Tag Archives: recipes

The ultimate brownie

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When I got back into blogging just a couple and a half weeks ago, I promised myself I would post something every week … but friends, the post that was supposed to go up on Tuesday is just so hard to write – yet impossible to ignore.

So you’ll get it next Tuesday. In the meantime, here is my recipe for brownies. I have had some need of comfort food lately, and I have to tell you, these are the best.

Note #1: For those poor souls who don’t have access to cranberries, these brownies are still outstanding without them. I just like the way the tart cranberry flavor cuts the sweetness of all the chocolate. Maybe you can think of an alternative … candied orange might work, provided it’s the good stuff, not the nasty plastic pebbles that renders American Christmas cakes good for nothing but holding doors open.

Note #2: I’m serious about the quality of the chocolate chips. If you’re not going to use good ones, don’t bother … just buy a box mix of brownie batter and call it good.

Note #3: The baking time is an approximation. They’re done when a knife comes out with no actual raw brownie mix on it. They’re overdone if the knife comes out dry – those chocolate chips are supposed to be soft!

Note #4: I usually double the quantity … but you do you.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens Cape Town

My brownies never seem to last long enough for anyone to remember to photograph them. Instead, here is a view of Cape Town from the Kirstenbosch Garden, on the flanks of Table Mountain. (If you think it’s peculiar to illustrate a recipe post with a random picture of scenery, take it up with Ellen. Irrelevant photos are her idea – I deny all responsibility.)

CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY BROWNIES

½ cup + 2 Tablespoons soft butter (5 oz / 140 g)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
6 tablespoons cocoa (90 ml)
½ cup flour
Pinch salt
½ cup chocolate chips (use Ghirardelli or equivalent, not Hershey. I like semi-sweet.)
½ cup chopped nuts (I like either almonds or pecans.)
¼-½ cup dried cranberries (depending on personal preference.)

  1. Set oven to 320F (160C)
  2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla.
  3. Beat in eggs, then sift in cocoa, flour and salt.
  4. Stir in nuts, chocolate chips, and cranberries.
  5. Bake in greased 8″ (20 cm) square pan, about 25 minutes

Enjoy!

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Lazy entertaining

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What better to do on a warm, clear spring Saturday than to invite a friend over for braai – sorry, barbecue, because this is America – but whatever you call it, it involves steak raised on our own pasture, and a variety of delicious salady things. Of course, the dessert is unmistakably South African, and that’s what I want to share with you today – because it’s easy, scrumptious, and ideal for any but the hottest weather. Ladies and gentlemen of the kitchen, I give you…

Malva pudding!

Malva pudding, enriched with brandied fruit and served with cream!

Malva pudding, enriched with brandied fruit and served with cream!

In a small saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp butter, 1 tsp white vinegar and 1 cup milk.

While it’s heating, take 1 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp apricot jam and 1 egg, and beat well together.

In a separate bowl, mix together 1 cup flour, 1 tsp bicarb (aka baking soda), 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt.

Alternately add the dry ingredients and the heated liquids to the egg and sugar mixture, while stirring or beating slowly. Mix well.

Bake at 350 F (180 C) in a covered dish for 45-60 minutes, until a knife inserted into the middle comes out dry. (Choose a baking dish that has at least an inch clear at the top after you pour in the batter, because you’ll need room to add the sauce.)

While it is baking, make the sauce. In a small saucepan heat 1 cup heavy cream, 6 oz (170 g) butter, 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup hot water. Stir to mix, and do not allow them to boil.

When you remove the pudding from the oven, immediately pour on the hot sauce. (It can take a while to soak in. Be patient, and add all of it. This is what transforms the pudding from a mere cake to something irresistible!)

Serve hot or cold. I like it with plain unwhipped cream, but it’s also good with ice cream, custard or whipped cream.

A variation that I enjoy – and this is what I made today – is what I call “Christmas Malva Pudding”. Every year when I bake my Christmas cakes (dang, I could have sworn I’d given you my recipe, but apparently I forgot last year! That will have to wait until this November!) I end up with a whole lot of excess fruit mix. I pack this into bottles, glug in the brandy, and store it in the pantry. Every now and then I slosh in a bit more brandy to keep it happy. This makes a yummy addition to malva pudding (I add about 1 cup to the recipe above) and brownies (I guess I’ll have to share that recipe one day too!) More enthusiastic cooks than I could probably come up with a host of other recipes that would use it. Any that’s left over in November simply goes into the next batch of Christmas cakes.

Oh – and no, this is not remotely ketogenic. But when your diet choices are about lifestyle, not D.I.E.T, you can allow yourself some flexibility. Just don’t overdo it – because if your body is used to eating low-carb, something this rich and sweet will make you feel yuck. I plan to send the leftovers home with my guest today!

How are you celebrating the changing seasons? Do you have a favorite fall-back any-occasion guaranteed-winner dish that you like to serve?

Tipsy tart on turkey day

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I think you have to have been born American to get pumpkin pie. I mean, seriously, guys, eeuw! That stuff is the exact color and consistency of baby poop, and pumpkin is a vegetable, for crying out loud! Strange enough that you put together jello and marshmallows and call it a salad – I mean, I’m completely down with starting any meal with dessert, so I think jello salad is a great idea. But pumpkin as dessert? Oh hell no! That stuff needs to be baked or boiled and served hot, with a dash of salt and a dollop of butter and maybe just the lightest sprinkle of cinnamon, and piled alongside a generous serving of bredie or oxtail. Yum!

So anyway, today, having volunteered to contribute dessert to a friend’s Thanksgiving dinner, I went back to my Soustannie roots to find something easy enough that even I can’t screw it up, and delicious regardless of which side of the Atlantic your palate got educated. What could be better for a cold-weather holiday feast than that traditional South African favorite, Cape brandy pudding, aka tipsy tart? And since my housewifely moments are rare, and therefore deserving of their own celebration, I am sharing the recipe here.

Tipsy tart

Tipsy tart. No vegetables were harmed in the taking of this picture.

Tart

2 cups raisins and chopped dates, mixed and halved
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans for preference)

Add boiling water and bicarb to half the dates and raisins, stir, and set aside to cool.
Cream butter and sugar, add beaten eggs, and mix well.
Sift dry ingredients and fold into the egg mixture.
Stir in dry fruit and nuts, then add soaked fruit mixture. Mix well.
Pour into large dish or two tart plates. (I use a pyrex dish, 8x8x2 inches. A deeper corningware dish would also work well.)
Bake 30 – 40 mins at 350F, 180C, until you can insert a sharp knife and it comes out clean.

Syrup

Start this about 10 minutes before you take the tart out of the oven.

3 T butter
2.5 cups sugar
1.5 cups water
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
Pinch salt
1 cup brandy

In a saucepan, bring the butter, sugar and water to the boil. Boil fast, stirring to prevent it from boiling over, 3-5 mins.
Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients.
Pour over tart as soon as you take it out of the oven. You will need to pour slowly, giving it time to soak in. Use a knife to push the tart away from the sides of the container so that sauce can run down and soak in from the sides. Stick a knife in the top of the tart at intervals to encourage it to soak in. The deeper the dish, the easier it will be to use all the sauce.

Serve hot with ice cream or cream, or cold with whipped cream.

So now you know how it’s done, folks, and you don’t have to torture any more poor unassuming pumpkins. Let them celebrate their vegetable nature, and allow your mouth to savor the best of boerekos (aka soul food the way we do it at the south end of Africa).

Day 2, with apricots

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Update on the diet: so far so good. Yesterday was fairly rough, with little energy and much sleepiness, aches and pains – likely caused more by an excess of rich food and drink the night before, than by the radical simplicity of Going Daniel. Last night brought another valuable reminder of Why Fatness Is Bad For You: I snored so loudly at one point that I woke myself up. Ugh! I’d feel sorry for Himself, if he weren’t as bad! However, snoring like a truck indicates a shortage of that essential princessness that lies at the heart of every woman. Well, maybe not every woman – but certainly at my heart, which is the one I’m concerned about here!

Today it was hard to wake up, but once I did I found I had noticeably more mental and physical energy than in the past few days. I’m also feeling nice and empty … Not to get too graphic, but all that roughage in yesterday’s fruit, nuts and veggies, flushed along with lots of our sweet, home-grown well water, is working its magic.

For breakfast this morning, I visited the apricot tree.

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This has been a great season for apricots! Over the past few weeks, Himself and I have been engaged in delicious experimentation in the kitchen (no, don’t you be getting all kinky, now! I’m fat and he’s old – these experiments were strictly culinary!) And I have been taking pictures and keeping track, specifically in order to share the bounty. Or at least to tantalize you with it.

This is where we started, before picking. The apricot tree, a pear and a nectarine all grow in a fenced area that is also home to our chickens. They have been STUFFING themselves on windfalls! Apricot chicken, anyone?

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So … first, Himself made a large batch of apricot jam. It didn’t set quite as it should have so is a bit runny, but the flavor is excellent – perfect for french toast or pancakes.

I then made apricot preserves. I started with this recipe, trebled for 6 lb apricots. but they cooked down so much I went ahead and added another 5-6 lb apricots (but without increasing the sugar). The result is just out of this world!

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Himself made apricot puree and apricot leather, and I filled the crockpot with apricots and stewed them down, with just a little stevia for sweetening. They are delicious and sugar-free, so I can enjoy them a la Daniel…:) (Stevia’s a natural substance, not an artificial chemical sweetener, so I feel okay using it.)

Finally on Sunday, I baked up loaves of vanilla cake for the freezer, only I replaced some of the milk with apricot juice, and then I dumped in a whole lot of fresh blueberries (a gift from a neighbor). I’ve been using this recipe since I was about 12; it was originally handed out with Stork margarine, which I don’t think even exists any more (plus margarine, you know, ick). It’s a fairly solid cake, which I like, and the recipe is pretty much fool proof. (For instance, I meant to double the quantities for this recipe and accidentally tripled them, and it STILL worked!) Fool-proof recipes are necessary for me. I’ve had a good run with these apricots but don’t be fooled; I am usually completely inept in the kitchen! Anyway, here’s the recipe – enjoy.

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Beat and Bake Cake

9 oz (250 g) sugar
6 oz (180 g) butter
10 oz (280 g) flour
2 oz (60 g) corn flour (aka corn starch, aka Maizena)
1 T (15 ml) baking powder
Pinch salt
4 eggs + milk to make 2 Cups
1 t vanilla

All ingredients should be at room temperature.  Set oven at 350 F (180 C).
Cream sugar with slightly softened butter.
Sieve together flour, corn flour, baking powder and salt.
Break eggs into measuring jug, add milk to make up to 2 C, and add vanilla essence.
Mix well at low speed, pausing regularly to scrape ingredients together.  Try not to mix for longer than about 1 ½ minutes total.
Pour into greased cake pans. Put onto oven rack slightly below middle.
Bake for about 30 min. Turn out onto cooling racks.

Variations:

Cocoa in place of corn flour.
Lemon or orange rind added to liquid, replace milk with water and lemon or orange juice, no vanilla.
25 ml coffee powder diluted in hot water and mixed with cold milk, then added to eggs.