Goji berry and almond rusks

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Rusks is a favorite for me. My mother bakes them religiously to this day and even though I prefer hers, it’s really easy and fun to make a batch and you know it going to taste pretty awesome as well.

It’s a relatively quick process, excluding the drying time once baked and cut.

This is a basic recipe that can be made without almonds, goji berries etc but if not why not!

750g butter, softened
1kg caster sugar
6 large free range eggs, beaten
3kg self-raising flour
60ml baking powder
1L buttermilk
400g almonds, broken
160g goji berries

Cream butter and sugar until thoroughly whipped and pale in colour. Add in eggs a little at a time until incorporated. Whisk in buttermilk
Sift flour and baking powder and fold into wet mixture. It’s going to be really sticky to start but just keep kneading the mixture.
When it’s all coming together but still a little crumbly spread out mixture and pour your flavourings out into the middle. Simply fold the dough over and into the almonds and goji berries until you have a nice soft velvety dough.
At this point you can divide the dough into balls the size of a plum and place them nice and tight together into a loaf pan prepared with non stick spray. I suppose you can say this is the traditional way of doing it, but if you just push the dough into the pans it won’t make a difference.

Bake for about 40 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius or until cooked. A knife will come out clean.
Allow the loaves to cool. They are fairly fragile so be careful when turning them out of the pans.
Once cooled cut into dunking sized pieces, and dry over night in the oven warming door or in a cool oven with the door kept slightly open. A wooden spoon will work well for this.

In the morning, brew a nice cup of tea and get ready to dunk.

Valrhona Chocolate Snowballs

Some leftover Italian Meringue and a plentiful supply of Valrhona Chocolate nibs makes a sweet treat out in the Stellenbosch Winelands today. I generally don’t like ‘messy food’ but every now and then a girl needs to be covered in molten chocolate and gooey meringue.

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Italian Meringue:

1 cup sugar
1 tbsp of glucose
4 egg whites
4 tsp water

Start by whipping the egg whites in a mixer. While this is going bring the sugar, glucose and water to a boil. Take to 120 degrees Celsius. When the egg whites are at stiff peak slowly pour in the sugar mix. Be careful of splatter! Continue beating till the mixture is cold. You now have a meringue that is stable and you can store in the freezer for future use.

To make the snowballs mix in good quality chocolate pieces and place a dollop of the mix on a prepared baking tray. Bake until the meringue starts to feel like its hardening. It won’t set like a normal meringue! About twenty minutes at 110 degrees Celsius.

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Koeksisters for grandma

Spring might (technically) be here, but I am still in full winter mode. Whether it’s the fact that at noon on a Sunday I am still in bed with the new additions to my cook book collection, the latest Taste magazine and a cup of coffee, I will still refer to it as being Winter. And as such I’m looking for recipes for my winter favorites.

I’m on a bit of a tangent since the only things I want to make at the moment are rusks, koeksisters and biscuits.
Anyone with a granny worth their weight in Maldon probably has ‘the best recipe ever’ for one of the above mentioned. My grandma definitely knew how to make koeksisters and she always seemed to do just that when I was growing up. That was the fun part of my gran (besides being the most awesome grandma in the whole wide world). Her house was about twenty meters away from our’s on the farm. A quick hop and skip beneath two magnificent Oak trees and in through the kitchen door I’d attempt to help her plait the dough ready for the hot oil. This wasn’t the easiest thing for me back then, having the attention span of a ‘miggie’ once they came out of the syrup.
These days it’s a lot more discipline even though I still can’t wait for the cookies to cool before eating one.

Luckily, going through all these recipes prove to be almost as satisfying as a fresh buttery biscuit.

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“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”

Kataifi and other Middle Eastern Delights

Downstairs in the Istanbul Modern there is a saying literally written on the wall. To my own despair I cannot remember the exact phrasing, but it goes a little something like this: With your first glimpse of the city you realize how very special the East truly is. I agree completely.
My first sight of anything other than African Soil was the city lights of Istanbul at night and what a sight it was.
Now that I have spent a little more time in Turkey and more soon to be experienced I have added it to my top ten places that I now enjoy.

But more about the food.

In Cape Town, my first experience with Kataifi pastry came via Mike Bassett and his Kataifi wrapped prawns. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to damning the pastry a few times since it dries out so very quickly while you are trying to wrap a hundred odd prawns at a time.

But this creation has nothing on the pistachio kataifi baskets with their crisp honey crunch.
There’s something so different about these pastries (besides the obvious). The very little sugar that is used in the making of the items makes it so much easier to want to try everything and not go into a sugar induced coma.

Then there are the Turkish Delights that come in more flavors than they do colors. They have a chewy side to them that I really do love. The shop bought ones and the ones we used to make at home just can’t compare with their softness.

If you are ever in Istanbul, try out both at Hafiz Mustafa. I stopped in there with Lisa from Do You Speak Cilantro. Open since 1864 they’ve got it down! Don’t forget to check out her blog either for a look at her own travel experiences.

Taormina, Italy

14 May 2012

Now I know that as far as gelato goes Portofino is the place you want to have one. But I had my first experience with the real deal in the little town of Taormina. The roasted taste of pistachio nuts along with the vivid green color was an experience of note as far as I’m concerned. And I will admit that after trying out a few more along way, including in Portofino, this was one of the better ones.

I’m quite excited to get back there in the very near future to explore a little more. But for the moment I can say that I enjoyed one hell of a gelato at the foot of an active volcano.

Chocolate Brownies makes my day

There are a few of the mysterious and deep questions of life that I’m trying to figure out.  Right now I’m focussed on why tea always tastes better when someone else makes it and why brownies will always taste better when you make them yourself.  With the right recipe of course.  And these will stand up and give the pimp hand to just about any brownie available in Cape Town.

Amazing Chocolate Brownies

375g dark chocolate

250g butter

200g sugar

4 large eggs

pinch of salt

105g flour

10ml vanilla

120g chopped hazelnuts

Topping

300g semi sweet chocolate, melted

Oven to 180 degrees

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler.  Set aside.  Beat the eggs and sugar until light and creamy.  Stir in the salt, flour and vanilla essence.  Add the chocolate butter mixture and stir in the nuts.  Spread the batter into a prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes until the centre is still soft and moist.

I’m not sure anymore where this recipe comes from, email me if you know.

Banana bread and butter pudding

When I want something good and homely nothing can compare with bread and butter pudding. I made some today with added banana and baked with a thick custard over the top.  Tastes like a night in with my best friends.

1 loaf of banana bread
Salted butter
1 liter milk (Cream is divine!)
6 yolks
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 ripe bananas, cut into thin slices

500ml ready made or store bought thick custard

Beat the eggs and milk (or cream) until you can’t see any yolk.
Slice the banana bread into normal thickness slices. Butter both sides and layer onto the bottom of 20 x 20 cm oven proof dish. Pour in enough of the egg milk mixture to just cover the bread. Press the banana into the gaps. Repeat this until the dish is full, or the bread is finished.
Cover with tin foil and bake at 180 C / 350 F for about 20 to 30 minutes or until just set.  Spread the custard over the top of the pudding as soon as it has just set and put back into the oven to finish cooking.

Have it like this or with some ice cream. Brilliant!

(another repost from my old blog that I loved to much to leave out)