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There so much to say and even more to eat. Hence a blog for each was born.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Looks Good Enough to Eat (easiest biscuit recipe alert)

I have been taking my blog photos on my dinky camera phone. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. So basically it's the luck of the draw. 

Now one thing that makes any food blog or food related media successful, are good quality photos. The reader needs to be able to look at the picture and start salivating. The reader needs to look and the photo and be able to taste it, smell it and feel it

What has helped me is some advice on lighting. My friend over at www.nazreenessack.com gave me a crash course on the subject and this has been invaluable in increasing the quality of my photos.


I know this sounds daunting, and it is. There is luckily, a mountain of advice on anything from how to shoot at night with a point and shoot, to how to get best use out of your dSLR camera. (See I'm already using the lingo). This advice is available online (PDFs, Blog posts, articles) and in the books dedicated to food blog photography as well. 

Here are some resources that I have stumbled upon in my bid to increase my knowledge on the subject:

Great advice if you only have a point and shoot camera, but also good advice on light and understanding it's impact - http://profoodblogger.com/7-beginner-tips-for-improving-your-food-photography/


A massive resource, filled with 18 links. Each link has titles allowing you to only focus on what you require - 
http://digital-photography-school.com/ultimate-guide-food-photography/


This site is on how to be a food blogger and contains a component on photography - 
http://www.howtobeafoodblogger.com/resources-for-food-bloggers/10-photography-tips-for-new-food-bloggers/


Pecan Nut Biscuits  (makes 12)


Ingredients

1/4c room temperature butter (not too soft)
1/4c icing sugar, sifted
1/4c chopped pecan nuts (can substitute this with pretty much anything)
1/2c cake flour, sifted (keep an extra 1/4c on standby)
1t vanilla essence

12 half pecan nuts

Methods

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

2. Cream butter and icing sugar together




3. Add sifted flour, vanilla essence and pecan nuts. Mix well.




4. This dough is still too soft. Add a tablespoon of flour at a time to get it to suitable consistency. Then roll the dough into small individual balls. Place the balls on a baking sheet 2.5cm apart. Lastly push a pecan nut on the top of each biscuit.




5. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.




What would you substitute the pecan nuts with? 

Monday, 17 November 2014

What's in your Cottage Pie? (recipe alert)

The kitchen was my domain when I got married. No, I didn't hate it, I actually loved it. It was my laboratory and I was Dr Frakenstein. 

Fast forward five years later and the popularity of the food channel and it became my husband's laboratory as well. I'd like to say he burnt an egg, but he's pretty good. He's mastered the art of preparing steak to exact specification and makes dhal (a thick stew prepared from pulses) just like my mom. 

So needless to say, I get a bit hot under the collar when he has a different opinion to mine in the kitchen. He's in my or our kitchen and he's good. 

So the other day my husband and I had a very civilised discussion, as civilised as I can be when it comes to food, about what goes into a cottage pie. To him it's just minced beef topped with mashed potato. To me it's an explosion of flavour with the caress of the right combination of ingredients on the tongue. 

So I do what any person who is right does, I Google it. Cottage Pie, which also became later known as Shepards pie, varies from just minced meat to adding what you want to it. The common denominators being minced or shredded meat and topped with mashed potatoes. 

What he doesn't know won't hurt him.


Here's my take on a classic.

Cottage Pie (serves 4 - 5)

Ingredients

2 cinnamon sticks (1cm X 10cm each)
1 medium chopped onion
500g lean mince
1t heaped crushed ginger and garlic
2t fine salt or to taste
1/2t freshly ground pepper
1/2 chopped yellow bell pepper
1 grated medium tomato
1/2c mixed, chopped frozen vegetables
1/2c cooked spaghetti

6 peeled and roughly chopped medium potatoes, boiled till tender
1/4c Luke warm milk (omit milk for a firmer topping)
2T butter
2t fine salt or to your taste

1/2 nutmeg powder


Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. 

2. Braise onion and cinnamon stick on medium till golden brown.

3. Add salt, pepper, ginger and garlic to mince and mix evenly. Add mince and bell pepper to onions.




4. Braise until mince changes colour and is cooked. Use the back of your spoon to "mash" the mince a 3 or 4 times while it's braising. Add the tomato and cook for a simmer 15 minutes.




5. Remove from the heat. Add the spaghetti and vegetables.




6. Put the potatoes in a mixing bowl. Use an electric beater to
"mash" potato until there are no lumps left.




7. Use a spoon to mix the butter into the potatoes until it's dissolved. Add the milk and mix it in with a spoon (omit this for firmer mash). Lastly add the salt to taste.




8. Spoon the mince mixture into a casserole dish. Evenly spread the mash potatoes over it. Sprinkle nutmeg over the top.




9. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.




What do you put in your Cottage / Shepherds Pie?

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Can I Have Another Piece of Chocolate Cake? (low GI recipe series)

The stars lined up in the heavens and your chocolate brown hue walked into my life. It was love at first bite and we've never looked back. That first bite was soft, sweet, had the most heavenly chocolaty taste and smell. All I wanted was more and more and more.


You always keep things interesting by coming as chocolate mousse or fudge cake or as my favourite, ganache. 



Lately though, I have to see you less and less. Down to a slice a time. I know it's killing you, but it's killing me to. So I've found a way for us to be together and for me to stop asking "Can I Have Another Piece of Chocolate Cake?".



video


Low GI Chocolate Cake (8 - 20 slices)
(sourced from Eating for Sustained 
energy 2)

Ingredients

200g sweet potato, peeled, cubed, boiled and mashed
1t bicarbonate of soda
1/4c canola oil
1/2c boiling water
100ml cocoa
1 1/2c cake flour
1/4t salt
4t baking powder
1/2c oat bran
2 eggs
2 egg whites
3/4c icing sugar
1t vanilla essence
1/2c plain yoghurt
1 large apple peeled and grated (prepare this just before use, otherwise it browns very quickly)
2T low GI apricot jam

Chocolate Icing

4T icing sugar
5t cocoa powder
1t vanilla essence


Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius

2. Add the bicarb of soda to the warm, mashed sweet potato, stir in lightly and leave to foam. (I used red skinned sweet potatoes in the past and the result was mushier and runnier. I used a pale skin one this time and the mash was very stiff but the cake turned out fine)





3. Place the oil and boiling water into a saucepan and sift the cocoa powder into it as well. Place the saucepan onto the stove and stir until dissolved. Bring it to the boil, then remove it from the stove and place it in the fridge to cool.







4. In another bowl sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the oat bran and lift up a few times to incorporate air.






 5. Beat the egg and egg whites for 2 minutes in a large bowl using an electric beater. Add the castor sugar in 2 batches, beating for one minute after each addition.






6. Remove the cocoa mixture from the fridge. Stir in the vanilla essence, yoghurt, apple and sweet potato mixture.







7. Add a third of this mixture to the egg mixture, alternating with the flour mixture. Fold in well after each addition, until well blended. Ensure that the cocoa mixture does not sink to the bottom. 



8. Pour the batter into 2 X 19cm cake tins that have been greased with non-stick spray. Spread the batter out to the sides so that the cake doesn't rise too high in the centre.








9. Bake both layers for 30 - 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Or 1 layer at a time for 25 - 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin. Loosen the sides with a knife before removing the cake from the tin.






Chocolate Icing

1. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder into the cottage cheese and add the essence. Mix thoroughly, but do not over mix. 




.

This frosting is not everyone's cup of tea. Sample it before you frost the cake with it. An alternative could be to chill low-fat ideal milk overnight. Then to whip it and serve it with the cake and some strawberries.


10. Sandwich the 2 cake layers together with jam, and spread the icing over the cake. 





Looking good handsome , see you later, XOXO!


So how does it taste? Well the guinea pigs who had no idea what they were eating hated the icing, but loved the cake. 
They still don't know it's a low GI cake. Ssshhhh......

Author's Notes

  • The cake should be cut into 20 slices for the nutritional information below to apply
  • Chocolate cake usually causes constipation, because of all the refined ingredients and no fibre, but this chocolate cake should not have that effect
  • Using Sugalite in the place of the (1c Sugalite for the 190ml castor sugar) castor sugar and the icing sugar (90ml Sugalite for 60ml icing sugar, further reduces the GI of the cake.
Nutrients per Slice (using sugar)
  • Glycaemic Index - 60
  • Carbohydrates - 23g
  • Protein - 4g
  • Fat - 4g
  • Fibre - 1g
  • kJ - 617
  • Glycaemic load - 14
One slice of cake (using sugar) is equivalent to:
11/2 starch + 1 fat






Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Gastronomy or Subsistence (Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies)

Do you live to eat or eat to live?

I live to eat.

I saviour the entire sensory experience of eating. Picking out the most appertaining morsel, the smell wafting to my nostrils, the feel of the first bite in my mouth, the sweet sound of chewing and finally the Pièce de résistance, the taste.

The taste tickling my taste buds and setting off centres of delight in my brain. With some dishes waking up fond memories. Such as kebab and puri reminding me of Eid, haleem setting off memories of Ramadan (Muslim fasting month), candied apples reminding of holidays at my grandmothers and popcorn cones of nursery school. 

There are very few things more gratifying than having chocolate in that moment just before you fall asleep. Or as a friend of mine would say "Chocolate cake is the breakfast of champions".

Today's recipe combines two of my favourite decadent addictions. 


Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies (makes 16)

(sourced from here)


Ingredients

200g good-quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
200g unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4c brown sugar
4 eggs
1/2c cake flour, sifted
1/4c cocoa powder, sifted
1/2t baking powder, sifted
250g cream cheese, softened
1/4c castor sugar
1t vanilla essence

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a 4cm deep, 16cm x 26cm dish or pan. Line with baking paper and allowing an extra bit to hang over on 2 opposite sides.

2. Place chocolate in a heatproof, microwave-safe bowl. 



3. Microwave uncovered on Medium (50%) for 2 - 4 minutes. Stirring every 1 minute with a metal spoon, until fully melted. 



4. Cream butter an sugar until pale, using an electing beater



5. Add 3 eggs, 1 at a time. Making sure to beat well after each addition.



6. Fold flour, cocoa and baking powder into the mixture until almost combined.Add melted chocolate and mix well.



7. Beat cream cheese, castor sugar and vanilla until soft and creamy in a clean bowl.



8. Add remaining egg and beat for 2 minutes.



9.Spread half the chocolate mixture over base of the prepared pan. Drop half the cream cream cheese mixture over it using heaped teaspoons

Half way thru adding the cream cheese mixture
10. Cover the cream cheese with remaining chocolate mixture (tricky part. So be very gentle here)



11.  Dollop over remainder of cream cheese mixture. Make swirls using a butter knife.



12. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until skewer comes out with moist crumbs.

13. Allow to cool in pan. Use the hanging over bits to help lift the brownies out of the pan. Cut into squares and serve.




What are your favourite decadent addictions to saviour in the still of the night?

Monday, 10 November 2014

The Comfort of Family (Double recipe Alert)

I am abundantly fortunate to have a family that I can depend on. Sometimes they don't even know that the kind word or warm gesture that was just offered provided comfort on a rainy day.

Yes, family to me are blood relations, you know the ones you can't choose (I still love you, mwah): parents, siblings , aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and second cousin twice removed (I'm Indian. Extended family is considered direct family!). Then I got married and acquired my in laws, hubby and my beautiful kiddies. (When they're sleeping at least) 

Then there are also the ones whom I've crossed paths with and forged a bond just as strong, or even stronger, than the familial one (You can at least choose your friends, but not your family ;) ). Whether it started with a game of Go Fish or walking home from school or playing cards in the caf or just clicking, it also turned into connection that would last.

I know I can turn to them ,friend or family,no matter what and that our mutual love for wholesome food would always bring us together!


Spicy Crumbed Chicken (serves 3 - 4)

8 pieces of skinless chicken (approximately 1.5kg), 
with excess fat trimmed off
2t Robertson Cajun Spice
1T Robertson Portuguese Chicken Spice 
1c water

1c Hinds coating mild / hot (depends on your preference)
1 egg 
100mls milk
1c corn flake crumbs

250 - 500ml vegetable Oil


Method

1. Marinade chicken in Robertson spices for at least 1/2 hour



2. Place chicken with 1/2 cup water in a covered pan and set it to medium heat

3. Add the other 1/2 cup water after 20 minutes

4. Remove the pan from the heat or until the water evaporates

5. Place the chicken in a tray or on a cooler dish. Allow the chicken to cool before coating.



6. Set up your coating station in the interim by placing the Hinds coating in one bowl, the egg and milk in another and the crumbs in the last one. (In that order) Place a tray or dish at the end for the fully coated chicken. 

7. Cover the chicken in Hinds coating and shake off the excess

8. Bath the chicken in the egg wash. I use either a fork or pair of small tongs here so that my fingers don't get wet

9. Lastly toss my chicken in the crumbs and use a different a different, clean fork to place it on the tray

Tip: I use plastic containers with lids in steps 7 & 9 to do more than 1 piece at a time.

10. Refrigerate for at least an hour before final preparation

11. Shallow fry in medium to hot oil till the chicken in golden brown. Place on absorbent kitchen towel.

12. Allow to cool slightly before serving.


Honey Butter Vegetables (serves 4 - 5)

350g butternut, cut into 6 and seeds removed
2 mielies, cleaned and divided into 4 each
2 gem squash, cut into 4 each and seeds removed
4 carrots, peeled and cut into batons (sticks)

125g butter
2T honey
1T Ina Paarman's Vegetable Spice 

250mls water


Method

1. Melt butter, honey and spice together 

2. Place vegetables in a pot and pour the sauce over the prepared vegetables 



3. Add the water and place the pot on high heat for 45 minutes covered.(remember to check every 10 minutes after 30 minutes as stove strengths can differ. Add 1/4 cup water if necessary)




What is your favourite family dish?

Friday, 19 September 2014

Low fat Chocolate Chip Cookies (Low GI series)

Very few things compare to biting into a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. The crunchy, chocolaty, gooey and sinful deliciousness of the whole experience. 

As you're chewing this little bit of heaven it starts gnawing at you. A little voice which starts as a whisper, than gradually builds up to a nagging, condescending, overpowering voice. " One minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips" And just like that your moment of ecstasy is snatched away from you.

I have some good news for you. In today's post we've managed to source a healthier version of a chocolate chip cookie that doesn't taste like cardboard. It actually comes pretty close to the real deal, at much less the calories.

Don't believe me? Try it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Bev's Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes 36 - 40)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 c rolled oats
  • 1 c whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c butter, softened
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1/3 c granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 c chocolate chips

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius
2. Coat 2 baking sheets with cook and spray.
3. Grind oats in a blender or food processor. 



4. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in flour, baking soda and salt. 



5. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg and vanilla; beat until smooth and creamy. 



7. With the mixer running, add the dry ingredients, beating on low speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.



 
9. Drop the dough by heaping teaspoonfuls, at least 1 inch apart, onto the prepared baking sheets. 



10. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until firm around the edges and golden on top, about 10 to 12 minutes. 



11. Cool the cookies for 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.



Nutritional Value (per cookie)

99 calories
5 g fat (2 g sat, 2 g mono)
10 mg cholesterol
12 g carbohydrates
8 g added sugars
1 g protein
1 g fiber
64 mg sodium
41 mg potassium.
Carbohydrate Servings 1/2
Exchanges -  1/2 starch, 1/2 other carbohydrate, 1 fat