Poach Eggs – Not Rhino’s

Tomorrow I get to tick off one of the more ambitious objectives on my Bucket List – I’m going to the Kruger National Park for the first time EVER!! Can you feel my excitement emanating from your computer monitor? Do a Happy Dance for me already!! (to my new favourite Happy Dance song – Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke/Pharrell).

While I am wildly (pun!) ecstatically ecstatic, this trip also brings to mind the tragic story of our rhinos. The beautiful big grey unicorn of the Big Five is under threat from barbaric, black-hearted, greedy poachers who savagely butcher them for their horns. Really, people? Rhino Horn in this day and age? It’s the cheesy joke in a Leon Schuster slapstick comedy (remember Lhino Horn?) for crying out loud! I couldn’t fit all the adjectives I would like to have used for the poachers, so please refer to this site and pick your favourite ones. The stats are horrific; the last victim was recorded just over 5 hours ago, contributing to a total of 250 dead, poached rhinos in South Africa in 2013.

ag nunu

I hope that you will all visit Saving Private Rhino and STOP RHINO POACHING to offer your support for their worthy cause – how sad that the odds of me seeing a rhino on my trip into the bush are slim to none.

So you may be wondering what my rhino rant has got to do with food?

tell em

Poached eggs *high-school home-ec exam nerves return*.

I first came across this method in a teeny tiny article in a foodie magazine, accompanied by a picture of an oddly pleated-looking egg. I gave it the requisite odd look then forgot all about it until I discovered brunch at Vovo Telo (try the Pickering), and became addicted to the perfect medium-hard poached egg (I just can’t do runny – I’ve tried. I know that Adam Sandler made it look amazing in Spanglish but incandescent yellow snot just doesn’t do it for me).

spanglish sandwich

Our Home Economics teacher tried to teach us how to poach the perfect egg, by using only the freshest possible eggs, adding a drop of vinegar to the water and creating a “whirpool” by vigorously stirring the water with a large spoon.

Um. Firstly – our eggs come with a best-before date only, so there’s no way of telling when it emerged from the hen’s bum. Secondly, that other stuff never worked for me. It only ever resulted in a lonely rubbery yolk in a pot of scuzzy poaching water full of egg white filaments. It’s really stressful – you are all tense and bunched up with nerves, only to face crashing disappointment.

grease

egg cup kind of

strange but true

naked egg

boil bubble

precious little parcels

I guess boiled eggs could have sufficed, but there’s something special about the texture of a poached egg. They are what Nigella would refer to as Velvety, rather than possessing that firm bouncy consistency of a boiled egg. They also don’t have that inherent boiled-egg farty vibe going on, which is always a plus.

For each poached egg:

One square of cling film (I use the perforated type. The pink perforated type).

A tiny drop of vegetable oil

An egg – preferably at room temperature

This couldn’t be easier, seriously. Bring at least 10cm of water to the boil in a small saucepan. While you are waiting for this to happen, lay a square of cling film out on the counter and brush it ever so lightly with the oil.

Carefully place the cling film into a ramekin, oil side up. Crack the egg into the cling film “cup” without breaking the yolk and without landing any bits of shell in it. Crunchy eggs are never ok.

Gather the sides of the cling film up and twist to close, ensuring that there are no gaps for the egg to run out of – I twist then knot mine. When the water is boiling, toss the alien-looking egg parcels into the water and start timing – 4 minutes for snotty yolks, and 8-10 minutes for medium-hard yolks like in the photos. Remove from the saucepan with a slotted spoon and use a kitchen scissor to cut the knotted part of the plastic right off; slide the eggs out onto a warmed plate.

heart of goldServe in whichever way you like best – poached eggs and rye toast are my favourite Saturday morning breakfast; Rachel Khoo does poached eggs with a red wine sauce as a starter, which I can’t wait to try out. I like to sprinkle salt and pepper all around the plate, so as you slice the egg you can mop up some seasoning.

poached perfection

Don’t forget to visit Saving Private Rhino and STOP RHINO POACHING – once you have read more and registered to support on one or both websites…. poach eggs – not rhinos.

all done

Sorry if this post is a bit of a downer, but it’s a very real situation needing all of our support. Go check out Blurred Lines again to get you all cheered up…

Advertisements

Mama Di’n’t Raise No April Fool

Is it just me or is April an Epic Fail of a month?? I’m tempted to start a petition to stop the madness, and have it cancelled. Over it!!

My weight-gain-indicator jeans (more accurate than any scale) are confirming my suspicion that the Rachel Khoo cookbook is not good for the waistline; I’ve been working through weekends including this one; and I’ve had no time for my poor neglected blog. That last point is still true, so I’m just going to tell you about something my lovely friend Caribou discovered – a very rude food blog. Like, seriously, it’s so rude that I can’t even stick it in my list of favourite sites (I know, so lame – but I went to Catholic school and can’t help myself). It’s called Effing Recipes (Give me points for trying….).

{pinata cookies! filled with m&m's!! these could be the cure for April...}

{pinata cookies! filled with m&m’s!! these could be the cure for April…}

Go check it out – when you’re in a grouchy mood, it’s the only way a recipe is going to catch your interest. Step 1 of the chocolate lava cake demands that Satan be present, because something that delicious has got to be a sin…

Table Scraps

I love scrapbooking!! That doesn’t mean to say that I am any good at it, but I enjoy it so much that this doesn’t really bother me. Once a month us girls meet and share our stories, scrapping goodies and good food, so it’s always something to look forward to.

$R7AO0UN

Last year, just before the festive season erupted, we had planned a bit of gift-swapping for our last Sunday of 2012 and I really wanted to make a cake inspired by the beautiful artwork created by these talented ladies. At the same time I had also made vast quantities of cream liqueur (that recipe will come too…), far too much even after forcing bottles on everyone I know and dosing it into every cup of coffee (I accidentally added it to a morning coffee, on the day I was due to present ALL DAY to a large audience. Fun times).

{drunken giggle-snort}

{drunken giggle-snort}

I was hoping to capture the subtle taste of the liqueur in the cake, but I had a guest over while I was preparing the batter and wasn’t paying much attention to the amount of cocoa that had gone in until I noticed that there was, in fact, a chocolate cake happening in my oven… by then it was way too late to fix, but what resulted can’t really be called an oopsie since it’s the MOISTEST and MOST OUTRAGEOUSLY CHOCOLATEY chocolate cake I’ve ever baked or eaten. If it had been any moister it would have been served in a cup. (There were other liqueur cake recipes on the Net that do not contain cocoa – next time.)

There’s (somewhat unfortunately) no alcohol taste – the heat burns off the booze, so it’s safe for kiddies and old folk. That said, don’t feel obliged to share :-).

I had one last blob of plastic icing mooching around the back of the cupboard, which lends itself well to a theme-y cake. I used the butterscotch icing from a previous post; it’s got a nice distinctive flavour which I needed to help mask the taste of the plastic icing. A gripe – I know that plastic icing is used to make beautiful decorations but it makes me so cross when TV cake-celebs plaster it on and call the embellishments “edible” – any owner of a functioning set of tastebuds knows that this is a blatant and shocking lie. It tastes like what hospital corridors smell like. Have fun with it, colour it and shape it, but keep it in little bitty pieces that won’t ruin the cake.

$RHGXIH6

$RPF1ZMT

$RARG9KN

$RVJ6GYGFor one luscious liqueur cake:

2 cups of cake flour

1 and 3/4 cups of sugar

3/4 cup of cocoa (duh! how did I not notice that??)

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda – indispensable stuff

1 egg

2/3 cup of sunflower oil

3/4 cup of buttermilk (or soured milk, which is what I use)

1/2 cup cream liqueur, such as Baileys or Amarula, or the unmarked bottle of potent yumminess you made too much of

3/4 cup strong black coffee (I upped the liqueur and downed the coffee… feel free to change the ratio. 100% liqueur:0% coffee could work…)

Righty-o. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease an appropriate cake-baking vessel. Then sift the dry ingredients together. Or not. I never do, and my cake turned out fine anyway.

Beat the egg, oil, liqueur and coffee together. Add to the dry ingredients and beat for about 3 minutes. Seriously, that’s all there is to it! Pop the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes or until done. It won’t rise much, which will make decoration easier. Turn the cake out of the pan onto a cooling rack and allow to chill out for a bit.

While that’s happening, have some fun with the plastic icing; for the “paper scraps”, I cut rolled-out icing with pinking shears and dropped and draped them into little piles; for the buttons, I used the back end of a piping nozzle and a toothpick. No special fidgety tools required. For the “scrapbook paper”, I rolled out a rough square in blue icing, then cut out flowers from pink icing, placed them on top of the blue square with small blobs of yellow and green, then gently rolled the whole lot together til smooth. Remember to roll in both directions otherwise the shapes will become elongated. Trim it into a neat square using a sharp knife.

$RT2WO7P

$RZZI0TB

$RA68E1V

$R22JURF

$RPTB0VS

When the cake is cool, smother it in the butterscotch icing, then go wild with the edible embellishments (use icing to stick bits on top of each other).

scraps

On the morning that the cake was to be presented, I was running horribly late due to the gift-wrapping having been left to absolutely the last minute. The plan had been to make the icing as smoooooth as possible, then carefully place the plastic icing embellishments on top, and then pipe out neat wording in royal icing. Things did not go according to plan. I threw the icing in the general direction of the cake, swiped a butter knife over it, broke several embellishments, then tried to make glace icing look like royal icing. I figure it’s kind of ironic that the cake came out kind of squiff and not quite right – a lot like my version of scrapbooking which Jenny so kindly refers to as “organic” :-).

$R3LICQC

 

 

Drain Surgery

Normally I try to stay away from carbs. But today, I discovered a carb that literally saved me from a dire situation – bicarb.

you tell them

Bicarbonate of Soda is not only used in baking as a raising agent (such as these awesome sassy molassy cookies – which is the only reason I had bicarb in the first place) but it’s also played a huge role in the Great Plumbing Apocalypse going down in my kitchen right now.

Suffice it to say that I live in a ground-floor flat with two flats above, all serviced by the same waste pipe for kitchen sinks, washing machines and dishwashers. There is a blockage in the pipe where the 3 connect at the bottom…. so it has all flushed back through my kitchen sink, flooding my kitchen and bedroom with everyone else’s dirty water. The smell is … breathtaking. And not in a good way.

Anyway, Bicarb. The plumbers threw large quantities of concentrated sulphuric acid down the drain…. which ate threw all the plastic parts of the pipes…. so that acid and dirty water spewed EVERYWHERE. My smartypants uncle Chris recommended using Bicarb, which would neutralise the acid.

even bart knows this

After getting over their shock at my dazzling array of baking supplies, the plumbers duly covered the kitchen in bicarb. It sizzled loudly and smelled so bad that we could almost hear that too, but at least it was no longer eating through the contents of my kitchen (we lost a 2 litre bottle of cooldrink and a cheap pair of pumps but that’s as far as the damage went).

I think the moral of this story is that there is indeed a good “carb” that no kitchen cupboard should be without. Here are even more uses – I get the feeling that it could solve just about any little problem life throws at you.

show 'em who's boss

Possibly, the moral is also that we need to bake more cookies so that we are prepared for plumbing disasters.

words to live by

PS: If ever you have a similar situation where water is backflushing into your kitchen sink and pushing the plug up – put an upside down cup or mug over the plugged drain, topped by a large cast iron pot or regular pot filled with water to weigh it down. Then – keep calm and eat more cookies.

PPS: Although not entirely successful at the plumbing itself, the plumbers all proudly displayed their trademark cracks :-(. Ew.