Archives for the month of: August, 2014

I’ve had a lot of fun lately taking  part in the truly creative (I really am envious!), Scarlet Bennett’s thirty-day creative challenge. I started halfway through, have  barely managed to deliver something creative even every second day and some of my contributions have been extremely modest, but it has been a delight and a joy.  And motivating too. I’m addicted. I’ve loved seeing – and hearing – the results of the daily creative activities that have been produced 10 000 km away in Canberra. Every morning I’ve scrambled to do something, anything, even vaguely creative, before Scarlet’s blog posting deadline of 8 pm Canberra time/11 am Johannesburg time – and so breakfast has ended up being the creative time of the day for me. I have been inspired by the group and their wide ranging creative activities and although I won’t be composing any music or attempting a drawing I might just take a leaf from opera singer and strange bedfellow, Kanen Breen’s book and get out a needle and thread or a bottle of nail polish one of these days.

Here’s a round up of my kitchen fun and games, eats and drinks:

Day 14: Breakfast Puff – an old favourite, from a previous life, when I was the lucky recipient of a subscription to US Gourmet magazine from my then mother-in-law

Day 16:  Three potions – tarragon oil, black pepper syrup, lavender syrup

Day 18: Tropical fruit and black pepper ice cream breakfast. Also from a previous life and from US Gourmet magazine c. 1993

Day 20: Swiss chard muffins – Swiss chard and sage from the garden, spiked with black pepper syrup from day 16

Day 21: Passionfruit cordial and carrot, clementine, mint and ginger juice

(With thanks to Scarlet for making the pictures look so good!)

The most fun of the week was the morning I spent making the potions. I first came across  a recipe for tarragon oil on Heidi Swanson’s wonderful blog, 101 Cookbooks. I’ve never made it exactly as she does since we somehow seem to be incapable of growing parsley but our tarragon is a rewarding and reliable plant that comes up year after year. You can make the oil with the first leaves that appear in spring  or with the last leaves of the season. A great way to preserve tarragon – and you’ll never countenance using dried tarragon again.

Tarragon oil

Take equal quantities of tarragon and olive oil. Blanch the tarragon leaves in boiling salted water,  refresh in ice water and squeeze dry. Purée the tarragon with the olive oil using  an immersion blender. Allow to stand for an hour or so and then strain through a fine sieve. Store in the fridge but bring to room temperature  to serve.

Use the tarragon oil:

  • In simple salad dressings – combine with black pepper syrup and freshly squeezed lemon juice and toss with  simple salad greens.
  • Drizzled over roasted beetroot and goat’s cheese with black pepper syrup
  • Added to savoury muffins
  • In egg dishes
  • As a marinade for chicken  – with the black peppercorn syrup

Black pepper syrup

Combine 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of crushed black pepper. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about half an hour. Cool, strain and store in the fridge. Use the stained black pepper kernels in any dish that calls for crushed black pepper.

Has been known to:

  • Combine exceptionally well with tarragon oil
  • Invigorate the childhood favourite, macaroni cheese
  • Add a certain je ne sais quoi to a Swiss chard, sage and spring onion fritatta






There is something so satisfying about preserving fruits. Jars, bottles and bowls of jewel coloured delights lined up on the pantry shelf just waiting to add a little something special to a meal.

I have loved my quince obsession and although there were a few ups and downs it resulted in a mountain of membrillo, jars of spiced quinces and bowls of quince curd.  One evening we had a platter of three types of quinces – spiced, curd and membrillo and we served oat cakes and cheese alongside the quince platter.

But my preserving time has not all been devoted to quinces – passion fruits too have been demanding attention.

I am so thrilled with the sprawling passion fruit/granadilla vine that has been bearing fruit continuously since December. Although we are now in mid winter and the plant has been lightly frosted at the top there are  still flowers and buds on the plant as well as between about one and two hundred slowly ripening fruits.  Over the last few weeks I have picked about eighty fruits and have made two batches of passion fruit cordial.


Passion Fruit Cordial

For every one cup of passion fruit pulp add one cup of water, 3/4 cup of light brown or white sugar and 3 T lemon juice.

Mix together well and bring slowly to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer gently until slightly syrupy.  Strain – or not – and bottle in sterilised bottles. I like to strain about two thirds and mix that with the remaining unstrained one third.

passion fruit cordial

In my search for quince recipes I came across Ouma Babsie’s preserved quince recipe. I loved the fact that in this recipe the quinces are baked whole in the oven, then peeled and sliced before simmering in syrup and bottling. Since I was slow cooking some lamb in the oven it seemed to me to be the perfect time to make Ouma Babsie’s preserved quinces.

I popped the lamb into the oven and dashed out to run some errands knowing that the lamb would be cooking happily for four hours. I got waylaid in book shops and coffee shops but made it safely back home within my four hour time limit. The quinces, I forgot, had only needed two and a half to three hours – not four hours – in the oven. They were luckily fine if somewhat too soft to slice and simmer for Ouma Babsie’s preserved quinces. Very disappointing.

roast quince

I just happened to have a mountain of other quince recipes waiting to be made so after a quick rifle through the pages I found a couple of solutions. One: quince pancakes  which we had for breakfast the following morning. They were delicious both hot for breakfast, at room temperature later in the day and cold the next day.

And two: quince curd. I made it according the the recipe from the British Food Larder.  I pureed the pulp with an immersion blender and then cooked the curd exactly as per their recipe. Heaven. And a serious contender for a winning place in the ongoing war that wages in our household – second place maybe to passiflora edulis.

The pièce de résistance of all the quince cooking was the preserved spiced quinces. We ate the spiced pink slices with cream for dessert and with cheese. And we ate them straight out of the jar, too. We could not get enough of them.

This is a recipe I need to make again – soon. Very soon. This is a recipe I should be posting here. This is a recipe that came out of my head. This is a recipe for which there are no notes. It is a recipe that seemed so obvious. How could I have not written a thing down? This is what I think I did/what I would do next time:

Spiced quinces

  • Make a syrup with a 3:4 ratio (sugar:water) in a heavy bottomed pot (equal weight sugar and fruit?)
  • Add bay leaves, star anise, cloves and cinnamon to the mix while stirring to dissolve the sugar
  • Peel, core and slice the quinces and immerse them in the syrup
  • Bring to the boil
  • Simmer gently until the quinces are soft, the syrup is thick and both the quinces and syrup are beautifully pink – I cooked mine on the Godin fireplace for I think a few hours
  • Bottle in sterilised jars

I was slightly worried that I had overcooked the quinces and that the syrup was going to turn into toffee. When I eventually allowed myself to open a jar I was delighted to find that in fact I had spiced quinces in a quince jelly.

And stupid as I was not to make any notes,  I did at least take a few photographs.