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.