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Cheesy potato soup October 12, 2009

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I have this ability to make anything stodgy. I make stodgy toast, stodgy pesto, even stodgy soup. I love stodge. When it’s all wintery outside, this soup seems appropriate.

You will need
3 large potatoes
About 700 ml of stock (I use chicken. Veg is good too)
1/2 C grated cheddar, packed
4 T butter
1 T parmesan, grated
3 leeks
1/2 C cream
1/2 t garlic, crushed
Salt, just a pinch
Black pepper to taste

For the croutons:
4 slices stale bread
2 T parmesan
4 T olive oil
1 t mixed dried herbs
1/2 t garlic
black pepper

Half a pack of streaky bacon, fried ’til super cispy, and broken into bits
2 T parmesan grated

Clean and trim the leeks. Slice thinly. Peel the potatoes and cut into cubes (eighths are fine). Melt 2T butter and add the leeks, pepper, and a pinch of salt. Fry until the leeks are softish. Add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds.
Add the potatoes and some stock, so that potatoes are just covered (corners sticking out is ok). Cover and adjust heat to a high simmer. When potatoes are cooked (test by poking them with a knife), remove from the heat.
Process somehow (using a handheld stick blender is easiest, as you can use it right in the pot) until smooth. The soup might be a bit think, so add some more stock (if you don’t have any left, use half milk, half water).
Leave aside in the covered pot.

Preheat oven to grill, max heat. Slice the crusts off the bread, and cut bread into cubes. In a shallow dish, mix the oil, herbs, parmesan, and pepper. Dip the two faces of the bread squares into the oil. rub them around to get them coated in the good bits. Spread them onto a baking sheet and place in the oven. Watch them closely. Turn when golden. When golden on both sides, remove and set aside.

Place the soup pot over medium heat. Stir in the grated cheese, 1 T of parmesan, and 2 T butter. Heat through. Adjust seasoning and cheese. Ladle into bowls. sprinkle with a generous helping of bacon bits, croutons, and more parmesan.


Pasta al funghi October 12, 2009

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Mushrooms and cream a perfect combo. Rich, sweet, savoury, delicious.

You will need:
Mushrooms, 1 punnet
500 ml cream
black pepper and salt
butter, about 100g
pasta (penne is my favourite pasta, chunky and ridged 😛 fettuccine is really nice too)

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.
Wipe mushrooms with a dampened cloth, and slice thinly. Melt butter in a deep frying pan. Sauté mushrooms with salt and black pepper. Add a little garlic for extra flavour if preferred. When the mushrooms start to brown, pour the cream over, and keep at a fast simmer. It can boil over really quickly. Scrape down the sides, and blow on the surface if it starts to boil up.
Simmer until the sauce reduces and coats the back of a spoon It should be quite thick. Add more salt if needed only when the sauce is thickened.
Rinse pasta under boiling water and drain well. Stir into sauce and serve.

Paneer October 12, 2009

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Paneer is a soft, non-matured cheese. I’m not sure where it was invented, but it’s very popular in Indian food. It’s really really good!
The thing is, the commercially available variety (pretty rare here in SA) is very different from the stuff people make at home.
I once had an awesome paneer curry at Bismillah in Joburg. The cheese was soft, creamy, and squeaky! Nothing else like it at all. Wish I knew how to make squeaky paneer at home. My Friend Mirabelle tells me that using tartaric acid instead of lemon juice produces a more squeaky cheese, as does extensive pressing. The home-made stuff tends to be more like a slab of cottage cheese, but it is really good. It can be cubed and added to curry as a good source of protein, marinated and fried like a steak (an idea I stole from a Hare Krishna cookbook by Kurma Dasa), or used as cottage cheese would be.
To make paneer, you will need:
2l milk, full cream
lemon juice or yoghurt
a fine cheesecloth
a colander,
a large pot
heavy things

Heat the milk in the pot. You can add some cream for a richer paneer, but it’s not essential. When the milk starts to boil, add lemon juice or yoghurt one tablespoon at a time, until the milk starts to curdle. Remove from the heat, and add more lemon juice or yoghurt until the milk has separated into curds and whey. The whey should be almost completely clear, and slightly green.
Line the colander with cheesecloth, and pour in the contents of the pot slowly and carefully.
Apparently the whey can be saved as a nutritious addition to soups and stocks, but i’m too scared to cook with a murky green fluid.
Let the curds drain for a few minutes, until you’re left with a bowl of white mush. Run some fresh water through it to rinse out the excess whey, and drain for a few more minutes. Pick up the cheesecloth package, and twist it shut, squeezing out the excess liquid.
Fold the cheesecloth into a neat rectangular package, and put back in the colander, or on the draining board of your kitchen sink.
Place a large plate on top of it, face down, and stack heavy objects on top. The idea is to press out the whey, producing a solid block of soft white cheese. After 3 hours or so, the paneer should be ready. Unwrap it, and do with it what you will.
For the best idea of all, try paneer makhani curry. It is the most awesome paneer curry in the universe!

Toad in the hole October 12, 2009

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Seriously seriously good stuff here. Sausages embedded in a crispy, risen yorkshire pudding. I’ve heard toad in the hole spoken about, and tried it once when I was much younger.
Apparently it’s really good served with roast onion gravy, but I haven’t tried it that way. I’m sure it would be awesome to use lumps of cheese (like feta [added after the batter], haloumi, or paneer [both grilled]) or even tofu instead of the sausages.

1 C self-raising flour
2 extra large eggs
some milk (about 1.5C, but don’t bother measuring)
6 pork sausages
3 T butter (be generous!)
chopped chives, sage, and/or herbs of your choice
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200C. Drop the butter into a roasting or baking dish. Put the dish into the oven (it doesn’t matter if it isn’t completely preheated yet) and allow the butter to melt and start to sizzle. Put the sausages into the pan, and grill for 10 – 20 min turning once.
In the mean time, beat the eggs, and add the flour slowly, until it forms a paste. It should just be a really thick batter consistency, not dough. If it looks like it might start going doughy, stop with the flour, or add another egg. A recipe like this should really involve weighing the flour to get consistent results, but I really prefer cooking by method. And besides, who actually owns a kitchen scale?
Once the flour and eggs are well mixed, pour the milk in slowly, whisking well. You’re looking for a runny crêpe batter consistency, like thick cream.
The pork sausages should now be looking brown and yummy. Open the oven, and pour the batter into the baking dish. Turn the oven down to 180C.
Keep an eye on the food. The batter should rise up and turn golden. Stick a knife in the middle to test for doneness. Serve with gravy apparently. Plain is good too! Serves 3.

Suji Halva October 12, 2009

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Suji halva or semolina halva is really good stuff. Really, really good. It is the ultimate dessert — so rich, simply looking at makes you fat; so sweet, your children will be diabetic; so good, you won’t feel bad for having seconds.
Now I know there are some people who don’t think there is any difference between butter and margarine. There is. I know it’s tempting to use whatever you have in the fridge, or whatever is cheap. When I list “butter” as an ingredient, it’s because I use butter, and hate marge. Butter gives a better flavour and texture to most foods, but I’ll admit that you could occasionally get away with marge. Not so with suji. Only butter will do.

you will need:

1/2 C butter
1 C semolina (coarse is better, but fine will do)
1/4 C condensed milk
1/2 C milk
2 t sugar
pinch of saffron
Seeds of 1 cardamom pod
1/4 C almonds (flaked, or use whole, and crush them coarsely)

Grind the cardamom seeds finely and set aside. Crush the saffron, and add the sugar. Grind to a fine powder. Add 3T or so of boiling water, and set aside.
Melt the butter in a pot and add the semolina and nuts. Stir over med-high heat for about 10 minutes, until fragrant. Add all the other ingredients, and beat until very thick and creamy. Remove from heat, and allow to stand for 10 min or so. Stir through, and serve.
It’s traditional to add raisins with the nuts etc, so do it if you want. But seriously, who wants raisins in their buttery goodness?

Flapjacks with toffee sauce October 12, 2009

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There is nothing more winter-lunchy than a beautiful pile of crispy tender, hot, buttery flapjacks. Smothered in rich toffee sauce and a nob of melting butter, piled with bacon and drizzled with maple syrup, or even unconventionally topped with cream cheese — flapjacks make a wonderfully warming meal.

In America, these would be called pancakes. Here is SA, we call thick pancakes “flapjacks,” and thinner crêpes are just called pancakes. I like to add an extra quarter cup of milk to thin the flapjacks just a little, but it’s all about your preference. The sauce is rich and sweet, and tastes like English toffee sweets.  This recipe makes enough for 3 people.

For the flapjacks:

2 C self-raising flour

1 1/2 C Milk

2 T sugar

Large pinch of salt

2 eggs

2 T butter

In a large bowl, combine flour, milk, salt, sugar, and eggs. Stir briskly until smooth. Melt the butter and stir quickly into the batter. Fry over moderately high heat. If you like the cakes light and puffy, keep the pan as unoiled as possible. I prefer them crisp around the edges, and quite buttery, so I melt 1/2 t butter before frying each one.

For the sauce:

1 C Caster sugar

1/4  C Water

1/3 C Butter

1/2 C cream

Heat the sugar and water over moderate heat until the sugar is all dissolved. There should be no granules left. Turn the heat up high, and watch carefully. When the syrup comes to the boil, drop in the butter, and swirl the pan around to incorporate. It is important not to stri the syrup while it boils. Watch the syrup until it turns a rich golden colour. It should be the colour of toffee sweets. Remove from the heat, and stir in the cream quickly. dissolve any thickened bits which may form. Return the pan to the heat, and cook for another minute or two, until the sauce thickens just a bit.

The philosophy of comfort October 12, 2009

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I suppose it would be appropriate to warn you now: I don’t care for healthy food. I dislike salad, unless it’s more of an excuse to eat cheese with a few leaves and some dressing. I love stodgy, rich food which sticks to the ribs, and makes arteries scream out for mercy. No meal is complete without cheese, butter, or large quantities of sugar. I admit that this might not be an ideal daily diet, and it really is a good idea to try to eat healthier things to balance out all of the delicious decadence, but really, this is only so that you can live longer and enjoy even more good food.

In this spirit, I welcome you to my new blog, full of food to feed your heart, while occasionally giving it a bit of a hard time 😉