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?

What are these tasty triangular treats of goodness?

If you know me at all, you are probably aware that I have severe problems when it comes to baking, but this Sunday is a little Jewish festival called Purim and I couldn’t stop myself from attempting to make these triangular, goodness filled little hamentaschen (Ha-min-tash-en).

The story of Purim takes place way back in Persian times (I think) where a bad man (Haman) wanted to kill the Jews (seems like a lot of stories have this central theme). To cut a long story short, the good guys (Mordechai and Queen Ester) prevented this from happening, resulting in Haman getting killed. And the Jews, naturally, rejoiced (by eating and drinking). The real meaning is about seeing the hidden miracles of how God saved us from being killed (I think). It’s a really fun holiday where we eat, drink and dress up (kind of like Jewish Halloween). Here’s a video describing the Purim Story in song, by a group called the Maccabeats:

These cookies (I say cookies because mine were not quite bread, not quite biscuit-like) and folded to look like triangles and can be filled with almost anything you like! I’d never made them before, and was relatively nervous. I wanted a tried and tested recipe, so my American/Israeli friend got her mom to send us hers. I haven’t met her mom, but I have only heard about her incredible baking skills (I even got to taste some of her cookies when my friend came back from a visit home).

The recipe is as follows:

  1. 1 cup of flour
  2. 4 cups of flour
  3. 3 tsp baking powder
  4. 1 cup butter or margerine, softened (I kinda melted it a bit)
  5. 2 large eggs
  6. 1/4 cup of orange juice
  7. 1 tsp vanilla essence
  8. whatever fillings you want!

This is what you do:

  1. Mix sugar, flour, baking powder and salt together and then work into the butter/marge until it crumbs. Beat eggs, orange juice and vanilla in a separate bowl, and then add it to the flour mixture.
  2. Mix well until it forms a dough and then put in the fridge to chill for a couple hours (the dough gets soft again very quickly, so I kept putting the dough I wasn’t working with back in the fridge).
  3. Roll out the dough and cut into circles, the bigger the circle, the bigger the hamentaschen of course.
  4. Put a dollop of filling in the centre and fold in the 3 sides to form triangles.
  5. Bake at 200 degrees for 12 minutes.

hamentaschen3 copy hamentaschen4

hamentaschen2

Cutting and filling. My hamentaschen were filled with a mix of chocolate, white chocolate & cranberries, poppy seed (Greg’s favourite), peanut butter & chocolate 🙂

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Folded… #hamentaschen #Purim

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Yummy hamentaschen ready for Purim!

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I actually had a really good time making these, and had Greg helping me in the kitchen until very late at night (apron, and all!). They came out delicious (I think. I gave to my team and they thought they were yummy too), even though a lot of them split. A tip I read online – fold, don’t pinch the corner, I did that and some still split. Oh well. The chocolate chips also didn’t melt, so I was told next time to use chocolate spread. I’ll just have to give it a go next year 🙂

Guys, Pinterest has nothing on me.

Last night I did something that Pinterest would be proud of.

So while cooking, I like to use quite a lot of different spices (aside for just salt and pepper). The thing is that our spices are all stored in our grocery cupboard, while it may not seem like a big deal, when you keep having to go backwards and forwards to gather a couple at a time, it gets annoying.

And suddenly a brainwave struck me. The bread bin. The bread bin, you ask? Well, it kinda sits empty next to our oven because Greg prefers to keep bread in the fridge. The cogs started working, I got over excited – and here’s what we’ve got:

spice storage

Note the colour coding…

I must say that I am pretty darn chuffed with myself and my impromptu creativity/organisation skills.

Read this if you’re a walking disaster in the kitchen like me

A link on Pinterest caught my eye this morning as I was wondering about the state of my oven (for baking update, see below), it lists a whole lot of common cooking mistakes (which is quite nicely phrased, I would call them something along the lines of “Culinary Catastrophes”). Thankfully, I was not victim to any of them. Though, it never helped me with my brownie problem (I was quite bleak about that). Nor did it tell me how to make the perfect fried egg, which Greg and I cannot seem to get right.

 

How to melt chocolateHealthy Baking SubstitutionsUnderbaking breads and cakes

 

Preventing mushy vegetables

Lumpy GravyOne test on this link did catch my eye, its a check to do on your oven to check out if it has hot/cold spots. Basically, you line a baking tray with white bread, put it in the oven for 10 minutes and see where the bread turns darker or lighter. Obviously the ideal is for it to all be the same amount of crispiness across the board…

So we tested our oven yesterday, we didn’t have much time and I would have liked to spend more time doing more extensive tests. We left the oven on for like 15min at “180” degrees… after the allotted time, the thermometer read 200 degrees… showing that our oven could be 20 degrees off.

Bakers of the world, does this seem like a drastic issue?

I’m only asking, because the packaging of the thermometer said that it could be 10 degrees off, which could make my oven only 10 degrees off… or 30 degrees off… This baking thing is really proving to be more of a science (or one big problem!)

I’m just really craving a chocolatey, gooey brownies. The baking Gods are clearly not impressed with me.

The Charitable Post.

There’s this new thing that I like to do these days. I’m really enjoying helping people out when I can. (I say this at the risk of sounding like an uncharitable snob, which I’m totally not, I’m a really nice and caring person). This isn’t things like giving money to people in the streets, it’s just small things to help people out who could really use it, and things which are totally manageable and at the end of the day, really make my heart feel good (which is not the reason I do it, it’s more like a by-product).

Small things have happened recently. Like Greg’s colleague who has been about to pop with her child for about forever (She actually finally gave birth today!). The Friday night before she was due, I was wondering where her and her husband were having Friday night Shabbos dinner. I assumed they’d be home, because walking anywhere would be a bit of a mish in her state. So we invited them over, because we’re just a little bit down the road, and told them to freeze whatever food had been made for once she has the baby so she won’t have to worry. I just wanted them to have a night off. She gave birth this afternoon, and we already have food waiting to be delivered to them (I think I’m starting to show symptoms of Jewish Wife Tendencies, with the constant need to feed people.)

Our shul also has a new Rabbi, him and his wife were actually my madrichim (counsellors) on summer camps. They moved down from Durban with their almost-newborn, and were staying in a flat for a week waiting to move into their flat. We figured we’d invite them over for dinner. We’ve also invited other friends over here and there, usually friends who moved to Cape Town to study and would otherwise just have to cook for one (probably more of a mish than just cooking for 2!).

(We also just heard that a friend from jhb is down in CT in hospital, so we’re visiting this evening with some goodies, just to make her smile. Because everyone deserves to smile, even when they’re sick and in a hospital room.)

The intention is in all these cases, is that we would be cooking anyway. We just want to give someone a night off to not worry about making dinner, because who wants to worry about these things when you’re about to pop with a baby/just moved across the country/a student living on your own. Each of these instances where we’ve had people over were just so great. We haven’t been able to cater big shabbos meals, as the costs get too high, but we really love having one or two people over at a time. I love it on the one hand because it’s so intimate, we were able to have such high quality conversations with each of our guests. Yet I think I love it even more because I know that something not so big for me, probably meant a whole lot more to them.

Maybe I’m sounding self-righteous (because who knows, they may have just thought of it as a polite dinner invite), and I really started this post with a point… About how the small things to us, can mean so much more to others. Well either way, they say that charity starts at home. So this is my home, and in it, we’re trying to be charitable. By inviting others in.

The problem I have with baking.

As posted about previously, I have recently started baking. Not because I find it therapeutic, or because I enjoy making a mess of my kitchen. Firstly: I love t eat yummy things. Secondly: many of these yummy things I cannot find at kosher places in Cape Town, hence, I need to make them myself if I want to try them.

One of the things I have been dying to taste, hence needing to make it myself, was Red Velvet Cupcakes. So off I went on Sunday, eager to spend my afternoon baking while the weather was miserable, bought my ingredients, and proceeded to turn my kitchen into the usual mess induced by my constant desire to bake (read: eat future produce.)

Red Velvet cupcakes

What I did not expect, was meeting my regular downfall: icing.

I figured cream cheese icing would be a breeze. Cream cheese. Icing sugar. What could possibly be so difficult!?

What was meant to be cream cheese icing mounted beautifully on top of red cupcakes resulted in an off-white, gloopy mess. The consistency was all wrong, after already adding 500g of icing sugar (thats half a kilo of sugar on top of all the sugar already in the cupcake!?). I thought maybe I was using the wrong sugar (these American websites make it seem like there’s a million different types!), so added normal granulated sugar. Nope. Now my icing has sugary crystals and is no longer smooth and icing-ish. I was pretty bleak about this, and took it quite personally, as I went and moped in bed in a sick state for the rest of the afternoon.

After gathering some strength later in the evening, I added more icing sugar to try get the consistency right. Although it did get relatively thicker, I simply didn’t have the heart to poison myself and the future eaters of my cupcakes with icing consisting of a kilo of extra sugar. Perhaps that is the key to the perfect icing – lots of icing sugar to keep it thick! Or maybe nxt time less cream cheese. I really don’t know.

I’ve decided I should probably switch from making cupcakes to making muffins – at least they don’t have icing!

(ps. My other problem I have with baking – is that I’m totally getting fat. This 9-5 job thing isn’t leaving me much time for gym.)