Saturday, April 28, 2012



Omelettes are a topic on which volumes have been written and well deservedly so. There is something so fundamentally simple about them but when eating them I experience a sense of leisureliness and slow luxury. One needs to put a little time and thought into the preparation of a good omelette. The pan you use needs to especially suited to the task. The filling you choose should be of delicate flavours and not over shadow the egg flavour. Timing is also a consideration as one should eat an omelette as soon as it leaves the pan. 

To some this might all seem a bit overwhelming before tackling what is actually a very simple dish. But it should rather act as a reminder to slow down and take the proper care needed before tackling an omelette. 

A good non stick pan with sloped sides is almost essential to make a stress free omelette. I prefer to make individual omelettes or at most an omelette to be shared by two. For this you would need a small pan no bigger than 24cm in diameter. I would use two large eggs per person. I like to crack the eggs into a bowl and lightly combine them with a fork, but not beating them. I add a pinch of salt and perhaps some pepper and set it aside until ready for use. 

Before you start cooking you need to decide on your filling. This is a personal choice but I would advise to keep the flavours mild and not over fill the omelette. In the above image I used black mushrooms which I had lightly fried in butter, black pepper and a teaspoon of soya sauce. To this is I added fresh tomato, basil and little crumbled feta. 

Now you can start by heating the pan to medium high heat. This is a good time to start your toast if you are having it. Add a knob of butter and allow it cover the pan and sizzle until just before it starts to brown. Add the eggs and swirl them around to cover the bottom of the pan. If bubbles puff up under the egg, you can pierce the bubble and allow some raw egg to run into the whole and seal the gap. Once the egg is mostly cooked but still a little wet on top you can add the filling to one half of the omellete. Using a  non stick pan spatula, slide it under the unfilled part and flip it over the filling. Now you can gently slide your omelette on a plate, grab your toast and settle down to enjoy. 

Now to confuse matters more, there are two kinds of omelette to consider as well. The traditional french fold over omelette and the spanish omelette or frittata. But I will get into the frittata another time. 

A Spanish omelette or frittata

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sweet satisfaction!

I don't often eat sweet potatoes, but when I do, I like them to take center stage. Today is the perfect sweet potato day. It's grey and cold and I'm in the mood for comfort food. 

I like to eat the skins so I take care over washing and scrubbing them to avoid grit getting stuck on the skin. Using the rough end of a kitchen sponge is ideal for this. 

Baking them dry (no oil) in the oven is the best way to prepare them, but today I'm in quick fix mode, so I just popped them in the microwave until soft. Mine were really big so they took about 15 minutes at full heat. Then I simply slice them up, drench them in butter and seasoned then with salt and grated nutmeg (which is totally optional). Nothing more is required. This is perfection in a plate. 

I just ate an entire one for lunch and they were monsters. No sides, no accompaniments, just that. And I am feeling very happy right now. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Today I feeling totally all over the place. I have painters all over my house, I have a million things to do and none of them related to each other, the weather is miserable and all I feel like doing is crawling into bed and watching movies. Bleh! So in typical Thekla style I have been procrastinating and while doing that I came across an old video I made on how to make Vietnamese spring rolls. Now I'm totally inspired as they are sooooo delicious and fun to make! On my errands today I am going to pop past the Chinese store to stock up on ingredients. Yay!

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Makes 10

100g of rice vermicelli noodles
¼ cucumber, julienned
Small bunch of spring onions, cut into diagonal pieces
Fresh coriander, mint and/or basil leaves, washed and picked
1 large carrot, julienned
1 cup of shredded cooked chicken breast, cooked prawns, duck or pork
100g peanuts, roughly chopped
10 Spring roll rice wrappers (the dehydrated kind)

Dipping sauce
¼ of a cup sweet chilli sauce
¼ of a cup soya sauce
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 cm of fresh ginger, finely chopped

Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Boil rice vermicelli 3 to 5 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water.
Fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip one wrapper into the hot water for 1 second to soften. Place the wrapper onto a plate and leave a few minutes until the wrapper is tender and pliable. In a row across the center, place a handful of vermicelli, fresh herbs and other ingredients leaving about 6cm uncovered on each side. Fold the uncovered sides inward, then tightly roll the wrapper.
In a small bowl, mix the dipping sauce ingredients.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mini cup cakes with nutella and caramel and topped with mini sweets

This afternoon I baked cupcakes with the housekeeper of a friend of mine. Her daughter has a tea party at school tomorrow and she needed to take cup cakes for the class. In my experience kids prefer sweets to cup cakes, so I suggested that we make mini cup cakes (about two bites worth of cake) and ice them with Nutella and caramel and decorate them with mini sweets. This way getting the best of both worlds. 

Most of the cup cakes were ready when the girls got back from school and they were besides themselves with excitement when they saw them! Luckily we had made extra so they could enjoy decorating and snacking on few today already. 

Vanilla cup cakes with caramel, nutella and sweets
Makes about 25 mini cup cakes

125g of butter (room temperature)
½ a cup of castor sugar
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp whole milk
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tsp of baking powder
1 cup of cake flour (sifted)
1 pinch of salt

caramel, nutella (or nussfit) at room temperature
mini sweets of choice for decorating.

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, cake flour, salt and blend until smooth.

Place the cup cake papers into the holes of a muffin tin or on a baking . Spoon the mixture (or use piping bag, or zip lock bag with a corner trimmed off to make it easier) into the cup cake molds until they are about ¾ full. 

Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until golden and springy. 

Allow to cool before icing.

Soften the caramel and nutella by stirring it for a minute or two. Add a pinch of salt to the caramel. Spread a thick layer onto each cup cake with a knife and decorate with sweets.   

Quick and easy dinner.

I haven't been grocery shopping for my own house in ages. We got home late and felt like something quick but still healthy. So I whipped up a fabulous quick fix broth and it rocked. The broth I made with some procini stock paste, a touch of laska paste and a little of the paste that malay lime pickle comes marinated in - and a squeeze of lemon juice. To that I added shredded cabbage, sweet corn, mixed beans, fresh tomato and mushrooms right at the end. I garnished it with crumbled feta before eating two massive bowls.

No I am not pregnant - it really was delicious!

Off to make cupcakes now.

Monday, April 16, 2012

What a lovely surprise!

I got back yesterday from a three day private cooking job out on a farm with no cell reception. To my delight I found out that the new edition of Crush! online had been released on Friday and had in it an article I had written for them.

I simply love how this magazine is laid out and they have done such a fabulous job with the text and pictures I sent them. Go take a look by clicking here!

If you haven't read this magazine before, or for that matter an online magazine - note that there are all kind of tabs and animated buttons etc. Enjoy exploring this wonderful format!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lunch like a tourist!

Last week I spontaneously met Adam for lunch in the company gardens behind where he works. Usually I pack a picnic for us when we do this but, as it was spontaneous, I didn't have time. The restaurants at tourist attractions are generally to be avoided, but it was such a sublime day we decided that lunch at the gardens restaurant would be worth the risk. 

The food was predictably ordinary but perfectly acceptable, and we were in our element - surrounded by the city buzz still audible but enveloped by vivid greens, crisp autumn light and the uplifting energy of people enjoying a well deserved holiday or simply a lunch break.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bacon and avo burrito to beat the blues!

Today I'm feeling pretty fricken exhausted. I have all kinds of good reasons like having worked a few very looong days last week, house guests, family Easter activities, insomnia and the fact that I'm staring another manic week right in the eyes. I've also got a few decisions to make which are weighing on me. All in all, just feeling a bit overwhelmed.

That said, there are always ways to pick yourself up and get moving again. So this morning I treated myself to a sun dried tomato flavored tortilla, wrapped around soft scrambled egg, crispy bacon and perfectly ripe avo for brunch while doing my admin. Now, I'm about to put my trainers on and go for a walk in the forest before meeting a client to sort out the last details for a rather large event I am doing for them this weekend.

That's how I deal with Monday blues (aaargh, I mean Tuesday).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

When simple pleasures and special treats meet!

The end result is a bit darker in colour than usual as I used treacle sugar
instead of regular - but the taste is great!
Crème caramel is one of my mom's staple special treat desserts. Most things my mom makes from scratch but this is one dish she has always relied on the good old Moir's for. She claims to have tried to make it from scratch many times but has never succeeded in getting it to taste as good as Moir's original crème caramel

I have no problem with this as they do taste really good. However, a few weeks ago, I was paging through a new recipe book lent to me by a friend and came across a recipe which sounded so simple and good I just had to try it. Adam was also getting back from being away and I wanted to surprise him with something special.

I did of course tweak it ever so slightly and the end result was sublime. The perfect silky melt in your mouth texture and rich caramel flavour. I added extra salt to the caramel sauce as I'm totally hooked on this new salted caramel trend. 

I am looking forward to making it again soon for a friend who has always been a crème caramel fiend.

PS - the recipe book I found the recipe in is called 'A farm in my heart' and is sublime! A joy to page through and a source for great recipes. 

Traditional Crème Caramel with Salted Caramel Sauce
Makes about 2 liters (enough for 6 - 8 guests)

For the salted caramel sauce
¾ cup of sugar (I used dark treacle sugar)
3 - 4 Tbsp of water
¼ tsp of salt (or to taste)

For the custard
1 litre of full cream milk
6 large eggs
5 large egg yolks
¾ cup of sugar (I used dark treacle sugar)
1 Tbsp of vanilla essence (or the contents from one vanilla pod)
A pinch of salt

Pre heat your oven to 180˚C and place the wrack at the bottom of the oven.

Spray 'n cook the mould you want to use. A bread tin or cake tin can be used if you don’t have a specific pudding or jelly mould. Avoid spring form tins as they will leak. Try to use a tin which is the correct size for the amount of liquid as it will unmold better. Find a suitable oven proof container or roasting pan for your bain-marie (water bath) which you will bake the custard in.

Heat the caramel sauce ingredients in a sauce pan and stir until the sugar has dissolved. You can add a spoon more water if needed but limit this as the sauce should not be runny. Be cautious not to overcook or burn the sauce is it will turn bitter, so use moderate heat and develop only a light simmer. To check the taste and consistency of the caramel, coat the back of a metal spoon. The caramel should set but not get hard, then taste it to see if it tastes good.  

Pour 2/3 of the sauce into the bottom of the mould and set it aside to cool. The caramel will carry on cooking in the pot once you remove it from the heat, so work fast to prevent it from burning. Add 2 -3 Tbsp of water to the remaining sauce and stir it to combine. Set it aside for use later.

Set a full kettle of water to boil and get your baine-marie ready.

For the custard, heat the milk over medium heat on the stove until just before it simmers. While you are waiting for that, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt with an electric beater until pale and smooth. Use a mixing bowl large enough to hold the full custard mixture. Add the milk to the egg mixture and lightly combine with a wire whisk. It should not get foamy.

Pour the custard through a sieve over the caramel mixtures. Place the mould into the baine-marie and fill with boiling water about 2/3 up the side of mould. Place this into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the oven as the water shouln't boil. The custard should set but still be a little wobbly.

Remove the baine-marie from the oven and allow it to stand for about 30 minutes before removing it from the water.

Serve at room temperate or set aside in the fridge until ready for use. To unmold, slide a knife around the sides and invert onto a platter. I usually place the platter on top of the mould and then invert both the mould and platter at the same time, to avoid the dessert slipping out the mount before it has been inverted.

Pour the remaining caramel sauce over the dessert and serve. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vicarious living - blogging at it's best.

What I want to eat for lunch today - 

There are two blogs I follow which truly transport me when I read them. They are totally different but both have a synthesis of outstanding writing, photos and recipes. Both bloggers bring themselves, their lives and their surroundings completely into their blogs which make them so very very special. 

Today I have been browsing through Cannelle et Vanille again and it just takes my breath away. I get such a sense of the simple beauty of living in tune with nature, without all the eco crusader thrills and spills. I just love it. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

My new and improved gazpacho recipe!

Last week the Pick n Pay in my area was having a huge sale on tomatoes. So I didn't have very far to go to decide that I needed to make gazpacho. I had a few new ideas I wanted to try out with my old faithful recipe and I think they worked out really well. 

The changes I made were substituting nuts for the traditional bread base and I added white wine vinegar and basil to the seasoning which I haven't done in the past. The end result has a lovely creamy full bodied texture and taste which I really like. 

Since summer is drawing to a close, I think that enjoying some truly summery dishes is an absolute must! 

Makes about 3 litres

1 cup of macadamia nuts (or nuts of choice)
½ cup of olive oil
1 litre of veg stock or water (more if needed)
1kg ripe tomatoes
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 red pepper, seeded
1 large clove of garlic
½ a small red onion
2 Tbsp honey, agave nectar or brown sugar
1 tsp of lemon zest, finely grated
1 Tbsp of lemon juice
2 Tbsp of white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp of fresh sweet basil (optional)
fresh chilli (if desired)
¼ tsp of cumin
2 tsp of salt (or to taste)
black pepper to taste

Blend the nuts and oil until they form a fine paste. Add all the other ingredients and blend until you reach the desired consistency. Check the seasoning. Refrigerate and serve chilled.

For a colourful and crunchy finish serve with croutons and some of the ingredients like cucumber and peppers diced up.