Friday, 18 December 2015

Pavlova with Poached Apples and Caramelised Verjuice Syrup

Apples and almonds have a great affinity with Verjuice. Although apples are not a traditional topping for a Pavlova, they work beautifully in this recipe, with its extravagant, brittle nest of almond-scented meringue, its clouds of whipped cream, and a reduced Verjuice syrup that’s just on the point of turning to caramel. The Pavlova should be made 8-12 hours ahead of time, and you can also prepare the apple filling well in advance.

Pavlova with Poached Apples and Caramelised Verjuice Syrup

This is another in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice (available at Woolies), and I hope you'll give this recipe a bash, even if you're mortally afraid of making anything involving temperamental meringue.

My attempts at making billowing pavlovas and snowy, crisp meringues were spectacularly flat, sticky failures for many years, but eventually I nailed them, and I haven't had a flop since.  I hope my method works for you - and it it doesn't, please drop me a line on Facebook so I can assist you.

Pavlova with Poached Apples and Caramelised Verjuice Syrup

For the Pavlova:

5 extra-large free-range eggs
a pinch of Cream of Tartar
250 g caster sugar
2-3 drops of good almond extract

For the filling:

5 large crisp apples, peeled, cored and quartered (I've used both Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, with good results)
1½ cups (375 ml) Verjuice
½ cup (125 ml) caster sugar
1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream
¼ cup (60 ml) flaked almonds, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan

First make the Pavlova. Heat the oven to 160 ºC, fan off. Separate the eggs and place the whites in a spotlessly clean bowl together with a pinch of Cream of Tartar (you'll find this in the baking aisle of supermarkets). Keep the yolks for making mayonnaise.

Using an electric beater or a food processor fitted with a balloon whisk, beat the egg whites for 2-3 minutes, or until they are standing up in firm - but not dry - peaks.

Add a third of the caster sugar at a time to the whites, whisking well for a few minutes between each addition. When you've added all the sugar, drop in the almond extract, to taste, and continue beating for another 3-4 minutes, or until the meringue is very thick, firm and shiny (with no sign of grittiness when you rub a blob between your fingers).

Your mixture should hold its firm billowing shape without drooping. If the meringue seems thin or floppy, your Pavlova will collapse in the oven, and you'll need to chuck out the mixture and start all over again.

Line a baking sheet with lightly oiled baking/greaseproof paper (put little blobs of meringue on four points under the paper to stick it down). Draw a plate-sized circle on the paper, spread a third of the meringue mixture over it to form the base of the Pavlova, then place big, generous dollops of the remaining meringue around the edges to form a basket. A huge metal spoon is the right utensil for this.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of your preheated oven, and immediately turn the heat down to 110 ºC (oven fan off). Bake for an hour and a quarter, then switch off the oven (don't open the door!) and let the meringue case dehydrate, undisturbed, for at least 8 hours, or until it is crisp and dry.  If you'd like a Pavlova with a slightly squidgy centre, let the case dry out for 6 hours.

To prepare the apple filling, put one cup of Verjuice and the caster sugar into a pan.  Bring to a gentle bubble, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Add the apple quarters and poach, covered, for 9-11 minutes, or until they are just soft.  Set aside to cool completely.

To assemble the dessert, remove the apples from their syrup with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Add the remaining ½ cup of Verjuice to the syrup, turn up the heat and boil over a medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until the syrup has reduced by about two thirds, is turning to an amber colour, and is thick, glossy, and producing plenty of big lazy bubbles. Watch the mixture like a hawk – you want it to be just on the point of caramelising.

Whip the cream until it's thick and billowy, pile it into the Pavlova and arrange the apple pieces on top.  Drizzle the hot syrup over the top, scatter with toasted almonds and serve immediately.

Serves 6. 

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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Verjuice-Gooseberry Compote

A delicate, barely set vanilla cream topped with a glorious sunset-orange compote of Verjuice and Cape gooseberries. Verjuice enhances the tartness of gooseberries, and the contrast of cool and creamy with sharp and sweet is sublime. You can prepare this dessert well in advance and merrily assemble it at the last minute.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Verjuice-Gooseberry Compote

This is another in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice (available at Woolies). If you don't have Verjuice, poach your gooseberries in a light sugar syrup (see Cook's Notes at the end of this page).

Like this recipe? Try my Fresh Plum Jelly with a Lemon Panna Cotta Topping.

Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier. He says: "Asara Vine Dried Sauvignon Blanc 2014 - a stunner of a natural sweet wine."

It looks like: Packed in a 375 ml Alsatian Flute.  In the glass a golden straw - and please serve it in a decent sized glass..

It smells like: Soft dried apricots and sliced lime poached in fynbos honey. 

It tastes like: Rich and unctuous: desiccated pineapple rehydrated in fynbos honey. Guava, yellow Canary melon.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Verjuice-Gooseberry Compote

For the panna cotta:

300 ml cream
300 ml full-cream milk
5 Tbsp (75 ml) caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, or a few drops of good vanilla extract
4 tsp (20 ml) tepid water
2 tsp (10 ml) gelatine powder

For the compote:

200 g Cape gooseberries
½ cup (125 ml) Verjuice
2 Tbsp (30 ml) caster sugar (or more, to taste: see recipe)

Put the cream, milk and caster sugar into a saucepan.  Split the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape out the seeds and add them to the pan (or add the vanilla extract, if you’re using that).  Bring gradually to just below the boil, over a low heat, stirring now and then.

When the sugar has dissolved, take the pan off the heat and gently press a sheet of clingfilm directly onto the surface of the mixture (this will prevent a ‘skin’ forming).  Set the cream aside to infuse for 45 minutes, or until it has cooled to blood temperature.

Put the water into a small teacup or ramekin, sprinkle over the gelatine and set aside to ‘sponge’ for 3 minutes.  Now place the cup in a pan of simmering water (the water should come halfway up its sides) and leave it there for a 3 minutes, or until the gelatine has melted and the liquid is clear.  Whisk this into the cream mixture, then strain the cream through a fine sieve into four wine glasses.  Chill for at least 5 hours, or until the panna cotta has set, but is still very wobbly.

To make the compote, put the gooseberries, Verjuice and caster sugar into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, skimming off any white foam as it rises.  If the gooseberries are very tart, you may need to add a little more sugar.   Simmer for about 7 minutes, or until the fruit is just beginning to collapse.  Remove from the heat, tip into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until very cold.

When you’re ready to serve, remove half the whole gooseberries from the bowl using a slotted spoon and set aside.  Use a potato masher or fork lightly to crush the remaining berries.  Spoon a layer of the crushed fruit over the top of the panna cottas, and top with the whole berries you put aside

Serves 4.

Cook's Notes: 

If you don't have Verjuice, poach your gooseberries in a light sugar syrup.  Here's how: put ½ cup (125 ml) water into a saucepan and add 4 Tbsp (60 ml) caster sugar - or more, to taste, depending on how sour the fruit is.  Bring gently to the boil, stirring occasionally. When the sugar has dissolved, add the gooseberries and continue with the recipe (paragraph 4, above).

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Monday, 14 December 2015

Prawn and Asparagus Salad with Verjuice Dressing & Mayonnaise

An easy, sea-breezy salad that takes just minutes to put together, and you cannot go wrong if you use the very best ingredients in this simple dish. I've specified cooked, peeled prawns from Woolies here, which I admit are expensive, but they are very good, fresh and springy, and a fine ingredient to splash out on when the festive season comes rolling in.  If you're on a low-carb or diabetic diet, omit the Verjuice (which is a little sugary) and use more lemon juice or white-wine vinegar.

Prawn & Asparagus Salad with Verjuice Dressing & Mayonnaise

This is another in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice, which is wonderful for making salad dressings with a slightly sweet, subtle zing.  Its gentle acidity makes it the perfect companion for ingredients with a delicate taste, such as prawns.

In this bright salad, a two-ingredient dressing and a clean-tasting homemade mayo make magic with prawns, asparagus, dark salad leaves and peppery baby radishes. If you can't find Verjuice, use more fresh lemon juice, plus a whisper of caster sugar to cut through the sharpness.  Please see my Cook's Notes at the end of the recipe for what to do if your mayo curdles.

Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier. He says: "Bellingham Whole Bunch Roussanne 2015, 
recently awarded 5 stars in the 2016 Platter's South African Wine Guide."

It looks like: Elegant bottle The Bernard Series labelling. In the glass pale golden straw with youthful lime flashes.

It smells like: Gentle tropical fruits, desiccated pineapple, kiwi and scrunched fynbos herbs. 

It tastes like: A full circle through easy entry with white flowers, ripe nectarines, Canary melon and gentle sweet spices. The fruit is generous, the acidity balancing and zesty in its youth. Long, full, richly flavoured, with a gently waning aftertaste.

Prawn and Asparagus Salad with Verjuice Dressing & Mayo

350 g asparagus tips
a packet of dark mixed salad leaves
200 g Woolworths ready-cooked peeled prawns
8 baby radishes, halved lengthways

For the dressing:

100 ml Verjuice
100 ml extra-virgin olive oil

For the mayonnaise:

2 extra-large free-range egg yolks, at room temperature
flaky sea salt
1 tsp (5 ml) Dijon mustard
200 ml sunflower oil
100 ml extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp (45 ml) Verjuice
1 Tbsp (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 tsp (5 ml) Tabasco, or more, to taste
milled black pepper

To make the mayo, put the egg yolks, salt and mustard into a bowl.  Tuck a damp cloth under one side of the bowl to tilt it. Using an electric beater, whisk the yolks until creamy.

Mix the two oils in a small jug. Turn the beater to its highest speed. Now, as you whisk the egg yolks with one hand, dribble the oil onto the yolks, a few drops at a time, with the other. Continue patiently whisking and dribbling on the oil, a little at a time, and within a few minutes you will see the egg mixture begin to thicken. Keep adding the oil in a small steady trickle until you have a thick, pale yellow ointment.  (See Cook’s Notes, below.)

Stir in the Verjuice, lemon juice and Tabasco and season with salt and pepper.  Place in the fridge to chill for a few hours.

To make the dressing, combine the Verjuice and olive oil in a small jar or jug.

Blanch the asparagus tips in boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes, or until just tender-crisp.  Drain then plunge into a bowl of iced water to set the colour. Leave for 3 minutes, then pat dry on a clean towel.

Put the salad leaves on four plates and arrange the prawns, asparagus and radishes on top.  Drizzle with the dressing  (give it a good shake first) and serve with the mayo and plenty of warm crusty bread.

Serves 4.

Cook’s Notes:

If your mayo ‘splits’, or does not thicken, start again with a clean bowl. Place a whole egg yolk in the bowl, whisk till creamy, and very gradually dribble on the split mayo mixture, whisking all the time, as above.  In most cases the mayo will re-emulsify.

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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Chicken Liver Paté with a Jellied Verjuice Topping

A fine, smooth chicken liver paté is a splendid starter for a celebration, and specially for a festive feast, for so many reasons.  You can make a glorious paté several days in advance; it will cost you peanuts. And because this is such a rich and indulgent snack, a little goes a long way, particularly if you have plenty of snappy little gherkins, salty capers and Melba toast or crackers.

This recipe is based on my Low-Carb Silken Chicken-Liver Pâté with Green Peppercorns, but instead of sealing the dish with clarified butter, I've topped it with a wobbling layer of sweet, tart, lightly jellied Verjuice, which contrasts beautifully with the rich metallic taste of the livers.

Chicken Liver Paté with a Jellied Verjuice Topping

Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier.  He says: "Monis Medium Cream: Traditional Flor Method" 

It looks like: The Monis look is a classic one and very clearly states the type of wine – degrees from driest to sweetest on the label. In the glass the wine is gem bright pale gold amber.

 It smells like: Barley sugar sticks and pine needles. 

 It taste like: Silky smooth. Honey. Christmas Cake spices. Touches of windfall citrus and plump raisins.

Chicken Liver Paté with a Jellied Verjuice Topping

For the paté:

500 g chicken livers, thawed
120 g salted butter
6 spring onions, white and pale green parts only, sliced
1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Verjuice
3 Tbsp (45 ml) cream
a pinch of nutmeg, to taste
salt &  milled black pepper

For the jelly: 

½ cup (125 ml) Verjuice
3 ml (a heaped half-teaspoon) powdered gelatine

To serve:
crusty fresh bread or crackers

Trim and rinse the livers, and set aside in a colander.

Melt all the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the spring onions and thyme, and cook them gently in their bath of butter for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are soft but not browned.

Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute, with out allowing it to burn. Now turn the heat up, add the livers and fry briskly for 3-5 minutes, or until the livers are lightly browned on the outside, but still rosy in the middle.

Tip the livers and their juices into a blender.  Deglaze the pan with 2 Tbsp Verjuice, stirring and scraping to dislodge any bits.  Bubble for 30 seconds, remove the thyme and pour the pan juices into the blender.

Blitz to a fine, smooth paste, then add the cream, and whizz again until just combined.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then pour into a paté dish (or individual pots), and smooth the top. Cover with clingfilm and chill for 3 hours.

To make the jelly, pour the half cup of Verjuice into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatine on top and leave to ‘sponge’ for 3 minutes. Set the bowl in a pan of simmering water, halfway up to its waist, and leave until the mixture is clear.  Allow to cool for 3 minutes, then pour the jelly over the paté in an even layer. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and black pepper, then refrigerate until the topping has set.
Serve with bread, crackers and capers.

Serves 6-8 as a snack.

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Saturday, 14 November 2015

Camembert Baked in Vine Leaves, with Verjuice-Poached Grapes

Need a gorgeous Christmas curtain-raiser? Try my jewel-bright starter, which combines hot oozing Camembert with sharp-sweet grapes lightly poached in Verjuice.  (If you don’t have fresh vine leaves, use blanched baby spinach leaves to wrap your cheese.)

Camembert Baked in Vine Leaves with Verjuice-Poached Grapes
and oven-baked croutons. (Plate by David Walters.)

Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier.  He says: "Asara Vineyard Collection Pinotage Rosé 2015." 

 It looks like: Packed in a Burgundy shaped flint bottle with a gold screwcap and elegant label. In the glass it is a beautiful dusky pink, inviting you to take a sip. 

 It smells like: Watermelon sorbet, spun sugar and roadside brambles. 

 It taste like: Fresh red and black berries, the fullness of honeydew melon, crisp, fresh and a lovely harmony right through to a long aftertaste.

This is the second in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice, and I do hope you'll put this show-stopper on your Christmas table this year. Why? You can make it well ahead of time, it doesn't take long to fling together, and it's a simple starter that draws appreciative gasps from guests.

Camembert Roasted in Vine Leaves with Verjuice-Poached Grapes

For the grapes:

1 cup Verjuice
4 large vine leaves, or 6 baby spinach leaves, stalks removed
1 Tbsp (15 ml) honey
1 large sprig of fresh thyme
a big bunch of sweet red grapes

For the cheese:

1 x 250 g just-ripe Camembert
1 sprig of fresh thyme
milled black pepper

To serve:
oven-baked crouton tatters (see Cook's Notes; below), or Melba toast

Heat the oven to 180 ºC.

First prepare the vine leaves and grapes. Pour the Verjuice into a shallow pan and bring to a simmer. Spread a large sheet of clingfilm on the counter.  Blanch the vine leaves by dipping each one in the simmering Verjuice for 10 seconds. Snip off the stalks and spread the leaves on the clingfilm to dry. If you're using baby spinach leaves, you'll need to blanch them a little longer - they should be soft and floppy.

Add the honey and thyme sprig to the pan, then lay the bunch of grapes in the pan, on its side. Poach at a gentle simmer for about 7 minutes, turning the bunch often, or until the skin is splitting and fruit is just beginning to collapse. Remove the grapes and set aside to drain in a colander.

Turn up the heat and boil the Verjuice until it has reduced by about half, and is thickened and glossy. Set this syrup aside.

Cut an X shape across the top of the Camembert, about 5mm deep, and push a few sprigs of thyme into the slits, using the back of a knife.  Wrap the cheese in the blanched vine leaves.  Set the cheese on a sheet of baking paper, wrap up to a loose parcel, and secure with kitchen string or raffia.

Place on a baking sheet and bake at 180 ºC for 7-12 minutes, or until the cheese feels very soft and oozy.

Remove the baking paper, and place on a platter.  Arrange the poached grapes around the cheese, drizzle them with the Verjuice syrup, and serve immediately with crisp golden croutons (see below) or Melba toast.

Serves 4 as a starter or snack.

Cook's Notes:

To make oven-baked crouton tatters, heat the oven to 190 °C, fan on. Tear a day-old baguette, or white rolls, into big rough scraps, and arrange them on a non-stick baking tray.  Drizzle very lightly with olive oil, toss well to and bake for 7-10 minutes, or until they're golden brown and crunchy.  Put the croutons on a wire rack and allow to cool - they will stay crisp for a few hours, depending on the humidity in your kitchen.

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Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Cold Cucumber, Herb & Yoghurt Soup with Verjuice Granita

I hope you'll enjoy this cold yoghurty cucumber soup, topped with feathery flakes of frozen Verjuice. With its lovely contrast of herbal creaminess and sweet, crunchy acidity, this is a splendid starter for a blazing day. There are deep, clean, singing flavours here that make you want to drink it in buckets, as if it is exactly what your body craves.  This low-carb recipe is suitable for diabetics.

Cold Cucumber, Herb & Yoghurt Soup with Verjuice Granita 

Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier.  He says: "Klein Constantia Metis Sauvignon Blanc 2014." 

 It looks like: Packed in the bottle embossed with the Constantia logo, the fusion of philosophies is reflected in the flower on the label that is a hybrid of the South African Protea and French Iris. In the glass a pale gold with green amber flashes. 

 It smells like: Pure classical good Sauvignon aromas. White fleshed peaches and nectarines. Grapefruit oil. 

 It taste like: Rich, vibrant palate. Generous fruit, blackcurrant leaves, almost savoury. Minerals present in the exciting lime squirt in the long aftertaste. This is a laster if well stored could go up to 8 years after vintage.

I've had fun this month developing a series of new recipes using Verjuice, and this is the first of nine. Are you familiar with Verjuice?  It's a delicate, slightly tart, somewhat sweet, unfermented juice made from unripe grapes, popular as an acidulating agent in Roman times and the Middle Ages.

In recent times, this ingredient's been revived by Maggie Beer, one of Australia's best-loved cooks, food writers and restaurateurs. My aunt, the brilliant Gilly Walters of Wedgewood Nougat fame, introduced me to this ingredient some years ago, and I always have a bottle of it in my kitchen. What I love about Verjuice is that it doesn't have any of the throat-raspiness of vinegar - it's a gentle ingredient that sings sweetly in the background.

Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some of my new Verjuice recipes with you, and I hope they encourage you to experiment with this intriguing ingredient over the festive season (you'll find it at Woolies).

When I first wrote this recipe down, I recommended serving it immediately, but I found that its flavour developed and mellowed over the next day, so feel free to make it up to 24 hours in advance (but keep it in the fridge, tightly covered, in a non-metallic bowl).

Make sure the serving bowls are very well chilled, or make pretty ice bowls in which to serve this beautiful starter.

Cold Cucumber, Herb & Yoghurt Soup with Verjuice Granita 

For the granita:

½ cup (125 ml) Verjuice

For the soup:

2 chilled English cucumbers (about 700 g)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Verjuice
1 cup (250 ml) Greek yoghurt
1 small clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup (80 ml) chopped curly parsley
1/3 cup (80 ml) chopped chives
3 Tbsp (45 ml) chopped dill
1 tsp (5 ml) Tabasco sauce
3 Tbsp (45 ml) cream
salt & milled black pepper

First make the granita.  Pour the Verjuice into a small metal pan and freeze for 45-90 minutes, or until just frozen - the time it takes will depend on how efficient your freezer is.  Use a fork to scratch and scrape at the surface to create light, feathery crystals. Return the dish to the freezer.

Lightly peel the cucumbers, leaving a little green skin here and there. Roughly chop and place in a food processor with all the remaining ingredients, except the cream and seasoning.  Whizz until very smooth. Now stir in the cream and season to taste with salt and plenty of black pepper.

Serve immediately in chilled bowls, topping each serving with a heaped spoonful of Verjuice granita, plus a scattering of chives or dill fronds.

Serves 4.  

(Note/Disclaimer:  I was paid a professional fee to develop these recipes and supply photographs, but this fee did not include featuring them on my blog and elsewhere. This I do because I'm pleased with these dishes and want to share them with you.)

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Sunday, 23 August 2015

Easy Upside-Down Pear & Almond Cake

A light, almond-scented cake that's best served warm with clouds of whipped cream, and preferably on a Sunday afternoon when the rain is pelting down and Monday's looming like an unwelcome house guest. This doesn't take much effort to make, and to make it even easier, I've used tinned pears. You can, of course, buy fresh pears, peel them and poach them, but why go to all this effort? I'm a huge fan of South African tinned fruit, which in my opinion is of outstanding quality.

Shower your Pear Cake with toasted, flaked almonds & icing sugar.

The first time I tested this recipe I used a sponge-cake formula, but despite its high butter content it was curiously dry. The second time, I went with a lighter, fat-free batter, which puffed up beautifully and was still airy the next day, when the cake had cooled and was dispatched to school and work in various lunchboxes. Another tweak I made to the second version was using double the quantity of tinned pears.

There are four watchpoints in this recipe: first, be sure to line your tin properly with baking paper, to prevent the cake burning and sticking at the edges.  Second, take your time beating the eggs and sugar to the ribbon stage - the mixture should be very pale, thick and fluffy before you add the flour. It's fairly quick to do this if you have an electric whisk or similar appliance, but if you are making this by hand you will need to put in a lot of elbow grease.

Third, don't be tempted to open the oven until about three-quarters of the way through the baking time. After that, you can take the occasional peek.  If you notice that the cake is browning too quickly in certain areas, rotate the tin (I have to do this as my oven has notorious hot spots), and cover it with a loose dome of tin foil.

Finally, don't over-scent your cake. Good almond extract has a powerful flavour, and must be used sparingly.  If you can't find proper extract, and you're using synthetic supermarket essence, I suggest you add a few drops at a time, tasting the mixture as you go.

Easy Upside-Down Pear and Almond Cake

2 x 820 g tins of pear halves
4 large free-range eggs
1½ cups (375 ml) caster sugar
1½ cups (375 ml) cake flour
2 tsp (10 ml) baking powder
a pinch of salt
3/4 cup (180 ml) milk
½ tsp (2.5 ml) almond extract 

For the glaze & topping: 

½ cup (125 ml) reserved pear juice (see recipe)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) smooth apricot jam
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
a handful of toasted almond flakes
whipped cream

Heat the oven to 170° C, fan on, or 180° C if your oven has no fan.

Open the tins of pears and drain the fruit for ten minutes in a colander set over a large bowl.  Reserve the pear juice.

Now prepare your tin. Generously butter the sides and bottom of a non-stick 23-cm springform cake tin. Cut a circle of baking paper to the same size as the base, press it down firmly, and spread a thin film of butter over it. Now cut a long strip of baking paper to roughly the same width as the height of the tin, and use it to line the sides of the tin.  Butter the baking paper.

Neatly arrange the drained pear halves on top of the paper-lined base of the cake tin, cut-side down and narrow ends pointing to the centre. If you like, you can tuck a whole blanched almond into the hollow of each pear.  Slice any extra pears in half, lengthways, and arrange them over the top.

Put the eggs and caster sugar into a big bowl and whisk at high speed with a hand-held rotary beater or similar appliance until the mixture has almost doubled in volume and is very pale, thick and fluffy.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the egg mixture, and gently stir until everything is well combined. Now stir in the milk and almond essence to create a fairly slack batter.

Pour the mixture all over the pears, and gently shake the pan so the batter penetrates to the bottom of the tin. One sharp tap on the counter will allow any bubbles to escape.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the cake is well risen, firm to the touch, and a wooden skewer pushed into the cake comes out dry.

Paint the warm glaze all over the top of the cake.
While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze. Put 125 ml (half a cup) of the reserved pear juice into a saucepan and cook over a high heat for about 5 minutes, or until it has reduced by half. Now stir in the apricot jam and bubble over a medium heat for another 5 minutes, or until the mixture is syrupy and producing big, lazy bubbles. Add a spritz of lemon juice and let the mixture cool to lukewarm.

When the cake is ready, put the tin on your counter, wait for three minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen it.  Release the spring.

Put a plate on top of the tin, turn it over, then remove the base and carefully peel off the baking paper.

Using a pastry brush, paint the warm glaze all over the top, letting it dribble down the sides of the cake.

Scatter the toasted almonds over the top, sift over a little icing sugar and serve warm, with whipped cream.

Serves 8. 

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Saturday, 15 August 2015

#RealFood For Kids: Low-Carb 'Grannies in Blankets'

This is a new twist on a beloved South African dish: Ouma Onder Die Komberse. Big, juicy meatballs are flavoured with nutmeg, onion and lemon zest, wrapped in soft cabbage ‘blankets’, then baked in a creamy lemon sauce.

The paragraph above comes directly from just-published Real Food: Healthy, Happy Children, by Kath Megaw (Quivertree, 2015), and I'm honoured to have been asked to contribute some of my low-carb recipes to the book.

South African paediatric dietician Kath Megaw is a leading fundi on low-carb and ketogenic diets for children. "Wait!" I hear you cry. "Low carb for kids?" Yes, that's right, but I can assure you that this is not some faddish, irresponsible book leaping onto the banting bandwagon. It's a painstakingly researched, well-informed, sensible guide that advocates a return to real, 'living' food using the wholesome unprocessed ingredients so familiar to our grandparents.

If you're looking to banish sugar, stodge and boxed foods from your family's diet, you've found the only guide you'll ever need, whether you're pregnant, or feeding a baby, or a coping with teens who have hollow legs. If you still need convincing, click here to listen to a podcast of Kath talking about her book, and here to read more about her low-carb philosophy.  

When I first picked up my copy of this hefty 300-page book at last week's launch, I was astonished at how much detailed information is packed between the pages. It's bursting with tips, tricks and accurate nutritional info, with lovely photographs and illustrations adding whimsy along the way. Journalist and cookery writer Daisy Jones, who wrote the text, has a chatty yet precise style, and she's brilliantly conveyed Kath's 20 years of clinical experience in this field.

What's pleased me so much about contributing to this project  is seeing my name on the same line as Phillippa Cheifitz's.  Phillippa, who wrote many of the gorgeous recipes in the book, is one of the grande dames of South African cookery writing, and I have greatly admired her since I cooked my way through her inspiring Cosmopolitan Cookbook in my twenties.

I hauled my tattered, cake-spattered copy of that book to the launch, and my day was complete when Phillippa graciously signed it for me, 29 years after I bought it.

I'm so looking forward to trying the recipes on my own family - specially the mouth-watering treats from the party food section.  (My beloveds feel so deprived of puds these days.)

Nutty Exploding Apples with Vanilla Custard: another of my recipes
from  Real Food: Healthy, Happy Children

Now to the recipe. I've used a Swedish-style creamy sauce to cloak these cabbage-wrapped meatballs, but you could also bake them in a fresh tomato sauce.  Meatballs tend to be a little dense when they don't contain breadcrumbs, but I've found that a big dollop of natural Greek yoghurt helps to tenderise them. This #LCHF recipe is suitable for diabetics.

Low-Carb 'Grannies in Blankets' 

12 outer leaves from a cabbage (or baby savoy leaves)
2 lemons
salt and milled pepper, to taste
1 large onion, peeled
900g beef mince
1 extra-large free-range egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated
3 tbsp thick Greek yoghurt
1½ tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 cup cream
4 tbsp finely chopped parsley
butter, for greasing

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (fan off).
2. Trim away the thick lower ‘ribs’ of the cabbage leaves. Bring a large saucepan of water to a
rolling boil, then add a wedge of lemon and a pinch of salt. Plunge the leaves into the water,
partially cover with a lid and blanch for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the leaves are wilted.
3. Drain (reserving the poaching water), then run the leaves under cold water for 3 minutes and
set aside to drain further.
4. Grate the onion on the fine tooth of a grater to create a soft, juicy pulp. Tip this into a large
mixing bowl and add the mince, egg, garlic, yoghurt, nutmeg and the zest of 1 lemon, plus
seasoning. Combine the mixture well using your hands., then roll the mince into 12 balls, each
about the size of a golf ball.
5. Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and brown the meatballs on all sides, in batches,
over a medium-high heat – this should only take a few minutes per side as they should be nicely
caramelised, but still raw on the inside. Set the meatballs aside on a plate.
6. Turn up the heat and add the vinegar, plus half a cup of the cabbage poaching liquid. Let this
mixture bubble vigorously for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it has reduced by half.
7. Remove the pan from the heat, wait a minute, then stir in the cream. Return the pan to a
medium heat and let the sauce bubble for 1 minute, stirring now and then, until it has slightly
thickened. Now stir in the juice of half a lemon and the parsley and set aside.
8. Pat the cabbage leaves very dry on kitchen paper. Tuck a leaf around each meatball and arrange
in a buttered baking dish. Pour the sauce around and over the cabbage parcels and cover the dish
loosely with tin foil. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the ‘grannies’ are cooked right through.

Serves 4-6 Per serving: energy: 514 kcal protein: 33g fat: 39g carbs: 7g ratio: 1.0 :1

Recipe courtesy of Quivertree Publications

More of my meatball recipes:

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