Saturday, July 24, 2010

Milk jam and a baby

Most of the time I am fine with my sisters living far away. And by fine I mean that I learned to accept it over the years, learned to not wake up and wish they were a little closer. But sometimes, something happens that shift my world a little (good or bad) and make me wish until I ache that they were closer...
Recently my sister had a little girl and boy did I wish I could be th
ere. It was one of those times that the distance between here and her could just as well have been the distance between here and the son; equally unreachable. Equally untouchable.
My mom is there and my dad spends his days here at my house working away the hours and occasionally staring blankly into space and wondering how his new grandchild smells and how the other one would feel in his arms. But all along, we both just wish that we could share some of the magic.

And when all else fails, of course I bake. Bake something to celebrate the ha
ppiness of a new baby. A beautiful, little girl who is healthy and loved and, well perfect!
Milk jam is a perfectly french thing that I had years ago while in scouting supermarket isles in France. It is jam made of milk, but does not resemble jam at all. It is like custard in a jar, but more like caramel without the sweetness of caramel. It is the sort of thing you just have to stick a spoon into and lick away.

And then of course macarons need no introduction and is probably the best way to celebrate the birth of a little girl. Don't you agree that they are just the girliest concoction? I always, always opt for Cannelle et Vanille's recipe. There are so many blogs and websites devoted to these, but I experimented with all of these, but found that the added meringue powder in this recipe seems to do the trick. But before you pull your hair out trying to get to the bottom of these, read here and here as well.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Breakfast roulade

A friend asked me for the recipe for a salmon roulade that I often use when I entertain a crowd. At first I thought just to send a link to the Tuis magazine website, but then thought it better to quickly make one for breakfast this morning. It meant getting up twenty minutes before the rest of the household, but just shows, that this recipe is so fast and forgiving that you can do it chop-chop before you even had your morning coffee.

Normally the roulade gets a thin layer of mascapone or cream cheese and the thinnest of slivers of smoked trout or salmon and some rocket before rolling. But given that it was early in the morning and there was not a piece of fish in my fridge, I opted for a breakfast version. I fried some bacon pieces until crispy and grated some cheese on top before rolling.
It got the hmmmm seal of approval from the rest of the hungry crowd who followed the smell of bacon and eggs coming from the kitchen. And E wanted a big slice in his lunch box as well.

Breakfast roulade

60 g butter
80 ml plain flour
250 ml milk
4 extra large eggs, seperatedbacon bits

Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking sheet with bake paper.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Take off the heat and stir the flour in until you have a smooth paste that comes away from the sides. Stir in the milk and make sure that all the lumps dissolve before returning to the heat. Gently cook for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring frequently until the mixture thickens considerably. Remove from the heat and add the yolks, stirring until well incorporated. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold into the rue mixture.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes until firm and starting to color around the edges. Remove from the oven and place the roulade, still on the sheet of bake paper, on a damp tea towel. Let cool slightly before spreading the crispy bacon and cheese on top. Roll gently (remember to remove the baking paper) and slice.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Eggs and a brocolli quiche

We've had a few chickens now for a month or two and my son just loves to go fetch the eggs each day. But for the last week or so, the nests were empty each day. We blamed the monkeys and the weather. However, today E came into the office with this huge smile, holding a bucket with sixteen eggs. It turns out, the hens did not like us pinching their eggs and decided to go and hide them amongst some plants in the garden.

So, if life hands you eggs, you have to bake a quiche.

The brocolli and peas are also abundant in the vegetable garden at the moment. I do not even bother to cook the veg before adding it to the custard when they are freshly picked. Just a quick rinse and a trim. And for the pastry, I always use Nigella's 'basic' recipe from her How to Eat recipe book. It is simple, very easy to roll and handle but very flaky and light. Perfection.... I can never wait for it to cool and have to taste a steaming slice straight out of the oven.

Brocolli quiche

For the short crust pastry:
Adapted from Nigella's How to Eat (

60g butter, cold and cut into small squares
120g plain flour
yolk of one egg
about two table spoons of ice water
teaspoon of lemon juice

Combine the butter and flour and place in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
In a food processor pulse the butter and flour until you have a bread crumb texture. Mix the egg with some of the water and the lemon juice and pour through the funnel. You may need to add a a few drops of water, but do so carefully. Mix until the dough just starts to come together. Place on a floured surface and gently press to form a flat disc. Wrap in cling film and let rest in the fridge for another 20 minutes.
Once rested, gently roll out on a lightly floured surface and blind bake for 10 minutes at 180°C. Remove the beans and bake for another 5 minutes.

For the custard:
6 eggs
125ml buttermilk
1 tablespoon thick cream
brie or feta cheese, cubed
sprig or two thyme or marjoram
2 florets brocolli
½ cup peas (fresh or frozen)

Combine the eggs, buttermilk and cream and whisk until just combined (I prefer to use a fork). Add the cheese, herbs, and vegetables. Season to taste and then pour into the tart shell. Bake at 180°C for 20 minutes until just set. Remove and cool slightly.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Rusks and last of the World Cup Fever

Here in SA everybody is sort of breathing slowly as the end of the World Cup looms. It has been such a fantastic few weeks that few people want it to end. Most of us just want it to last a little bit longer. To have the tourist and celebs and royalty here for just a few more days. To have this feeling of euphoria and 'Feel it, it is here' feeling just a while longer. But alas, on Sunday it is Spain vs Nederland and the closing ceremony.

This Cup has been good for our country on so many levels and I am not even going to begin to go into the politics and economy of it all. But one thing it did also do, was to encourage South Africans to look at our own roots again and to relish the foods and colors and clothes that make this diverse nation tick. Suddenly traditional foods have been popping up on restaurant menus and supermarket shelves and dinner party conversation. Milk tart and malva pudding, pap and sheba, morogo, koeksisters and souskluitjies. And rusks.
We are a nation of rusk eaters. It is the sort of thing you dunk in your coffee at the office. Nothing glamorous, but heart-warmingly delicious. A bowl of rusks and a few cups of steaming coffee makes people smile. It just does.

I grew up baking a batch every fortnight or so. And I still do. But the majority of people opt for the store bought versions these days. Yes, I know it takes a bit of time and yes I know we are all busy. But I checked when I baked these yesterday and it took me fifteen minutes from start to finish. That is fifteen minutes towards the best rusk you will eat this year. Fresh, with good quality ingredients and a choice of flavors. Come on, give it a try.

There are many recipes for rusks. This is the one I grew up with.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vegetables and chickens

I have a huge vegetable garden. Actually, I have two. A small one just outside my back door where I grow herbs and some lettuces and also a very, very big one at the bottom of my garden. I have chickens too. Lucky, lucky me, to quote Lola (you know, from Charlie and Lola). I say it often when I stroll down there, basket in hand to go pick something for the dinner. It is not always easy to live in sunny South Africa and many of my friends and family have left for greener pastures. They are spread around the globe for various reasons, mostly the kind that makes the headlines: Crime, economic crisis, corruption.... All the things we would rather not speak of in a blog about food and pure indulgence. But for us the trade off is just not worth it. We love plants far too much. And space and blue skies and sunshine and African sunsets. But most of all, I love my vegetable garden and the kids just adore it too. So, we are here to stay!
The little ones and I have this little ritual in the late afternoon - feed the chickens and pick vegetables. All three of us just loose ourselves amongst the green leaves and blooms and promises of fresh vegetables. It is the best stress release, guaranteed.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes and a stork party

I do not have a sweet tooth. Maybe that is a bit of an understatement. I bake a lot of cakes but seldom eat any of it. I'd much rather look at the happy eater's face than to try it myself. I can honestly not remember the last time I ate a sweet and will probably have to go back many years. It gives me goose bumps even to consider eating some artificially flavored jelly concoction. No, give me sour any day.
This little story may help to put it all into perspective. My mom secretly ate a lemon in class when she was still in school. Hunger pangs drove her to it, but she packed the lemon in the lunch box herself. The teacher caught her and he demanded she go to the front of the class to eat it. Little did he know that he would be the one screaming and running out of the class once she took a bite. The idea made him cringe and flee. But we also grew up eating lemons from the tree in the garden. And grenadillas. We used to stick our fingers in the cream of tartar jars for a treat. Hmmm, not sure I'll still do that anymore though. We love sour and my kids now eat lemons too.
Now back to the cupcakes. I was asked to do cupcakes for a friend's stork party with a french theme. Vanilla-vanilla made the cut off-course. But I also wanted to do something not so sweet, lemon meringue like and decided that these will fit the bill perfectly.

Luckily, these are very easy to bake and you can make the lemon curd in advance as it keeps well in a jar.

Lemon Curd (makes 2 jars)
Zest and juice of 2 lemons (unwaxed and washed)
85g butter, diced into small cubes
240g sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Put the butter, sugar and lemon juice and zest in a heat proof bowl on top of a pan with simmering water and gently heat until the sugar and butter have dissolved. Strain the eggs into the mixture and stir continuously until it thickens considerably. It takes around 20 minutes, so have patients. Pour into sterilized jars and store.
Note: I found that using my baby milk bottle sterilizer makes the job so much easier.

Cupcakes (makes 12)
125 g butter, softened
125 g sugar, castor
125g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp orange flower water
2 eggs
2 Tbs milk

Preheat the oven to 180C
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process for around 2 minutes until well combined. Add more milk to achieve a smooth batter. Spoon into individual cupcake moulds and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely before icing.

3 egg whites, room temperature
85g castor sugar
85ml water

Combine all the ingredients in a heat proof bowl and beat for around one minute until frothy and opague. Sit the bowl on top of a heat proof bowl with just simmering water and continue to beat for another 7 minutes until soft peaks form.

To combine: Spoon small amount from the center of the cupcakes with a melon baller and fill the hole with a teaspoon of lemon curd and then replace the piece of cake. Top with a generous amount of icing and use a blow torch to brown the edges.