Monday, August 26, 2013

Tripple choc-chip cookies, a Bar-One ice-cream cake and a lot of excuses

Life is back to a pace that allows for blogging and the occasional bit of pottering.  The last few months left very little time for either and in fact very little time for anything it seemed.  

Our new kitchen got finished and so did the office and classroom and for a while we just enjoyed it all.  Our little family has now found a new rhythm in our bigger space and the little school for two is doing well too. 

This past month was time for the big Winter holiday in South Africa and our house had been bustling with people throughout.  My sister and her kids came from Canada for a month and we had the best time.  The little ones spent countless hours exploring the garden, collecting rocks and climbing trees.  They must have circled the property a million times on their bikes and worked up a huge appetite looking for the kittens and building sand castles.  We took turns cooking for all the hungry little tummies (and some days we had many, as more friends came to play) and both shared the kitchen. We toasted marshmallows on the fire and went foraging for Pecan nuts or peas in the garden.  They ate oranges and dried mangoes and drank liters of my Mum's home-made lemonade.  My heart aches now, just thinking about the happy times.

Our friends from Cape-Town and Namibia also visited, which called for more cake and big camp fires and potjies full of deliciousness.  And more tears when it was time to say goodbye.

The holiday was simpy magical, but more so because the days had been beautiful and warm.  Almost impossibly so.  The sky seemed an iridescent blue with none of the fires, wind and horrible, bone chilling cold. 
All this beautiful weather had us all gardening up a storm over the last few weeks.  We have expanded beds and created paths, moved mountains of compost and huge logs and ever so slowly got rid of the last of the cement.  

Unfortunately my telephone cable were the target of a copper cable thief in July, which meant a whole month without any internet here on the farm.  Our telephone company then installed a thief-proof cable, but alas, the new technology and the old farm lines did not want to communicate so well, which meant more interruptions in service and alas, many blog ideas left unpublished.  It had been a year of excuses for my lack of posts - no internet, no camera, no computer, no time.  But here is to a more creative, crime-free future.  

The lack of internet meant we did have a lot of warm evenings in front of the fire-place, reading books or watching sports.  And the fire-wood came from a friend who traded me a load for some of these cookies.  

And the cake was an impromptu cake for a birthday party dinner that we were invited to.  I had all the ingredients and then experimented with the combinations.  There are very few rules when making an ice-cream cake.  It is sort of a marvelous concoction really.  Try it, you won't regret it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chocolate Torte gianduia and a few truckloads of bricks

My life has changed a lot in the last few months, all for the better I think.

The last few years were hectic.  I was involved with a few projects and between work, school, running markets and a million different things, we all were hardly home.  I think, looking back, that most days I were running on adrenaline and running on almost empty at the same time.  I loved the Christmas Market and being involved with it.  I will miss it.

But, I knew that this year I need to shift focus.  I needed to focus on a few things that were left by the wayside.  Family, friends and my house and garden.  A huge collection of orchids as well.

We are in the midst of a big revamp of our house as well.  We have been in the house now, for eleven years.  And we planned the house as newly weds with no kids and very few possessions.  How things have changed.  And with that change came a whole new set of requirements for our house.  So, we started with a poolAnd then we needed more cement and bricks to join the house and the pool.  A few more loads of bricks and the big kitchen expansion was born.  We were doing it all ourselves with the help of guys from the farm.  There were days that got the better of us and there were days when it all seemed totally crazy.  Luckily, the end result is better than I ever hoped.  

But, alas, we needed more bricks, as the garage is slowly, being transformed into a new office and a classroomBy the end of the month it should all be finished.  

I have realized, that I own a whole lot of pans and baking sheets.  And a huge amount of strange and beautiful packaging items as well.  All this moving the house around, meant a lot of sorting out of cupboards and the discovery of many items long forgotten.  

All this means, that by the end of the month, I'll have more space to bake and more time to photograph and hopefully, it will all translate to more activity on my little blog.

I have been baking a lot.  And a huge amount of chocolate cakes for all sorts of occasions.  

I'll be bringing you a few of the recipes in the next few weeks.

For now, my newest discovery and absolute favorite cake, a nutty, hazelnut torte that I found here.

Try it, it is delicious.      

Friday, January 11, 2013

More apricots, well lots actually

I have some very fond memories of myself and my sisters perched in an apricot tree with the cousins or the neighbors, devouring the juiciest, ripest apricots on a warm sunny day.  

I love living in the Lowveld and the abundance of mango and litchi in summer, but I do miss a fresh peach or apricot.  Nothing beats a sun-kissed summer fruit straight from a tree.  

Luckily, I found a huge pile of very fresh, just ripe apricots in our local fruit market the other day and I could not resist.  I started putting a few in a bag and then got carried away.  Well, really carried away and ended up buying eight kilograms of the blushing fruits.  

I had a plan though, that all started as another fond memory of a few family members, often my paternal grandmother and my mother and whomever got roped in, making jam.  We would all gather around a huge jam pot, chatting, peeling, discarding pips or stirring, tasting.  

My next stop after town was at my mom's house with a request for her to join me in my jam making quest.  Firstly, because I have never done such a vast quantity before and secondly, because making jam requires chirpy company.  It just does.  And yes, we did fill a 50kg pot with apricots and sugar and ended up with lots and lots of jars of golden goodness.