Archive for the 'comfort food' Category

Hot Cross Buns! Happy Easter!

I have a huge fear of worms, and worm-like creatures. It is my one irrational fear, and they are the only creatures that’ll have me screaming like a 10-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  I’m not the biggest fan of spiders and cockroaches, but I can easily just walk away and ask Frank to remove them. But worms, worms make me shudder and want to scratch my back and gag all at the same time.

The Pig Palace always gets an invasion of crawlies in April. I’m not sure if it’s the sudden drop in temperature or the increase in rain, but they move in with us in droves. Lucky for me the only worm-like creatures to make it into the perimeter so far were the five slugs sitting on top of the bin outside. (Which Frank was ordered in a hysterical voice to remove before I moved.)

The most irritating crawlies at the moment are the cockroaches. We’ve had our share of the ants with giant noses, but they only go for almond meal and are easy to get rid of. The cockroaches however scurry all over the place when you least expect it, and they don’t even bother to tread softly. Last night I opened the kitchen cupboard to find a jet-black roach staring at me. He then proceeded to waltz into the dark recesses and scratch around for food. I could actually hear him trying to decide between the peanuts and the risotto rice. Despite my frantic waiving of my flop-flop, he lived to feed another day. I’m almost certain that one of these days I’m going to come home and find him with my dressing gown and slippers on, drinking a glass of our best red. Or in my bed with his arm around me.

So, to use up all the good snacks from this roach’s selection and to celebrate Easter, I have made a batch of hot cross buns. They are delicious straight out of the oven, and also great toasted the next day. And they are roach-free!


Hot Cross Buns – recipe from the BBC Good Food website

450g strong white flour , plus extra for dusting
2 x 7g sachets easy-blend yeast
caster sugar
150ml warm milk
1 egg , beaten
50g unsalted butter , melted, plus extra for greasing
oil , for greasing

1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
100g currants

4 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar

Put the flour, yeast, caster sugar and 1 tsp salt into a large mixing bowl with the spices and dried fruit and mix well.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm milk, 50ml warm water, the beaten egg and the melted butter.

Mix everything together to form a dough – start with a wooden spoon and finish with your hands. If the dough is too dry, add a little more warm water; if it’s too wet, add more flour.

Knead in the bowl or on a floured surface until the dough becomes smooth and springy. Transfer to a clean, lightly greased bowl and cover loosely with a clean, damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place to rise until roughly doubled in size – this will take about 1 hr depending on how warm the room is.

Tip the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for a few secs, then divide into 12 even portions – I roll my dough into a long sausage shape, then quarter and divide each quarter into 3 pieces.

Shape each portion into a smooth round and place on a baking sheet greased with butter, leaving some room between each bun for it to rise.

Use a small, sharp knife to score a cross on the top of each bun, then cover with the damp tea towel again and leave in a warm place to prove for 20 mins until almost doubled in size again. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

When the buns are ready to bake, mix the plain flour with just enough water to give you a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag (or into a plastic food bag and snip the corner off) and pipe a white cross into the crosses you cut earlier.

Bake for 12-15 mins until the buns are golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. While still warm, melt the granulated sugar with 1 tbsp water in a small pan, then brush over the buns.


Healthy-ish lemon & poppy-seed muffins

As many a wise person said, music is the soundtrack to our souls. It’s funny how a piece of music, or a set of lyrics, just brings back a memory that you forgot was still there. For some people it could be a smell that brings back a memory, or incites a rush of feeling, but for me it is definitely music. (Although smells of baking are like giant hugs when you walk into the kitchen)

I sit typing this in our spare bedroom, with headphones on to mask the sound Frank’s virtual Grand Prix going wild on the xBox. (And of course it isn’t a real-virtual-Grand-Prix without deafening car revving!) I just grabbed our shared music player, and the first song to play is Bernard Fanning’s Thril is Gone from his Tea & Sympathy album. I didn’t know much about Bernard Fanning before I met Frank, having only heard one of his band Powderfinger’s songs back in South Africa. His voice is amazing, and his solo album just brings back the memories of Frank and I planning our move down-under. I can almost feel that excitement now, the idea of having a blank slate and being able to make the life we wanted out of the move.

Sitting in the Pig Palace over a year later (and after a weekend of family visits) I consider myself very lucky. I miss my family and friends terribly, but I have gained a second family here. I am also happy to say that friends are friends despite the distance or the busy-ness of our lives, and it is uplifting to know how many generous souls I have the fortune of knowing.

Anyway, enough of the soppy-ness for now. Since I’ve been on this (traumatising, torturous, cruel) diet I’ve been buying a lot more treats. I see delicious chocolates, and think “I really want them”, but since I can’t have them the next best thing is to buy them for Frank! I realise it isn’t the smartest thing to do, as one of these days I WILL actually get up in the middle of the night, eat all the chocolate in the fridge, eat all the sugar and sugar-containing products in the cupboard, and have Frank find me in the morning lying in a pool of ants. But alas I choose to torture myself this way.

As we had Frank’s family over for brunch today, I decided to whip up a batch of healthy-ish lemon & poppy-seed muffins. The recipe is really straight-forward, and is done in around 35 mins including cooking and prep. (But not dishes, that is Frank’s job…) If you feel like a nice quick snack for breakfast or tea, I would recommend them. Warm, with butter, and a delicious cup of coffee… ooh, coffee…*sob*

Lemon & poppy-seed muffins – from Australian Womens Weekly ‘Mix’ recipe book
(muffins can be stored in an airtight container for 2 days or frozen for 2 months)

1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1 1/2 cup white self-raising flour
90g cold butter, chopped
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have it, use 1 1/4 cup milk and 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice)
1 egg, beaten lightly
2 tsp grated lemon rind
2 tbsp poppy seeds

Pre-heat oven to 180C, 160C fan-forced. Grease a 12-hole muffin pan, or insert baking cups.

Sift flours into a large bowl. Rub in butter with fingertips.

Stir in sugar, buttermilk and egg. (do not over-mix, mixture should be lumpy.

Gently stir in lemon rind and poppy seeds and spoon mixture into pan holes.

Bake muffins about 20 mins. Stand in the pan for 5 mins before popping onto a wire rack to cool.

Boozy Christmas cake

Have you ever done something you know you shouldn’t do (and you’ve been told you are definitely not allowed to do) but do it anyway? I have definitely been guilty of that this week. One of the guys I work with has become my wine guru. He recommends fantastic vineyards I’ve never heard of that produce amazing wines, and points me to websites that sell wine for good prices. Which is where the trouble started…

I count beans for a living (accountant-type stuff), and because of this I am “careful” with my money. My grandparents are Dutch, so I was born with a natural predisposition to spend money only when it was a bargain or when the item was needed. When I was a kid, I used to stuff the $200 notes at the beginning of a Monopoly game under the board so I always had some saved at the end. No matter what it is, if I consider it of value I will squirrel it away for a rainy day.











Combining my inner squirrel with an online wine auction site is a very dangerous thing. My wine guru sent me to this wonderful site, and Frank has been regretting it ever since. I have managed to bag some wonderful wines for a quarter of the price in the shop, but my love of a bargain has turned into an obsession. The other night I bid on two cases when I only wanted one, and Frank told me to no longer order wine until we’d finished what we had. But the next day I went back online, and two additional cases are due to hit the Pig Palace next week. (Frank doesn’t know yet, so I’m hoping he won’t notice the extra boxes in the dining room…)

My excuses are: a) they are bargains, b) we are having lots of guests to share it with, and c) the Festive season is almost upon us! And as I love all things Christmas so much, I thought it was high time we begin some Pig Palace Christmas traditions. First one off the block – boozy Christmas cake! Frank isn’t the biggest fan, but Mom and I are, so I’ve made two to stew in the cupboard until the great unveiling at Christmas.
This recipe is so easy and straight-forward. Give it a try!
Easy boozy Pig Palace Christmas cake – recipe from the BBC Good Food website

200g butter , softened to room temperature
200g dark muscovado sugar
200g plain flour
4 eggs , beaten
50g ground almonds
100ml sherry , sweet or dry, whatever you have in the cupboard
85g candied peel , roughly chopped
85g glacé cherries , roughly chopped
250g raisins
250g currants
100g pack pecans nuts, broken into big pieces
finely grated zest 1 lemon
1½ tsp mixed spice
1½ tsp rosewater
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking powder

Heat oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3. Line the base and sides of a 20 cm round, 7.5 cm deep cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer for 1-2 mins until very creamy and pale in colour, scraping down the sides of the bowl half way through. Stir in a spoonful of the flour, then stir in the beaten egg and the rest of the flour alternately, a quarter at a time, beating well each time with a wooden spoon. Stir in the almonds.











Mix in the sherry (the mix will look curdled), then add the peel, cherries, raisins, cherries, nuts, lemon zest, spice, rosewater and vanilla. Beat together to mix, then stir in the baking powder.





















Spoon mixture into the tin and smooth the top, making a slight dip in the centre. Bake for 30 mins, then lower temperature to 150C/fan 130C/gas 2 and bake a further 2-2¼ hrs, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.











Leave to cool in the tin, then take out of the tin and peel off the lining paper. When completely cold, wrap well in cling film and foil to store until ready to decorate. The cake will keep for several months. If you want to, brush the cake with a small amount of sherry once a week until Christmas…

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.



As a kid I hated mixing savory and sweet flavours. I also hated mince, despite my mom telling me it was just tiny pieces of steak. She used to make us delicious meals (she is a fantastic cook even though she won’t admit it, Frank loves it when she makes us dinner!), and no doubt either my brother Dude or I would complain about what was put in front of us.

Frank said to me when we started dating that he doesn’t like tomatoes. Not understanding this, I asked when he had last had tomatoes. He claimed that he hadn’t eaten them since he was a kid, and he wasn’t going to change now. Having only realised over the last 5 years that your taste changes as an adul,t I tried to convince Frank that he might like tomatoes if he tried them again, and even though he wanted none of it I decided to take my own advice.

Bobotie is one of the most traditional South African dishes. It is basically curried mince with raisins, topped with savoury custard. It does mix sweet and savoury flavours, but it is so delicious because of that! (I never thought I would say that, and Mom is sad that only now do I admit I like it after many years of tears at the table…)
According to Wikipedia (oh yes, again), the recipe probably originates from the Dutch East India Company colonies in Batavia, with the name derived from the Indonesian Bobotok. It is also made with curry powder leaving it with a slight “tang”. The Bobotie recipe was transported by South African settlers to colonies all over Africa. Today, recipes for it can be found that originated in settler communities in Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. There is a variation that was popular among the 7,000 Boer settlers who settled in the Chubut River Valley in Argentina in the early 20th century, in which the bobotie mixture is packed inside a large pumpkin, which is then baked until tender.

Mom gave me the recipe she’s used from a South African chef by the name of Lynn Bedford-Hall. It is incredibly straight-forward, and a good dish to make in advance as the curry only gets better over time. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Bobotie – recipe from “Best of Cooking in South Africa” by Lynn Bedford Hall

1 fairly thick slice crustless bread (brown or white)
375 ml milk
25 ml oil
10 ml butter
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
25 ml curry powder (or more to taste)
10 ml salt
25 ml chutney
15 ml smooth apricot jam
15 ml Worcester sauce
5 ml turmeric
25 ml brown vinegar
1 kg raw mince
100 sultanas (or raisins)
3 eggs
pinch each salt & turmeric
bay leaves

Soak bread in milk.  Heat oil and butter in large pan and fry onions and garlic.  When onions are soft, add curry powder, salt, chutney, jam, Worcester sauce, turmeric and vinegar and mix well.  Drain and mash bread and reserve milk.  Add bread to pan together with mince and sultanas.  Cook over low heat, stirring and when meat loses its pinkness, remove from stove. (At this point you can pop it in the fridge if making in advance) Add 1 beaten egg, mix well, then spoon into greased, 28 x 16 cm baking dish and level the top.

Beat remaining eggs with reserved milk (you should have 300ml) and the salt & turmeric.  Pour over meat mixture and put a few bay leaves on top.  Stand dish in a larger pan of water (this is important to prevent drying out) and bake, uncovered, at 180°C for 1 hour or until set.  Serve with rice and sambals.
Serves 8

Suggested sambals – chopped tomato and red onion;  sliced banana or sliced banana mixed into thick Greek yogurt;  chutney

Sausage and mash, South African style

It’s always slightly nerve-wracking when you start dating someone, when you start to discover the things they like and the things the don’t like. And what happens if they love something you dislike? Or they think you’re weird for owning a onesie? Or worst of all, they don’t like baked goods?

One of my friends doesn’t like any chocolate except white chocolate, he hates vinegar (in his own words, if Cindy Crawford asked him for a kiss after eating salt & vinegar chips he would shove her and run) and doesn’t eat too many vegetables. And as much as I love him as a friend, he would drive me nuts if I ever had to cook for him.

When I first met Frank I was interested to see whether he would like the same things I do. In South Africa we eat a farm-style spiced beef sausage called boerewors. It is a part of all braais (barbeques) and is one of the first things South Africans away from home will request (and the first thing we miss). Needless to say, if Frank didn’t like boerewors it would be like disliking a part of my history. *dramatic* One day in London we passed a South African stall that made boerewors rolls (boerewors on a long roll with fried onions and tomato sauce) and I suggested that Frank try one. Once he had one bite he was hooked! And so was I… 😉

When we were shopping last month Frank discovered an Aussie company that makes boerewors like the stuff you get at home. He was practically hopping on the spot! It tastes delicious, and we buy it once a week for dinner. As I seem to be making South African food lately I thought I’d share this one with you. If you have a South African shop in your area, or a Woolworths if you live in Australia, give it a try. You won’t be disappointed!

I baked my boerewors as we don’t have a coal barbeque. South Africans will be very disappointed to read that, but it’s the best I can do. I teamed it with sweet potato mash as the sausage is very rich and the sweet potato works well with the spices. Topped off with a batch of steamed veggies, it makes a lovely mid-week meal.

Boerewors and sweet potato mash – a lollcakes original

1 pack farm-style sausage/boerewors
2 sweet potatoes
pinch ginger
pinch cinnamon
salt to taste
pinch chilli flakes
25ml butter
50ml milk
vegetables or salad to serve

Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan-forced, place boerewors on a tray. DO NOT prick the skin, it keeps the moisture in the sausage.

Cook boerewors for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes. While the boerewors is cooking, chop the sweet potatoes into small cubes and boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Mash with the rest of the ingredients, and serve with the sausage and vegetables/salad.

Honey cake with honeyed almond crunch

When I lived in London I used to confuse everyone by saying it felt like Christmas when the sun started shining and the days became spring-like. Coming from the Southern Hemisphere I love hot Christmases, and the thought of summer gets me hopping about like a small child.

Sydney has been putting on a wonderful show of spring lately. We have been lucky enough to have two wonderful weeks of sunshine and fairly warm weather while it is still technically winter.  On Friday I got the fuzzy “yay, summer and Christmas are coming!” excitement, and realized with utter joy that this year will be my first proper hot Christmas for 6 years. (We moved here just before last Christmas, but we had only just landed and it still felt like a holiday so I didn’t get the Christmas build-up…)

As Sydney and I have had our good and bad times over the last couple of months, I thought I would regale you with some of the reasons I love Sydney/Australia:

  • The weather is proper. It is hot in summer, cold in winter, and utterly wonderful in between. You get a chance to appreciate both the cold and the heat as you experience extremes (ish) of both
  • There are so many different places in Australia to see, and each is like a different country
  • The food in Sydney, and in Australia, is of very high quality
  • The Australian culture is fantastic. (Despite my recent discovery that Australians don’t like South Africans very much…)
  • Australians work hard and play hard. I enjoy the playing part the most, the working part takes a little getting used to
  • Outside of Sydney working hours, the people are relaxed and friendly. (Although sometimes a little too close for comfort)
  • We have a cute little home for a fraction of the rent we paid in the UK
  • I have been able to get into food blogging, and get involved in food blogging, which is something important in my life
  • I learned how to dive! YAY!
  • Our Christmases are hot. Often rainy, but hot.

As I am feeling all spring-like at the moment, I decided I would make a delicious loaf to celebrate the wonderful Sydney weather. Frank loves honey, and although I’m not the biggest fan, I thought I would give this recipe a go. It turned out rather tasty in the end!

Honey cake with honeyed almond crunch – recipe from the BBC Good Food website

175g slightly salted butter , softened, plus extra for greasing
85g clear honey, plus 4 tbsp for drizzling and extra to serve
85g caster sugar
85g ground almonds
200g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
100ml natural yogurt
2 large eggs , one separated, plus 1 extra egg white
85g flaked almonds

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease a 900g/2lb loaf tin and line with a strip of baking parchment that overhangs each end – this will help you lift the cake out when it is cooked.

Put the butter, honey, caster sugar, ground almonds, flour, baking powder, bicarb and yogurt into a large mixing bowl. Put the egg whites into another small bowl. Put the yolk and remaining whole egg in with all the other ingredients.

Whisk the whites until stiff, then put your electric beater into the other bowl of ingredients and beat until just smooth. Stir in a third of the whites, then gently fold in the rest with a wooden spoon. Tip the mix into the prepared tin, scatter over the flaked almonds and bake for 55 mins on the middle-lower shelf of the oven until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven. Quickly drizzle with 2 tbsp honey and scatter with a small pinch of fine salt. Put back in the oven for 5 mins more. Remove from the oven, drizzle with 2 more tbsp honey, then cool in the tin on a wire rack. Release stuck almonds from around the edge with a knife; then, using the parchment overhangs, carefully lift the cake from the tin. Eat in slices, drizzled with a little extra honey if you like.

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