitchy. Bear with me:

Some years ago, my friend Arla introduced me to this 'traditional Swedish soup' recipe. By this time, I had been married to a Swede for well over a decade, and had been introduced to several Swedish recipes by his family. I had never even heard of korvsoppa, however, and was delighted to add it to my portfolio, because it was quick, easy, tasty, cheap and nutritious.

Shortly thereafter, my mother-in-law came to stay. It should be noted that, although she is Swedish, she has lived in Cape Town for many years, and often longs for a taste of home. I could hardly contain my excitement as I told her that I was going to prepare a traditional dish in her honour. Oh? And what dish was this, she wanted to know. "Korvsoppa!" quoth I, with much aplomb.

She looked at me blankly. She declared flatly that she had never heard of it. Oh dear. Ah well. I duly made the dish anyway (because it had quickly become a Romeis family regular), and we duly ate it.

A few of years later, my mother in law came to stay again. I was travelling a lot on business, so she was doing much of the cooking. She presented my elder son with a bowl of soup, which he refused to eat because it contained celery, which he despises almost as much as he despises vinegar. She was totally non-plussed. "But I thought you liked korvsoppa!" I explained that I don't put celery in my korvsoppa, to which she responded that she had always made it that way, as had her mother before her and her mother before that.

Presumably this was a different korvsoppa from the one she'd never heard of a few years previously. Sometimes you just have to shake your head!

Anyhoo, here is my version of korvsoppa. It no longer looks exactly like Arla's... and it doesn't have celery in it. Like most soups, the quantities are not exact. Feel free to experiment.

1 litre stock (see note below)
1 small-to-medium sized onion, finely chopped
250ml frozen peas
250ml frozen corn (Arla doesn't include this ingredient)
1 or 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped into cubes (about 1cm or so)
2 or 3 carrots, peeled and chopped into cubes (about 1cm or so)
About 6 Frankfurters (or similar sausage of your choice) sliced
Salt to taste if necessary (I don't use any)
Pinch of mixed herbs

  • Place the veg into a large-ish saucepan and add stock. 
  • Add more water so that you almost have the amount of soup you want to end up with. 
  • Cover and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. 
  • Boil for about 5-10 minutes until the onion is translucent and the carrots and potatoes are beginning to soften. 
  • Add the sausage and boil until done, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve with crusty bread and far too much butter.
A note about stock:
I am not one of those diligent housewives that always has a home-made stock of stock (if you follow me) to hand. If you do, go ahead and use that, with my blessing and admiration. I use shop-bought stock. I have never found a cube version that I like enough to use in a soup. In recent years, Knorr has come up with a jellified version that you can pick up in the supermarket, which is far nicer, so you might want to try the chicken and/or veg varieties of that.

Always on standby
However, if you're prepared to take a trip to a health shop, I swear by Vecon (and I'm not being paid to say so, nor do I have any interests in the company). A generous, heaped teaspoonful will be enough for a tasty pot of soup. I am working on a post of my standby ingredients - the things that I always have in my cupboard. This is probably close to the top of the list.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Kitchen Crusader Strikes Back: Honey and Olive Oil Cake (like nothing you've had before)

I know that the ethos of this blog is to give you recipes that you don't have to go out and buy ingredients for, and to provide you with simple recipes… but I also believe in encouraging people to try new things, ingredients and flavour combinations. That's what's going on here.

You see, there are times when we want to make something quick and easy and quick and easy for just us, or our family, because it's Tuesday and we just got home 3 minutes ago and if we don't eat in the next 20 minutes, that roll of paper towel is going to look all the tastier. However, there are other times, when people we like, or want to impress, or both, are coming over for dinner, or afternoon tea, or morning tea, or a chat about the weekend, or your mutually shared pet hates, or your new kitten, or how delicious this coffee is. At these times we might like to make something a bit... wow.

This is the kind of cake you might make in a situation like this. It is a delicious recipe for a cake I discovered recently, in Rachel Grisewood's Manna From Heaven, and adapted. The original recipe was with strawberries, but I'm adapting it to introduce some interesting flavour combos I know you'll love. So while I'm not sure that you'll have arrowroot in your pantry, or orange blossom water, I'm fairly sure that I can make it worth your while to head out and get some, and hopefully, you'll discover some new flavour combinations that you'll be a happy fan of.
This cake isn't particularly difficult, but is something different, don't be worried about the thinness of the cake, just run with it. It creates a different texture that I'm somewhat in love with.

I'm a little unsure about one of the stages in this recipe, as Grisewood didn't explain what to do with one set of ingredients, so I hope that this is right, either way, it was tasty this way, so I guess it's all okay. You have 2 options for toppings that I'd suggest for this cake, stewed nectarine with basil or baked oranges with orange blossom syrup (I know that England-types will be far more able to get hold of oranges right now.)
Because you have a choice about the topping that you choose to use for this recipe, I've tried to colour coordinate it, so it's clear which tsages belong to which fruit topping choice. I hope it's clear...

Honey and Olive Oil Cake with
Stewed Nectarines and Basil OR
Baked Oranges with Orange Blossom Syrup

You need:
For the Cake
oil, or butter for greasing
75 g honey
¼ ccup olive oil
1/3 cup milk
4 eggs
125 g sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste or essence
125 g plain flour
40 g arrowroot
300 ml whipping cream

For the Nectarines:
6 small nectarines, quartered, with the stones removed
3 cups of water
100g sugar
1 cinnamon quill
6-8 large basil leaves
For the Oranges:
3 medium sized oranges, thinly sliced
2 cups of water
4 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp orange blossom water
¼ cup of roughly chopped pistachios
2 tbsp grand marnier (optional)

Set the oven to 150C and grease a cake tin (Grisewood suggests a 22cm round one, I wouldn't go much larger than this, but I think a bit smaller could work, I also used a ring pan once, which worked just fine.)

If doing the oranges, at this point you need to place them into a baking dish, with the other ingredients, apart from the pistachios and mix roughly, to ensure that the oranges are fairly well covered. Then place the oranges in the oven.

Melt the honey and oil in a small saucepan, take of the heat and whisk in the milk. Set aside and allow to cool.

After about 5 minutes cooling time, beat the eggs and sugar together (with a hand-held mixer or with a whisk... but the mixer will take a lot less time), until thick and creamy. Stir in the vanilla and the honey, milk, oil mix.

Fold in the flour and arrowroot gently, with a metal spoon) Grisweood requests a cutting, not stirring motion.

Pour the mix into the cake tin and bake for 40-50 mins, or until puffed, golden and just coming away from the side of the tin.

If making the nectarines, while the cake is baking, place the nectarines, water, sugar, cinnamon quill into a saucepan on the stove, bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer, simmer for 5 miuntes, so that the nectarines are soft, but still maintain their shape. Take the nectarines out, but leave the liquid on the stove top, reduce until you have about ¾ cup of liquid remaining. Set aside and allow to cool.

If making the oranges, turn the oven up to 200C and leave them in there.

Cool in the tin for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. At this point, if you're making the oranges, take the oranges out of the oven, if there is less than ½ a cup of liquid remaining in the dish with the oranges, you'll need to make a syrup and pour it over at this stage.*

*To make this syrup, put ¾ of a cup of water with 3 tbsp of sugar into a saucepan, heat through, bring to the boil, then simmer for a few minutes. Then pour over the oranges. Set the oranges aside to cool.

Allow the cake to cool completely.

When serving (and not until you are actually serving): whip the cream, and smooth over the top of the cake.

If serving the oranges, spoon them, and the syrup, over the top of the cake and then sprinkle with pistachios. Consume immediately.

If serving with nectarines, spoon the nectarines, and their syrup, over the top of the cream, then tear the basil leaves (into quite small pieces) over the top.

I know that basil and nectarines might sound like a freaky-fantasy of mine, but seriously I suggest you try this, the flavour is unexpected and absolutely delicious.

I don't have a picture of the nectarine version of this cake because I haven't made it, I've only made the two separately (though the flavours WILL absolutely work)... but here's a picture of a white chocolate mud cake with the nectarines, basil (and some crumbled macaroons... which aren't at all necessary) that I made recently and received fairly good reviews (actually they were rave reviews, but I was trying to be modest.)

Alternate angle of orange cake: intiate.

For more interesting flavours or crazy banter, check out my very own culinary blog.

The end.