Friday, September 30, 2011

Beyond improvement brownies!

A few weeks ago while I was looking after my sisters kids, we had a super cold and wet day. So I suggested that we do some baking. Oddly enough the boys were more keen on baking than the girls. The youngest chose a gingerbread men recipe (or ginger bread 'people', as I was corrected) and the older boy wanted to bake his favorite chocolate brownie recipe. We have baked this recipe together twice before and this time he wanted to adapt it using milk chocolate as he is not crazy about dark chocolate.

The original recipe is by Jamie Oliver and, in my opinion, cannot be improved upon. It is simply to die for. The only amendments to the recipe below, is Max's adaption using milk chocolate, I upped the nut quantity (I love nuts) and I have increased the baking time, is it really just too runny with only 25 minutes baking time.
I want to add that the below picture is of the brownies, Max (aged 10), made all on his own. I did not help him at all!

I would love to give you the gingerbread men recipe, but it had to improvised a bit as the kids added about 4 times too much butter to the recipe by accident and I had to add a bit here and a lot there to get the consistency right again. They ended up tasting pretty nice too, but I have no idea how I got there.

Chocolate brownies from heaven

250g butter
200g dark or milk chocolate (your preference), broken up
100g chopped nuts, (I like pecan nuts)
80g cocoa powder, sifted
65g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp of baking powder
360g of caster sugar
4 large eggs
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Line a 25cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl over some simmering water, melt the butter and the chocolate and mix until smooth. Add the nuts and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar; then add this to the chocolate and nut mixture. Fold this together well with a wooden spoon. Beat the eggs and mix into the main mixture until you have a silky consistency.

Pour your brownie mix into the baking tray, and place in the oven for around 35 - 40 minutes. You don’t want to overcook them so, unlike cakes, you don’t want a skewer to come out all clean. The brownies should be slightly springy on the outside but still a little bit gooey in the middle. Allow to cool in the tray, then carefully transfer to a large chopping board and cut into chunky squares.

PS - I made another batch of these for my cousin and her five year old son, told me that he had never eaten anything as good in his life before!

Thursday, September 29, 2011


One of the recipes a client of mine wanted me to teach her housekeeper was how to make kitka bread (challah bread) for their Friday evening family dinners. She gave me a recipe and I tried it out at home so that I could feel sure that I could train the recipe. I was so impressed with the outcome. It had a dense crumb but still light in texture, it had a lovely rich almost sweetish (but not) flavor and was lovely and moist. This is most definitely a bread recipe which will become standard in our household now. We managed to polish the whole lot in 2 days.

My second try, which was in the training session, was just as successful and I am waiting to hear how the lady I have been working with manages to recreate the recipe on her own now.

Kitka Bread (Challah)
Makes one large loaf or two small loaves

1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water
1/3 of a cup of sugar (80ml)
5g of active yeast (½ a Tbsp)
2 large eggs
1/3 of a cup of vegetable oil (80ml)
4 cups of flour (sifted)
2 tsp of salt
1 cup of flour (for kneading and flouring surfaces)
1 egg yolk
1Tbsp of water

In a bowl combine the warm water, sugar and yeast. Leave this for 10 minutes or so to see if the yeast is active. It should start to bubble if it is.

Whisk together the egg and oil and sift together the dry ingredients. Combine the yeast, egg and flour mixtures in a blender until they form a sticky dough. With floured hands roll the dough into a ball and leave it in a mixing bowl covered with a lappie in a warm place and allow it to double in size.

Once it has doubled in size, knead it on a floured surface for 10 minutes or so. Then set it aside again until it has doubled in size. Knead it down one last time.

Pre-heat your oven to 180C˚ and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long sausage on a floured surface. Stick the ends on one side together and plait the bread. Then stick the pieces on the other side together. Click here for a video link on how to plait the bread.

With a pastry brush, brush the bread with the yolk and water mixture. Bake it for about 25 minutes (for the small loaves) or 35 - 40 minutes (for the large loaf) until the bread is caramel brown and hollow sounding when you knock it. Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool. Store in a dry place.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

National obsessions...

I make no secret about the fact that I hate braaing, and mostly I hate going to braais too. But there is no escaping this national obsession, so if I do attend one I usually try to contribute by making the side dishes interesting, finding something which Adam can eat (being a vegetarian) and trying to encourage and assist who ever is doing the braaing, so that we can eat at a reasonable time...

For today's blog I have compiled a few of my recipes which I have made for braai's in the past. I try to make the salads robust, as that is what you mostly end up eating while waiting for the meat... I love the tenderised chicken fillets because they are perfect to braai while the flames and heat are too high for other meats, so you can get the kids fed and also have a tasty snack while... waiting for the meat. I have added a rare roast lamb recipe which would also be perfect as it is quick and also needs high heat in order to be cooked to it's best potential, so that once the coals are ready... the meat can cook quickly...

I am not saying that all braai's take forever to finally get the meat to the table, but just 95% of all braai's I have ever attended.

These tenderised and marinated chicken fillets are such a winner on the braai.

This rare roast lamb is ridiculously delicious - it can be done as a deboned leg of lamb, butterflied on the braai and then served into pita's as shown above.

I'm not usually a pasta salad kind of person, but this one ROCKS!!! I love ricotta and it's so healthy and filling without the guilty mayo sauce of other pasta salads.

Potato salad just belongs to a braai in my opinion, but once you've made mayo yourself then also made a potato salad you will run screaming into the night at the sight of one. This one takes the guilt out of the salad, but not the flavour!

This roasted butternut, broccoli and barley salad is more than just a salad, it is pretty much a meal on a plate, but is also a great side dish and takes care of the veggie and starch elements of your meal all at the same time. Beware though, it's totally addictive.

The picture right at the top of this blog is one recipe I have not shared here and it's one of Adam's favorite things on the braai - all the other guests will love it too though.


Veggie accompaniments are few and far between at a braai. These veggie parcels are a 100% winner. They can be pre prepared and kept ready to pop around the sides of the braai about 20 minutes before the meal is ready. Choose a selection of your family’s favourite veggies. You can make a separate parcel for the kids choosing the veggies they like and add milder flavourings, while for the adults you can add a wider selection of aromatic flavours.


Chop up the veggies (about ½ cm cubes) such as butternut, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes (not too many as they get very watery), onions, courgettes, sweet corn, sweet potato, spinach and celery are good choices. You can flavour the veggies with a dash of oil, a few cubes of butter, salt, pepper, chopped garlic, chopped chilli, chopped fresh ginger, fresh herbs, basil pesto, chutney, crumbled feta and such things. Make the foil parcels from a sheet about 40cm–50cm of foil (use a double layer of tin foil to protect the parcels from burning). Place the veggies and your choice of flavourants in the center of the foil and seal the sides and the top so that the juices will not escape. Set aside until ready for use. Place the parcels around the sides of the fire. Turn the parcels every 5 minutes or so. They should be ready in about 15–20 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pastaholic goes domestic.

Today I have a guest blog written by Annika Ziehen aka anysroad, who I have mentioned and referred to in many of my blogs. She is my cousin, close friend, fellow foodie and blogger. Her blog is however not a food blog even though it does come up quite a lot. She is a fabulous cook and despite being 'new' to Cape Town is constantly introducing me to the latest food hot spots. The dish she is writing about is one which she apparently eats almost weekly and has chosen to write about because she knows that I like my recipes to be quick and easy and with locally accessible ingredients.

She cooked it for us yesterday and it was delicious. Simple and so tasty. I loved the fresh rocket, it really set it apart for me. Okay, enough from me... over to Annika:

So now it has finally happened: I am asked to do my very first guest post. I do know that it is based utterly and completely on nepotism, but I can’t help feeling excited and quite honoured either way. Due to the nature of this blog I will have to show my domestic goddess side i.e. cook something. What people don’t know is that I can cook other things than pasta, but since I am known as the pasta auntie and am a self dubbed pastaholic, I will stick true to form and write about pasta. Thekla promised to take care of the recipe since I am one of these horrible people that just throw stuff together till it tastes good (or not ... the system isn't foolproof) and never measure a thing. I’m not judging though, people cook differently and if you need to have a recipe that’s fine. Just don’t date me. That may lead to utter disaster as a previous relationship has shown. It often got heated in the kitchen and not in a good, Nine ½ Weeks kind of way.

The dish (I won’t call it a recipe as it’s not) is something that evolved from a pasta meal a friend once made for a dinner party and a dish they served on a wine farm we went to for my birthday a few years ago. Both evoke my love for grilled cherry tomatoes and I finally understood why a tomato loves the sugar. You could call it “Roast veggie pasta with fresh rocket and a bucket of parmesan cheese.” It doesn’t have the usual sauce superstars i.e. meat or alcohol, in fact it doesn’t even have a real sauce, but I promise it rocks.

Okay, here we go...I promise it’s really easy, don’t be scared, don’t overthink...

First things first – pour yourself a nice big glass of wine. Then boil pasta. Easy enough. The water must cook first before you add salt. This is the order and there is some scientific explanation to it, which my Dad once gave me, but I forgot. Just do it. Any short pasta i.e. Penne, Fusilli, Shells is good. Barilla actually makes nice whole wheat pasta if you wanted to go healthier. I like it because it actually tastes quite non-whole-wheat-y.

Chop mushrooms into quarters and butternut in small-ish pieces and put on a baking tray with cherry tomatoes. Douse them all in lots of olive oil, salt, pepper, and roll around. The tomatoes also get some sugar on top. Into a pre heated oven at about 200 degree for 15 minutes or until the butternut has cooked through. For the last few minutes turn on the grill. Mushrooms should be brown, butternut soft and tomatoes mushy and juicy. Toss together with pasta and top with some rocket, basil and of course lots of parmesan cheese. For this dish I think it’s important to get a good one and grate it into big flakes. It just adds another texture to the dish.

Pour another glass of wine. Eat. Smile.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Images of yesterday...

Yesterday was a spectacularly beautiful spring day in Cape Town. So I whipped out my camera and took a few pictures, in and around my sisters house where I am looking after her kids for a week.

Lunch was wraps with a selection of fillings: hummus and cottage cheese; guacamole; blanched red cabbage, grated carrot; baby tomato and basil salsa and sweetcorn. My sister has raised her kids with a taste for healthy eating.

In the afternoon I made an apple crumble as there were so many apples in the house. I only realized after I had started that butter was in short supply, so I substituted peanut butter in the place of the missing measure of butter. It was DELICIOUS!!!

The below picture is a picture of granny which my sister has had blown up and put on canvas. She sent this to my grandfather as a memento, the note she wrote on the photo was "Just me on the rocks" - I love the coy casualness!

Monday, September 12, 2011

This blog makes me happy!

Today I am getting ready to spend the week in Hout Bay looking after my sisters 5 kids and menagerie of animals while she and her husband are in Turkey. I am truly looking forward to spending QT with the children and taking a dip into what full time family life feels like.
The blog I have posted above, Cannelle et Vanille, is what fantasies are made of. All brightly colored with suffused hazy light, pretty children and fruit trees. Country living with style and grace.
It makes me happy and I am pretending that this next week will be just like that!
Wish me luck!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Weekend fry up!

I am a big fan of a full house breakfast but I am always amazed at how often they are just rubbery grease fests. It doesn't have to be that way. Now I’m the last person to hold back on the butter and cream but there is a threshold where rich and creamy becomes greasy and nauseating. I cooked a brunch last Saturday which for me hit the spot 100%. Creamy scrambled eggs with fresh chives on whole wheat bread, crispy grilled bacon, sautéed mushrooms and fresh tomato. It was the perfect balance of salty fry up with a fresh wholesome edge which left me feeling good rather than guilty.

Despite seeming like the easy way to make eggs, scrambled eggs can be quite tricky to get right. The method I use is easy but you need to get the timing right. Only start the eggs once all the other elements of your meal are almost good to go. You need 2 Tbsp (30ml) of water, milk or cream per egg. Keep the seasoning simple - salt, pepper and fresh chives or spring onions if you have. Whisk the eggs with a fork. Heat a non stick pan on medium heat, add some butter or olive oil and once melted add the scrambled eggs and don’t stir or move the mixture at all until it has cooked halfway through. Then remove the pan from the heat, scramble the eggs and allow the retained heat from the eggs and the pan to do the rest of the cooking. Serve immediately. The eggs will not be ‘snotty’ - there is enough heat to finish the cooking process completely while still keeping your eggs soft and moist.

I have written about the perfect way to sauté mushrooms many times before so you can just click through to this link.

Perfectly grilled bacon is another passion of mine and also something which I have burned more time than I care to admit. The timing between perfectly crispy bacon and burned bacon is a minute or two, so one needs to keep ones eye on it. I pre-heat my oven to 220C˚, I lay my rashers of streaky bacon (I prefer streaky bacon to back bacon) on an oven tray and place them in the fully pre-heated oven for about 10 – 15 minutes. Set your timer to 10 minutes and then keep an eye on them. You want the bacon fat to turn a caramel colour, then remove it from the oven and serve. I like to use the drippings from the pan to fry my scrambled eggs with but that is totally optional.

I chose to use fresh tomatoes because I thought that grilled tomatoes would just be overkill and I was very happy with that decision. In fact after writing this all… I am pretty set on having a little fry up for lunch… the joys of working from home ;-)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lemon scented cup cakes with raspberry jam centres

Last week Adam had to go on a very last minute work trip which is going to take him away over his birthday. So I decided to have a mini birthday party for him the afternoon before he left. I bought him a whole lot of little presents, baked him a batch of cup cakes and set a birthday tea table for him so we could spoil him a little.

I had to improvise the cup cakes as they were a spontaneous idea and I really didn’t feel like leaving the house to go shopping, so I just made do with what was in the cupboard. I think the result was pretty good.

I have wanted to make filled cupcakes for ages, so I browsed the internet for various methods and settled one which looked fool proof to me. I had some lovely raspberry jam which I settled on as a filling and then decided to try a raspberry icing as well. All the methods used fresh raspberry puree but in its absence I just used the jam softened in the microwave and strained the pips off.

I was going to make vanilla cup cakes only to find out I was out of vanilla so I decided to do lemon scented cup cakes instead.

Adam was delighted and decided to enjoy his tea in the pimp daddy robe I had bought him. We will miss him terribly.

Lemon scented cup cakes with raspberry jam centres and

raspberry butter icing

Makes about 8 medium cup cakes

125g of butter (room temperature)

½ a cup of castor sugar

2 large eggs

2 Tbsp whole milk

Finely grated zest of one medium sized lemon

2 Tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup of cake flour

1 tsp of baking powder

4 - 6 tsp of raspberry jam

85g of butter (room temperature)

1 cup of icing sugar, well sifted

2 Tbsp of milk

4 Tbsp of raspberry jam

1 tsp of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180C˚ and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

With a cake mixer, blend together the butter and castor sugar until light and creamy. Add to this the eggs, vanilla and milk and blend to combine. Add the baking powder and cake flour and blend until smooth.

If you are using cup cake papers, place the papers into the holes of a muffin tin. If using silicone cup cake moulds place them onto a baking tray or into a muffin tin.

Spoon the mixture into the cup cake moulds until ¾ full. Flatten the mixture and push it up the sides of the moulds as much as you can with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden and springy.

Allow to cool, I put mine into the freezer for 10 minutes to speed up this process.

For the raspberry icing – Microwave the raspberry jam until it is runny. Pass it through a sieve to strain off the seeds. Refrigerate the jam until it has cooled. Blend together the butter and sifted icing sugar, add the milk and blend until just smooth. Do not over blend as the icing can split.

Add the lemon juice and raspberry jam and blend until combined. Set aside until ready for use.

To jam fill the cup cake - Microwave your raspberry jam for a few seconds to soften it a little. Using the process suggested in this link -

Cut a cone shaped plug out the top of the cup cake, spoon about ½ a teaspoon on jam into the hole. Cut the cup off the plug and cover the jam filled hole. Ice the cup cake as normal covering the plug.

I added a dollop of raspberry jam to the top of each cup cake just before serving.

Friday, September 2, 2011

When only the best will do!

This week I helped one of my clients prepare a traditional Eid luncheon for her friends and family. It was such a spectacular day and a real role reversal for me as I was learning how to cook her recipes! I plan to recreate the menu for my friends some time soon as it was such a delicious spread.

The only recipe which was mine was the cheese cake for dessert and I was rather nervous about it as it was such a special day; I would have been mortified if it had been a flop. Luckily it was not! So I want to share the recipe with you as it was a truly memorable cake (and I am pretty fussy when it comes to cheese cake).

It is pure sin but a little goes a long way and for a celebration sometimes only the best will do!

Traditional Cheese Cake

Serves 12 generous portions


300g Tennis biscuits or digestive biscuits or ginger biscuits

125g butter, melted

A pinch of ground ginger (optional)

A pinch of mixed spice (optional)

Preheat oven to 180C. Crush biscuits in a food processor and mix with melted butter and spices if using. Line the bottom of your 24cm spring form cake tin with grease proof paper. Spread ¾ of the way up the sides and bottom of tin. Bake crust on the middle rack for about 15 minutes or until set. Remove and cool thoroughly.


3 cups (750ml) smooth full cream cottage cheese or any thick smooth cream cheese

1 cup (250ml) crème fraiche or thick sour crème

2 Tbsp (30ml) fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp (15ml) lemon rind

1 Tbsp (15ml) vanilla essence

1 cup (250ml) cream

2 Tbsp (30ml) flour

2 Tbsp (30ml) corn flour

4 eggs, beaten well

1 ¼ cup (312.5ml) castor sugar

Preheat oven to 180C.

Gently beat the cream cheese with the crème fraiche, add the juice, rind, cream and flour. Whisky the eggs with castor sugar and add to the cream cheese mixture. Beat gently until smooth.

Pour filling into the pre baked crust and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 140C˚ and bake for a further hour.

Sour cream topping (optional but just finishes the cake beautifully)

2 cups (500ml) sour cream

4 Tbsp (60ml) castor sugar

1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla essence

2 Tbsp of original maple syrup (optional)

1 pinch of ground ginger (optional)

Gently stir the ingredients together and pour over the cake while it is still warm. Then leave it in the oven for an hour with the oven turned off. Remove from the oven and refrigerate. Top with fresh berries before serving.