Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Beef sosaties

Sosaties (soSAHteez) are traditional South African meat skewers cooked on the braai (barbecue). Everybody's granny had the best recipe, including mine, who loved to tell everyone that I had once eaten thirteen of her famous sosaties in a single sitting... and it was no more than the truth.

If you're a purist, you should be using lean pork and mutton fat. But I'm not a purist and I happen to like beef, so my sosaties are made using beef steak. Obviously, if you live in the UK, it's best to wait until there's a special promotion on, because steak is stupidly expensive. But you can also try any other meat, including white meats such as turkey breast or chicken... even firm fleshed fish.

750g beef (or whatever), cut into 2.5cm cubes
2 large onions, 1 finely chopped, the other divided into layers and then into 2.5cm squares
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
15ml medium curry powder
5ml turmeric
15ml brown sugar
4 curry/bay leaves (see note below), finely chopped
45ml brown vinegar
2 lemons, sliced
125ml meat stock
125g dried apricots
1 green pepper cut into 2.5cm squares
A little oil for frying
Wooden meat skewers

Ready for the fire....
  • Place the meat and the leaves into a non-metallic bowl (for some reason this is important). I suspect that it had to do with aluminium and that stainless steel would probably be safe, but my gran was almost superstitious in her insistence that the bowl should not be metal. Mix them about so that the leaves are evenly dispersed among the cubes of meat.
  • In a saucepan, saute the chopped onion, garlic, turmeric and curry powder together, until the onion has softened.
  • Add the meat stock, sugar and lemon slices and bring to the boil.
  • Remove from the heat and add the vinegar.
  • Pour over the meat and stir well to ensure even distribution.
  • Cover and set aside overnight. If you want to play it safe, pop it in the fridge, but beef is pretty robust in my experience, and can handle room temperature overnight.
  • Skewer the meat, interspersed with slices of green pepper, onion and dried apricots.
  • Cook over a very hot (about as hot as for steak) open fire for about 10 minutes, turning and basting with the left over sauce.
  • Serve with all the usual barbecue/braai suspects.
  • If you like, you can squeeze lemon juice over them before eating, but I reckon that ruins them (any my granny wouldn't have approved!)
Note about those curry leaves
These aren't easy to come by, I know. So if you can't get your hands on them, use bay leaves. However, I have to tell you that my gran reckoned it was the curry leaves that were the secret ingredient that made the sosaties special.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Burger patties

The photo shows the three men in my life at the fire. My younger son appears to be overcome by the smell of something or other, to the point that he is having a 'moment'.

Next week is national barbecue week in the UK. So I thought I'd help out with a recipe for home made burger patties. Much nicer than bought ones, and you know nothing nefarious has been added to bulk it out.

We love to have a barbecue (or braai, as it's called in South Africa), and let me tell you, he might be a Swede, but my husband spent enough years in South Africa to become a dab hand at it. Nobody is more skilled with the barbecue than that man. He even does our Christmas roast in the kettle barbecue!

500g minced beef
6 spring onions, shopped
Pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5ml dried thyme
5ml ground coriander seeds (not the leaves - that's a different taste altogether)
Pinch mustard seeds and/or a splash of chilli sauce such as Tobasco (optional)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Little oil and basting sauce of your choice

  • Mix all the ingredients together, except the oil and basting sauce.
  • Divide into 6-8 equal sized balls and flatten into a patty shape.
  • Brush with  oil and a little basting sauce.
  • Cook over hot coals, basting every now and again, for 5 minutes each side or until done through. You could fry them, of course, but that is rather unhealthy.
  • Assemble on a burger bun with whatever trimmings take your fancy.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Coffee and pecan biscuits

American readers are probably expecting something very different because of the word 'biscuit', but your understanding of the word is somewhat different from ours. To you, this recipe is probably better described as 'cookies'.

Yet another recipe cut from the pages of some or other magazine. I certainly seem to have read more magazines in my younger days than I do now. Mind you, the big selling magazines around these days are all gossip-and-celebrity, and I have no great interest in that sphere.

Oven temperature


220g flour
125g butter, cubed
60ml sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
5ml vanilla extract

Pecan cream
60g butter
60ml icing sugar, sifted
80g pecan nuts, finely chopped (I used a food processor)
10ml milk

Coffee icing
375ml icing sugar, sifted
5ml butter at room temperature
15ml instant coffee powder
15ml boiling water
20ml milk

Cut with a biscuit cutter
  • Sift flour into a mixing bowl and rub in butter until you have a mixture resembling fine breadcrumbs.
  • Add sugar, egg and vanilla extract and mix to form a soft dough.
  • Roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 5mm thickness. I do this directly on my counter tops. And if you don't have a rolling pin, use a clean wine bottle (you can even drink the wine first, if you like!).
  • Cut out rounds using a 60mm plain biscuit cutter. If you don't have one, use a clean napkin ring or something along those lines. I used the top end of my cookie gun. You should get about 26-30 biscuits. Make sure you have an even number.
  • Place on a lightly greased baking tray and bake for 10 minutes until light golden brown.
  • Cool on wire cooling racks while you get on with other things.
Pecan cream
  • Cream butter until light and fluffy.
  • Add icing sugar and beat well.
  • Add chopped pecan nuts and milk and mix well.
  • When the biscuits are cool (and not a moment before, or it won't work), spread this over half the biscuits and then pop another biscuit on top to make a sandwich. You can afford to be pretty lavish with this, there is a fair amount of it.
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes while you get on with the coffee icing.
Coffee icing
  • Place icing sugar, butter and milk into the top of a double boiler over medium heat. Don't fret, I don't have one either, so I balance a smallish Pyrex dish on top of a saucepan. The handles of the Pyrex dish are wide enough so that it doesn't fall into the saucepan. There should be enough boiling water in the saucepan so that the bottom of the Pyrex dish is just in the water, but not so much that the water slops over the edge of the Pyrex into the icing sugar.
  • Dissolve the coffee in the 15ml of boiling water and add to the mixture.
  • Stir the mixture over simmering water until it is completely smooth.
  • Spread over the top of each biscuit. Once again, you can afford to be generous, here. This icing will set quite quickly, so I work directly out of the 'double boiler' as I ice the biscuits.
  • Decorate each one with half a pecan, or a glace cherry or whatever takes your fancy. This is of course an entirely optional step.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Cream cheese bubble bread

Something quick and easy to have with a barbecue or cold meats and salads. You could also serve them with a cup of tea if you like, just treat them like scones. This is one of many recipes cut out of magazines countless years ago and stuck in my trusty, dilapidated recipe book... and then tweaked (of course).

Oven temperature

275g plain flour
5ml sugar
5ml salt
15ml baking powder
Pinch cayenne pepper, paprika or mustard powder (optional)
125g cream cheese (you can use low fat cream cheese, if you like)
80g butter or marg
125ml milk

  • Sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl.
  • Rub in the cheese and butter/marg with your fingers (yes, like Granny used to do!) until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.
  • Stir in the milk and knead lightly.
  • Roll into balls and arrange in a greased, round baking tin, working from the outside in and leaving small gaps (about 1cm) between balls.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes.
These don't keep for long, but I ate one this morning from a batch I made last night and it was fine. So you don't have to throw out any leftovers straightaway ;o)

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Stuffed potato skins

For a few years while I was in high school, my mother dated a real loser who caused such problems and divisions in our family that I was only too glad to see the back of him. At least I got to escape him during term time, because I was at boarding school. My poor sister lived at home and had to bear the brunt of him.

However, he had a few speciality dishes that were memorable, this being one of them. And it is a favourite of my own family, so I guess the loser wasn't a complete loss. ;o)

Oven temperature
220C and grill

Baking potatoes, one or two per person
250g pack of bacon
1 onion, diced
250ml sweetcorn
Hard cheese such as Cheddar, grated or thinly sliced

Cover with cheese and sprinkle with paprika
  • Stab the potatoes quite deeply once or twice with the point of a sharp knife and sling them in the oven for a good 40 minutes to an hour until they are baked, and the skins have become hard. Don't be tempted to nuke them. That doesn't harden up the skins, which is essential for this recipe.
  • While the potatoes are baking, grill the bacon until crispy. If you aren't able to grill one thing and bake another at the same time because of the way your kitchen is equipped, add the bacon to the next step instead.
  • Saute the onion and sweetcorn together until soft (if you need to, you can add the bacon in here).
  • Chop the cooked bacon up quite finely.
  • When the potatoes are done, cut them in half through the longest median and scoop out the flesh, taking care not to break the skin. Place the skins onto baking trays and set aside.
  • Place all the potato flesh into a large bowl and mash it well, adding a little butter and milk as necessary to get a smooth, soft consistency.
  • Add the bacon, corn and onions and mix well.
  • Spoon the mixture back into the potato skins. Remember that you have added a fair amount of volume, so you should wind up with a convex surface.
  • Cover the mixture with the cheese and sprinkle liberally with paprika.
  • Pop under the grill until the cheese bubbles.
  • Serve alone or with a salad. Oh, and do eat the crunchy skin - it's the best part!
You can of course leave out the bacon for a veggie option. You could also add other leftovers to the mix to use up your fridge fallout.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Themed children's parties: Chess

The last birthday party my elder son had before we left South Africa had a chess theme. My kids' birthdays are just three weeks apart and, although we were living in temporary accommodation at the time, I decided to pull out all the stops and throw memorable parties for them. I worked harder than ever, which was saying something, and threw separate parties for them, which was a break from the norm of the previous four years.

My elder son went through a chess-mad period, becoming the first grade 1 child to make the school team in South Africa and then playing for the Kent county juniors when we moved to the UK. He also made it to the national finals of the British Land UK Chess Challenge two or three times.

I was unable to bake the cake myself, because the oven in the house was not just temporary but temperamental! Sadly, the lady from whom I ordered the cake botched the order and handed over two rather lopsided square sponges. But there was no time to make alternative arrangements, so I did the best I could with what I had.

I bought black and white balloons, and black and white paper napkins. I couldn't get black paper cups, so had to settle for just white ones. The kids all dressed in black and/or white. As usual, I covered the table in tin foil, but instead of laying the food directly onto that (see note below), I laid out alternating black and white napkins and then placed the food on that. Surprisingly enough, I was able to find loads of eats that were black and/or white or an approximation thereof.

The two things that took the greatest effort were the cake and the bowls.

I iced the cake in white, then measured the surface area very carefully. Using flat strips of liquorice, I created 32 black squares and turned that top into a standard chess board, on which I arranged the pieces in an opening gambit.

This is when I proved how really sad I can be. If you look carefully at the pic at the top of this post, you can spot the bowls on the right.

I cut strips of black and white card and wove them into a check pattern. I then cut diagonally into the corners and folded up the sides and secured them to make squared, chequered bowls. It took me several hours to do them all.

Of course, then you have to get creative with the games, since a mini chess tournament isn't likely to go over too well. You can use regular games and give them a bit of a twist (so that all progress has to be made knight-wise or bishop-wise)... or even just a new name. Most of the time, the kids wind up playing whatever they want, anyway, and you're only too happy to put your feet up.

Note about the tin foil thing
You may have noticed a recurring theme in the pics of my kids' birthday parties. Long before I got married and had kids, I learned a trick from the woman who organised all the council functions where I worked. She covered the tables with tin foil and then placed the food directly on that. And this included dollops of houmous and blobs of cream cheese drizzled with sweet chilli sauce. It looked great and it saved on the requirement for bowls and plates (and the need to wash said bowls and plates thereafter). Then, at the end of the function, she would just roll up the tin foil with the leftovers inside and bin the whole kit and caboodle.

Thursday, 19 May 2011


Just in time for the weekend, I thought I'd share a recipe for fudge. I have had many recipes for fudge over the years, but this one is my favourite. It comes from my sister in law. It is thoroughly decadent, but then you weren't expecting a health food recipe when once you'd seen the title, were you?

For years, I had absolutely no success with fudge or jam or any of those things that involve boiling sugar mixtures for ages on end. Then I bought myself a sugar thermometer and everything changed. I highly recommend them!

250g butter
250ml milk
25ml golden syrup (Americans can try golden syrup or corn syrup)
1kg sugar
397g tin condensed milk
10ml vanilla extract

  • It's best to use a heavy-bottomed saucepan for this recipe. Melt the butter, then add the milk, syrup and sugar.
  • Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring frequently.
  • Boil for 15 minutes, still stirring frequently.
  • Add the condensed milk and bring back to the boil, stirring continuously.
  • Boil until soft ball stage is reached - roughly 115C. Ann reckons this takes 12 minutes. I find it takes much longer than that. Perhaps she uses a higher heat than I do.
  • Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Beat well with an electric beater.
  • Pour out into a shallow dish or baking tray.
  • Leave to stand until cool. When the fudge has begun to set, but is still warm, score it deeply so that you can cut it into squares later without it breaking (if that matters).
If the fudge doesn't set, this is probably because you didn't bring it to a high enough temperature and you know what? You can either heat it up and use it as a sauce for ice-cream, or you can bung it back into the saucepan and bring it back up to the right temperature. I've done both in my time. The great thing about cooking for your family is that they are usually more than happy to devour your 'flops' without a murmur...as long as said flops are sweet treats, that is!

Cinnamon glazed butternut

When I was a child, my Afrikaans granny had a tendency to cook with a lot of sugar. So did a lot of Afrikaans ladies of that vintage. It was just 'the way it's done'. And I'm not talking about cakes and sweets. I'm talking about vegetables. A spoon of sugar in the green peas. A teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of butter in each half of a gem squash (a tennis ball sized squash that looks like this) as it was placed on the plate. Sugar in this, sugar sprinkled over that. Astonishingly she and my grandfather both lived into their 80s.

I loved my Gran's cakes, but I was never a fan of her vegetables. I have never been much of a one for adding sugar to the deliciously natural sweetness of vegetables.

With one occasional exception.

Every now and again, when I am cooking a bobotie or a biryani, I make cinnamon glazed butternut to go with it. It is utterly, utterly sinful. But I am not advocating that this recipe should take the place of the way you normally cook your butternut.

Oh... and it works just as well with pumpkin. I just prefer the taste of butternut.

125ml cold water
500g butternut, peeled and cut into thick pieces
30ml butter
5ml ground cinnamon
10ml soft brown sugar

  • Pour the water into a heavy-based saucepan first.
  • Spread the butternut over the base of the saucepan in no more than two layers.
  • Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon evenly over the butternut.
  • Dot the butter on top.
  • Cover and cook over a low heat until the butternut is soft (about 20 minutes or so). Keep an eye on the water level. If the water all boils away, the butternut will burn.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Joan's overnight noodle salad

This is the promised second overnight salad which so wonderfully frees up the host/ess to be host/ess at a barbecue, instead of winding up in the kitchen while everyone else socialises (I published the first one last week).

Once again, this generates vast quantities, so scale down as required.

1 whole packet of pasta, cooked (I used farfalle, as you can see)
1 tin peaches, drained and chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped (I used spring onions, because I had some leftover from the other overnight salad)
250ml tomato ketchup
200ml sugar
120ml vinegar
Few drops Tobasco sauce
20ml medium curry powder.

Method (such as it is)
Mix all the ingredients together, cover and leave to stand overnight.

You might be inclined to make this salad on the day, if you have the time, but it really does need that time for the flavours to develop. The first time I made this salad, I tasted it immediately after mixing it up and thought "Uh oh. I don't think I'm going to like that!" But the next day, it was much improved and really tasty.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Brisket with attitude

As I took my last mouthful of delicious tender brisket on Saturday night, I looked across at my husband and said, "I forgot to take a photo!" My family has grown so used to having their food photographed before they get to eat it, that he knew exactly what I meant. But it was too late. Sorry about that.

This recipe is based on one I got from my local butcher years ago. He had these little recipe cards printed up and would hand them out to the customers when they purchased the relevant cut of meat. I must have bought a brisket from him, I guess.

Brisket is one of the cheaper cuts of beef. It is full of flavour, as so many of the cheaper cuts are. But it is also inclined to be tougher. So you should roast it at a lower temperature for longer to overcome that. Don't be tempted to aim for a roast that's still pink in the middle. Save that for the more expensive cuts.

Oven temperature

2kg deboned, rolled brisket
10 peppercorns
6 cloves
2 bay leaves
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
60ml brown vinegar
25g butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
500ml boiling water
250ml chutney (Mrs Balls for preference, if you're able to get it)
125ml sweet chilli sauce

  • Crush the herbs and spices together (I use a coffee grinder) and mix together with the chopped onion, carrots, vinegar, chutney and sweet chilli sauce.
  • Place the meat in a large bowl and spoon the sauce over. Make sure the meat is evenly covered with marinade.
  • Leave to marinate for eight hours or overnight, turning once halfway through the process.
  • Remove the meat from the marinade and drain (but keep the marinade!).
  • Melt the butter in a heavy frying pan and brown the joint on all sides. Transfer into a casserole dish.
  • Add the boiling water to the pan to loosen up the bits and bobs from the browning, then add that to the marinade and pour over the meat.
  • Cover with a lid or foil and pop into the oven for about 3 hours.
  • Remove from the marinade and blot off any excess fat. Set aside and keep warm.
  • Thicken the sauce with a little cornflour mixed with cold water and bring back up to the boil. You could use the frying pan for this again. Serve this in place of gravy.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Themed children's parties: racing cars

The next in the series of themed children's party eats can be (just about) seen in the foreground of the picture above, on the right.

Finger biscuits
Icing sugar (about half a cup should do it)
Round sweets such as dolly mixtures, liquorice allsorts or lifesavers
Jelly babies

  • Mix up the icing sugar with just enough water to make a paste.
  • The finger biscuits are the body of your racing cars. Using the icing sugar paste, stick a round sweet to the front and back of each side of the biscuit. Don't get clever and try to position the tyres (tires) so that the body is raised, okay? We're going for an idea, here. So keep the biscuit flat on the surface or you will discover that you know lots of very rude words.
  • Chop each jelly baby in half across its waist, or maybe a little higher. Eat the bottom halves. Stick the top halves onto the finger biscuits about halfway along, to be the driver.
  • Et voila! Racing car eats for your party.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Citrus fruit cake filling

No photo today.

About a week ago, I baked a chocolate cake, and decided to try something a little different between the two layers. Since I love chocolate and orange together, I made this really simple orange filling using a recipe out of my trusty Cook and Enjoy it (Kook en Geniet). It's a bit like a curd (which I also adore), only it doesn't have eggs in it. I made a little too much, and had masses left over, which I have been eating on my toast every morning since then. Just yum!

It occurred to me that you could do exactly the same thing with lemons or limes, and I have every intention of trying it with lime very soon because, as you know if you're a regular reader, I'm deeply passionate about limes, and I'm thinking that a lime version of this filling between two layers, with coconut icing on top would be a highly respectable treatment for a sponge cake to get!

250ml sugar
2.5ml salt
60ml cornflour
250ml orange (or lemon or lime or a blend thereof) juice
Grated zest of one orange (or lemon or lime)
15ml lemon juice
45ml butter

  • Place the salt, sugar and cornflour together in a saucepan and gradually stir in the orange juice.
  • Stir over a medium heat until the mixture becomes glossy and thick.
  • Remove from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well.
  • Allow to cool completely before spreading on the cake or it will sink in to the sponge rather than forming a filling between your layers.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Hummingbird cake

Note: No actual hummingbirds were harmed during the making of this cake.

Blogger's been down much of the day, so this recipe is a little late, but hopefully it will prove to have been worth the wait. The first time I tasted this cake was in a little independent coffee shop in Durbanville in the Western Cape. The owner of the coffee shop had a friend who made them for her. She refused to share the recipe with me, but told me that it was an Australian cake.

In the intervening years, I have tracked down many recipes for this cake, and they all seem to indicate that it originates in the southern United States of America. None of them explain how it came by the name, though. Perhaps someone can tell me the real story.

Enough of that, now. Let's get baking, shall we?

Oven temperature

750ml plain flour
500ml sugar
2.5ml salt
5ml baking powder
5ml ground cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten
175ml vegetable oil
2.5ml vanilla
225g tin of crushed pineapple in juice
250ml chopped pecans
3 medium sized bananas, mashed

125g butter at room temperature
250g cream cheese
500g icing sugar
2.5ml vanilla extract
2.5ml lemon juice
'Some' chopped pecans

  • Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon, then stir in the sugar.
  • Fold in the beaten eggs, oil, vanilla, pineapple (complete with juice), nuts and bananas.
  • Blend well (by hand, though - not in a blender!) and divide into three 20cm baking pans.
  • Bake for 25 minutes and then cool on racks before icing.
Now let's get weaving on that icing, shall we, because it's deeeelish!
  • Beat together the cheese and butter.
  • Gradually add the icing sugar a little at a time, mixing well with each addition.
  • Finally, add the lemon juice and vanilla and stir well.
  • Apply to all three cake layers. I suggest dividing it up evenly first.
  • Stack the layers and then garnish with a few pecans.
Be warned, this cake was so tall that it left icing on the top of my tallest cake tin! What a problem to have.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Tuna and asparagus bake

A truly yummy combination of flavours that could use up some fridge fallout in the process. The original recipe is stuck in my do-it-yourself recipe book, having been cut out of some or other magazine at some or other point in my life.

Oven temperature

750ml cooked rice (as in 750ml after cooking, not 750ml rice which is then cooked)
90ml butter
15ml lemon juice
15ml chopped parsley (I leave this out, because my husband loathes parsley)
410g tin of asparagus salad cuts
1 onion, finely chopped
2 courgettes/zucchini/baby marrow/whatever you call them, sliced (roughly 4mm slices)
Half a green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
25ml cornflour
60ml water
60ml sour cream
200g tin of tuna, drained and flaked
15ml fresh mint, chopped
250ml grated cheddar (or similar) cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bake, uncovered for about 30mins
  • Combine the rice with 30ml of the butter, lemon juice and parsley in a large bowl, then spoon over the base of a large ovenproof dish. Press this rice base down to pack it tightly.
  • Drain the asparagus cuts, but keep about 125ml of the juice. Arrange the asparagus on top of the rice.
  • Heat the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium heat and saute the onions lightly.
  • Add the courgettes and green pepper. Stir fry for about a minute or until the veg begin to soften a bit.
  • Stir in the cornflour and cook for a further minute.
  • Stir in the reserved asparagus juice and water and keep stirring until a smooth consistency is achieved.
  • Remove from heat and add the sour cream, tuna, mint and seasoning.
  • Spoon this mixture over the asparagus and spread gently.
  • Sprinkle with cheese and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes.
  • If you like, you can top it with croutons after baking, but I have never found it necessary.
The rice forms a sort of 'crust'. I tend to mash the rice a bit to achieve a 'mealie rice'/grits texture.

A note about my comment about fridge fallout - you could add leftover vegetables to the tuna mixture, and I reckon peas and/or sweetcorn would be no bad idea!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Joan's overnight salad #1

You know how you when you're hosting a barbecue/braai for hordes of people, and you wind up spending all the time in the kitchen because you can't make the salads in advance? Well, not any more! A few years ago, a friend of mine gave me two recipes for salads that actually need to be made the night before. I kid you not. How cool is that?

I will share the second one next week.

This recipe is for a vast quantity - scale down the ingredients as required.

2 iceberg (or similar sized) lettuces, shredded
6 or so celery stalks, diced or sliced
Small bunch spring onions, finely sliced
Small packet frozen peas
Jar tangy mayonnaise
Garlic salt to taste
Parmesan cheese (some), grated
250g packet bacon rashers, fried or grilled
4 eggs, hard boiled and grated
Block of Cheddar (or similar) cheese, grated

Method (such as it is)
(edited) Layer all the ingredients together in the order in which they are listed, preferably in glass bowls to get the effect of the layers, cover and store overnight.

You may notice that my picture above shows the ingredients all mixed together. That was because I wrote down the recipe incorrectly in the first place. Having now seen the recipe posted here, Joan has advised me that the layering prevents the lettuce from going soggy. So that's what I've been doing wrong!

I have a third recipe for a salad that needs to be made in advance, but that one calls for an ingredient not readily available in the UK (and I'm not sure about the US), so I need to think carefully about whether there is any point in sharing it. Perhaps you can let me know: how easily could you get your hands on peach flavoured jelly (jello) powder? The block type is no use.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Themed children's parties: pig faces

That wasn't brilliant timing, was it? I promised you a Monday series for children's parties right before two sequential bank holiday Mondays. Doh! Well, I'm back on track, now.

Today's eats are useful for nursery rhyme parties ("This little piggy..."), fairy tale parties (Three Little Pigs), farmyard themed parties, Peppa Pig parties, and (of course) parties with no theme at all. You can see the pigs on the right had side of the picture above. Once again scanned from an old photo, so not the greatest quality, I grant you. Fret not, I will share with you how to make each of the things in that photo... except the crisps.

Flat round biscuits (Marie biscuits or thin rich tea biscuits)
Pink marshmallows (next week, I'll show you what to do with the white ones)
Pink icing (frosting) already made up
Red food colouring and an cotton bud (Q tip) to apply it... clean, of course!
Small round sweets like Smarties, Jelly Tots or some such.

  • Spread each biscuit with pink icing.
  • Chop the marshmallows in half (horizontally, as in, to make a shorter cylinder) and press one half into the icing in the centre of the biscuit. This is your piggy's nose. I used scissors for this.
  • Using the cotton bud and the red food dye, make two red dots on the top of the marshmallow for nostrils.
  • Press two little sweeties into the icing above the nose for eyes. Remember that a pig's eyes are quite low and wide set. If you place them high and close together, you will get a more bear-like face.
  • Slice a marshmallow into roughly 4mm circles. Cut each circle in half. These are your ears. Press them into the icing near the top of the head (they should stick out over the edge) to make ears, and short of squeeze them into a longer, narrower shape (pig's don't have round ears).
  • And that's it. Honest. You don't need to bother with a mouth.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Chicken biryani

This recipe is fairly time consuming, but the results are oh-so-worth it! I am utterly in love with chicken biryani, so much so that it is a challenge for me to choose something else from the menu when we visit an Indian restaurant.

I should point out that this recipe is almost certianly not authentically Indian, since it is based on one drawn from a book of Cape Malay recipes. South Africa has an enormous 'Indian' population. These are people descended from the Indians brought out to work on the sugar cane farms in what was then known as Natal. In the apartheid era, 'Indian' was one of the four racial classifications and the term is still in use today. Most South African Indians remain in the KwaZulu-Natal area, as a result of which, Durban (the city in which I was born) is often referred to as the 'capital of India'.

The Cape Malays (as the phrase suggests) are largely concentrated in the Western Cape, which is where I spent twelve years of my life, and where both my children were born.

However, there are commonalities in their cuisine, and some fusion has been inevitable...especially in my kitchen, with my exposure to both! Purists will argue one way or the other, of course, but I'm not enough of a connoisseur to get embroiled in that wrangling. I enjoy recipes from both cultures, and I hope that you will enjoy this one. It is one I make fairly often for guests.

So here goes...

Oven temperature
Low (for reheating)

1kg chicken portions
2 onions, diced
A little oil
500ml lentils
500ml uncooked rice (I use Basmati, because my husband is addicted to the stuff!)
10ml butter
2 cinnamon quills/sticks/whatever you like to call them
4 cardamom pods, split open
3 red or green chillies chopped (increase or decrease this number to taste, but biryani is generally not very hot)
4 hard boiled eggs
10ml ground cumin
2.5ml turmeric (if you're feeling flush, you can use some saffron strands instead) plus another 7.5ml
250ml pouring yoghurt
10ml red masala powder
15ml peri-peri oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
5ml finely chopped fresh ginger (or you can use the 'very lazy' bottled kind, but avoid the powdered ground ginger)
5ml ground cinnamon
10ml salt

  • Combine the following ingredients and marinade the chicken for two hours: yoghurt, red masala, 7.5ml turmeric, peri peri oil, garlic, ginger, ground cinnamon and salt.
  • Set the lentils to cook in boiling water until more or less soft. While they're doing that, you can get on with the next steps. When they are cooked, drain and set aside.
  • Boil the rice in boiling water as well, until done, drain and set aside. To be honest, I cook the rice and lentils together, because it frees up one hotplate and means one less saucepan to wash!
  • Heat a little oil and saute the onion and chilli. Set aside.
  • Over a medium heat, melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the cinnamon quills and cardamom.
  • Brown the chicken in this saucepan, taking care not to burn the yoghurt. If necessary, add a (tiny) bit of water, so that the chicken doesn't stick.
  • When the chicken is brown, add about half a cup of water and 2.5ml of turmeric (or saffron) and cook, uncovered until done through and soft. Remove from heat.
  • In a large bowl, mix the rice, lentils (if they aren't already mixed, that is!), onion-and-chillies and chicken.
  • Transfer half the mixture into a serving bowl, and sprinkle with half the cumin and spread half the egg slices over it.
  • Add the other half and sprinkle with the rest of the cumin. If you have rose water to hand, you might like to sprinkle some of that over, too (yum!). Spread the rest of the egg slices over the top. Cover and place in the oven to heat through.
  • Serve with vegetable curry (for an Indian slant) or Cape Malay style vegetables (recipes for which will be added to this blog at some stage, but can be downloaded from all manner of sites in the interim).

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Fruit crumble with an oh-so-tasty difference

Fruit crumbles are popular, easy dessert options, and you can use just about any fruit: fresh, canned or frozen that you have to hand. But I recently learned a wonderful trick with crumble that I would like to share with you. This recipe is once again based on one drawn from my new favourite 200 veggie feasts. The 'trick' can be applied to pretty much any crumble recipe, but I'll give it a context, shall I?

Oven temperature

500g plums, halved and stoned
1 large pear, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
100g caster sugar
125g plain flour
50g butter, diced
125g marzipan, coarsely grated (this is the secret ingredient, ladies and gentlemen)

  • Arrange the fruit in a pie dish and sprinkle with half the sugar.
  • With your fingertips, rub the rest of the sugar, flour and butter together, until you get a consistency like breadcrumbs (you can also use a food processor for this).
  • Gently stir in the marzipan.
  • Spoon this mixture over the fruit.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown. If it starts to brown too quickly, cover it with foil for a while. Otherwise you'll end up with burnt crumble over still-raw fruit.
  • Serve hot with cream, custard or ice cream.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


This is a South African traditional dish that has its roots deep in the country's Dutch heritage. I suspect that it owes much to Dutch oliebolle. It has, however, gained a wider market than just those of Dutch descent in the country (if it were at all possible to draw a ring around that subset these days!). My husband has fond memories of bunking out of his high school hostel to buy what is called a curry bunny, a vetkoek, filled with curried mince.

I use a breadmaker to make these, but you can use pretty much any bread recipe and pick it up at the point where we shape it into balls.

Balls that will fit in your hand
500ml bread flour
7.5ml fast acting dried yeast
5ml salt
2.5ml sugar
250ml lukewarm water
Oil for deep frying

  • Pour the water into the breadmaker pan.
  • Add the dry ingredients, yeast last of all.
  • Set your breadmaker to the 'dough' setting and start.
  • With wet hands, shape the dough into balls that fit easily into the palm of your hand.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan - you don't need more than about an inch deep or so, the dough will float on top of the oil anyway. Don't use a high heat, or the vetkoek won't cook through.
  • Pack the dough balls fairly closely together in the oil. Fry them for about 5 minutes until they're golden brown (roughly doughnut coloured).
  • Flip them over and cook on the other side.
  • Take them out of the oil and place them on a cooling rack with paper towel underneath.
  • They're best eaten while still fairly hot. They're delicious with cheese and apricot jam (yes, together - be adventurous!) or with curried mince.
    Roughly doughnut coloured

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Peanutbutter biscuits (cookies)

The very first thing I ever baked at home by myself, was peanut butter biscuits. My Gran gave me the recipe and was on hand to give advice, but the work was all my very own, and I nearly burst with pride when my Gran served the biscuits to the family at tea time.

So I speak from personal experience when I say that this is a recipe a child could follow.

Oven temperature

175g butter, at room temperature
175ml crunchy peanut butter
125ml white sugar
125ml brown sugar
1 egg
500ml plain flour
2.5ml baking powder

Flatten with a fork dipped in sugar
  • Method
  • Cream the sugar and butter together until light.
  • Beat in the peanut butter.
  • Beat in the egg.
  • Sift in the dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Shape the dough into walnut sized balls and arrange on a baking tray about 5cm apart.
  • Press down with a fork dipped in sugar.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes until light brown (all ovens vary, so you may have to bake yours a little longer, but remember that biscuits don't crisp up in the oven - that happens afterwards during cooling).
  • Cool completely on wire racks. Store in airtight containers.
  • This recipe should yield about 50-ish biscuits.