And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards 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.
God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.
Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.
written by Minnie Louise Haskins
2014 came and went in a flurry of excitement and activity for me. After 2 years of being housebound due to a series of oral and jaw surgeries spanning the two years it was amazing to be free and to start living again. And live I did! I have done SO much and experienced so much and been blessed in more ways than I can ever say. Some of my year’s highlights were:
organizing and holding the most successful Food and Wine Bloggers Indaba to date during February 2014 – my lovely business partner Jeanne from Cooksister who was helping with the organizing from London sadly had a very bad fall while skiing in France earlier in February and smashed her femur so I had to take over all the final two weeks admin and organizing and, because she was unable to attend or fulfill her duties as speaker and presenter of two workshops, I had to find some last minute folk to step into the gap. After some serious panicking and sucking on bottles of Rescue Remedy it all eventually came together and was truly a superb day. I am so grateful to my amazing family who stepped up to the plate and threw themselves into assisting me at that stage. It has taken a long while but Jeanne has made a great recovery through 2014 and is currently visiting in Cape Town and I look forward to meeting with her over breakfast next week. A blog post about the Indaba is currently being written and will be posted next week.
2 trips – 4 weeks during March/April and the month of September to spend time with my brother Rey, who suffered a serious stroke during 2013 that has left him paralysed down the right side, and his wife and son on the farm in the Free State. Oh how much I loved the special time of bonding and relaxing, coffee mornings on the stoep with just Rey and I, chatting about so much and hearing nothing but birdsong and the buzzing of insects, watching magnificent sunsets from the verandah, cooking and baking in the big farmhouse kitchen. And walking in the sun while everyone was freezing back home. Those lazy afternoon naps just don’t seem to happen here at home.
Then in May I won fabulous tickets to the DSTV Delicious Festival in Johannesburg as well as airline tickets and accommodation for the weekend for Donald and I. Along with that prize came a beautiful solar jar which has come in very handy throughout the load shedding periods and a bottle of Moet & Chandon, which we finally cracked open this evening to say a delicious farewell to the old year.
In October I won another competition – yes I do enter lots of them and yes I do win….quite often! This was a once in a lifetime trip on the magnificent The Blue Train – SA’s Blue Jewel – the most luxurious train in the world, courtesy of First Choice Custard, who currently have another awesome competition running so buy their custard and enter! A trip on the Blue Train has been a bucket list item for Donald and one we certainly could never have attained at the price of around R14,000 per person per night. The trip included flights up to ORT in Johannesburg, a very comfortable chauffered drive to the Sheraton Pretoria Hotel where we spent the night in an executive suite with a bed so high my feet were at least a foot off the ground and I had to shout for Don to hear me on the other side of it Our view was magnificent – the Union Buildings with a giant Madiba, arms raised benevolently, watching over us! We were treated like royalty for the duration of the trip and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. A blog post about the trip will follow soon.
During the year I also reinvented myself – I lost almost 30kg of myself and 100cms of me has disappeared into the ether. I was approached to be interviewed, made up and photographed for Good Housekeeping SA magazine’s January edition, along with 6 other fabulous ladies who have all lost large amounts of weight. That was loads of fun although I was nervous as anything. I have discovered that beauty and fashion editors are the most enchanting people around. They make you feel so comfortable and relaxed that even the photo shoot is a breeze. The magazine is on shelves now if anyone is interested in reading my story. I will continue in 2015 to complete the reinvention and then get onto a maintenance program. My health has improved drastically through the year and I am in my doctors bad books because I don’t visit him often enough and his tyres are starting to get threadbare ~ an old joke between us….he always said when we met up somewhere it was time for a visit as he needed new tyres I still have a way to go but I will share more about my weightloss journey in another blog post but you can also follow it and catch up too on my instagram account
So that was 11 fabulous months! And yes there are 12 months in the year and the last one has not been a good one for me. Ironically losing all the weight and getting actively walking has done my knees no favours. I come from a family who suffer with very bad knees and osteoarthritis and because I was large I didn’t exercise much so my knees just coped. I was told 17 years ago after undergoing knee surgery that I would need knee replacements but at 44 years I was too young so I just plodded along waiting. Now that I am walking such distances so often we discovered that there is no cartilage in the joints anymore and the bone is grating on bone and the pain is excruciating so, after one failed miserable trip to the mall that lasted about 10 minutes before I told Don I couldn’t anymore, I have not been able to do any Christmas shopping or prep or visiting much this year. Some lovely highlights during this down month has been Christmas lunch with the bookclub girls at the delightful Casa Labia Cafe in Muizenberg (I was taken up in the service lift as I couldn’t walk up the stairs but those girls were determined I was not going to miss it!),
a visit with my lovely friend and fellow (ex) blogger Thea and her family while they were down from KZN for a visit, and a day spent with my sisters and a surprise guest, my niece and my tiny great nephew Reuben who we met and fell in love with for the first time. Other than that I have barely been able to hobble to the kitchen. I am seeing a knee specialist on 15 January but the prognosis is most probably knee replacements in my near future. I say bring them on so I can REALLY enjoy this new lease on life.
We ended the year on a high tonight by doing our traditional picnic with a breathtaking view at the top of Chapman’s Peak while watching the sun setting on 2014. I am totally convinced that we live in the most beautiful place on earth
HAPPY NEW YEAR to all reading this. May 2015 be a year filled with God’s richest blessings, joy, great health and much happiness.
Fudge! Cheesecake! Two of my favourite things in the world….put them together and add salted caramel into the equation and I am in heaven! I have always been a lover of a decadent cheesecake, whether baked or the fridge cake variety, and I cannot resist it if it is on the menu. There are two things that I usually look out for on restaurant menus and that is cheesecake and creme brulee. I have been known to rate a restaurant by their cheesecake and creme brulee! I have made many cheesecakes in my lifetime. At one stage I was making 4 a week to supply to a local coffee shop. Recently I started looking for some inspiration to try a new flavour and I came across some images for caramel cheesecake or fudge cheesecake. I love anything fudgey/caramel/dulce de leche/milk jam so I decided to try crumbling creamy blocks of fudge into the actual cheesecake to be baked and then serving it with a caramel topping. To cut the richness of it I decided to add salt to the caramel. It was soooo good and my whole family loved it!
FUDGEY BAKED CHEESECAKE WITH SALTED CARAMEL TOPPING
Serves 8 big slices
200g Ginger Biscuits (coconut or oatmeal biscuits would work well too)
160ml Melted Butter
2 x 230g Full Fat Cream Cheese
250ml Full Cream Greek Yoghurt
4 XL Eggs – lightly beaten
1 Can Condensed Milk (397g)
3-4 Lemons – juice squeezed and strained (should be about 100ml or just over
1 Vanilla Pod – split and seeds scraped out (keep the pod for vanilla sugar)
50g Creamy good quality Fudge (don’t use crystallized flopped fudge because it will spoil the creaminess of the finished cheesecake)
Preheat oven to 160 °C
Grease a 24cm loose bottomed springform pan with butter (I like to line the base of mine as well with baking parchment)
Crush the biscuits very finely to a powder – use a food processor or meat mallet but they need to be very fine
Add to a mixing bowl then pour over the melted butter and mix in.
Press the crumb mixture into the base (I use the bottom of a highball glass) and right up the sides of the pan. Place the pan onto a baking sheet or cookie pan and bake for 15 minutes
Add all the filling ingredients (excepting for the fudge) to your mixer or food processor
Process or whisk on top speed for a few seconds until just creamy with no lumpy bits of cream cheese or yoghurt
Pour the filling into the prepared base, scraping all of it out of the mixing bowl
Crumble the fudge over the top of the filling (push some of it down into the filling using a cocktail stick)
Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for one hour until it is just set then turn off the oven, leave the door slightly ajar and allow to cool completely to room temperature in the oven
Cover with cling film and refrigerate until needed
Remove from fridge and bring to room temperature before slicing and serving with a delicious salted caramel sauce
Tip: The crust needs to stand higher than the filling in this cheesecake…..the edges don’t have to be level or smooth….rustic is good!
SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE
150g Soft Brown Sugar
50g Golden Syrup
5ml Good Quality Sea Salt Flakes
Melt the butter and syrup in a medium saucepan with high sides
Remove from the heat, add the sugar and return to the heat to dissolve the sugar, don’t stir at this stage, you can swirl the contents of the pan if you need to
As soon as the sugar is all dissolved remove from heat and pour in the cream (it will spit madly and want to boil up) and half of the salt and stir well with a wooden spoon
Return to heat and heat through while stirring continuously until it has all mixed in well and the sauce has started darkening and thickens….not too long as it burns quite easily. It will thicken more as it cools down
Allow to cool then add the rest of the salt flakes
Can be bottled and stored in the fridge
To serve as a sauce heat a few spoonsful of salted caramel with 1Tbs Milk or Cream to thin it a bit. Drizzle over the slices of cheesecake and prepare to be transported into salted caramel cheesecake nirvana!
Check out my Dark Chocolate Amarula and Oreo Cheesecake
Or how about a savoury Mexican inspired cheesecake? Nachos Guacamole Tart with Spicy Salsa and Sour Cream
And if you’re in a brownie sort of a mood I urge you to try my signature dish DECADENT DARK CHOCOLATE AND CHEESECAKE SWIRLED BROWNIES
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.