Monday, October 19, 2009

Picnic in the garden

On Friday my son's playschool came for a picnic in our garden. It all started with an innocent comment from the teacher about her not being sure what to plant in a neglected spot in her garden and me being, well me, rambling on about plants and suggestions for a little too long. She then put two and two together and realised that I like gardening and suggested the picnic to some moms and before I knew it, it was a done deal. The idea was for them to just roam freely for a few hours and to have some fun. A bit of a shuffle on the roster and it also became my son's turn at being the 'baker of the week'. Suddenly I had an excuse to make little hamburgers served alfresco under the trees; I was in my element.

Our garden is a bit bigger than normal (I guess it would pass as a park in most towns and that is me trying very hard not to boast). We are in fact a very lucky family. And it is the ideal place for kids to give free reigns to their imagination. It has a network of pathways, large grass lawns under shade trees and a play area with jungle gyms, a little dolls' house build from local stone and lots of flowers every where. Also, the vegetable garden is overflowing with produce, which gave the stadsjapies (city kids) a chance to see that carrots do not come from bags in Woolworths.

For some reason I thought I might need an incentive to lure them away from the play area into the unfamiliar (read: Needed an excuse to bake). So, I expanded on the idea of an easter egg hunt and baked some cookies, which I iced like little spring flowers. These went into little bags, which were tied with ribbon onto low branches all over the garden.

They were out of the cars in seconds, accompanied by the usual din and as expected, they all went for the play area. But, with a little prodding from E, they soon started the cookie hunt and what fun they had. Their energy was infectious! They returned, red cheeked, about an hour later with their loot, or what was left of it and could not stop chatting, laughing, running.

Lunch followed and then a little tour of the veg garden and the green houses.
After they left, my little boy gave me a huge hug and many, many kisses and just laughed. The perfect ending to a wonderful day!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Daring Bakers do Vol-au-vents

I am seriously late posting this blog. Yes, only about ten days late to reveal my Daring Baker's attempt at making vol-au-vents. Excuses are plenty. Between two orchid shows, a birthday party for my four year old, visitors for three weeks and a trip to Durban even work suffered somewhat. It was one of those months in which I hardly saw my bed and unfortunately also hardly saw my kitchen. Well, I fed the masses that passed through, but had no time to experiment or attempt anything time consuming.

Puff-pastry definitely fall into the 'time-consuming' category and the very thought of all that rolling and resting had my head spinning at first. Eventually I just declared the month a disaster kitchen-wise and decided to wait. So on monday our dear friend from Cal left for home, my little boy E's party has come and gone and the suitcases of dirty clothes were all ironed and back in the cupboard. It was time to tackle the puff-pastry.

Vol-au-vents take me right back to Scotland, where, for a while I was the cook for a family of eight, who lived in a castle. It was summer while I was there and they had many parties and alfresco dinners with friends. And vol-au-vents featured often; they simply loved them. Well, come to think of it, all of them loved food. They could eat breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner and still snack in between. Vol-au-vents were also served as main course for dinner when they just wanted to relax in the library with the children and then I filled them with smoked salmon and bechamel sauce.

This time round, I rather wanted to make something for dessert and decided to stirr a few teaspoons of left-over lemon curd into some delicious full-cream yogurt. So simple, but it worked really well. One of those things I never thought of before opening the fridge, but will now stock for emergency puddings. And as an added bonus, the kids just adored it.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.