Thursday, 29 April 2010


Some days I wake up in a daze of nostalgia and longing and most of all missing my family. With my parents and big sister back in South African and my other sister in Canada, popping over for a quick visit isn't really an option when I feel like this. Most of the time, a long chat on Skype will help to fight off the feeling, but there are times when even that won't help. The only answer on days like these, is comfort food.

Today I found myself reminiscing about my trip to Canada of a few years ago. I had gone to pay a visit to my sister and then two month old nephew. It was the middle of winter, freezing cold and everything was wrapped up in thick blankets of snow. We spent a lot of time in the most wonderful of shops, and I feel slightly embarrassed to admit that I came back with a (borrowed) suitcase filled with all of my purchases. Don't get too worried though, every last thing that I had bought was for the kitchen. Thinking back to these happy few days spent giggling, shopping and of course eating with my sister, I knew that the only way to beat off the blues, was to eat the one treat that will always remind me of Canada, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Unfortunately these sweet treats are not all that widely available in the UK and if you do happen to find them, you have to be prepared to hand over quite a bit of cash. Not one to be discouraged, I just went into the kitchen to make my own. Using my newly acquired knowledge of tempering chocolate, I was soon on my way, lining the tiny silicone moulds with a thin layer of dark and milk chocolate and piping the smooth, sweetened peanut butter into the cups. Yum!

After demolishing a couple of these delectable creations, I was well on my way to no longer feeling blue. And then, as I remembered that I will be seeing my sister, nephew and the newest addition to their family later this year, I couldn't help but to smile :)

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Where there's a will, there's a way

For the last ten days I have been on a journey of self-indulgence. Having time for myself and time to cater to my every whim and fancy. I have been reading my way through several transporting novels, going for leisurely strolls through sun-drenched parks, catching up on my favourite cooking shows and obviously spending a lot of time baking and creating in my kitchen.

Today was more of the same and after spending some time with the Corleone family in their world of guns, girls and offers you can't refuse, watching the last instalment of the Delicious Miss Dahl, and having a healthy lunch in the sunny back garden, I decided to set myself a bit of a challenge. Parisian Macarons. These delicate and delicious little confectioneries have been a bit of a nemesis of mine. I have tried and failed to make them on plenty of occasions. They are some of the trickiest cookies in the pastry world and have sent some of the most seasoned of bakers running for the hills. But today, I was not going to admit defeat!

My two top authorities on making macarons are Tartelette and Cannelle et Vanille and it is with their help, tips and recipes that I ended my day with a victory. As soon as I piped all of the little circles onto the lined sheets, I knew that this time it was going to work. Not too runny and not too stiff, my macarons started forming their little "feet" and did not show any cracks. They might not be as perfect as the ones made by Piere Herme, but to me they were the best macarons in my perfect little world :)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

In the Pink

As you may or may not have guessed, I read a lot of food Blogs. Sometimes they are the only things that keep me sane and sometimes they push me right over the brink into crazy, but they never fail to inspire me. These guys and girls from across the globe use their beautiful pictures, words and ingredients to fill the on-line community with a passion for cooking. Every once in a while it seems that everyone has one thing in mind and every blog you click on has the same theme or main ingredient. For the past few weeks that has been true once more, and it seems like everyone out there is loving rhubarb right now. Bright pink stems are popping out at me from the computer screen in all sorts of dishes and even on a trip down to the shops I'm not safe from the pink assault. So today it seemed there was nothing else for it, I had no choice but to join in.

Armed with several spears of gorgeous forced rhubarb, a dessert book I'd been given as a present months ago (but thus far have not used) and a sense of adventure, I took my kitchen by storm. I wanted to try and make something I've never made before and use something I've never had the guts to use before. I was going big and aiming high, I set me sights on making panna cotta and using leaf gelatin for the first time! After some cream boiling, gelatin soaking, vanilla pod splitting and vodka adding, I put my little filled moulds into the fridge, fingers crossed. It was time to give the rhubarb my full attention. Pulling a jar of vanilla infused caster sugar off the shelf, I chucked the little chunks of pinky goodness into a saucepan and cooked them in a sugar syrup to a pulpy, sticky sauce. Heaven in a mouthful.

The moment of truth came after dinner. Will they slip out of the moulds without a fight, or will I be faced with a sad, collapsed mess? With baited breath and severe (tongue sticking out) concentration, I coaxed the little puddings out of their moulds. I let out a huge sigh of relief as one by one they flopped onto the plates, holding their shape. After drizzling them generously with the pink syrup, there was nothing else for me to do but grab a spoon and tuck in :)

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

...And Many More!!

Birthdays seem to be surrounding me at the moment. This morning I was singing "Happy Birthday" to my big sister over the Internet, on Saturday my sweet little niece will be turning 2 and tomorrow, together with the Queen, Paul's boss will also be in on the Birthday action. Unfortunately I can't be there to join in on the celebrations with my sister and her daughter on their big days, and no, I didn't get an invitation to the Queen's party either. I can however help to celebrate the Guv'ner's birthday, and as he has the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I know, that always means baking him something special for the day.

For the first time in ages I found myself paging through my countless cook books again, searching for a cake fit for the occasion. As I looked over all of the glossy pictures of beautifully decorated cakes and bakes, I felt that familiar old sense of inspiration tingling in my very veins again. I could hardly wait to get back into my own kitchen and get started. I found my recipe, a fluffy, eggy and moist almond cake, I started rummaged through my cupboards for a suitable cake tin, but instead found a mini muffin silicone mould. Immediately I changed my mind. Why bake one big cake, when I can bake lots of little bite-sized cakes?! I felt almost giddy when I started taking out all of the ingredients, and by the time I took the cakes out of the oven, I was as happy as Larry.

I kept the frosting simple, bitter cocoa powder and icing sugar mixed to a smooth paste with a few drops of warm water. Luckily for me, I made a few too many cakes and could use a couple to make a quick dessert for Paul and me. Topped with a dollop of whipped cream, a slice of strawberry and a sprinkle of chocolate shavings, I had something special to celebrate everyone's birthday.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Saying Good-bye to the best Brownies in Town

Oh my, it has been a while since I posted anything on my blog. I can give you excuses, but I won't bore you with the details. All I'll say for now is that Spring has sprung here in London town, I'll have some free time on my hands and we can all look forward to plenty more posts from now on.

Tomorrow is a big day for me. For just over a year now, I have been an Oompa Loompa, baking great big cookies and scrummy brownies with and for great people, but tomorrow this adventure will come to an end. It has been an amazing, crazy and educational year and an experience I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. I have learnt more than I ever thought possible and can say with certainty that I had baked some of the best brownies in London (just ask anyone that has ever tasted them:) or rush over to Harvey Nics and try them for yourself)

For now I will not be returning to the professional kitchen, but I will still be baking and sharing my crazy creations once again with the blogging world! More to follow soon...