Crostata – a Taste of Italy

On a recent visit to Italy we explored the countryside of Umbria with it’s authentic renaissance towns in perfect condition still occupied by locals with hardly a tourist in site. We stayed at a romantic AirBNB, Magic Winds, with welcoming hosts who produced the best peaches I have ever tasted from their parent’s farm, heavenly jam made according to Papa’s secret recipe and, for breakfast, Bernadetta and Sylvio produced this delicious Crostata. It’s not particularly sweet and the pastry is bread-like and keeps a few days. We love it for breakfast, afternoon tea or even dessert. We don’t have homemade jam but it’s important to use a quality product like Hanks Apricot Jam or perhaps the Harris Farm Market Blueberry Jam. I also think it would be delicious using a good marmelade.

2 eggs
150g butter
100g sugar
350g flour
1/2 cake fresh yeast or 1x7g sachet dry yeast
2 cups jam(Hanks apricot or Harris Farm Blueberry) or marmelade.

  1. Break eggs and mix yolk and egg whites lightly with a fork in a mixing bowl. Add sugar and beat in Kenwood Mixer until mixture forms a thick white cream.
  2. Cut the butter into small cubes. Add to egg mixture a cube at a time whilst continuing to mix.
  3. Add flour and yeast slowly, mixing all the time. Now knead until you reach a homogenous mixture. I use the kneading hook on the Kenwood mixer for a while then finish off by hand.
  4. Place dough in the Fridge 30 minutes.(20 mins not enough).
  5. Pull and stretch the dough then place 80% of it in 28cm round baking tin or a 24x34cm rectangualr tin. Retain the rest of the dough to make strips for the top.
  6. Spread the jam on the dough in the tin leaving a ½ cm border around the edge free.
  7. Now make strips with remaining dough and layer across in a criss cross fashion.
  8. Bake at 170 degrees C for approximately 30-35 minutes.Buoni appetito!!!
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Pork with Walnuts

We didn’t often eat pork – mainly cause I didn’t know how to cook it without it tasting dry. One day I discovered this recipe which leaves the meat moist and fall off the bone with a rich delicious sauce. It’s a great winter dish suitable for a dinner party or a delicious treat for the family.

Serves 6-8.

8 lean pork loin chops with the rind removed
2 large onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1.5 cups canned pineapple juice
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
3 Tablespoons vinegar
2 Tablespoons soya sauce
1.5 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
3-4 strips lemon zest – approx from half a lemon
1 cup chopped walnuts
parsley or chopped sultanas to serve with rice (optional)

  1. Dust chops with flour and brown in a little olive oil. Remove.
  2. Brown sliced onions and garlic over low heat until onions are very brown and add remaining ingredients excluding the walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  3. Place pork chops in a casserole dish in a single layer. If using a Le Creuset casserole dish, use the same dish you used for browning to save on the washing up.
  4. Pour onion mixture over top of pork chops.
  5. Cover casserole dish and bake for an hour in a moderate over at 180 C (350 F).
  6. Serve with rice sprinkled with parsley and/or sultanas and extra chopped walnuts.

Fresh Fig and Cardamom Chutney

In autumn when figs are in season it’s time to indulge and make this all natural delicious chutney. You can serve it with anything – its as great with vanilla ice cream as it is with grilled chicken or fish. Do yourself a favour and try making it just once.

Makes about two 500g(1lb) Jars.

1kg (2lb) very ripe figs, stem removed
4 Tablespoons Rice Syrup
1/2 cup brown rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons umeboshi vinegar
1 Tablespoon mirin
seeds from 10 cardamom pods – ground in a mortar and pestle
1/4 cup raisins – optional

  1. Put all ingredients in saucepan and bring to the boil.
  2. Remove lid and cook on low/medium heat for 20-30 minutes until liquid has been absorbed.
  3. Check seasoning and serve or store.
  4. Delicious with EVERYTHING.

Baked Mushrooms

I recently discovered baking mushrooms maintains the earthy taste and deep flavours of mushrooms far better than any other cooking method. This dish is simple, quick, versatile and tastes – oh so good.

Brown, Swiss or Portobello Mushrooms have the most flavour
30g butter
fresh herbs

  1. Heat oven to 220 C.
  2. Tear mushrooms and place in 20cm diameter metal baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and fresh herbs of your choice. I like thyme or continental parsley.
  4. Dot with a few little knobs of butter – you need very little.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Serve as is as an innovative and healthy snack or starter. Alternatively makes a great breakfast or lunch dish if you spread sourdough toast with goats cheese and serve mushrooms on top of the goats cheese with a few extra herbs sprinkled on top.

Granny Panzera’s Shortbread from Ruby

RubyRuby is back with another recipe. This time a recipe inherited from her grandmother.  It’s another christmas favourite, Shortbread. These are beautiful. Thank you Ruby. 

Makes approx 40 Shortbread Fingers.

4 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup maizena (cornflour)
1/2 cup castor sugar
2/3 cup icing sugar
pinch salt
500g(1 lb) butter, very very soft

  1. Heat oven to 150°C(300°F).
  2. Beat sugar and butter till creamy.
  3. Stir in the maizena  (cornflour).
  4. Then quickly work in the flour and pinch of salt.
  5. I use my processor. – do not over beat
  6. Put into a 40cm x 25cm(15″ x  10″)  or equivalent baking tray about 2″ deep. Flatten mixture evenly. Poke holes in the mixture about every 5cm (2″) apart. Neaten the edges.
  7. Place in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Turn baking tray around to ensure even baking. Then turn the oven down to 140°C(275°F) for the next 40 minutes. The shortbread colour should remain cream – or maybe a deeper shade of cream – NOT brown.
  9. Remove from oven and slice into fingers whilst still hot. Leave in the baking tray until it is cool.

Squid en Papillote

A tasty poached squid casserole in a package that I discovered when trying to conform to a 250 calorie meal on the 5 2 Fasting diet. This dish is approximately 250 calories per portion and you can freeze portions so they are always at the ready and there is no excuse not to have a low cal meal on hand. Plus it’s delicious !!! If you are not dieting serve with crusty french bread. 

For each serving:

125g baby squid cut into 5mm rings
35g red capsicum, sliced into matchstick strips
35g yellow capsicum, sliced into matchstick strips
35g zucchini, sliced into thick matchstick strips
35g baby eggplant,finely diced
40g cherry tomatoes (approx 6)
30g semi dried tomatoes
tomato concentrate, water and lemon juice to make sauce
20ml kalamata olives
1 small clove garlic, crushed
salt & pepper to taste
basil, parsley, oregano and chives to taste
lemon zest and lemon juice

  1. Make a greaseproof paper or foil package.
  2. Add all ingredients starting with squid. Drizzle top with a little olive oil.
  3. Close and seal package. Freeze at this stage.
  4. When ready to eat, defrost and bake in oven at 180C for 10-12 minutes till cooked. If you do not defrost, add an additional 5-8minutes cooking time.

Poached Pears in Red Wine

Poached pears are a lovely light dessert for spring and summer – red wine results in a glorious colour and they taste delicious – nothing like the canned variety you buy – and it’s so easy. The only real work involved is peeling the pears. I made poached pears for a friend’s recent party and the guests recalled memories of childhood when their granny used to do this. I realised that in our modern world we are depriving the next generation of many of the simple food pleasures of life. So here it is – a simple version of pears in red wine that you can introduce and share with your family and friends. This keeps in the fridge for a a few days. If you want to get a little more specialised you can add a vanilla bean and whole aniseed stars. 

Serves 6-8.

12 firm pears – its best if they are not yet ripe
2 cinnamon sticks
lemon zest strips from half a lemon or orange
1.5 cups sugar
3 cups red wine (one bottle)
1 cup water
2 vanilla beans, optional
3 aniseed stars, optional

  1. Peel pears with a potato peeler, leaving them whole with the stalk attached. Remove the eye at the bottom.
  2. Put all ingredients except pears into a pot with a 27cm (11inch) diameter.  Heat gently until sugar is dissolved and syrup boils. Boil for 1 minute.
  3. Add peeled pears, trying to submerge them in the syrup as much as possible. I lie them on their side. Bring back to the boil and poach gently for about 20minutes. Turn pears over so that other side is submerged in the syrup and poach a further 20 minutes.
  4. I then leave the pears in the syrup overnight turning after a few hours so that they can absorb the deep red colour of the wine. This is of course optional but it does look good.
  5. Remove pears and place in a wide white bowl. Boil syrup rapidly till it thickens to a coating consistency. Pour syrup over pears. Cool.
  6. Serve cold with creme fraiche, yoghurt or whipped cream.
  7. Yum.

Rubes Fruit Cake for Christmas or a Wedding

RubyChristmas is almost upon us and time to start thinking about getting those christmas cakes going. Ruby is renowned for her baking and here she shares her spectacular fruit cake recipe which is equally good for christmas or your wedding. Ruby says “Gladioli Botha,  an International Sugar Artist Judge, won first prize on the Rand Royal Show and many other shows for this Christmas Cake year after year.  I belonged to a cake decorating club called Sugar Craft for many years and Gladioli Botha was our President and and my mentor – she shared her fabulous recipe with me. I used this as a base for the wedding cakes I baked and decorated  in my wonderful little business in Johannesburg where I lived for 25 years.  I have made this cake for at least 150 brides. So here we go.”

Prepare tins
You need two tins, 8 inch square
Line each tin with a double layer of foil, shiny side to the inside.
Spread with butter.

Ingredients
4 1/2lbs of mixed fruit: raisins, sultanas, currants, candied peel(optional-I don’t use, some people don’t like it)*
1 lb dates, finely chopped *
1 1/2 lbs butter *
1 1/2 lbs brown sugar *
1/2 lb pecans
1/2 lb glazed fruit
1 lb fresh cherries,halved and pips removed

12 eggs, extra large
2 lbs cake flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
]1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons bi carb

2 cups brandy
1 cup masala

Method

  1. Boil together  all ingredients marked with * with 2 cups water and 1 cup brandy for 15 minutes.
  2. Turn into a large bowl and add 2 teaspoons bi carb and stir. Leave to cool completely.
  3. Cut pecans, chop glazed fruit, wash cherries, which have been halved, and add to cooled mixture.
  4. Sift dry ingredients and add to mixture alternating with the eggs which have been beaten.
  5. Fill tins 2/3rds full. Wet hands with water and pat the top of the mixture until even – it will look sort of milky.
  6. NOW HERE IS THE TRICK. Put both tins into a cooking bag (roasting bag) and tie with string.
  7. Bake at 130 deg C for about 3 hours – 8″ square or 4 – 41/2 hours for a round tin
  8. You can smell when it is cooked. Not sure – stick a  skewer into it and if it comes out clean its cooked.
  9. Take out the oven and pour remaining 1 cup brandy and 1 cup masala over the cakes whilst still in the cake tin. Put them back into the roasting bags and cover them with a blanket and allow them to cool completely (18 hours).
  10. Decorate if you are an artist or eat as is.
  11. Thank you, Ruby.

Low Calorie/ High GI Carrot and Apple Salad

This salad originated in the High Rustenburg Health Hydro and is packed with low calorie/high GI ingredients. The sweetness of the fruit makes it delicious with any spicy food. It’s also a great addition to take along to a barbecue – no one else will have anything like it, children love it, and it’s delicious with sausages. Of course it’s also ideal for a ladies luncheon along with poached chicken or fish. Enjoy.

Serves 8.

4 carrots
2 bananas
2 apples
4 stalks celery
2 cups thinly shredded iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup yoghurt
1 Tablespoon honey
3 Tablespoons lemon juice

  1. Grate apples, carrots and celery. Using the grate attachment on a food processor makes short work of this.
  2. Place in a large flat salad bowl or platter. Mix in sliced bananas. Toss with lemon juice until mixture is well coated to prevent the apples and bananas going brown. Mix in lettuce.
  3. Add honey to yoghurt. Drizzle over salad to taste. Toss and serve.
  4. This salad does not keep well. Eat immediately.

Lentil, Smoked Salmon and Preserved Lemon Salad

A lovely light lunch for warm spring days, a starter for dinner or even a side salad with chicken or fish. This is easy and quick to throw together so add to your standard repertoire. You may want to take a page out of my daughter, Bianca’s, book and make your own smoked salmon. Here is the link to her blog outlining how to do this.

Serves 2 for lunch or 4 as a side salad.

1 cup green puy lentils, boiled till tender
1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley
3 Tablespoons finely chopped mint
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 handfuls baby rocket
125g(4oz) smoked salmon, finely sliced
lemon juice & olive oil to dress

  1. Mix drained lentils with salt and pepper and remaining ingredients excluding salmon in a large bowl.
  2. Toss everything together and dress to taste with lemon juice and olive oil.
  3. Serve as a side salad or add finely sliced salmon for a light lunch.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Birthdays were always special times. We usually had glorious parties at home after weeks of planning. Bianca’s parties tended to feature a swimming or Halloween theme. Sven’s parties usually involved some type of sporting theme.

This is one of those everyday plain chocolate cakes that everyone loves. We used it baked in a lamington tin covered with smarties to take to school to celebrate birthdays as well as at the birthday party. It was extra special cause we only had it when someone was having a birthday cause I always suspected that chocolate wasn’t real good for you and stayed away from anything chocolate most of the time.

300g (440g) butter, cut into small cubes
200g (300g) flour
250g (400g) sugar
40g (60g) cocoa
4 (6) eggs
100ml (150ml) water
2t (3t) baking powder

  1. Heat oven to 170°C or 325°F.
  2. Butter and flour a 23cm diameter baking tin (20cmx30cm lamington tin).
  3. Place all ingredients in food processor.
  4. Process for 10 seconds.
  5. Scrape ingredients down and process for another 10 seconds.
  6. Place in baking tin and bake for about 45-50minutes until knitting needle or skewer comes out clean.
  7. Cover with chocolate icing and decorate.

Note: Quantities in brackets can be used to make the larger lamington sized cake

Chocolate IcingSvenTwo46
40g cocoa
60g butter
250g icing sugar
1 Tablespoon boiling water

  1. Process in food processor till well mixed.
  2. Spread top and sides of cake with icing immediately. It will set if not used immediately.
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