I’ll admit it. I couldn’t even make pasta.

My friend who just got engaged recently messaged me after her engagement party:

“I got 3 cookbooks. You know what that means…”

I told her she’d be fine, naturally, as we all know where my cooking skills stood while I was engaged.

Let’s just say, there were none. My cooking life motto today is “you learn fast, or you go hungry,” and no-one wants to go hungry.

The kitchen was the place I ate dinner at home. I never joined in on cooking, and I don’t even recall my mom asking me to help, because she’d probably have gotten a big no. I could not boil pasta, I could not make rice, and I can’t explain the joy on our parents’ faces when we received not one, but four toasted cheese machines for our engagement! (don’t worry, we took two back). Everyone pitied Greg, who couldn’t cook anything either may I add, wondering what this grown boy would be eating for the rest of his life.

We never cooked for the first few weeks of being married. During the week of Sheva Brachot, the week commencing the wedding, we small dinner parties were hosted in our honour at different friends and family. They also gave us all the leftovers, so we were pretty sorted for a long, long time.

 

And when all the leftovers were finished, we needed to learn to cook. We actually went to a friend one night who taught us to cook fish and roast vegetables. Literally. How to roast freaking vegetables. I think I even struggled to cut the butternut. It’s really funny thinking back to those times. We’ve since been cooking fish and roast veggies like pros.

We barely cooked Shabbos supper for our first year of marriage because we were always invited out (ok, often we’d invite ourselves out too). Nowadays, we cook shabbos for 7 – 10 people like it’s no big deal (ok, it’s 10 purely because that’s how many we can fit around our table. Also, I think we only have 12 plates), and people at work always seem to think that I’m cooking crazy shabbos meals every week.

We’ve learnt to make some fancy, and even very simple foods. We make quiche without a base (because who has time to make all that pastry?), make our own delicious challah for shabbos, chicken a la king, risotto is a recent favourite, delicious fish, we’re having foreign friends over and making a South African bobotie.

I wouldn’t even quite go so far as saying I love cooking. I do like to eat though, and I like to try new things sometimes. More than cooking, I like entertaining, and cooking up nice things for guests. I even find baking a mission – even though I somehow got this reputation as a baker – all those measuring utensils, spoons, bowls etc that need to be cleaned? But I do love a good or impressive dessert. Greg on the other hand actually likes cooking. Guys, I kid you not when I tell you we were useless. The other week we even bought egg poacher pod things, and had poached eggs for the first time!

When I think about it, we’ve come a long way in our little food journey over the last few years. I’m telling you, I still surprise myself.

Do you remember the first few things you learnt to cook?

3 useless kitchen appliances I just have to have

I feel like I’ve become a bit of an appliance collector. Can you believe that we have 2 toasted cheese machines (meat and dairy), 4 hand blenders, 2 food processors (diff sizes), a waffle machine, an electric scale, an electric frying pan… just to name a few among the normal (not to mention our air fryer, steamer, 4 slice toaster…). These were all wedding gifts, and we actually have some that we haven’t even opened. I know right? Ridiculous.

Yet there are certain appliances I am itching to buy. I have informed Greg of these urges, most of which he has artfully brushed aside. Also, he says he doesn’t want to get fat. Apparently before I came into the picture he never used to eat cakes and cupcakes etc. Darn, all my fault, clearly.

1. A Donut Machine

IT all started when I saw the glorious donut pan available on Yuppiechef. I was sold on them (they’re currently sitting in my cart, waiting for me to decide if I’ll ever purchase them), until I realised that you can buy actual machines. I figured this would be less mess, and because I’m sometimes a little lazy, this could only be the better option. In my mind I’m already imagining warm, delicious homemade (kosher) donuts, different flavours, different glazes… and it would make an impressive Shabbos dessert. Guys, I’m always about impressive Shabbos desserts.

donut

Glaze and SPRINKLES!

They’re probably better in theory. I’m pretty sure I’d make a mess of them either way.

2. A Fondu Set

I’ve been on the lookout for one of these possibly since we got married, but I was looking for something less industrial and not those ones with a tiny tealight candle to keep it warm (come on now, man). I see it as such a great social appliance to use with friends. Initially, we used to do waffle nights when we got married, but soon after gave up on the machine because it was just too difficult to clean (word of advice, if you’re buying a waffle machine get one with removable plates). Recently my friend inherited this flapjack machine, which has been a great hit, but she’s moving to Joburg soon. Sad face. So I’m thinking chocolate or cheese fondu is the perfect Saturday night event. I mean, if there’s food involved, how can it not be?

fondue

I’m salivating just thinking about this…

(source)

3. A Pasta Machine

The truth is, I don’t need to make fresh pasta. I’m perfectly happy with Fatti’s & Moni’s store bought stuff. But guys, ravioli. It’s one of my favourite foods and you just can’t get it kosher anywhere in Cape Town. So obviously, I need to make my own. This one you see, Greg has somewhat warmed up to. Thankfully we still have plenty wedding vouchers, so it just includes some research as to how well my fresh ravioli pockets would freeze.

Pasta pockets of deliciousness.

Pasta pockets of deliciousness.

(source)

Does anyone have any of these random appliances? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I think I may have convinced Greg on the pasta machine though… and obviously, Ive already pinterest-ed ravioli recipes and googled how well they freeze (which is very well, if you were wondering).

Basically, I’m just gonna get fat, right?

Reindeer cupcakes & my first Christmas experience.

As it is with the “Festive Season” coming up, it’s normal for your December office time to be intercepted with Christmas parties. the big company one was held last Friday, but I couldn’t make that, so we had a smaller more intimate team party yesterday afternoon.

We basically hosted a Christmas lunch at my boss’ house, complete with turkey, roast veggies, gravy and potatoes. Everyone contributed a little bit and made a different part of the meal. Apparently, that’s exactly what Christmas smells like, but to me it just smelled like Shabbos (I mean, we do big meals like this every week – Sjoe!)

It was really lovely and festive, and I learnt a lot of unofficial “rules”: ie do not reveal your Secret Santa and that you have wear the paper crowns that come in the crackers (and the fact that in each cracker you get a joke – which needs to be shared with the table, said paper hat, and your little prize). Lots of learning. I also learnt that Love Actually is actually considered a Christmas movie and that Michael Buble sings Christmas songs the best.

I can’t take credit for the pictures (thanks Robynne!) but don’t we look like a lovely little family?

My contribution were the loveliest little Rudolf the Reindeer cupcakes. You know when you find something on Pinterest and when you make it yourself it’s an epic fail? I’m so glad to say that they were AWESOME!

I’m so proud, I even made a gif. One day I might grace you with my super(not-so)-secret super delicious cupcake recipe (for cupcakes, not for gifs).

It was a lovely afternoon spent with colleagues. Sometimes it’s just nice to get out the office (especially during office hours) and just hang out. It’s so nice to work in a team, and such a great team at that. So thank you all for my first Christmas party, it will sure be one to remember.

Channukah, selfies and a latke recipe

I love Channukah. A festival of light and miracles. Singing and eating of oily food. To commemorate the little pot of oil that last 8 nights all those years ago. People like to associate Channukah with Christmas because they’re around the same time of year, but I really don’t know anyone who does 8 days of presents (or even 1 for that matter). Either way, how can you not love the concept of Chrismukkah after that OC episode years and years back?

Truthfully, my favourite part is the candle lighting and singing every night. I actually avoided the donuts for the most part, but I couldn’t resist making potato latkes one night all in the spirit of the holiday. Well, we didn’t have potatoes so we settled for sweet potatoes. Which was fine by me.

Here’s the recipe I found on pinterest and adapted.

Sweet Potato Latkes

  • 3 potatoes (or sweet potatoes)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • oil for frying
  1. Grate the potatoes and onion. I was debating on even adding a carrot. Could be yum.
  2. In a large bowl combine the grated potato/onion with all the other ingredients.
  3. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat and drop potato mixture in dollops into the pan.
  4. Fry until golden on each side, and then place on some paper towel to get rid of some of the oil.
  5. Eat! We like to sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar over it, but sour cream and/or salmon and/or cream cheese are also popular options.

channukah_potato_latkes

You could totally eat them anytime of year, don’t wait til Channukah. Enjoy!

Yuppiechef’s Simple Summer Cookathon

Greg and I really love entertaining. It’s funny to think that once upon a time neither of us could boil an egg or pasta (alright, that may have just been me), and now we host Shabbos dinners and birthday parties – we sure have come along way to say the least. You’ve heard me talk about Yuppiechef before (come now, you dont know about Yuppiechef by now?), and recently they announced the menu for this years cookathon, something they apparently do every year. It was news to me but I was pretty keen to take part!

How does the cookathon work?

Yuppiechef provide you with a menu, and it gives you the fabulous excuse to throw a dinner party. We invited friends, and bought the ingredients without even batting an eyelid! Things did get a little bit complicated, as my gran passed away that week, so we almost cancelled, changed the date, friends couldn’t make it – so it resulted in a lovely late-night dinner date for Greg and I. Experimenting in the kitchen, that’s pretty fun (and only a husband as wonderful as Greg could put up with my crazies). Also, on the 5th night of Channukah, it really made a perfect evening (I mean, I just love Channukah). Nothing wrong with that.

So without further ado, the menu:

For starters: Avo, melon, nut brittle and rocket salad.

So crisp, so fresh, so summery. OK, so we didn’t have time to make the brittle and bought peanut brittle instead, which obviously we forgot to add… but that dressing was so delicious, we absolutely can’t wait to make it again. Please take note that my husband loves me so much that he agreed to cut the watermelon into star shapes because I insisted it would taste better.

For mains: Classic wild mushroom risotto

Risotto is something we only recently discovered. It’s one of those things you can’t get at any of the kosher restaraunts here, so we kind of had to make it ourselves. And we love mushrooms. And this cheesy, mushroomy, warm goodness in your mouth… delicious. Apologies for the lack of photos for this course, as the middle course the kitchen got quite busy around this time.

For dessert: Chocolate pudding and strawberry swirl ice cream

OK, chocolate pudding, I thought. That’s nice. Nice?! No way. That little tub of chocolate goodness was the most delightful thing to ambush my tastebuds. And that ice-cream?? OK, I seriously can’t wait to make this again! I actually prefer them a little undercooked so the inside is practically raw. Yum.

Zero points for food styling as after the week we had and only being able to do this late at night, asethtics kind of got lost among the need to eat. But guys, we had so much fun. Even when it landed up being just the two of us. (Probably, because it landed up being just the two of us). I think Greg and I should plan dinner parties for two more often, and not just “dinner”. I’m already planning when we’re going to be making that salad and dessert again. Thank you Yuppiechef for all the fun, as usual 🙂

Yuppiechef love: The Letterpress Cookie Set

I’m really no foodie, but I do like experimenting with new recipes here and there. Particularly when they involve dessert. I made a baked alaska last week, which my guests found super fancy and I even had a friend make one the following week for her own guests. Not so long ago, I won a voucher on twitter from Yuppiechef (if you don’t follow them on social media, well, take this as a hint to do so) and finally succumbed to buying something I have been eyeing for months. Their letterpress cookie cutter set.

yuppiechef_letterpress_cookie_cutter_set

I think I was more besotted by the ideas of them, because I’d never had much success with biscuits due to my lack of Kenwood/Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I’d signed up to their online baking course (which is free, so wannabe bakers like me, go do it!) and there was a whole episode dedicated to them. How could I resist?

Now I couldn’t just make biscuits. I’d eat them myself and just get fat (obviously), so I needed to come up with a cool dessert that involved biscuits (without crushing them, because I needed to create cool messages on the top). Enter – the ice cream sandwich cookie. It was pretty experimental, and I had much higher aesthetic hopes for them, but if it means anything they tasted freaking amazing (and I managed it all a la wooden spoon, as there’s no Kitchen Aid mixer in this lady’s kitchen, so I was extra chuffed!)

After deciding which of the 3 shapes I would be using (and coming to terms how massive these cookies and how delicious this dessert was going to be) I started assembling my Good Shabbos message. I was incredibly pleased so have enough letters as I was expecting to run out – but the set comes with pre-set words (Happy, Birthday, Holidays etc) and 2 of each letter as well as extras of popular ones (thinks e’s and a’s). I was even sure to dust the cookie cutter in flour, thanks to the advice of Sarah Graham and it worked a dream!

These delightfully crisp “Good Shabbos” cookies, dolloped with either chocolate or halva spread with vanilla coffee flavoured ice-cream (with some extra chocolate chips, because why not?) sandwiched in the middle made the perfect special dessert for our Friday night Shabbat supper. Guys, come now.

The final product may not look as fancy as I’d hoped (liked I’ve mentioned before, I don’t score well on food styling or photography, also I can’t for anything about our unfortunately styled kitchen) but goodness, they tasted like heaven.

(The cookie set says to use a recipe you trust, so do shout if you’d like me to update with the recipe I used.)

*update* You asked for the recipe, and I shall provide!

Sugar Cookie Biscuit Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter or margerine, softened at room temperature (I left it out overnight and then some more)
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbs soy milk/milk (I think I may have even used water. Shhh)
  • cookie cutters in any shape or form that you like!

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to  180.
  2. Beat butter, eggs/margerine and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add egg yolk and vanilla. (I don’t have a Kitchen Aid or mixer of sorts, so I managed this all with a wooden spoon. If this non-kitchen-diva can do it – so can you.)
  3. Sift the flour and salt. Add half flour mixture to butter/margerine mixture. Add milk/soy milk (or water), then add remaining flour. Mix until just combined. Set aside.
  4. At this point I rolled out the dough between two pieces of baking paper and then chilled it (like I was told to in the Yuppiechef Baking Course). I found it stuck too much to the top sheet of baking paper, so eventually left that out and left it to chill (rolled out, on the baking tray)
  5. Bake for 13 minutes. Leave to cool.

For the ice cream part, just get creative. I made my standard parev (non-dairy) ice cream, but vanilla ice cream would be perfect (and probably a better consistency). I smeared some chocolate spread on the biscuits for extra yum and then sandwiched ice-cream in the middle. It got a little messy, but  you’ll pop them back in the freezer soon after and all will be alright.

Please let me know if you try your own sandwich cookies. They’re super easy and you can really use any of your favourite cookie recipes (I’m thinking to try choc-chip next!), and most of all – it tastes like heaven in your mouth. Is there anything more you could want?

A baked a-what?

So there seemed to be much fanfare regarding the dessert I posted yesterday, which I made for Friday night. It was a baked alaska, looked very impressive and was actually particularly easy. I mean, you may have gathered that I’m really no baker or masterchef in the kitchen, especially when it comes to baking and I seem to have this nasty little habit of trying new recipes when I’m having guests over. That can go either way.

Anyway, so Greg’s cousin in the UK, at the tender age of 13, is an incredible baker with probably more talent than I could ever dream of having. She sent me some magazines with her parents when the last visited and I found these magazines the other day hidden between my other recipe books.

With this on the cover, I had to try and make it.

BakedAlaska01

So here is everything you need

For the ice cream:

  • 175g fresh raspberries
  • 700g vanilla ice cream (I made this parev/non-dairy, so you can just use your favourite non-dairy ice cream recipe)

For the chocolate sponge base:

  • 75g softened butter/margarine
  • 75g caster sugar (I don’t know the difference between all these sugars. So I used icing sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 50g self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

For the meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 150 caster sugar (again I just used icing sugar)
  • 25g icing sugar for dusting (yeah, I skipped this part)

Now let’s make it!

BakedAlaska02

  1. Crush your raspberries with a fork and mix them in to the softened ice cream.
  2. Line a round bowl with cling wrap and put your ice cream in it to set.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180. Put all the sponge ingredients into a bowl/food processor and zjoozj (or if you’re like me, mix it all in a bowl with a wooden spoon and hope for the best), then bake for 15 – 18 minutes.
  4. Now we assemble! Set your oven to 220.
  5. Make your meringue by whipping the egg whites until soft peaks form and then gradually  beat in the sugar, until it’s nice and glossy.
  6. Put the circle of sponge cake down, and tip out the ice cream on top of it. Rather make the sponge base bigger than your ice cream because you can always trim it down (and yum, bits of cake to nibble on)
  7. Now, cover the entire cake/ice cream concoction with meringue. The meringue will basically act as an insulator and stop the ice cream from melting when your place the whole thing in the oven.
  8. Put in the oven for 6 – 8 minutes until browned.
  9. EAT!

BakedAlaska03

bakedalaska04

OK, so zero points for food styling (I’ll get there), but it’s pretty delicious. And looks impressive too, and if dessert isn’t about ending your meal with a bang, well then, I don’t know what is.

Do let me know if you try making this, I’d love to hear your feedback.