So I went forth and, finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night
And He led me toward the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
So, heart, be still!
What need our little life, our human life, to know if God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife of things, both high and low, God hideth His intention.
The Desert 1908
Marie Louise Haskins 1876 – 1957
Where has the year gone? Months have passed since I did my last blog post. It is incredible to sit here and close my eyes and know that 2014 is knocking very loudly and insistently at the door of our lives and there is just nothing you can do to stop it’s entry! My 5 year old grandson Jay said the other day when he looked at a shiny new calendar that I had been gifted “I’m really going to miss 2013 Nan. I don’t know if I will like 2014!” I smiled at him but it made me think that a year becomes a bit like a friend or companion…..something familiar that you become used to having around and getting comfortable with. That certainly has been the case for little Jay, he has really had a good year, has loved his teacher and class mates at pre-school and didn’t want that to end. Looking back on my year and at what has transpired is a good thing for me as I see how far I have come from where I was 12 months ago. I said goodbye to my 5th decade and embraced my 6th! I said goodbye finally, after two years and 6 surgical reconstructive procedures, to my facio-maxillary surgeon and slowly started doing normal things once again….simple things like visiting a mall and doing my own grocery shopping, like going for walks on the beach or through the wetlands with my hubby and hound, like attending functions and events again. Re-integrating back into society is something that I have found really difficult to do. After spending so long away from the social scene and being on your own it is quite a painful process of getting out there again. I also eventually got shot of all the medication I have been on for the past couple of years and starting sailing this ship on my own again! These past 2 1/2 years have been some of the hardest that I have ever lived through and without the love and incredible support of my precious husband and family and some wonderful friends I have no idea how I would have managed to get where I am today.
It was also a very wet winter here in the Western Cape and it was discovered that some of the local telephone lines become water logged during the rain so I have had to cope with very intermittent internet connectivity….a factor that stopped me blogging and also forced me to postpone the SA Food and Wine Blogger Indaba until 22 February 2014. Which turned out to be a huge personal blessing because just after the postponement announcement was made my oldest brother suffered a massive stroke that paralysed him down his dominant right side. With the Indaba only taking place in February I was able to go to him and help care for him while his wife and son were at work during the days. I also took over most of the cooking and baking chores as Rey has always done all the cooking. I spent two months with them on the farm in the Eastern Free State, near the Lesotho border far away from the city lights, and it was the most special time ever for me. I have always been a very frustrated farmgirl at heart, living life in the city ~ and how often in this life does a girl get to bond in such a wonderful and personal way with a sibling, especially a brother? So being there for that time was an incredible personal journey for me. Yes, I was separated from Don and my kids and grandkids and sometimes in the dark hours I just felt I needed to get home but next morning the sun was shining again and I was so incredibly blessed, in so many ways….I long for those days now and I plan to go back again ….this time when the quinces and figs are ready to harvest! And hopefully the peacocks won’t be so vocal! Turning around while working in the pantry and seeing this sight at the window always made me laugh out loud and I laugh now looking back at the photos!
As you can see in the pic above there was a dreadful drought while I was there and every day when I spoke on the phone to my family I would ask if the south easter was blowing back home because, what we always moan about here in the Cape, the south easterly wind that blows incessantly sometimes, is what is needed to bring rain to the rest of the country! I look at the prevailing summer wind in a different light now, and when it starts blowing I excitedly call my brother Rey and tell him…..and sure enough a couple of days later he calls to tell me about the rain that is falling on the farm. It is all beautifully green now and his garden, that was virtually non existent, is back to its full colourful, blooming splendour. I wish I was there to see it!
One of our last family outings for this year was a drive to Ceres on Saturday to visit Klondyke Cherry Farm. We took Ty and Jay with us and we had so much fun in the orchard and returned home with over 5kgs of delicious freshly picked cherries.
I have also had fun working in the kitchen with part of the stash of cherries that we brought home. I have made some cherry conserve that I am looking forward to enjoying with some camembert on a cheeseboard one of these days, I plan to pickle some tomorrow and I also made this delightful dessert on Sunday evening when my son and his girlfriend came around for a braai.
Cherry clafoutis! When I told my son what I had made he was like “Say WHAT Mom? Did you just swear at me”? Hahahaha…..but the proof is always in the eating and he was rendered silent while savouring and enjoying this classic French dessert. I scoured the web for recipes and eventually adapted one for myself based on recipes from Michel Roux and Raymond Blanc. This is how I made mine…
Serves 8 (you could easily halve the recipe)
500g Ripe Cherries – washed, stalks removed and pitted
15ml Castor Sugar
100 g butter, melted and slightly cooled
4 Free Range Eggs
100 g plain flour
100ml Fresh Cream
150ml Whole Milk
100g Castor Sugar
Knife point of Vanilla Seeds – I use the Vanilla Man brand
10ml Granulated Sugar
1. Pour the kirsch and the 15ml sugar over the pitted cherries, cover and allow to macerate for about an hour or so. This is optional. Use fresh cherries if preferred.
2. Preheat the oven to 180deg Celcius and butter a deep pie dish (22cm diameter round or 27x17cm rectangular). Add 10ml sugar to the dish and shake it around to coat the bottom and sides then shake out the excess.
3. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl with a whisk or standing mixer
4. Gradually beat in the flour then add and beat in the melted butter
5. Whisk in the milk and cream followed by the sugar and vanilla seeds (I like to stir my seeds through the sugar first so that they don’t clump together)
6. Add the cherries and their juices to the batter and stir through then pour the batter into the prepared pie dish – you can skip the macerating and use fresh cherries as they are in which case you need to spread them evenly over the bottom of the prepared dish before pouring over the batter.
7. Place dish on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until done but the middle must still have a slight wobble.
8. Sprinkle with the final 10ml granulated sugar and leave to cool for 10-15 minutes.
9. Serve the clafoutis warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
YUM! Son and his girl went home with an extra generous portion each!
Christmas was a quiet family affair for us with the usual flurry of baking and roasting and cooking. I have had the pleasure again of taking care of my precious grandboys while their mom and dad have worked (I can breathe easily and say that now that the parents are on leave and I am freed from my duties haha)
It has become a bit of a tradition for me to begin each New Year on my blog with the beautiful poem written above and I encourage everyone to read it as you welcome 2014! We are off to participate in another ritual that is becoming a tradition for us….we’re taking a picnic up the mountain to watch the sun set on 2013. Hoping that the wind doesn’t do what it traditionally does and that is to blow so strongly that we end up sitting in the car drinking our champagne and I get out to take one or two pics while hanging on for dear life to my camera so that it doesn’t end up at the bottom of the cliff in the ocean!
I wish all my readers an awesome celebration tonight. Stay safe and may 2014 be filled with all that you hold dear.
Tomorrow is the first blank page of a new 365 page book…
Be sure to write a bestseller!
Mushrooms! One of my absolute favourite ingredients to cook with. They are so versatile and there is so much that you can do with them. For the two years that I was undergoing my reconstructive surgeries I was unable to eat anything with a particular texture and mushrooms were just taboo…I did have some in bought cream of mushroom soup – most of it tasteless white stuff in a bowl or cup that I could not really identify with any mushroom….that deep earthy umami flavour was just missing and I longed for mushrooms, big brown ones stuffed with yummy delights and braaied outside over the coals, or delicious little marinated buttons that I could just pop in my mouth and taste the burst of flavour….whole baby mushrooms in a lively rich Boeuf Bourguignon or in a creamy beef stroganoff, or sliced porcinis and exotics in a delicious creamy mushroom and blue cheese risotto… ..Stir fried shiitake and exotics in an Asian Stir Fry! Oh I could go on and on! I have had my fill of mushrooms in all kinds of dishes since I have been able to eat them again these past 3 months or so and I am not tiring of them….last week, during the incredibly cold winter snap where the snow was falling on the surrounding mountains and we here at the coast were shivering in the bone biting accompanying wind and rain, I suddenly had the yearning to be holding a steaming bowl of homemade soup in my hands. I managed to get hold of my son who happened to be working locally that day and he went via the shop and bought me some fresh mushrooms and leeks and I set about picking thyme and parsley from the garden during a break in the rain. The aromas that filled the house were amazing. When hubby got back home from work he was very appreciative of the homely delicious smells that wafted out to meet him on the driveway. I put a phone pic up on facebook of my saucepan full of sauteeing mushrooms leeks, thyme and garlic and got a lot of reaction out of it with friends asking for the recipe.
Unfortunately with all the rain our telephone cables got wet, as they do, so I was without internet for the better part of the week and weekend. Today I was so excited to get onto my blog, it is a very welcome and bright sunshiny day and I have 3 loads of laundry flapping in the slight breeze! And here I am in the dashboard of my blog finally and hoping for enough time on the interwebs to be able to write up my recipe and publish it in time for Meatless Mondays…..
EASY MUSHROOM SOUP
Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter
250g Fresh Portabello Mushrooms (or Portabellini) – wiped and sliced
250g Button Mushrooms – wiped and sliced (Keep 4-6 small mushrooms aside for later)
15g dried Porcini Mushrooms – roughly broken up and placed in a bowl
250ml Boiling Water – pour over the dried mushrooms and leave to soak while preparing the rest of the ingredients
4 Large Leeks – finely sliced and washed well to remove any sand
2 cloves garlic – peeled and finely sliced
10 Sprigs Fresh Thyme – leaves stripped off and twigs discarded
50ml Olive Oil
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1,5liters Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1 Cup fresh flat-leaf parsley – washed and chopped (keep 5ml for garnishing later)
1 lemon – finely grated zest and juice
Extra Virgin Olive Oil to drizzle on soup when serving
Place a large saucepan on medium heat, add the olive oil and butter, then add your leeks. Saute until leeks are limp
Add the sliced fresh mushrooms and the garlic and thyme and sauté until the liquid from the mushrooms is almost evaporated
Strain the soaking liquid from the dried porcini mushrooms, add the mushrooms to the pan and add the liquid from them to the pan as well, being careful not to add the last few drops as they usually have a bit of grit in them from the mushrooms
Add the stock and a good grinding of black pepper. Bring to the boil, cover partially and simmer gently for about 20 minutes
Remove from the heat and using a stick blender blend the soup in the saucepan until it is smooth (use a regular blender if you don’t have the stick blender)
Return soup to the heat, season to taste with salt and more pepper if needed and stir in the parsley (keep 5ml back for garnishing)
Finely grate the zest from the lemon and set aside then squeeze the juice into the soup
Stir through the mascarpone and season to taste. You want a good balance of salt, pepper, sour from the lemon, sweet creaminess from the mascarpone and the earthiness of the mushrooms
Using the last few whole mushrooms slice them thinly then add a knob of butter to a small frying pan and add the mushrooms together with a roughly bashed clove of garlic (I don’t even peel it just use as is)
Saute until the mushrooms are brown and crisp but not burnt. Discard the garlic and drain the mushroom slices on paper towel
Add 5ml finely chopped parsley and some finely grated lemon zest, black pepper and salt flakes to the mushrooms – mix together and set aside for garnishing the soup
Ladle hot soup into warmed soup bowls and sprinkle a bit of the mushroom mixture on top of the soup in each bowl
Drizzle a few drops of extra virgin olive oil onto each bowl and serve with crispy croutons or bread sticks
Comfort food. A lot of foods fall into this category for me…..steaming soups, stick meat on your ribs stews and casseroles, a bowl of delicious pasta, risotto, a roast leg of lamb or pork or whole chicken with all the yummy trimmings……and cookies, or biscuits as they are better known to me. Especially the biscuits that take me back to my childhood and these custard creams sure do that. The custard creams were one of my favourites out of all the biscuits that my Mom baked. She used to bake a lot….partly to make a living and partly for us 5 children. I can close my eyes now and smell the aromas that greeted us kids as we neared our home after the long walk home from school. I can see the colourful row of biscuit tins (some with such pretty animal pictures on the lids) on the top pantry shelf where we were not supposed to be able to reach, each one filled to the top with a different flavour and shape of cookie. I can see the old cast iron Welcome Dover wood stove in the kitchen, fire crackling in the grate and my Mom slaving away pulling batch after batch of perfect biscuits from that oven. And cakes….and Christmas cakes! Oh my! Only in later years, as a baker myself with a wonderful electric oven and an accurate oven thermometer, can I really appreciate how difficult it must have been to create such magnificent cakes and baked goodies using that old stove. But my Mom had it waxed….must have taken years of practice surely.
With the miserable weather in Cape Town lately I have had a sudden yearning to bake biscuits. I had been paging through my recipe book with some of my favourite of my Moms recipes in it and wondering which biscuits to bake. During one of my brief blog reading sojourns I came across a blog post about custard biscuits and I suddenly knew I had to bake my Moms custard creams. I used to bake them regularly when my children were young but I suddenly realized I had not baked them in years…certainly not in the last 15 years or so! It was time to remedy that! Delicious nostalgia!
OLD FASHIONED CUSTARD CREAMS
Makes about 44 single cookies (depending how big you roll the balls of cookie dough)
180g Butter at room temperature
180g All Purpose Flour
60g Custard Powder
60g Icing Sugar
Knife tip of Vanilla Seeds
Preheat the oven to 170o Celcius and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven
Line a cookie sheet with parchment
Place the butter and vanilla seeds into the bowl of an electric mixer, sieve the icing sugar over the butter then whisk until very light and fluffy
Sieve the flour, salt and custard powder into over the mixture then mix in until incorporated using a dough hook or k-blade.
Pinch off small balls (mine weigh 10g each) and roll the balls between your palms, placing them a little bit apart onto the lined baking sheet
Place in the preheated oven and bake for 10-12 minutes
Remove when lightly golden and place onto a wire rack to cool completely
These biscuits must not really darken, I left mine in the oven slightly too long
When cool match like sized and shaped cookies and frost them together with a bit of icing dolloped onto the middle of one half then pressing two cookies together
125ml sifted Icing Sugar
10ml Soft Butter
Mix the butter and sugar together with enough lemon juice to form a soft spreadable frosting. Dollop a small amount in the middle of one biscuit and spread to the edges by gently pressing the matching biscuits together. Allow to set before enjoying! They are also delicious iced together with a bit of chocolate ganache
This is kind of what I remember our old wood stove looking like. I found this photograph on the internet here
Imagine baking all those perfect cakes and biscuits in that oven?
These are wonderful cookies to make as a project with your young children or grandchildren. They have a lovely texture and are fun to roll between your palms and then press with a fork. The dough is also highly addictive
More than just guacamole you said didn’t you ZZ2Farming? Show us innovative ways to use our delicious avocados you wrote in your brief for the #Afrikado challenge! Well….I adore a good guacamole and I just don’t get to eat it often enough. I have been thinking and thinking about innovative ways to use avocado (other than making guacamole out of them) and I have come up with quite a few…from grilling them, baking chocolate brownies with them and making pasta sauce with them. More than anything I wanted to turn the “more than just guacamole” phrase on it’s head and show the judges that there are more ways to skin an avo than they think I am very fond of Mexican or Tex-Mex food, especially if it is spicy with delicious creamy avocado fruit added! So I came up with something that I think is really innovative….and kind of
cheeky sneaky! I love a plate of nachos with guacamole and I love cheesecakes and tarts of all kinds, savoury and sweet. So I thought to combine the flavours of a plate of delicious spicy Nachos and came up with this…
I had to go easy on the spiciness and big on flavor because as you all know I have a better half who does not like chilli too much. Well, he thinks he doesn’t but over the years I have been slowly adding a bit more each time to our meals so that his taste buds could acclimatize and get used to it and it has worked…up to a point haha! His tolerance for chilli has definitely increased but one CAN go a chilli too far! So up the chilli ante if you are inclined to. I made half the salsa mild and the other half very spicy for those taste testers who like the heat. It was a great hit and rated quite high on the innovation scale for the tasters. One or two asked how it could possibly be served heated like a plate of Nachos with ooey gooey melted cheese but I have yet to find an answer to that one…It would be fabulous!
This was a success and would be delicious as a light lunch on a lazy, hot summers day. I can just imagine that sipping on a salty margarita while eating this would be superb. We enjoyed ours on a cold wintry Cape day with a glass of deliciously clean, crispy and fruity Slanghoek Sauvignon Blanc. It is my third and final entry into the #Afrikado More Than Just Guacamole Challenge. Follow @ZZ2Farming or myself @Collywolly or follow the hashtag #Afrikado to check out all the entries.
NACHOS AND GUACAMOLE TART WITH SALSA SOUR CREAM AND CHEDDAR CHEESE
Serves 6-8 as a starter portion
1ml Chilli Powder
20g Finely Grated Parmesan Cheese
100g Butter – melted
• Blend the nachos until fairly fine crumbs
• Add the parmesan and chilli powder and mix through
• Add the melted butter and mix together then press into the bottom and sides of a shallow pie dish, smoothing the surface
• Refrigerate until needed
1 large tomato, skinned, seeds removed and diced
1 Clove Garlic – peeled and sliced or chopped
½ Medium Red Onion – peeled and finely chopped
1 Red Chilli, seeded and chopped (I used El Burro Chipotle en Adobo for the smokiness)
½ Lime Zest and juice
200g Ripe Avocados flesh
5ml Cumin Seeds (toasted and finely ground)
65ml Coriander (Cilantro) leaves – roughly chopped
Tabasco to taste
• Mix all guacamole ingredients (excepting the avocado) together then blend until fine
• Add the avocado flesh and blend again until creamy
• Season to taste with the salt, pepper and Tabasco (I used 5ml)
• Cover with cling film and set aside until needed
3 leaves Gelatin
250g Cream Cheese
60ml Bulgarian Yoghurt
250g Homemade Guacamole
Sweet Ground Paprika
Finely Ground Cayenne Pepper
• Prepare the gelatin leaves by soaking in 1 liter cold water for 20 minutes then squeezing out the cold water and dropping them into 15ml boiling water to dissolve – stir and set aside to cool slightly
• In a large mixing bowl whisk cream cheese and yoghurt until smooth
• Add the gelatin and whisk in
• Fold in the prepared guacamole and blend well
• Taste and adjust seasoning if required – I needed to add more salt
• Pour into the prepared crust and smooth over the surface with a spatula
• Sprinkle top with a bit of cayenne pepper and sweet paprika
• Refrigerate for 4 hours or more
1 Large tomato – skinned, seeded and finely chopped
½ Red Onion – finely chopped
½ Red Chilli – seeded and finely chopped
¼ Cucumber peeled and finely chopped,
½ Lime – finely grated zest and juice (use lemon if you can’t get lime)
salt & pepper to season
• Mix all together, taste and season then cover and refrigerate until needed
Whip to soft peaks or use creme fraiche if you prefer
If you don’t have sour cream you can sour fresh cream by adding lemon juice until it starts to thicken and tastes sour enough
Remove the tart from the fridge half an hour before needed
Cut into wedges or squares (depending on your pan shape) and serve with a spoonful of salsa, a dollop of sour cream and some grated sharp cheddar cheese
Enjoy! Have a great weekend. The weather forecast for Cape Town is cold and wet!
Thank you ZZ2 Farms for this fun challenge. I had a lot of fun in the kitchen.
Dislcaimer: All participants who have participated in this challenge will receive a Woolworths voucher valued at R200. The most innovative, winning recipe – chosen by a panel of judges will receive a R2000 Woolworths shopping voucher as well as a lovely ZZ2 hamper.
Autumn means comfort food. After all the salads and light meals throughout the hot summer our thoughts turn to casseroles, big bowls of pasta, thick velvety soups, risottos. I love this time of year. Finally, that blustery south easterly wind is blowing autumn to our shores. The nights are lengthening and the days are getting shorter. I would say this is definitely my favourite of the four seasons. I am not so keen on the rainy, windy, dark winter months but this time of year when the mornings and evenings are clear and crisp with just a hint of moisture in the air and the intense heat of the summer has disappeared to be replaced by deliciously cooler days filled with sunshine and blue skies is the time that I come into my own. I feel a renewed energy and my kitchen once again beckons me into it’s warmth and I create magic, comforting meals, steam rising in a delicious aromatic fog from the pots to envelope me. When my husband comes in from work in the evening he breathes deeply and appreciatively and settles down to tell me about his work day and ask about mine, our hands wrapped around a glass of red wine, the difficulties of the day slipping away while we chat or sit in companionable silence, sipping on our wine and enjoying the delicious meal that I prepared a bit earlier. I love a creamy risotto and could enjoy it often if I weren’t watching my carb intake but sometimes it just makes the perfect meal. Recently we have been able to purchase the most gorgeous exotic mushrooms here in South Africa and, after almost two years of not being able to eat them, I am loving them! These little babies come onto the shelves of our food stores courtesy of Nouvelle Mushrooms and are fabulous!
A couple of years ago I really got into cooking my own risottos and at the same time I also became rather keen on mild blue cheese after tasting some at a Simonsberg tasting. So, a few weeks ago, I decided to combine these wonderful ingredients and made the most deliciously creamy exotic mushroom and blue cheese risotto. I promised that I would post the recipe but then my computer started playing silly buggers and I had to wait. Anyway, my carnivore hubby asked again last night if I would make the risotto as we had picked up more mushrooms but unfortunately I did not have any arborio rice left….so instead it became a fantastic Meatless Monday meal.
CREAMY EXOTIC MUSHROOM AND BLUE CHEESE RISOTTO WITH WALNUTS
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Serves : 4
30ml Olive Oil
200g Exotic Mushrooms, wiped clean and the bigger ones chopped up
200g Baby Button Mushrooms wiped clean and thinly sliced
2 Medium sized Onions – peeled and finely chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic – peeled and finely chopped or grated
4 or 5 sprigs fresh Thyme – leaves only
500g Arborio Rice
180ml Dry White Wine
1 ½ Liters Chicken or Vegetable Stock *
30g Finely Grated Parmesan Cheese
150g Simonzola or other Blue Cheese
Freshly ground Black Pepper
15ml chopped fresh parsley
20g Walnuts – dry roasted in a pan and set aside, chop roughly when cool
*I love making my own stocks at home but if I don’t have any and time is short I only use my fave NoMU Fond product in Lamb, Beef, Chicken and Vegetable Flavours – this fabulous concentrated liquid stock product contains no artificial colourants, flavor enhancers or preservatives and are gluten-free!* WINNER!