May 30, 2011

French Onion Soup

Yum yum yum and sooo easy.  Just takes some time though.  This recipe is from the Food & Home Entertaining Magazine, May 2011.

Image courtesy of BBC Good Food
French Onion Soup
Serves 6
80 ml butter
6 onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
500 ml water
250 ml dry sherry  (can be substituted with brandy)
45 ml cake flour
1.5 litres chicken stock (beef stock is great too,just yields a richer soup)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large pot over low heat.  Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves and thyme.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft and caramelised, about 2-3 hours.
Add the water and scrape any bits off the bottom of the pot.  Simmer until the water has evaporated, about 20 minutes. {I wanted to retain as much flavour as possible, so I left the lid on the pot while the onions were caramelising.  In this way, i didn't loose as much liquid as i might have, had i left the lid off and therefore, I thought it unnecessary to do this step.}
Stir in the sherry and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the harsh alcohol in the sherry has evaporated and the onions are dry, once again, about 20 minutes.
Discard the thyme and bay leaves.  Stir in the flour.  Add the stock and season to taste.  Continue cooking for a further 30 minutes.
Image courtesy of  Donna Hay

To serve:  Slice some French loaf, and top with slices of Gruyère or Parmesan.  Pop in the oven under the grill for a few minutes.  Place on top of the dished soup with a sprinkle of fresh thyme!

In my search for some pretty pics to add to the blog, i came across Donna Hay's French onion soup recipe.  She adds a bit of mustard to the soup. Sounds like a fabulous idea. I am definitely going to give that a try the next time that i make this soup!

May 26, 2011

Mushroom and Bacon Lasagne

I had some lasagna sheets left over from the lasagna i made two weeks ago.  Unfortunately, the home-made ones don't keep as well as the shop-bought variety, so i was quite keen to use them this week.  With the chilly, rainy Winter setting in, i felt like some good ol' soul food.  One of my favourite comfort -food combinations is mushrooms and bacon.  Mix that with a creamy white sauce and a bit of pasta and you have heaven on a plate - well, for me anyway.  And, it seems, for my husband too, as his eyes lit up when i described what i was going to make for dinner!  I didn't have a recipe, just made it up as i went.  It is really not complicated at all, so for those of you who feel like a stress-free, soul-uplifting dinner, here you go:

Mushroom & Bacon Lasagna
Serves 6 (or 4 if you eat as we do!)

2 onions, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
250 g bacon, diced
250 g mushrooms, sliced
90 g butter
1/2 cup flour flour
500 ml milk, slightly warmed
lasagna sheets

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Add a splash of olive oil to a medium-sized pot and bring to a med-high heat.  Sauté the onions and celery until soft and slightly translucent.  I wanted to retain the liquid that usually evaporates during this process, so i kept the lid on.  {TIP: If using raw lasagna sheets when making a lasagna, it is nice to have a sauce that is a little bit on the more liquid side so that the pasta has some liquid to absorb during the cooking process.  You will find that your lasagna cooks more quickly this way.} Add the bacon and fry until cooked. 

You can either add the mushrooms at this point or:  Melt some butter (approx 2 tablespoons) in a pot.  Add the mushrooms.  About half way through their cooking time, add 2 tablespoons of sherry and place the lid on the pot.  This gives a lovely nutty flavour to the mushrooms.  

While this is cooking you can start your white sauce.   Melt the 90 g of butter, add the flour and mix thoroughly until you have a smooth paste.  Gradually add the warm milk, stirring all the while so as to prevent the formation of lumps.

Add the mushrooms and white sauce to your bacon mixture.  Starting with the mushroom and bacon mixture, build the layers of your lasagna.  I used a square casserole approximately 20 cm x 20 cm.  Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for approximately 45 min.  Bon appetit!
{TIP:  If you are in a bit of a hurry, you can cook your lasagna sheets before putting the dish together.  Just be sure to make your sauce a bit thicker in this case.  You will need only to bake this for 15 minutes!}

May 24, 2011

Winshaw Weekly Experiments (Chicken Curry Soup)

In my search for inspirational people to follow on twitter yesterday morning, i came across @SimplyDelishSA.  Her recipe for the day, yesterday, was a fragrant chicken curry soup with naan bread.  Being the cold, wet, Wint'ry day it was yesterday, i thought that this recipe would be just the thing for dinner!  A lovely, easy recipe to follow with very tasty results!
This is the ideal week night dinner recipe to make as it only took the Winshaw team 30 minutes to prep (while feeding dogs and washing dishes)!  I might add more carrots the next time that i make this soup to increase the veg:meat ratio!  Also, we didn't have any tinned tomato in the cupboard (shock-horror!), so we used fresh tomatoes instead, which, to my mind, worked just fine!I didn't start in advance enough to let the naan bread dough rest as long as is required, but it still worked well.  The naan bread is the ideal match for this heart-and-soul-warming soup!

May 23, 2011

African Relish Inspiration

Being so inspired and energised by the course with Roxanne Floquet last weekend, i now see piping and cake designs in almost everything i look at!  The first 'design' that i 'saw' was from a table runner at the table where we sat and had all of our delicious meals at African Relish.  

Yesterday, we celebrated my brother-in-law's 30th  birthday, i thought that this would be the ideal occasion for me to test out my new 'design'!  I baked a carrot cake, one of my favourites, and iced it with cream cheese frosting.  The sugar paste was coloured with Americolour Bright Orange and a teeny weensy bit of Super Black just to take the neon-ness out of the orange.  For the royal icing, i mixed Bright Orange and a bit of Tulip Red to make the colour a little darker so that it contrasted nicely with the backdrop of the sugar paste.

This design could obviously be done in many different colours, i just choose the orange, because it is such a cheerful, happy colour and contrasts so beautifully with the green of the Desert Roses. Wedding cakes, especially, are usually fairly monochromatic, so it is not often that i am able to play with colours like this.  I did enjoy it very much!!  A nice palette for a wedding cake could be a very soft grey sugar paste with the design piped in the grey-green of the Desert Rose - très élégant! 

PS - On Saturday a lovely couple came to see me about their wedding cake - their colour scheme: purple and turquoise. I am very excited about that - watch this space!!!

May 20, 2011

So inspiring!

Four decades of cookies - for a bit of fun, see if you can tell which cookies come from which decade before you have a look at Sugar Belle's post!
Sweet Sugar Belle posted this on her blog yesterday, i just couldn't resist sharing her post with you.  She is amazing - her work is sooo inspirational!  I don't think that there is an iced cookie design that she couldn't come up with!
Go to her blog to check out the rest of her pics:

Winshaw Weekly Experiments (Sweet Potato Röstis)

Another one from my favourite recipe book (Marie Claire Flavours, Donna Hay, Murdoch Books, 2000)...  

My grandfather gave me some lovely fresh sweet potatoes from his veggie garden, so it was an obvious choice as to what to use as the basis of our dinner.  I always like to have a salty, savoury meat or dish with sweet potato, so we decided on some yummy smoked pork chops.  With a bit of garden fresh rocket for bite and green and a dollop of cream cheese for smoothness and cohesion - all-in-all it was a rather delicious combination!!

Sweet Potato Cakes
Serves 4
750 g sweet potato, peeled and grated
2 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
125 ml parmesan, finely grated
cracked black pepper
oil for frying

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  Heat 5 mm of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add a few spoonfuls of the mixture to the pan and flatten with a spatula or the back of a spoon.  Cook for two minutes on each side or until the cakes are crispy and golden brown.  Place absorbent paper towel in an oven proof dish and place the potato cakes on the paper to keep warm in the oven while you prepare the rest.  So quick, so easy and yum yum yum!!!

My notes:  This is a fairly simple recipe as far as ingredients go.  To jazz it up a bit, you can add some fresh ginger or finely chopped onions.  It is advisable to make more and smaller cakes rather than four large ones as they cook through quicker and more evenly.  It will also plate more elegantly if you place a few smaller cakes on the plate before adding the fresh rocket, dollop of cream cheese and pork chops.

May 18, 2011

Weekend at African Relish with Roxy Floquet

Gosh, where do i begin...
I suppose that i should begin with the town of Prince Albert, where this wonderful weekend took place.  Quaint, quiet, characterful.  A peaceful village at the foot of the Swartberg Pass, population approximately 10 000, but when you drive or walk around, it feels closer to 1000!  There are plenty of gorgeous little antique shops, coffee shops and restaurants that i wish that i had had the time to explore and try out.

African Relish is a recreational cooking school, which offers set courses and culinary tours lead by a medley of renowned chefs from SA and abroad.  If you have even the slightest hankering to learn more about spices, meat, sauces or bread-baking; i can strongly recommend that you spoil yourself with a weekend in Prince Albert.  African Relish also boasts an enchanting restaurant where you can enjoy meals made with love, creativity and bags of fun.  

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by our hosts, the lovely Virna and gracious Jeremy.  African Relish have a few little cottages that they use to accommodate their guests attending the culinary weekends.  What a pleasant surprise we had when Virna showed us to our cottage, Akkedis!!  Tanya and i wandered around our spacious quarters for a lengthy time oohing and aahing at the luxurious furnishings and precious details before we unpacked our bags.  

To recharge our batteries after the 4 hour journey, we enjoyed a pot of tea out on the stoep, allowing the tranquility of the Little Karoo to take the place of the stress and strain of everyday life.

Now, to get to the reason why 10 ladies from various reaches of the country drove all the way to Prince Albert.  For this weekend, African Relish was hosting the very talented Roxanne Floquet and her sister Debbie to teach us about cake baking and decorating.  And WOW, did they teach us.  I gleaned so much knowledge and inspiration from this weekend!  
This is one of the nine different cakes that Roxy made to show us all the different  techniques that one can use to decorate cakes. We each got to take a gorgeous little cake home to share with our loved ones!

The beautiful petits fours (fondant fancies) that Roxy showed us how to make.  They are as yummy as they look!

Day 1: how to bake sugar biscuits and decorate them.
Day 2: Two comprehensive sessions on sugar craft (we learnt how to make roses, hydrangeas and various other beautiful blooms using sugar paste), and creatively decorating cakes using different piping techniques and the hand-made sugar flowers.
Day 3:  How to make neat-as-a-pin petits fours (or fondant fancies) and decorate them.

I not only gained an exciting array of new skills and techniques, i was inspired by Roxanne's creativity and perfectionism.  After a long, sometimes hard, wedding season, i feel rejuvenated and full of enthusiasm to get creatively cracking in my kitchen!!

May 16, 2011

Tyler's Christening Cake

I have sooo much that i want to blog about; the wonderful weekend that i have just had at African Relish with Roxanne Floquet, some gorgeous recipes i put to test last week, but i have to keep it short and sweet today 'cos the kitchen is calling!!  Here are some pics of my first proper christening cake.  By proper, i mean a cake that actually looks like a christening cake and not just a beautiful generic cake that was used for a christening! 
Two tiers of the delicious white chocolate mud cake with smooth white chocolate ganache in between the layers.

I had so much fun making these booties! In fact, i made a few pairs.  The first pair looked a bit girlie, more like sandals, so i changed my pattern a bit, to make the booties look more like something a boy would wear.
The lovely ladies who gave me the brief quite let me have free rein, which i really enjoyed.  These little blocks are super easy to make and add a playfulness to the cake, which is appropriate!

May 12, 2011

Winshaw Weekly Experiments (Béarnaise Sauce)

Image courtesy of Daily Telegraph

So, my 'new' husband and i are both very into our food.  Stay tuned to see how this affects our waistlines!  Maybe i should take some before and after photo's ;)  Cooking dinner together is genuinely one of our favourite pass-times.  We start off with my husband pouring us each a glass of wine or cracking open a cold one and then... the fun begins.  A few weeks ago we decided, to challenge ourselves, to choose one recipe a week that is something different to what is served up from our usual repertoire.  For our first 'experimental' meal, to make use of the wonderful deep-fryer we received as a wedding gift, we decided on something that has to match well with potato chips.  The obvious choice: Steak of course!!  I received a gorgeous recipe book (Sauces, Michel Roux, Rizzoli International Publications Inc, 2006) as a gift from my cousin for looking after their dogs while they were away on holiday that i have been very eager to put to use. So, steak and chips... plus which sauce... Bearnaise of course!  Michel Roux has a helpful index at the back of the book with a list of foods and the sauces that would pair well with them.  On the top of the list for sauces to match with beef:  Bearnaise!

May 11, 2011

The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle: Flowers in Pots Cookies

I came across these gorgeous flower pot cookies yesterday and i just have to share them with you. Sooo gorgeous!! I also love the way that Sweet Sugar Belle shows you exactly how to make them, step-by-step. I am definitely going to give them a try in the, hopefully, near future. Let me know, and send pics, if you do too!
The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle: Flowers in Pots Cookies

May 4, 2011

The Royal Wedding Cakes

I couldn't resist...  'royal wedding fever' got to me too!  How can such a fairy tale not get to someone as idealistic and romantic as i am.  Here are some pics of the two wedding cakes at the luncheon celebration of Prince William and Catherine's nuptials!

Seventeen individual fruit cakes make up this phenomenal 8-tiered wedding cake.    It took Fiona Cairns and her team five weeks to create this masterpiece. They also spent two days prior to the wedding at Buckingham Palace setting up the cake.

One can only but admire all the intricate piping, scroll work and hand crafted sugar flowers that make up this awe-inspiring wedding cake designed by Fiona Cairns.  (With a lot of input from Catherine of course!)  The English rose, Scottish thistle, Welsh daffodil and Irish shamrock, as well as thirteen other types of flowers and leaves, each traditionally symbolising a special wish, were amongst the many decorations of the royal wedding cake.  
The 'Groom's' cake:  A McVities tea biscuit and chocolate cake requested by Prince William.  This rather modern looking cake comprises 40 pounds of chocolate and a whopping 1700 biscuits!

May 2, 2011

My Wedding Cake!

An age-old tradition: Cutting the Cake!!
As, a maker of wedding cakes, the obvious decision would be to make my own wedding cake!  The difficult decision came when i had to decide WHICH wedding cake to make for our special day.  Neither of us like fruit cake, so that was out.  But, then you are still left with chocolate mousse cake, vanilla, carrot, red velvet...the list goes on.