Thursday, March 28, 2013

Homemade Chocolate Easter eggs

Ever since I can remember, my mother has made us homemade chocolate eggs for Easter. From bunnies to eggs, chickens to baskets, white chocolate, dark chocolate, filled, hollow – you name it, we got it. All lovingly handmade. It was not until I took over this family tradition that I realised how much work goes into making your own basket of chocolate eggs, it is also extremely rewarding when people tuck into your chocolate creations with gusto. In our home, I find it a comforting ritual and after this post, I hope it will be one that you adopt in your own. It’s a great way to keep the kids busy over the long weekend – and of course, there is the opportunity to lick the leftover chocolate in the mixing bowl!

Step 1: Stock up on ingredients and equipment.
  • Chocolate moulds – most baking specialty stores stock these in a variety of shapes. 
  • To make hollow eggs, you will need two mirror image moulds that you can sandwich together. 
  • Clothing pegs – these are used to hold the two moulds together and stop them from shifting before the chocolate sets.
  • Good-quality chocolate – for beginners, baking chocolate is the best. Again, baking shops will have a good-quality kind with a high cocoa content that tastes better than the baking chocolate you buy in the supermarket. Don’t even try to use the generic ‘eating’ chocolate slabs – this chocolate isn’t designed for melting and moulding so it simply won’t reset. Always buy more chocolate than you think you’ll need.

Step 2: Make sure your moulds are spotlessly clean – any dirt will stick to the chocolate and will give dullness to your finished eggs. We’re going for a spotlessly shiny look!

Step 3: Melt the chocolate.
This is best done in a glass or metal bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Water is chocolate’s enemy and if even the smallest drop falls into your chocolate, it will seize and you’ll have to begin again.

Step4: Time for filling.
  • Get your two moulds ready and place the matching pieces next to each other.Fill one of the moulds with chocolate before placing the second mould on top. Make sure the edges match up and secure with 4-5 pegs to avoid the moulds moving. Holding it firmly, rotate and move the chocolate to coat the entire mould – there should be no gaps. Sometimes a bit of a shake or tapping it on the kitchen counter can help get the chocolate into all the nooks and crannies.Once coated, place in the refrigerator to set. The chocolate is set when it pulls away from the mould and has a glossy appearance. Remove it from the fridge and gently pull the moulds away. I place mine onto a clean kitchen towel or baking paper. Avoid touching the eggs as much as possible as your fingerprints will dull the beautiful shine of the chocolate. Store in the refrigerator or cool place. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Easter Entertaining - Easter table setting and Easter food ideas

A friend of mine, who just happens to be the most fabulous fashionista in the country, last week dubbed me 'The Coco Chanel of cooking'. What a scary (but extremely flattering) title! But if I'm the 'Coco Chanel of Cooking' then my colleague Matanna is definitely Martha Stewart. Matanna, is probably the only person on this planet that understands the joy that bunting, pastel colours, bunnies and bows bring to my life. She just gets me. We teamed up for an Easter Entertaining shoot recently which was shot for Expresso Breakfast Show (where we both work - and play!) and I just had to share what we came up with.

Heard the saying 'location, location, location!'? Well, in television, this is the golden rule of anything looking beautiful on screen. And for gorgeous decor and food to look good, it has to be surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Ours was the Cellars-Hohenort hotel in leafy Constantia, Cape Town. Their gardens are absolutely magnificent and we both felt like we'd gone 'down the rabbit hole' into a wonderland.  

Pastels, florals prints, lace and bunting set the scene with bunnies (chocolate and fluffy ones) and eggs (again, chocolate and the real kind) adorning the table. It was all about the attention to detail. What I loved most about Matanna's decor, is that all of it can be recreated at home. For the table she used scraps of fabric and lace and simply draped them over each other. The cups and paper plates were painted in pastels - the plates topped with paper doilies so our little guests could eat off them. 

Photography and food styling by Katelyn Williams
 Decor styling by Matanna Katz

Speaking of eating, there was no shortage of treats. The whole idea of Easter for me is spending time with family and the last thing I want to be doing, is slaving away in the kitchen so I opted for a fuss-free spread. 
Marshmallows or sweets piled into glass jars are pretty and great for little hands to snack on. My favourites, were probably these cute 'carrots' made by dipping strawberries into orange-tinted white chocolate. How adorable?!

The Hot Cross Bun macarons I prepared in my post here were piled onto a pretty cake stand alongside the real buns that inspired them.

 For something on the savoury side, I made dainty tea sandwiches and simply used bunny cookie cutters to cut out cute shapes. So simple but so pretty.

And of course, a few pastel-coloured cupcakes to go with the colour scheme. After all, Julia Child once said, 'a party without cake is just a meeting'. Too true.

 Ending off on a sweet note, a VERY sweet one, I set up a mini 'Easter Sundae' bar. Easter Sundae - get it? Okay, I'll stop. Cute buckets held an array of toppings: caramel fudge sauce, sweet croutons made from Oats 'n honey loaf, caramel popcorn and speckled mini Easter eggs were all layed out to adorn vanilla ice cream. The kids will love this! 

A beautiful and easy-to-do spread. Accompany this with an Easter egg hunt in the garden and there is no way you can go wrong. Happy Easter everyone! 


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hot cross bun macarons

I absolutely love baking. I love how it calms my mind after a stressful day - the precision of the measuring and technique distracts me from all the worries and life's to-do lists. In the moment, it's just you and the recipe and the wooden spoon. One of my favourite things to do lately when baking, is it create hybrid desserts. It sounds sciency, but it's basically 'smooshing' two recipes together to create one super dessert. In the big food world, they call these 'Double Desserts' and I have written about them before. What's better than one dessert? Well, two. Duh. There is no logic in the world, that could find fault in that conclusion. 
Now it doesn't take a genius to figure out that my favourite holiday is Easter. Chocolate AND fluffy bunnies? Who doesn't like chocolate and bunnies! But I also love hot cross buns and even though we get them all year round, I flat out refuse to eat them at any other time, except the month leading up to Easter. Toasted with oozy melty butter, thanks. This got me to thinking what else I could infuse with delicious hot cross bun flavour. Last year I did a 'Hot cross bun sponge' with buttercream frosting and those addictive mini speckled eggs. So this year, I tackled the hot cross bun macaron. 

If you have ever made macarons you will understand the analogy that making them is not unlike experiencing a great deal of pain.  A little like child birth I would imagine. Afterwards you never seem to remember how unpleasant the experience really was. This is my relationship with macarons. So when I decided to concoct these, I was excited - and obviously delusional. Humming away to myself I measured out all the ingredients and got to work. Then it started; I remembered the dozens of blogs and articles I'd read as well as the comments made by fellow chefs about these little monsters and how tricky they are to get right. Not to mention how many burst or flat macarons had emerged from my own oven during my numerous recipe attempts! I was promised that this was The One; the best macaron recipe. So my optimism won - this time. I remember my grandmother always used to say a little prayer when she slid something into her oven and I used to think it completely silly until of course it came time to put my macarons in the oven. Yes, I was praying for these macarons. They not only had me praying, they had me sitting on the floor in front of my oven embroiled in a staring match with them, to make sure they rose perfectly. So not only were they making me religious, now the macarons were making me down right crazy. 
Having lost years of my life during the baking process, they emerged from my oven perfectly. This recipe really makes the perfect macaron so do give it a try - despite me taking years off my life with the amount of stressing, it's very hard to flop. But just incase, say a little prayer as you put them in your oven!

Photography and styling by Katelyn Williams

Hot cross bun macarons
Makes 50
120g ground almonds
200g icing sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice

100g egg whites (about 3 large eggs)
1/4tsp cream of tartar
35g white sugar

Orange white chocolate ganache
100ml cream
1 tbsp Stork Bake
peel of 1 orange
250g white chocolate, chopped

Line 2-3 baking sheets with baking paper.
Sift together the ground almonds and icing sugar to remove any clumps. Blend any leftover mixture then sift again until nothing remains. Stir in the spices.
Begin beating the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed. Once the egg whites are very foamy, begin sprinkling in the sugar as you beat. Increase the speed to medium, if necessary, and beat the meringue to stiff glossy peaks.
Add about 1/4 of the almond/sugar mixture and fold until no streaks remain. Continue to add the almond mixture in quarters, folding until incorporated.
Pour the batter into a piping bag fitted with a fluted nozzle and pipe rows of batter onto the baking sheets, giving them space to spread. Tap the pan on the counter to bring up any air bubbles and quickly pop them with a toothpick.

Allow the cookies to rest on a level surface for 30-60 minutes until they are no longer tacky to a light touch.
While they rest, place an oven rack in the lower 3rd of your oven and preheat to 150C.
Bake the cookies for 16-20 minutes.
Make the ganache by heating the cream, Stork Bake and orange peel together until just simmering. Set aside for 1 hour to infuse before heating again and pouring over the white chocolate. Stir until melted then allow to set until spreadable.
Sandwich the macarons together with the ganache. 

Photography and styling by Katelyn Williams

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Seychelles Seafood curry

How does one decide what to cook first after returning from the culinary journey of a lifetime? Armed with a serious stash of juicy vanilla pods, the most perfect cinnamon quills and nutmegs still encased with their bright red mace, I set out to recreate one of the tastiest dishes of my adventure to the seychelles; a traditional Creole seafood curry. Creole cooking is as diverse as the many cultures the island is home to, with Indian, Asian, middle eastern and african cooking adding their finest flavour characteristics to the melting pot.  This recipe celebrates the abundance of flavour the 115 islands have to offer; coconut from the palms that sway along the white beaches, spices harvested from the lush and steamy jungles where vanilla orchids, nutmeg, clove and pepper trees flourish in the thick humid air as well as the rich variety of seafood and tropical fish found in the warm indian ocean. It is best served with steamed basmati rice, crispy onions, poppadoms, spiced lentils and fruity chutney. The subtly spiced coconut sauce which forms the base of this curry would feel equally at home coating chicken or roast veggies or even served as a side sauce to bring a bit of the seychelles to your dinner table, until of course you can experience it for yourself!

Seychelles Seafood curry
Recipe courtesy of Constance Lemuria hotel
Serves 4

20ml oil plus more, for deep-frying
80g garlic cloves, crushed
80g ginger, peeled and grated
80g onions, finely chopped
50g curry powder
20g saffron powder or a large pinch of saffron threads
20 cinnamon leaves or a few bay leaves
2 x tins coconut milk
12 prawns, peeled and deveined
4 scallops
4-8 calamari tubes
4 pieces of fish (about 4cm cubes)
flour, for dusting

Heat the oil and saute the garlic, ginger and onions until soft and translucent. Stir in the spices and and coconut milk and simmer for 1 hour. Blend to form a smooth sauce, if desired. Season all the seafood and deep-fry in batches until crispy. Add the seafood to the curry sauce and simmer for 3 minutes.
Serve the curry in a bowl with steamed basmati rice, sambals, chutneys, spiced lentils and poppadoms on the side.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Quick boerewors sausage saute

I love grocery shopping – probably more than the next person, but we’ve all experienced those annoying people who sneak a peek into your trolley. Well, that’s me. When I’m at the supermarket, I look into your trolley. Sometimes I am inspired (a healthy trolley will have me ashamedly putting back the chips), sometimes I’m appalled at what I see (for instance, do you really need all those instant MSG-laced sauces?). Occasionally I am jealous (when I spot a Lindt slab poking out of your groceries, but I’m on a diet) and quite often I am reminded of something I almost forgot to buy myself. Other people’s shopping just fascinates me. You can tell so much from a person from what they stock up on – I will take a guess at your cooking skills, your marital status, whether or not you have kids, how old those kids are, your eating habits, how often you go shopping, which brands you favour, your plans for that evening and what you’re going to be making for dinner. More often than not, this is the best part – to guess what you’re going to whip up for dinner with those ingredients. So often, this gives me a great idea and I promptly change my own dinner for the evening. Which is precisely what happened to this recipe. What started out as bacon and tomato pasta sauce in my basket, quickly turned in to this boerewors creation when I spotted the sausage poking out of a fellow shoppers trolley and made a dash to the meat section. So, enjoy this delicious recipe, and don’t pretend you wouldn’t sneak a peak into my trolley if you had the chance!

Photography by Christelle Botha for Zone magazine
Quick boerewors sausage saute
Serves 4

1/2 packet streaky bacon
1 x punnet boerewors
¼ bottle of red wine
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 x tin tomato, onion and garlic mix
Handful dried mushrooms, rehydrated with 1 cup boiling water
4-5 slices white bread (preferably stale or day-old), torn in pieces
¼ cup melted butter or oil

Heat a large cast iron pan over medium coals or a gas stove. Snip the bacon into bits using a pair of kitchen scissors and fry the bacon in the pan until golden. Add the boerewors and cook for a few minutes before turning, until golden. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and allow to simmer until almost evaporated before adding the herbs and tomato mix. Add the reconstituted mushrooms along with any liquid and allow to reduce until thickened. Toss the torn bread pieces in the melted butter or oil and arrange over the top of the boerewors. Cover with a lid, placing a few coals on top of the lid, and allow to bake for 10-15 minutes or until the bread is crisp and golden before serving.