Hello Chocolate lover! It’s been a while since I had a marathon baking session in my kitchen and it has been on my mind a lot lately to step out of my comfort zone and bake something that is a bit of a challenge to myself. As you all know I am self taught in the kitchen, an ordinary cook and baker with a passionate love for food….and cake! I watched and learned a lot in my late mom’s huge kitchen during my childhood and then put into practice all that I learned over the years, using my lovely family as guinea pigs, mostly surprising both them and myself with my offerings. But sometimes it is good to test yourself, to challenge what you know you can do and raise the bar a little bit. Sometimes, like when you watch those divine chefs on tv and wish you could do what they do, produce what they do to knock the socks off those you love…just every once in a while………
My opportunity arose a couple of weeks ago when I got a call from Woolworths SA , one of the main sponsors of Masterchef Celebrity SA, asking if I would be willing to collaborate with them on a “You Too Can Cook Like A Celebrity ” Challenge. Of course I totally fell in line and agreed when I heard what their special ingredient was going to be for the week….CHOCOLATE! I started gleaning all the information I could about how to work with chocolate and what all you can do with it. I kind of got a general idea of what I wanted to do very early and then started building my dream cake in my mind and on paper. It was so much fun heading to the foodstore and being able to blow the contents of my purse on some of the best quality ingredients that I could find – slabs of darkest chocolate, organic eggs, beautiful Ayrshire cream, unsalted butter, raw hazelnuts!
I spent a few day working on my recipe and then working out how best to carry it out. Although the missive was “it can be as simple as you want it to be or it can be as elaborate and fancy as you would like” I decided to go with elaborate. So bear with me…….the recipe is longish and involved but if you plan it all as I did and you can do some of it ahead of time it really isn’t all that difficult to assemble to parts.
CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT MERINGUE AND MOUSSE CAKE (made over 3 days)
(Serves 16 as it is a very rich dessert)
Moderately difficult as it involves a number of techniques but a delicious challenge and very satisfying when you see your guests faces and hear the oohs and aahs of delight!
CHOCOLATE MIRROR GLAZE (can be made up to 3 days in advance)
6g (3) Gelatin Leaves – soaked in 1 liter cold water until soft about 20 minutes
250g Granulated Sugar
50g Dark Cocoa Powder – sifted (I use NoMU)
100ml Woolworths Ayrshire Whipping Cream
50g 85% Lindt Dark Chocolate
Combine the sugar, cocoa powder, cream and water in a saucepan and heat over moderate heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved and it comes to the boil
Remove from the heat, stir in the chocolate pieces until melted
Squeeze most of the water out of the gelatin leaves then drop them into the hot chocolate glaze and stir until dissolved
Pass the glaze through a rough sieve and stir gently then allow to cool for about 15 minutes
Pass the glaze through a fine sieve so that it has no bubbles or tiny lumps in it. I hold the sieve close to the bowl so that no little bubbles form when it pours through
Set aside to cool enough to glaze the cake (if making beforehand seal once cooled and place in the fridge until required. You would have to warm it slightly to make it pourable before use if refrigerated)
HAZELNUT MERINGUE LAYERS:
4 XL egg whites
2.5ml cream of tartar
200 ml granulated sugar
125 ml Raw Hazelnuts – roasted in a dry pan until lightly browned then ground finely
1ml vanilla seeds
Pinch Maldon Salt flakes
Preheat oven to 110deg C and place rack on bottom shelf of oven
Line 2 30x20cm (ungreased) cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using the same springform pan bottom as a template trace a circle onto each sheet of paper then turn the paper over on the cookie sheets so that the pencil mark is on the underside
In a very clean metal mixing bowl using a very clean whisk beat the egg whites with vanilla seeds and cream of tartar until soft peaks form
Beat in the sugar gradually – 1 tablespoon at a time – until glossy stiff peaks form.
Fold in the ground hazelnuts gently using a metal spoon
Divide in half and spoon the meringue onto the paper using an offset spatula to spread it evenly inside the circles and smoothing the tops
Place both pans on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for about 1 hour until crisp and dry. Check it after 45 minutes as they are thin disks and ovens vary
Turn off oven and allow to cool for an hour before removing and cooling completely in the pan. Turn out onto wire racks and peel off the paper backing
Store in an airtight container until required. Can be made 2 or 3 days ahead of use
(You could make one thick meringue layer, baking for about 1 ½ hours and cooling for 2 hours in the oven if preferred but I wanted a 4 layer cake at the end of the process)
CHOCOLATE MOUSSE FILLING
100g 85% Chocolate – chopped
200g dark chocolate 70% – chopped
6 XL Egg Yolks – at room temperature
250g Philadelphia Cream Cheese – at room temperature
500ml Woolworths Ayrshire Whipping cream
6g Gelatin leaves – softened in 1 liter cold water for 20 minutes
120g Castor sugar
5ml Vanilla Extract
Place the egg yolks, cream cheese, vanilla extract and 100g of the sugar into a bowl and beat until pale and thick
Place the chopped chocolate in a glass bowl. Pour 200ml cream into a jug and micro on high until the cream just comes to the boil. Squeeze most of the water from the gelatin then whisk the leaves into the hot cream mixture. Pour this over the chopped chocolate and leave to melt then whisk gently until all the chocolate has melted
Pour the still hot chocolate mixture slowly over the beaten egg yolk mixture while the mixer is running on low and whisk until all mixed in. Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes before adding the whipped cream
Beat the rest of the cream and 20g sugar until stiff peaks form then add 2 tablespoons to the egg mixture to loosen and fold in. Fold in half of the remaining whipped cream gently and then fold the rest of it into the egg mixture until evenly distributed
Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge to set for a few hours
FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYERS: (repeat recipe for 2 layers)
4 XL eggs – separated (room temperature)
1 Egg Yolk only
200g Castor Sugar
130g 85% Chocolate (this amounts to 1 slab plus 3 blocks of Lindt)
50g Unsalted Butter
2,5ml Maldon Salt
1ml Vanilla seeds
Melt butter and chocolate in the microwave on low for 2 minutes – whisk after each minute then set aside to cool a bit once smooth
Preheat oven to 160deg C
Brush bottom and sides of a swissroll tin 30x25cm with melted butter then line with parchment paper. Brush paper with butter as well
Place egg whites into a very clean mixing bowl and beat on high with a very clean whisk or blades until frothy. Add half the sugar, 1 Tbs at a time, beating all the time until medium stiff glossy peaks form (not dry stiff peaks) Set aside
Place egg yolks, salt, vanilla and sugar into a second large mixing bowl and using the same blade or whisk beat on high speed until pale and thick – about 3 or 4 minutes
Beat the slightly cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture
Fold the egg whites gently into the chocolate mixture with a metal spoon until evenly distributed then pour the mixture into the prepared pan
Bake for 15 minutes then remove and cool
Repeat recipe for the second layer
Once cooled cut into 2 circles using a 23cm Springform pan as a template
Turn over onto a wire rack and place a warm wet tea towel over the base of the pan for just a few seconds to loosen the cake.
Remove the pan, peel off the paper, remove the offcut bits of cake and wrap the 2 circles gently in clingfilm (I use a piece of cardboard as a base as these cakes are delicate and light) and store in an airtight container.
Brush base and sides of a 23cm springform pan with melted butter. Line the base with a circle of parchment paper and brush paper with butter as well
Place the first chocolate circle into the base and drizzle 20ml of hazelnut liqueur over the cake
Place one third of the chocolate mousse filling on top and smooth with a spoon or spatula. Tap the pan gently on your counter top to fill up any gaps
Place a layer of hazelnut meringue onto the smoothed and straightened mousse in the pan, and fill with half the remaining mousse. Give another tap on the counter top to settle it all into place
Repeat with the second meringue layer and pour the remaining mousse over the top. Tap on the counter top again once or twice then smooth the top with an offset spatula until it is even and very smooth
Place the final chocolate cake layer on top and press down gently so that it is level with the top of the sides of the pan. Drizzle 20ml hazelnut liqueur over the cake then cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight before coating with the mirror glaze
UNMOULDING THE CAKE AND COVERING WITH THE MIRROR GLAZE:
Remove prepared mousse cake from the fridge and wrap a warm towel around it to loosen from the sides and bottom of the pan. Unclip and remove the sides of the springform pan and place cake on a wire rack over a clean baking tray (I left it on the base of the springform pan because it was easier and you don’t see the base at all once glazed)
Warm the mirror glaze in the microwave for 30 seconds, give it a gentle stir to mix then pour the glaze onto the centre top of the cold cake. Using an offset spatula level and spread it outwards and allow it to run over the sides of the cake, covering it completely. You can use the spatula to smooth the sides a bit if you like but the rippled patterns look quite good
Allow to stand for 15 minutes or so until it has set a bit then gently lift the cake and place it on a serving plate or board and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour to set completely
(the extra glaze that dripped into the baking tray can be lifted with a spatula and poured through a fine sieve to remove any cake crumbs and kept for dessert or ice cream topping (yummy with some chopped toasted hazelnuts swirled through it)
CANDIED HAZELNUTS (Prepare while the cake is cooling in the fridge)
20 Hazelnuts – lightly toasted (this will ensure you have extra to allow for breakages)
20 thin cocktail sticks with sharp ends
5ml lemon juice
Pack of Prestik or Blu-tack
Prepare a dripping space for the candied hazelnuts – underside of a cupboard hung over your counter top is ideal. Line the surface directly below with newspaper. Stick 20 balls of prestik (tick-tack or Blu-tack) evenly apart in a row on the underside of the cupboard (I did this the night before!)
Poke a wooden cocktail stick into the bottom of each hazelnut and set aside
Place a large pan of iced water close to the stove to stop cooking once the sugar is at the correct level of cooking (pan must be big enough to hold the saucepan)
Place the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Don’t stir but you can swirl the pan gently to ensure all the sugar has dissolved. You can wash down the sides of the saucepan with a brush dipped in cold water if needed to avoid crystals forming in the candy
Bring it to the boil over moderate heat then watch it carefully as it boils and allow it to turn a light to medium amber colour – no darker otherwise it goes bitter
Remove from heat once the desired colour has been reached and plunge the saucepan into the icy water bath to stop the cooking process and to cool the candy down for about 10 minutes. It is cool enough when you can dip the back of a wooden spoon into it and it forms a long slow droplet when you remove it. The shard of candy should be able to snap cleanly when cold
Gently dip and swirl the prepared hazelnuts into the candy then remove and stick the back ends of each cocktail stick into the prepared prestik balls, working from the ball furthest from you and allow to drip in long strands and cool and harden completely before removing the wooden sticks gently and breaking the beautiful candy spikes about 10cm or so from the hazelnuts (it was a damp humid day when I made mine so the spikes would not stand up. I remedied it by breaking the candy off close to the hazelnuts…not the same visual effect I was looking for but it worked well)
Remove cake from the fridge, decorate with the candied hazelnuts around the outer edge and some roughly chopped hazelnuts in the centre then cut into wedges and serve. We ate ours as is but you could cut the richness with a few fresh or frozen raspberries and a dollop of creme fraiche
Take a look at their beautiful page and get loads of new ideas of how you too can cook like a Celebrity Chef!
Thank you Woolworths SA for this lovely opportunity and challenge. I really enjoyed it.
Follow me on Instagram for more of my food pics
Bacon…..a word that makes me drool…and an ingredient that I love incorporating into recipes! It’s just one of the things I love about the low carb high fat lifestyle that I am following. So when I popped out to visit that lovely little organic market on the way to Noordhoek one chilly wet day last weekend and discovered a beautiful big celeriac root just waiting for me to grab I knew exactly what I wanted to make. Soup! And I knew just what I was going to cook it in too. A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by the PR agency for the home specialist store, Boardmans South Africa, who asked me if I would like to test
drivecook one of their Beka Ilano Saucepans, a new range from Europe now available at Boardmans. I jumped at the chance….I mean really, if you love food and you love to cook then cookware is your thing right? The new Beka range of cookware is suitable for all types of heating, including induction and oven cooking and it is made of stainless steel inside and out. The brief was to cook a one pot meal and I had been sent the 20cm sized saucepan which is an ideal size for Mr Brownieboy and myself. I really enjoyed working with this environmentally friendly little pot, it is light to handle although sturdy with a heavy bottom, it has an innovative flat glass lid with a little steam vent and it is calibrated up the inside wall which makes measuring a breeze. It is also attractive enough to grace a family dinner table. The Beka cookware range is dishwasher proof and comes with a 10 year warranty from date of purchase. I look forward to getting to know this baby much better over the next 10 years!
Now, let’s get onto the serious subject of the cooking! I have only used celeriac once before here , also in a soup but I wanted to change the flavours this time and decided to use the fabulous Richard Bosman bacon that I bought the same morning at the Foodbarn Deli at Noordhoek Village to do the flavouring. I also have some lovely French Tarragon growing in the garden so I knew that would give a lovely added flavour to this soup I was planning. Celeriac is an old friend of cooks, mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey which was composed during the 8th century BC, it is something that you don’t find very often in store around here so when you can find it grab it and take it home! The really ugly sister of the root veggies this vegetable is often overlooked because of its knobbly, gnarled outward appearance but inside…oh my it is white and creamy and delicious! Many also shy away from it because of the name…but don’t let that put you off, if you are not a celery lover this cousin doesn’t taste much like celery. It cooks up nicely and it purees beautifully smooth. So let’s get onto the soup. Husband, who is one of those who eats soup with really long teeth, absolutely loved this soup, ate the leftovers the next day and proclaimed them to be even more delicious. I gave the last mugful to my neighbour to try as she had never tried celeriac herself and wanted to know what it tasted like. She sent me a text message a little later saying she wants to come and live with me HAHA! This stuff wins hearts and influences neighbours!
CELERIAC AND BACON SOUP
1 Large Celeriac – to measure 500g when peeled and cubed
1 Large Onion
2 Medium sized Pears – peeled and chopped
4 Garlic Cloves – peeled and finely sliced
2 Litres Cold Water
120g Streaky Bacon (half of it diced up and the other half left whole)
Fresh Thyme – the leaves from 4 or 5 sprigs
10ml finely chopped Fresh Tarragon
5ml Fennel Seeds
500ml Full Fat Milk
1,5 Litres hot chicken or vegetable stock (I usually make my own stock but when I haven’t I prefer to use NoMU Fonds - the best IMO)
5ml Dijon Mustard
15ml finely chopped Fresh Parsley
Salt and White Peppercorns
Peel and chop the onions. Peel and slice the garlic
Finely grate the zest off of half the lemon and set aside
Peel and dice the pears and the celeriac. Place into a glass bowl and squeeze over all the juice from the lemon then add the cold water and set aside
Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan and add the onions and thyme leaves – allow to cook for 10 minutes over low heat until pale and translucent
Add the diced bacon to the pan and allow to saute until all the fat is rendered and the bacon is starting to crisp. Don’t let the onions burn while this is happening….stir often!
Drain chopped celeriac and pears from the water, discard water, add celeriac and pears to the saucepan with the zest, garlic and fennel seeds, stir fry for a minute or two to coat everything with the butter and rendered bacon fat in the pan
Add the tarragon and mustard and a good grinding of white peppercorns (no salt at this stage) and stir in the milk and heat through
Add the hot stock up to the 2 litre calibrated mark in the saucepan and bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat to low, cover saucepan with lid and allow to simmer for 20 minutes
Remove from the heat, allow to cool for 10-15 minutes
While waiting for the soup to cool down fry the remaining bacon strips until crisp then set aside
Blend the soup in the saucepan with a handheld stick blender until silky smooth (or use a food processor)
Return to the heat, add the parsley and 200ml cream and heat through gently – don’t boil
Taste and season with salt and white pepper if necessary
Divide soup into 4 warmed bowls, swirl in some extra cream or creme fraiche, crumble over a bit of crispy bacon and some black salt flakes (optional) and serve with a seed bread
I served mine with the wonderful #LCHF #banting friendly seeded flax and almond meal loaf that I baked the day before. So an all round guilt free, healthy for you, meal. Pure comfort on a cold winters day. Seed loaf recipe to follow soon as promised to all those who have asked for it.
I have since used the Beka saucepan to potroast a small sirloin roast on top of the stove that came out beautifully tender and moist and so full of flavour. I can see I am going to have some fun times in the kitchen with Mz Beka!
Thank you to Boardmans for providing the cookware for this review. In accordance with my blog policy I have declared that I received free product for this review, I did not, under any circumstances, receive monetary payment as incentive to write positively about the product. The expressed opinion of said product is my honest and personal opinion and view.
Have a super new week blog readers,
And do go in search of celeriac and try this soup! I know you will love it.
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 delicious seed bread or crackers
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