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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Liz’s Beef and Vegetable Soup for the Last of the Cooler Days

The days are warm already this year with the garden thinking that spring has arrived. However, the nights are still cool – time to enjoy my hearty homemade soup one last time before the warm spring evenings are upon us. This recipe is cobbled together from watching my mother and grandmother making soups with leftovers from the pantry and the fridge. It tastes wholesome with friends and neighbours always asking for some – it’s one of those dishes that never finishes as each day you add a little more water to top up what you ate the previous day !!!

Serves 8.

2 pieces veal osso buco
1 cup dried Italian Soup mix – you want the mixed beans and lentils with no barley
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
3 sticks celery, sliced
3 large carrots, sliced
3 medium desiree or kestrel potatoes, peeled and sliced
mixed herbs – whatever you can find; Bay leaves, Rosemary, parsley stalks, thyme, and the light green celery leaves from the heart of the bunch of celery
1/4 cabbage, shredded
800g(2lb) can diced tomatoes
2 Beef stock cubes
4 cups water
miscellaneous vegetables from fridge to add at the end; I like sliced zuchinni and green beans

  1. Brown the Osso Buco in a little olive oil and butter in a large pot; Remove.
  2. Now saute the onions and garlic. When soft add the herbs to bloom – sautéing in oil releases far more flavour than adding the herbs to the liquid at the end.
  3. Add celery and carrots and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Now add the soup mix, beef stock cubes, canned tomatoes, water and the browned so buck. Bring to the boil. Turn to a low simmer. Simmer for 60 minutes.
  5. After 60 minutes, add the potatoes and shredded cabbage. Continue cooking for another 60 to 90minutes until the soup mix is cooked.
  6. Remove the osso buco. Add marrow from bones to the soup. Remove fat from the meat and shred it. Return shredded meat to the pot. The soup should be thick but if u think it needs more liquid add some now – add half cup water at a time so that you don’t end up diluting soup too much. Bring back to boil. Taste and add seasoning as required.  It is best left for a day at this stage to improve flavour but of course can be eaten immediately.
  7. Just before serving add miscellaneous vegetables on hand; Green Beans, sliced zucchini, etc and heat. Boil for no more than one minute to keep vegetables crunchy.
  8. This soup can keep for up to a week if you reheat it every day. Reheat slowly so as not to burn. Add additional water if it gets to thick BUT add water when soup is hot. The soup thins up as it heats so you cannot be sure how much water is required.
  9. Enjoy with crusty bread.

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.

Pumpkin, Spanish Onion and Rocket Salad

Rocket adds a sharpness to the sweetness of the roast pumpkin and onions whilst the beans or asparagus add texture. The feta adds creaminess and the walnuts are a lovely surprise.  This salad works well with a Barbecue or any grilled meat – no additional accompaniments required.

Serves 6-8.

1.2kg/2.5lbs Butternut or Pumpkin, peeled and cut into 5cm/2 inch chunks
3 spanish/red onions cut into quarters
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bunch asparagus or 200g topped and tailed baby green beans
1 bunch rocket, trimmed and washed
100g/6oz Danish fetta
1/2 cup halved walnuts or pine nuts
Balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

  1. Preheat oven to 200C/425F.
  2. Place pumpkin and onions in a large bowl. Sprinkle over chopped garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lots of Maldon salt and ground pepper. Toss well.
  3. Arrange in a single layer on a large baking pan lined with baking paper. Roast 20 to 25 minutes until tender, turning once.
  4. Blanch asparagus or green beans.
  5. Layer rocket in a large shallow bowl or serving platter. Top with asparagus or green beans. Add pumpkin and onions ensuring an even spread. Top with crumbled feta. Drizzle with balsamic and olive oil – only a LITTLE. Sprinkle walnuts over the top.
  6. Serve – this keeps well for the next day if you omit drizzling balsamic and olive or only use a very small amount.

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.

ICING:
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.

Portobello Mushrooms with Feta

Portobello mushrooms are meaty and dressed with feta and this herb and chilli dressing they are ideal as a starter or an accompaniment to a steak or any grilled meat.  Comments I have received on serving these are … “this is better than anything I have had in a restaurant”.  There you go – worthwhile compliment for a few minutes work.

Serves 4.

4 large portobello or large brown mushrooms, stalks removed
75g/3ozs Danish feta
1 long red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon chives, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil

  1. Preheat barbecue or chargrill to high.
  2. Whisk olive oil, lemon, garlic, herbs, and chilli in a small bowl.
  3. Brush both sides of mushrooms with a little oil. Barbecue or girl for 1-2 minutes on each side until mushrooms are heated through.
  4. Place each mushroom on an individual plate. Top with crumbled feta. Drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.

Goulash Soup for those Cold Winter Nights

A hearty and delicious soup for even the diehard anti-soup individual. As a child my son, Sven, refused to eat soup – it was all those vegetables he abhorred. One day I found this meat based soup to convert him. It’s seriously good – try it. If you’re wanting a few more vegetables add cubed carrots at the same time as the potatoes. This soup does NOT freeze well.

Serves 6 as a meal.

1kg(2lbs) gravy beef or blade steak, trimmed and cut into 1cm(1/2 inch) cubes
2 Tablespoons paprika + 2Tablespoons extra
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 Tablespoons plain flour
1 cup dry red wine
3 onions, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2x400g (1lb) cans tomatoes
60g butter
4 cups beef stock
4 medium potatoes, cubed
1 cup sour cream or plain yoghurt
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley

  1. Marinade beef cubes in 2 tablespoons of the paprika and wine in the fridge overnight.
  2. Heat butter in large saucepan, add onions, garlic, caraway seeds and additional 2 tablespoons paprika and salute until onions are soft.
  3. Add beef. Cook stirring for 5 minutes. Then add undrained crushed tomatoes and beef stock. Mix well. Bring to the boil. Reduce temperature and simmer for an hour.
  4. Add cubed potatoes and cook a further 30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked and meat is soft.
  5. Just before serving blend flour into sour cream or yoghurt, and stir into soup. Cook around 5minutes till soup has thickened.
  6. Servie sprinkled with parsley. Yum.

 

Celebrate 4th July with American Apple Pie

No one does fruit pies and tarts as well as the United States especially in the country towns. I scoured the country trying to find the secret of the luscious gooey apple pies and as you can see from this recipe it’s all in the syrup made from apple ‘juice’ and butter. What more fitting way to celebrate 4th of July than with this Apple Pie.  Serve with ice cream –  ‘a la mode’ – as the Americans would say.

Serves 8.

1.2 kg (2.5lb) granny smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1 cm thick slices
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup dark treacle sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon maizena/cornflour
Flaky pastry to fill a 9 inch (23cm) pie dish – ensure it is deep enough as this is a typical American high pie.

  1. Line deep  pie dish with flaky pastry.
  2. Mix apples and all the ingredients excluding the butter, maizena and pastry in a large bowl.
  3. Macerate for at least 30minutes. Drain in a colander collecting all the “juice”. You need about 1/2 cup of “juice”.
  4. Boil this “juice” together with the butter in a small saucepan until thick and the liquid has halved.
  5. In the mean time add the maizena to the apples and and mix till dry.
  6. Now add syrup to apples and stir through. Place in pie crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 60 minutes to maintain flakiness of the pastry.
  7. Remove plastic wrap. Bake in preheated oven at 425F/210C for around 40 minutes in bottom shelf of oven.
  8. Cool for 4 hours before serving.

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.

Crunchy Layered Oats, Yoghurt and Banana Tart

This is a lovely tart with crunchy oats base, a tart creamy subtle middle layer, and a fruit topping. It is simple and quick to make but tastes elaborate. You can use in season fruit for the topping – in summer try strawberries, raspberries, or stone fruit. In winter banana is delicious or you can even use a quality apricot or black cherry jam.

Serves 6-8.

BASE
1/2 cup sticky brown sugar is plenty
2 cups quick porridge oats
180g(6 oz) butter
MIDDLE LAYER
3/4 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
1.5 cups plain yoghurt, Greek style
1 Tablespoons caster sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
TOPPING
Fruit of your choice: 3-4 Bananas/1 punnet strawberries/etc
1/2 cup jam to glaze – use apricot for bananas or redcurrant for strawberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
  2. Gently melt brown sugar and butter in a saucepan – do NOT let it boil. Remove from heat and stir in the oats.  Spread evenly into a greased 24cm(9-10inch) diameter flan dish.
  3. Bake in the top half of the oven 20 minutes. Cool slightly.
  4. In a bowl stir yoghurt, sour cream, sugar and lemon zest for the middle layer together. Pour on top of the oat base. Put dish back in the oven for 8 minutes. Cool. The yoghurt topping will be smooth and slightly firm.
  5. A couple of hours before serving slice the bananas (or halve the strawberries if using) and layer on top of the yoghurt base. Melt the jam for glazing in a small saucepan or in a bowl in the microwave. Brush onto the fruit with a pastry brush.
  6. Use a sharp knife to cut the crispy base and serve as is or with cream or ice cream.

Souffléd Fish Pie

I always sought the unusual – even in the times where meat and two vegetables were the standard fare. One sunny summer’s day in 1982 I discovered this recipe in a quaint cookbook at a school fair. It was an incredibly modern recipe in it’s day and became the regular favourite way to cook our weekly fish dish. It’s stood the test of time – still a little different and quite delicious with the unusual combination of fish and ham and the souffle topping works well.  Serve it with steamed vegetables in winter or a green salad in summer.

Serves 6.

1kg (2lb) firm white fish like ling or cod
60g (2 oz) butter
3 Tablespoons plain flour
1/2 cup grated cheese
2 cups milk
3 eggs
75g (3oz) chopped ham
2 teaspoons dill or fennel seeds

  1. Butter a large shallow gratinee or pie dish. Cut the fish into large pieces and lay in the dish in a single layer. Sprinkle with dill or fennel seeds, salt and pepper.
  2. Pour over the milk, cover the dish with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 400F/200C for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove fish and reduce oven heat to 300F/150C. Pour the milk off the fish into a separate jug. Add the chopped ham to the fish in the dish.
  4. Melt butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring all the time. Gradually add milk fish was cooked in, still stirring. Bring to the boil. Add cheese and stir until melted and smooth.
  5. Cool slightly. Then add egg yolks, one by one stirring thoroughly after each addition.
  6. Whisk egg whites until stiff and fold into the sauce with a metal spoon.
  7. Pour this mixture over the fish in the dish. Cook in the centre of the oven at 300F/150C for 30 to 40 minutes until risen and golden brown.
  8. Serve immediately.