Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A chocolatey day and no bread

There's no bread Mommy 'Daar's niks brood nie, Mamma'.
That was my son as he came charging up the stairs.  Oops, we live far from town and it happens sometimes.  No bread or milk.  We keep some long life milk and some bread in the fridge, but every so often we end up with a depleted stash.

'I'll just bake you something then'.  It probably says something about a household if there is always four kinds of flour, yeast, sprinkles of any description, buttermilk, many varieties of rice and even more of grains in the pantry, but no bread.

There were two very ripe bananas in the fruit bowl, perfect for some muffins.  We like bananas, but not the very ripe variety, not even in a muffin, so I decided to mask the taste slightly with some cacao.  The chocolate bit is not decadent, just a bit of extra taste.  Still healthy enough for lunch.

As soon as they were in the oven, the electrician and his daughter showed up.  And then my father.  Everybody took a few, straight out of the oven, piping hot.  It left only four, which we took to E's swimming coach in the afternoon.

Then we had friends over for supper and I made some chocolate mousse for dessert, with some macarons on the side.  Decadent, dark and even a bit naughty.  We ate it while staring at the lightning that illuminated a huge storm over the mountain.   

Friday, March 25, 2011

Moroccan chicken meatballs with tomato and couscous

It has been so hot these last few weeks.  Really hot and humid, sticky.  

I don't like to cook when it is that hot.  The kitchen is unbearable and the idea of sticking anything hot into my mouth, unthinkable.  We eat a lot of salads, fruit with something on the side.  But the human body can only take so much fresh food and then I know it is time for a cooked meal.  Something with a bit of substance.  Definitely not rich and creamy, just hot and unctuous.

This Moroccan inspired dish fits the bill perfectly.  The sauce is the real star and it pairs so well with the couscous.  It will probably work just as well with beef or lamb meatballs.  It does take a bit of time to prepare, but you can taste it in the end result.  The sauce and chicken needs the time in the oven.  

I enjoyed cooking these while the little ones sat at the kitchen table doing homework.  Colouring, drawing, counting.  Special times.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nostalgia with Makataan konfyt (watermelon preserve)

I am cheating a bit this time, as the preserve in the blog was not actually made by me, but by my mom.  I thought you would not mind, as this is such a special recipe and so very time consuming to make, that it deserves a post.  It just does.

We found a huge makataan at the farmers' market last weekend and when we did, my mom and I were both giddy with excitement.  It has been years since we found a watermelon with a skin thick enough worthy of the effort of making preserve.  Makataan is just perfect, as the skin is all you are really after.  

My mom took on the almighty task of preserve making this week and by friday she was ready to bottle them.  This is not a process for the fainthearted, because it takes a full week of tender, loving care to get the end result in the bottle, but boy is it worth it.  Nothing, absolutely nothing compares you for that first bite into the sweet, sticky, gingery, syrupy deliciousness.  

For me a smell or a taste, sometimes even a sound can transport me to a different place.  I am not talking about anything extra-ordinary or outer-body, just imaginary.  Eating the preserve did just that.  It gave me a nostalgic glimpse into a past shared with grandparents, aunts and uncles.  Making preserves, jams, dried fruit, special biscuits were such a big part of our lives growing up.  A huge chunk of my childhood memories consist of us, sitting around a table in our or my grandmothers' kitchens peeling, boiling, tasting and eating.  Both my grandmothers were very industrious in the kitchen and their pantries were always filled with jars and cans and tins of goodness.  I adored that about both of them.  My mother continues the tradition and I hope to fill her shoes one day too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Raspberry and chocolate bread and butter pudding

We had a very busy weekend; two kiddies parties and a trip to Kruger but we still made time to get to the monthly farmers' market early on saturday morning. 

The market had a few surprises:  Fresh mushrooms, a wonderful makataan (type of watermelon used to make jam) and compost, which we ordered a full load of for the vegetable garden.  I went with my mom and together we collected a few bags worth of produce.  Actually, a bit more than a few bags full as you should have seen the size of the makataan; we had to get somebody to carry it to the car.  The market has a bit of kitch and a bit of cool.  A lot of ready made food and brilliant coffee.  Strolling through the stalls is probably one of the best ways to spend a saturday morning.

And then on monday I realized that I had a whole fridge full of ingredients for a meze style supper.  Far too much food though for our family and that's how I ended up inviting my parents for supper, on a monday.  This little impromto style dinner was one of my favorite dinners in a long time.  So easy to put together, but so enjoyable.  We sat outside and watched the sun set while eating and completely forgetting that it was the beginning of the week and not weekend yet.

Of course I had to do a bit of desert as well.  I bought some croissants earlier and had fresh raspberries in the fridge and just made some custard.  Easy to assemble and just as easy to eat.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mango and almond cake

I think it is safe to say that we have plenty of mangoes at the moment.  Lots and lots.  And we just can't seem to get enough of it either.

Summer equals mangoes in this part of the world.  And mostly we just like them as they are:  Ripe and juicy, eaten sliced with the juice dripping down your arms.  We really go through dozens in a season.  And often that is what we will have for lunch on any given day.

But occasionally I get to safe a few and do something with it in the kitchen too, apart from slicing it and eating it myself.  

It was my turn recently to take eats to an orchid meeting, which always seems to happen at times when time just does not seem to exist.  I needed a cake and fast.  I thought of a Nigella cake I once made  with orange pulp and just knew that mango will be a good substitute.  The beauty of using mango though is, that you need not boil anything beforehand as with the orange.  Just slice (and don't eat) and process.

This is the kind of cake you can get your kids to make on a sunday for tea.  Really simple, yet fruity and moist.