Archives for the month of: October, 2014

Some months ago I slipped into a second hand bookshop while waiting for Richard who was in the barber. I think at the time we were in the midst of our food waste challenge so I was cooking strictly from the pantry and vegetable garden and was determined not to buy any food. There were however no rules in place regarding the buying of cookery books. In the time it took for Richard to have a very speedy grooming I managed to find and buy three cook books all of which were of the ‘cooking from the garden’ variety. I was delighted with them. Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes by Jeanne Kelley, Plum Gorgeous by Romney Steele and I’m afraid I just can’t remember what number three was, let alone find it. It might be buried under the mountains of paperwork waiting to be tamed into a tax return. Now there’s an incentive to get that done.

Blue Eggs and Yellow TomatoesThis morning when I was looking for inspiration for my weekend ritual of making something for Scarlet’s creative challenge while at the same time treating my family to a little surprise, I reached for Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes and idly flipped through it with no real expectations. I knew I had to make two things: a nice healthy (carb free) breakfast for Richard preferably using things from the garden, maybe a variation on last week’s frittata, and something muffin-like and way more indulgent for the kids using only ingredients we had on hand.

Two recipes jumped out at me: ‘Bittersweet One Pot Brownies’ and a Swiss chard encased baked egg recipe. ‘Perfect’, I thought,’those recipes are just crying out to be made – with some modification.’

And into the garden I went. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the lovage growing so abundantly in its corner and its companion, the French tarragon. They did work rather well together last week. And then there were the spring onions in desperate need of picking.

Spring Onion Flower

That was the healthy/low carb diet option taken care of. Now I just needed to come up with something creative for the brownie. I rummaged around in the cupboard and found half a packet of blanched almonds and a jar of instant espresso powder bought for one of Nigella’s recipes. A nice start but what else? There was some left-over halva from last week. ‘Could that work in a Brownie?’ I wondered.

And so I ended up with Green Eggs and Halva, Almond, Mocha Brownies and a happy little family.

Halva Almond Mocha Brownie

Green Egg

Green Eggs

Ingredients

  •  olive oil and or butter for frying
  • 4 Swiss chard leaves
  • 6 large spring onions finely sliced (include some of the green part)
  • two stalks of lovage including the leaves, finely chopped
  • a very generous handful of tarragon, finely chopped
  • a heaped teaspoon of tomato jam
  • salt and pepper
  • feta cheese
  • 4 extra large free range eggs

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Butter four small ramekins.
  2. Cut the stalk out of the Swiss chard (keeping the leaves whole) and chop the stalk finely
  3. Fry the Swiss chard stalk, spring onions and lovage very gently in a generous amount of olive oil and butter until very soft.
  4. While frying the spring onion mixture lie the Swiss chard leaves on top of the mixture in the pan one at a time until just wilted. Set aside.
  5. Add the tarragon, salt, pepper and the tomato jam to the spring onion mix stirring until nicely mixed together.
  6. Line the ramekins with the Swiss chard leaves.
  7. Crumble a little feta into each ramekin, add a couple of spoons of the spring onion mix, crack an egg into each ramekin, spoon in some more of the spring onion mix and top with the remaining crumbled feta.
  8. Place on a baking tray and bake for 12 minutes or until the egg is just set.
  9. Turn out onto a plate and serve with a little fresh chopped chilli.

Halva, Almond, Mocha Brownies

Ingredients

  • 140 grams butter
  • 245 grams dark chocolate, broken into chunks
  • 170 grams sugar
  • 3 extra large free range eggs
  • seeds of half a vanilla pod
  • 115 g cake flour
  • 10 ml instant espresso powder
  • 50 g chopped roasted almonds ( I roasted them in the oven in the baking tray for ten minutes while mixing the batter)
  • 100 g sesame halva cut into 1cm cubes

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a 15 x 27 cm baking pan and line the base with baking paper.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heavy pot over a very low heat stirring constantly. Remove from the heat.
  3. Stir in the sugar.
  4. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
  5. Fold in the flour and espresso powder, and then gently fold in the almonds and halva.
  6. Pour into the pan and bake for about 20 minutes. Be careful not to overcook – you want the brownies to be moist inside.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan. Cut into squares.

 

Without Scarlet Bennett and her Creative Challenge 52 Exploring Eating would be neglected. Without my fellow team members across the world in Australia I would not have the motivation to dash into the kitchen at least once a week and whip up something I might not otherwise have even considered.

For this week’s challenge I decided to make halva muffins inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s sesame  halva and walnut cake. This is a cake that bears no comparison, a cake so exquisite that you want to eat it everyday, it’s a cake that makes you forget that chocolate cake even exists. You would be right in wondering why anyone would even consider making something merely inspired by it, just make the real thing for goodness sake.

But I did try something inspired by it. I made two types of muffins one of which was inspired not only by Yottam’s cake but by my recent alternative milk tart experiments. There lies madness you might say. The woman has gone crazy. Version one: halva and dark chocolate. Version two: halva, rose extract and cardamom. muffins halva rose cardamom In fact I inadvertently made three types since I managed to get mixed up when I was assembling the layers. I was horrified when I realised what I’d done. I’d put chocolate into some of the rose and cardamom muffins. This was sure to be a disaster. I hate chocolate with cardamom AND I hate chocolate with rose. And worse  surely that was just one too many different flavours?

The minute the tray came out of the oven I tentatively tasted one of the version three muffins. Not bad. Rather nice in fact. Well I liked it but the kids were sure to hate them. Never mind, there were still plenty of the other two more restrained versions. I’d just have to eat the version three muffins myself.

The entire family was still in bed. It was only 6.15 am. I went to my computer to send Scarlet pictures of the fruits of my labours and while I was doing that I started to feel bad about  making sweet, fattening baked things for breakfast. Richard is trying to lose weight. All baked goods have been eliminated from his diet. What could I do that would make him feel catered to, too?

I dashed back to the kitchen and threw together a perfect paleo breakfast for Richard – mini baked fritatta flavoured with tarragon and lovage from the garden. I worried slightly about mixing those two herbs which grow so happily next to each other in the garden but thought what the hell, tarragon is perfect with eggs and I’m on a mission to find ways of using the lovage.

Maria appeared in the kitchen. ‘You’re up early. Have you been making something for breakfast or have you made another of your weird potions?’ she asked.

‘You’re in luck,’ I said, and pointed to versions one and two. ‘You’ll hate the others. They were a mistake.’

‘How can you be so sure?’ she asked. I replied that if there is one thing I’ve learnt about my children it’s that they don’t like my more unusual creations and that it was fine, I’d eat those muffins.

Being a self-respecting teenager Maria defiantly grabbed a version three muffin. I had a brief flashback to a four year  leaving a plate of biscuits each one with a perfect half-moon missing for the guests to eat. At least there weren’t any guests coming for breakfast.

‘Actually,’ said Maria, ‘it’s quite nice.’ And she popped the last of the muffin into her mouth. ‘Can I have another?’

Jamie was in complete agreement. The ‘failure’ was by far the best, he declared. Richard often says, ‘Failure is where the treasure is,’ and in this instance (if in no other) I have to acknowledge he’s right. That’s the recipe I’ll make again and the recipe you’ll find below.  A happy mistake. frittata swiss chard cheese tarragon lovage Then Richard appeared. ‘Mmm, those look good. What’s in them?’ he said pointing to the frittata. I did what I usually do when I’m scared to admit what the ingredients really are and said ‘Try them, guess, you tell me’. The tarragon and  lovage frittata were declared delicious so I encourage you to throw caution to the wind and  mix unexpected flavours. Within reason.

Halva, chocolate, cardamom and rose muffins

Ingredients

  • 100g butter, melted
  • 165 g demerara sugar – you can use ordinary brown sugar of course, I just wanted to use what I had
  • 2 extra large free range eggs
  • 200 ml Greek yoghurt
  • 4 teaspoons rose extract – I always use Kuhestan Damask Rose Extract from Magoebaskloof, Limpopo
  • 120g cake flour
  • 120g wholwheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1.5  teaspoon cinnamon
  • seeds from 12 green cardamom pods crushed fine in a pestle and mortar
  • pinch salt
  • 120 g halva – cut half of it into 24 small cubes and roughly crumble the balance
  • 80 g dark chocolate cut into 24 small pieces
  • Topping: mix together 30 g finely crumbled halva, 25 g rolled oats and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinamon

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Mix the  melted butter, sugar, eggs, yoghurt and the  rose essence together in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl stir together all the dry ingredients and gently mix in the 60 g of crumbled halva.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and combine until just mixed.
  5. Line 12 half cup  (125 ml) muffin tins and divide half the batter into them.
  6. Scatter the halva and chocolate cubes over the batter and then top with the remaining batter.
  7. Sprinkle with the topping mix and bake for 20 minutes.

I based the muffin recipe on Ruby Tandoh’s raisin cinnamon muffins from The Guardian.

Baked mini  frittata 

Ingredients

  • olive oil for greasing
  • 3 rashers bacon chopped
  • 24 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 young lovage stalk with its leaves, finely chopped
  • 80 g mixed cheese cut into cubes – I used a mix of goats milk haloumi and feta
  • 30 g shredded Swiss chard
  • 6 extra large free range eggs beaten well with black pepper and salt to taste
  • a couple of sprigs of tarragon, finely chopped

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Put a few drops of olive oil into 12 (80 ml) muffin tins, add two tomatoes to each and divide the bacon and lovage between the twelve tins.
  3. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  4. Divide the cheese and Swiss chard between the 12 cups.
  5. Pour the egg and tarragon over the cheese, chard and tomato/bacon/lovage mix.
  6. Bake for ten minutes until the egg has puffed up and is cooked through.

Sipho Kings  from the Mail and Guardian has got a point. Well actually he  made quite a few very good points and many of them make me cringe:

  1. ‘…I am complicit in our extremely unequal society’  – true
  2. ‘My lunch – with a takeaway coffee – cost R46’ – I spent R34 on a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant. He goes on to say that according to a report released this week by Oxfam, that is more than many families live off for a whole week.
  3. Oxfam’s research found that the top 10% of households spend R29 000 a year on food – this is R2417  a month. We spend more than this even when we are being ‘careful’ and are eating most of our vegetables from the garden.
  4. The poorest 25% of households only spend R8 700 a year on food and  that can be up to 10 people, with only one breadwinner.
  5. ‘The reality is that in this country of some extreme wealth there are people starving every single day … fewer than half of South Africans can eat, knowing they will have guaranteed meals in the foreseeable future.’ – Sobering2014-10-16 10_04_43-www.oxfam.org_sites_www.oxfam.org_files_file_attachments_hidden_hunger_in_south_
  6. ‘Until very recently I was unaware of how serious a problem we have. Sure, I think we all know that there are hungry people in South Africa. It is, however, a passive realisation.’ – Agree
  7. ‘…join the Mail & Guardian newsroom in seeing what one in four South Africans deal with every single day.’  – Will do, but aim to do this for 6 days if I can.

Breakfast day 1:

Oats – PnP Quick Cooking Oats 750 GR R 21.59 1g = 0.02878  30g = 85 cents

Sugar – PnP White Sugar 1 KG R 12.99 1g=0.01299 5g = 6.5 cents

Total cost – 91.5 cents

What do I usually have for breakfast? On a modest day it will be oats, probably more than 30g, with Greek yoghurt (Woolworths R30.95 for 1kg), honey, cinnamon and milk. The yoghurt alone probably costs R4.