Double chocolate brownies and a chat with Sam Taylor

In a perfect world I would have hours and hours of free time to spend reading food blogs. I love discovering a beautiful blog, getting inspired by the recipes and images, and finding out a little bit more about the author. I first came across Pomegranate Days a few months ago, around about the time I started Cupcakes and Couscous. I was immediately drawn in by the friendly tone of the writing, the stunning images and the mouth-watering recipes. I knew I had found a gem!


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Caramelised beetroot tartlets with salmon trout and lentil stacks


So what would you make with a bunch of fresh beetroot, brown lentils, puff pastry, cream cheese, cucumber and smoked salmon trout? This was my final challenge in the Freshly Blogged campaign.


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Tapas à la Miro

Just over a week ago I received the details of the 8th challenge in the Freshly Blogged competition which I have been participating in since June. Each week the contestants are given a list of ingredients and a few days to create, cook and photograph a dish using these ingredients. The public have a chance to view the recipes online and vote for their favourites, and each week a panel of judges send a few of the contestants to the chopping block, as it were.

Week 8’s challenge entitled “Eat Your Art Out” had me scratching my head for a while. The ingredients we were given were superb and well suited – a whole chicken, chorizo sausage, potatoes, onion, garlic, lemon and sherry. We were told, however, that the recipe and styling had to be inspired by art – an interesting twist!

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Roasted butternut and rice pizza

This week we got back to basics with a new challenge in the Freshly Blogged campaign. Round 7 saw us presented with a list of some of my favourite kitchen staples – butternut, leeks, tinned tomatoes, fresh thyme, rice and a baguette. I almost always have these ingredients on hand, they are the building blocks of many of my favourite meals. The challenge here would be to combine them in an interesting and creative way. And including rice, baguette and butternut in one delicious carbo-loaded dish was going to require some thought!

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Dinner party feast – chicken liver ravioli and double chocolate meringue cake

The Freshly Blogged competition is in its 6th week already, wow! This week’s challenge was sponsored by Robertsons Spices and it was a double whammy with a brief that said that we had to create two dishes, both containing cayenne pepper and cinnamon. The other ingredients we had to use were chicken livers, cream and white chocolate, and we could also include any three fresh ingredients and two grocery items.

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Pear, rosemary and almond praline tart with chocolate and Amarula sauce

Pear and almond praline tart with chocolate ganache
The 5th challenge in the Freshly Blogged competition had all the bloggers excited because it was a sweet challenge for a change. Personally, I was thrilled as this was just what I had been hoping for! The ingredients list was a cook’s dream, with a myriad of recipe options to choose from: Amarula cream, dark chocolate, pears, blanched almonds and cream crackers. The challenge also stipulated that the dish had to include a custard based recipe. The hardest part of the challenge was deciding what dish to make! In the end I decided on a pear and rosemary tart, filled with almond praline pastry cream and served with a chocolate Amarula drizzling sauce.

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Pan Fried Pilchards with Veggie Timbales and Brown Rice Salad

Week 4 of the Freshly Blogged challenge saw us presented with a rather interesting, and I’ll admit, challenging list of ingredients. The shopping list looked a little something like this: cabbage, tinned pilchards, feta cheese, green beans and brown rice. We were not allowed to omit anything on the list and the dish had to be cooked on the stove top, so grilled pilchards was not an option! We were also not allowed to include any grocery items – just 2 fresh ingredients (fruit, veg or herbs) as well as the approved pantry items. 

This was not going to be easy! I considered various options including cabbage rolls and paella… but with so many different and dominant flavours on the ingredients list I decided that throwing them all together and hoping for the best was not the best way forward. Instead, I opted to keep things simple – combining the flavours that worked well together. 

I chose to add cherry tomatoes and carrots as my fresh ingredients. Tomatoes to add flavour to and compliment the feta in the brown rice salad. Carrots to add colour contrast and a touch of sweetness to the vegetable timbales. Added to that a selection of aromatic spices and suddenly a seemingly odd collection of ingredients became an incredibly tasty meal! 

There was yet another first for me this week. I love a fresh piece of fish but have never cooked with tinned pilchards before. I was pleasantly surprised and urge you to try them if you haven’t done so. 

This is not a traditional timbale recipe, which usually includes cream. I wasn’t able to include this so had to improvise a little and decided to add a basic white sauce instead – luckily it worked out! You don’t have to stick to the same vegetables as me when it comes to making the timbales. Try butternut, chickpeas and red peppers – the more colourful the better!

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Serves 4

For the vegetable timbales:

250g peeled carrots, thinly sliced
220g cabbage leaves, shredded
250g green beans
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup milk
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 egg yolks
For the brown rice salad:

pinch of saffron
1 tablespoon warm water
1 cup brown rice
1 tablespoon olive oil + 2 tablespoons for dressing
pinch of salt
3 cups water
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
120g plain feta

For the pilchards:

1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1/4 teaspoon medium curry powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1 x 400g tin Lucky Star pilchards in tomato sauce
salt and pepper

To prepare the vegetable timbales:

Step 1.) Steam the carrot slices and cabbage until tender.

Step 2.) Top, tail and slice the green beans. Boil in salted water for 6 minutes or until soft.
Step 3.) Use a food processor or stick blender to purée the vegetable seperately. Set them aside while you make the white sauce.

Step 4.) Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute.

Step 5.) Take the saucepan off the heat and gradually whisk in the milk. Add a pinch of a salt and the nutmeg. Whisk over a medium heat until the sauce bubbles and thickens.

Step 6.) Divide the white sauce between the three puréed vegetables and mix in. Mix an egg yolk into each purée.

Step 7.) Return the green bean purée to the stove and heat for a few minutes to thicken slightly.

Step 8.) Divide the cabbage purée between four well greased dariole moulds. Smooth the top with a teaspoon so you have an even layer.

Step 9.) Next add a layer of carrot purée, remembering to smooth the top.

Step 10.) Add the green bean purée next. Smooth the top so that the purée goes right to the edges of the mould.

Step 11.) Cover each mould with a piece of tin foil. Place the moulds in a deep saucepan and carefully add hot water to the pan. The water should come halfway up the sides of the moulds. Cover the saucepan and allow to simmer for an hour, or until the timbales have set.

Step 12.) To serve: invert a dariole mould onto a plate. Give the plate a good shake, carefully lift the mould and the timbale should come out easily.

To prepare the brown rice salad:

Step 1.) Soak the saffron in a tablespoon of warm water for a few minutes.

Step 2.) Put the rice, a tablespoon of olive oil, saffron and a pinch of salt in a pot. Add the water. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer with the lid on for 40 minutes or until cooked. 

Step 3.) Whisk the brown sugar with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Step 4.) Stir the cherry tomatoes and olive oil dressing through the hot rice. Crumble in the feta.
To prepare the pilchards:

Step 1.) Heat the sunflower oil in a saucepan. Add the curry powder and paprika and cook for a minute.

Step 2.) Drain the pilchards, reserving the tomato sauce. Add the pilchards to the saucepan and cook for 3 minutes. Carefully turn them over and cook for a further 3 minutes.

Step 3.) Add the tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce is heated through.

Toad-in-the-hole: South African style!

We are onto week 3 of the Freshly Blogged challenge already! I am having so much fun creating these recipes and I hope you will try them at home too. The theme for this week’s challenge was “S.A.’s best” and the ingredients list read something like this: Drosty-Hof Pinotage (or any Drosty-Hof red wine), mielie meal, ostrich sausage, waterblommetjies or green beans, chutney and mixed dried fruit. As usual we were allowed to omit one of these ingredients and this time around we were able to include three fresh ingredients and three spices.

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