Monday, December 3, 2012

Mrs. Moxon's Posset

This dessert is a family tradition. My mother has made it for as long as I can remember and it has always been called Mrs. Moxon's posset. Who this Mrs. Moxon is, non of us know. But her name lives on and try as I may, I can't bring myself to call it anything else.  

It is in essence a kind of syllabub - traditional wine and cream mixture. But there is nothing old fashioned about the light and refreshing taste; the look is elegant and unique; and it is in my opinion the perfect way to end off a summer meal. 

Mrs. Moxon’s Posset
Serves 4

250ml of white wine (I used an organic sauvignon blanc)
½ a cup of castor sugar (or to taste)
2 Tbsp of lemon juice
½ a cup (125ml) of whipping cream
1 Tbsp of lemon zest 

Combine the wine, sugar and lemon juice and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Whip the cream until stiff being careful not to over whip as the cream will split. Stir half the lemon zest into the cream. Fold the cream and the wine mixtures together until just combined.

Divide the mixture up equally between four pretty glasses. Use the remaining lemon zest to garnish the top of each dessert. Carefully transfer the dessert to the fridge and leave for a few hours to separate and set.

The cream should rise to the top of the glass leaving a lemony wine mixture at the bottom of the glass. Serve chilled with teaspoons to eat it with.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Until last week I had never attempted making a Florentine. For some reason I had assumed that they were difficult to make. 

When a client asked me to teach her housekeeper to make them, I had to do a quick trial myself before attempting to teach someone else to make them. 

To my delight, they were really quick and easy. The housekeeper I taught has re-made them twice in the last week since I taught her and they have been perfect every time.

The recipe below  is a slight adaptation of a recipe I got from the recipe book Bake written by Tina Bester.

Makes about 12 x 4cm cookies

2 tsp of preserved ginger syrup

2 Tbsp of preserved ginger, chopped into small pieces
3 Tbsp of dried cranberries (or sultanas), chopped into small pieces
120g of flaked almonds
100g of butter
100g of castor sugar
A pinch of salt
100g of dark chocolate, melted in a double boiler

Preheat the oven to 180˚C and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Grease a 12-insert muffin tin (silicone molds work the best). 

Combine the nuts, ginger and cranberries in a medium sized mixing bowl. 

In a small saucepan melt the butter and sugar together over high heat. Add the ginger syrup and salt. Simmer the mixture stirring continually until it starts to turn light caramel in colour, about 5 – 10 minutes. Add a teaspoon or two of water if the sugar crystals have not dissolved. Pour over the nut mixture and combine well. 

Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin inserts. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until golden brown and allow to cool fully before turning out onto a wax paper sheet with the smooth side of the cookies facing up.  

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and using a pastry brush, paint flat side of the cookies with the chocolate. You can do a few layers of chocolate and continue until the chocolate is finished. Allow this to set fully (perhaps even refrigerate for a few minutes) before storing in an airtight container in a cool place. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Breakfast at Betty's

Adam and I have spent the weekend out in Betty's Bay with my parents. Now anyone who knows my parents, knows that they make arguably, the best breakfast in the world. Now this is not because they are complex or multi-course or fancy in any way. They are just made with care and excellence. 

The way my mother makes grilled tomatoes is simply unsurpassed. I can't order grilled tomatoes at a restaurant, as the disappointment is just too much for me to bear. Now the secret is simple. You cut just the top and bottom sliver of the tomatoes off. Fry them in a heavy bottomed pot on medium heat in a little oil until the the side which is facing down starts to brown. Flip the tomatoes and sprinkle a little salt and half a teaspoon of brown sugar on the top of each tomato, allowing it to melt and seep into the tomato. Once the flipped side has browned as well, then turn the tomatoes again and salt and sugar the other side. Turn the heat down very low now as you don't want the sugar to burn at the bottom of the tomato. Put the lid on the pot for a bit to speed up the melting of the sugar. This also promotes condensation which develops a lovely syrup at the bottom of the pot. 

The eggs my parents had, caused quite a stir. They buy their eggs from a farm shop out in Kleinmond and are the biggest eggs I have ever seen in my life. Every egg has a double yolk and is at least double the volume of a jumbo egg. 

I love the rings my mom used to contain the pouched eggs and ducked out immediately after breakfast to buy some. 

I couldn't resist this picture of my husband, caught showing his true monkey self, with his tail peeking out behind him. Note on the table, the bowl of chopped herbs with garlic and some spices, which are a family tradition on our breakfast eggs. 

My mother has also perfected a high fibre gluten free seed loaf which we made tidy work of at breakfast. She has promised to take down the recipe next time she makes it and will send it to me. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Danish inspired rice pudding

As promised I am going to write about each dessert I did for the Spier Secret Dinner, starting with the one which I got the most excited praise about. I discovered this dessert while I was in Norway. In-spite of my reservations, based on a previous dislike of rice puddings, I was totally won over. My boss made it for the family and we ate it warm with butter, cinnamon and sugar and it was sublime. Lisbet, my boss's wife, is Danish and she told me about how they eat this dessert at Christmas. They add vanilla to the pudding and eat it topped with a cherry compote and flaked almonds. 

Retha Erichsen who hosted the Secret Dinner is, as the name suggests, of Danish descent and remembered this dessert from her childhood. They ate theirs with a rhubarb compote. This was enough reason for me to experiment with my own version of it and serve as one of the three dessert with our nostalgia theme. 

The recipe is a complete improv from my side and may not even vaguely resemble a traditional recipe, but trust me (and the guests who attended the dinner) it tastes amazing. 

Danish inspired rice pudding 
Serves 6 – 8 people

1 litre of milk
¼ tsp of salt 
1 Tbsp of vanilla extract 
1 cup of arborio (risotto) rice
½ a cup of castor sugar (or to taste)

400g of mixed frozen berries
½ cup of castor sugar
125ml of pouring cream, lightly beaten
50g of flaked almonds

In a medium size thick bottomed pot heat the milk, salt and vanilla together until just before it starts simmering. Add the rice and stir continually and slowly until the milk starts to simmer again. Drop the heat so that the milk stays at a consistently very low simmer.

Keep stirring the pot gently; running the spoon or spatula along the bottom of the pot to ensure that neither the milk nor rice stick or catch as this will burn and ruin the dish. This part takes patience and persistence if you want the perfect rice pudding. You can leave the pot for a minute or two at a time but do not stray far. 

The pudding is ready when the rice granules are soft and the milk is creamy between the granules. This will take about 45 minutes to an hour. Once you remove it from the heat, it will continue cooking a bit further so don’t make the pudding too mushy before taking it off the heat. Stir in the sugar and allow the pudding to cool. 

In a medium sized bowl combine the berries and the second half a cup of sugar. Set this aside to defrost or microwave on defrost mode until the berries are soft. Stir to combine the berries and sugar. Refrigerate until ready for use. 

To serve, you can serve both the pudding and berries cold, or can you serve the pudding warm with cold compote on top. Both the pudding and compote can easily be made the day before and stored in the fridge. If the pudding is too thick or sticky add milk or cream until it has a nice soft texture. 

Divide the pudding between as many bowls as you have guests, top with the compote, then a dollop of softly whipped cream and garnish with flaked almonds. 

As much as like the berry compote version I would always keep some aside to eat warm with butter and cinnamon.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Spier Secret Festival - Secret Dinner

Last weekend I was involved in the cooking for a secret dinner. I love the idea. Secrets are exciting. Okay, so the concept was as follows. All the attendees to the Spier Secret Festival and Conference were invited to attend a secret dinner on the Saturday night. A few hours before dinner they received the information of where and with whom they would dine. 

There were sixteen different hosts with groups of varying sizes depending on what they had committed to.  The group of hosts were chosen from all walks of life; chefs, cooks, bakers, farmers, designers, you name it. Naturally all having style and a passion for food. Free reign was given with menus, themes, locations and creative concept which is both daunting and dream come true.  

Retha Erichsen was the host of the dinner I cooked for and our collaboration came together due to the fact that Retha rents our old family home from my parents. She has forged a lovely friendship with our family and truly gets the space and the energy of the house. 

She thought that hosting a nostalgic evening there, with our family and food cooked by us with local ingredients, would truly honor the space and allow it to come alive for the guests attending. I agreed!  

She added decor touches around the house and garden.

Many of the pots, vases, furnishings and bits and bobs (even pets) are still from our family and interwoven with Retha's impeccable taste and style; it goes from old fashioned hodge podge to retro chic. 

The welcome drink was Retha's idea and made with germanium cordial from Babylonstoren and Primitiv Vodka. Each glass had a dollop of a mint paste at the bottom and was topped off with fresh strawberries for a touch of summer. 

While guests gathered and got in the mood, I had prepared a simple spread of crudites and dips and Retha had ordered a massive Potbrood baked by the team at De Oude Bank Bakkerij. The dips were my basil pesto; aubergine and sun-dried tomato pesto and hummus. Quite frankly this could have been a meal in itself. I love eating snacky food and often entertain this way at home. 

Before starters were served, Retha welcomed the group of 25 guests and introduced them to the home, the concept and to me. 

There was no way of getting around serving artichokes. They are a passion of mine and the way my mother cooks them is in my opinion the only way they should ever be cooked. 

The second starer was a slight variation on my Asian salmon salad. I made it with rainbow trout from the hatchery in Jonkershoek. Trout has always been a special occasion meal for us and this salad is just amazing. The guests seemed to agree! 

The main course was slow braised rolled shoulder of lamb, hoison duck, roast veg rice pilaf, a salad of marinated mozzarella, peaches and roasted fresh chilli and a simple mixed salad. 

There was such a great vibe around the table while guests dished up their main course. 

Because I was cooking and mingling with the guests as much as I could, I asked my cousin (of anysroad blog) and step Dad (of Blogs from Betty's) to take photos. I can only assume that they were having so much fun at that stage that neither managed to snap a shot of the desserts! I have photos from past occasions of them and will be sure to blog about them later this week. To my total surprise the rice pudding with berry compote seemed to be the dessert hit. My personal favorite was the hazelnut and apple torte with koeksister ice cream. But Mrs. Moxon's lemon posset had to be on the menu simply because it is such an old favorite in our family. And I just loving saying that name... 

I have seldom cooked at an event that was as seamless.  Everything just fell into place perfectly ensuring that there was no stress, leaving us to enjoy the evening with our guests.   

Monday, October 22, 2012

I miss my doggies!

From front to back - Sophia, Emmy, Roxy and Andy - waiting patiently for dinner! 

It's no secret that I am a cat person through and through. Dogs overwhelm me. They are so needy. Their love for their owners is borderline desperate. This usually leads to me feeling guilty and sad that I am not doing more for them and loving and petting them more. Okay, I'm not going to get into this now. 

That aside I fell in love with two dogs while I was in Norway. The family I worked for had two Labradors and they were just the sweetest, best behaved, gentle dogs. 

The blonde lab has serious hip trouble and it is important for her to keep slim. The black lab has had some serious digestive problems and tends to be under weight and has a low appetite. Now this was like red rag to a bull for me. Of course I was going to tackle their feeding myself. 

I fed them a combination of raw (sometimes lightly cooked) proteins in the form of minced beef, lamb, fish, chicken, lentils, quinoa or eggs. To that I added a carbohydrate of mostly rice but sometimes bread or potato. Then I added loads of raw veggies and herbs. 

When I started making their new meals, I would put all the ingredients in the blender with some hot water and blend it well and serve it them at 'blood' temperature. They loved it! 

I then gradually blended it less and less, as I wanted them to have to chew the crunchy veggies to help with gum and tooth health. 

The picture above, is how I ended up serving it them. Really chunky and they ate every morsel! 

Good friends of the family are a vet and his wife; to whom the two smaller dogs in the pictures belong. When they came to visit I fed their dogs on the same food and they were crazy about it too. The vet was really impressed with the blonde labs weight and the black lab was the first to her bowl and always ready for more. 

This diet is not scientifically researched, I simply used my gut feel and common sense. The dogs were happy and energetic with gleaming coats and sparkling eyes. So use it, don't use it - but I feel raw and fresh food has to beat prefabricated dry dog pellets.

Now if only I could get my cat to eat anything other than Royal Canine Exigent (the heroine of cat food).

Monday, October 15, 2012

The accidental dessert

I don't keep desserts or treats in the house as neither Adam nor I have a moderate bone in our bodies. But that sweet craving can sometimes just overwhelm me and I go rummaging through the cupboards to see what I can whip up quickly.

It usually ends up being something simple like half a cup of almonds with honey drizzled on them. But once I made up a quick dessert, which was so good that I now make it for guests.  

There have been many variations so far, but the recipe below is what I would consider to be number one. 

It is simply sliced bananas fried quickly with a bit of butter, honey, orange juice and zest. This is then served with Greek yogurt, sweetened and flavoured with vanilla. The dessert is topped-off with slivered almonds and some extra orange zest. 

In the picture above I didn't have yogurt, so I used vanilla ice-cream, which was also delicious but I still feel the yogurt is better.

Honeid banana, yogurt and almond dessert
Serves 4

2 cups of Greek yogurt
2 tsp of vanilla essence (or to taste)
4 Tbsp of castor sugar or sweetening of choice 

16 almond, cut into slivers 

4 small bananas (do not use over-ripe ones), slice about 1cm thick
2 Tbsp of butter
4 Tbsp of honey
Zest and juice of half an orange

Combine the yogurt ingredients and set aside until ready for use. 

Sliver your almonds and then toast them in a pan until they start to colour and smell roasted. Set aside. 

In the same pan, melt the butter and fry the banana for a minute or two. Then add the honey, juice and zest and fry for a further minute or two. The banana should still be firm-ish but getting soft on the outsides. 

Serve in pretty bowls layering the yogurt and banana and topping with the nuts and a little extra grated orange zest for colour. Eat immediately so that the banana is still warm when eating it. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Home, ever so sweet, home!

Today's lunch was a variation on my raw pad Thai salad, click here for the link.

It has taken a full week, but today I finally feel like I'm home. I have been in this strange limbo space between worlds, identities, responsibilities, currencies, sides of the road, languages, friends, kitchens and beds! But now I've officially grounded; and am home. A space filled with my life - my identity.  

On Monday I started returning to a basic healthy, whole and mostly raw eating routine; and today my body has just been tingling with the joy of it all. I have tried as far as possible to stick to organic produce and avoided dairy, gluten and sugar. Along with this I have been nesting - spring cleaning, reorganizing and just making this space mine again. Today it just feels like it is all coming together. And I am feeling good. 

My gorgeous cat, Tara, chilling on my bed. Her sister was killed while I was away. So sad. 

Phiwe has been over joyed to have me back. She says the one-way conversations with Tara were getting a bit boring. I am just loving having fresh veggie juice made for me again and now even better with the organic veggies. 

This was my lunch yesterday. Rocket, microgreens, sprouts, steamed broccoli, shaved carrot, red pepper, tomoto, pickled ginger and a handful of raw almonds. I dressed the salad with lemon juice, zest, olive oil, the juice from pickled ginger, garlic, salt and pepper.

I bought a box of microgreens from Woolies and I have used them in three salads so far as garnish. They are fiendishly expensive but they look so great and I eat with my eyes too.

Phiwe is happy to have me back in the kitchen too!
She loves veggies and almost all of the crazy things I cook.

 This was lunch on Monday. I had done a big shop of organic bean, seeds, nuts and pulsars at Komati foods down the road. I soaked and cooked up some black beans, to which I added only salt, pepper a dash of olive oil and then fresh chopped onion. I served that warm with a side salad very similar to the salad I mentioned above. The beans were amazing. I had two more helpings after this. 

Woolies has started selling potted herbs! I immediately bought a whole lot to plant in the garden but also put a few in the kitchen. I think they add such a homely touch to the decor. 

And now I'm off to have dinner at The Dog's Bollocks, which I haven't tried yet! A great week so far! 

Monday, October 8, 2012

My last days in France

Kathy and I at the Antibes market - photo taken by my dad. Nice to see a pic with me in it for a change. 
Its been more than a month since I've last posted a blog! When I look back now, it feels like a crazy kaleidoscopic blur. Three weeks of bone crunchingly hard work, a few wild nights to celebrate the end of the charter, my Dad and step Mom coming to France, followed by loads of family gatherings and tourist activities; then jumping on a plane to come home after 4 months and 10 days! 

Coming home felt totally surreal too and has been a week of reveling in my husband, home, garden, cat, friends, family and Cape Town. Talk about sensory overload. 

Today, is the first day in like six weeks where I have been able to sit at my laptop and just take time to reply to mails, look through my photos and start thinking about what comes next. Deep breathe... there is so much to do and catch up on now and I feel like I just need a few more days to get my bearings. 

I also have so much I still haven't shared with you. So today I'm just going to stay in the past a bit longer and share a lovely mornings adventure in Antibes with my Dad, step Mom and brother. 

Kathy got conned by a charming Frenchman into buying a few kilos of olives and tapendades -  which to our amazement we managed to finish in a few days! The sundried tomato paste was unbelievable! 
I am going to miss the fantastic quality and flavour of the berries and tomatoes... 
Dirk took us to his favorite Creperies in Antibes. It was my first French crepe and I am so regretting not having one sooner. It was totally different to any crepe I've had in South Africa. Crispy and light and the filling I choose, Provencal, was divine! 
My Dad ended up making friends with the Chef and the two of them were clowning around for the rest of the meal. In case you don't recognise it, that's an egg shell on his nose! 
My crepe filled with cheese, an egg in the middle, grilled peppers, aubergine and fresh basil. Soooooo good. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Roller coasters and lemon zest

Storm clouds gathering over Antibes

I am back in France after packing up the island house, then finishing up in the Oslo house, getting back to France, catching up with people and then resting, resting, resting… and no cooking. Tomorrow I start on a three week job on a yacht; getting my camera out or spending time writing is not really going to happen. I still have quite a few photos and recipes from Norway which I want to share and if I get the time, I will. 

Dusk over the Oslo Fjord
But today I want to share the simplest thing. I have never really thought to share it before as I had never realised that so few people know about it or use it.

I love using lemon zest in my cooking. It was only until my boss commented on how much lemon zest I use that I finally realised how uncommon it is. 

In my teaching I have had to demonstrate how to use it many times. Most people think of lemon peel as bitter. And it is. That is why lemon zest is called zest and not peel. The white part is the bitter part. So if you grate, zest or cut off the zest you need to avoid getting through to the white part. Even then you should taste it before you add it to food, as sometimes (but not often) even the zest can be bitter.

The zest has a totally different aroma to the juice. It is not sour but it has a wonderfully lemony aroma. Just smell it and you will understand. This adds an amazing flavour to so many dishes. Dressings, marinades, rice dishes, pasta sauces, desserts, vegetarian dishes and meat dishes alike. I just love it. Oh yes, and the same applies to oranges and often limes (they can sometimes be bitter).

I often have more lemons with all their zest removed than I have need for their juice in my fridge.

If this is a new concept for you. First, you need a good sharp grater or zester. You need the small side of the grater; the one that still looks like a cheese grater but is at least half the size. Not the one that turns everything to powder or pulp. It must be sharp. In the picture above, I have a lemon zester.

Otherwise you can cut the zest off the sides of the lemon, avoiding the white pith. Then chop or slice it. A little goes a long way, so don’t overdo it. Smell and taste it before adding it to food. Then taste the sauce or food after, so you can begin to understand how it affects the flavour. (You should do that with all spices and herbs. Don’t trust the recipe, trust your senses)

And a final note; cooking and eating is personal. I just love lemon zest. Other people love chilli, or sweetness, or salt. There is no right or wrong, it’s just you. Taste, experiment and trust your own palate. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fruit, veggies and herbs are the new flowers!

I was browsing through my photos the other day and noticed that I had taken quite a few photos of the fruit and veggie baskets and herb pots around the house. There isn't really a designated drawer for fruit and veggies in the kitchen here, other than in the fridge. So, I have been arranging them in a way that looks appealing in the collection of lovely bowls and baskets they have. 

I think it looks pretty good. In fact it looks great! I think I am going to invest in some seriously good looking bowls and baskets when I get home. And pots for herbs. And buy loads of fresh herb plants and have those around the house instead of pot plants. And now I'm getting really excited! I can almost smell home... only one and half months to go. 

Don't you think these are so much nicer than a wilting box of herbs in the fridge? 

Even this little guy in the corner by the sink looks great!