Chocolate Brownies and Birthday wishes

My sister Aletta and I went to the Palms Market in Woodstock, Cape Town yesterday where I bought wonderful dark chocolate and Java cacao powder. The market inspired her so much that she started her own blog! Her first post is on http://nowathome.wordpress.com

I am not big on the baking thing as I am very much a “little bit of this and a little bit of that” cook and as we all know, baking is very much an exact science (at least for me it is) and I really need to be in the mood to bake, which inevitably I was due to the chocolate buying. Hilda that works for us in the week had her Birthday yesterday and it is the perfect excuse to use the chocolate and bake some brownies which will be waiting for her when she gets here tomorrow. image I found the recipe on the blog of http//:kitchenbound.wordpress.com posted as “the ultimate fudge brownie” who says that she is very particular about what clogs up her arteries and I so agree. This is really clog-worthy. The recipe ingredients and method can be found on her site.

The urge(need) to bake grabbed me very early in the morning and as can be seen in the photo below, my slippers and pajamas were part of the baking process…….and so was the bowl scraping and spoon licking. image Aletta gave me a brand new silicone baking sheet which I used instead of lining the baking tray-it works perfectly. The recipe is very easy and the fudge brownies are crunchy and moist.image image I am leaving on a business trip tomorrow (I hate leaving Cape Town, just thought I’ll throw that in there) so by the time Hilda starts tomorrow, I will be on my way to Johannesburg. Of course it gave me a good reason to have my own coffee and cake party tonight just to see if I did it all right for Hilda! image

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Floating Island (Oeufs A La Neige)

In this case a dessert, not a real ocean island. I had this dessert one night in Paris( sounds so nice just to say it, this Paris thing!) at the Le Montparnasse 1900 Restaurant. Art Noveau everything in all it’s glory. Big names and painters were hanging out there at the turn of the century and today it is a monument to that era.  Dinner was fantastic(thank you Dirk and Odette!) to say the least but the brain-stopping moment came with dessert. It was just so damn good and one of those ones where every morsel just tasted perfect. Don’t know if it was the place or the good company or just the dish or all of the above, it just worked for me and of course I had to make it and had the same experience again! Clearly my kind of food.

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A floating island is a French dessert consisting of meringue floating on crème anglaise (a vanilla custard).There is some confusion about the name. In French cuisine, the terms œufs à la neige (“eggs in snow”) and île flottante (floating island) are sometimes used interchangeably; the latter is the source of the English name. The difference between the two dishes is that île flottante sometimes contains islands made of “alternate layers of alcohol-soaked dessert biscuits and jam but generally speaking the dessert is just called floating island.

Herewith the recipe for my little islands of wonder as I found it on Allrecipes.com and it tastes perfect, just like in Paris!

3 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Toasted almond flakes to spinkle just before serving
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 Separate two of the eggs. In top of double boiler, combine 1 whole egg and 2 yolks with 1/4 cup sugar and the salt, whisking until smooth. Whisk in the milk and cook over simmering water, stirring constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon. When the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat. (Do not boil. If custard should start to curdle, remove from heat and beat vigorously until smooth.) Pour the custard through a strainer into a bowl and stir in the vanilla extract. Cool and refrigerate.(i did not strain the custard and it was perfect).
In a heat-proof bowl, lightly whisk the 2 egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, just enough to dissolve the sugar. Place the bowl on top of a pot of simmering water and stir constantly until the temperature of the whites reaches 145 degrees F (63 C) or hotter. (I did not have a thermometer and it just tested the heat on my hand, luke warm is the right moment to take the next step).
Immediately remove the bowl from the heat, and use an electric mixer to beat the warm egg whites until they form stiff, glossy peaks.
Pour the chilled custard into a serving dish. Drop the meringue by heaping tablespoons onto the custard to make islands. Chill before serving.
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Sprinkle with toasted almon flakes before serving. It is so easy and can be made the night before a dinner party to save time on the day.
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I found these translations on the interwebs
Afrikaans: drywende eilande/ sneeu eiers
French : île flottante, œufs à la neige
German : Schnee-Eier (“snow eggs”)
Polish : zupa nic
Austrian : Kanarimilch
Hungarian : madártej (“bird’s milk”)
Croatian : schneenockerln, šnenokle
Romanian : lapte de pasăre (“bird’s milk”)
Italian : uova alla neve, uova di neve
Spanish : isla flotante
Portuguese: forofa

Guavas in the glorious Cape Winelands

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We spent the most wonderful weekend in the Paarl Winelands recently, complete with open clear winter’s days and nights under a thick duvet in a Cape Dutch house circa 1692 on the historical farm De Kleijne Bos(also known as Helena).image

The nearby farm Kleinbosch in Dal Josafat is rich with the heritage of our unique Afrikaans language roots and I read that the great Totius, Afrikaans writer and poet was born on this farm and also spent his last days there. Back at De Kleijne Bos Manor House, we ate delicious pink guavas with breakfast and the manager Jan Botha invited us to pick fruit from the farm orchard where the guava trees were planted over a 100 years ago, still going strong and produces tons of fruit for the canning market. image

Well of course we obliged and Jan also gave us a container of his own guava in syrup to try out. His secret is to peel the fruit, slice in thick slices and layer with sugar and leaving it in a covered container( plastic container with lid or glass container covered with cling wrap) overnight in the fridge. The sugar and fruit juices form a thick sauce and the fruit retains an intense guava flavour as if freshly picked from the trees. No cooking and delicious! This can keep for a maximum of 5 days in a fridge.

Jan inspired me and on our way home I bought the right “tools” to preserve our bag of guavas and armed with sugar, cinnamon sticks and pretty glass containers I started peeling and boiling even before I unpacked my suitcase. Nothing like the urgency of inspiration!( or the obsessiveness of creating…)

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The top photo is Jan’s uncooked self- saucing layers and the bottom photo  is the old style preserving cooked method.

I used the recipe below from Die Volledige Suid-Afrikaanse Kookboek 1980 Edition passed on from my mother’s collection and I have never tried preserving anything before!

250 ml sugar

500 ml water

cinnamon stick(s)

I used about 20 guavas

Sterilise glass screw top jars in a dishwasher or by leaving it in boiled water until cooled down. Boil ingredients together until sugar is melted. Add peeled and halved guavas and boil until guavas are soft( still firm, not too mushy). Put the fruit and cinnamon sticks in the jars and fill up with syrup, remove bubbles by inserting the handle of a spoon in the jar and releasing the air. Fasten lid while hot and the steam will seal the bottle.

And there you have it! I preserved fruit and it worked like a charm.

We were paying guests at De Kleijne Bos Country Manor and treated like royalty by managers Rene and Jan Botha who can be visited at www.1692dekleijnebos.com

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