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Recipe #11: Summer Bread-and-Butter Pudding

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This is one of those annoying recipes where the person really just wants to boast about wonderful fresh ingredients that you, stuck in the city, with barely time to dash to the 24-hour Woolies at the Engen, are not in any position to acquire. Since that’s usually me – and is going to be me again next week – I understand exactly how irritating that is. And I’m going to do it anyway.

Today’s fresh, unattainable ingredients are berries, handpicked from a French country garden with the help of two charming little children.

First, find your raspberry bushes. These will be hidden like ruby fields down at the bottom of the garden where the grass is long. Some of them may even be perilously close to nettles.

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Raspberry bush things look very much like weeds, except they have raspberries attached to them.

Teach charming children what colour a ripe raspberry is (not green) and how to find them without getting stung by nettles. Fill a bowl with raspberries before proceeding to search and strip the garden of red currants, gooseberries, wild strawberries and even a few cultivated strawberries, hot from the sun.

Is this picture helpful? No. Am I going to use it anyway? You betcha.

Is this picture helpful? No. Am I going to use it anyway? You betcha.

Leave some of the raspberries for later so that your niece can sit in the tree house and order you and your nephew to bring her more in a most charming manner.

It is important that your berries are rigorously quality tested.

It is important that your berries are rigorously quality tested.

Then, before you pass out from sunstroke or cheap French wine, make this pudding, which is fortunately easy enough to bake even if you have had too much sun and wine. The only culinary skill you’re going to need is the ability to butter bread. You can manage that, right?

Ingredients

  • A large bowl of fresh mixed red berries, handpicked in a French country garden. If you can’t get these, frozen berries will have to do.
  • Sliced baguette, brioche or bread. Or all three. This kind of pudding is not fussy about the bready stuff that goes into it.
  • Butter. It’s easier to spread if it’s soft. (Sometimes I like to state the obvious because sometimes the obvious stuff is actually helpful to me.)
  • 3 eggs
  • 500 ml milk
  • About 1 cup sugar
  • Ground nutmeg and cinnamon
  • Fresh vanilla, handpicked on your last exotic holiday in Madagascar… (Nah, just joking. Haven’t been there in years.)

What to do

  • Rinse off the berries (or defrost if frozen). Put in a bowl and sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over them and leave for maybe half an hour, or until you remember you’re supposed to be making pudding (you will be reminded by your niece).
  • Grease a largeish oven dish and butter your bread stuffs on one side. Put one layer in the dish butter side up and then cover with the berries. Put another layer over the berries, also butter side up.
  • Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg and cinnamon.
  • Beat the eggs with 1/2 cup sugar and add the milk (slightly warmed) and vanilla. Pour it all over the bread and berries. Squish everything down a bit with your hands (it’s a good idea to wash your hands, especially if anyone’s watching you.)
  • Sprinkle with a bit more sugar and leave to stand for about half an hour or until you remember you’re still supposed to be making pudding (your niece and nephew will remind you).
  • Heat the oven to 180 C, trying to ignore alarming rocket noise French ovens make. Bake the pudding for 45 minutes, or until rocket noise can no longer be ignored.
  • Serve to impressed adults with ice cream and more French wine long after nephew and niece have been put to bed (but remember to keep a portion aside for them for tomorrow).

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Time taken

  • Berry picking: depends on how much help you have and how many you eat while picking. (A good nephew and niece will eat only 5% of total pickings.)
  • Preparation: 10 minutes (excluding standing time of 30 mins for fruit and 30 mins for pudding)
  • Cooking: 45 minutes

Dishes dirtied

  • 1 dish
  • 1 bowl
  • 1 bread knife
  • 1 butter knife
  • 1 bread board
  • 1 fork/whisk
  • 1 spoon
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Recipe #10: No-fry Spring Rolls

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I’ve always loved spring rolls, but didn’t think I could make them myself. (I thought the same about ice cream until recently.) I also don’t like the idea of deep-frying. All that hot oil – scary! Phyllo pastry is the perfect substitute for spring roll wrappers and comes out just as well when baked. This recipe can be used for a light but satisfying lunch, or as a starter for a dinner party. You can prepare the spring rolls a day in advance and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to bake them.

Ingredients

  • 1 roll phyllo pastry
  • 2-minute noodles (Thai sweet chilli flavour)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 packet (500g) frozen stir fry vegetables
  • 2 tsp PnP crushed garlic, ginger and dhania paste
  • Sesame seeds for sprinkling

What to do

  • Defrost a roll of phyllo pastry (usually the box contains 2 rolls). If, like me, you forgot to leave it in the fridge overnight as recommended, you can defrost it in less than an hour by putting it in a watertight freezer bag and submerging it in cold water.
  • Preheat oven to 180 C.
  • Prepare the 2-minute noodles as per the instructions on packaging.
  • Heat a wok with some vegetable oil and add the vegetables and the PnP paste. Stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, add noodles and sprinkle the Thai seasoning. Stir-fry for another minute or two, then remove from heat and let cool.

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  • In the meantime, cover a counter top with a large square of cling film. (You’ll use this as your pastry preparation surface.)
  • Cut the roll of phyllo pastry in half so that you have two shorter rolls. Then unroll one of the rolls and separate into two sheets of 3 layers each. Cut each sheet into thirds.
  • Place a couple of tablespoons of the stir-fry mixture lengthways on each of the mini-sheets. Tuck the ends up and roll into little tubes. Brush with canola/sunflower oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

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  • Repeat until you’ve used up all your pastry and have 12 good-sized spring rolls.
  • Bake on a baking sheet at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes and serve piping-hot with a dipping sauce of your choice.

Cunning Plan

Use any left over phyllo pastry to make chocolate banana spring rolls. Mash a ripe banana, add a couple of tablespoons of Nutella, a handfull of chopped nuts and another handful of chopped dark chocolate. Use this filling to make mini spring rolls (about half the size of the veggie ones) and serve hot as a dessert.

Time taken

  • Preparation: 25 minutes
  • Baking: 20 minutes
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Recipe #9: Roast Pork Belly with Apple and Leek Sauce

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A couple of weeks ago, I went to a birthday party for a Viking Chiro, where much amazing food was served, along with large quantities of schnapps. The most coveted morsels, however, were the fluffy curls of crackling that accompanied the Danish pork roasts. They vanished within minutes, to much contented crunching.

I don’t know about you, but I’d never before mastered the art of crispy crackling. All my previous pork roasts have come with a rubbery outer layer that provides an experience somewhat like chewing glutinous, salty tyres. Imagine my glee when the Viking Chiro’s fabulous wife explained to me (while following the wrong BMW to the ice-skating rink) how easily properly crunchy crackling could be achieved  She told me (while making a sudden U-turn and hot-footing it back towards the N1) that you simply roast your roll of pork in 4cm of water with an onion for about an hour and a half.

A few hours later (with a bruise on my behind and slightly wet jeans) I went in search of rolled pork so that I too could make a Viking roast. Alas, there was none to be found at the supermarket. After 15 minutes of prowling up and down the meat section in disbelief, I found one smallish pork belly hiding behind a few chops. The problem was, the belly was quite flat – not the type of roast my friend had described to me at all. Nevertheless, I bought it, just in case I couldn’t be bothered to go to another supermarket. Groceries are all very well, but I draw the line at doing them twice in one day.

Since I’d correctly estimated my laziness levels, I now had to figure out another way of roasting my pork and crisping my crackling. All the recipes for pork belly I found online said that, at some point, you had to put the temperature of the oven up. However, they disagreed about the temperature (anything from 180 C to 280 C), how long to do it for, and when to do it (either right at the start or right at the end). I decided to be safe and use the hottest oven setting (280 C) for 20 minutes both at the start and finish.

The only thing the recipes did agree on was that you should roast pork belly on top of something. It didn’t sound like it mattered much what: onions, garlic, apples, ferrets (no, sorry, I made that last one up). Since I had lots of apples and a few leeks left over from the chicken pie, I used those. I’m afraid I cannot give you accurate oven times because our dinner guests were late and I kept faffing around, taking the roast out of the oven, putting it in again, roasting the veggies (on a separate tray) at the same time, etc, etc. I did get the feeling, however, that as long as the tinfoil is snugly tucked around the roast, and the crackling hasn’t actually turned black, it would be hard to overcook this.

In the end it turned out perfectly: tasty and tender and with the crackliest crackling I could desire. Our female dinner guest even exclaimed, “Do you work?!”, which, as we all know, is the highest possible praise.

Ingredients

  • 1kg + pork belly roast
  • 3 apples (any kind)
  • 2 or 3 leeks
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Fresh thyme

What to do

  • Preheat your oven to its highest temperature.
  • Line a small roasting dish with heavy foil.
  • Slice your apples, leeks and 3 or 4 cloves of garlic and layer the bottom of dish with them.

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  • Scour your pork skin as best you can (it takes elbow grease and a sharp knife), taking care not to slice all the way through to the flesh.
My rather clumsy attempt at diagonal scouring.

My rather clumsy attempt at diagonal scouring.

  • Rub the sea salt, a clove of chopped garlic, the lemon zest and thyme all over the surface of the pork skin and into the cracks.

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  • Lay the belly on top of the apples and leeks and tuck the foil around it snugly so that just the skin is exposed.
  • Put in the oven for about 20 minutes on the high temperature to start crisping the skin. Turn the temperature down to 160 C and roast for at least another half an hour for every 500g (you can make this longer, depending on how well you like your pork done).
  • Just before serving, turn the oven to its highest setting again and leave for another 15-20 minutes, keeping an eye on the crackling to make sure it doesn’t burn (a little bit of black is okay though).
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This is the pork belly just after the initial exposure to the furnace. It got even crispier after the second blast at the end, but I felt it would be awkward to photograph the roast in front of guests.

  • Remove from foil and leave to stand on a dish for 10 minutes before carving.
  • In the meantime, carefully lift the foil out of the dish and pour the apple, leek and pork juice mixture into a jug. Blend until smooth and decant into a gravy tureen to serve with the roast.

Wine pairing suggestion

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Jacques Bruére Brut Reserve

Obviously you need to celebrate your crispy crackling with some sparkly bubbly! Thanks to our dinner guests, we celebrated in 5-star style. Follow it up with the Vrede en Lust Viognier, which is rich and full enough to support the flavours of the pork belly.

Time taken

  • Preparation: 20 minutes (mostly spent trying to scour the skin).
  • Cooking: anywhere between 2 and 4 hours, depending on the size of your roast and the hotness of your oven. Sorry. I did warn you.

Dishes dirtied

  • 1 chopping board
  • 1 roasting pan
  • 1 knife
  • 1 grater
  • 1 stick blender
  • 1 jug
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Recipe #8: Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pie

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“Don’t ever change anything about this recipe” – The boyfriend, on eating this pie

Chicken is the ultimate pie-filling, yet it’s almost impossible to buy a good chicken pie. If the pastry’s not stodgy, the filling is niggardly:  white sauce with stringy bits of salty bird floating around in a lonely sort of way. Fortunately it’s so easy to make your own!

The secret to this chicken pie’s simplicity is to cheat. There’s nothing wrong with the pre-roasted birds sold at the supermarkets, nor with pre-rolled frozen pastry. Use both, and your biggest headache is going to be chunking your chicken without eating half of it. (My chickens always mysteriously lose both their legs and wings.)

Ingredients

  • 1 medium to large roast or barbeque chicken from Woolies, Pick ‘n Pay or similar.
  • 1 roll frozen puff pastry (‘Today’ brand is good)
  • 4 rashers streaky bacon
  • 4 leeks
  • 1 punnet button mushrooms
  • 1/2 packet powdered cream of mushroom soup (not cup-a-soup – the big packets)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A bit of butter
  • Milk to brush the pastry with
While cooking this pie, it is recommended that you drink cider.

While cooking this pie, it is recommended that you drink cider.

What to do

  • Remember to defrost your pastry in the fridge overnight. If you forget (I always do), you can defrost it in under an hour by putting it in a bowl of cold tap water. (Just make sure the packaging is waterproof, or seal it in a ziplock bag.)
  • Preheat the oven to 180 C
  • Chunk your chicken. As in, remove all the flesh from the carcass (you choose whether to keep the skin. I do), debone and then chop into good-sized chunks.
  • Chop up your bacon, leeks and mushrooms and fry in a generous pat of butter.
My dad made me take this photo because he thought it looked nice.

My dad made me take this photo because he thought it looked nice.

  • When they’re fairly well done, add the sour cream, white wine and mushroom soup powder and stir well. Simmer for a few minutes to allow the sauce to thicken a bit. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Put this in a good-size oven-proof dish, add the chicken and mix it all up nicely. Leave to cool a bit.
  • In the mean time, put a layer of cling film on your counter top to keep both clean and roll out your pastry so that it just fits the top of your dish. Place on top of the chicken mixture and trim off any excess. Use the trimmings to make decorations, if you’re so inclined. (Pastry is a bit like play-dough.)
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Pastry is a grown-up substitute for modelling clay

  • Brush with milk/egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds if you happen to have any.
  • Bake according to instructions on the pastry packet until golden brown.

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  • Leave to cool for about 10 minutes before serving with a green salad or mash and peas.
  • Leftovers will keep several days if refrigerated  When reheating, microwave for a minute or two first and then put in the oven at about 120 C for a few minutes to crisp up the pastry again.

Wine pairing suggestion

Knorhoek Sauvignon Blanc-Chenin Blanc

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While it’s a great idea to drink cider (especially one as good as Windermere) while cooking this pie, eating it requires white wine – preferably the one you used in the pie (a lesson I learned from the Coq Au Vin). A Sauv Blanc-Chenin blend is just the right combination of crisp and fruity. #Happiness

Time taken

  • Preparation: 20 minutes
  • Baking: 20-30 minutes

Dishes dirtied

  • 1 frying pan
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 1 chopping board
  • 1 knife
  • 1 oven proof dish