Thursday, 31 March 2011

Mpekweni salad

This salad doesn't really have a name, but the recipe was given to me many years ago (c. 1986) by the chef at Mpekweni holiday resort. My boyfriend and I used to travel there every weekend to sing in the restaurant, and we got to know the staff very well.

This is another recipe that involves a raw egg, but you can substitute that very easily with a salad dressing of your own choice. My favourite salad dressing is just equal parts balsamic vinegar and olive oil, anyway. I have used that for this salad, too, and it works.

As with most salad recipes, the quantities in each case are 'some'. Just go with your instincts and then tweak it to your preference.

Hard cheese, cubed - Cheddar and/or feta work well
Salami - cubed
Bamboo shoots
Onion finely sliced

Equal quantities of olive oil and lemon juice
Small sprig of fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

There isn't really a 'method' here. Just bung all the salad ingredients in a bowl and toss them slightly to distribute them. Then beat the dressing ingredients and pour them over the whole thing.

Et voila!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Butterscotch mousse

I got this recipe from my sister-in-law and have made it many, many times. What I really enjoy about it is that it isn't completely sweet. There's that ever-so-slight burnt sugar taste to it, that takes the edge off the sweetness. Truly yummilicious!

Now that the weather is warming up, it's a great choice for dessert. Be aware that it does involve raw egg white, so, if you have a problem with that, you have two choices: you can either give the recipe a miss altogether, or you can leave out the egg whites, which will result in a heavier mixture more like an 'instant pudding' than a mousse.

Just in case you don't do so as a matter of course, I suggest preparing all the ingredients before you start and have them readily to hand, because there is a point at which you need to work quite quickly, and to still have to measure out ingredients at that stage will slow you down.

600ml milk
40g cornflour
175g demerara sugar
50g butter
5ml vanilla
2 egg whites

  • Blend a little milk with the cornflour in a saucepan to make a smooth paste. The saucepan should be large enough to hold all the contents eventually.
  • Add the rest of the milk and stir over a gentle heat until it thickens. Keep stirring until it comes to the boil, signified by large, glooping bubbles rising up. What you have now is more or less a white sauce. Set it aside, but not too far away.
  • In another saucepan, completely melt the sugar over a medium heat.
  • Now you need to work quite quickly. Stir in the butter until it has completely melted.
  • Still working quickly (before the sugar mixture sets into toffee), stir the sugar/butter mixture into the white sauce. If the sugar toffee-fies itself before you've added all of it to the white sauce, you could gently heat it again, to re-liquify it and then stir it in. Don't worry too much if there are small lumps of toffee in the mixture at this point, we're about to deal with that.
  • Strain the mixture to get rid of lumps and clumps and to result in a completely smooth texture.
  • Stir in the vanilla and set aside while you attend to the egg whites.
  • Whisk the egg whites until stiff (you should be able to turn the bowl upside down with no movement from the egg).
  • Fold into the sauce. If you're not familiar with 'folding', here is a YouTube video clip (not mine - I have a totally different accent!) that explains it. The point is not to deflate the egg whites after you've just gone to all that trouble to introduce enough tiny air bubbles to result in the 'stiff peak' consistency.
  • Pour into a large serving dish, or (for a more elegant alternative) into individual glass bowls/wine glasses and chill for several hours.
  • Decorate with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Curried pork in peach juice

I love combining meat and fruit. It must be the Afrikaans side of my heritage! In fact, my favourite pizza topping - which is not unusual in South Africa, but causes many rolled eyes in the UK - is bacon and banana. I'm not sure why it causes such a reaction in a culture which happily eats pork with apple, and turkey with cranberry... and doesn't turn a hair at ham-and-pineapple, but there you are.

There are very few things one can't get in UK supermarkets, but one thing I sorely miss is the wide range of pure fruit juices freely available in South Africa. Unfortunately, this recipe (as you will have noticed from the title) calls for peach juice. None of my local supermarkets stock peach juice. I could take a trip through to the specialist South African/Zimbabwean goods shop about 40 minutes away, but that isn't always convenient... or economical. So I adapted. I will list the ingredients as they should be for those of you with access to pure fruit juices, but I will also indicate what adaptations I have made in their absence.

Sadly, I did not record where I found this recipe when I copied it into my book.

1.5 kg pork, diced
15ml cooking oil
2 onions, chopped
15ml chopped root ginger
15ml lemon juice (as you can imagine, if you're a regular reader, I use lime)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
5ml salt
10ml turmeric
2ml ground cinnamon
5ml curry powder of your choice
250ml peach juice (I used a can of peaches-in-juice)
5ml mustard powder (I use black mustard seeds)

  • Heat oil over a medium-high heat in a suitably sized saucepan (i.e. big enough to contain all the ingredients in due course - I use a pressure cooker).
  • Saute curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric for a couple of minutes.
  • Add pork, onion and garlic and saute until the meat is browned on all sides.
  • Add lemon juice, salt and mustard, reduce heat to medium and stir for a few minutes.
  • Warm the peach juice (or peaches) slightly and add to the meat mixture. 
  • Stir well through, cover and simmer on low for 2-2.5 hours (or, if you're using a pressure cooker, cook at pressure for 20 minutes).
  • Serve with rice and vegetables.

Monday, 28 March 2011


A while back, I shared a friend's recipe for flapjacks, in which I explained the whole tangle around the word 'flapjack' for a South African expat living in the UK. I promised to share a recipe for the closest South African equivalent to English flapjacks, namely crunchies. Et voila!

This recipe does not come from my own collection. It comes from SJA de Villiers's 'Cook and Enjoy it' (Kook en Geniet) which is one of the most frequently used recipe books in my collection.. I made a batch on Saturday to take to church yesterday to use in the 'Connect room' where my husband and I greet visitors and newcomers. Just as well, because the room was packed to the gunwales yesterday! I came away with two crunchies left in the tin, which my son was happy to demolish when he got off work.
Oven temperature

750ml dessicated coconut
250ml cake flour
1000ml oats
375ml sugar
Pinch salt
5ml ground cinnamon (I have a friend who also adds the same amount of ginger - I don't)
250ml butter (which is about 250g - I hate it when butter amounts are given in ml!)
45ml golden syrup
10ml bicarbonate of soda
60ml milk

  • Dissolve the bicarb in the milk and set aside for now.
  • In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.
  • Melt the butter and syrup together and add to the dry ingredients. Mix through well. Oh, just use your hands!
  • Add the dissolved bicarb/milk mixture and mix that through well, too. This is important, or someone will get a mouthful of bicarb at one point, and nobody wants that, trust me!
  • Press into a baking sheet to make a layer about 1cm thick. If necessary, split the mixture into two batches.
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Allow to cool slightly, cut into squares and place on a cooling rack. You'll probably need an egg lifter/fish slice (or whatever it's called in your neck of the woods) to do this, because they may still be quite crumbly.
  • Allow to cool completely before storing them in an air tight container, or they will cease to deserve their name... not that they taste any less delicious when they're soft, it has to be said!
You should end up with about 72 crunchies.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Edna's savoury tart

This is another recipe from the redoubtable Edna Allchin, who provided the Turkish delight recipe I shared a while back. I had completely forgotten about this tart, until it was brought to my attention by a mutual friend via Facebook after I posted said Turkish delight recipe.

What is great about this recipe is that it's a perfect way to use up leftovers (aka fridge fallout). You know: a couple of baby potatoes, two broccoli florets... that kind of stuff. It's a case of 'what do we have in the fridge/pantry?' Because of that, this recipe doesn't follow my usual layout.

In the picture above is one I made recently using a few leftover peas, a lonely baby marrow (aka zucchini/courgette) and the remains of a tub of sun dried tomatoes (because even I, tomato-loather that I am, will eat sun dried tomatoes). I completely forgot about the tin of asparagus tips I had bought especially for the purpose, but that's okay, too, because tinned stuff keeps, and I can use them next time.

Oven temperature

Ingredients and method
Pretty much any (savoury) leftovers: chicken, asparagus (drained), cooked/canned fish, cold meat, bacon, sweetcorn, leftover veg... you name it. If anything is still raw (as was the case with my baby marrow), you will need to cook it first. I sliced and sauteed the baby marrow. Yum.
1 onion, chopped and sauteed
250ml grated cheese (preferably mature cheddar)
Pinch paprika or cayenne pepper

Spread these on the bottom of a tart/pie dish. Then mix the following ingredients together. If you have a Tupperware quick shake or equivalent, this is the perfect moment to press it into vigorous service. Otherwise a beater, whisk or even a fork will be fine.

2 eggs
50ml flour
5ml mustard powder (I'm not a fan, so I use mustard seeds instead)
Pinch salt
250ml milk
30ml oil

Pour the mixture over the top of whatever you have placed into the pie dish. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the egg has set, and serve hot or cold with salad and/or baked potato.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Carrot and sesame salad

Since we find ourselves newly (and officially, at least) in spring time, I thought I'd share a salad recipe. There will be more to come. It's a really easy one, but it does call for some ingredients that are not quite as common as those that usually feature here. Hopefully you'll forgive me just this once... besides, they're not completely weird.

This is another of the recipes I found the time I bought too many carrots. I can't remember the source.

4 large carrots
45ml rice vinegar (if you don't usually have a use for rice vinegar, white wine vinegar is almost as good)
30ml corn oil (if you don't have any, use olive oil or any vegetable oil)
5ml sesame oil (I'm afraid I can't suggest a more common substitute for this, and it really makes a difference to the taste of the salad. Fortunately, you can get fairly small bottles, and it works very well for salad dressings and Chinese food)
5ml toasted sesame seeds (once again, this is must have)
15ml (or so) moist raisins

  • Clean/peel and grate the carrots coarsely and set aside until needed.
  • Mix together the vinegar and the oils and mix through the carrots.
  • Add the sesame seeds and raisins and toss the salad until you have a roughly even distribution.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Chocolate marshmallow tart

I think I made this recipe up when I was in my teens and bored during one school holiday, but I can't be sure. All I know is that I have known how to make it since I was in high school. I made a lot of things during my high school years, and my mother often came home to a kitchen that looked something like a bombsite. Just sa well that I was at boarding school and that this activity was restricted to school holidays!

1 packet  biscuits for the crust
60g butter
1 bag marshmallows
1 200g slab of chocolate (I usually use milk chocolate, but on this occasion, I used 100g milk chocolate and 100g peppermint Aero)
5ml vanilla extract
Whipped cream

  • Crush the biscuits, melt the butter and mix together.
  • Press into a pie dish and refrigerate until required.
  • Gently melt the chocolate and marshmallows together over a low heat, stirring all the while. If it starts to catch, add a little milk.
  • Remove from the heat and add essence.
  • Pour into crust and refrigerate until set.
  • Decorate with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
Experiment with the chocolate - try orange-flavoured chocolate, for example, or plain (dark) chocolate.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Carrot and lime soup

There's something I should confess to right here and now: I am a lime addict. I absolutely adore the taste of limes and am inclined to use them instead of lemons in pretty much any recipe. So, when I stumbled across this recipe, it was a have-to-have.

The recipe itself is one of those 'unknown origin' types, which I found somewhere when looking for ideas to use up a large quantity of carrots after I accidentally bought carrots twice in two days (as you do).

The taste of this soup is a little unusual. I would describe it as hot-and-sour, and I would advise against serving it to owners of conservative palates.

1 large onion, chopped
Little olive oil for frying
500g carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
75g uncooked brown rice
1 or 2 red chillies (to taste), seeded and chopped
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
Juice of 1 lime
A little sugar and salt (if necessary, and to taste) - I use about 10ml sugar and no salt
Natural yoghurt for serving
Zhoozh it in the blender

  • Heat a little olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the onions. 
  • Add the garlic and carrots, stir, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  • Stir in the raw rice, chillies and stock and simmer until the carrots are tender and the rice is soft.
  • Add the lime juice. Taste and adjust with sugar and/or salt if necessary.
  • Blend and serve with a swirl of natural yoghurt and crusty bread.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Shena's 'lekker' steak

'Lekker' is an Afrikaans word that has found its way into general South African parlance. Roughly translated, it means 'nice', although that does it no justice whatsoever. It isn't always used in relation to food, either, you can wish someone a lekker weekend, or a lekker birthday. Someone can equally have a lekker figure.

Needless to say, we are not talking about the posher echelons of society, here, who may also use the term, but only semi-ironically, the way a Sloan ranger may casually throw in an 'innit?'

At one stage, my uncle was very active in the Round Table. This was at a time when wives were called 'table legs' (and the wives of Rotarians were called Rotary-annes). My aunt often used to have to cater on a fairly large scale, and this dish was a favourite.

She passed the recipe on to our family, and it quickly became my favourite, too. We had a tradition in our house that, on your birthday, you either got taken out for dinner, or the other family members would cook your favourite meal. For many years, on my birthday, we had lekker steak with baby potatoes, butternut and cauliflower. It still rates fairly high on my list of favourite dishes!

Oven temperature
Grill (for method 1)

1kg rump steak
60ml vinegar
60ml chutney
60ml tomato sauce
30ml soy sauce
30ml Worcestershire sauce
10ml flour
10ml mustard (I replace this with black mustard seeds)
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste (I don't use any salt, but a couple of grinds of black pepper never go amiss)

Marinate for 3-4 hours
Method 1 - preparing on a fairly small scale (up to 10 people, say)
  • Cut the steak into individual portions.
  • Mix together all other ingredients in a fairly large container, and marinate the steak (covered) for 3-4 hours.
  • Remove from marinade and grill (or fry, if you must) until done to preference.
  • Place marinade in a saucepan and heat, stirring all the while, until it thickens into a sauce to use as gravy.
Method 2 - preparing on a large scale (in which case, you will have increased your quantities proportionately)
  • Cut the steak into individual portions.
  • Mix together all the other ingredients in a very large, oven proof container and marinate the steak (covered) overnight.
  • If you can be bothered, sear each portion of steak on each side in a frying pan over a high heat, before returning it to the oven proof container, but this is not entirely necessary.
  • Bake, covered, at 200C for about half an hour (or as long as needed to acquire your preferred level of 'done-ness').
  • Uncover and return to oven for a further 10 minutes.

Serve with potatoes prepared to your preference (wedges work really well!) and veg or salad.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Michèle's 'knit your own' granola

A few days ago, I shared a recipe for lentil 'bolognaise' in which I mentioned a friend who had supplied me with many recipes. This is one of hers.

You might be thinking, why the heck would I go the trouble of making my own breakfast cereal when I can nip down to Morrison's/Pick n Pay/Walmart and buy a box for tuppence ha'penny? That is a very good question! However, have you ever looked at the ingredients in a box of commercially produced breakfast cereal? If you want to start your day with something that's going to see you through for a while, and if you want your kids to be able to make it through to lunch without flagging, something more than a sugar hit is needed.

When our kids were little, we only allowed them to eat cereals that were sugar coated (or contained chocolate bits or whatever) on the weekends, so these became generically known as 'Saturday cereal'. During the week, they had to eat something with a bit more staying power. Michèle's recipe was pretty good for that.

And yummy. Let's not forget yummy.

Oven temperature

1kg oats (this time around, I used jumbo oats because I happened to have some left over from the flapjacks, but you can use porridge oats, too)
120g wholewheat flour
100g dessicated coconut (unsweetened)
250ml sunflower oil
175ml honey (on this occasion, I happened to have spare maple syrup in the house and I used that. Michèle sometimes used to use golden syrup if she was out of honey, but I thought that spoiled the taste completely)
30ml vanilla extract

Toast in the oven
  • Heat the oil, honey and vanilla, stirring to blend. Do not overheat, or try to bring to the boil.
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in a (very) large bowl.
  • Add the liquid and mix well, getting an even distribution of the liquid through the whole batch.
  • Using a wide flat container such as the oven roasting tray, heat for 30 minutes. Every now and again, take the granola out of the oven and stir it a bit, or the bottom may singe. You will probably have to do this in two or three batches.
  • Eat with fruit, yoghurt and or milk. My son's girlfriend recently travelled to Hawaii on a school trip and shared a photo of a delicious-looking breakfast of half a papaya (pawpaw) with the pips scooped out and the hollow filled with vanilla yoghurt and granola.
Photo courtesy of Emily Fedorowycz

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Joan's fruit tart

I got this recipe from the Town Clerk's secretary, Joan Botha, back when I used to work for a small town council. She used to do all the catering for the mayoral events herself, which was pretty darned amazing!

Joan called this 'gooseberry tart', but I need to explain briefly: in South Africa, the term 'gooseberry' is applied to physalis or Cape gooseberries. The fruit known as gooseberry in the UK is simply not available there (and - for my money - it's no loss either!). I have to say, this tart tastes best when Cape gooseberries are used. However, if you live outside of South Africa, and not within easy reach of a speciality shop that stocks canned South African goods, all is not lost. You can use pretty much any canned fruit. This time around, I used canned pears and opted for ginger biscuits for the crust, because ginger and pears go very well together. I have also made this recipe using pineapple, Cape gooseberries, fruit cocktail, peaches and pears. Joan also used to use strawberries and youngberries. I plan to try it with litchis (aka lychees) and mango.

1 pkt biscuits suitable for using for the crust (Hobnobs, digestives, Tennis biscuits, Nice biscuits, ginger nuts...)
125g butter
1 pkt jelly (jell-o to you Americans) in a suitable colour and flavour to work with your chosen fruit. Sadly, in the UK, jelly is only available in a limited range of flavours, but you should still be able to make it work.
1 can fruit in juice or light syrup
250ml evaporated milk (Joan used condensed milk, which you could try, but it comes up very sweet)
250ml boiling water

  • Crush the biscuits well (see note below), melt the butter and mix together.
  • Press into a large tart dish (or two small ones) and refrigerate until needed.
  • Drain the liquid off the fruit into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. I have no idea why this is the case, but if you skip this step, the tart filling will curdle. It will still taste fine, but it will look urky.
  • Dissolve the jelly in the boiling water, and then add the juice from the fruit.
  • Allow to cool for a while and then add the fruit and evaporated/condensed milk. Stir well.
  • Pour gently into the crust and refrigerate until set.
  • Top with whipped cream (optional - I tend not to bother).
Crushing biscuits can be a frustrating and messy process - especially if you're using something brittle like ginger nuts, so here are a few methods you could try:
  • Empty the biscuits into a thick plastic bag, let the air out, and seal it well, then roll a rolling pin backwards and forwards over the bag. You should probably cover the surface of your kitchen counter with a sheet of paper first, in case sharp edges of the biscuits do go through the bag, or the seal pops as the air moves about.
  • Empty the biscuits into a deepish, rectangular, flat-bottomed container (such as a lunch box) and use an empty glass bottle as a pestle - make sure the bottle has a flat bottom, or it will take for-flipping-ever!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Bean and veg casserole

Another one for the veggies, today. I wish I could tell you the back story on this recipe, but I can't for the life of me remember who gave it to me. So here's a learn-from-my-mistakes suggestion for you: if you're building up a recipe collection of your own, make a note of who gives you each recipe, even if it's one you copied out of a magazine in the dentist's waiting room.

Oven temperature

30g butter/marg
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
125g fresh green beans, halved
2 baby marrows (aka zucchini, courgettes), sliced
100g button mushrooms
100g brown lentils
200ml stock (if you're not a vegetarian, chicken stock works well, here)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
Pinch dried thyme (or a sprig of fresh)
440g can of red kidney beans, drained
250ml frozen whole kernel corn

  • Melt butter and saute onion, garlic and mushrooms for a few minutes, until the onion starts to become translucent.
  • Place in a casserole dish and add everything except the corn and the kidney beans. Stir things up a bit to get the ingredients mixed up.
  • Cover and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  • Remove and add the beans and corn. Give it another stir, re-cover and pop back into the oven for another 15-20 minutes.
  • Serve with rice or mashed potato.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Savoury Dead Easy Bread

I'd love to be the kind of cook who is always serene and unflustered, able to perfectly coordinate all the components of a complex meal so that everything is served at exactly the same time. I manage this sometimes, but often (usually) I forget something and then arrive at the table flushed and flustered, minus something that I think would have improved the meal immeasurably. So over the years I have found and developed recipes that get me out of the culinary swamps of my own making.

This recipe is one of those recipes, based on one found in a wonderful children's cookery book, 'Easy Peasy All the Time' by Pru Irvine and published by Ted Smart, and given to my daughter when she was very little. For those of you with very little people in your house I'd say hunt it out - it's a wonderful source for shared kitchen time. Obviously (because this is me) I have added to and experimented with the recipe over the years, and as we are a family of dunkers, this is now my "Oh bother, so focused on the soup, I clean forgot the bread to go with it" standby. Made last when I was so busy sorting out photos for last week's soup recipe I once again forgot to either make or defrost some nice bread!

225g self-raising flour
25g cold butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
150 ml yoghurt (I use goat's yoghurt)
2 spring onions (scallions) sliced finely
6 sun-dried tomatoes, cut into smallish pieces
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon parsley

Heat the oven to 200 degrees C and grease or line a baking sheet. Sieve the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter or margarine until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the salt, onions, tomatoes, and herbs. Pour the yoghurt into the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a soft dough. Flour your hands and form the dough into a ball.

Put it onto the baking sheet and flatten it slightly. Using a sharp knife, slice into 8 segments, but don't cut all the way through. If you want to, brush milk onto the top of the bread and put into the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the loaf is nicely browned and the cut edges look dry and slightly crumbly.

Serve hot with soup, or just with butter and cheese. And you HAVE to be greedy with this one as it doesn't keep and will taste stale by the next day!

Experiment with the flavourings for this bread. I have used flavoured oil instead of the butter. I have used a clove of garlic cut into ultra thin slivers and a teaspoon of rosemary. I have added about 2 tablespoons of grated cheese and some finely sliced red onion. If you come up with a yummy alternative, please comment so I can try it too...

You can even make this into a sweet bread by leaving out the onions, tomatoes and herbs and adding 1 tablespoon of caster sugar, and some chocolate chips or dried fruit. Then be really decadent and serve it hot with butter and bananas and really posh chocolate spread......

Friday, 11 March 2011

Sarah's delicious flapjacks

For a South African, living in the UK, there is a whole tangle around the word 'flapjack' - among others - and it takes us a while to adjust. Then, when we try to explain the tangle to a British person, the confusion starts all over again.

In England, there are things called crumpets, which are a round, kind of bread dough thing about 2cm thick; there are Scotch pancakes, which is a small, flat, round thing made with pancake batter; and there are flapjacks, which are usually rectangular and made with oats. In South Africa, all three of those words refer to the same thing: a small, flat, round thing made out of pancake batter. That same thing is also called a drop-scone in South Africa, just to add to the confusion.

The thing that is called a flapjack in England most closely resembles South African crunchies... with the major difference that in England, they are not crunchy. In fact, the first time I ate one in the UK, I thought the person had forgotten to bake them! At some point, I will share a recipe for South African crunchies (when I can find my recipe, that is... it appears to have gone walkabout!).

I had long since decided that I didn't care for flapjacks when I attended a recipe swapping event and my good friend Sarah brought a recipe called 'delicious flapjacks'. In accordance with the rules of the event, she had also brought a batch of them for tasting. I had my doubts, but I had a taste and they really were delicious. So I'm sharing the recipe with you. It's all about the quality of the ingredients, and, as a consequence it's slightly expensive, but oh, so worth it!

Oven temperature

500g of jumbo oats (this is important - if you use normal porridge oats, you'll get entirely the wrong texture)
250g of excellent quality butter (no budget stuff here)
680g jar of golden syrup

Place on cooling racks
  • Melt the butter over low heat in a large saucepan
  • Add the syrup and bring to a rolling boil, stirring all the while.
  • Keep stirring and allow to bubble for 3 minutes.
  • Thoroughly mix in the oats.
  • Press the mixture into a lined baking tray, about 30cmx20cm
  • Bake for about 15 minutes. When the outer edges darken, the flapjacks are done. (Later edit: If, when you take the flapjacks out of the oven, you suspect they might be slightly underdone, and if they're a bit crumbly as you handle them, then they're perfect!)
  • Leave to cool slightly, cut into squares and place on cooling racks.

If they aren't all eaten immediately, you can store them in an airtight container for up to a week, apparently. I have never been able to test this theory.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Lentil 'bolognaise'

When our children were little, money was very tight, so we used to eat a lot of vegetarian meals, simply because we couldn't afford meat every day. Now perhaps I'm pedantic, but, to me, there is a difference between meat-free and vegetarian. A proper vegetarian diet is balanced and nutritious. This dish ticks that box.

It is also absolutely delicious. I kid you not.

Once, a friend's little boy came over for a play-date with my kids and I fed them this dish for lunch. He polished his first helping and even had seconds. When his mother came to fetch him later, he proudly told her that he had eaten "yentaws" for lunch. His mother was aghast. Like me, she was on a tight budget, and needed some cheap sources of protein, but she had never been able to get her kids to eat lentils. It was great that I was able to share this recipe with her, since she was a much better cook than I was and had shared several of her recipes with me in the past (some of which you will be getting in due course).

I wish I could tell you that I got this from my great-great-grandmother or something, but, actually, it came out of a magazine I read on the ark while waiting for the waters to subside. Of course, I have adapted it, since... as you do.

250g brown lentils
2 bay leaves
60ml olive oil
2 medium/1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 carrots, finely chopped (or grated)
2 celery stalks, finely sliced
30ml tomato paste
500ml stock (if you're not a veggie you can use meat stock, but if you are, I swear by Vecon)
125g mushrooms, finely chopped
1 medium apple, grated
Pinch oregano

  • Soak the lentils in cold water for a few hours or overnight (this is an optional step - lentils can be cooked without soaking, but it takes a little longer).
  • Drain and place in a saucepan with bay leaves. Cover with water, bring to the boil and cook for about 45 minutes, or until soft(ish).
  • Drain and set aside for now.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan and saute onion, mushrooms and garlic with the oregano until the onion is translucent. Since garlic cooks much more quickly than onion, you could add the garlic after a couple of minutes, but I tend to chuck it all in together.
  • Add carrots and celery and saute for a further couple of minutes.
  • Add tomato paste and stock and bring to the boil.
  • Add apple and lentils, adjust seasoning to taste and simmer, covered, for about half an hour to 45 minutes.
  • Serve over cooked pasta or a baked potato, preferably with a generous sprinkling of cheese (Cheddar or Parmesan).

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Chicken a la king

If you do a Google search for chicken a la king, it seems to have had a fairly widespread history, but I've never met a non-South African who has ever heard of it. Perhaps it went out of fashion everywhere else and lingered on in South Africa. At one stage, any large scale catering function in South Africa would almost certainly feature chicken a la king. Nowadays, this is less likely to be the case. But it's in my book, so I thought I'd share it with you.
This recipe was given to me by the pastor's wife at a church I last attended when I was expecting my 19-year-old son, so it goes back a way.

It's quite fiddly in the beginning, so feel free to find an alternative source for the cooked chicken pieces.

1 cooked chicken
2 large onions, chopped
500ml chicken stock
500ml plain yoghurt
1 can creamed mushrooms
250g fresh mushrooms, sliced
250ml frozen peas
125ml cream (optional)
Salt, pepper and paprika to taste
A little oil for frying

  • Skin and debone the chicken and cut into bite-sized pieces (this is the fiddly bit I mentioned earlier).
  • Fry the onion and mushrooms until the onions are soft and translucent. I use a large saucepan for this stage, so that I don't wind up using more than one cooking vessel.
  • Add all the other ingredients and bring to the boil (except the cream, if you're using that), stirring frequently.
  • Simmer very gently for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  • Stir in the cream (if you're using it).
  • If necessary, thicken the sauce with cornflour.
  • Normally served with rice and a leafy salad.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Pancake tower with meringue

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday - the first day of Lent, during which we are all supposed to give up all self-indulgent treats.

I don't really need an excuse to eat pancakes, but I thought I'd share this recipe with you, in case you'd like to do something a bit different with yours today.

Oven temperature

120g flour
5ml backing powder
2ml salt
2 egg yolks (keep the whites, you'll need them!)
185ml milk
a little oil for frying

200g apricot jam (or jam of your choice, I once used home-made kumquat marmalade and the result was the best I've ever had with this recipe)
7ml Cointreau (or liqueur of your choice, I'm going to use sherry today, because it's what I have and I was  blowed if I was going to stump up £20+ for the sake of 7ml!)
425g can crushed pineapple in juice, drained and...
7ml pineapple juice reserved
15ml ground almonds

2 egg whites
100g caster sugar

  • Beat together flour, baking powder, salt and egg yolks.
  • Add milk and beat until smooth. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.
  • Heat oil in frying pan, pour in enough batter to coat base and fry on both sides until golden brown. Keep warm and repeat until all the batter has been used up.
  • In small saucepan, gently heat all the filling ingredients.
  • Spread over each pancake, except one, stacking the pancakes (jam side up)  in a pile on an ovenproof plate as you go.
  • Top off with the plain pancake and set aside for now.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they are so stiff you could almost turn the bowl upside down without making a mess.
  • Carefully fold in the sugar.
  • Cover the top and sides of the pancake tower with meringue.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until the meringue turns golden brown.
  • Decorate with mint leaves and/or fruit pieces.
  • Cut into wedges to serve.
  • Works very well with vanilla ice cream!

Monday, 7 March 2011

'Orange' Soup

I guess I really set myself up for this post when I challenged Karyn for the 'Queen of soups' title in January. I started making soups back when I was buying my first home and had so little money left after paying my mortgage, that my weekly diet was determined by what was left on the stalls at the local market at 4pm on Saturday - whatever they couldn't sell and wouldn't keep till Monday was the basis for that week's meals...and would need to be cooked pdq too. So I became famed for my coloured in "This is nice. What is it?" Me "Hmm, this is...(after looking closely at what was in the pan) soup." (or brown, or orange or whatever!) I do have enough cash to choose what soups I make these days, but still make lots where I have no hope of reproducing the recipe because I make it up as I go along. That's really the basis of much of my cooking; play with tastes and flavours until whatever you're making tastes right for today. Baking is really chemistry, so you have to follow the recipe for the magic to work, but any other sort of food? Just try it out till it works for you. Anyway... here's my 'Orange' soup recipe (note: it contains no oranges!)

1 average sized butternut squash
Sweet potatoes (as many as give the same quantity of flesh as the squash)
2 large red (bell) peppers
2 onions
2 garlic cloves
500ml vegetable stock
500ml milk (I use goat's milk, but I'm sure it would be as nice with cow's milk for those of you who can eat it!)
100ml (ish) olive oil

Peel and chunk the sweet potato and peel, chunk and deseed the squash. Chunks about 4-5cm cubes is about right. Chuck them onto a baking tray and put into the oven on about 190 degrees C for about 30 minutes. (Actually the temperature and timings don't really matter; just bung them in the oven till they're both soft and starting to brown - I always do this when I have the oven on for something else as they'll keep for a couple of days in the fridge once cool)

Peel and roughly chop the onions and peppers. And here's another 'doesn't really matter'; some people will always remove the skin from peppers, and if that's your thing, then do it, but I never bother for this recipe. Peel the garlic cloves.

Put the oil into a largish pan, and once it's warmed add the onions, and after a few minutes the garlic. You need enough oil to almost cover the onions so they kind of stew in the oil rather than fry, so the exact quantity depends on the size of your pan and onions... When both are soft add the peppers. When the peppers are soft add the roasted squash and sweet potato. Mix it all up and pause to look and smell....soooo gooood! See?

Now you need to add the stock and start to blitz the soup. I use a hand held blender, but if you only have a jug type blender, then that'll do too. Keep going till it's as smooth as you can make it (will probably look like porridge!) Now add the milk gradually and continue blending until really smooth. If it's not thin enough when you've added all the liquid, then add more, still blending till it's right for you.

Reheat slowly till hot, stirring to stop it sticking on the bottom of the pan. Serve with a swirl of yoghurt (this is goat's yoghurt) and home made croutons. How to do these? Cube some slightly stale bread (it tends to be the crusts from sliced wholemeal bread in this house) and toss them in a bowl with about a tablespoon of olive oil until they're all nicely oily. Then just chuck them onto a baking sheet and stick in the oven with the squash and sweet potato till they're brown enough for you. Or even a little too brown, like these ones! Enjoy!

Guest posts

A while ago, I sprang on you - without warning - two guest posts from the kitchen crusader (roast tomato pasta and honey and olive oil cake).

You didn't flinch.

But I had one or two suggestions via Facebook from people who have met me in person, that the kitchen crusader is actually just me-with-a-pseudonym, because her writing style has similarities. I guess this isn't altogether surprising because we are blood relatives, and we occasionally discover startling similarities between us. But I assure you, the kitchen crusader is very much her own person. Much younger, much more beautiful and living in Australia.

Oh... and she eats tomatoes. I do not.

I am about to unleash upon you another guest blogger. Catherine's style of writing is different enough from my own not to be mistaken for me. Once again, we have much in common, but this time there is no blood connection.

She is a friend of mine.

Catherine doesn't have her own blog (yet?), but she loves cooking and baking and faces the dual challenge of being pretty much vegetarian (she does eat fish, occasionally) and lactose intolerant.

I plan to try out her 'orange' soup recipe tomorrow.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Chicken in red wine

I love to cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food. (Anonymous)

I can't remember where I found this recipe. It is written in my own handwriting and unacknowledged in my trusty recipe book. However, it was the meal I prepared for our wedding day. Yes, you read that right: I prepared. We got married on a shoestring, and I did far too much myself, including making my own dress and making the meal. While I did have practical help with some things, I was largely unsupported on any personal level, so that, by the time our wedding day arrived, I was stressed to the max. It was a miserable day for me.

Fortunately, it was no indication of the sort of marriage that was to follow. I have seen some splendiferous weddings, followed by miserable marriages. I have also seen some very ordinary weddings followed by wonderful marriages. So I always tell my kids (and anyone else that will listen): it's not about the wedding, it's about the marriage, and the wedding is just the first day of married life.

I made it again just recently for my husband's 50th birthday.

Here endeth the lesson. And here beginneth the recipe.

Although this is the hob version of the recipe, you can make it as a casserole if you prefer - I've done that. I'm sure it would work in a slow cooker, too.

1.5kg chicken portions
50ml seasoned flour (flour with a little salt, pepper, mixed herbs and a pinch of paprika)
6 rashers of bacon, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
50ml oil
15ml margarine or butter

20 small onions/shallots
125g button mushrooms
20g fresh parsley, chopped
500ml red wine
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste (I don't add any)
50ml brandy (optional)

  • Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour and set aside for a moment.
  • Fry the bacon until crisp. If you like, you can use a little of the oil. I tend not to - there's enough fat in bacon to dry fry. I use a large saucepan for this, instead of a frying pan, then I can just use one vessel for the entire process, and avoid ending up with a kitchen full of dishes. Remove and set aside for a moment.
  • Add the oil (or what's left of it) and the butter to the pan.
  • When the butter has melted, saute the small onions/shallots and mushrooms for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  • Brown the chicken pieces.
  • Add the wine and bay leaves and (optional) salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Add chopped onion, garlic, bacon, parsley and (if necessary) a little more water, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add brandy and flambe. This step is optional. I tend to add the brandy and not flame. ;o)
  • Add the whole onions and mushrooms and bring back to the boil.
  • Serve with rice and vegetables. It works well with savoy cabbage and carrots.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Cockeyed chocolate cake and a selection of toppings

Many years ago, my mom had a recipe book that contained all sorts of shortcuts and lazy ways to do stuff. It was by Peg Bracken, and I think it was called "The I Hate to Cookbook". I still use some of the recipes out of it today. I used this one just last week. My son and three of his classmates pulled an all-nighter in our lounge, watching videos as part of their history studies on counter-culture (they're also planning to visit Jimi Hendrix's house in London... I wish my history syllabus had been so interesting!).

What makes this recipe a bit different is that you mix it up and bake it in the same container, so make sure you choose a container that will work for both activities. You're not going to get a prizewinning cake top sell at a WI stall, here. You're going to get something suitable for the family or for a horde of teenagers.

Oven temperature

750ml sifted flour
45ml cocoa
5ml bicarbonate of soda
250ml sugar
2.5ml salt
75ml cooking oil
15ml vinegar
5ml vanilla extract
250ml cold water

  • Grease a baking tin, preferably a round one, about 23cm in diameter, and about 5cm deep.
  • Put sifted flour back into the sieve with cocoa, sugar and salt and sift it straight into the baking tin.
  • Make 3 hollows. Into one, pour the oil, into the second, pour the vinegar and into the last, pour the vanilla.
  • Dissolve the bicarb in the water and pour it over the whole lot.
  • Mix it all up with a spoon until it is almost smooth and no dry flour is visible.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes or so until the sponge is firm to the touch. Test with a skewer for readiness (the skewer should come out dry and clean).
  • Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack for topping later.

You could just eat the cake as is with custard, cream or ice cream, but I'm going to spoil you today with a list of possible cake toppings that you can try with this recipe or any other cake/cupcakes you bake:
  1. After Eights, Matchmakers or peppermint creams (I used Matchmakers on this occasion). Spread chocolates all over the top of the baked cake, pop it back under the grill for a moment or three until they melt, and then spread them with a knife.
  2. 500ml icing sugar, sifted with a pinch of salt. Add 5ml vanilla extract and then beat in a little cream. Add cream until you get the consistency you want. Spread this over a cooled cake.
  3. Remove the cake(s) from the oven about 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Allow to cool slightly. Spread with a mixture of 60ml softened butter, 160ml brown sugar,  30ml cream, and 'some' chopped nuts/dessicated coconut. Return to the oven for the last 5 minutes, or until the frosting bubbles (whichever is the longer).
  4. Place a marshmallow on top of each cupcake, or space them evenly across the top of a larger cake and pop under the grill under the marshmallow browns.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Turkish delight

This recipe was given to me by one of those redoubtable old retired missionary ladies who never found time to get married. Edna Allchin was one of the most energetic women I have ever met, and she was well into her 60s at the time.

Of course, I have no idea how 'real' Turkish delight is made, but this will do very nicely, thank you. Just remember that the flavouring should be light and delicate: more aroma than taste.

1750ml (seven and a half cups) sugar
75g gelatine
575ml cold water
Juice of 2 lemons
5ml lemon essence
20 ml rose water or orange blossom water
Few drops red or orange food colouring (optional)
Icing sugar

  • Soak the gelatine in the cold water in a large saucepan for about half an hour.
  • Add sugar and lemon juice and bring to the boil while stirring.
  • Boil for 8 minutes without stirring - this is important!
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the essence and colouring. The hot mixture may react fairly violently when you add the liquid, which is why you need the large saucepan! You might choose to divide the mixture and add different essences to each portion.
  • Pour into a wet, square dish.
  • Leave in a cool place for at least 12 hours.
  • Mix equal quantities of icing sugar and cornflour and sprinkle a little over the set mixture.
  • Cut into squares, remove each square and toss them one by one in the sugar/cornflour mixture. This is a really sticky process!
  • Pack in an airtight container.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Brown bean soup (with bacon)

We're coming to the end of our winter, here. When the warmer weather comes along, I will share all manner of recipes for salads and fridge tarts. But, for now, it's definitely the weather for soups, casseroles and stews.

The story behind this recipe is one of those culturally revealing moments. I was working for a small town council (the same one mentioned in yesterday's recipe) and we had an end-of-year staff-and-families braai (barbecue). I should point out that it is the norm in South Africa for each person/family to bring their own meat to a barbecue, and for the man of the family to cook it on the communal fire. Since I was single, this presented a problem. There was no way on earth that a woman could join the men at the fire. Our job was to sit inside and gossip... and keep the beers coming. So several men offered to cook my meat for me. This presented another problem. I was 23 and not unattractive. None of the wives wanted their husbands cooking for me - that was grounds for suspicion of an affair (I did say that it was a small town).

But I had to eat. Inevitably, somebody grilled my steak for me, and inevitably his wife got the sulks.

In a pathetic attempt to make peace, I offered to share my marinade recipe with her (which I will share with you, too, at some point). B I G mistake! She snapped at me that she had plenty of recipes of her own, thank you very much, and several of the hatchet-faced wives nearby assured me that she was a brilliant cook. So I asked her to share some of her recipes with me.

Oddly enough, she did. This was one of them.

1 pkt sugar beans (or kidney beans if you can't get sugar beans where you are), soaked for several hours or overnight
250g rindless bacon, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and grated
3 litres water
10ml salt
Lemon pepper to taste
Marrow bones (if you struggle to come by these, use a small bit of neck of lamb or something with a bone)
125ml 4-in-1 soup mix or a combination of red lentils, pearl barley and split peas
2 bay leaves

  • Saute the onions and bacon until just done.
  • Discard the water from the beans and add the beans to the saucepan.
  • Add water and all other ingredients and simmer for about 2 hours - stirring occasionally - until the beans are soft. If you're using a pressure cooker, 40 minutes at pressure should do the trick.
  • Serve with crusty bread.