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.
Don’t look at that heading then look at me strangely OK? Yes, I DID say Avocado Chocolate Brownies and I am not joking. I have been having so much fun in my little kitchen with avocados since entering the #Afrikado “More than Just Guacamole” challenge. This week I wanted to try them in a dessert so sat here weighing the odds of a beautiful gluten free dense and healthy chocolate cake but ended up going with brownies….I mean it IS the name of my blog after all and my signature dish that I am known for.
Of course I am still enjoying avocado each morning in my green juice and to date I have escaped the flu that is hanging around waiting to grab unsuspecting victims. This is a first for me….I have a low immune system at the best of times and by now I have usually been in bed a few times already sweating it out, feeling miserable and being given all types of advice by family and friends as to what mixtures to drink and whether to put brandy or whisky in my hot toddies. . so far so good! And I have even stopped taking the Immuno boosters that I have been taking for the past 7 years! I am going to go and visit my brother and sister in law in the Free State soon – he suffered a severe stroke 2 weeks ago today and when he comes out of the rehab where he is receiving intensive therapy to try and get his paralyzed right side mobile and working and his speech flowing again I am going to visit and help take care of him for a while until they are into a routine and someone else can take over the chores. I am looking at my juicer from all angles and wondering how I am going to be able to fit it into my suitcase….but I am quite determined to take it along with me. I need my green juice every morning
Being innovative and daring with avos has been a lot of fun and I am learning a lot about this fabulous fruit and am so grateful to ZZ2 Farming for inviting me to step out of my guacamole zone and play a bit.
Here is my second entry to the #Afrikado challenge
Easy Avocado Chocolate Brownies
100g Creamed Avocado (replacing the butter with delicious healthy fats)
200g Dark Chocolate roughly chopped – use the best quality you can afford.
25g Cocoa Powder
100g Cake Flour
40g Almond Meal
2,5ml Baking Powder
3 Large Free Range or Organic Eggs
5ml Vanilla Extract
60ml Sour Cream, Buttermilk or Yoghurt
Optional – 90g Pecan Nuts, Walnuts or Hazelnuts – toasted and chopped
Preheat oven to 180°C
Line a 20cm square pan with parchment paper, leaving 2 inches hanging over all the sides. Brush parchment paper with melted butter
Break up chocolate and place into a glass bowl and microwave at 60% power on high for 1 – 2 minutes stirring about every 30 seconds or so. Set aside when melted and smooth.
Cream or blend the avocado and sift over the cocoa powder and mix together
Sift together flour, baking powder, almond meal & salt. Set aside.
Whisk together sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract until thick & pale
Add avocado mixture and the melted chocolate and mix until combined
Add flour mixture gently then, using a wooden spoon, mix until just combined. You really don’t want to over mix the batter
Add the sour cream or yoghurt and fold in again until just blended (Not beating too much ensures a squidgy fudgy brownie) then fold in the nuts if using
Pour batter into prepared pan. Spread evenly with spatula. Sprinkle over some good quality salt flakes.
Bake 20min then turn pan 180 deg and bake another 15-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet.
Let cool in pan completely then cover pan well with clingfilm and refrigerate for a few hours.
Remove from fridge about half an hour before serving.
Lift brownies out of pan, cut into squares with a hot sharp knife and sprinkle liberally with icing sugar before serving
Alternative topping : drizzle melted dark or white chocolate thinly in a zigzag pattern over tops of brownies (do this before cutting!)
Makes 16 brownies (depending how you cut them!!)
General consensus from my tasters: These brownies are fudgey, rich and dark with an intensely chocolatey flavour. There was absolutely no taste of avocado in them, in fact some did not know that they had this magic healthy addition to them. The texture was definitely different to my usual brownie texture when made with butter but not unpleasant, just more dense.I used one orange flavoured Lindt and one 85% dark chocolate which my family thought a bit too bitter so in hindsight the 70% might have been better in this instance! The citrus flavour from the Lindt Orange was fabulous.
They were best eaten with ice cream and kept well for 3 days!
Take a peek at my previous entry to the #Afrikado Challenge and you can check out all the buzz and recipes on twitter at #Afrikado or follow@ZZ2Farming or myself @CollyWolly (points to link in the right sidebar)
PS I played some more today and am pretty happy I think with the results. The tasters will be around tomorrow to sample and critique my work so look out soon for the teaser photograph, to be followed by the recipe on the blog.
As I mentioned in my previous post I adore avocado’s and could eat them every day if I could. So…when ZZ2 Farms invited me to be a part of their latest #Afrikado challenge I jumped at the chance. Any excuse for an avocado adventure right? Yes, that is what I thought as well!
We spent last week up the West Coast for a little bit of R&R with the family….well that was the general idea but whoever thought they could rest and relax with two little boys around is rather crazy! All I can say, though, is that we really DID have a lot of fun and adventure-filled days and we came home to have a bit of R&R! I took a couple of avocados with me and sat staring at them….turning them around gently in my hands and dreaming up some ideas on what to do with them and how to use them in a new innovative way that is far more interesting (but not necessarily more delicious) than just guacamole. I happen to luuurve guacamole! Anyway, that lasted until they ripened and my daughter swiped them and cubed them for our salad. When we got back I bought some more and today I did my first entry for the challenge.
And may I say it was absolutely superb! The smokiness from the griddle pan adds such a wonderful flavour to the normally mild tasting avocado. This recipe was inspired by the winter menu at The Red Herring Restaurant in Noordhoek. We went there for our recent 35th wedding anniversary and I had their grilled avocado starter which I really enjoyed. I took the basic elements from their dish and adapted it to suit my tastes, adding the chilli and prosciutto. Of course using my homemade secret recipe ClemenGlaze added a delicious warm spicy, citrus touch! I HAD been going to do a dessert but I read a couple of other blog posts and they had beaten me to it so I decided to go with the savoury one now and I will do a sweet one soon. Watch this space!
GRILLED AVOCADO WITH PROSCIUTTO PARMESAN AND TOASTED PINENUTS
Serves 2 as a starter
Heat a griddle pan until smoking hot
While that is heating up quickly dry toast your nuts in a non stick pan over high heat until lightly browned. Watch them carefully and toss every couple of seconds then allow to cool
Brush the cut surfaces of the avocado with a little olive oil and lemon juice then place cut side down onto the very hot griddle pan. Push it down gently onto the ridges so that all the surface gets nice charred lines across it. It takes about a minute at most.
Flip the avo over onto the skin side using a spatula then turn off the heat and leave it on the griddle pan to heat up nicely while you prepare your plate
Arrange a layer of rocket or lettuce leaves onto the plates
Using a piece of paper towel to hold the avocado halves gently peel off the hot skin – it comes off quite easily, then slice a thin layer off the rounded ends so that it can sit on the leaves without wobbling
Sprinkle over the pinenuts and the finely sliced chilli
Drizzle with the Balsamic Glaze
Tear the Prosciutto into long strips and place them decoratively on the plates putting one strip into the hollow of each avo half
Scatter over the Parmesan shavings and the coriander leaves. Use parsley if you prefer
Grind over some black pepper and sea salt flakes and serve immediately with the lemon or lime cheeks
Pinenuts are very expensive in South Africa so if you need to you can definitely substitute with walnuts which you toast whole then chop roughly once cool
A tip to easily remove the stone from the centre of the avocado – hold the avo half in one hand, smack the stone with a sharp knife, give a little twist then lift it out easily!
You can check out all the buzz and recipes on twitter at #Afrikado or follow @ZZ2Farming or myself @CollyWolly (points to link in the right sidebar) or else check it out on facebook on the ZZ2 link at the beginning of this post.