Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ready, steady, COOK!

Ladies and gentlemen it's time for a blog challenge. This one is called Ready, Steady, Cook and is loosely based on the TV show of the same name. A few years ago something very similar was done on the Food24 blogs and I had so much fun doing it. This time I am going to make some rules so that we can get a winner.

The idea is simple. You sign up to the challenge by commenting on this blog post. Entries close on the 15th of August. 

There are 2 parts:

Set the challenge
Each blogger who signs up gets assigned another blogger
They will give that blogger a list of 7 ingredients (be creative)

Get the challenge
Each blogger will then use those 7 ingredients plus the allowed "pantry" ingredients (these are listed below) and free items (salt, pepper, olive oil, sunflower oil) to create a 3 course meal.
Each course must be in a separate blog post.
Pictures and recipes to be posted as evidence :)
I want this to be exciting and worthwhile so I am in discussion with some great companies to try and get prizes for the challenge. In the event that these companies are awesome and want to give you guys great things part of the challenge will be to include them in your posts.
Include the badge in all your related posts with a link back to this blog.

Pantry ingredients
Bay leaves
Chilli powder (this can be chilli powder, dried chillies, cayenne pepper or peri peri spice)
Tinned tomatoes

Once the top 4 are chosen there will be a special challenge between them to chose the winner.

All the posts are to be completed by the end of August. Once everyone has posted their blog posts I will get the prize sponsors and a few selected judges to send me their ideas for the best in each course. I will also monitor the comment sections on the blogs as well as create a group on Facebook where people can vote.

From there we will find our top 4, our challenge finalists. There is a special challenge waiting in store for them.

So get your thinking caps on and sign up, get your friends to sign up, get your mom to sign up. The competition is open to anyone!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Easy cooking - Event #1 - Thai Entry

If followed my comments on Food24 you would have picked up very quickly that I am not a fan or pre-made, pre-cooked, pre-packaged foods and sauces. In fact that's putting it mildly. I hate those things. I feel very strongly that taking a piece of chicken, mixing some pre-made mushroom sauce with some milk, drowning the chicken in that and popping in the oven, is not cooking and definitely not blog-worthy cooking.

So I have taught myself to make a lot of things that people just buy. For example "sweet chili sauce". I scoured the web for recipes, threw out the ones that had corn flour in them (after all my 1 complaint about store bought stuff is the starchy mouth feel) and came up with my own. I never did blog the recipe as it was in the time when I was fed up with blogging that I had made it that first time. However, one friday afternoon while browsing other food blogs I came across a recipe for butter chicken which had sweet chili sauce in it. For me that's just scandalous, a dish as rich and complex doesn't need sweet chili sauce shoved into it. 

I mentioned this to Marisa, over at The Creative Pot, and also mentioned that I make my own sweet chili sauce so the though of that fake stuff they sell at the shops glooped into my butter chicken just made me ill. She said I had to blog the recipe so she could steal it, so off I went and cooked up a batch.  

Now if you are anything like me, you cant cook up a batch of something without tasting it and while you can taste sweet chili sauce with a spoon I decided to make something a little more tasty to go with it. What better accompaniment then sweetcorn fritters.

All this cooking came at a great time. As Nina, over at My Easy Cooking is having her first Blog event. Go check it out  and see for yourself. Nina is an outstanding cook and food stylist so I jumped at the chance to participate in something that is linked to her blog. Also I love Thai food and Wang Thai is one of my favourite Thai restaurants. My corn fritter recipe was given to me by some one who used to be the manager there (of course with a  few embellishments of my own as I cannot follow a recipe to the T).

Thai sweet chili sauce
What you need
2 cups Rice wine vinegar
2 cups Sugar
Coriander (preferably fresh)

What to do
Put the sugar and vinegar into a saucepan and starting heating it through. Int he meantime pop all the rest of the ingredients into a food processor or blender. You want to get everything as small as possible. If you a milder sweet chili sauce then de-seed your chillies. Put the chili mixture into the saucepan and stir till all the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture up to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Allow it to cook for about 35-40 minutes. I used a trick I had learned earlier that day at Oded's Kitchen: put a plate in the freezer, when you think the sauce is ready place some on the plate to test the consistency.
Allow the mixture to cool slightly and bottle it.

Thai sweetcorn fritters
What you need
500g Sweet corn off the cob 
½ red pepper
1 baby marrow
2-3 eggs
2 tbs flour
fresh corriander

What to do
Mix all the ingredients together. Heat up some oil in a frying pan and place spoonful of the mixture into the pan. Fry until golden on both sides.

Just a small caution. Both these recipes originally had exact measurements unfortunately I never followed them or copied them. They both are very forgiving and so do what feels right.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Guest post by Homemade Heaven

I am loving my guest post slot. I get to feel a certain sense of pride that my tiny little blog gets to host some of the best bloggers in the industry. My next gust is no exception. Rosemary from Homemade Heaven was someone who I discovered in the food24 stable, I always admired her cooking and baking and she was one of the blogs I missed most when I stopped reading the food24 blogs. Happily I get to follow her again and enjoy her kitchen skills as well as her inspirational trips to Namibia.

Here she is with some more chocolaty goodness:

When I was asked to write this guest blog post, I couldn't help but think about how I got started in blogging.

I was remembering the months before of reading other food blogs and the inspiration I felt reading about other people's cooking and life experiences.

The most difficult part for me was the writing part. As an infamously bad speller (even with spell check), appallingly bad grammar and very little creative style, I knew that I was always going to have an uphill battle.

All this said, I embarked on my first blog post on 29 August 2007. I am very happy to say that while I still battle with all my short comings, I have managed to post over 300 posts in 3 years. I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing everything from baking cakes to hiking the Namibian mountains!

The most rewarding aspect of blogging has certainly been the people I have met and most not even in the flesh. I have grown to love my blogging friends and have really enjoyed sharing the ups and downs of their's and my life. I have learnt so much about writing and photography over the last 3 years, especially after attending the Cape Town Food Bloggers Conference in February.

I hope that my blog will remain a true reflection of who I am and the beliefs I have.

I am sharing my recipe for mint chocolate chip muffins, as it is by far the most popular treat in my home. As a naturally lazy person, I love recipes which are simple to make, with maximum pleasure and these muffins certainly meet all these requirements.

Chocolate Chip Muffins

2 Eggs
240ml of Buttermilk
120ml Oil
200g Sugar
250g Self Raising Flour
120g Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking powder
1 tsp Salt
100g Mint Aero Chocolate

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Muffins bake for about 25 mins.
In one bowl mix all the wet ingredients together.
And in another bowl mix all sifted dry ingredients together.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir roughly.
You must not beat until it is smooth.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Oded's Kitchen - Pickling for begginers

Some names are unmistakably Hebrew and Hebrew being my first language, when I see a name that is Hebrew I get excited. I guess I like hearing my own language and I associate Hebrew with Israel and Israel with home. So when I saw Oded's Kitchen at Taste of Cape town I was bouncing up and down and when I saw what he had to offer I was even happier. Not only were they middle eastern delicacies that I love but, unlike all the other companies that make similar products, they had their Middle Eastern/Hebrew/Jewish names too.

Babaganush, Harif, Chraime. I was in little-jewish-foodie-girl heaven. I promptly told everyone about them, researched where to find them and was delighted to discover them on twitter. When I saw them at shows I was smiling ear to ear.

Last week I was given the pleasure and honour of being invited to one of their courses. Oded Shwartz himself presents 2 different courses at his shop. A pickling course and a Jewish cooking course. The course material is not set in stone and each class is decided depending on the participants (which makes me exceptionally happy as it means I can keep going back and learning new things).

The classes are kept small and everyone gets hands on and into the action while Oded gives a short history and explains things along the way. In a way the whole experience was a little nostalgic. Having been in a very small Home Economics class in matric, we not only did the work but chatted about everything around what we were doing too. You get to interact with your fellow class mates and Oded and ask as many questions as pop into your head.

We were treated to a great lunch spread filled with Oded's delicious spreads, pates and pickles as well as some divine ginger lemonade. Back to work we went, tummies full and ready to learn some more as the finishing touches were put on out creations.

Id you ask me, this is the best way to fill your Sunday

Toby's pickled cucumbers

1kg large cucumbers
750g onions
750g carrots
8 cloves of garlic
Bay leaves

For the pickling juice
1.5 liters water
700ml white wine or distilled malt vinegar
100g sugar
30g salt
12 dried red chillies

Wash the cucumbers well and slice into 1cm discs. Place the sliced cucumbers in a colander and sprinkle with some salt (about 15g). Mix well and allow to drain for about 20 minutes. Wash and drain well.
Peel the onions and slice into thin rings. Peel the carrots and either slice into fine julienne and grate coarsely. Mix the onion and carrots and pour boiling water over them. Drain well.
Peel and slice the garlic.
Arrange everything in your jar. The jar should be almost full but loosely packed.
Place the water, vinegar and chilli in a heavy bottomed enamel or stainless steel pan. Bring to the boil and boil steadily for a few minutes. Skim well, remove the chillies and pour over the pickle, filling the jar to overflow. Poke the content with a wooden skewer to remove any air pockets and screw the lid on tightly. Wash the jars and cool rapidly. Store in a cool dark place. Refrigerate after opening

Simple marmalade

2kg oranges, washed
250ml water
2 lemons, juiced and zested
1.25kg sugar
15g dry roasted coriander seeds

Cut the oranges into halves and then across to thin slices. The thinness of the slices will dictate the texture of the marmalade.
Transfer to a preserving pan and add the water, lemon juice and zest and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to simmer for 20-25 minutes or until orange ring is soft.
Add the sugar stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and boil for about 20-25 minutes or until set has been achieved (to test this, place a plate in the freezer and when you are ready to check, put a drop of jam on the plate, give it a second and then run your finger through it, it should corrugate).

Remove from heat and stir in the coriander seeds and leave for a few minutes to allow the jam to settle. Skim if necessary. Bottle and seal hot.

When cold, the jam is ready for immediate consumption but improves with a few weeks of mellowing.

Three tomato salsa

3kg Roma/jam/plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled and de-seeded
500g cherry tomatoes
300g sun dried tomatoes, soaked in cold water and cut into bite size
500g onions, peeled and chopped
2 heads of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
75g fresh thyme, chopped
30g crushed dried chillies
250ml olive oil
300ml white wine or cider vinegar
100g dark sugar
15g salt

Place all the ingredients in a deep roasting pan and roast in the oven on 250°C for about 45-60 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Pack into sterile jars and seal immediately. For extra safety pasteurise in hot water.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Guest post by ThePartner

As some of you may know I have been plotting to start my own baking and catering company for a very long time. I guess if you read the Hello Kitty post you would know. Well I am very much well into the process of doing this...well I have a logo and a partner. My partner is an old friend of mine, she has been my friend for 16 years (what? wait? how old am I again) and one afternoon we played around with the idea and play turned to seriousness and now will soon see the results.

ThePartner is talented in very many aspects, 2 of which are baking and photography and if you don't believe me, see for yourself:

I was compiling my CV the other day, filling in my education details and long forgotten high school awards, when I reached the subsection entitled, “Hobbies and Interests”. About two years ago, when I last needed a CV, I would've written, 'writing, photography, cooking, reading and travelling,' but that was before I became a full-time pastry chef. My actual hobbies now involve working, eating, sleeping, then repeating the process on a daily basis, with extra sleep on Sundays, when possible. Travelling now means going to Mossel Bay on occasional weekends to prove to the in-laws that I'm still alive, and photography is something I do with my phone when I see my friends, (or their pets) in embarrassing situations.

Enter Mister Retrenchment. With a week's notice, I now have all the time in the world to do as I please. I can stay in bed all day, catching up on all the books my iPod can handle, or I can stare at Facebook until I'm blue in the face. Just knowing I have the choice is enough to put a smile on my face and make me forget the rising dread of the upcoming job search. I now have TIME to pick up my camera, my notebook and my whisk and juggle them in the air until they blur my vision and form the amalgam that lies before you; a food blog post.

LadyRaven picked a good day to have me as her guest blogger, because I made the yummiest batch of chocolate brownies this afternoon. They're not just good, they're completely transcendent. I usually make brownies with toasted nuts, but today I was only after chocolate; as much of it as I could fit into one recipe without losing the cakey, fudgy texture that is characteristic of this all-American treat.

I'm working on the food photography, it's far from perfect, but I'm pretty sure I got this recipe right; a dense chocolate brownie with a just-set fudgy centre and a thin top crust. Not for the faint of heart or the weak of will, this recipe only makes 9 brownies, so hide them away from yourself if you're planning on sharing with someone who won't be around when they come out the oven. If you can hold out long enough, they keep nicely for up to 3 days.

Gooey-Centred Chocolate Brownies
175g dark chocolate, chopped (I used 70% cocao mass discs)
115g unsalted butter, cut into cubes for quick melting
25g dark cocoa powder, sifted
3 eggs (I used extra large, free range)
200g sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
140g flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 180 and line a 20 x 20cm baking pan with baking paper, cutting down the corners of the paper so that they don't crumple in the pan.

Place chocolate and butter in a medium-sized heat-proof bowl over a pot of gently simmering water and stir until completely melted and combined. You should have a smooth, glossy chocolate liquid.

Remove bowl from the heat and whisk in cocoa powder, then eggs, making sure the mixture stays smooth. Continue stirring as you add the sugar and vanilla extract.

Lastly, stir in the sifted flour and stir well to combine. Scrape the mixture into your prepared pan and bake for  about 25-30 minutes, depending on how gooey you want your brownies. My oven is a bit strange, so check on the mix after about 20 minutes to make sure it's baking evenly, before deciding how much longer you'll want it in the oven.

Once done, cool completely before cutting. Trust me, it's worth the wait.
You might also want to close all your windows, so that the neighbours don't crawl through them when they smell the deliciousness wafting through the air. These brownies are too good to share, unless of course you have a glass of fresh milk with which to devour them. Happy baking!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Taking inspiration

As I mentioned on Friday, when you read Marisa's blog you just HAVE TO make the food she shows in it. A couple of weeks ago, the urge was greater than my willpower and so I set off to make these cupcakes. Mistakingly I didn't check my fridge where I was sure I had a tub of cream cheese and so baked the cupcakes and then discovered that I didn't have a tub of cream cheese in the fridge.

The next day I set out to buy all the ingredients I needed and decided I was too lazy to ice individual cupcakes and with that the cake above was born. The recipe is here I only changed a few small things. The good strong coffee I have is from Israel and has cardamom in it so the flavour was probably slightly different and of course, I did it in a spring-form tin :)

I think I took the cake out about 5 minutes too early so it came out very dense and rich, although that didn't stop my guests from devouring it :)

Friday, July 2, 2010

A guest post from The Creative Pot

We are currently in our production week and the magazine is going to print next week. This means that all my WABing activities come to a grinding halt to make sure everything is out on time with as few errors as possible. Unfortunately my food blog is one of those activities but luckily for you, dear readers, I can get by with a little help from my food blogging friends.  Our next guest this evening is non other that Marisa from The Creative Pot .

You may have noticed (or at least I hope you have) that my images are improving. The reason for this dear readers, or really more the inspiration is Marisa's blog. See if you visit her blog, which I am sure you wont hesitate to do, you will immediately want to climb into your screen and have a feast. Her images make you think "I don't care how complicated the recipe is or if I have these ingredients or not I HAVE TO MAKE THAT!" and you will not be disappointed if you do, her concoctions are just as spectacular as her pictures. Don't believe me yet, take a look:

I am nothing if not dedicated to my craft. So much so that when I was gripped in the middle of a (up-to-now-unknown-to-me) soccer obsession, I managed to tear myself away from the excitement for long enough to study up on some Uruguayan food in honour of the sexy boys of Uruguay.
And it was no mean feat either. For one, there weren't a lot of information online about Uruguayan food - the sexy men must have some super secretive womenfolk in their kitchens at home.  And secondly, the information that was available was mostly in Spanish. Which I am mostly unfamiliar with, barring an unfulfilled yearning to speak Spanish fluently one day. But sadly, no habla Espanol as of yet. Enter my friend, Google translate, which helpful though it was, also caused some smirks on my side at the sometimes painly obvious translation mistakes. Eg. Lengua stifado, which Google translated as Language Stew. (In case you were interested, the correct translation should've been Tongue Stew).

Nevertheless I forged on until I happened on this beauty of a recipe. Meatballs. I can hear you already: "Meatballs? Really? LadyRaven why did you give us this boring person with her boring old meatball recipe?" Because, really, what can be new about a meatball? 
Oh but you haven't tried these - they come with raisins embedded in their meaty insides. Raisins! And as I'm a sucker for fruit/meat (indeed any sweet/savoury) combos, I whipped out my minced meat, shook in some raisins and started forming the mixture into soccer imitating balls. You know, in the spirit of the World Cup and all that. Definitely not your normal meatball. Damn tasty though. But don't tell those secret-hoarding Uruguyan women that I've let the cat out of the bag. They might send their men to come pummel me...

Albóndigas con pasas de uva (Raisin Meatballs)
Adapted from Recipes Wiki
Serves 4
500g (approx 1 lb) minced (ground) beef
2 eggs
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp chopped parsley
4 tbsp breadcrumbs
1/3 cup raisins
salt and pepper to taste
sunflower oil
2 leeks, white part only, sliced
5 carrots
1/2 cup semi-sweet white wine
1. Place meat in a bowl, add eggs unbeaten, parsley, bread crumbs, salt and pepper, raisins, chopped garlic boys.
2. Mix all of this, then form into 8 meatballs, dip in flour and fry in hot oil.
3. Brown them well and remove from the heat, reserve.
4. In the same oil, put the white of leek, sliced, cooked a bit and add carrots, peeled and cut rather small, the kitchen a moment, put back the meatballs to the pan, add the wine is left uncovered so that the alcohol evaporates, add enough water to cover the remaining meatballs, add 1 tablespoon salt, cook till the carrots are tender. 

If you enjoyed this post, you will most certainly enjoy the rest of my shenanigans over at The Creative Pot. Or come & say hi on twitter. Or facebook. Even better, you can subscribe to my RSS feed so you never miss out on any of my posts. Happy cooking!