Let’s Talk: An Interview with Moi

A few weeks ago, the lovely Ann from Grubbs n Critters interviewed me and posed some interesting questions. The premise was a more in-depth take, apart from what’s on my ‘About’ page. Check out Ann’s full post here, but for now, here are her questions and my obliging answers:

1. Tell us a little bit more about yourself..outside what you have written from your about page.

I studied Marketing & Business Management at university and my first full-time job was at an online trading company. Snooze. I then, after a few years, ended up (purely by chance) doing QA and testing for a company that builds and maintains websites. I was quite amazed at how much I loved my job. Being a perfectionist definitely helped! I never thought I would do anything IT-related but I was in my element! Another thing I never thought I would do: enjoy cooking! Those were two huge things that happened within the same year and those experiences really opened my mind (and stomach) to trying new things. It was pretty cool, unexpected and rewarding, and completely serendipitous.

2. What are your cooking inspirations? A famous chef, your mom, a cookbook or a blog…?

Honestly, I needed a hobby and wanted a challenge and in no way did I ever think I would succeed at cooking. There were no books or movies or TV shows that inspired me. I simply decided to challenge myself to do something I thought I couldn’t. However, I would say, in terms of people who influenced my cooking once I got started, my gran was a key inspiration. She was a master at the craft and my happiest childhood memories are of all of us doing the traditional Sunday lunch roast at my grandparents’ house. She did very traditional meals, which were my focus for quite some time when I started cooking, and that provided a very solid basis. I’m definitely more adventurous though and like to push my boundaries.

In terms of chefs, although Gordon Ramsay looks like a bit of an ass and I don’t watch any of his TV shows, I really enjoy his recipes. Jamie Oliver is someone whose books I actually buy – a rare occurrence because I mostly Google recipes. You also can’t go wrong with Nigella and Ina Garten. (Ann: Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Nigella…my favourite inspiration too! That’s kindred spirit!)

3. What inspired you to start  your blog? And how did you end up with Eat, Play, Clove?

It’s pretty simple. I love cooking and I love talking and writing, so I decided to parlay them into a cooking blog. The reason I started my blog is because I sucked balls when I started cooking and I followed online recipes to a T, even better if they had pictures, so I thought I would share my recipes and take pictures of every step in case there are some newbs out there who need visual assistance!

4. Name your 3 favourite bloggers and can you explain why they are your favourites?

Three of my favourite bloggers are you (Ann: awwww! Thank you, Gen!), Sally’s Baking Addiction and Jane’s Patisserie. Yummly is a cool site too. I love learning and getting inspiration for new recipes. With yours, it’s so interesting to me to see how you incorporate the different cultures in cooking. It’s also enlightening learning about your culture, watching you find a balance between working your ass off, cooking, being a mom and wife, travelling AND blogging regularly. Wow, I’m tired just thinking about it.

Sally’s Baking Addiction – she makes the most amazing sweet stuff and  takes incredible photos, which is something I’m pretty useless at. I’ve recently discovered Jane’s Patisserie – that girl knows how to bake! Yummly has the yummiest recipes too. (Ann: I couldn’t agree more. Yummly is an awesome resource!)

5. What’s the one kitchen tool you cannot live without and what’s your biggest failure in the kitchen?

Oh, that is such a good question! My dishwasher is right up there. It saves so much time and I can do my nails and not have them chip from washing dishes (priorities!). My food processor is a thing of beauty and again, saves so much time and effort (I’m a bit lazy, I think you can see this). Also, my very sharp knife. I would almost rather have a good knife than a dishwasher. Almost.

My biggest failure was a roast lamb I made about 13 years ago. The Husband had a convection microwave when we met so I decided to do a roast and, instead of just cooking it in oven mode, I also microwaved it on high for about 1.5 hours. When I took it out, it was smoking and literally shattered. It was like a large piece of coal. He still rips me off about it to this day. At that point I decided I was terrible at cooking (because I was!) so I had a mental block against it.

6. You have lived your life in South Africa, to most of us, it’s synonymous with “safari” and nature”. What else are there, what’s unique about it, dos and don’ts?

Apart from an abundance of mountains, deserts, oceans and wildlife, there is wine. Lots of wine. It’s an incredibly beautiful country packed with diversity. We’re pretty into mining here and export a lot of fruit. The sunsets are magnificent.

Do – go on safari, take the cable car up Table Mountain, visit our many beautiful beaches and explore our wine farms. Eat lots of fresh fish, steak and try the babotie – a traditional Cape Malay dish.

Don’t – drive around with your doors unlocked, feed the wild animals or expect a fast-paced life. We’re super chill in coastal towns and cities.

7. Cooking or baking? If there are 3 recipes from your blog you think readers should try, which would you recommend and why?

Crap. I’m very indecisive. I’m better at cooking but I love baking, although I need to work on my presentation, but baby steps! Three recipes I recommend are:

Baked camembert in phyllo – cheese, butter and phyllo. Heaven! It’s an excellent starter and pretty easy to do.

Tomato bredie – it’s a traditional South African dish and you can use beef or lamb. You can make it the day before because it gets better the longer it stands, so it’s convenient too. It feeds quite a few people and it’s a one-dish meal.

Baked vanilla cheesecake or cupcakes, any kind, although red velvet is my favourite. The cheesecake is vanilla-y and I’m obsessed with vanilla and will find any excuse to use vanilla beans. The red velvet is a mild, incredibly smooth chocolate cupcake but with a hint of vanilla too, and my preference for any cupcake, regardless of flavour, is vanilla cream cheese frosting.

I interviewed Ann in return, and you can find it here. If you have a fast-paced life and time is a precious commodity, I highly recommend reading this interview with a mom of two who works crazy hours, runs a home and still finds time to cook amazing meals and be consistent in her blogging!

 

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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

 

Bliss

The truth is that there is a plethora of bliss-evoking sights, tastes, smells and more. Bliss can be a fleeting moment; something that’s over just as quickly as it began, or it can carry longevity. It’s impossible to pick just one image and similarly it’s impossible to share all, but here are a few. It must be said that none if these images would conjure such happy, borderline perfect memories and feelings were it not for the people I shared them with.

Ending a perfect weekend with a braai and this view in Glen Cairn. Just another Cape Town Sunday.

Ending a perfect weekend with a braai and this view in Glen Cairn. Just another Cape Town Sunday.

Surrounded by vineyards and mountains in Franschhoek on a cold and wet day.

Surrounded by vineyards and mountains in Franschhoek on a cold and wet day.

All-too-fleeting bliss, making and testing red velvet cupcakes.

All-too-fleeting bliss, making and testing red velvet cupcakes.