2013 in review: Meh.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Yeah it wasn’t as good as 2012, but that is pretty indicative of the year in general. I’m planning on a significantly improved new year. 2014 will be my biatch!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Domestic DemiGoddess

Just a quick one to say that I sort-of-kind-of think it’s pretty frikkin’ hysterically funny that the Domestic Goddesses almost always turn out to be duds – makes me feel a bit better about all the culinary fails (and my fear of operating an iron).

Martha did time (and takes hideous – as in hideously funny – food pics) and now Nigella confesses to sniffing things other than fragrant baked goods … I know it’s bad to laugh at others misfortune, but doesn’t it give you a modicum of something like smugness? I, for one, no longer feel guilty admitting that it seemed like a Sisyphean task to prepare a trifle for Christmas. Mrs Scotsman’s LEGENDARY pineapple cake (given an upgrade with a sprinkling of artisanal banana-vanilla liqueur from the island of Reunion) did an outstanding job as trifle stand-in.

{woopsiedaisy! thought i'd caught all the naughty words - too late now}

{woopsiedaisy! thought i’d caught all the naughty words – too late now}

PS: Have you read Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella? Perfect for poolside :-).

Five Things: Pinterest is my Biatch

For the longest time I have managed to resist several shmancy technological things (Instagram, Twitter, etc.) because I figure life is complex enough without having even more things to check up on and update and remember passwords for and and and. I was doing an admirable job until someone told me about Pinterest about four months ago… I meant to just take a quick peek to satisfy myself that I was doing myself a favour by avoiding it like the plague.

But that’s the thing. It is like the plague. A wonderful, craftsy, inspiring plague of glittery shiny-ness. I signed up and haven’t looked back; I wait for the weekly “Pins You’ll Love” as eagerly as Meg Ryan waits for mail from NY152 in You’ve Got Mail.

 

Of course there are far too many brilliant ideas to try in one lifetime, and so many of them are total duds, but I’m already planning next year’s Christmas gifts – watch out, family and friends, it’s gonna be proudly homemade!

Here are some goodies inspired by Pinterest that worked out well (which never fails to surprise me):

{neatly wrapped babygro for a new little blue cupcake}

{neatly wrapped babygro for a new little blue cupcake}

{minion-beanie - my favourite}

{minion-beanie – my favourite}

{frame turned blackboard # awesome!}

{frame turned blackboard… # awesome!}

 

{tin mug cosy and citronella candle for happy campers}

{tin mug cosy and citronella candle for happy campers}

Of course I’ve excluded the vast number of edible gifts prepared (no more sugar cookies  for at least the next year! You know it’s bad when you’ve memorised the recipe).

Christmas 2014 – bleach pen art, wine bottle painting and finger-knit scarves here I come…

PS: I now have 7 pinboards… including one for food, of course.

Noel Nibblybits: Going Green

Of course when one launches a platter of nibbles forth into a group of people, one wants to have a variety of goodies.

Things to sample and snack on while Christmas-y conversation (and wine) flows, little bits and bobs that encourage a casual and convivial atmosphere…

To round out the Blue Cheese & Ham Candy Canes and the Turkey & Brie Stars, I added a little fresh crunchiness in the form of sweet baby tomatoes, tangy olives and crispy crudite with a bowl of avocado hummus.

trayful of treats

Since I used this recipe from BBC Food, I won’t bother to plagiarise type it all over again. Ok, so I added a goodly dollop of tahini, but I couldn’t help myself, I love it so (and have a huge jar in the fridge which needs to be used up). In all fairness this recipe leaves itself wide open to gyppo-ing to suit your own taste preference :-).

Avocados are super good for you, nature’s butter in fact. And there are so many ways to use it besides eating it au naturel – I’ve found recipes for baked whole avocados, avocado cheesecake, deep-fried avocado – I’m going to stop there since I’m starting to sound like Bubba in Forrest Gump, but you get my drift.

{you can find the uncensored and much more compelling version at pickupthefork}

{you can find the uncensored and much more compelling version at Thug Kitchen – it’s hilarious}

It’s a lovely hybrid of hummus and guacomole – creamy but fresh at the same time, nice scoop-able dip-able thickness, and with the awesome earthiness of chickpeas and tahini (I would like to name my next cat Tahini. Thought you’d like to know).

The fact that it resembles something which fell out of a dinosaur suffering from digestive troubles is a completely negligible thought once you’ve tasted it ;-).

so much of fresh prettiness

gack

 

PS: How FRIKKIN’ AWESOME is the avozilla? Can’t believe they grow them locally only to ship every last one out to the UK! Santa, I want me one large mofo avo!! (sorry. that’s what happens when I’ve been over at Thug Kitchen).

it's a monster!!!

Noel Nibblybits: Starring Turkey

I often read in American foodie articles that turkey is an exceptionally economical meat, so it is odd that it doesn’t really feature over here in Sunny SA. Occasionally I see enormous smoked turkey legs for consumption by dogs, and of course there are those monumental frozen beasts which show up in supermarkets at this time of year. I ordered a turkey and avo toastie recently at a cafe and it turned out to contain a slender, barely-discernible sliver of turkey lunch-meat – I guess it’s a by-product of what is left after they remove the legs for smoking?

Anyhoo.

I wanted to make a festive nibble using all the flavours associated with a more traditional Christmas. It is too hot, fellow South Africans, to roast a turkey and boil sprouts. Stop it immediately, fetch a cold beer and get a braai going in close proximity to a swimming pool. These little cuties require no cooking, just a few minutes of assembly, and if you cut them out in pretty star-shapes they will automatically taste better (because us human beans are shallow and eat with our eyes – a fact to be taken advantage of by cooks everywhere).

starring santa

I will not give a recipe with quantities this time, since it would be akin to typing out a recipe for “cheese sandwich” or “glass of water”. It’s that easy.

bit o' pita

star of the show

cheesy goodness

maybe the bread is superfluous

Right. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (ok I lied about “no cooking”. But strictly speaking this is really just “toasting”).

Using a cutter (or a sharp knife and your own creativity), punch shapes out of slices of bread. I used mini pitas that I found mooching around in the back of the freezer, but regular white sliced would work well, if not better. Pave them out in a single layer on a baking sheet, give them a light sprinkle of olive oil and pop them into the oven for a few minutes to lightly toast them. This gives a nice textural contrast to the final product and allows for a sturdier base. Allow them to cool down on the sheet after baking. If the kitchen is quite hot, have some beer to cool the feverish brow.

Then, cut out the same number of stars out of turkey loaf slices. I guess you could use chicken loaf or regular plain ol’ ham but I felt the need to cram as much Christmas-ness into this as possible, as an attempt to make up for my complete lack of motivation to actually cook.

Slice brie or camembert thickly – half a centimetre or so – and cut out smaller stars. The rind will make some stars of a white side which is a nice contrast in colour.

That’s all the hard work done. Have a swig of beer as a reward.

Next, assemble the stars: toast, turkey, cheese. Blob on cranberry sauce (um. I forgot to get cranberry sauce but sweet chilli sauce worked well, although marginally less traditional). Aren’t they nunu? Have another beer.

twinkle twinkle little turkey star

starry starry plate

 

Noel Nibblybits: Yes We Cane

Happy Holly-days from my parent’s dining-room table in Cape Town! Having diligently packed my laptop and it’s many accompaniments I’ve managed to forget about it’s existence for nearly a week, while I happily traipse in and around town. Which, of course, is the whole point of a holiday (unlike that misguided individual who occupied the seat next to mine on the plane, with two bulging lever-arch files and a scratchy pen) (I know it was a scratchy pen because she managed to gouge a bit of my arm out with it while she frantically worked her way through piles of snoozeworthy paperwork).

6 more

Much as I love cooking, I think the festive season is the worst time to tackle anything serious in the kitchen. In my next life I’ll pull a Nigella (no, not that) and effortlessly glide around in a cool, calm and collected fashion while proffering beautifully crafted yuletide treats. But currently it is too hot and I am too badly in need of some downtime to put lots of effort in, so I’ve done a few festive nibbles which look moderately impressive with a minimum of kitchen-bound slavery involved.

{one day when i'm big i'll do this because right now it seems too much effort to decant chips into a bowl}

{one day when i’m big i’ll do this because right now it seems too much effort to decant chips into a bowl}

Plus if you’re anything like me you would have spent weeks preparing a wild assortment of baked goodness and sweeties for Christmas gifts *waggles a finger at Pinterest* so I’m feeling a tad kitchened-out.

First up is savoury candy canes; three ingredients is always a plus. It is a bit hot to have the oven going, to be honest, and I’ve been thinking that if I was smart enough and had paid sufficient attention in Physics classes, I’m pretty sure I could figure out how to bake these things using the power of the sizzling-hot sun. But it’s just for a short while and the yumminess makes it all ok.

happy hamminess

the rock

cheesy charcuterie

stripiness

twisted

If you don’t bother to curl the ends to form canes, they are very yummy “cheese straws”, or you could do pinwheels by spreading the filling all over the pastry before rolling it up snugly and slicing it.

For about 10 cheese & ham candy canes:

400g ready-rolled puff pastry (that’s one pack), defrosted

About 80g of really good-quality ham. Not that cheap ‘n’ slimy grey-pink “sandwich ham” *shudder*

About half a wedge of lovely stinky blue cheese. No clue how much it weighed. Oops.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Pour yourself a large glass of icy white wine (because it’s important to not die of heat-stroke) and get some merry music going – currently, I am loving me some Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas.

Next, unroll the puff pastry on a clean surface, and roll it a little thinner since the aim is to create dainty little canes not great big walking sticks.

Lay the ham over one half of the pastry – isn’t it gorgeous? Take a sip of wine while you contemplate the beautimousness of it all. Crumble the blue cheese evenly over the ham (finger-licking good!); consider how well the cheese pairs with the wine. Confirm that thought with another sip and nibble. Then fold the unembellished half of the pastry over to cover the cheese and ham. Press it down lightly with your hands so that the filling doesn’t all spew out later.

Using a sharp knife, slice the pastry into 1cm wide strips. Carefully lift each strip so as not to stretch the pastry, and twist it gently several times. Lay it on a baking tray (unless you do enjoy scraping frazzled burnt cheese off of your baking dishes, baking paper would be good) and then curve one end to form the cane. At this point you could brush the canes with an eggy-wash so that they bake to a glossy golden finish but my laziness rules supreme in December and I omitted this part.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the canes are puffy and golden brown (about the same time it takes to finish your glass of vino). Remove the tray from the oven and allow it to stand for a few minutes for the molten cheese to compose itself before removing to a wire rack to cool down. Yum yum! Crispy crunchy savouriness 🙂 that even Glen Coco would approve of (tee hee. if you don’t get that, go watch Mean Girls. Stat.)

give em a caning

“Say! I do like blue cheese and ham!

I do, I like them, Cakepoppie-I-am!

And I would eat them in a boat.

And I would eat them with a goat.

And I will eat them in the rain.

And in the dark. And on a trian.

I do so like blue cheese and ham! Thank you, thank you, Cakepoppie-I-am!”

– Dr. Seuss. Sort of.

PS: OMG. Say it isn’t so.

Kick ’em in the Kunafeh

With the passing of our country’s most awesome Tata, the last few days have been a crazy mix of commiseration as well as celebration – loving that people are choosing to dance and celebrate a life well lived :-).

sweet16

This comes in the middle of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, an international campaign held from 25 November til 10 December to raise awareness about violence towards women and children. The Western Cape Government (yay for my home town!) puts it far better than I possibly could:

The rights of women and children are fundamental human rights entrenched in and protected by the Constitution. Gender-based and child violence, in all its different forms, devalues human dignity and the self-worth of the person and must be stopped in our society.

Ladies and gentlemen (and I mean gentlemen), we need to do something about the oxygen-scavenging scumbags who dare to threaten our safety and security – with so many people and organizations making it so easy for us to contribute, there’s no excuse NOT to participate.

Soooo. In a random fit of last-ditch springcleaning before the festive season, I unearthed from the murky depths of my pantry a motley assortment of odds and bobs. Condensed milk + noodles + nuts + coconut = the makings of the sweetmeat Kunafeh. It was pure coincidence that these are shaped into balls. And that 16 Days of Activism had just started. And that part of the preparation involves crushing nuts.

A word of warning: This is a recipe from a promotional booklet and is NOTHING like the traditional Turkish/Lebanese sweet treat which is made with pastry and possibly contains cheese (the recipes are as varied as the spelling). But that’s ok by me. Calling them “sticky balls” would just sound rude.

They are very sticky and sweet and milky and nutty like any Indian sweetmeat worth it’s salt. Or sugar.

frying high

dudes look away

are you nuts

is it coconutty

BALLS

For 16-20 sweet, sticky spheres:

1 packet of 2-minute noodles (approx. 70g)

60ml butter

200ml mixed nuts (I used odds and bobs of raw almonds and cashews)

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

200ml dessicated coconut (I used fine and medium sized bits, because that’s what crept out of the cupboard)

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom – optional. But oh so yummy.

50g chocolate

First – noodles. Before you open the bag, use the heel of your hand to roughly crush the noodles without bursting the seams. Voila! – crushed, and no mess. Discard the seasoning sachet. Chicken-flavoured desserts rarely go down well.

Now, think of all the horrible news stories you have heard lately about violence against women or children. Think about the unfairness of it all, and those disgusting excuses for men who so often get away with these sick, sick crimes. Then grab a mortar and pestle and crush the bejeezus out of those nuts. It doesn’t make the problem go away unfortunately, but don’t you feel a weeny bit better? Remember to stop pounding before it turns into nut butter.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, and when it starts to sizzle add the crushed noodles. Fry until nicely golden-brown – 10-15 minutes. Then add the crushed nuts – if they are raw, stir-fry for a few minutes to get a bit of that toasty flavour, about 2 minutes. Add the condensed milk and cook over low heat for 5 minutes until it’s thick and pasty. The more you cook it, the firmer the final result will be. Mix in the coconut and cardamom and remove from the heat – give it a bit of a stir to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Allow it to cool for a few minutes until it can be safely handled.

Have hot soapy water on standby in the sink, because the next part is messy (but so much fun – if you enjoyed play-doh as a kid you will love this). Scoop blobs of the sticky mass into the palm of your hand and quickly roll into a little ball then drop onto a sheet of greaseproof paper. Best to keep them small because they a) they are indecently sweet and b) more realistic ;-).

stripy sticky balls

Allow these sweetly sticky balls to hang out in the fridge while you melt down some chocolate (I used white; I think milk would look far more appealing but, hey, white is what my cupboard spat out). When the balls have set, drizzle chocolate over each and there you have it – sticky, crunchy kunafeh. Remember to wear your white ribbon and hand these out for a Sweet 16 Days of Activism – if in the presence of men, feel free to wax lyrical about the nut-crushing process.

the gun show

PS: This link contains lots of information about who to call in case of violence towards women or children – good to know.

PPS: Have you been on a self-defence course? What are you waiting for – sign up! I would love to go for the kind like in the movie The Rebound, where you get to beat up a “perp” in a fatsuit. We were taught self-defence manoeuvres in High School, with all of us girls paired up and taking turns being attacker and victim – mostly I remember my much taller partner dropping me on my head.