Words Crush Wednesday – David Drake Edition

I missed last week’s Words Crush Wednesday because an elephant sneezed on me. No, that’s not some kind of peculiar metaphor, an elephant by the name of Sally literally sneezed on me. We were up the Garden Route in a town called Knysna and visited the Knysna Elephant Park where we met, fed and hugged a family of elliebits. They’re ‘tame’ elephants and upon stroking the matriarch, Sally, she must have had allergies and had a massive sneeze. Once I got over the initial shock and removed the bits of grass, shrubbery and sand from my hair, t-shirt and mouth (yes, she managed to bless my mouth too), I realised how fortunate I am to have experienced these majestic creatures up close. I mean really, how many people can say they got sneezed on by an elephant?

I felt it was pertinent to have this week’s Words Crush Wednesday quote be about these amazing creatures. They are mild-natured, beautiful and strong. They live in families, they are not loners, and the female rules the herd. I like this structure! Also, I did what anyone would do – I took a selfie! Do you know how hard is it trying to get that right? They’re rather colossal so this is the best I could do. I promised Sally I would get her good side!

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Red Velvet Cupcakes

I have a very good sweet tooth. Very. It’s good at demanding cake, cupcakes, tarts – anything sugary. The problem is that it’s just The Husband and I so when I bake, we end up eating ourselves into near-diabetic comas. I will look for any excuse or reason to bake. Oh look, it’s sunny, I should bake. The Stormers won the rugby, let’s bake! (I don’t follow rugby at all and have no idea who our captain is but it’s as good an excuse as any.) Do you see where I’m going with this? So when, last week, my step-mom was planning The Father’s 60th birthday, I jumped at the opportunity to provide the cake. I have a bit of a love affair going on with red velvet – I love it and, in turn, it loves my hips. No lies. Now, at the risk of sounding rather obnoxious, these red velvet cupcakes are the superlative choice for special occasions. They have a mild chocolatey flavour and the buttermilk provides a creamy taste and keeps them perfectly moist.

If you’re wondering why vinegar is used – it’s actually quite a common practice in baking. Vinegar, when used with baking soda, acts as a raising agent. Don’t worry about the cupcakes tasting weird, there are so many other flavours so you can’t taste it at all.

This recipe makes 24 cupcakes.

Red velvet cupcakes ingredients120g/½ cup butter
1½ cups white sugar
2 eggs
½ cup cocoa powder
40ml red food colouring
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
250ml/1 cup buttermilk
2½ cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Red velvet cupcakes 1 1Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). In a medium-sized bowl, mix the butter and sugar on medium-high for about 2 minutes until it’s well blended and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on low after each addition, until fully blended.

 

 

 

 

Red velvet cupcakes 2 1In a large bowl, sift the cocoa and pour in the food colouring, mixing with a spoon until smooth. Add into the batter, scraping down the sides with a spatula and beat on low for 10-20 seconds. Stir in the vanilla. Stop beating and scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula, loosening the batter at the bottom.

 

 

 

Red velvet cupcakes 3 1In a separate bowl, sift the flour and sprinkle half of it into the mixture, beating on low. Pour in half of the buttermilk, mix, sprinkle the remaining flour, beat, and finally add the remaining buttermilk, beating until fully mixed.

 

 

 

Red velvet cupcakes 4 1Add the salt, baking soda and vinegar and stir well with a spatula or wooden spoon until mixed. Beat on high for 30 seconds – 1 minute until fully mixed.

 

 

 

 

Red velvet cupcakes 5 1Pour the batter into the muffin cups, filling them ⅔. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clear.

 

 

 

 

For the frosting:

Red velvet cupcakes 7200g butter, room temperature
230ml plain cream cheese, also room temperature
5 cups icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

 

 

 

 

Red velvet cupcakes 10Cut the butter into small cubes and allow to reach room temperature. In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese on high until light and fluffy, 3 – 4 minutes. Sift in the icing sugar, stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until loosely combined, then beat until fully combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the vanilla essence and give the frosting one last beat. Decorate as desired. I used a large piping nozzle (thicker than my thumb) in a large plastic piping bag to make thick swirls, then sprinkled some edible glitter and hearts, but you can decorate the cupcakes however you like!

 

Red velvet cupcakes 8 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red velvet cupcakes 9

 

Crêpes Suzette

Many wonderful things have come out of France – Champagne, Chanel and Crêpes Suzette to name but a few. In this recipe, I poured all of the ingredients into a medium-sized pot and simmered for half an hour. The results? A gooey rich caramelised sauce with bursts of citrus. You don’t need to pay constant attention to the sauce, only stirring occasionally as it simmers, so you can get on with other things like pouring yourself a tipple of Cointreau and making the crêpes while the sauce thickens to perfection. Drizzle the orange sauce over the pancakes, serve with ice cream and marvel at how such a simple pancake recipe can turn into a thing of beauty!

Crepes Suzette Ingredients 1 2For the pancakes (makes 4):
1 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Butter for frying

 

 

For the sauce:
Juice of 2 large oranges (± 250ml/1cup)
Zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon lemon juice
100g butter
50g caster sugar
2 tablespoons Cointreau (or any good orange liqueur)

Making the pancakes:

Crepes Suzette 3 2Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the eggs and beat until combined. Slowly pour in the milk, beating as you do, then add the salt and vanilla and give it one last beat until thoroughly combined and batter is smooth.

Heat the butter in a pan on medium, pour in a quarter of the pancake batter and fry for two or three minutes until browned underneath. Flip the pancake and fry the other side until golden brown. Remove from the pan, heat some more butter and repeat.

 

For the sauce:

Crepes Suzette 4 2Pour the orange juice and zest into a medium pan. Add the butter, lemon juice and caster sugar. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Crepes Suzette 6 2Add the Cointreau and simmer on low for 30 minutes,stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened to a rich dark orange syrup. Drizzle over the pancakes and serve with ice cream.

 

 

 

 

Crepes Suzette 8 2

I’m getting so hungry typing this! The sauce can be refrigerated for a few days and reheated in the microwave or on the stove top/hob.

 

 

 

Words Crush Wednesday – Nelson Mandela Edition

Some things have been going on lately that have made me think about anger, hostility and resentment and how it festers into hatred if left to stew. I keep reminding myself of Tata Madiba, our national (and international) hero, a man who was, and always will be, the epitome of forgiveness, courage, dedication and tenacity. It is sometimes good (and necessary) to remind oneself how how much other people have been through, and not just survived but triumphed. To many people, Madiba’s struggles may have seemed insurmountable had they been in his position, and yet the man became a beacon of hope and love. Let us all learn from him and in doing so, honour his legacy. This week’s Words Crush Wednesday is dedicated to him.

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Creamy Shiitake Mushroom Soup

Shiitake mushrooms add a woody flavour and meaty texture to a traditional creamy mushroom soup so if you’re looking for a little something extra, this is your guy. It involves frying and simmering and I use the same pot so it’s low on cleaning. I like the convenience factor! Delicious as a soup, this recipe can be used as a sauce too because when it boils down, it’s thick enough to pour over a juicy steak or tender chicken breasts. Versatility and convenience plus it takes half an hour and doesn’t require you to monitor it throughout, just the occasional stir once it’s simmering.

Prep time: 5 minutes     Cooking time: 30 minutes

Shiitake Mushroom Soup Ingredients120g shiitake mushrooms
400g white button mushrooms, chopped
6 leeks, sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon thyme
750ml (¾litre) low sodium vegetable stock (1 stock cube/sachet to 750ml water)
250ml (1 cup) cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Shiitake Mushroom Soup 1 2Cut the shiitake mushrooms into quarters and chop the white button mushrooms. Slice the leeks. On medium-low heat in a large pot, fry the leeks and shiitake mushrooms for five minutes. (You may remove half of the shiitakes at this point for garnishing if so desired.) Add the white button mushrooms and garlic and fry for another 10 minutes on medium-low. Pour in the stock and add the thyme, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

 

 

Shiitake Mushroom Soup 8 2Pour the contents into a blender and blend until smooth. Return the soup to the pot, stir in the cream and simmer for five minutes. Splash in the lemon juice and flavour with salt and pepper. Garnish with the remaining shiitake mushrooms.

 

 

 

 

Shiitake Mushroom Soup 7 2 3

Chicken, Bacon and Mushroom Pies

It’s cold and wet in Cape Town so pies. Is there really any better meal than fresh and crispy just-out-of-the-oven homemade pies on a chilly winter’s day? I’ve been making this recipe for about five years and it’s a keeper. I use individual pie dishes as opposed to one large dish and I get four individual pies with a little bit left over, which I stuff into the remaining pastry and bake for The Husband’s lunch.

The aromatic flavour of thyme coupled with the buttery chicken is a win-win. When you add these ingredients together, the creamy aroma will not go unnoticed and the bacon and mushrooms finish the dish off perfectly. It’s a filling dish that will leave you satisfied and warm!

Servings: 4     Prep time: 20 minutes     Cooking time: 15 – 20 minutes

Chicken bacon mushroom pies ingredients200g streaky bacon, sliced
500g chicken, cut into inch-size pieces
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, or 1 teaspoon minced garlic
400g chopped white mushrooms
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup water
400g ready rolled puff pastry
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs for painting the pastry

Chicken bacon mushroom pies 2 (2)In a large pan on medium heat, fry the bacon, mushrooms and garlic until the mushrooms have browned, about 5 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken bacon mushroom pies 2.5In a bowl, sprinkle the paprika and thyme into the flour and coat the cut chicken thoroughly.

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken bacon mushroom pies 3 (2)Melt the butter in a large pot and add the contents of the bowl. Fry on medium heat until the chicken changes colour, about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on the chicken and stir frequently to prevent it from sticking.

 

 

 

 

Chicken bacon mushroom pies 5 (2)Add the bacon and mushrooms to the chicken, pour in the stock and extra water and stir. Simmer for 10 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken bacon mushroom pies 4While the food is simmering, preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F). Roll the puff pastry out on the counter, sprinkling some flour underneath to prevent it from sticking. Measure your pie dishes by placing them on the pastry and outlining them. Cut out the four pieces and stretch them, if necessary, covering the sides.

 

 

 

 

Chicken bacon mushroom pies 6 (2)Fill the pie dishes ⅔ full and cover the top with pastry, extending it over the sides. You may need to use a little bit of water to stick the sides down onto the dish.

 

 

 

 

Chicken bacon mushroom pies 7 (3)Beat 2 egg yolks and paint over the pastry. Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes until the pies are golden brown on top. Let them stand for about 5 to 10 minutes as they will be very hot inside.

I was not trying to be romantic with the candles – we had a power failure just as the pies came out of the oven!

 

 

 

Chicken bacon mushroom pies 8 (2)

 

Fried Banana Split with Salted Caramel Sauce

It’s Fried-day! Sorry, I couldn’t resist! You know when your guests think something took you hours but it didn’t? Yep. This recipe. There are two parts to it and each took me ten minutes. I made the caramel sauce the day before for convenience but you can make it first and while it’s cooling make the fried bananas. It’s the perfect summer dessert. Sweet, buttery bananas with gooey caramel sauce and creamy ice cream – sign me up! I added mixed seeds and nuts but you can add almonds, pecans, walnuts – whatever calls your name!

Prep time: 5 minutes      Cooking time for bananas and caramel: 20 minutes total      Serves: 4

Make the caramel sauce and set aside to cool.

Fried Banana Split Ingredients

4 bananas, peeled and sliced lengthways, then cut in half
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Nuts for topping

 

 

Fried Banana Split 1 2

On medium-low heat, add bananas to the melted butter, sliced-way down, and gently fry, turning as needed, until golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle the sugar over the bananas at the five-minute mark and continue to gently fry. The whole frying process takes a total of ten minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Fried Banana Split 2 2

Scoop some ice cream into a bowl, lay the fried bananas over it, drizzle with salted caramel sauce and sprinkle the seeds and nuts if you’re using them. That’s it! Really. That is it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salted Caramel Sauce

Chocolate brownies. Fried banana splits. Creamy vanilla ice cream. All delicious on their own but topped with caramel sauce, they are heavenly. This sweet, gooey sauce is made even better by adding a touch of salt and you just can’t get it wrong, it’s that easy and quick too! How quick? Ten minutes. That’s it.

Salted caramel sauce ingredients 11 cup brown sugar
75g (5 tablespoons) salted butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup cream
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

 

 

 

Salted caramel sauce 1 2In a heavy-based medium pot, melt the sugar over medium-low heat. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon to prevent from sticking. The sugar will form clumps, continue stirring, and it will start to melt.

 

 

 

 

Salted caramel sauce 2 2Continue to stir until the clumps have melted.

 

 

 

 

 

Salted caramel sauce 3 2As soon as the sugar has melted, take the pot off the heat and add the butter, and, you guessed it, stir continuously.

 

 

 

 

 

Salted caramel sauce 4 2Stir in the cream slowly, sprinkle in the salt and add the vanilla. Wait for it to cool thoroughly before tasting!

 

 

 

 

 

Salted caramel sauce 5 2

Yep, that’s right, that’s all there is to it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words Crush Wednesday – Audrey Hepburn Edition

Tomorrow is The Husband’s birthday so there is a lot of cooking (more than usual) going on at the moment but I’ve recently seen three friends lose loved ones and I found this week’s Words Crush Wednesday quote to be true for all relationships; not just partners but siblings, friends, parents, anyone you hold dear. The Husband is the best man I know, even though I’ve been picking up his dirty laundry for 13 years!

Audrey Hepburn

 

I saw this and couldn’t resist! Happy birthday to the love of my life!

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Oxtail Stew

The Husband and I were cruising the butchery section at our local supermarket when his eyes lit up and he made a run for the section behind me. “Pleeeeease may we have oxtail?”. Let me be honest – I don’t cook a lot of oxtail, and The Husband recently bought a box of gazillion marshmallow and chocolate-covered Easter eggs which he hid away from me (for obvious reasons) No seriously, I jest not. A happy compromise – oxtail for Easter eggs. The thing is, I absolutely love this stew! It’s packed with flavour, fresh herbs, a delicious variety of veggies and it has wine. This is a wonderful excuse to open a bottle of red, just remember to keep some for the stew. A rich stew popular in South Africa, this is the perfect meal to serve on a chilly day. It’s packed with flavour, does not disappoint and will you leave you with a wonderfully satisfied tummy!

Oxtail used to only come from the tail of an ox, but it now comes from the tail of a cow of either gender (uh… gender equality?). It is a bony, fatty piece of meat with marrow in the centre. This makes it ideal for slow-cooked stews so here it is! Serve with rice or mashed potatoes. Let’s dig in!

Oxtail ingredients

1kg (2.2lbs) oxtail
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons oil
4 leeks, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
50g tomato paste
250ml red wine
250ml beef stock
500g baby tomatoes
1 x 400g tin whole peeled tomatoes
1kg (2.2lbs) baby potatoes
5 carrots, chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Fresh thyme and rosemary
2 bay leaves
Freshly cracked black pepper
Salt

Oxtail 1 2

Sprinkle flour over the oxtails and coat fully. Heat the oil in a large pan on medium and add the meat when the oil is hot. Fry for about 10 minutes until the meat is browned on all sides. Set aside.

 

 

 

 

Oxtail 5 2Pour the hot oil and pan drippings into a large pot, heat on medium and add the leeks and garlic. Fry for about 3 – 5 minutes. Return the oxtails into the pot with tomato paste and fry, turning the meat, for another 3 minutes. Pour in the wine and beef stock, add the fresh and tinned tomatoes and start bringing the stew to a slow boil.

 

 

 

Oxtail 6 2Add the carrots and potatoes. Wash your fresh thyme and rosemary and sprinkle a few sprigs into the pot. Splash in Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice and crack some black pepper. (I don’t add salt at this point – let it stew for an hour, taste it and add salt. The Worcestershire sauce is already salty so try to avoid adding too much salt.) Stir everything, cover, bring to a boil, uncover and simmer for 2 hours. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.

 

 

Oxtail 8 2