Posts Tagged 'cooking'

Simple “French” Roast Beef

When Frank and I decide to cook roast beef two things happen. 1. We immediately forget how to cook roast beef. It’s as if we have never cooked it before, and 2. We become French.

I love cooking roasts on the weekend, and Saturday was a great day for trying another roast beef. The first time I made it the oven turned off on its own (??) and it was still moo-ing when it came out. The second time I made it the roast was tasty, but resembled boot-leather.  So when we put the beef in the trolley this time I hoped it would be third time lucky!

When it came time to make the roast, Frank gallantly volunteered to take charge of it. Frank isn’t a big fan of cooking, and despite making one of the best omlettes I have ever eaten, he doesn’t like forcing people to eat the food he’s cooked. But when he does get into the kitchen you’re guaranteed to have the giggles!
This is when the French started. The beef was only referred to as le boef, and as he was frying it he was yelling “wee wee” and making weird noises in a french accent. Le boef was treated very well, and got sweet nothings whispered to it while in the pan, which must have worked as the beef turned out really well! We used the time parameters below, which worked for us. Frank tried to use his new meat thermometer, but it was registering as still cold on this inside when in fact it was perfectly cooked, so perhaps we won’t go with the thermometer next time.

This recipe makes a delicious roast beef that isn’t dry at all, so it wouldn’t need to be marinated beforehand. But if you like different flavours, soaking it in a little red wine and garlic wouldn’t go amiss. And don’t forget to speak to it in a French accent…

Simple roast beef – Frank’s way
Serves 4

1.25 kg topside beef
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp mixed herbs
2 tsp barbeque spice mix
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 220C. Heat a pan on the stove and sear meat on all sides to seal in juices.

Place on a roasting rack, and fill base with 1 cup water/stock.

Place beef in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180C and cook for 40 minutes (for medium rare)
Allow to rest for 15 minutes, carve and serve with mustard or gravy!

If you like your beef cooked more, or less, here are the recommended times for topside:
Cook for 220C for 15 minutes and then turn down to 180C for:
– rare: 10-15 minutes per 500g beef
– medium: 15-20 minutes per 500g beef
– well done: 20-25 minutes per 500g beef


Portuguese-style kebabs

Please stop me if I’ve told you this before, but I cannot sing. And, I cannot dance. (Unless you consider dancing like a cardboard cut-out/a parent from the 40’s good dancing). This second revelation may or may not have come as a surprise to my dancing teacher, who bravely attempted to teach me modern dancing until I was eighteen.

Despite the fact that I danced for most of my younger years, I am completely inflexible. When I was sixteen my physiotherapist told me his grandfather was more flexible than me. If I drop something in the morning when I’ve just gotten out of bed, I have to leave it for Frank to pick up.

After Frank told me that my inflexibility will only get worse as I get older (to which I responded “can it get any worse??”) I decided to take up yoga at the local gym. Not only does it help with flexibility, but it allows you to calm yourself for the hour you are doing it. But sadly, I am not calm! When I first started the yoga teacher looked at me in horror and pretended I wasn’t there, hoping I would give up and move on. But it has made me more eager to eventually touch my toes without bending my legs (I have never been able to. Ever.) so I’ve signed on to a smaller class at my work. It starts on Tuesday so I’ll let you know if the new teacher weeps at the sight of me!

My homework on this diet is to relax. Hence the added “benefit” of yoga. But the hobby that relaxes me the most is baking, which I haven’t been able to do. So, just to be in the kitchen doing something, I whipped up these diet-friendly chicken kebabs. You can make them as spicy (or not) as you like, and the marinade keeps them deliciously tender. They can be cooked in the oven, but we did them on the barbeque to give them some extra flavour. I hope you enjoy them!

Portuguese-style kebabs – adapted from AWW’s ‘Slow cooking’ recipe book
Makes 12 skewers

12 wooden skewers, soaked for 30 mins in water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp grated lemon rind
1/3 cup lemon juice
4 fresh small thai chillies (I used 1 big red chilli as I was making it for kids)
1 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp fresh thyme
1 red capsicum
4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks

Blend or process 2 tbsp of the oil, garlic, lemon rind, lemon juice, chillies, paprika and thyme until smooth.

Pour into a large bowl and mix with tomato paste and final tbsp of oil.

Add chicken chunks and toss into marinade. Leave in the fridge for a minimum of two hours, or overnight.

Cut red capsicum into similar sized chunks to chicken, and thread chicken and capsicum onto skewers.

Frank, mid-skewer..

BBQ until cooked, or bake in oven at 180C for 35-40 mins, turning once.
Serve with a salad, and some polenta fries if you can stop everyone from eating them first!

Sticky banoffee cake

I’m back! Apologies for my absence. My wonderful family has been and gone, and took with them a good taste of what the Promised Land has to offer them. But I miss them terribly and I can’t wait until they move here!

When I was a kid, nothing much irritated me. But as a 20-something year-old, I seem to have added quite a few things to the “PLEASE don’t do” list. At first I thought it was inherited, but now I realise that it is an inevitable symptom of getting older. Things just seem to irritate people more the older they get. Which doesn’t bode well considering many things already fire me up!

I was told off by an older lady last week for dragging my feet. Considering I wasn’t walking very far, I couldn’t understand why this would annoy her so much. She also likes to stand behind me and pull my shoulders back (I slouch something terrible), which reminds me of what my Gran used to do when I was a teenager.

The school run on the train has always annoyed me. Of course, “in my day”, we would have given our seats to adults. But we didn’t catch trains in South Africa, and I had the luxury of the front seat of our car (if I was lucky/made a deal with dude) so I wouldn’t really know how I would have reacted. But still!

And on the note of getting older (sorry Whitters, you are still a pup), it was Frank’s brother-in-law’s birthday last week. As is tradition, I made a cake to celebrate. Whitters is one of the best audiences to bake for – he loves baked goods and isn’t too fussed if they don’t look lovely as long as they taste lovely. Since he loves banana cake (well, I hope he does), I decided to make a banoffee banana cake. And since I had loads of icing left over, I made another one for the Pig Palace! The cake was simple to make, and tastes delicious! Perfect for afternoon tea…

Sticky banoffee cake – recipe from the BBC Good Food website

200g caster sugar
200g softened butter
4 eggs , beaten
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 mashed, ripe bananas

For the filling:

284ml double cream
4 tbsp tinned caramel/banoffee toffee

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Butter two 20cm sandwich tins and line with non-stick baking paper. In a large bowl, beat all the cake ingredients together including the vanilla extract and 2 mashed, ripe bananas, until you have a smooth, soft batter.

Divide the mixture between the tins, smooth the surface with a spatula or the back of a spoon, then bake for about 20 mins until golden and the cake springs back when pressed. Turn onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.

For the filling, whip the double cream and fold through the Banoffee toffee. To serve, spread half of the cream over one of the cakes.Sandwich together, then cover with more cream then decorate the cake with an elegant drizzle of Banoffee toffee. Keep in an airtight container and eat within 2 days.

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.

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

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

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