Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

And so, suddenly, it is the last day of winter for us southern-hemisphere-dwellers… and I have mixed feelings about it.

This may seem odd given that I’ve been loudly declaring my hatred for all things cold and wintry, but it suddenly struck me that this is officially the end of hot chocolate weather. In fact, it is the end of chocolate weather PERIOD because from here on out it’s a steep, slippery slope to bikini season – BOOOOO! *waves pitchfork threateningly with wobbly bingo-winged arm*.

Chocolate_love_affair

So before you start packing all those lovely, forgiving knitted garments away, and start wondering if it is indeed time to invest in those magical stomach-flattening galvanised-elastic slimming girdles from the home shopping network – join me in one last toast to the end of the chocolate affair.

IMG_8097

This recipe is based on Callum Hann’s from his book The Starter Kitchen; it’s a rich, thick, outrageously chocolatey concoction somewhere between ganache and custard and it is absolutely anti-bikini-body. I swear you can actually see your hips expanding as you sip, but I promise it’s all totally worth it. You will gladly go to gym five times a week and munch on raw celery with a smile on your face, all for this divine stuff. It doesn’t have to end there – this could be your last overindulgence ’til winter rolls round again so top it with an enormous marshmallow, add a splash of amaretto or frangelico, or just make a double quantity and don’t share it.

the raw materials

For two (or one – you decide) cups of the best hot chocolate in the whole word ever:

100g good chocolate – milk or dark. I use 70%.

300ml milk

2 eggs

Heat the milk up to that point where it’s about to start boiling – the surface will look kind of shivery and a bit of steam may waft off of it. I do this in the microwave, because it’s quick and there’s no time to lose when there’s chocolate at the end. Meanwhile, break the chocolate up into chunks and beat the eggs together. I find that it’s best to heat the milk in a jug and prepare the eggs in another jug (or anything easy to pour from). Waste not, want not. This is chocolate we’re dealing with.

When the milk is hot, add the chocolate chunks and stir until it’s melted. This will not take long if you bought good quality chocolate. If you bought cut-price leftover easter-eggs, keep stirring and don’t get too excited.

Then, add the molten chocolate milk mix little bit by little bit to the eggs while stirring. This is so that you don’t end up with chocolate scrambled eggs. When a quarter to a third of the chocolate milk is mixed into the eggs, pour the egg mix into the milk mix and keep stirring. It will thicken and become glossy and a thing of luscious beauty – pour it into warm mugs through a sieve (Callum’s book doesn’t include this step but this experience should not be marred by stray snotty bits from the egg). You may need more milk if it’s too thick, and if you’re using dark chocolate you may want to add a little sugar to taste.

IMG_8075

Settle in with a fluffy blanky and an equally fluffy read (I find that Katie Fforde is the perfect literary marshmallow, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible) and then allow yourself to sink into this one last cuppa yumminess.

farewell

{goodbye chocolate}

weight for me

{hello celery sticks and gym}

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Five Things: Hunting Season

The past few weeks (months?) have been spent tootling about on the hunt for the perfect housey for moi. At first it seemed swell, but the swellings gone down… scratching through strangers’ scruffy cupboards, tired-looking bathrooms and weeny little kitchens with peeling melamine tops – it’s kind of lost it’s appeal. I’ve been looking at clever ways to maximise kitchen space to get the house-hunting mojo back…

{love the shadow-board from a beautiful mess}

{love the shadow-board from a beautiful mess}

dead space

{hanging by a ... sled?}

{hanging by a … sled?}

{magnetic spice art from etsy}

{magnetic spice art from etsy}

 

{space for cookbooks - awesome!}

{space for cookbooks under your bum – awesome!}

 

 

 

 

Ka-Pao!

One lazy afternoon in Mozambique, us girls volunteered to forage for bread to contribute to the evening meal. I’d read about a well-known bakery in Bilene and so our agenda was set – visit Sonia’s Prawns for lunch, followed by a digestion-aiding walk to the bakery for the local bread called pao. There’s supposed to be a little squiggle above the “a” but honestly I’m too grumpy to figure out which combination of keys does that.

{the objective}

{the objective}

We had not counted on Sonia forcing (ok, maybe “forcing” is too strong a word. “Offering” is probably more accurate) absolutely enormous bottles of 2M beer on us, so rather than walking we ambled gently along the main street accompanied by a friendly brown dog. By then the name of the bakery completely escaped me, I just remembered that it started with an “o”. Being a little beer-happy and trying to ask locals (who’s English is rudimentary at best) where the bakery that starts with an “o” is… not very efficient. Eventually we came across a beautiful mosaic-ed resort with parrots (I think?) and realised that we were running out of street, and turned back. As we walked (and our friend the brown dog picked a fight with a gang of noisy mongrels) I saw the bakery! O Bilas. It was closed. Eventually we found ourselves buying pao from a little “hokkie” (er… informal stall) just across the way from Sonia’s). Grrr. We then proceeded to not eat the pao. Grrr rrrr. We eventually ate it back in Johannesburg – and it was… bread-y.

Anyway, I thought I’d like to have a go at making pao. I have made all sorts of bread in the past and this one doesn’t seem especially special – it’s bland as bread goes, but I liked the knobbly bits at the end. Normally I just go for a loaf of no-fuss beer bread but I thought it would be fun to roll up my sleeves and get stuck into this. Then, my stars were suddenly aligned with those of the Sunday paper – they featured a recipe for pao! The story is lovely – read it. Clearly this was a sign not to be ignored.

Once I’d found the recipe, it seemed a bit vague – the type of flour isn’t specified so I used cake flour (because that’s the only kind I normally have at home) and although it is “Sam’s Recipe” the vinegar is optional and not used? I used it, since I had it on hand. Also, the shaping etc. makes it sound as if those awful flour-coated tough Portuguese rolls were the objective, whereas the picture in the article shows what I know as pao. Anyway. What ensued was a sticky situation. As in, ungodly super-glue-like kitchen disaster. The instructions say to mix the dough initially, not knead – which I duly did with a large spoon. When it came time to knead it, it was exactly like trying to manhandle a couple of kilo’s of particularly obnoxious Prestik. I added flour, gave it a couple pokes, and let it rise again. With the second kneading it was even stickier, so I added even more flour until I ran out (crisis!) but to no avail. It was stuck between my fingers, in a long stretchy band between my hands, it was strung over every visible surface (where it dried to the same consistency as the stuff they make aeroplane black boxes out of) and it was an absolute nightmare. I tried to pull bunches off of it, stretch it out, and kind of swing it round to form those little twisty knob things at the ends, but it was completely unwieldy.

Add to this the stress of being watched. I had a visitor who thought this was all highly entertaining.

pao-der

sticky icky

aerated

pao-wow

fake tan

Eventually I had three “loaves”. I gleefully slit them each three times with a sharp knife but by the time I’d stabbed the third one I discovered that the first two had grown enormously behind my back. They weren’t modest little staple-diet loaves – they were great big bulky LOAVES. I quickly shoved them in the oven (secretly hoping that they would burn and die a horrible death) and 10 minutes later they were even bigger!! It was scary, and I don’t often feel threatened by a carb. They looked as if they were about to storm out of the oven and stage a coup in my kitchen. A little while later I discovered that they were still anaemically pale so I brushed them with some melted butter, but they were pretty obstinate on this point; so I unleashed a hot grill on them and forced a bit of a tan on them.

nice slice

After all this fighting and gnashing of teeth – the verdict: These were nothing like the real pao that we ate, although they were similarly bland (that was the only external feedback received – “needs salt”. Personally I think it needs salt as well as being hung, drawn and quartered). I would probably double the salt if I were to (go completely mental and) try this again.The texture was quite good though – not as heavy and inflexible as my previous white bread attempts. It was surprisingly easy to slice, even hot from the oven. It had a nice even texture and was perfectly moist. If it wasn’t so traumatic to prepare, I would have loved to make this a regular recipe in my kitchen but I’m no sadist. This recipe was enough trouble to make me advocate the Atkins diet forever after.

{even the minions were concerned about the size of the loaves}

{even the minions were concerned about the size of the loaves}

Basic Pão (Sam’s recipe) from the Sunday Tribune – with my notes in italics

1kg flour (I used cake – but possibly it should have been white bread flour)

1 tsp salt (not enough!)

1 Tbs vinegar (optional – the Mozambicans didn’t use vinegar)

1 small sachet dry yeast (I used a 10g sachet)

Enough water to make a sticky dough

1 Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until the dough is not so sticky (about 6 minutes). Define “mix”. Define “not so sticky”.

2 Cover with dishtowel and leave to rise for about an hour.

3 Take the dough out of the bowl, knead with oiled or floured hands, cover and let rise a second time. I let it rise again for just under an hour.

4 Pre-heat oven to about 220ºC. It should be quite a hot oven. At this point I didn’t care anymore and baked them at 190 instead, because I couldn’t wait for 220.

5 Once dough has risen a second time, tip it out and start breaking off pieces and making them into fist-sized balls. Place them on a floured baking tray. 

6 Slit each ball/roll across the top with a very sharp knife and sprinkle them with flour. This is not possible. A tranquilizer-dart is called for. This dough does not lend itself to being moulded into a shape.

7 Once slightly risen again, place in hot oven for about 15 minutes. Once you can smell the bread, check to see if it is golden brown. If it is, take out a roll, knock it on the underside and if there is a hollow sound, the pao is ready to be taken out. Then sit down with a cup of tea, a calming read – might I suggest something by Ram Dass or Kahlil Gibran – and enjoy a butter-smothered slice of well-frikkin-deserved pao. Since you will have 3-4 loaves, share with others, slice them and stash them in the freezer for better days to come, or possibly attack them with a hammer before jumping up and down on them in hobnailed boots.

ku-xlarge

PS: Do you also love the smell of freshly baked bread? Check this out:

{find it at Etsy}

{find it at Etsy}

Mallow Out

Remember how the food-trend fortune-tellers claimed that donuts were the new cupcake? Well, it seems that they’ve had another squizz into the culinary crystal ball and decided that, actually, marshmallows are the new cupcake. To be honest, I can’t see the pillowy little sweeties upstaging cupcakes at events (what’s a party without cake?) but they’re so lovely and soft, and it’s a shame that for the most part they only really come into their own around campfires and steaming mugs of hot chocolate. The regular gelatinous store-bought variety are so different to home-made – if you’ve never made them from scratch before, then you have missed out. It’s like the culinary equivalent of never having read an Enid Blyton book in your childhood (and if that is the case for you, then please book a counselling session, as well as purchase the Secret Seven and Faraway Tree books immediately).

best pillow

Marshmallows used to be made with the mucilaginous marshmallow root, hence their name. Of course nowadays they are made with lots of sugar and a bit of gelatine to hold it all together and make them bouncy; also, a note to all those faux-posh people out there – it’s mAllow not mEllow. Few things irritate me more than people who speak in pseudo-brit accents and then use the word “marshmellow” as if “marshmallow” is incorrect and is on par with saying “birfday” and “i are wearing a jean pant”.

I’ve made marshmallows twice previously; the first time was in the time of the dinosaurs i.e. when I was in high-school – the marshmallows never really set, which we found enormous fun. They had to be slurped rather than eaten, and I still feel a little green when I think back to that day. The second time was at home, using a recipe that did not require egg-whites. I thought, well, there’s a whole process step cut out, awesome! Um. No. Not awesome – incredibly dense, heavy and tooth-achingly sweet.

i believe so

Today I used a recipe (from the same issue of Ideas as the old-school fudge) which must be quite similar to the one issued by our Home Economics teacher back in the day, but I paid much more attention this time PLUS I’ve got shmancy equipment in the form of a digital thermometer and my beloved Hamilton Beach mixer (mwah mwah mwah!). When it came to pouring the gloopy marshmallow goo into the prepared 20 x 25cm container, I found that I had far too much – so instead of frantically trying to find and prepare another receptacle while the marshmallow set in the mixing bowl, I decided to make little glittery amorphous blobs – don’t you love them? I can already see them perched on top of a big mug of rich creamy Lindt hot chocolate (watch this space…). They are incredibly soft and delicate (which may have been a fault on my part? I didn’t mind too much since very little effort is needed in the eating :-). The very young and the very old (i.e. the toothless) would love these.

The magazine also suggests using a cookie cutter to cut out shapes, but then what happens to the leftovers I ask you? I know I’d scoff all the trimmings and that my teeth would not thank me, so I avoided that option.

ready for this jelly

i heart sweeties

whipped

sticky situation

beaten

For about 30 marshmallows, depending on how hefty you make them:

30ml gelatine

100ml water

400g (470ml) sugar

a pinch of salt

15ml liquid glucose (or golden syrup, if you don’t have glucose)

250ml water plus extra for washing down

2 large egg whites

vanilla essence (optional)

rose water (optional)

food colouring (optional)

50g icing sugar

50g corn flour

nebulous nibbles

yum squared

Right, so there’s several smaller processes involved and it’s best to get everything nicely ready beforehand. Have a mixer ready and the egg-whites separated, pastry brush and water, etc.

Pour 100ml cold water into a small bowl, then sprinkle the gelatine over the top. It will look disgusting and smell like wet dog, but that’s how it’s supposed to be, trust me.

Then mix the glucose, sugar, salt and water in a saucepan, and heat slowly while stirring until all the sugar is dissolved; remember to brush down the sides with water to get rid of any crystals. Allow the mixture to simmer without stirring until it reaches soft-ball stage (115 degrees Celsius) – I am terrified of having to figure out which “stage” a syrup is at, and use a thermometer. Because honestly, if it reached hard-crack stage I would have a total meltdown and not know what to do, and cry.

When the syrup is ready, remove it from the heat and stir in the hydrated gelatine – stir to combine. Then whip the egg-whites to soft-peak stage (I have a vintage Hamilton Beach, neener neener neener!) (sorry) and add the hot syrup in a steady stream while beating.

Beat for about 10-15 minutes – it will increase in volume and become perfectly white and thick and glossy and voluminous. Add essences and colouring if using (I used a splash of vanilla and a few drops of rosewater) (if you use rosewater – don’t overdo it or it will be like gargling with perfume every time you eat a marshmallow). Keep beating until the mixture holds it’s shape.

Sift half the icing sugar and half the corn flour into a lined 20 x 25cm (or bigger) container, then pour in the gooey marshmallow mush; alternatively, sift the icing sugar and corn flour onto a lined tray and create little blobs of marshmallow – aren’t they sweet? The icing sugar and corn flour will prevent the marshmallow from sticking, so be generous with it. Sift the remainder over the top of your marshmallows and give them a few hours to set (if you can wait that long). Since you would have been doing a bit of “sensory evaluation” throughout this process, now would be a good time to brush your teeth.

When the marshmallows are set, cut them with a sharp knife and dust with some more icing sugar/corn starch if the cut sides are quite sticky. I gave my blobby little marshmallows a good once-over with edible glitter, but you could really go wild with these little cuties – I’m thinking mixing hundreds and thousands into the goo before setting, or plopping it onto cupcakes, or studding the top with dragees, or coating them in chocolate, or rolling them round in toasted coconut, oooh how about toasted coconut and toasted chopped hazelnuts….. I have a feeling that the Hamilton Beach and I will be in each other’s company quite a lot while this hot-chocolate weather lasts :-).

so true

PS: You know the whole salty/sweet trend? This recipe for marshmallow caramel popcorn is where any leftover marshmallows are going this weekend. Sigh. Who am I kidding. I will make a fresh batch.

PPS: Oooh…. marshmallow vodka

Life’s A (Hamilton) Beach

I have a bucket list.

I take this bucket list most seriously – whenever a suitable opportunity comes up to cross something off the list, I grab it with both hands, and heaven help anyone who gets in my way. The list contains big things (“Go to Mozambique“) as well as very detailed arbitrary little things (“Buy Tom Ford Cherry Lush lipstick” – because I have a huge girl-crush on Rachel Khoo).

kickin the bucket

For many years I’ve been wanting a stand mixer (the nose-pressed-to-the-glass smudges on that kitchen shop in Sandton – yep, those are mine) and the more I stared at pictures of shell-pink Kitchenaids and stripy kMix’s the more I realised that yes, it’s very pretty, but somehow it’s not me. Then, that super-bad has-led-me-to-all-sorts-of-temptation issue of Ideas magazine came out – the “I Love Vintage” issue. I am a huge sucker for vintage: I have antique books, wonky glassware, and ancient silverware all over the place (cutlery, my Gran’s butter dish, several trophies – none of which I won, which is embarrassing to explain to people who don’t know about my obsession for all things tarnished and older than I am). I like the way that things were made back in the day – solidly built, made to last, and pretty as well as practical.

{from Mint - sold, sadly}

{from Mint – sold, sadly}

Anyway, this magazine had an article about people who are in business selling vintage items – there was a column about Mint, the Retired Goods Company, which I would have missed completely if not for the photos of a vintage stand mixer and a bright yellow retro electric kettle. I literally ran to my laptop and signed up for the daily 9am mail, and added “buy a vintage stand mixer” to my bucket list.

indeed i do

For two months I perused the mails diligently, trying VERY HARD not to buy anything (ok, I once tried to buy a poaching pan, but was too late); Mint is in Durban, fortunately, or I’d probably beat down the seller’s door and demand that she hand over every last bit of chipped enamelware and bruised-looking kitchenalia immediately. Then the magical Monday morning arrived when (cue twinkly fairy music) the email contained a vintage Hamilton Beach mixer! I emailed, commented on the blog and phoned the seller simultaneously. I don’t think it would have been safe for her to say sorry, no, someone else already bought it. Fortunately there was a kind Durbanite in the immediate vicinity who heard my frantic enquiries as to the mixer, and offered to fetch it while there on holiday – Thanks Bronwen!!

distinguished profile

beats modern stuff

speedy

So here it is – the most beautiful mixer in the whole world, and it is in MINT condition (see what I did there?). It made an enormous batch of marshmallows just yesterday. The model in the booklet (K-model) is slightly different to the actual model I bought as in it doesn’t have a little bowl adjustment goody on the side, but it works perfectly nonetheless and the booklet is the cutest thing with grainy black and white images of old-fashioned 2-foot tall cakes with glace cherries on top.

good read

New on the list: A vintage scale with one of those little detachable pans on top (I’ve been prompted to add this not only because the Hamilton Beach has turned out to be such a great find, but also because I can’t figure out how to replace the batteries in my digital scale). Watch this space!

Five Things: Phenom-nom-nom-enal Woman

Happy (belated) (South African) Women’s Day to all the ladies!!

So, what happened is that I woke up bright and early on Women’s Day, planning to get cracking in the kitchen followed by blogging etc. What transpired is that my electricity cut out first thing in the morning and not a SINGLE FRIKKIN MAN said Happy Women’s Day. Chuh.

Here are some beautiful goodies created/curated by beautiful South African women (but then – aren’t we all? 😉 ):

{gorgeous picnic set by Sootcookie}

{picnic set by Sootcookie – i WANT a ceramic “doggy bag”!}

{the fabric-covered mugs from Mossie Craft ... i'm just moments away from cracking and buying one of each}

{the fabric-covered mugs from Mossie … i’m just moments away from cracking and buying one of each}

{every morning 9am when the Mint email comes through I want to buy EVERY SINGLE ITEM without fail}

{every morning 9am when the Mint “retired goods” email comes through I want to buy EVERY SINGLE ITEM without fail}

{purdy prints by Sally Haigh}

{purdy prints by Sally Haigh}

{oh how i love wonky ceramics - this one is by Clementina}

{oh how i love wonky ceramics – this one is by Clementina}

 

 

 

Ice-Cream Sunday

Since I’ve been having an epic moan about the fact that the weather in Jozi is positively Arctic, you would be forgiven for thinking that I’m suffering from hypothermia right now. Fear not – I have simply discovered a way to enjoy ice-cream even on the chilliest days – yay!!

{see the word yuk in there? clearly, they haven't tasted these muffins}

{see the word yuk in there? clearly, they haven’t tasted these muffins}

I can’t claim to have come up with this – it started out with an email doing the rounds in the office, containing a recipe for ice-cream bread *intrigued face*. This was such a completely fascinating idea that Foodiction was right onto it, stat! And produced a beautiful loaf of ice-cream-containing baked goodness. Thing is, personally I wasn’t “feeling” it. How do you eat ice-cream bread? Sliced, and then what – buttered? Sandwiched? It just didn’t seem to fit into any regular dining occasion, and it wasn’t outstandingly special enough to warrant a new one (although, how cool would a day be if it contained breakfast, lunch, supper and a whole separate mealtime for ice-cream/it’s related products?).

{and if it melts, make muffins!!}

{and if it melts, make muffins!!}

So I decided that a muffin might be a good vehicle for this ridiculously easy recipe – it’s kind of a bready texture but slightly sweet. And seriously, if you are rushed for time or are genuinely THAT lazy then this is the recipe for you. I almost want to say that it is a handy recipe for using up leftover ice-cream but who am I kidding, there’s no such thing as leftover ice-cream where I am involved. There are TWO INGREDIENTS. Three if you add chocolate chips, like I did, but they are optional. Plus, you can buy the ice-cream and then take your own sweet time getting it back home since the whole point is that it must be mushy for this recipe (e.g. you can go watch the new Wolverine movie, like I just did). And then you turn it into muffins. How could this scenario possibly get any better? *stares into space for a long while*. Nope. It can’t. Unless Hugh Jackman were to come try them out? Hmm.

melting moment

that is all

beautifully blended

muffin flavoured chocolate chip

one dozen yummies

For 12 easier-than-peasy ice-cream muffins:

500ml (2 cups) softened ice-cream – I used the vanilla kind on sticks, the chocolate coating was a bit messy but that’s why the ability to lick our fingers was invented. The flavour doesn’t particularly matter – anything goes.

375ml (1 and a 1/2 cups) self-raising flour

50g chocolate chips – optional

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and give a muffin pan a blast with nonstick cooking spray – that was the hard part.

Next, mix the mushy ice-cream and the flour (and chocolate chips, if using). Scoop blobs with – what else? – an ice-cream scoop into the muffin tin, and bake for 15 minutes.

I get a bit of a Marilyn Monroe moment when eating these, like that scene in Gentleman Prefer Blondes when she’s told that the diamond tiara goes on her head:

“I just LOVE finding new ways to eat ice-cream” 🙂

ain't nuffin like a muffin