• Lockdown larder: South African bakes

    I don’t often reminisce about my childhood in Cape Town, South Africa.  It has been many years since I left – I have just realised that next month it will be 30 years.   I was just about to say that I can’t remember why I started thinking about the bakes of my childhood, but then I remembered that I have recently joined The Lekker Old Days Facebook page, which harks back to the good old days in South Africa.  They often post pictures of sweets and biscuits and enquire whether we can remember anything that far back.  It’s a bit of harmless nostalgia, but it does give rise to a few oohs and aahs of remembrance.  Anyway, someone in the group posted a recipe for Romany Creams and I decided to give the recipe a go.

    The recipe is as follows:

    Ingredients

    • 500g butter (room temperature)
    • 200g caster sugar
    • 25g icing sugar
    • ¼ cup oil
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tbsp vanilla essence
    • 480g plain flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 125g of cocoa powder
    • 2 cups desiccated coconut
    • 450g plain chocolate, melted in a bowl in a microwave for 2 minutes or over a Bain Marie

    Method

    • Beat the butter, oil, icing sugar and caster sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
    • Add the egg and the vanilla essence and mix for a minute.
    • Add all the dry ingredients and mix by hand to form a soft dough.
    • Cling wrap and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
    • Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
    • Roll out dough on a well-floured surface and ensure that your rolling pin is floured as well.
    • Take a fork and run it lightly over dough, scraping to form the rugged look.
    • Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter and place on a greased or non-stick baking tray.
    • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
    • When cooled, turn the biscuits upside down, so if you baked 50 biscuits, only turn around 25 biscuits.
    • Allow the melted chocolate to cool down for 10 to 15 minutes.
    • Spoon the chocolate on top of the biscuits and wait for the chocolate to half set a bit before lightly placing the top biscuit. Press gently.
    • Allow the chocolate to set and pack away in an air tight container.

    I made half the recipe.  This was more than enough for two of us for a week.

    Although the Romany Cream were absolutely delicious, it reminded me of another favourite biscuit of mine growing up, the Choc Crust.  It was inevitably therefore that these were next on my list.

    Choc Crust Biscuits (Source: Cape Malay Cooking with Fatima Sydow)

    Ingredients

    • 150 grams of soft butter
    • 1 large egg
    • 100g caster sugar
    • 180g muscovado sugar
    • 1 tsp of vanilla essence
    • Pinch of salt
    • 1 tbsp fine ginger or freshly grated ginger
    • 2 tbsp golden syrup
    • 330g plain flour
    • ¼ cup of oil
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 1 cup of desiccated coconut
    • 1 large slab of chocolate melted to fill in between the biscuits

    Method

    • Cream the butter and sugar together.
    • Add the egg, vanilla, ginger, salt, oil and golden syrup and mix until combined.
    • Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until a soft dough is formed.
    • Place in cling wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
    • Roll out your dough on a floured surface, scrape with a fork lightly up and down to create the rugged look and with a round or oval cookie cutter cut out shapes (not too large as the dough spreads).
    • Take a butter knife and make a 5mm wide rectangle hole in centre of cookie.
    • Transfer to tray lined with baking paper and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 10-12 minutes or until its golden brown. Remove and cool.
    • Melt the chocolate and spread with a butter knife some melted chocolate on to the base of biscuit and join this side with another biscuit
    • Store in an airtight container

    You would have thought that I might have stopped at this point, but I didn’t.  The choc crusts made me think of nutty crust biscuits, so thank to a recipe from Halaal Recipes, I made these as well.  The recipe is as follows:

    Nutty Crust Biscuits

    • 250g butter
    • 135g brown sugar
    • 1 cup oats (grind it a bit and roast in the oven for 5 minutes)
    • 1 cup coconut
    • 1 tbsp oil
    • 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 2 tbsp golden syrup
    • 2 tbsp boiling water
    • 240g to 360g flour (or enough to make a soft dough – I used about 300g)

    Method

    • Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy
    • Add the roasted oats and coconut and mix well
    • Add golden syrup to the boiling water with the bicarbonate of soda and mix and then add to the butter mixture
    • Add enough flour to make a soft dough
    • Separate dough into 3 portions and make into logs and refrigerate for 30 minutes
    • Slice with the back of a knife and place on a baking sheet with enough space in between
    • Bake 180 degrees Celsius for 12-15 minutes
    • Switch off the oven and leave the biscuits to dry out a bit
    • Store in an air tight container

    I have one more South African biscuit type bake that I would like to do.  A very simple crunchie (flapjack).  Watch this space.

    Happy Baking!

  • Lockdown Larder: Soups

    My foray into cooking during lockdown started with soup making.  On the weekend of the 14th March 2020, when there were signs that things were getting more serious on the Covid-19 front, my husband and I cancelled a family get together which we had already purchased all the ingredients for.  We took the decision to cancel the event as 4 of the guests were over the age of 70 and 2 had COPD.   It was not that our elderly relatives asked for the event to be cancelled, but we felt that given the circumstances it would be the most sensible thing to do.

    Anyway, the first soup I made, was a warm cucumber and courgette soup.  It wouldn’t have been my natural choice of soup, but I had excess courgettes, cucumbers, celery and spring onions to use up.  Although I say that cucumber soup was not my natural choice, I have had it once before, when my husband and I climbed Kilimanjaro a few years ago.  It was one of the meals that was gratefully received after a long day hiking.

    Unfortunately, I can’t find the recipe I used for the soup as I have Googled so many recipes since I made the soup that I can’t find the recipe in my search history.  Suffice is to say that I used the spring onions instead of onions, added in a couple or three of celery sticks and chopped up two cucumbers and two courgettes.  I sauteed these off  in some oil in a large saucepan for  a few minutes and then added stock, seasoning and a bay leaf or two.  When the vegetables were cooked through I blended the soup until smooth and then served it warm with a dollop of natural yoghurt.   As with many of my soup meals, I accompanied the soup with a slice or two of Sourdough bread from Sourdough Revolution.

    As mentioned before, not long into lockdown, it was beginning to become clear that my online Ocado food orders were going to dry up, so I subscribed to the Lynwood & Co vegetable and fruit boxes.  In the first week, my vegetable box contained two rather large heads of broccoli, so I decided that broccoli soup may be in order.  After my online search for broccoli soup recipes, I settled on the trusty BBC Good Food site and the following, very easy, recipe:

    Ingredients

    Method

    • Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic for 1-2 minutes
    • Pour the vegetable stock into the pan and add the broccoli florets
    • Bring to the boil and reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes, until the broccoli is tender
    • Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a liquidiser. Blend until smooth.
    • Ladle the soup into serving bowls and drizzle with cream to serve (if you have any).

    The recipe was so easy that I made it twice in one week.

    My last order (of two) from Ocado substituted my requested two punnets of mushrooms with two, rather large, family packs of mushrooms.  As there are only two humans in our household (and one fur baby), two family packs of mushrooms were clearly going to be too much for us.  The simplest way of using up excess vegetables is, of course, making soup, so I made a rather large batch of mushroom soup, using another recipe from the trusted BBC Good Food website:

    Ingredients

    • 90g butter
    • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, crushed
    • 500g mushrooms, finely chopped (chestnut or button mushrooms work well)
    • 2 tbsp plain flour
    • 1 litre hot vegetable stock
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 4 tbsp single cream (if you have any or use natural yoghurt instead)
    • small handful parsley, roughly chopped, to serve (optional)

    Method

    • Heat the butter in a large saucepan and cook the onions and garlic until soft but not browned, about 8-10 minutes.
    • Add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat for another 3 mins until softened. Sprinkle over the flour and stir to combine. Pour in the vegetable stock, bring the mixture to the boil, then add the bay leaf and simmer for another 10 minutes.
    • Remove and discard the bay leaf, then remove the mushroom mixture from the heat and blitz using a hand blender/liquidiser until smooth. Gently reheat the soup and stir through the cream/yoghurt. Scatter over the parsley, if you like, and serve.

    After my Ocado orders dried up and my Lynwood & Co vegetable and fruit boxes became a regular thing, my challenge was not, not having enough fruit and vegetables, but rather having too many.   Not only having too many, but also not of the variety I would normally choose.  I am not a huge root vegetable fan, except at Christmas, so the next two boxes presented me with an additional challenge in that they contained parsnips, turnips and celeriac.

    Not wanting to be defeated, I made a creamy parsnip and turnip soup using a Mindful Living Network Recipe, followed by a celeriac soup using a recipe from Delicious Every Day.

    Creamy Parsnip and Turnip Soup

    Ingredients

    • 3-4 mid-sized turnips
    • 2 medium parsnips
    • 1.5 cups of water
    • 2 tsp of garlic powder
    • 1 tsp vegetable bouillon
    • 1 tbsp of olive oil
    • Sea salt and pepper to taste
    • 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar

    Method

    • Rinse the turnips
    • Peel the skin and dice the turnips and parsnips into small chunks
    • Bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil in a cooking pot
    • Add vegetable stock, garlic powder and sea salt into the water
    • Add the turnips and parsnips into the mixture
    • Half way through the cooking process (20 minutes, or until the turnips and parsnips are semi-tender), add the white wine vinegar
    • Once the turnips and parsnips are soft, remove from the stove top and add pepper to taste
    • Blend the mixture until a smooth puree
    • For a less creamy consistency, add a little more hot water

    Celeriac Soup

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp of olive oil
    • 1 celeriac peeled and cut into cubes
    • 1 large potato peeled and cut into cubes
    • 1 leek trimmed, washed and roughly sliced
    • 1 onion peeled and roughly chopped
    • 1 clove garlic sliced
    • 4 cups vegetable stock
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Leaves of a handful of parsley washed and roughly chopped

    Method

    • Place a large pot over a medium low heat and add the olive oil.  Add the celeriac, leek, potato, garlic and onion, and season with salt and pepper.  Gently sweat the vegetables until the celeriac starts to soften, around 10 minutes.
    • Add the vegetable stock and bring the soup up to a boil before reducing to a simmer.  Simmer for 20 minutes or until the celeriac is completely tender.  Add the parsley and use an immersion blender to puree until smooth, or alternatively blend in batches in a blender.  Return to the heat and check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.
    • Serve with a drizzle of olive oil or a dollop of yoghurt or sour cream.

    Okay, I am now a bit souped out now.  I hope this gives you some food for thought, if you like me, have spare vegetables to use up.  Maybe not the best recipes going into Summer, but hopefully useful at some point in the future.

  • The Lockdown Larder: The Essentials

    When I was growing up, my maternal grandmother, Constance, had a large dresser in the corridor near her kitchen, where she stored tin upon tin of food.  I am not sure how long there had been in there or how often she replenished them (i.e. if they were still in date), but the cupboard was always full.

    I never asked my grandmother about the cupboard, but my mother told me that my grandmother always kept a well stocked cupboard as she had lived through the second world war with three young daughters, as well as post war rationing, and never wanted to be in a situation again where she didn’t have enough food to feed her family.

    Although I have never lived through a war or rationing and until recently never really considered the possibility that food may be difficult to come by, I have always had a well-stocked dry store cupboard.  The fact that I am also a Pastry Chef and have a lot of baking ingredients, has also meant that I started the lockdown period is a relatively good state.  Sorry, I should have also mentioned that I have a very well-stocked herb and spice cupboard (much to the annoyance of my husband, who is constantly trying to keep them in some order – he has been know to alphabetise them on more than one occasion) and a range of vinegar, oils  etc.

    On another subject, a while back, long before the lockdown, I bought a book called “The Art of the Larder” by Claire Thomson with the strap line “Good food from your store cupboard, every day”.  While her book is very informative and has an array of wonderful recipes, the larder basics she suggests, go beyond what I will be suggesting here.   i guess the main difference is that her book was written at a time when access to the supermarkets was easy and there was no constraint on the food stuffs that could be bought.

    With the above in mind and without any further delay, the following is a suggested list of larder essentials.  I am likely to add to this list as the lockdown continues.

    • Dried pasta  (my favourites are penne or rigatoni, spaghetti and macaroni)
    • Noodles (wheat or rice)
    • Couscous
    • Tinned beans (my favourites are cannellini, red kidney, black beans and chickpeas)
    • Ready cooked lentils (green lentils and puy lentils)
    • Dried pulses (split peas and red lentils)
    • Rice (of your choice)
    • Porridge oats
    • Flour (plain, self-raising, spelt, rye, 00, strong white bread, gram, corn, wholegrain/brown)
    • Semolina and polenta
    • UHT milk (cow’s, almond, oat, soya)
    • Tinned milk (evaporated, condensed and coconut)
    • Sugar (caster, white, dark brown, light brown, icing, jam)
    • Honey, maple syrup, treacle, malt extract, syrup
    • Peanut butter and/or other nut butter
    • Chocolate (milk and dark)
    • Cocoa powder
    • Desiccated coconut
    • Spices (salt (coarse and fine), peppercorns, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground cumin, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, garlic salt, celery salt, rose harissa, sumac, turmeric, paprika,  curry powder, Garam Masala, chilli powder and chilli flakes)
    • Herbs (dried oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, mixed herbs)
    • Vanilla essence and vanilla paste
    • Baking soda and baking powder
    • Easy bake yeast
    • Seeds (poppy, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin)
    • Nuts (raw cashew nuts and peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan, almonds (whole, ground and flaked), pistachio
    • Dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, figs, dates. cranberries)
    • Oil (olive, coconut, sunflower or vegetable oil)
    • Vinegar (malt, white distilled, white wine, red wine, sherry, cider and balsamic)
    • Other larder essentials (tomatoes, sweetcorn, passata, tomato puree, olives (black and green), tuna, anchovies, vegetable bouillon, mustard (English, Dijon, Wholegrain), capers, stem ginger)

    In addition to ambient larder goods, there are also a few staple fridge and freezer ingredients that you will need:

    • Milk
    • Cheese (cheddar, halloumi, feta, mozzarella, parmesan)
    • Butter
    • Plain yoghurt
    • Eggs
    • Filo pastry
    • Puff pastry

    Okay, having written this list of ‘essentials’, I am a bit embarrassed to consider them essentials, so I may need to refer to the above as the things that I have accumulated over some time and which you will need should you wish to cook the recipes I will be posting.