Cookbook Release: our very own “Two, by Seline and Leandri”

We couldn’t be more happy or excited to share this news with you!

9781432304393 - TWO - Seline & Leandrie van der Wat - HR

Since we were little girls, we’ve been admiring and collecting cookbooks, paging through trees and trees of beautiful photography, fresh ideas and family stories. Our dearest Mom, Gerda, bought us our first cookbook before we could even read – it had illustrations to guide us through the process, while Mom lovingly weighed out the ingredients for us beforehand… We had so much fun together, playing between the pages of that book, experimenting our way to our own techniques and flavour combinations.

A good two decades later, we are proud to announce that our very own cookbook has been released by Penguin Books SA & Random House and is available NOW in South Africa.

Live outside sunny South Africa? Don’t fret – the e-book is available across the globe via Amazon.com.

http://www.amazon.com/Two-From-home-inner-foodie-ebook/dp/B0144HSZ4M

“Two” is available now!

The book was named ‘Two’, because we believe everything is better in twos. The book explores ingredients or classics that have been reinvented in playful and exciting new ways. Each combination is done in two ways – a simple, easy to replicated, low technique way for every day dining. And then the concept is pulled into a more complicated, technique driven, cheffy dish, with intricate restaurant plating. The book is great for everyone, regardless of your skill level in the kitchen – it was designed to allow you to choose your own skill level and eventually show US a thing or two. 

Life is pretty insane right now.

It’s crazy to see your book in print. It’s crazy to sign them for people. And it’s even more insane to share shelf space with people like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay – people who we have admired since we were knee-high-to-a-grasshopper.

Thank you all for being a part of this journey. Your support of us, before, during and after MasterChef has helped us chase and achieve dreams.

And that’s exactly what ‘Two’ is. A dream come true.

Started from the bottom... Now we're here ;) #dancinginadrizzle

Started from the bottom… Now we’re here 😉 #dancinginadrizzle

Join the conversation and follow us on Twitter and Instagram – we’ll be doing prize giveaways and a selection of events to mark the launch of ‘Two’. We’d love to hear what you think about the book…

Leandri: @this_is_leandri on Twitter and @sneakyleandri on Instagram

Seline: @SelineVW on both Twitter and Instagram.

x S

End Note: ‘Two’ is dedicated to the strong and passionate women who taught us about life, love and food. Gerda (our mom), Lynette (our aunt), Nadine (our oldest sister) and Nelia (our little sister)

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Easter treats – Hot Cross Donuts and Milkshakes

Looking for some inspiration for alternative Easter treats this weekend? Look no further than our latest post and recipe for Beeld (Edition 2 April 2015 – http://www.netwerk24.com/ontspan/2015-04-02-paasfees-vol-herinneringe?vc=b7df905020a4d435a621c95d56d35d02 )…   Here’s the english version for those that speak anglais 😉   … Continue reading

What we saw from behind the curtain – Good Food and Wine Show Jozi

When we were little girls, we used to watch this old cooking competition called Ready, Steady, Cook. Hosted by the food personality Ainsley Harriot, the show was based on the premise of audience members bringing along a basket of mystery … Continue reading

Bringing home the bacon…

This is our latest Beeld Column, as it appeared in the Beeld Newspaper on the 24th July 2014

Pork1

Over the past couple of years, we’ve found pork belly to be one of the most underutilised and less enjoyed cuts of meat in South Africa. You will find it on many of the top restaurants menus, but seldom is it served at dinner parties, cafes or your everyday lunch spot. Personally, we struggle to see why, since pork belly is really affordable, has a great subtle flavour and adapts well to any flavour combination, and when cooked properly, is as soft as a cloud in ones mouth – it simply falls apart with little resistance.

 

One cuisine in which you will find pork – and pork belly in particular – featuring often is in Asian cuisine. We were struck three weeks ago when we visited Cyrildene with a good friend from MasterChef SA, Neil Lowe, for a dim sum brunch. Most of the tiny delights were filled with a cut of pork. Some were spicy, others rather sweet, and yet a further handful were an umami overload of smokiness, barbeque and five spice. With some reading, we found that pork belly features mostly in Korean and Chinese cuisine. The Chinese typically fry it with the skin on in a pan, then add some stock and soya sauce, braising it for a few hours to soften up the meat. Koreans are known for their healthier diet and tend to grill pork belly with some garlic. This of course, drips off much of the fat and is a leaner way to prepare meat, as compared to the braising technique of the Chinese. Serving their pork with soju (Korean vodka) is also common practise!

 

If you are unsure of exactly what pork belly is, that’s quite understandable. Seline recently prepared some for dinner and Leandri’s boyfriend was hesitant to tuck in, believing that we had prepared pigs stomach for him! Pork belly is in fact a boneless cut of meat from the belly (underside) of a pig. It has a thick layer of fat on it, because the belly is anatomically an area that doesn’t get much exercise (we see this happening with our bodies too – our bellies fatten up before our backs, arms or legs do). The Beauty of pork belly is however when this layer of fat can be craftily transformed into crackling. This all depends on whether you have dried the skin properly, scored it neatly, well salted and then placed in a hot oven so that the expansion of the fat later creates the lovely airy texture that crackling should have.

 

 

Bacon, for instance, is often confused with pork belly because in the United States, bacon is in fact prepared from pork belly. If you look in the supermarket next time, you’ll see ‘back bacon’ and ‘streaky bacon’ – back bacon is prepared from the back of the pig and has significantly less fat than streaky bacon that is prepared from the belly. Taking it one step further, pancetta (you may have heard of this on cooking TV shows or in Italian cookbooks) is Italian streaky bacon, mostly smoked and has a strong flavour. For this reason it is often cut up into smaller pieces before serving.

 

Bacon has become a craze second to none in the culinary world, typified by Nigella’s bacon brownies and Heston Blumenthal’s bacon ice cream. It was said by David Kessler that most restaurant chefs joke about how to satisfy the cravings of customers: “when in doubt, throw cheese and bacon on it”. There might actually be some scientific proof to back the statement up because it has been found that bacon contains six compounds linked to the umami flavour sensation, and has been said by Arun Gupta that “no other food has a taste substitute” for bacon. Sometimes pork simply satisfies a hunger which no other food can, despite the fact that it might not be the healthiest indulgence in terms of fat content.

 

All this talking about the fat makes one wonder whether pork belly is actually a healthy recommendation for dinner. Of course, there are leaner cuts of pork that one can cook with, such as pork fillet. There are also less healthy cuts to enjoy. In terms of fat content, raw pork belly is about 50% fat, of which 30% is saturated fat. When discussing bacon, another popular pork preparation, roughly 68% of its calories come from fat, and of course there is much more salt added to bacon which means trouble for patients with high blood pressure or cholesterol problems. That being said, we are firm believers that everything should be enjoyed in moderation and something as delightful as pork belly should definitely be indulged in once in a while. Our guests never complain, and we guarantee (unless your guests have specific religious beliefs which affect their diet) that your dinner party will be a wild success with this pork belly dish. Quite simply, we say: indulge wholeheartedly once in a while and savour every bite whilst it is on your fork. The extra calories will be worked off by laughter and a fullness of heart which only such soul satisfying flavours can create.

 

Braised pork belly with an apple slaw and potato chips

Serves 4

 

1kg pork belly

1 onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, bruised

1 stick of lemongrass, bruised

4 cardamom pods

1 star anise

1l stock

2 tablespoons sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 230 degrees. First, you need to create the crackling on the skin of your pork belly. Make sure your pork belly is clean, then pat the skin dry before you neatly score it with a sharp knife. Make sure that you do not cut into the flesh of the pork. Place the pork belly in a deep ovenproof dish. Pat the skin dry again and then rub a generous amount of salt into the skin. Place in the hot oven for 25min until the skin puffs up and forms beautiful crackling. Remove from the oven and toss the onion, garlic, lemongrass, cardamom, star anise and sugar into the dish (NOT onto the pork). Next, use the stock to fill the dish up to just below the crackling. Cover the dish in tin foil and allow the pork belly to cook at 140 degrees for 2-3 hours, until the pork is soft.

 

 

150g cabbage

2 carrots

2 pink apples

125ml natural yogurt

100ml mayonnaise

80ml sour cream

15ml wholegrain mustard

zest of half a lemon

juice of half a lemon

 

Cut the cabbage and carrot up as finely as possible. Cut the apple into fine matchsticks and add this to the cabbage and carrot. Place in a large salad bowl. In a small mixing bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth. Add tot eh salad bowl and gently stir together until all parts of the slaw are well coated in the dressing. Cover with cling wrap and store in the fridge until ready to serve.

 

 

2 potatoes

1.5 l of oil for deep frying

5ml salt

3ml fresh thyme leaves

paper towel, for draining

 

In a mortar and pestle, grind up the salt and thyme leaves. Meanwhile, bring the oil up to a hot temperature in a small saucepan. For safety, remember to never fill a pot more than 2/3 full will hot oil, else it may boil over when you add the potato to it. Slice the potatoes as thin as possible and pat dry with some of the paper towel. Slowly drop into the hot oil and cook until brown and crispy. Remove from the oil and place on the paper towel for draining. While still piping hot, sprinkle with the thyme salt.

Winter warmer hot chocolate with toasted ginger marshmallow

Keep warm with this special hot chocolate this winter...

Keep warm with this special hot chocolate this winter…

For our bi-weekly Beeld column, we wrote the following…

 

As most of you know, we often write about our childhood and growing up in Mafikeng. As life tends to go, we look back fondly on what once was; hindsight makes moments once taken for granted the most treasured memories. Just as we were hitting our teen years, our parents had the wise initiative to send us to Christian-based youth camps in KwaZulu-Natal which kept us out of trouble for 3 weeks of the year. The camps would be held in winter and summer, and our parents would go to a lot of trouble to make sure we got there, unless we had a hockey tour that coincided with the camp and forced us, begrudgingly, to miss out on the winter camps. Our adventure would start with the 10 hour drive down to Durban that would be followed by a 2 hour bus trip down past Port Shepstone. Finally arriving at the camp site would be the climax of the camp, the anticipation having been built up for 12 hours and hopes of seeing friends last encountered six months back. Of course, sports teams and camp groups would be formed after which the fun and games would begin.

 

One of our highlights was certainly the menu. For some reason, the food always tasted good on camp. Despite the fact that we hated oats porridge at home, we’d gobble up 2 bowls of it at camp. Have you experienced that before? When you go on a hike, for instance, simple foods such as ProVita biscuits and tinned tuna (no salt, no mayonnaise!) tastes amazing and you find yourself wondering ‘why don’t I eat this at home?’ yet when you try it back in the comfort of your office over lunch break, it suddenly evokes none of the taste sensations you seem to have experienced back on the hiking trail. Maybe our minds play games on us in survival situations so that we are filled with pleasure at the simplest of indulgences, but camp food never tastes as good back at home. That’s how we felt about our youth camp food until we discovered their secret one morning when walking past the kitchen where the staff were slaving over a 40 L pot of maltabella porridge. What was the magical ingredient which made the most repulsive breakfast porridges, salad dressings, custards and jugs of milo taste so heavenly? Condensed milk.

 

To us, condensed milk is the most heavenly invention on this planet. Sold in those colourful tubes, ‘Dirkie’ condensed milk was a once-in-a-blue-moon treat for us. The packaging in itself was such a clever marketing angle: it made a chore such as brushing your teeth seem so much more fun when you could pretend to be doing it with condensed milk. For us, we used to save up our weekly pocket money until we could afford to buy a tube of Dirkie at our local butchery – Seline always going for the original flavour, while Leandri experimented with the various available flavours! Condensed milk goes into all our favourite things: fudge, lemon meringue pie and nostalgic youth-camp milo.

 

That youth camp Milo is still something we crave now, almost a decade later. On Camp, after the night time program came to an end all the kids would run to the kitchen, waiting eagerly at the door with our plastic camping mugs shaking in our icy hands. Inside the kitchen, 6 large old-school tin teapots were bubbling away on the stove tops, filled with Milo, milk and tins and tins of condensed milk. When the kitchen staff walked out of the kitchen with those teapots it almost felt like seeing Santa Claus coming down the chimney, with arms full of gifts. We’d all wish our mugs were bigger, always begging the cooks to fill the cup up to the brim. Sitting on benches with our friends, kicking our feet in delight as we sipped up the pure bliss, we would dream about the future; who we would be and what we would do. We must admit though, sitting there we never thought we’d end up where we are today! We have been on such a great adventure and are eternally grateful for that.

 

Winter always evokes memories of that special time and that sweet drink, so we came up with the warm dessert drink below as a special treat and trip down memory lane. The layers of chocolate ganache, steaming milk and espresso shot mix together to form a satisfying tummy warmer, with the toasted ginger marshmallow on top providing an interesting twist and burst of flavour. We’d serve this as a dessert after a lingering lunch, or as a special mid-night snack for the kids during the school holidays. Stay warm this winter, and treat yourself!

 

Winter warmer hot chocolate with ginger marshmallow

 

Serves 6

360ml espresso (this is 6 shots)

1 litre milk

200g dark chocolate

150ml cream

90ml condensed milk

pinch of salt

For the marshmallow:

70 g egg white

500g castor sugar

1 T glucose syrup

25mL powdered gelatine

1.5 cups cold water

1 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

cornstarch, for dusting

 

Instructions

  1. First, make the marshmallows by heating 450mL castor sugar, glucose syrup and 185mL water in a pot to 127 degrees C.
  2. In a separate bowl, sprinkle the gelatine powder over 185mL cold water and leave for 5 minutes. Heat the gelatine in the microwave for 45 minutes at 100% until the gelatine has dissolved (the mixture should be transparent). In a mixer, whisk the egg whites until frothy, and then add in the remaining castor sugar by whisking on a high setting. Once this glossy mixture is at soft peak stage, slowly add the warm gelatine with whisking at high speed. Once this is fully incorporated, slowly pour in the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream with high speed whisking. Continue to whisk until all the syrup is introduced, lower the whisking speed to medium-high and add in the lemon zest and grated ginger. Whisk until the mixture has returned to room temperature. Pour into greased pans and leave for 3 hours until set. Dust the mallows with cornstarch before cutting as desired into shapes.
  3. To make the chocolate ganache, heat the cream in the microwave until just steaming. Break the dark chocolate into little pieces and place in a microwavable bowl. Cover with the steaming cream and condensed milk and return to the microwave for 30 seconds. Leave to stand for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to melt before stirring. Stir the ganache until smooth. Divide the ganache between your mugs or latte glasses.
  4. Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan. Add the vanilla essence and then divide the milk between the mugs. We poured our milk slowly, to avoid having the chocolate and milk layers mix before serving.
  5. Top the milk layer with 60ml of espresso (or strong instant coffee), pouring the espresso in over the back of a tablespoon to avoid having the layers mix.
  6. Finally, chop the marshmallows into little cubes and scatter over the top of the drink. Blast with a blowtorch to scorch the edges of the marshmallow. Serve while hot, with a teaspoon for mixing the layers together and scooping the marshmallows off the top

    Make marshmallow from scratch or simply buy your favourite type from your local store

    Make marshmallow from scratch or simply buy your favourite type from your local store

Beeld Column: Fathers Day Risotto

Most of us are raised with the understanding that our fathers don’t spend time in the kitchen. When they do, it’s either because mum’s away, or they are grabbing a quick snack out of the fridge or cupboard. Where dads always shine though, is around the braai. As South Africans, each father has his own secret tricks that are closely guarded when it comes to our much-beloved weekend pastime. It just seems as though braai-ing is best left to our masculine dads across the country. In our household, at least, it was always our father who was making the fire from mid-morning and tending to the coals with patience and passion.

The familiar sound of the lid scraping over the metal braai is the sound of home. There is no doubt in our minds that our father, Neil, makes the absolute best roast chicken in his Weber kettle braai. He carefully cleans and seasons the chicken, and then places it into the Weber at 160°C and roasts it for an hour and a half, adding potatoes about 40 minutes in. The chicken comes out succulent and juicy with a crispy skin. To this day, we still request his Sunday roast chicken when we visit our hometown.

We’re extremely blessed to have a dad who has invested in our cultural growth by taking us to foreign countries to experience new cultures, landscapes and foods. Leandri and our dad travelled from Switzerland to Italy back in 2006 and stopped over in a small town called Lugano. The lake town has gorgeous cobblestone paths and the two found a street café to satisfy their dinner cravings near the waters edge as the sun was setting. The resulting risotto ordered by Leandri infused with truffles and mushrooms still remains one of her best food memories ever.

She travelled to Italy again in May this year for a conference on the shores of Lake Garda. Knowing how rich the food culture in Italy is, Leandri saved up her pennies and made a reservation at a Michelin-starred restaurant named Il Desco in Verona. After getting a little bit lost in the winding paved streets of the small city, she eventually came upon the restaurant and settled down to a five course meal of epic proportions. The evening was like a dream: service was seamless, all the food in perfect balance and the charm of the Italian waiters again left Leandri with another culinary highlight from Italy. When she left the establishment that evening, the father and son pair signed the menu and gave her a risotto recipe books that they are featured in, as a gift. It was a blessed ending to a magnificent dining experience without the hosts even knowing how dearly Leandri treasures risotto.

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Risotto is a magical dish loved all around the world despite its humble beginnings in Italy. The combination of sautéed onions, wine, stock and rice somehow comes together to form a creamy plate of Heaven that fills your heart and stomach with a deep sense of satisfaction. It is made with a high starch, short-grain rice because they absorb liquids well and release their starch. The starchiness is what gives the rice dish its creaminess. One should never have to add cream to a risotto if it has been prepared correctly, because the starch should make it creamy enough.

Risotto has developed a reputation for being tricky to perfect. MasterChef Australia commonly refers to it as the kiss of death because it seems no one can get it right on the television series. Where most cooks go wrong is that they stir the rice too often or they add the liquid too slowly. This results in a stodgy lump of rice; risotto should flow in ‘waves’ and should be served on a flat plate to show off its creamy luxury.

So in light of all of this, this week we celebrate fathers with a comforting risotto dish. The risotto is cooked with mushrooms and asparagus and is then served with died apples for sweetness and some roast chicken, to pay tribute to our dad’s famous Sunday roast. We’re well aware that this is not a typical Fathers Day meal; there are no chicken wings or braai-styled meats on our menu this Sunday. Instead, we treat our dad today with a dish he hasn’t yet mastered. We sit around the table to share memories and to dream of creating new ones together.

Beeld-risotto

Makes 4 servings

50g butter

2 garlic gloves, finely diced

1 large onion, finely diced

300g risotto rice (sometimes called Arborio)

1 sprig fresh thyme

5ml black pepper

4 chicken breasts (skin on and still on the bone)

15ml olive oil

2 rosemary sprigs

150g fresh shimeji mushrooms (or any kind)

100g asparagus

500ml chicken stock

250ml boiling water

10ml lemon zest

1 apple

15ml lemon juice

 

Cover the chicken with the olive oil and rosemary sprigs. Season and roast in the oven at 200 degrees until cooked (approximately 25 minutes). Shred the chicken and reserve for serving later. In a heavy based saucepan melt the butter on a medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté slowly until translucent (approximately 5 minutes). It is important to not add any color to the onions or garlic, so sauté them gently over a medium heat. Add the thyme and black pepper and stir well before adding the rice. Cook gently, stirring occasionally for approximately 5 minutes.

Reserve a quarter of the asparagus tips for serving, but chop up the rest and add it to the rice mixture. Slice up three quarters of the mushrooms and add them too. You can now start adding the stock and hot water mixture, one ladle at a time, stirring after each addition to release the starch in the rice grains. Depending on the brand of Arborio rice you have purchased, the risotto might require more or less stock.

Keep an eye on the mixture and start tasting it to test for doneness from about 30 minutes into the cooking time. Once the rice is cooked, but still chewy, add the lemon zest and check the seasoning. Add more salt and black pepper as necessary. Add the grated parmesan and heat the mixture through, while you gently sauté the remaining asparagus and mushrooms in a saucepan.

Cut the apple into little cubes and coat in the lemon juice.

Serve the risotto in a bowl, topped with the shredded chicken, apple cubes, sautéed asparagus and mushrooms.

Coffee Comes First

I’m in a committed relationship with coffee. Recently I made a status update on Facebook about coffee, and it seemed to be nothing special: “Safety first. Just kidding. Coffee first. Safety’s like number 6 on the list…”

The status, however, generated a substantially larger number of likes than usual, which surprised me because I didn’t know I had 60 odd likeminded coffee-obsessed friends. When I think about it though, I shouldn’t be amused by the growing trend to drink good coffee because I’m seeing it everywhere. Food and Wine Magazine in the US, TASTE Mag here in SA, Food and Home Magazine and countless food blogs have been featuring the beloved bean of late.

I must say I welcome the trend. By now we all know I own Roast Re:public, a coffee roastery that gives 50% of its profits to underprivileged schools. I have been a coffee snob for as long as I could spell the word ‘conscientiously’ (that was way back in 1999) and have been campaigning for better standards in coffee for quite a while now. I’m proud to say very few of my friends still drink that ghastly instant stuff. At the end of last year, I was featured on the cover of The Coffee Mag, SA’s only dedicated coffee magazine. So yes, it’s clear: Leandri loves her coffee.

IMG_0454 copy vanderWatLeandri2

 

Woolworths have started a campaign called the Woolworths Flavour Society, (#wwflavoursociety) which brings foodies together every month to explore specific trending themes, and the Society’s first theme is coffee. Yay!

Needless to say, I’ve been pinning to their Pinterest board like a maniac, losing hours of productive research on campus because coffee is so alluring.

 

When it comes to coffee there is so much potential:

1 – Sustainable change: coffee farmers are partnered with and lives are changed by responsible consumers who ask the right questions and invest their money wisely (www.roastrepublic.co.za)

2 – Travel: imagine sipping on a coffee in Paris. Then imagine it on a crummy sidewalk in Vietnam. And now think of visiting Brazil’s coffee estates that stretch over hundreds of hectares. See? So many coffee destinations to visit…so little time…so little money.

3 – Bed: Yes, it seems strange, but coffee and relationships are intertwined. Think of drinking coffee in bed on a rainy day. Think of getting home after a long day and drinking a mug of coffee in the failing afternoon sunlight. Think of first dates, or break-up conversations: coffee sneaks its way into the cracks of our lives.

4 – Food: So here is where it gets interesting. Cooking desserts with coffee has long since been explored, but a growing trend to use coffee in savoury applications is being founded. It’s easy to use coffee in sweet treats, but to balance the bitter and acidic tastes of coffee in savoury dishes is a challenge, and that’s why I believe chefs are tackling the challenge head on.

Savoury coffee recipes are tough! I tried to think of an interesting way to use coffee, because it is commonly used as a ‘rub’ on meat, or as a glaze with lots of sugar and honey (to mask the bitterness). I hate doing the conventional.

After giving it a hard think, I decided I wanted to go Mexican. One of the yummiest coffees I had in 2013 was from Mexico (roasted by Legado Coffee in Stellenbosch) and I used that as my inspiration. Add chili, green pepper, cumin and smoked paprika and you could end up with something potentially tasty! Give it a go and let me know how you find the Coffee Chili Con Carne recipe

To get you inspired, I’ll list a few coffee flavour combinations worth trying:

Coffee and Cardamom

Coffee and pumpkin

Coffee and Rose Syrup

Coffee and Popcorn

Coffee, beer and ice cream (Yes! I’m serious. No typo here.)

In short (or tall, or grande) make sure you appreciate your coffee every morning: no one in a committed relationship likes being taken for granted.

X

Leandri

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Beeld Column: Versatile Apricot and Thyme Jam

The year that promises to be full of adventure is finally here: 2014 has warmly embraced us and we can’t wait for all the good times to begin. Leandri has her coffee roastery, Roast Republic, launching at the end of January, and Seline is now blissfully busy with all things food, fulltime!

After the indulgence that marks every festive season, we took some time to reflect on how we want to live this year. And so, we’ve decided, that we want to eat what is good for us. Eating what is good for you has many facets.

We are big fans of eating with the seasons. It works out cheaper, and it’s by far more ethical; just think about how far those poor kiwi fruit have to travel when you want to eat them in winter! This is one area which we stand firmly upon: eat what is in season, to save some money and save the planet!

Our favourite place to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables is the boeremark in Silverton, Pretoria. It buzzes between 4-7am every Saturday and the farmers bring in only the best their land has to offer, and we a fraction of the supermarket costs. This past Saturday we saw some delicious apricots and jumped at the chance to make some jam because only when fruit is at the height of the season, is it cheap enough to cook into jam.

Because we have made the decision to eat what is good for us, we fight off the urge to make apricot upside-down cake (one of Leandri’s favourites) and think upon fresher alternatives. Apricots are so perfect for summer because they are both sweet and sour, they work equally well in savoury and sweet dishes and they are divine when eaten either cooked or raw.

We have some fond memories of our mother making apricot jam from the fruit trees in our backyard, way back in the day before they were chopped down to add on to the house as the family grew. We would stir it into our sago pudding and on our peanut butter sandwiches. Most readers probably have such nostalgic recollections too, of either a grandmother or a farmhouse. Apricot jam just seems to feature everywhere!

Some novice cooks might be scared of making jam, probably because the older generations complain about hours and hours of work they used to put into making preserves. The truth is, however, that it’s quite simple and relatively quick. On top of that, it makes for a lovely gift. Leandri recalls visiting friends and taking along peach vanilla jam, as well as a strawberry peppercorn jam. Some of the ladies at the braai were astounded that she has made her own jam, because ‘people don’t do that anymore’. Amongst the younger generation it is a dying craft because we have been told it is tedious and difficult. Not so!

One of the cheat tricks is to use fruits that don’t require laborious preparation. Often we opt for tomatoes, apricots, grapes and berries, just because they are ‘low maintenance’ fruits. They can also easily be jazzed up with the addition of herbs and spices, for an interesting twist. The basic idea is then to cook the fruit with equal parts (or a little less) of sugar with a dash of vinegar until the consistency is sticky and still slightly runny.

Once the jam has been made, it can be used in so many ways. For breakfast, it’s perfect spread on fresh bread with salted butter. It can be added to yoghurt with muesli, or with snoek and poached eggs on sourdough toast. For lunch, you could turn the apricot jam into a marinade for chicken breasts, as we have done in the photograph, and then serve it on a salad with apricot jam vinaigrette! For sundowners, you could enjoy a teaspoonful of the jam topped with soda water and a shot of citron vodka. At dinner, you can stir it into your Moroccan tagine or make a sticky barbeque sauce for your meat. In fact, the possibilities only end at the edge of your creativity.

So here we share our recipe for apricot and thyme jam, and then run through a quick and healthy way to serve the jam. We can assure you that once you try making your own, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever go back to the tinned variety found at your supermarket. You might also earn a little more respect in your friendship circle too, especially if you serve it with the chevin and crackers, as suggested!

Serve it with Chevin and Crackers - yummy!

Serve it with Chevin and Crackers – yummy!

Use it as a marinade and a salad dressing - so versatile!

Use it as a marinade and a salad dressing – so versatile!

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Recipe: Apricot thyme jam (Makes about 1.5kg)

You’ll need:

1kg fresh apricots

800g sugar

2 tablespoons vinegar

15g fresh thyme

A pinch of salt

Instructions

Wash the apricots and cut in half. Remove the stone and discard.

Place the apricots in a large pot, and add the sugar, salt and vinegar. Remove the thyme leaves and add to the mix.

Turn the heat on, to a medium low temperature. Stir occasionally.

If you want a smooth jam, you should stir the jam continually to break the fruit apart. If you would like a chunky jam, then stir once every few minutes.

Slowly boil the jam until it starts to look thicker, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a clean glass jar in the oven at 150 degrees C for 40 minutes.

Test to see whether your jam is ready by spooning a small drop of jam on a plate and leaving to stand. If it forms a skin on the top and doesn’t run within 30 seconds of spooning it onto the plate, then it is ready.

Remove from the heat once thick to your liking. Spoon into jars and screw the lid on firmly.

Apricot jam Chicken breasts with a salad (serves 2)

You’ll need

2 chicken breasts

3 tablespoons jam (see above)

juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

½ teaspoon garlic

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Col’cacchio Summer Menu

A local pizza franchise, Col’cacchio, invited us to eat our way through their summer menu which is still on the go at the moment. We’d recommend you don’t miss it!

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Col’cacchio is a lovely place for many reasons: there is enough variety to suit everyones needs, there are optional gluten free pizza bases, and their cocktail menu mixes things up a little from the usual cosmopolitan or mojito.

A really cool option on their menu is the healthier pizza option called Pizza Foro, which actually has a hole in the middle, which is replaced by a crisp salad! What a bargain. They also have some nice options for children and non-cheese eaters, such as Leandri. Every year they have a celebrity chefs pizza campaign which serves seriously gourmet pizzas for charity. Charlys Bakery and Jackie Cameron are among the chefs who have participated.

Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs as we tucked into two salads, with the Chiaro salad was a clear winner with the salmon, crispy capers and pickled red onions. By the time our first pizza arrived we were full already! We ordered three pizzas, all equally delicious. I had the Miracollo, which is cheese free and delightful – crispy shallots top the chicken breast, pumpkin seed and yoghurt-dressed pizza. Seline tucked into the Arrosto and then continued the feast by ordering the Calzone Piegato – a bunny chow pizza. The Arrosto has slow cooked ribs on – can I get a cheer for that?! 

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Needless to say, after the salads, pizza, and decidedly delicious cocktails, we were way too full to have dessert. I suppose that’s what we’ll be back for the next time. Go check out the new menu!

Thanks for having us over, Col’cacchio Lynnwood Bridge.

xx

Leandri

PS Did you know Col’cacchio is quite a rude phrase? It means ‘up yours’ or ‘stuff you’, we are told. 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

I love it when that mid-morning craving hits and I actually have time to make something that day! That happened to me today; I just couldn’t shake the hope of a warm, “cakey” brownie in my mouth. And not just any brownie, a peanut butter one… So I hopped off the couch (thank you December holidays!) and whipped up these:

Easy peanut butter chocolate brownies with a buttercream topping and peanut brittle

Easy peanut butter chocolate brownies with a buttercream topping and peanut brittle

Might I mention – these are the EASIEST brownies to make, in the whole entire world… Here is the recipe for you:

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

225g butter

300g milk chocolate

5ml vanilla essence

225ml full cream milk

60ml peanut butter

2 eggs

200ml baking flour

80ml icing sugar

50ml cocoa powder

5ml baking powder

 

  1. Combine the butter, chocolate, vanilla essence and milk in a double boiler. Heat gently until everything is melted and well combined
  2. Stir the peanut butter in
  3. Sift the flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder into the chocolate mixture and mix until smooth
  4. Beat the eggs and add to the chocolate mixture, mixing quickly
  5. Pour into a greased and wax-paper lined baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes
  6. Remove and ice with any chocolate buttercream (I added 15ml of peanut butter to mine to intensify the peanut butter flavour. Make the peanut brittle below, crush and top off the brownies with it.

 

For the brittle:

125ml peanuts

200ml castor sugar

  1. Melt the sugar in a saucepan over low heat
  2. When all the granules are melted, mix in the peanuts quickly and allow to dry on a silicon mat

 

You can add some nuts or chocolate chunks to the batter if you would like!

You can add some nuts or chocolate chunks to the batter if you would like!

Hope all our fellow Southern-hemisphere buddies are having a wonderful summer holiday! Enjoy the sun, family and cocktails… And to our readers across the pond – enjoy the snow, we never get it here! Go along and make our “red head rooibos cocktail” and a batch of these brownies, it’ll lighten up your day…

 

Happy silly season everybody!

x Seline