A Summer Salad To Kick Off The New Year

So… the festive season is well and truly behind us. People are back at work, and everyone is oh-so-motivated to stick to their new Year’s Resolutions… Apart from reading more, restarting my Bachelor’s degree, and the obvious getting in ridiculous shape for the wedding, I don’t really have any other resolutions. We’re just back normal healthy eating (or trying to, at least), and with that in mind, I have a gorgeous Summer Salad for you. I got the recipe from my fiance’s cousin, who is a bit of a foodie too. This salad is such a breeze, and is quite the crowd-pleaser. And look at those colours!

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Roasted Beetroot with Goat’s Cheese Salad

  1. Roast Beetroot, and let cool slightly before peeling. (To roast beets, you wrap your beets in parcels of tinfoil – about three or four per parcel – place on a baking sheet, and roast at 200°C for 45mins)
  2. Blanche fresh green Asparagus and Green Beans (with the ends trimmed off), in boiling salted water for about 15 seconds, and dunk in a bowl filled with ice water immediately. I then let them cool on a plate lined with paper towel.
  3. Chop your cooled beets into bite-sized chunks.
  4. Layer the asparagus and beans on a platter, and top with the beets. The point here is to do it neatly, so the beet juice doesn’t stain everything on the plate. It has to look pretty, you know?!
  5. Sprinkle some chopped cashews and walnuts all over.
  6. Break off little chunks of goat’s cheese and distribute evenly. I used a Honey Goat’s Cheese from Fairview, but you can use whatever you like. I’m sure it will work.

Now you’re done. You can serve this with a vinaigrette too, which is what I did. Here’s how to make it:

In a glass jar with a lid, add the following:

  1. 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  2. 1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  3. 1 tsp mustard (Wholegrain or Dijon)
  4. 1 tsp honey
  5. Salt & Pepper
  6. A tiny squeeze of lemon juice – to taste

Screw the lid on, and shake like crazy. When the dressing is emulsified, you can pour it over the salad, or serve on the side. (Although I prefer to serve it already on the salad)

And voila! Simple, easy and very tasty. The platter was empty after I took it to my mom’s place on Sunday for lunch. Now that’s a successful salad. Below is the salad with the dressing added. Doesn’t that look like health, summer and good intentions? I think so.

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Baking Day: September Edition

It’s been quite a while since I posted our Baking Day (Mis)Adventures. It’s really tough to line up our calendars to find a date that works for all 5 of us. So after much rearranging and postponing, we ended up deciding on a date that worked for 4 out of the 5 girls. Unfortunately Roxanne, who is a dance instructor, couldn’t attend due to auditions. She very gracefully bowed out, making it the turn of one of my other Sister-in-Law’s turns to host. This was our first baking day at Marguerite’s house (you’ll notice I’m now starting to use names, because I’m sure you’re staring to get confused with all of us!), and she had decided to make a Chocolate Mug Cake recipe she got from her friend, as well as a Pavlova.

We were all so very excited for the Pavlova – it’s not something we eat often. Let me tell you though, as much fun as it was getting into our usual shenanigans and almost-failures, here is my TOP TIP for Pavlova. You need an electric whisk/mixer. Marguerite has a hand whisk, which we all thought would be fine. We watch our favourite TV chef idols whisk cream and egg whites into submission by hand in no time all the time. How hard could it be, right? Ha! Lesson learnt. Unless you’ve got the arms of The Hulk and the stamina to run a marathon, don’t even bother. We had to take turns, we had to switch arms. It was a mess. We just couldn’t get those egg whites to submit to silky, shiny stiff peaks. No sir-ey. We eventually gave up when we deemed them to have soft peaks. We figured we couldn’t do any more. It was a lost cause, but we had no time to grieve for our epic failure – it had to go into the oven! BUT… Since the eggs weren’t stiff enough, it just would not hold a round shape. And we couldn’t find a springform to use as our shape. We had to improvise. Quickly. We ended up using a roasting tray, lined with baking paper, with rolled up logs of more baking paper to help make a rudimental shape. And in the oven it went.

I’ll tell you this though – it came out really well if I think how big of a flop it could have been! It was delicious. The exterior of the meringue crunchy, crispy and golden. The interior a pillowy, fluffy, sweet delight. And the fruits! Gorgeously plump little bursts of colour with major pops of flavour, layered with gloriously decadent whipped cream. Side note: The whipped cream was yet another fiasco… We couldn’t get it to whip! It. Just. Wouldn’t. Luckily, a valiant hero (Marguerite’s friend, Reg) wanted to pop in to say hello, and in a desperate attempt to save our dignity, we cried out in unison: “Bring CREAM!”. The cream was brought, the Pavlova assembled, and after taking some photos, it was greedily gobbled up. The fruits we used were pomegranate seeds, blueberries, raspberries and a double dose of strawberries. We used fresh strawberries, but I also cut half of the strawberries in halves, and with a touch of sugar and a glug of bubbly, let them macerate – allowing them to make their own sweet and thick syrup. Here’s the recipe, adapted from Sarie:

Pavlova with Mixed Berries and Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

  • 8 Egg whites
  • 630g Castor sugar
  • 20ml white wine vinegar
  • 30ml cornstarch
  • 250ml cream
  • 400g berries of your chocie
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 140 ˚C.
  • Whisk egg whites until it reaches soft peaks. Then start adding the sugar while whisking.
  • Whisk until stiff peaks are reached and the mixture is glossy. Fold in vinegar and cornstarch.
  • Line a baking sheet with baking paper and spray with greaseproof spray. Gently spoon mixture into a round form of about 30cm in diameter. You can use the back of a spoon to press into the top lightly, and then lifting, to form little peaks on the top of the meringue.
  • Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the exterior is golden, crispy and dry, but the interior still soft and chewy.
  • Let the meringue cool completely before starting with the decoration. When it’s cooled, it can be placed on a serving plate/cake stand.
  • Whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks. Ladle the cream onto the meringue.
  • Now, add the berries in any formation. Here’s where your creativity can come out to play.
  • Lightly dust with powdered sugar and VOILA!

Serve in “cake” slices with a glass of champagne and feel extra decadent!

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Now, for the Chocolate Mug Cakes. (Phew, this is a long post!) These little pots of dark delight is the perfect way to end your day, if you’ve had a rough day, after dinner, exhausted and just need a treat. The whole thing takes less than two minutes from start to finish! This is the first Mug Cake recipe that I’ve seen that really works, and delivers what it promises. Marguerite’s friend Magdel, (whose recipe this is), says she makes it often when she’s put the kids to bed and feels the need to satisfy a craving. I can see why. It’s quick, and delicious! And I can only imagine the variations you could try! Served with a scoop of ice cream, and off to bed! What’s better than that?!

Chocolate Mug Cake (makes 1)

Ingredients:

  •  1/4 cup Flour
  • 2 Tbsp Cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp Milk
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Hazelnut Spread (Like Nutella)

Method:

  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Pour into a microwave safe cup/mug/ramekin
  • Microwave for approx. 60 seconds. The less time it is microwaved, the gooey-er the middle will be. We found that 60 seconds delivered a cake-like consistency. Obviously every microwave is different, so it might be a good idea to experiment with times, and finding that sweet spot that delivers the consistency that you’re jonesing for.

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All in all, it was a successful baking day. We drank wine, we ate a lot of cheese. We baked, and laughed, and failed, and were surprised by how great our attempts turned out. And that, is ultimately what we’re aiming for.

 

Baking Day: Doughnut Edition

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Our latest Baking Day featured an all time favourite. Doughnuts. Really, who doesn’t love a warm and fresh doughnut? Liberally dusted with cinnamon sugar. Crunchy on the outside. Fluffy and light on the inside. Heaven in a bite. Doughnuts take me right back to my childhood, where I would spend all of the money my mom gave me on Fridays for the tuckshop, and just buy doughnuts. Five or six doughnuts. Glazed with icing. Slathered in chocolate. So sweet that I would feel sickly by the end of recess, but I would savour every last sweet morsel, until I couldn’t think of eating another doughnut ever again. Or, at least until next Friday… I feel no shame. Sugar and dough is what makes the world go round, people!

 

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Our little baking group has expanded some more, and we are now 5 girls doing our baking thing! It’s really so much fun, and we all get along great. This time, the hostess was my beau’s sister. We were joined by my sister, and my two future sister-in-laws too! And all the boys came too, watching rugby, and being generally noisy. This recipe was our hostess’ choice, by request of her man. It seems that he too, is in fact, a sucker for a doughnut. That posed a problem in itself, because suddenly we were constantly being watched by one of the boys…Judging us. Questioning every dusting of flour, every proofing of the dough. But no matter, we were undeterred.

 

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This recipe is quite labour-intensive, and takes time. Be prepared for that. Also, get some friends to help. It really saves some time when everyone is pitching in a bit. We used the recipe found here. The dough of the recipe is not a runny one, but rather quite like a bread dough. We used a wide-mouthed mug to cut the doughnuts, and a shotglass to cut out the holes in the middle. We saved the little rounds, and fried them too, to make tiny balls of delight! Here we go then.

 

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Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts
Makes about 36-40

Ingredients:

  • 6 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 6 teaspoons dried yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • 500ml (2 cups) milk, warmed
  • 200g butter, melted
  • 6 egg yolks
  • Canola oil (or any other flavourless oil, like sunflower), to deep-fry
  • 2 cups caster sugar, extra
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon (We used more, but we’re all cinnamon junkies. Start with 4, then taste. Adjust accordingly)

Method:

  1. Combine flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a bowl. Make a well. Mix in milk, butter and egg until dough starts to come together – it may be sticky.

  2. Knead on a well-floured surface until smooth. Place in a greased bowl. Cover. Prove for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in size.
  3. Punch down the dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface for 2 minutes or until smooth. Roll out dough until 1cm thick. Rest dough for 2 minutes.

  4. Use an 8cm round cutter to cut out discs. Use a 3.5cm round cutter to cut out centres. Place on a lined tray. Set aside for 15 minutes to rise slightly.

  5. Combine extra sugar and cinnamon on a tray. Heat oil to 180°C. Deep-fry 4-5 doughnuts for 1 minute each side or until puffed and golden. (It’s a good idea to test one of them to make sure they’re done, before frying everything. The dough should be puffy and light on the inside.)

  6. Transfer the doughnuts to the sugar mixture and turn to coat. Repeat, in batches, with remaining doughnuts.

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If you’re doing the little balls too, you should be able to eyeball when they’re ready, but we fried them for about 90 seconds. That’s it! It’s pretty easy to make, and the only thing is to have your oil at exactly 180°C. Don’t be fooled though, just because they’re easy, doesn’t mean they aren’t delectable. They are. And you won’t be able to stop until you have a food-baby. The little balls were done by the time we started frying the doughnuts. Totally addictive. I’ll definitely make this again. I might serve it with some dipping chocolate and crushed nuts on the side as well.

Until our next baking adventure!