Five Things: The Winter Takes It All

Only 3 days left of the dreaded winter season!

However, I will admit that there are a few things I will miss about the frosty freezy season and all of which can be further enhanced with a good book, a cushy armchair and a soft fluffy blanky:

{oxtail in red wine}

{Gingerbread Latte at W Cafe}

{creamy steamy soup}

{central heating in a bottle}

{wining by the fire}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Boozy Bird

I suppose it’s no surprise that guys love this dish… it involves lots of manly protein and is all about the beer, and it’s called a boozy bird *rolls eyes*.

Now, before we go any further, you need to solemnly swear NEVER to support the major rip-off going on in supermarkets and liquor stores everywhere. Don’t you dare spend a single cent on these ridiculous overpriced beer chicken thingamagadgets, I don’t care how pretty the picture on the box looks;

all you need is a nice plump whole chicken, a can of beer and a bit of seasoning. Duh. You don’t need a special rack or a recipe book.

The theory is that the beer will start to boil and the resultant alcoholic steam starts to cook the bird from the inside while it gets nice and crispy all over the outside. Even better is that you get to see a chicken standing bolt upright inside your oven. The beer you use is entirely up to you, I’ve tried several without really being able to tell the difference. Interestingly, my parents’ dog practically inhaled the carcass of the Amstel chicken but wouldn’t touch the Black Label one… boozy border collie?

So, what you need to do is get a chicken. Not the kind with all its innards still in there, but a nicely trimmed and cleaned one. You will probably still need to get rid of excess fat – a pair of sharp scissors will do an admirable job. Make sure the neck isn’t covered with a flap of skin (big ew!). I’m not sure what would happen in reality but I imagine the beer steam building up and exploding the chicken in the oven.

Anyway, you now have the chicken. Give it a rub with a little olive oil, then a thorough massage with your favourite chicken seasoning. I ring the changes but quite like a bit of curry spices with salt. I once used cinnamon instead of cumin by accident, and it turned out delicious anyway. Like a cross between KFC and a hot cross bun, but in a good way.

Next, get a manly man to open the beer and take one sip (one sip! watch him carefully). You can do this part yourself too, by the way. Belch for good measure. You could stick a few halved chillies and garlic cloves into the beer at this point, just make sure the can is not too full because we don’t want it to boil over.

Now for the really rude part. Place the can of beer in a roasting tin (I line the tin first, to make cleaning up less traumatic). Pick the chicken up under the wings, then firmly but gently impale it on the beer can. I know it seems  indecent but the end result is worth it.

Then carefully place the whole lot in a 180 degrees Celsius oven for an hour; you could also add chunks of veggies to the roasting tin – they will roast away in a divine chickeny beery gravy.

{stomach in, chest out}

When the bird is done, very very carefully remove the contraption from the oven. Allow it to rest for a couple of minutes. Then very carefully slide the bird off the beer can – be careful not to tip the can over. Lay the bird down in the juices in the roasting tin, and using an oven-glove, remove the piping hot beer can and put it aside to cool before you throw it out.

Carve the chicken and turn the pieces over in its own yummy alcoholic juices before serving.

If you’re serving this up to people who are new to boozy birds, carry the whole thing to the table and carve it up there. Get creative – I did a cupid chicken once with little tiny bow and arrows, and in absence of a head a large bunch of rosemary. You could do two together, one for now and one for sandwiches. You can even get ceramic chicken heads!

 

{i’m sure i’ve seen these two somewhere before…}

{aha! i was right}

I dish this up (the chicken, not Donatella and co.) with roast veggies and the most divine cheesy souffle in the whole wide world (keep an eye out for it in a future post).

Since this is a boozy bird post, it would go down very well with a bit of Bridget Jones by Helen Fielding. As well as actual booze, of course – and its got to be a beer.

 

Sonya, you Biscuit!

This biscuit recipe is so old that I can’t remember where it came from originally, or why we decided to name them after Sonya the duck in Disney’s Peter and the Wolf. I had the cassette and readalong book when I was little, my favourite part was the sound-effect used for Peter’s pop-gun. No, that’s a lie, my favourite part was having an aunt read the book out loud using different voices for the characters, one of which was given the funniest Cape-Flats gangsta accent:

{does that duck resemble a biscuit to you?}

These were my sister’s all-time favourite biscuits until about ten years ago when she ate too many in one sitting and couldn’t look at them or smell them or hear their name again. However, time heals all ills, so I resurrected the recipe for her recent visit.

I’d forgotten how easy they are – four ingredients! The kind of ingredients that are always on hand, too. They’re rich and melt-in-the-mouth with a hidden chocolate centre; they taste like a lot of time and effort went into them, but the reality is that they’ll take as much effort as making the cup of coffee you will enjoy them with…

For about 30 incredibly rich Sonya biscuits:

250g softened butter (marg will work as well)

60g (125ml) icing sugar, sifted

320g cake flour, sifted

100g chocolate of your choice, neatly cubed – about a cubic centimeter maybe (I just used half a chocolate block per biscuit, then ate the rest. Waste not, want not.)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Beat the butter and icing sugar together until combined, then stir in the cake flour. If it’s a warm day and the dough is soft and difficult to work with, let it chill in the fridge (covered) for a bit.

Pinch off blobs of the soft dough and wrap it around a piece of chocolate, shaping neatly into a ball. It should fit comfortably in your palm, with no chocolate exposed (unless of course you want a molten chocolate nightmare in your oven). You don’t want too much dough either because eating a biscuit should not require two hands and 20 minutes of chomping.

 

I used three types of chocolate – plain milk, milk with coconut and chopped cashews (I rolled the biscuits in dessicated coconut before baking) and white chocolate (I studded gold and pearl edible goodies on one end to differentiate them).

Bake for 12-15 minutes; while they are still warm from the oven roll them around in icing sugar. Repeat the rolling part when they are cool so that they look pretty, like the Greek shortbread you always see in bakery display cases but never see anyone buying (maybe its dust and not icing sugar? Ew, horrible thought).

Now, warn your guests that they are a little messy but totally worth it. These are super-rich so don’t serve after having eaten, say, a Sunday roast with all the bells and whistles; definitely serve with strong coffee and plenty of idle gossip.

PS: In the absence of idle gossipers, lower your standards just this once and read these over one of those shamelessly trashy gossip mags, the kind who’s headlines promise to expose celebrities looking fat and horrible (a guilty secret – I love those particular articles).

Soupercalifragilisticexpialidocious

This is the only word that adequately describes this cosy, comforting butternut and lentil soup that has a spicy kick so it doesn’t get too monotonous. It’s the edible equivalent of being wrapped up in a warm mohair blanky by a roaring fire in midwinter, with a bit of Bollywood music going in the background (Ravi Shankar on the sitar is what I’m thinking).

And it gets better: it freezes very well, plus it’s vegetarian (and easily converted to vegan if you replace the cream with a non-dairy substitute). So when snooty vegetarian guests arrive for dinner sighing tragically over the barbaric carnivorous feast you’ve prepared (is it just me or do they just love to surprise you with their new vegetarianism at the last minute), you can whip a bowl of delicious nutritious soup out the freezer and put on your smug-super-prepared-hostess face.

It’s packed with protein and fibre from the lentils so it’s extra-filling – a little goes a very long way; serve with savoury cheese and black pepper rusks for the best way to show a chilly winter evening who’s boss.

For a vast cauldron (8 – 10 servings) of Spicy Butternut & Lentil Soup:

2 onions, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 (or more) fat cloves of garlic, crushed

2 green (Serrano) chillies, finely chopped (use the seeds too)

lots of curry powder

lots of ground cumin

a bit of ground coriander seed

a bit of ground ginger

1kg butternut, peeled and cut into rough chunks

500g dried lentils (the regular brown ones)

About a litre of chicken stock

250ml fresh cream or non-dairy subsitute such as Orley Whip (don’t substitute the cream with yoghurt – I tried this once and turned a large pot of soup into gloop that tasted like a weird dip from a Greek restaurant).

Heat oil in a large pot and fry the onion until translucent.

Add the garlic and chilli and stir-fry for a minute.

Add the spices, butternut, lentils and stock, then simmer for about 45 minutes or until the butternut is cooked through.

Now think of all the things that have upset you recently while you get the stick blender ready. Did someone cut in front of you in traffic when you were already late? Did someone else get the last pair of The Shoes of Salvation in your size at a sale? Think of all these horrible things as you blitz the bejeezus out of your soup until it’s smooth-ish but still has some texture to it. Do you feel better now? I thought so.

Stir the cream through the swampy mush in the pot (it doesn’t taste like it looks, promise) and allow to simmer gently for a further 15 minutes. Add a little water if its too thick and stodgy.

If you don’t need the entire quantity, allow it to cool then ladle it into either the big A4-sized zippy freezer bags, or the little sandwich-sized ones (if you’re a bachelorette this size is ideal). It is easier if you invert the bottom part of the bag slightly, forming a more-or-less round “base” (this also holds the top open). Then park it in a large jug, and spoon the deliciousness in. Make absolutely sure it’s sealed (very sealed. this much sealed) then carefully lay it flat in the freezer so that it freezes in a thin layer. It will look really weird (like frozen dinosaur poop) but when it’s frozen like this instead of in a large chunk, it defrosts much faster.

So ladle yourself a bowl of delicious, thick, warms-you-from-the-inside-out soup. Get Ravi Shankar playing, wrap yourself up in a mohair blanky by a roaring fire, and sip your soup with a good book – I haven’t read them myself (yet), but give P. L. Travers’ Mary Poppins series a go and let me know if its as good as the soup…

When trying to express oneself, it’s frankly quite absurd,
To leaf through lengthy lexicons to find the perfect word.
A little spontaniety keeps conversation keen,
You need to find a way to say, precisely what you mean…

Soupercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

{is that soup my proboscis doth smell?}

Pretty-in-Pink Potatoes

Pink potatoes have been on the agenda since a brief stay in Florence earlier this year, where we ate at Cibreo Trattoria (we weren’t smartly dressed enough for the smart cafe). One of the side dishes served was a bowl of  tiny hot-pink beetroot and potato cubes, and we couldn’t tell which was which veggie at first because the potatoes had absorbed all the pinkness of the beets during cooking.

Not the greatest shot – the Barbie potatoes are way in the back behind the wine glass. The food was even better than it looks.

This recipe idea was entirely a shot in the dark and next time I’ll make lots of changes to get a more assertive pink colour in the final product. I would recommend to skip the roasting part and serve them boiled. This pink needs to stand on its own two feet. Boiled hot pink new potatoes! Or pink potato salad!

So for the wedgies that I attempted, what you need to do is preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. While this is happening, bring a large pot of water to the boil.

Peel as many potatoes as you need and cut into wedgies of equal thickness (I used 2 large potatoes, and cut each into 8-10 wedges). For every potato, quarter a beetroot without bothering to peel or trim it. Don’t worry too much about those weird beetrooty tentacles; they probably won’t grab your hand.

Toss everything into the boiling water and allow to simmer with the lid on for 10-15 minutes. The potatoes need to absorb the pink colour without becoming mushy (Oh my word! Pink mash! How did I not think of that before?).

Drain, remove the beetroot (you could peel and wedge these too, at this point) and allow the residual heat  of the wedgies to dry the surface out a bit. Very gently toss them in olive oil then arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Don’t leave them standing for too long as they start to fade – sprinkle with salt and any other seasoning of your choice, then immediately bake for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes.

Unfortunately I didn’t allow my wedgies to simmer for long enough, and the colour does fade during roasting. I found that the wedges that were in direct contact with the beetroot wedges absorbed a lot more colour which is useful to know for next time, and gave a bit of a hippy-tie-dyed effect.

And after all of that, you will have pink potatoes fit for a princess! One of the best things about wedgies is that they allow a free hand for a book (or computer mouse), so if you’re a girl try The Princess Who Stood on Her Own Two Feet, it’s a great short story (I’m not being sexist or anything, but boys just don’t get this story; their brains are woefully inadequate).

 

PS: Until I prepared this I had never heard of Beeturia – best read this article in case you’re one of the 10-14% who are susceptible to it. I find the idea of pink pee hysterically funny (magical princess pee!) but it could give you a bit of a shock if you don’t know about it. Tee hee!

PPS: I just came across these naturally pink potatoes online – I wonder why they haven’t become wildly popular and more widely cultivated? Oh well, at least we have an interim potato-pink-alising method for now.

 

 

Rusky Business

Who doesn’t love to dip ‘n Ouma in their morning cuppa? They’re like South Africa’s answer to tea and toast, and if they’ve been made by your actual Ouma then so much the better. My favourite is buttermilk: the ones with “bits” in them tend to leave a lot of debris in your coffee, and a last sip that’s full of raisins and soggy chunks – no thanks.

When Ouma became a little more modern and gave the rusks a makeover from the traditional shape into a biscotti shape (presumably because they bake faster and use less energy and blah blah blah) it was as appealing to me as when a sweet little old lady gets a makeover and turns into Joan Rivers. How very dare they? I decided that I needed to learn how to make rusks from scratch before I opened another box and found that the rusks were pierced or tattooed or contained botox instead of buttermilk.

{real rusks}

{nipped and tucked rusks}

Around the same time, I had been making lots of soup and I was trying to think of something to serve with a thick, smooth soup which is delicious and filling but fairly monotonous in texture. And as I stood there with a mug of soup in my hand (sipping from a mug allows you a free hand to hold your book open) I was inspired: savoury rusks for dunking in soup! 

This recipe yields 20 big fat rusks, or 40 smaller (quicker-drying) rusks; I’ve found that they improve on standing, losing their brittle texture over the course of a week – keep them well-wrapped in foil to prevent them from sucking up too much moisture from the atmosphere because – prepare yourself for a large word – they are fairly hygroscopic. They will be tough enough to stand up to immersion in hot soup but still crisp enough that you could eat one as is.

Parmesan Black Pepper Rusks

250g softened butter or margarine, or half butter or marg and half olive oil (in case you forgot to buy butter, it happens)

1kg self-raising flour

~100g parmesan cheese, coarsely grated

~1 teaspoon salt

lots and lots of freshly ground black pepper

1 egg, beaten

380ml milk

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Mix the milk and lemon juice and set aside.

Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Do not be silly and make these when you are very tired and it’s late on a Monday evening, because this will result in you forgetting this all-important step and it is significantly more difficult to get the butter in at a later stage…

Add the cheese, salt and pepper to the flour mixture. Mix the egg into the milk mixture, then add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, mix it all together to form a soft dough. If it is late on a Monday evening after all and you did forget that crucial rubbing-in step, you will now be staring at a bizarre grey lump of rough dough wondering why it’s so dry. You may even tentatively add more milk, thinking aha! the measuring jug is obviously faulty. When it dawns on you that the butter is still sitting on the counter, staring smugly back at you, hit it repeatedly with the wooden spoon if you think it will make you feel better. All is not lost – you can add it in then get in up to your elbows to work it into the sticky mass in the bowl to create a smooth dough. But save yourself all this trouble by avoiding rusk-baking on Mondays.

Divide the dough into 10 equal-sized balls; I find it easier to divide into two large piece, then divide each into 5 balls. Pack them neatly into the baking tins, in 2 rows of 5 per tin. They will look worryingly small and round but have faith.

Bake them for 50 minutes, then turn them out of the tins and break them apart. They will be nice and tall and rusk-y, and quite moist. If you are in a rush to get these done, you could slice each rusk in half to reduce the drying time.

Pack them in a single layer on drying racks on top of cookie sheets (to catch crumbs) and allow them to dry out in a very cool oven (whatever the lowest setting is) with the door cracked open to let the moist air out.

I’ve never timed this part; I always make these in the evening, and then switch the oven off when I retire for the night. I leave the oven door slightly open and let the rusks cool down overnight. I’d guess that 4 to 5 hours at the lowest oven temperature followed by a slow cooling period should work fine. I saw a tip online advising to use 2 bits of dowel rod to hold the oven door open – who are these people that always have bits of dowel rod handy? I just jammed a bundled-up dishcloth into the opening.

If you are concerned about the degree of dryness, take the fattest rusk out and break it open – if it’s not dry and crunchy all the way through, give them another hour or so of the lowest oven temperature before allowing to cool again.

Serve with mugs of hot steaming soup, and when you’re in the supermarket give the boxes of rusks a contemptuous look down your nose.

Dip that, Ouma.

 

PS: I recommend a bit of Herman Charles Bosman for reading with rusks; I’m slowly working my way through the Voorkamer Stories.

 

Easy Peasy Like Your Lemon Squeezy

It is far too cold this winter and I bet we could all do with a little sunshine, and what could be better than sunshine in cake format?

I first used the “Lemon Getting What You Want Cake” recipe from Jenny Colgan’s Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe to make “Sour Attitood” Cupcakes (inspired by a malice- and vitriol-filled person. If you can’t beat ’em – make cupcakes :-)).  I loved the texture which is unusually squidgy, somewhere between a very fine-textured sponge cake and a gel which perfectly complements the sunny-weather citrus-ness.

I made it several more times, giving the recipe just the briefest of glances; no problem, it worked perfectly every time.

Then – disaster struck: when my mother and sister visited last week, I wanted to make sure it was perfect and read the whole recipe through and followed it to the T.

Epic squidgy fail.

It turns out that the recipe in the Cupcake Cafe book is very different to what I had been baking all along – it is yummy in its own way but it’s not even remotely squidgy. It’s just regular cake.

Of course I had several sleepless nights as I racked my brain trying to recall what I had done previously. Did I use regular cake flour instead of self-raising? Were the batteries in my scale that flat? Had I used an electric beater or a wooden spoon?

Three tortured days (and many lemon cakes of varying textures) later and I have recaptured the secret to squidginess!

This recipe will make one very flat (3cm at the most) loaf or 3 mini-loaves. Do NOT deviate or make any substitutions – the squidginess is essential to this cakes success. It will look incredibly ugly after the first icing, so I ice it twice for aesthetic purposes – it isn’t overly sweet due to the amount of lemony freshness. It is possible to use bottled lemon juice in place of fresh lemon juice but it won’t be the same without the fresh zest.

For the Squidgiest, Sunshiney-est Lemon Cake:

60g cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 pinch salt

60g white sugar

60g softened butter

2 large eggs (not extra-large, not random sized – look for the word “large” on the carton)

The finely-grated zest and all the juice of one large luscious lemon. For some reason I don’t own a zester yet, so I use my teeny tiny nutmeg grater instead.

Preheat the oven to 180 degreese Celsius. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Add everything else and beat it all together with a wooden spoon until it’s just evenly blended.

It should be thick but pourable, not as thick and stodgy as a regular cake batter. Pour it into an appropriate non-stick-sprayed baking receptacle of your choice (I used my mini loaf pans) and bake for 20 minutes making sure it does not brown on the top – it must be only just baked through. It should have a smooth fine-grained yellow top and pull away slightly from the sides. It should look “springy”, not dry and cake-like. It should also look disappointingly flat but that’s how it’s supposed to be.

As soon as you remove it from the oven, mix about half a cup of icing sugar with a few drops of lemon juice (or water, if you’ve run out of lemons). The amount will depend on how much cake you have to cover; it needs to be thick but still fluid enough to be spread over the surface of the cake. Once it’s mixed, remove the warm cake from its tin, then spread the icing over the top using the back of a teaspoon – gently does it, so it doesn’t lift the crust off. The residual heat in the cake will make the icing melt and absorb in and look transparent and nasty – this is perfect.

Allow it to cool completely,  then mix up another batch of icing (a touch thicker this time) and spread it over the top to form a nice glossy white layer. Before it sets, stud it with chopped sour jelly worms, preferably the 2-tone kind so you get a nice mix of colours. It may not be a traditional cake embellishment but it suits the texture and flavour perfectly. And since you won’t need a whole packetful you get to eat the rest.

{nobody loves me, everybody hates me, i’m gonna eat some worms – remember that song?}

Pour yourself a cup of Earl Grey tea, grab a book about a warm exotic location (I’m reading Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes), submerge yourself in a cosy armchair, then take a bite of squidgy sumptuousness… and feel squidgy rays of sunshine hit your tongue. Hmmmm!

Krabby Patties: My Secret Formula

Whooooooooooooooooooo lives in a pineapple under the sea?

Spongebob Squarepants!

And what does he serve up with undying love at the Krusty Krab?

Krabby Patties!!

I’m a huge fan of Spongebob Squarepants and his friends in Bikini Bottom; I know the lyrics to the theme song by heart and I know all the characters (my favourite is Sandy Cheeks). I love Spongebob’s wild enthusiasm and joie de vivre and that they occasionally show his butt-cheeks, but most of all I love his pure unadulterated adoration of the (cue angel music) Krabby Patties at the Krusty Krab. How awesome is a cartoon that involves the love of good food??

Walking through the canned goods section of my supermarket, I finally gave in to the urge and procured a can of Crab Meat. Never have I dealt with such an alien foodstuff – I have eaten crab on many occasions (mostly against a backdrop of curry) and I’m intrigued by how the meat is removed and canned. I have a deep niggling suspicion that it’s being done in a huge warehouse in China, by row upon row of workers pushing it out with their pinky fingers but that’s just my paranoia bubbling up. I’m sure they’ve figured out some magical mechanical method. So sure. Very sure. Oh dear.

(This is not a completely unfounded fear – does anyone remember the story about Chinese workers using their MOUTHS to debone chicken portions?) (I tried finding the news article but clearly they’ve hushed it up. I did find an article on mummified fairy remains though, using “China chicken deboning by mouth news article”. The mind boggles).

Things got even more X-Files when opening the can revealed a compacted sponge of white fibres under a wax-paper-like seal. It smelled almost too ocean-y and had the appearance of something which would bounce well if flung at the floor with enough force.

{canned weirdness}

Nonetheless, I persevered; I didn’t bother googling other people’s recipes for a similar product. I’m such a big Spongebob fan that I felt it would come to me intuitively. I definitely felt that I was channeling Spongebob the Fry-Cook in the kitchen.

For 2-3 Krabby Patties you will need:

1 can (170g) crab meat, drained (but don’t squeeze all the moisture out)

~150g hake (2 babies) (they were the only fish available in my freezer, since I bought them by accident thinking they were regular little parcels of filleted hake and I haven’t really had a use for them since)

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons crushed garlic

Salt and Pepper

2 slices of white bread with the crusts cut off, torn into little pieces

An outrageously positive attitude and an annoying shrill laugh

Firstly, thaw the hake gently in the microwave, remove any skin or bones, then chop them up. They will bulk the mixture out and support the flavour without overwhelming the crab (the tin of crab is only half-full and it’s pretty expensive) (it takes a lot of pinky-finger-work to extract after all) (kidding!).

Give the crab meat a suspicious look, then get over it and plonk it in with the hake and mix together lightly.

Add the egg, garlic and lemon juice, and mix gently to keep some of the chunky texture – you don’t want to end up with the equivalent of  a fish polony. Season with salt and black pepper.

Gradually add in the ripped-up bread until a soft-but-firm-enough-to-hold-together mush forms (add only as much as is needed).

Check the seasoning by pinching off a tiny piece, then microwaving it on a plate for about a minute. Eat the resultant rubber ball and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Divide the mixture into 2 or 3 portions and shape into patties about 1.25cm thick, making sure to pat round the edges to neaten them up. Put them on a plate, cover them and refrigerate for about 30 minutes for the flavours to mingle and the various components to settle and get along with one another. This should give you enough time to sing the theme song and phone your dinner guest to ask them to pick up hamburger buns on their way over, since you’ve forgotten.

Next get a nice heavy non-stick-sprayed pan onto the heat, split the buns and place them face-down in the hot pan until they just start to brown and go crispy. I do this part first so that they are nicely textured without absorbing all the flavour and residue left over from the patties.

Put enough sunflower oil into the pan to coat the surface, then gently put the patties in the pan on medium heat. Fry on both sides until golden brown. Don’t worry about the strange bouncy texture, it’s the extraterrestrial effect of the crab. They may form cracks on the surface on the uncooked side – these don’t go all the way through though so the patty will remain intact.

Now for the assembly – apply butter to the buns if preferred, and embellishments of your choice. There is a list of the Krusty Krab’s prescribed additions, but I used fresh rocket, a yummy wasabi-type horseradish sauce, and sliced tomatoes. I know, I know, I got the order wrong and the rocket’s in the wrong place (the horror! the shame!).

These are by far the yummiest fishy burgers I’ve ever tasted and the texture is firm, not mushy and falling apart as fishcakes often turn out to be. The crab flavour is perfect – bordering on crayfishiness even. I have it on good authority that the patties are even better when reheated the following day. I totally get Spongebob’s obsession now.

Are you ready kids? Aye aye, Captain!!

PS: In 2009, the “Boastful Butcher” in Durban won the SAB Kickstart Enterprise Development Business of the Year award – they produced both prawn patties and crab patties but sadly I’ve never managed to find these either in Durban or Johannesburg. Has anyone out there ever heard of/seen/tried these?

Five Things: Ladies’ Long Lazy Lunch

An ode to Women’s Day – brunch with my mother and sister at Possums Bistro & Deli in Parkhurst.

In addition to their freshly flavourful food, I love the decor which includes a sleepy black poodle at the door, and the richly bizarre assortment of fellow brunchers which ranged from fancypants foreign bidnessmen who used the word “stakeholder” a lot, and a mentally touched older gentleman who couldn’t use a knife and happily conversed with himself in the sun.

{i love scruffy seasonal menus}

{vintage-esque cutlery and crispy napery}

{the Bread Pitt}

{soy-roasted nuts, olives and polenta crisps}

{cheese platter of the gods}

To wash it all down, I had a tall glass of Rose-Raspberry Cordial – a real Anne-of-Green-Gables-gets-Diana-drunk moment. If you haven’t yet read it, I urge you to track down the entire series and get stuck in immediately. Marilla would be proud.

Cupcakes: Violet Velvet for a Vanishing Act

Why red velvet when you can make… violet velvet? Purple is the colour of creativity and balance, luxury and royalty, and also the colour of Bee’s hair when she has the occasional oopsidaisy with the gentian violet (but think X-Men violet, not little-old-lady blue-rinse). The purpose of these vibrant violet cupcakes was to wish Bee, a friend and erstwhile (boo hoo!) colleague, all the best with her next adventure.

They turned out to be quite tragic cupcakes, and not only because of the sadness we all felt at saying farewell. If you’re a fellow cupcake-aholic, keep a Kleenex handy for the ending.

To keep the bee theme going (and because little fondant bees are soooo last month already) these were covered in honey butter icing and embellished with personalised cake toppers.

For 12 regular sized or 18 cupcake-inator vividly violet cupcakes:

1 1/4 cup cake flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup vegetable oil (NOT olive oil though. That’s an experiment for another blog post)

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1 Tablespoon white vinegar (NOT balsamic – let’s throw that into the same post as olive oil)

Blue gel food colouring

Red gel food colouring

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, egg, vinegar and food colouring. The colour won’t be perfect at this point, you will have to tweak it after adding the dry stuff. While mixing at medium speed, gradually add the mixed dry ingredients until just combined.

Tweak the colour, folding in very gently with a spatula so as not overmix and turn these into purple pebbles. If you’re not sure about the depth of colour sing “Purple Rain” for inspiration, it will come to you.

Scoop into cupcake liners or into the cupcake-inator, and either bake at 180 degrees celsius for 20 minutes or in the cupcake-inator for 6 minutes.

Pop them out and don’t have a total fit that they’re a little browned on the outside. Don’t judge a cupcake  by its cover. Re-assure yourself that they really are violet velvet cupcakes by breaking one in half as soon as they’re cool enough to handle. Then re-assure yourself that they taste as good as they look by eating the broken cupcake (it’s not like you could have given it to anyone anyway) (chuh).

Now for the icing:

90g softened butter

170g icing sugar, sifted

15ml honey (or to taste – depends on the type of honey, and how hardworking the bees were in producing it)

15ml lemon juice

Beat the butter until creamy and fluffy, and gradually beat in the other ingredients. Taste it often to make sure it has the right amount of honey. One can’t be too thorough.

At this point, you should be imagining how lovely the cupcakes will look with whirly twirls of white icing, forming a central point in which to poke the cupcake topper. Then have an absolute meltdown when you accidentally knock your most favourite of all time piping set, cracking the barrel and rendering it useless. Cover the bowl of icing, pour yourself a glass of wine and vacate the kitchen. Come back later when you’re feeling much happier and apply the icing with a butter knife, then find the pink and purple sprinkles left over from a baby shower and scatter them artistically over the top. Suddenly find the broken piping set very funny, and pour another glass of wine.

For the toppers:

Print out messages and/or pictures with a border, ensuring that they will be exactly the same size once printed and cut out. Try to avoid circles – I wasn’t thinking ahead and so of course made circles which are the worst thing to have to cut out neatly. Apply glue (the non-toxic kids glue-stick kind) onto the back of a circle, place the top centimetre of a toothpick on it, then stick another circle on top, sandwiching the toothpick. Poke the pointy end into the centre of the cupcake.

This is where the tragedy occurs. Make sure you do not do the same. Make sure you do not somehow, just 15 minutes before the event, manage to flip the tin over, spilling cupcakes all over the floor (sadly, the 3-second-rule cannot be applied to cupcakes)… Only one cupcake remained in the tin, so it was obviously meant to be Bee’s….

This was even sadder than that part in The Colour Purple where the take Whoopi Goldberg’s babies and sister away, or even when Oprah Winfrey gets KO’d and they show her large-lady-panties. Sob.

Bye-bye Bee 🙂 it’s been awesome and we miss you already!