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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.

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.

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


  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.

Jeanette shares her Bean and Avocado Dip

Jeanette is a neighbour from Northbridge that makes this mean dip with a ‘mexican’ twist ideal for any barbecue or party. It’s large, made with wonderful ingredients like avocado, sour cream and kidney beans, and so easy to put together – ideal for a crowd. Thank you Jeanette.

Serves 10-12.

Layer the following:

  • 1 tin red Kidney beans, well mashed
  • 3 avocados mashed with lemon juice, garlic and pepper
  • carton sour cream mixed with 1/2 pkt taco sauce
  • Top with 2 finely chopped tomatoes and half a bunch of chives

Serve with lebanese bread, corn chips or water biscuits.

Debra shares the Girls’ Buttermilk Brownies

My cousin, Debra, is my Uncle Wim’s only daughter. She lives in Port Elizabeth and has three beautiful daughters. Here she writes …. “my daughter, Diane’s friend, Jenny van Heerden,  gave this recipe to her when they were in primary school. During my three daughters’ teenage years they snagged many a boyfriend with this Buttermilk Brownies recipe!!”

Serves 6-8.

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup water
½ cup butter
½ cup sunflower oil
¼ cup cocoa
2 eggs,beaten till frothy
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ cup buttermilk

  1. Place sugar and flour in a large bowl and stir with wooden spoon.
  2. Place water, butter, sunflower oil and cocoa in pot and stir over moderate heat until butter melts.
  3. Add the wet ingredients from the pot to the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix until smooth.
  4. Beat eggs with vanilla essence, bicarb and buttermilk and add to mixture. Mix well.
  5. Pour into a greased large (fairly deep) baking tray.
  6. Bake at 180 degrees C for approximately 20 minutes or until top springs back when touched.

¼ cup butter
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 ½ tablespoons buttermilk
¼ teaspoon vanilla essence
250g of sifted icing sugar.

  1. Place butter and cocoa in a small pot and stir at moderate heat, until butter melts and mixture is smooth.
  2. Add remaining ingredients. Stir until icing is smooth and shiny.
  3. Pour over warm brownies.
  4. Once cool cut into squares.

mmmm – delicious with vanilla ice cream.

Aunt Marie shares her Chow Mein Mince

As a child growing up I always considered Aunt Marie to be a ‘modern’ woman. She didn’t appear to spend hours labouring in the kitchen or washing and ironing. Aunt Marie took an interest in Uncle Wim’s business and helped to make it a success. She was organised and practical – when she put meals together it was efficient, with the minimum of fuss and tasty … plus there was often something of the ‘exotic’.  Here is her Chow Mein Mince.  

Serves 4.

500g mince
1 onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 pkt chicken noodle soup
1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups boiling water
3 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 large carrot, grated
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon chutney
1 teaspoon sugar

  1. Brown finely chopped onions with mince in a little oil.
  2. Add remaining ingredients with water going in last. Note: Rice and soup mix are added dry.
  3. Cook over low heat for around 20 minutes stirring periodically until all liquid has been absorbed.
  4. Serve with a tossed salad.

Chris Shares: Butternut and Leek Soup

Chris Reed.PNGI am an enthusiastic cook with a particular love of everything french. This was originally a Robert Carrier recipe(does anyone remember him) that I began making around thirty years ago.  Over time I changed it completely and made it my own with emphasis on interplay, and subtleties of flavours and textures. The idea is to contrast the velvety smoothness of the soup with the slight crunch of the leeks. The flavour of nutmeg should be subtle and the cayenne just enough to wonder whether it’s there or not. Sherry adds another flavour personality. The soup freezes well – defrost, the stir with a fork or whisk to recreate the consistency when reheating.

Serves 8-10.

The Soup:

1.2 kg Butternut pumpkin. Peel & seed to 1 kg
500g (1lb) potatoes ~ 3 medium sized
2 medium onions ~430g roughly chopped
50g butter
1 litre milk
¼ tsp salt or I prefer 1 tsp of Thai Fish sauce
2 cups Chicken Stock, hot
¾ tsp Nutmeg
¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper, optional
100 ml Medium Sherry

Prep: Peel & chop onions roughly. Peel & dice potatoes into 2cm chunks. Peel, seed & dice butternut into 2-3cm chunks. Note: Depending on how thinly you peel the butternut, you’ll lose around 15% of the weight when you peel & seed.


  1. In a large stockpot, simmer onions in butter for 5-10 mins, stirring occasionally, until softening;
  2. Add milk, potatoes, butternut, salt;
  3. Bring gently to boil and simmer 20-25 mins until vegetables are soft;
  4. Remove from heat and cool for a while;
  5. Puree with a plunger, in a blender or food processor until smooth;
  6. Return to pan and on medium heat and add hot chicken stock, 1-2 cups, stirring all the while.
  7. Add Sherry, Nutmeg & Cayenne Pepper;
  8. Stir for a while and adjust spices/sherry to taste.

The Leeks

50g Butter
2 Leeks

Prep: Discard thick outer leaves. Remove top of leek, leaving about 2-4 cm of green. Wash thoroughly to remove any dirt. Cut leeks into 3-4com long pieces and julienne -halve each piece vertically and cut each piece into thin strips.


  1. In a separate frying pan, melt butter and on a med-low heat.
  2. Now “melt” the leeks until they are starting to soften, but still retain some crunchy texture – 10 mins or so.

Assemble the Soup

When ready to serve, add the leeks to the soup and stir in well. Heat and serve. Optionally, add a small dollop of cream or crème fraiche in each bowl. Don’t garnish with anything else -parsley etc – this wrecks the subtle interplay of the flavours.

Kathy Shares Auntie Betty Bourke’s Crème Caramel

kathyphoto2Auntie Betty, one of my family’s stand out cooks,  was born in 1912 – the only daughter of my Grandparents, Donald and Ivy Bourke. Her brother and my father, Donald,  was born in 1913.  At one point in Sydney’s social history Donald and Ivy were ‘The People to Know’ as they rubbed shoulders with the likes of the Packers, Smiths, Archibolds, Norman Lindsay and others. They often went to the races and afterwards met at someone’s house where the families competed to produce the most wondrous meal. Ivy’s upbringing in country hotels where she often helped out in the kitchen meant she frequently claimed the prize.  

So Betty, who never married, grew up in this environment through two world wars, a severe financial depression and was able to put together an amazing budget meal that presented beautifully.  She spent most of her post war years in London and Europe and sent home “foreign” recipes for mum to try.  In retrospect they were what locals in those foreign lands would have been using for generations. Here is her Crème Caramel.

Note: It is best to make this a day ahead of time as it is a little messy and fiddly … and the caramel infuses the custard for longer so it tastes better too.

Serves 8-10. Fewer people are likely to demolish the lot too !!!

CaramelCreme Caramal

1½ cups white sugar
2 cups water

  1. Place sugar and water in a saucepan.  Stir over low heat till sugar dissolves.
    Stop stirring. Increase heat and bring to boil.  Boil till mixture turns to deep golden brown. This last bit happens quite quickly so watch it carefully.
  2. Pour caramel evenly into moulded 22-23cm diameter cake tin.  Note: You need a moulded rather than spring tin where the bottom of the tin can be removed so the custard does not leak.


4 cups milk
2x300ml cartons cream, (2½ cups)
1 cup castor sugar
Vanilla Extract to taste or use a Vanilla Bean
8 eggs
3 egg yolks, extra
punnet strawberries  or mixed berries to serve

  1. Place eggs, extra yolks, vanilla and sugar in bowl. Beat lightly to combine.
  2. Pour milk and cream into a saucepan.  Bring to scalding point. Cool slightly and pour into egg mixture stirring quickly all the time.
  3. Strain combined mixture into a large jug to remove egg bits.
  4. Put caramel lined pan into a baking dish containing about 2 cms warm water. Pour mixture into pan.  Hopefully the custard mixture reaches the top lip of the pan.
  5. Bake in moderate oven( 170°C to 180°C) for approx 35 mins or until custard is firm.
  6. Cool and refrigerate.

To serve:

  • Dip pan with custard into very warm water to melt a little of the toffee/caramel on the sides. Then place serving plate over the top and flip. This has to be done quickly to catch the runny bits of toffee/caramel. It should pop out easily at that point.
  • Tidy up the plate. Place strawberries in the centre of the creme caramel.  Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with cream.

It looks sensational and I guarantee everyone will have two helpings!!!

Neil Shares: Sausage Ragu for Casual Entertaining

NAGSausages and mash with a twist – a wholesome and more-ish dish. It’s ideal for a boys night, a teenage gathering, or casual sunday entertaining, especially as the days get cooler.  This is my friend, Neil’s, signature dish, that always impresses and gets the boys coming back for more. Neil often barbecues the sausages for extra flavour and reduces the oven cooking time by 15minutes.  If you cannot find beef chipolatas then buy quality beef breakfast sausages(thin ones) and cut them in half. 

Serves 4-6.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 green capsicum, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 rashers bacon, trimmed and chopped
500g (1lb) button mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on size
800g (2 lb) can diced tomatoes
12 chipolata beef sausages
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley to serve
Mashed potato to serve – 1 medium potato per person

  1. Preheat fan forced oven to 220°C (450°F).
  2. Combine oil, onion, bacon and carrot in a large casserole dish, approx 22cmx30cm(9x12inches).
  3. Cook in heated oven for 5 minute.
  4. Stir in mushrooms and capsicum. Spread mixture evenly over base of dish. Arrange sausages over vegetables and return to the oven. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes or until the sausages start to colour.
  5. Stir in the tomatoes. Cook uncovered for 15minutes until sausages are cooked through.
  6. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with mashed potato or crusty bread.
  7. Serve with beer – for the boys anyway.

John’s Bacon and Egg Pie – Perfect for New Years Brunch

John loves his food and his cooking. He arrives at our New Year’s brunch and produces his pie, warm from the oven, with a flourish. It is spectacularly good.  John always has the knack of making it look particularly professional too.IMG_1193

8 rashers bacon
12 eggs
¼ cup chopped parsley
3 large tomatoes, thickly sliced
Quality readymade puff pastry, rolled out thinly

  1.  Preheat oven to 220°C.
  2. Line a 20cmx30cm deep Lamingtin style baking tin with thinly rolled out puff pastry.
  3. Chop bacon into 5cm pieces and fry in a frying pan until cooked.
  4. Sprinkle bacon over pastry spreading evenly.
  5. Break eggs over, keeping the yolks whole.
  6. Sprinkle with parsley and cover with thickly sliced tomatoes.
  7. Cover pie with remaining pastry and trim edges.
  8. Brush pastry with beaten egg to create a golden glaze.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 190°C and bake for another 20 minutes or until pastry is cooked.
  10. Serve warm cut into wedges.
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