Lemon loaf cake with saffron syrup

Lemon loaf cake with saffron syrup.
A few weeks ago I was given a pack of gorgeous saffron to try out at home. I have only ever used saffron in savoury dishes in the past (this saffron chicken dish is one of my favourites) and wanted to try it in a sweet recipe this time around.

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Caramel sponge pudding

Caramel sponge pudding
If ever there was an excuse to indulge in some comfort cooking, the chilly winter season is most definitely it. This latest recipe, which was featured in the May/June issue of Cheers magazine, has comfort food written all over it – a classic (dare I say old-fashioned) dessert that you can easily make at home on those cold days.

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How to make easy rainbow meringues (and a rainbow cake!)

Chocolate cake topped with meringues.


Crisp, white meringues are one my favourite things to make, but a few weeks ago I tried something a little different by adding some colours to the mix! The reason? I wanted to top my daughter’s rainbow birthday cake with rainbow meringues. I had so many party guests (well, the parents) asking me for the recipe that I have decided to pop it on the blog this week along with my go-to meringue recipe. I am also sharing a few tips for making your own rainbow cake. 



How to make rainbow meringues.



Firstly, rainbows – I think this has been my favourite kiddie party theme so far! There is just so much you can do. To be honest I was completely swamped in the run up to the party, but thanks to a few simple ideas from Pinterest I was able to pull it all together in a short amount of time. In terms of decor I made colourful paper chains (too easy), tissue paper pom-poms in various colours and popped glasses filled with colourful water and sunflowers on the table. Some of the food also took on the rainbow theme, with the most popular snack by far being pretzel sticks that were dipped in white chocolate and then 100’s and 1000’s. Rather than going for a sugar laden party bag each little guest received a rainbow ribbon wand as a thank you gift. 



Rainbow birthday party ideas.



You can’t have a rainbow party without a rainbow cake right? This cake took an entire day to bake and assemble, but I think it was worth it. Six layers of vanilla cake in all the colours of the rainbow all covered in vanilla buttercream and chocolate ganache and topped with rainbow meringues, flowers and glitter. Here are a few tips if you are thinking of making one too:

  • I mixed a few drops of gel food colouring into vanilla cake batter to make the rainbow layers. I find these give a brighter colour than the supermarket liquid colours. 
  • I baked the layers separately (yes, it took ages!) in a 20cm straight sided cake tin.
  • When icing the cake I started with a very thin, smooth layer of icing all over the cake, often called the crumb coat. I then popped the entire cake in the deep freeze for about thirty minutes to set and harden before icing it. This made it much easier and neater! 
  • I used this chocolate ganache recipe to go on top of the vanilla buttercream icing. Remember to let it cool before pouring it over the cake. 


How to make a rainbow birthday cake.
Birthday cake with rainbow layers.


Drip cake topped with meringues.



I will be taking a little break next week while the kids are still on holiday but will be back in May with some lip smackingly delicious Italian inspired recipes, don’t miss those! 

Cook’s notes for the meringues:

  • I used a plastic disposable piping bag for this messy meringue mixture. I have also included a picture below of the nozzle that I used. 

Meringue piping nozzle.
  • You can use as many colours as you like but I would use 2-4. I used red, yellow and blue for the meringues on top of the birthday cake.
  • Use 2 drops of gel food colouring per colour for bold, bright meringues or a single drop per colour for a lighter more subtle colour. I used two drops for the meringues in these pictures.


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RAINBOW MERINGUES


Makes 15 medium sized meringues


Rainbow meringue tutorial.



2 large egg whites, room temperature
100g castor sugar
small pinch of fine salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
gel food colouring

Step 1.) Preheat your oven to 120°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. 

Step 2.) Place the egg whites in a large bowl. Whisk until stiff peaks form when the beater is lifted. Add the castor sugar one tablespoonful at a time, whisking well between each addition. The mixture should have a smooth texture, not grainy. Whisk in the salt and vanilla extract

Step 3.) Place a drop or two (see cook’s notes above) of gel food colouring inside the piping bag near the nozzle. Use a skewer to scrape the drop up the side of the piping bag, i.e. the bag should have streaks of colour running up the sides. Spoon the meringue into the bag. 

Step 4.) Pipe the meringues onto the tray, allowing some space between for spreading. Bake for 1 hour. Switch the oven off, keep the oven closed and leave the meringues for a further hour. 

Step 5.) Allow the meringues to cool. Store in an airtight container. 





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Mini chocolate and almond croissants

 Mini chocolate and almond croissants.

Hello foodies! I do hope the week has been treating you well, and if not hang in there as the weekend is just around the corner. And weekends mean brunch, and what is brunch without a few tasty pastries? I do love a good croissant every now and then, but did you know how easy it is to make them yourself? This week I am showing you how!

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Salted caramel toffee chunk ice cream

Salted caramel ice cream in a cone.
Here I was thinking that this recipe would be a fully loaded last nod to summer (given the darker mornings and cooler evenings) when Cape Town surprised us with a whopper of a hot day yesterday. Temperatures soared as high as forty degrees in some places – definitely ice cream weather! We spent our public holiday wandering around the V&A Waterfront visiting our favourite haunts (the aquarium and food market are always a must) and strolling around the harbour past the buskers, interesting curio shops and overheating tourists.

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Semolina, coconut and marmalade cakes

 Semolina, coconut and marmalade mini cakes.

I could not resist this recipe when I came across it – the title alone has me dreaming of soft cake drenched in sticky citrus deliciousness. It is adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi from their book Jerusalem. I also happen to have an excess of marmalade in my fridge and adore anything with coconut in it so this one had my name written all over it!

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Mince Pie Tart with Christmas Custard

Mince pie with puff pastry and topped with stars.

Just a few days to go until Christmas (four sleeps to be precise), are you ready? We are looking forward to a family Christmas at home this year and will be celebrating with a relaxed festive lunch next to the pool – cannot wait!

Fruit mince tart with puff pastry and Christmas custard.



One of the nicest things about this time of the year is that we get to eat mince pies! In fact, just this morning my daughter and I baked up a batch of star topped mince pies to enjoy over the Christmas week, and we will no doubt also be leaving a few next to the tree on Saturday evening. 


Mince pie tart slice with stars and custard.
Green Christmas leaves dusted with icing sugar.


This mince pie tart is the larger version of our favourite mini mince pies and is ideal for any Christmas get together – as a dessert at lunch or dinner or even with afternoon tea. Take it to the next level with this lavish Christmas custard which is delicately flavoured with spices and orange zest.

This is my last post for the year, thank you so much for reading and following my kitchen tales in 2016! There is lots more to come next year, but in the meantime here’s wishing you a glittery and treat filled Christmas. x 


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MINCE PIE TART 
with CHRISTMAS CUSTARD

Makes a 20cm tart


Mince pie tart slices for Christmas.



2 small apples (about 200g) 
1 x 454g jar fruit mincemeat
2 tbsp mixed citrus peel
1 tbsp brandy
flour for dusting
400g ready made puff pastry
star shaped cookie cutters
milk for brushing
icing sugar for dusting (optional)

For the custard:


2 egg yolks

2 tbsp castor sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
350ml milk
4 whole cloves
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1 1/2 tsp finely grated orange rind


Step 1.) Preheat the oven to 200°C and grease a 20cm tart tin. 

Step 2.) Peel and grate the apples. Squeeze out any excess liquid and place in a mixing bowl. Add the fruit mincemeat, citrus peel and brandy. Mix well. 

Step 3.) Dust your work surface lightly with flour. Line the tart tin with puff pastry. Cut the excess pastry away from the rim. Press the scraps into a ball and roll out again. Cut out star shapes of various sizes.

Step 4.) Tip the fruit mince mixture into the tart tin. Arrange the stars on top of the tart and brush lightly with some milk

Step 5.) Bake the tart for 35 minutes, or until the pastry has risen and is golden. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Dust with icing sugar and serve. 

Step 6.) To make the custard: Whisk the egg yolks and castor sugar together until pale and creamy. Whisk in the flour and cinnamon. Place the milk and cloves in a saucepan over a medium heat and heat just until boiling point. Remove from the heat and carefully add half of the milk to the egg mixture while whisking continuously. Then add the egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk and heat slowly while whisking. Add the vanilla paste. Continue to stir for a few minutes until the custard is quite thick. Remove the cloves and stir in the orange rind. Transfer to a warm jug. 






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Vanilla Bean and Almond Meringues with Mixed Berry Sauce

 

Vanilla and almond meringues with a mixed berry sauce.
At the end of November we packed our bags and headed out of the burbs for a weekend in the Overberg. This was a welcome break after a busy few weeks on the home and work fronts, plus a chance to spend some quality family time together. Our destination was a farm called Landmeterskop near Stanford and were invited to join some good friends who had been there before. What a gem of a place!

We stayed in the spacious and comfortable homestead surrounded by beautiful mountains, grazing sheep and the sounds of nature. The farm is a fabulous family destination and the children had the opportunity to feed the animals each morning and evening, milk the goats and go on a tractor ride. The grown ups enjoyed being able to switch off (there was hardly any signal on the farm) and some amazing star gazing in the evenings. Another highlight of the weekend was being able to collect fresh free range eggs in the mornings to enjoy for breakfast. Which brings me to this week’s recipe… but first, here are a few snaps from our trip.

Boating on the dam.
Boating on the dam.
A red tractor on the farm.
The farm’s resident pooch waiting to join the tractor ride.
Sheep eating grass on a farm.
Our next door neighbours for the weekend.
Fresh free range farm eggs in a basket.
Fresh farm eggs for breakfast.
One sheep standing behind a fence.
Baa!

 

So back to our recipe, and this week I have chosen something inspired by our farm visit. These vanilla and almond meringues have the perfect texture in my opinion – a crisp, melt-in-the-mouth shell with a soft, marshmallowy centre. Add a spoonful of tart mixed berry sauce to balance the sweetness and a dollop of whipped cream and you have a gorgeous summer pud!
Vanilla bean meringues with ground almonds.
This is also a fabulous recipe to have on standby for this time of the year. A plate piled high with white meringues accompanied by a ruby sauce would not look out of place on a Christmas dessert table, and makes a delicious, light alternative to the traditional heavier puddings.

 

Vanilla bean meringues with ground almonds and berry sauce.
Vanilla bean meringues topped with ground almonds,
 

 

Cook’s notes – I prefer a more rustic looking meringue and I do this by using two tablespoons to drop the mixture onto the tray before baking. You could also pipe the meringue mixture if you like. Another tip is to draw 6-7cm circles on the back of your baking paper to help keep the meringues fairly even in size.

 

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VANILLA BEAN AND ALMOND MERINGUES 

with MIXED BERRY SAUCE

Makes 12 meringues

 
Aerial photo of vanilla bean meringues with almonds.



For the berry sauce:

3/4 cup mixed frozen berries
3 tbsp castor sugar 
1/4 tsp vanilla extract 

For the meringues:

3 large egg whites, room temperature
150g castor sugar
small pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 1/2 tbsp ground almonds
fresh cream to serve

Step 1.) Prepare the sauce by combining the berries and sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar, then boil gently for 8 mins, stirring regularly, until thick and syrupy. Stir in vanilla extract and leave to cool completely. Whizz in a food processor until smooth.

Step 2.) Preheat your oven to 120°C and line a tray with baking paper.

Step 3.) Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. Gradually add the castor sugar (about one tablespoon at a time) while beating, and beat well between each addition. Whisk in the salt and vanilla paste.

Step 4.) Drop heaped tablespoons of the meringue mixture onto the prepared tray. Finally, sprinkle the ground almonds over the meringues.

Step 5.) Bake the meringues for 1 hour. Switch the oven off but leave the door closed, and allow the meringues to dry out for a further hour.

Step 6.) Serve the meringues with fresh cream and the berry sauce. Store any leftovers in an airtight container. The sauce should be stored in the fridge.