It doesn’t get much easier than this – try your hand at making Labneh this weekend.

Although Labneh is often referred to as Lebanese cream cheese, it is more of a soft “yogurt-cheese” in my book. You get the wonderful yogurt tang and all the healthy elements plus the benefit that it can withstand relatively high cooking temperatures. It also looks pretty on a plate, is super creamy and packed with protein.

It is such a wonderful, versatile  ingredient and sò simple to make – you should really give this middle eastern specialty a try!

Use it as a spread with honey and nuts, as an added protein element to salads, to brighten up your cheese- or antipasto platter or simply have it with fruit. It can also be stirred into curries / middle eastern dishes at the last minute for a creamy effect and is a perfect partner to almost any cooked greens and legumes.

You only need 2 ingredients:

  • 1L plain yogurt. I find that my home made yogurt takes longer to strain than shop bought, and prefer to use double cream (full fat) yogurt for this dish.
  • A large pinch of salt , preferably flaky salt like Maldon.

How you do it:

  • Stir the salt into the yogurt.
  • Place a large sieve over a container to catch up the liquids.
  • Line the sieve with cheesecloth / chux cloth / a tea towel with some cloth hanging over the sides.
  • Pour the yogurt into the cloth-lined sieve.
  • Gather the corners of the cloth together, give it a tight twist and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • **I do not discard the liquid, and use it in baking or smoothies**

Spoon the lovely fresh Labneh  into blows and crown with some good olive oil, fresh herbs and lots of freshly cracked black pepper.

OR roll into small balls. Refrigerate the balls, uncovered for another two hours to dry out some more.

Place the balls in sterilised jar, add a few sprigs of herbs and a clove or  two of garlic,  cover with olive oil, seal and store for up to 4 months.

OR roll them in some Black pepper, Sumac, dried chilli flakes, Dukkah, finely grated lemon peel, chopped fresh herbs or nuts and store in the fridge for up to two days. Drizzled with some olive oil, this is my favourite way of serving these embellished beauties.

 

 

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Naughty but nice: my fail-proof Peach Frangipane.

frangipane7How to pronounce it: fran-jee-pan-ee.

I say that it’s a bit naughty, because the original recipe contains sugar as well as wheat. I am currently working on a gluten free, sugar free version, but am still trying to perfect the tart shell and will keep you posted. The nice part really does not need any explanation…the smell filling your kitchen is worth the bake by itself!

Luckily all the sugar in this recipe can be replaced 1:1 with Xylitol. YEAY!

**For the powdered / confectioners sugar – simply blitz 1 cup of Xylitol + 1 Tbs of cornflour together in a food processor,  measure out the required quantity and store the remainder in an airtight container.**

Not to be confused with the Frangipani plant (Plumeria), in the Pastry Kitchen,  a  Frangipane is typically a filling made from, or flavored with almonds.

The origin of its name seems to be shrouded in secrecy, however. Directly translated from  Italian it literately means “that breaks the bread”, which does not make a lot of scene, so some references credit it to its most probable inventor – a Roman nobleman with the family name Frangipane, who later became a perfumer to Louis XIII of France.

frangipane2It might seem like quite a sizable recipe, but it is actually just a few very easy steps and is absolutely fail-proof.

What you need

Tart shell:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered icing sugar OR Xylitol sugar free replacement **
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 130g butter,  cut into small dice and refrigerated
  • 1 egg yolk (reserve the egg white for the filling)

 

Poached peaches:

  • 2 cups water
  • ¾ cup sugar OR Xylitol
  • ½ lemon, juice and peel
  • 1 vanilla pod split open OR 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • A large pinch of salt
  • 5  ripe peaches OR pears / apples / cherries / plumbs to make up the same volume

 

Frangipane- the tart filling:

  • 85g  softened butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar / Xylitol
  • 3/4 cup almond flour / ground blanched almonds
  • 2 teaspoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 XL egg plus 1 egg white reserved from crust
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract

How to poach the peaches:

Place the water, sugar, lemon juice and peel, cinnamon stick, vanilla and salt in a saucepan bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Halve and stone the peaches. Softly lower the peaches in the simmering liquid and poach over a low heat until they are soft – it takes around 8-10 minutes. Leave the peaches to cool down in the poaching liquid. *If you find yourself with some very clingy stones, simply poach the peaches whole and add a few minutes to the cooking time*

How to make the tart shell: 

Place the flour, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse again until the butter is evenly distributed. Add the egg yolk and combine in several pulses until the dough starts to turn from dry to clumpy. It happens very quickly – don’t overwork it! As soon as you can press a few clumps together to form a dough, you are good to go.

Tip the dough into a buttered loose bottomed 22cm tart tin and evenly press into the bottom and up the sides with your fingers. (Work softy like a little kitten walking on  thick grass to avoid a dense crust :- ). Freeze the tart shell for 30 minutes. Butter a piece of tin foil on the “dull side” and press lightly onto the frozen tart shell (shiny side up in other words). Bake in a pre-heated oven @ 180°C for 23-25 minutes, remove from the oven, remove the foil and leave to cool on a wire rack.

How to make the frangipane:

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth.

 To finish the tart: 

Spread the frangipane evenly into the cooled tart shell.

Remove the poached peaches from their liquid and drain  on paper towels. Cut each peach into medium thick slices, carefully arrange onto the frangipane covering it evenly .

Bake @ 180°C for 40-42 minutes in a pre-heated oven.

Enjoy the tart slightly warm or at room temperature with creme fraiche or whipped cream and add some fresh berries to make it even more lush.

You may say “what-the-aquafaba?!” & then try my creamy 2-minute Green Princess dressing.

greenlandscapeThere has been a lot of talk about winning and losing; some prince’s new romance; elections; things that must fall and then some more election talk lately.

Luckily there has been a lot of talk about aquafaba as well.

Aquafaba is simply the cooking liquid of beans and other legumes.

green dressing wow2.pngIn short, the name of this magic ingredient was only coined about a year ago, after two guys by the names of  Joël Roessel and Goose Wohlt experimented  with some chickpea cooking liquids and discovered their similarity to eggs in cooking.

  • Aqua = WATER
  • Faba = BEAN

Great! Now that we’ve got the Latin sorted..This protein- and starch rich liquid is currently widely used in vegan and vegetarian recipes. Canned chickpea liquid, for instance, makes a fabulous vegan mayonnaise alternative.  In my opinion  it can’t really be called a mayonnaise unless it’s an egg-emulsion, so maybe we should stick to calling it a veganaise?

It can also replace eggs in vegan meringues (yes, really!) and cakes , can be used as a thickening agent in stews and soups and acts as a foaming agent in dairy free mousses.

green-princessMy Green Princess Dressing is a perfect way of using chickpea cooking liquid to add protein AND flavour. PLUS it makes me feel good as there is less wastage.

How to do it:

Simply add all the ingredients to a blender / food processor and blitz until foamy. It takes literally 2-3 minutes. Alternatively use a stick blender and a pulse action to get the same results.

*It might seem like a lot of oil, but yields almost 4 cups of creamy, green, vegan goodness.

 

 

What you need:

  • The reserved liquid of one can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • ¼ can of  chickpeas
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Juice and grated peel of ½ lemon
  • 2 tsp whole grain mustard
  • A small handful of fresh leafy herbs (I used flat leaf parsley and basil)
  • ¾ cup of neutral tasting oil (olive oil is not a good choice in this case)
  • 10 capers
  • A large pinch of salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1tsp  Xylitol or sugar – optional

*Store refrigerated.

The dressing was wonderful with some chilled roasted veggies and pasta as a meat free salad.

green6

Read more on this fabulous find:

http://aquafaba.com/

Have a look at how easy it is to make the veganaise and Coconut Craze’s recipe: https://coconutcraze.wordpress.com/2015/08/27/aquafaba-mayonnaise-eggless-mayonnaise/

 

 

Here’s your ticket! Plus my recipe for THE BEST EVER pineapple in coconut milk (Pacri Nanas).

permissionI know that it’s not quite weekend yet.

But I’m giving you this ticket now, so that you can plan ahead and have some time off over the weekend. Looking forward already? pineappleeThis is how it works: Cook something quick, luscious and easy like this yummy pineapple stir fry ahead and on the day that you would like to redeem your ticket, simply delegate someone to slip something on the barbie , trust the little ones to plate some simple salad ingredients, sit back and enjoy. Job done.

Giving yourself a break and a treat at the same time?  Now, thát sounds like just the business to me!

This simple, but utterly delicious pineapple dish is part condiment, part side dish and part celestial belle. You’ll hear them sing…just trust me.

It is perfect, served:

  •  as part of a cheese / charcuterie board
  • as an accompaniment too  grilled / poached chicken or fish
  • dolloped on french toast
  • a sambal with curries
  • straight from the jar with a glass of Muscato late at night. Say no more.

pineappleaWhat you need:

  • 3 Tbl coconut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 LARGE / 2 small pineapples, peeled and sliced
  • 1 can of coconut milk (about 400ml)
  • 3 Tbl raw sugar / Xilytol
  • ½  tsp salt
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 (5cm) cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 3 cardamoms, bruised
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp aniseed
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 small red chilli, chopped (or to taste)
  • Additional salt and black pepper to taste

How you do it:

  1. Heat the coconut oil over a low heat and sauté the garlic and shallots until soft.
  2. Add the pineapple plus any juices and stir fry over a medium high heat for 3 minutes.
  3. Add the coconut milk, sugar, salt and spices and simmer over a low heat for about 8 minutes
  4. Sprinkle with the chillies and black pepper, simmer for another two minutes and check for seasoning. (add a sprinkle more salt if required)
  5. Remove the whole spices (cinnamon, cardamom and cloves) and serve at room temperature.

*store, refrigerated for up to one week

pineappleb

 

 

 

 

 

Coastal foraging and why Wrack is my new favourite ingredient.

foraged*Firstly- I would like to apologize for the quality of some of the pictures in this post, but I felt that I still wanted to still share them with you, flaws and all.

What a wonderful world!

I was extremely fortunate to attend a Coastal Foraging course arranged by Veld and Sea this weekend.

This indescribable experience reminded me once again:

  • that nature provides us with everything we need
  • what a glorious place we live in and
  • exactly HOW MUCH we need to do anything possible to stay connected.

The day was hosted by foodie-forager, Roushanna Gray, who is in my mind part fynbos forest fairy and part mermaid.

She freely shared her extensive knowledge on the sustainable collecting methods, applications and cooking techniques of Sea lettuce; Wrack; Nori; Tongue weed; Spotted mazella; different species of  mussels; sea urchin and loads of other aquatic creatures on the rock pools of the breathtaking conservation village of Scarborough.

Collected treasures in hand, we set off to the classroom at their Good Hope Gardens Nursery where more demonstrations, tips, hands-on cooking and a leisurely alfresco lunch followed.

Get inspired and find out how you can impact your life and the environment & live healthier and happier @ https://goodhopenursery.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have your (GLUTEN- & SUGAR FREE) cake and eat it too. Dressing up is optional.

gluten-fSome like it hot, some like it not…

Whether you dress up this sweet little thing or have it au naturale, you are sure to fall in love with this easy,  GLUTEN FREE, REFINED SUGAR FREE vanilla loaf cake recipe. You are welcome to substitute the Xylitol for castor sugar if you feel like sweetening things up.

Plain, just out of the oven this cake is ás inviting as dressed up with some pretty little extras and crowned with a shard of gold leaf.

Have some fun in the kitchen this weekend! Play around with toppings, sides and accessories and please share the pics of your version of this versatile jane cake – I would LOVE to see it!

Her are some ideas to get you in the mood (including a few not-so-sugar-free options).

Adorn her with some berries, Turkish delight, creme fraiche and toasted pistachio nuts.

gluten29

Treat him to a spread of grapefruit- or lemon curd, passion fruit, clotted cream and meringues.gluten19

Keep it sugar free with only strawberries and cream (OR Chantilly cream and a berry coulis if you feel opulent)

gluten27

Take it to the next level with a little Chocolate Hazelnut spread, fresh cream and toasted hazelnuts with a swirl of Frangelico on the side.

What you need:

  • 200g butter
  • 170g Xilytol (or castor sugar)
  • 3 eggs
  • 65g almond flour
  • 130g rice flour
  • 1½ tsp (gluten free) baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract / paste

How to do it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180° C.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar. The fluffier and paler, the softer and finer your end-result would be- so give it a good go.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition.
  4. Mix in the almond flour; rice flour;  baking powder; salt and vanilla until just incorporated.
  5. Pour into a prepared loaf tin and bake for 35 minutes on the middle rack of the oven.
  6. Cool down for 5 minutes in the tin before turning out on a cooling rack.

 

 

“Raw butternut?” you ask. What makes you a happy camper?

 

mike-blog-7

What is that ONE thing you can not go camping without?

You can ask this question to 100 people (even non-campers..ha-ha) and get 102 different answers.

I am quite a late bloomer when it comes to camping. Well, rather a really, really late bloomer. Growing up we did lots of wonderful things, but camping was simply not one of them.

Was I in for a ride when I met my then-soon-to-be husband!  It was more like “in for an expedition”. He came as the proprietor of a handsome 4×4, a well kitted camper-van (‘n karavaan)  and an equally handsome sense of adventure. Can you feel that something huge is about to happen?

He swayed me softly, introduced me to my first real camping holiday and got me hooked. Enough said. It was more glamping than camping that first holiday, but who’s counting? Lots and lots more of adventures followed and I am very proud to say that you can definitely take me to the proverbial “anywhere”,  except for meat- & fish markets or a slave museum- I do not fare very well at those .

Back to beautiful things – on one of these blissful trips I made a butternut slaw that soon became a camping staple. It simply goes with ..everything. It sits happily as a side for the carnivores at a braai and brightens up any vegetarian main. It travels well if you want to make it at home beforehand and lasts for as long as nobody finds out that it’s in the fridge.

This slaw is now a close second to THAT ONE THING that I cannot go camping without. It might just become yours too. Try it out.

Oh  – and PLEASE  DO go on that adventure – I promise you that it is worth it  ;- )

 

What you need:

  • 1 small red onion – peeled and sliced very thinly
  • 3 Tbl vinegar (I use white wine vinegar)
  • 2 Tbl sugar / sugar replacement like Xilytol
  • 1 small butternut
  • 3 Tbl olive oil
  • About 20 fresh curry leaves
  • A thumbsize of fresh ginger – grated
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Black pepper to taste

How you do it:

  1. Combine the sliced onion, vinegar and sugar. Leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the butternut.
  2. Peel and grate the butternut. (or julienne with that nifty little julienne cutter if you have one)
  3. Warm the olive oil in a small pot until very hot.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the curry leaves. They will splatter for a few seconds and release their heavenly aroma.
  5. Pour the hot oil and leaves over the butternut, mix in the fresh ginger and set aside.
  6. Once the butternut have cooled down, mix in the onions and all of the marinating juices, add the salt and season with black pepper to taste.

That’s it!

The slaw makes a great filling for a wrap / toasted pita bread. I like to combine it with some toasted & spiced chickpeas; avo (obviously :- ); soft lettuce and thick yogurt.

slaw198

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retro date ball revival – (ditching the sugar and NOT hitting the wall).

dateballs8Bonk” is a cycling term , also known as “hitting the wall“. It means you’ve run out of energy due to glycogen depletion (glycogen is the fuel that’s stored in your muscles).

Endurance athletes who skimp on food or hydration often bonk and need rest, H²O and high-carb foods to recover. Side effects vary but can mean serious muscle cramping and mental fogginess.*

Snacking on these super crunchy date balls are just the thing to curb the risk as they are crammed full of protein; vitamins; iron; potassium and magnesium as well as loads of other nutritional goodies and are low in sodium and cholesterol.

Sounds good already, hey? On top of that and they are also gluten- and refined sugar free. Did I mention super yummy, chewy, crunchy, and sweet all in one bite?

PLEASE NOTE: I am aware that  my method of toasting the millet might seem a little unorthodox, but after LOTS of experimenting, I find it the best way to achieve a super crunch, while still half-cooking the millet in the shortest time possible.

date 14.jpg

What you need:

  • 2 cups soft dates – pitted
  • ½ cup strong rooibos tea / boiling water
  • 2 Tbl coconut oil
  • ½ cup millet
  • ¼ cup boiling water
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit  (I use a mix of dried apricot and apple)
  • ½ cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  •  To coat: coconut shards / raw cacao powder / crushed nuts / seeds.

Here is how:

  1. Pour the tea / boiling water over the dates and set aside.
  2. Heat 1 Tbl coconut oil in a large pan until VERY HOT.
  3. Pour the millet into the pan and turn down the heat to medium.
  4. Shake and stir and swirl the millet around until they start changing colour – about 5 minutes. Keep them moving, as they burn very easily. (The pretty little groups they form while toasting reminds me very much of the kaleidoscopes we had as kids. Do you see that? If you don’t see pictures forming or even remotely understand what I am talking about or where born after 1975, don’t worry about it..just keep swirling)
  5. Once they are lightly toasted, pour ¼ cup boiling water into the pan. Immediately cover with a lid and listen. As soon as the sizzling stop, remove the lid and stir and shake once again until the grains are completely dry. You will start getting that toasty smell..hmm..If you think they are dry enough, shake and stir for another two minutes just to be sure ;- ). They have to be completely dry to remain crunchy.
  6. Set aside to cool.
  7. Place the dates with their soaking liquid and 1 Tbl coconut oil in a food processor and blitz until smooth.
  8. Mix together the date puree, coconut, chopped dried fruit, vanilla, cinnamon and cooled millet.
  9. Refrigerate / freeze for 30 minutes to firm up.
  10.  Remove from the freezer / fridge and roll into truffle sized balls
  11. Roll around in raw cacao powder / coconut shards / coating of your choice.
  12. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Keeps up to 5 days in the fridge

-makes 24 amazing little balls-

Quickie veggie bake for 2

veg-rolls-eat-orange

You need the following FOR every 2 PEOPLE, simply double- of triple up to make more.

  • 3 zucchini (courgette,  baby marrow)
  • 1 fat carrot
  • ½ cup of chopped canned tomatoes
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • ½tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbl water
  • Fresh / dried herbs
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 round Feta cheese
  • Basil pesto to serve

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C
  2. Evenly spread the chopped tomatoes on the bottom of individual ramekins or one large roasting tin.
  3. Slice the vegetables with a vegetable peeler to make long ribbons. Roll up and arrange on top of the tomatoes. (A tight fit does a good job in this case).
  4. Sprinkle with water, oil, vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes until soft.
  6. Top with crumbled Feta cheese and loads of basil pesto.
  7. Optional: garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Serve warm with couscous as a main or as a side dish to roasted chicken, sausages or fish .