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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 #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
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Recipe #7: Traditional Gluhwein and Spice Biscuits

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When I was very young, we had the most ridiculous Christmasses. Every year, my family would fly to Switzerland. My grandparents would pick us up in a white Rover and drive us into the Alps, where we’d ski, build snowmen and ramble through the frost-sparkling woodlands. I was too young to drink, but nothing takes me back to those glorious days quite like the smell of hot spiced wine, or gluhwein. (Actually, the smell of snow works too, but it’s hard to find snow to smell in South Africa.)

Gluhwein has become quite popular in South Africa lately, but, as I discovered last Christmas, it’s still relatively unknown in California – which shows that in SA we are ahead of the curve in some things. This is my mother’s recipe for gluhwein, presumably passed down through generations of mountain-dwelling, snow-schussing Swiss ancestors. (The brandy is my own addition, however. There was a bottle in the cupboard that needed to be finished.)

Gluhwein recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 bottle red wine (3 cups, if you’re using box wine, which is what I did)
  • 2 tots of brandy (I used Oude Meester VSOB)
  • 2 lemons
  • 3 sticks of cinnamon
  • A handful of whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoons of mixed spice or 20 whole all spice

What to do

  • Put the water, sugar, cinnamon and mixed/all spice in a pot and heat for about 5 minutes until it reaches boiling point.
  • Meanwhile, slice the lemons and stud the slices with cloves.

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  • Take the pot off the heat, add the lemon slices and leave to stand for about half an hour. (You can make the biscuits in that time.)
  • Add the wine and heat very slowly until just before boiling point.
  • Serve with a ladle in heat-resistant glasses with handles or stems. You can choose to strain before serving, but I don’t bother.
  • This recipe only makes about 6 to 8 servings, so I’d double it if there are more than 2 or 3 of you.

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Cunning plan

Refrigerate leftovers overnight and serve chilled as cocktails, with one part soda water, one part gluhwein and plenty of ice. Yum!

The hot version is perfect for chilly nights, but the cold version is terrific on sunny afternoons!

The hot version is perfect for chilly nights, but the cold version is terrific on sunny afternoons!

Food pairing suggestion

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When I asked my mother what’s best to serve with gluhwein, she suggested spiced ginger biscuits and promised to send me her recipe for those too. Five minutes later, she realised that it was buried in boxes in the garage, so she’s spending all weekend looking for it. In the meantime, I went ahead and invented one.

Spice biscuits recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar (brown or white, it doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • A chunk of butter (maybe around 1/2 or 1/3 cup? I can’t say for sure, I just plonked some in)
  • 1 egg yolk (save the white for an omelette or something)
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • Some raw almonds

What to do

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C
  • Put the sugar and butter in a bowl together. If the butter is hard, nuke it for a few seconds until it’s soft enough to blend with the sugar till it’s creamy.
  • Add the egg yolk and mix and then add the flour, spices and bicarb. Mix thorougly and squish together to form stiff little dough balls. Make them as small as possible – just large enough to put one almond on top of.
  • Bake for 15 minutes and leave to cool before serving.
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You have to make them tiny to start with because they spread out quite a lot.

Dishes dirtied:

  • 1 pot
  • 1 chopping board
  • 1 knife
  • 2 wooden spoons
  • 1 cup measure
  • 1 bowl
  • 1 baking tray

Time taken:

  • Gluhwein: 10 minutes to make, 30 minutes for syrup to stand
  • Biscuits: 10 minutes to make, 15 minutes to bake
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Recipe #2: Super-fast easy-peasy scones

One of my favourite places in the world is a little town two hours north-east of Cape Town called Montagu. It’s the sort of place you want to retire to immediately, even if you are not yet 40.

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One of my favourite things about Montagu is waking up on a sunny Sunday and walking to the Montagu Country Hotel for breakfast. The highlight of the Montagu Country Hotel breakfast is the scones. Golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside; light, soft and fluffy on the inside. It didn’t matter how much I tried to resist, I always ate two and always thought longingly about eating a third.

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It took me a while to summon the gumption to ask for the recipe but, with a thick spreading of flattery, the cook was persuaded to write down five ingredients on a scrap of paper:

Ingredients

  • 500 ml buttermilk
  • 1kg self raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt

No instructions were provided, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out…

What to do

  • Preheat the oven to 200 C.
  • Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until they form a nice soft dough.
  • Sprinkle some flour on a baking tray and press the dough out into a 5cm thick sheet. Cut into rounds using a mug or glass. (I do this on the baking tray to save cleaning up but you can do it on a floured counter top too.)
  • Paint with buttermilk, milk or the egg white still left in the egg shells. (Use your finger if you don’t have a basting brush.)
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden on top. If you’re in doubt whether they’re ready, just break one in half to check.
  • Serve hot with butter (not margarine. I will disown you if you use margarine on scones!), your favourite jam and – if you have it – double thick cream.

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Since this is a hotel recipe, it makes about 5 million scones, so when I make this, I usually halve the quantities unless there are ravenous hordes in residence. Buttermilk comes in 500ml bottles, but it keeps practically forever, so you can stash the other half of the bottle in the fridge until the next time the scone urge hits.

Wine pairing suggestion

Du Preez Estate Maranda Cape Classique Rosé NV

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Aha! You thought scones don’t go with wine? Anything goes with this stuff – and what is Sunday brunch without bubbly, after all?

Time needed

  • 10 minutes preparation
  • 15 minutes baking

Dishes dirtied

  • 1 bowl
  • 1 baking tray
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 1 glass/mug
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Recipe #1: Left-over muesli apple crumble

Convert your unwanted food to sweet awesomeness.

Convert your unwanted food to sweet awesomeness.

I’m not sure if this  happens to other people, but I have a boyfriend who loves to buy food and then forgets he has it (for the simple reason that he never  opens the fridge or the food cupboard doors) so then he buys more of what he already has and the first lot of food that he bought sits sadly in Hefty zip bags (which he imports specially from America, presumably for exactly this purpose) until I haul it out and try to figure out what to do with it before it must be consigned to the bin, producing that special guilt that comes from throwing food away.

For example: he has six (6!) Hefty bags containing different kinds of sugar. He doesn't even EAT sugar!

For example: he has six (6!) Hefty bags containing different kinds of sugar. He doesn’t even EAT sugar!

Today I was wondering what to do with a quarter of a bag of cranberry and apple muesli, which had been bought a couple of months before for a camping trip and left to languish ever since. There were also some apples – not granny smiths that are recommended for cooking – but golden delicious and some fancy red varietal from Woolies, which had been maturing in a fruit bowl for several weeks. It was cold and rainy and I needed an excuse to turn on the oven and heat up the apartment. So I made an apple crumble.

If you too have months-old muesli and apples that are getting a little wrinkly, here’s how to get rid of them and make your whole house smell happy in one go.

Ingredients

Crumble:

  • A cup or two of muesli. Can be any kind. If you don’t have muesli, use oats. Tiger Oats are better, but you could get away with Jungle Oats too.
  • About half a cup of flour – plain or self-raising. Don’t stress.
  • Some sugar. You decide how much. It depends on how healthy you want to be. I used half a cup (ish)
  • Half a cup of butter. This is a stupid measurement, I know, because butter doesn’t come in cups. Sorry.
  • A few raisins. They go nice and crunchy in the oven.

Filling:

  • 4 apples. Any kind. Don’t bother peeling them. Just give them a good wash, quarter, core and cut them into thin slices.
  • A handful or two of raisins. These get all nice and juicy in the oven.
  • A good sprinkle of cinnamon. Not turmeric. (Although I must say, a bit of turmeric can add a certain something to the flavour if you happen to sprinkle a bit on accidentally.)
  • Half a lemon – zest and juice.
  • Some sugar. Your call how much again. I used about three tablespoons.
I bought the raisins once to make boboti because I couldn't find sultanas. Don't listen to what the recipes say: Boboti is great with raisins. #justsaying

I bought the raisins once to make boboti because I couldn’t find sultanas. Don’t listen to what the recipes say: Boboti is great with raisins. #justsaying

What to do

  • Preheat your oven to 180 C. Get some kind of ovenproof dish to put everything in. You can grease it if you’re feeling diligent, but it really doesn’t matter. I didn’t.
  • Put the sliced apples and raisins in the dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice and zest, then sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar.
  • Put the butter in a pot and melt until it bubbles nicely and goes a bit golden brown. Take it off the heat. Add the muesli, flour, raisins and sugar and stir well, then put the mixture on top of the apples, trying to cover them evenly.
  • Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Serve  hot with ice-cream, whipped cream, creme fraiche, greek yoghurt or sour cream. Any kind of cream-like substance will do.
  • Eat two helpings before remembering you’re supposed to be going to a dinner party shortly.
  • Tell boyfriend he may now buy more muesli.
Evenly distributed crumble. A proud moment.

Evenly distributed crumble. A proud moment.

Wine pairing suggestion

Backsberg Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

I made sure I finished this off too. Wasting good wine is the only thing worse than wasting food.

I made sure I finished this off too. Wasting good wine is the only thing worse than wasting food.

The robust tannins cut through the sugaryness of the crumble and the plum and blackberry flavours compliment the tartness of the apples and the sour cream.

Dishes dirtied

  • 1 pot
  • 1 chopping board
  • 1 knife
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 1 ovenproof dish