Archive for September, 2010

Basil & white chocolate creams

I loved eating dirt as a kid. I have definitely kicked the habit now, but sure enough as toddler you would find me snacking on some delicious mud while my brother cleaned his bike/danced in the driveway/beat my barbies up with his Skelator doll. We even have photographic evidence of mud around my mouth looking incredibly pleased with myself.

Having a fair amount of friends and family with children, I am starting to notice there is a difference between the way the first child and the second child are brought up. I’m told that when you have your first you worry about everything, but once the second one comes along you are a lot more relaxed. I suspect my place in the pecking order (second child and baby of the family) has something to do with my fondness for consuming dirt as a kid, and my continuing lack of germaphobia. Either that or I inherited my dad’s exploratory nature when it comes to food… (Frank is the third child, we’ll be doing some analysis on that soon!)

My mom and Dude are fairly germaphobic. Both will vehemently deny this, but it is alas still true. Due to Mom’s dislike of raw eggs I only ever made one chocolate mousse, with melted marshmallows. And having once described it as “fool-proof” to a friend, it no longer worked and always ended up a runny mess. I was left with no other choice, and learned to make mousse with raw eggs. Delicious!

Mom is coming to stay next month. As it is over summer I am keen to get some summer dessert recipes in, and chocolate mousse is a great one. Knowing the rules of no raw eggs, I searched for one to test out this weekend. The recipe I found is so easy to make, and incredibly morish. It has a twist to it, but it really works well. Just don’t go nuts on the basil!

Basil & white chocolate creams with sticky balsamic strawberries – from the BBC Good Food website

(serves 4)

284ml pot single cream
1 large handful basil, torn (about 2 big stalks plus leaves, depending how pungent your basil is), plus extra leaves to serve
300g good-quality white chocolate, chopped
50g golden caster sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
250g strawberries , hulled and halved

Pour the cream into a saucepan, then add the torn basil leaves and stalks. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 5 mins.

Discard the basil and re-heat the cream to a simmer. Remove the cream from the heat and immediately tip in the chocolate. Leave for a few mins to melt, then stir until smooth. Pour the mixture into four small serving glasses and chill for at least 3 hours until firm. (This can be done up to a day ahead.)

In a small saucepan, mix the caster sugar and balsamic vinegar with 2 tbsp water and cook over a medium heat, stirring continuously, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has reduced by half to a sticky syrup (about 5 mins). Cool before pouring over the strawberries and allow to soak for at least 1 hr.

Spoon the balsamic strawberries over the creams and decorate with basil.


Duck & Pinot cooking class @ Sydney Cooking School

South Africans, as a whole, are known to be tough. Well at least that is what I was told by a Kiwi girl a few months back. We, like the Australians, tend to just muck in and get things done. And if anything upsetting happens we “build a bridge and get over it”, as my brother likes to advise me. But not me! There are certain things I get very squeamish about, and I battle with my upbringing to ignore the potential freak-out looming and just get on with it. 

the kitchen

I did a zoology degree at University. It was an amazing experience, and makes me rather nifty on game drives/trivial pursuit nature questions (or perhaps just a smart-arse on game drives/trivial pursuit nature questions) and now I’m no longer scared of giant hopping bugs or slimy snails. The only part of the course I wasn’t a fan of was the dissections. I used to go pale (if a lighter shade of pale is even possible) and refuse to touch the dead creature with my hands. This, as you can imagine, was frowned upon in the South African zoology crowd. I may have come in the lower half for my dissections, but I can proudly say that I dissected a whole snail with two sets of tweezers and no touching! 

I have to admit that I was also a big girl’s blouse when it came to handling a whole raw chicken for a roast. They look so sad all naked on the tray, and sometimes they still had a little wing feathers on, and I had to get Frank to prep them for the oven. But, taking the advice I always offered to people being big girls’ blouses, I decided to man up and just get on with it. 


So when Ferret e-mailed me about a 2-for-1 offer on a “duck and pinot” cooking course I jumped at it. I’ve never cooked duck before, and surprisingly never tasted a pinot noir, so I was really looking forward to it. The course was held at the Sydney Cooking School, which is run by a great chef called Brett Deverall. The school has only been open for six weeks and already this class was sold out for three weeks. Soon after we got there I realized why: Brett is a great teacher and explained everything in a clear manner. He also made everything look so easy! 

When we arrived at the school Ferret and I were given our aprons and a glass of wine while we were waiting for the others to arrive.  First off we were shown how to cook duck breasts properly while Brett explained where to buy the good ducks from. After that he showed us how to de-bone a half-duck, and how to make a duck roll with that half-duck. 

Ferret, finding the breastbone

He then sent us off to try our hand at de-boning. Ferret was first up, and made quick work of her half. I poked myself with the very sharp knife (after repeated warnings from Brett) and continued gingerly from there. The de-boning was rather simple in the end, and it’s a skill Ferret and I can use on chickens too. 

Ferret's half-a-duck

We cooked our duck breasts in the pans provided, and while doing this Brett showed us how to make a quick red wine glaze and a blood-orange and watercress salad to accompany the duck. He also showed us how to make duck-fat potatoes and confit duck legs, and had some legs bubbling away in the oven for our dinner. 

our legs, ready for confit

After all the cooking was done we sat down to try two pinot noir with our meal. The first one was a light drinking pinot from the Southern Highlands of New South Wales (so a local one for me). The second one matched the duck perfectly and was from Tasmania. I am happy to announce that pinot noir is now my new favorite red wine… 

our duck breasts, cooking away

The course had a good mix of technical skills and sociability. Ferret and I got on the bus with smiles on our faces and duck in our bellies.  I can’t wait to try my hand at making confit duck legs at home! 

our dinner!

Sorry for the photos, I forgot my camera at home and had to use my phone… 

Sydney Cooking School 

73 Military Road

Phone: (02) 8969 6199

Healthy carrot & banana loaf

As a kid I hated Sunday afternoons. I knew the weekend was almost over, and that school was only a few hours away. My parents used to go off for their naps and I would be left to potter around the house, trying in vain to entertain myself. Normally my brother would be out, but if he was home I would go and harrass him in an attempt to have a little fun. Although this would often end in a dunk in the pool or enough screams to wake one of my parents up, which wasn’t an ideal way to end the weekend…

This is how I felt on Sunday afternoon. Like a kid left to my own devices. Frank has been ill lately, and spent a large portion of the day asleep. Knowing that work was on the horizon, I was desperate to do something useful so the weekend wasn’t just wasted time. I had already baked a loaf cake, cleaned up our guest bedroom, and planted some lavender we bought that morning; so I was left to potter around the house not knowing what to do. My mom had recently sent me a recipe for carrot and banana cake, so I decided to make a healthy-ish one for Frank when he feels okay to eat.

This recipe is easy to adapt, and very tasty. It doesn’t have any dairy in it, so is perfect for those who are lactose intolerant.

Healthy carrot & banana loaf – adapted from the recipe in the Snowflake book of baking

100ml brown sugar (100g)
2 eggs
100ml oil
25ml water/tea/rooibos (I used rooibos of course!)
250ml whole wheat flour
10ml baking powder
5ml bicarb
250ml finely grated carrot
2 bananas, mashed
125ml seedless raisins or sultanas
125ml chopped walnuts
handful pitted dates, finely chopped

Whisk sugar, water, eggs & oil together.

Add dry ingredients alternately with carrot, bananas, raisins, walnuts and dates to egg mixture.

Pour into a greased loaf tin.  Bake in preheated oven at 180°C (350° F) for 35-40 mins.

Leave in tin for a few minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.  Dust with icing sugar if desired.

Rooibos and vanilla loaf cake

My cupboard is a mess. So much so that I have to store half my shoes in Frank’s cupboard, much to his annoyance. He leaves his shoes in the lounge, so I always take the opportunity to sneak my shoes into his shoe-space when he’s not looking. Sometimes I’m even too lazy to put my shoes in his cupboard, so I leave them next to the bed. But then I throw dirty clothes over them and end up tripping on them every time i go back into the bedroom. (Frank doesn’t see them either, so it’s worth hiding them to laugh when he trips and swears!)

My cupboard can no longer close, so as Frank has been feeling very under the weather today I decided to clean out the cupboards and find all those clothes I’d forgotten about. And what better way to reward myself than with a cake!

A couple of weeks ago I entered a competition on Not Quite Nigella’s site and won myself a box of rooibos tea. For those of you who don’t know, rooibos (or redbush) tea is a herbal tea that originated in the Cedarberg in South Africa. I’ve been interested in using it in food, and decided to adapt a recipe to make rooibos and vanilla loaf cake. It has a wonderful delicate and sweet flavour, and worked well in the cake. It is best eaten with a nice hot cup of rooibos tea!

Rooibos and vanilla loaf cake – adapted from BBC Good food recipe for Jaffa loaf cake

140g butter , softened
200g self-raising flour
1 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
200g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 bag rooibos tea covered in 3 tbsp boiling water (steeped for 5 mins)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk

to finish:
1 bag rooibos tea covered in 3 tbsp boiling water (steeped for 5 mins)
50g golden caster sugar
50g dark chocolate

Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Butter and line the base of a 1.2-litre loaf tin. Put all the cake ingredients and the tea (excluding tea bag of course!) into a bowl and beat with a hand whisk or wooden spoon for 3-5 mins, until light and fluffy.

Spoon the mix into the tin and level the top.

Bake for 40-50 mins, until golden brown and firm to the touch. Meanwhile, dissolve sugar in boiling water with tea bag. When the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and spoon over the tea. Leave to cool in the tin, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

Break up the chocolate and melt over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave on Medium for 1-2 mins. Drizzle over the cake and leave to set.

September Daring Cook’s challenge – preserving and apple butter

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I was tempted to skip this challenge. The Daring kitchen allows you 4 “get out of jail free” cards a year, so if you are on holiday or do not have the equipment you don’t have to do the challenge. As I’ve been making quite a bit of lemon curd this winter, I didn’t feel it was necessary to do it all again. And the recipes John provided (no offense John) didn’t really excite me. But, as I used to do in Monopoly as I kid, I decided to save up my “get out of jail free” cards for a time that I might really need to use them.

So, onto the challenge. We were given the option of either making apple butter or roasted tomatoes, and then either freezing them or home canning them. I chose to make apple butter as the Granny Smith apples are abundant at the moment, and I chose to freeze it. The apple butter recipe was easy to follow, and quick to complete. I put it in sterilized jars and froze it for a week while trying to decide what to use it  for! Having given it a lot of thought I decided to use some of the butter in a marinade for pork ribs, and the rest of it to make apple meringue pie. My french Aunt D makes a fantastic apple meringue pie and I thought it would be a great time to replicate it.

The challenge was good to do, as I got to make sticky ribs and apple meringue pie (which Frank loved). And we got to have our first BBQ of the summer of 2010!

Apple butter (to make one jar) – from John, the host and

6 apples, peeled and cored, and chopped into cubes
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tbsp cinnamon and mixed spice each

Combine apples and water in a pan and cook until apples are falling apart. Mash, and then add in sugar and spices. Simmer over a low heat for 20 – 25 minutes.

To test for doneness, spoon a small quantity onto a clean plate; when the butter mounds on the plate without liquid separating around the edge of the butter, it is ready for processing. Another way to test for doneness is to remove a spoonful of the cooked butter on a spoon and hold it away from steam for 2 minutes. It is done if the butter remains mounded on the spoon. Pour contents into a jar and store in the fridge for 1 month or the freezer for up to a year.

BBQ pork ribs (Serves 6 people) – a lollcakes original

2 to 2.5kg pork spare ribs
125g butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
125ml (1/2 cup) vinegar
250ml (1 cup) water
125ml (1/2 cup) ketchup
250ml (1 cup) barbecue sauce
62.5ml (1/4 cup) tomato paste
62.5ml (1/4 cup) apple butter
juice of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place ribs in large frying pan or roasting pan. Cover with lightly salted water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour, or until meat is tender, but not quite falling off the bone. Remove from heat, and drain.

While the ribs are simmering, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic until the onion softens. Remove from the heat. In a blender, combine vinegar,water, ketchup, tomato paste, apple butter, barbecue sauce and lemon juice. Pour in the melted butter mixture, and purée for 1 minute.

Pour into the saucepan, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.Place the cooked ribs in a roasting pan, and mix with the sauce. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to overnight.

Preheat barbecue for medium-high heat.Brush the grill hotplate with oil. Cook ribs for 10 to 20 minutes, or until well browned, basting with sauce and turning frequently.Serve with salad and potatoes.

Apple Meringue Pie – adjusted from

1 1/2 cups (250g) plain flour
125g butter, chilled, chopped
1/3 cup castor sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon chilled water
jar apple butter
juice of 1 lemon
3 eggs

For the pastry, combine flour, butter and sugar in a food processor. Process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add yolk and chilled water. Process until dough just comes together.Turn pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until just smooth. Shape into a disc. Wrap in baking paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Line a 7-8-inch flan case with the pastry and bake blind.

Meanwhile, separate the eggs and keep the whites aside. Mix the apple butter with the egg yolks and lemon juice and fill in the pie shell. Beat, the egg whites until very stiff, then very gradually beat in 1/2 cup sugar. Either bake for about 25-30 minutes in a very moderate oven, 325°F and serve hot, or bake for about 1 hour in a very slow oven, 275°F

Roasted vegetable frittata

When I was a teenager I was blessed with a relatively decent metabolism. I was never stick-like in any way, but I was able to eat what I wanted and still maintained the same shape.  I had heard that your metabolism slows down when you reach 30, but I thought “ah, that is ages away; I’ll be an adult and will eat sensibly and exercise so it shouldn’t be a problem”.

Well, I was wrong. On both accounts. New studies have shown that your metabolism begins to slow down in your 20s, and despite being close to 30 I am not even close to being an adult. (Never mind eating sensibly or exercising) I lack a sense of self-control when it comes to food. Combined with a love of baking, a declining metabolism, and a dislike for exercise; it is starting to smell like trouble!

As Sydney has launched us into spring in a big (and wonderful) way, I am inspired to get back into exercising so I am able to go to the beach in summer without giving children nightmares. I joined a local gym yesterday, and was up at dawn for my first class this morning – boxing. True to form the instructor wasn’t interested in hearing that I haven’t exercised in almost a year, and didn’t let me stop. So it’s a miracle I’m able to type this right now, my arms and my legs are taking strain!

the jasmine in our backyard, so pretty!

For dinner tonight we had a delicious and healthy frittata. Good intentions and all that… but mostly it’s because I forgot to take meat out the freezer this morning once again. (Sorry Frank) I roasted some of the vegetables we have in the fridge, popped them in our beautiful frying pan with some onions and garlic, and covered it all with the best farm eggs that Mama and Papa C keep us supplied with. Served with a salad it makes a tasty and filling dinner. And there are even leftovers for lunch tomorrow, yum!

Roasted vegetable frittata – another lollcakes original!

1 onion, finely diced
2 gloves garlic, finely diced
chilli flakes to taste
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp mixed herbs
5 large eggs
1 sweet potato, cubed
1 carrot, cubed
2 courgettes, cubed
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 red capsicum
1/2 cup cheese, grated

Put the vegetables in a tray and roast for 30 minutes.

While roasting, fry the onion, garlic, chilli and paprika in the frittata pan. Add in the roasted vegetables and peas and fry for a minute. Whisk the eggs with 1 tbsp water and the mixed herbs and pour over the vegetables, and cook until almost set.

Turn on the grill, sprinkle cheese on top of frittata and grill until set (important: use an oven-proof pan). Serve with a salad. Enjoy!

Spicy lentil and vegetable soup – one last hurrah to winter

It is officially spring, and there is no longer an icy nip in the Sydney air. As much as I love summer, and I can’t wait for it to start, I’m going to miss having the excuse to stuff my gob with loads of comfort food. Now I’m going to have to exercise in preparation for summer! Ick!

One of the guys at work left to get married yesterdaday, and we had a very naughty pizza lunch to celebrate. So I thought: as one last farewell to winter, and to make sure I get my veggies in for the day, I’ll make my favourite winter soup – spicy lentil and vegetable. It smells wonderful, is very filling, and helps towards your five veggies  a day. It also warms you up after a chilly day.

Frank isn’t a big fan of soup, especially not lentil soup, but he eats this one with the minimal of complaints. You can add any veg you want, root vegetables are ideal for this recipe. Best served with some fresh crusty bread, it is the perfect casual dinner…

Spicy lentil and vegetable soup – another lollcakes original!
Serves 4 big appetites

1 litre vegetable/chicken stock
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 onion, finely diced
3 carrots, cubed
1 parsnip, cubed
1 swede, cubed
2 courgettes, cubed
3 potatoes/3 sweet potatoes, cubed
1.5 cups red lentils
3 tbsp mild curry powder
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
chilli to taste

Fry onion until transparent. Add in curry, cumin, paprika and chilli; and fry until fragrant. Add in root vegetables, tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil.

Add in lentils and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in courgettes and simmer for another 15 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.


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