Crustless Mini Quiches with Caramelized Onions and Brie

There are few things I love more than cheese. Not many, but a few. The Husband, the cat, shows about people who are ardently readying themselves for doomsday, dreaming I can fly (it only happened once but it was awesome) and, on that note, sleeping late. Actually, take the apocolypse show off the list. I definitely prefer cheese to watching people build underground bunkers in preparation for the inevitable alien invasion. If I were to do that, I know what I would take. Cheese. A lot of cheese. Probably not the best idea in the event of said aliens cutting all power, but you get the gist.

Brie is also known as “the King of Cheeses” and was believed to have been a tribute paid to French kings. I mean, if it’s good enough for royalty.

There are many ways to eat this cheese but this is by far my favourite. The sweetness of the caramelized onions perfectly compliments the gooey creaminess of the Brie. I use a medium (180ml/cup) muffin tray which gives me six mini quiches but you can use small pie dishes too.

Crustless Mini Quiches with Caramelized Onions and Brie

Servings: 6   Prep time: 5 minutes   Cooking time:  Caramelized onions 40 minutes + 25 – 30 minutes for quiches

Ingredients for mini caramelized and onon quiches

Ingredients for mini caramelized onion and Brie quiches

Ingredients:

  • 125g Brie cheese
  • 2 onions, peeled, halved and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 250 ml cream
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Non-stick spray

Method:

Peel, halve and slice the onions. Don’t slice them too thinly, you don’t want them to burn. Usually for caramelizing you would slice the onion whole, however, the quiches are too small for this.

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil on medium high. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and butter, stirring to spread the butter.

Onions in olive oil and butter

Onions in olive oil and butter

Spread the onions evenly across the pan. Fry for 5 minutes on medium high, stirring to prevent onions from sticking, then turn the heat down to medium low and saute for another 10 minutes.

Add the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and salt and saute for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F) and spray non-stick spray in the muffin tray cups, making sure you cover the sides too.

Brie is too soft to grate so cut it into small pieces, keeping a quarter aside for the topping.

Cut the Brie into small pieces, keeping a quarter aside

Cut the Brie into small pieces, keeping a quarter aside

Whisk the eggs and yolks and add the cream, stirring until thoroughly combined. Add the onions and Brie to the egg and cream mixture, stir and pour into the muffin tray, filling each cup ⅔’s full.

Pour the mixture into a muffin tray, filling each cup by two-thirds

Pour the mixture into a muffin tray, filling each cup by two-thirds

Bake for 25 – 3o minutes until golden brown on top. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before gently lifting the quiches out of the muffin cups.

Caramelized onion and Brie quiches

Caramelized onion and Brie quiches

Brie onion 8 (2)

Individual ramekins also work very well

 

Chewy Chocolate Brownies

These brownies have saved my hide a few times when, say, the ‘rents decide to pop in and end up staying for dinner or friends come over for a quick chat and cuppa which turns into an all-day and all-night event. Lovely though it is to spend time with these special people, I’ve often found myself in an “oh no, what do I make for pudding?” predicament. Enter this recipe.

Ingredients for chocolate brownies. You can substitute the vanilla paste with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Ingredients for chocolate brownies. You can substitute the vanilla paste with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

It’s easy and not very time consuming at all. The reason I’m able to whip it up with short-to-no notice is because these ingredients are always in my cupboard, and probably yours too. I also often make this when I’m cooking a very time-consuming main course. I usually make the brownies first and get it out of the way before tackling the several-hours-long mains.

Some brownies are too sweet and rich (is there such a thing?) but not this. The creamy chocolate-y-ness (that should really be a word; can you imagine the Scrabble points?) is just right. In fact, you can even serve it with ice cream. Some puddings make you feel uncomfortable, some even ill, but you can happily make this without worrying about that.

Here’s a tip. Initially I made the chocolate sauce (so easy; two ingredients, some heat and you’re done) when I was ready to serve dessert. What I’ve been doing lately is making the sauce once the brownies have cooled, then pouring it over them so they soak in it. You don’t have to do it this way. I actually happened upon this method when I had very little notice, got invited to a friend for dinner, quickly made the brownies and sauce and just poured it over them and reheated when ready. It. Was. Amazing.

It’s easier to use a square baking tray. I use a 9 x 9 inch silicone baking tray. The reason for this is because I prefer cutting the brownies into squares as opposed to slicing it like a cake. Having said that, it’s purely for my convenience and I’ve used a round tin many times, but I prefer the square tray for this recipe.

Something important to remember is that the universally-accepted toothpick test does not apply to this recipe. Because you’re making it chewy, you don’t want it to cook like a cake, so after half an hour, if you do the toothpick test, it should not be clear. It should be brown and gooey. Another thing is that my preference is always vanilla paste but you can substitute this for two teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Chewy Chocolate Brownies

Servings: 9     Prep time: 5 minutes     Baking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup butter, melted (170g)
  • 1 cup white sugar (200g)
  • ½ cup light brown sugar (100g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup flour (85g)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder (50g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • non-stick spray

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).

Spray your baking tray with non-stick spray.

Using an electric whisk on high, beat the eggs and sugar until properly mixed, about 10 seconds. Sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and stir to combine. Add the melted butter and vanilla paste and beat until well-combined, approximately 30 seconds, scraping down the sides.

Pour the batter into your baking tray and bake for 30 minutes.

My preference for this recipe is a square baking dish but you can use a round cake tin too

My preference for this recipe is a square baking dish but you can use a round cake tin too

 

If you do the toothpick test at this point, it will come out gooey, so there is no need. After 30 minutes, take the baking tray out and let it cool for about 10 minutes before cutting your brownies into squares.

Chocolate brownies

While you’re letting the brownies cool, make the chocolate sauce:

  • 90g chopped dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • 150ml cream

On medium-high, heat the cream until warm but not boiling. Don’t let the cream boil, you want to heat it just enough to melt the chocolate. Chop the dark chocolate and add it to the warm cream, removing the pot from the heat. Stir with a whisk until it’s smooth and then pour over your brownies. You can refrigerate this dish until you’re ready to serve it, in which case reheat it and serve as is or with ice cream.

Chocolate brownies in chocolate sauce. Chocolate, anyone?

Chocolate brownies in chocolate sauce. Chocolate, anyone?

 

 

 

 

Words Crush Wednesday – Virginia Woolf Edition

I’ve recently rejoined WordPress and one of the first blogs I followed is Rebirth of Lisa. She has a wonderful weekly feature called “Word Crush Wednesday”. The idea is to post a quote and write a little bit (or a lot) about it. This quote by Virginia Woolf is particularly poignant for me, coming from South Africa and seeing abject poverty on a daily basis. Many people don’t want to “dine well”, they simply want to dine. How fortunate I am to be able to cook pretty much whatever I want, granted they have it at the store. This is never lost on me.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

 

 

 

Baked Camembert in Phyllo Pastry

This dish is perfection, if I may say so myself. And I just did. I’m not joking when I say your guests will be talking about it for months, if not years, to come. I have friends who are still talking about it, three years later. The beauty of this recipe is, well, absolutely everything but I will be more specific.

Gooey, creamy camembert wrapped in crispy, buttery phyllo pastry accompanied by sweet cranberry sauce. It literally melts in your mouth. Three ingredients, that’s it. A few minutes to prepare and 12 – 15 minutes in the oven. Winner, winner, winner. It’s not complicated. In fact it’s almost too easy. I have a good friend who is a very fussy eater. She does not do cheese. Like, ever. I made this recipe a few years ago and she relented after hearing the “ooohs” and “aahs”. She has subsequently converted. She still doesn’t eat cheese, with this exception.

It’s the perfect starter because it’s quick and delicious. You can prepare it ahead and refrigerate it until you’re ready to bake it but I’d suggest doing it fresh.

It only takes these three ingredients plus cranberry sauce for serving

It only takes these three ingredients plus cranberry sauce for serving

Baked Camembert in Phyllo Pastry

Servings: 4     Prep time: 10 minutes     Cooking time: 12 – 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 wheels camembert, halved
  • 6 sheets phyllo pastry
  • 1 cup melted better
  • Cranberry sauce

Method:

Preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F).

Cut the camembert in half. You’re going to use three sheets per whole camembert, with those sheets then halved for both half wheels of cheese.

Melt the butter and lay one sheet of phyllo pastry on the counter. Paint the sheet with butter, drizzling butter across the sheet and then using a brush to paint it. I use my turkey baster and it works really well but you can drizzle the butter across the phyllo and then use a brush to spread it, making sure you cover the entirety of each sheet. Lay a second piece of phyllo on top of the first and repeat the process until you’ve painted three layers. Cut the phyllo down the middle by gliding a sharp knife down the centre, vertically.

Place one half of camembert in the bottom of the phyllo sheets and roll up, folding over each time. Tuck the sides of the phyllo under the parcel and paint the top and bottom with more butter.

Place half the camembert wheel on the phyllo and wrap it up

Place half the camembert wheel on the phyllo and wrap it up

Once the camembert is tucked into the phyllo pastry, fold over

Once the camembert is tucked into the phyllo pastry, fold over

Place in a roasting tray and bake for 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve with cranberry sauce.

Creamy, buttery baked camembert with cranberry sauce. It will melt in your mouth!

Creamy, buttery baked camembert with cranberry sauce. It will melt in your mouth!

 

 

Who I Am and Why I’m Here – The Cooking Edition

“Food” has become my favourite four letter f-word, but it wasn’t always like that. Up until five years ago, I was utterly useless. I was the Cher Horowitz of cooking. Clueless.

When I met my boyfriend more than a decade ago, I decided to “wow” him and make a roast leg of lamb. I had never done this before, I’d never even cooked rice but I thought “how hard can it be?” Well… Back then he had a convection microwave oven in his apartment so off we went, got a juicy leg of lamb and I set about creating this meal. What I didn’t realize is that I’d set the microwave on convection mode as well as microwave mode, on high too! When we took the meat out, it was literally like a piece of coal! It was breaking apart but not in the so-tender-it’s-falling-off-the-bone kind of way. No. I definitely “wowed” him, but not in the way I’d anticipated! Ever since then, I decided that cooking was difficult and a mission and not for me. I closed myself off to the idea and that was that. Never again. Much later I ended up eating my words. And they were delicious.

Five years ago I needed a challenge. I needed to be able to do something that would hold my interest and be rewarding. The Husband is a very good cook, seldom uses recipes and yet comes up with the most mouth-watering meals. He always made it look so easy. I wanted to be like that too but I had a mental block against cooking. Nevertheless, I thought “what is the most challenging thing I can do?”. Cooking. Everyone laughed, and rightfully so. The roast leg of lamb was mentioned numerous times, and still is!

I started off with things like roast veggies, then I graduated to cottage pie, curries and stews and roasts. I quickly realized that as long as I followed the recipe instructions, I was fine. I followed every single recipe to the T until I gradually started getting a feel for it and coming up with my own ideas. I Googled everything. Everything! I taught myself to cook over the internet. I didn’t realize how rewarding it would be and I quickly turned into a feeder, much to The Husband’s delight. I started having dinner parties and people actually complemented me on my food. Every time this happened I nearly fell over. I couldn’t believe it! Cooking has become my joy over the past five years. My kitchen is my happy place. I love cooking complicated meals and I’m always pushing my boundaries but I wanted to share some of my recipes, easy yet very tasty recipes, because I know most people don’t have hours upon hours to spend in the kitchen every day. It doesn’t have to take half a day to be delicious. Some of my favourite recipes take less than an hour, some even half an hour (chilli con carne, anyone?).

I come from a family who lives for the written word. My Dad is a muso and lyricist. My sister writes poetry. I don’t have their talent but I do love writing, and I love cooking, so I decided to combine the two, hence this blog.

I want to share my recipes with you and my hope is to learn new things and continue pushing my boundaries. I’m no longer the Cher Horowitz of cooking, nor do I literally get egg on my face anymore, and I consider myself a pretty good cook but I’m always striving to improve and expand my knowledge. I want to share delicious recipes and learn new ones. Exchange ideas and different techniques. However, I don’t have great expectations. All I want to do is share recipes and tips, and hopefully people will enjoy the food. That’s my greatest hope.

I started this blog a few years ago and now I’m ressurecting it. Cooking is my passion, so please, eat my words.