Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Cheat's Angry Panda Eet-Sum-Mors

Ask a South African if they like shortbread and they might not know what you are talking about.  However, ask them about "Eet-Sum-Mor" and they are sure to have eaten them at one time or another.  My dad swears by them.  He says they are the only biscuits he can eat that won't give him heartburn.  Whether this is a fact or not, is debatable (but not with him!).


The Eet-Sum-Mor name was given to these biscuits by Mr Albert Baumann, somewhere in the 1940's when he and his cousin came up with a way for a machine to make shortbread.  You see, before that shortbread was made by hand.  Any way, their Eet-Sum-Mors went on sale in Durban and the rest, as the cliché goes, was history...and so was my dad's heartburn!


Just down the road from me, there is a baking/catering supply shop called...well, to be honest, I have NO idea what the place is called.  Some long-timer expats call it "D.I.Y.", which is basically what the locals call anything (read cooking & baking) they can make by themselves.  I call it the "Purple and Yellow shop" because...I'm sure you can work it out for yourself.


Now I know that this is supposed to be all about home cooking and baking in my little train kitchen, but hey...it's my blog and I'll cheat if I want to!  So, I was poking around in the freezers of the "Purple and Yellow shop", looking for puff pastry, when I came across these packets of frozen, pre-shaped, pre-cut Eet-Sum-Mor dough.




See those evil pandas checking you out!
And I thought this would be just the kind of biscuits that my (Taiwanese) god-daughter would like.  Now these ones have a chocolate cross in the middle, but what REALLY caught by eye was the pack with the very angry and evil looking pandas!


This is really so convenient and easy to make (if you can read Chinese, that is)!  All you need to do it pre-heat your oven to 180C, open the pack and take out as many biscuits as you want to bake.  It even comes in a very handy, resealable zip-loc bag!


Space your biscuits evenly on a lined baking sheet and pop it in the oven for between 10 and 13 minutes.
In the mean time, boil the kettle and make some tea.  Or some steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows.  Keep an eye on your biscuits as they can burn quite easily!  When they've take on a light, golden brown colour, you can take them out of the oven, pour your tea and relax with your book.  And hopefully you won't get any heartburn!
Evil Pandas and my favourite tea: Teh Sabah from Malaysia.
My god-daughter Kylie Yao, eating an Angry Panda.

Cheesy Mustard Stuffed Chicken

I love cheese, any kind of cheese, it doesn't matter.  I'll wake up in the middle of the night with a craving for cheese and I would eat it everyday if I could afford it.  But, unfortunately cheese doesn't really rate as something eaten by your average Taiwanese, so the decent stuff is expensive and hard to come by.


One of my colleagues the other day, "I really want to eat cheese, but I really don't know how.  Like...uhhmmm...how does one eat cheese?"  To which I replied, "Well dear, just open your mouth and shove it in!"


Shame, I do understand her predicament but how do you explain to someone, that hasn't grown up with it, how to eat it?  Also, a big percentage of what passes as cheese in Taiwan are little individually wrapped squares of processed cheese, like the yellow stuff you find on your Big Mac.


So, whenever I know my friends are visiting Costco (BIG American wholesaler), my order is always the same, "Please bring me some mozzarella, extra mature cheddar, and of course some salami.


Which brings me to bacon, our favourite side dish (according to Pieter Pieterse) in South Africa.  Mmmmm...bacon.....  Any way, I've made this recipe for stuffed chicken breasts a few times and it has always come out really tasty and moist.  I usually stuff it with mozzarella, but today I used Philadelphia Cream Cheese.  It was good, even if I have to say so myself!   Please give it a try.  I am sure it will become one of your favourites!


Cheesy Mustard Stuffed Chicken
Ingredients:

  • 125g cream cheese (or mozzarella, broken into pieces)
  • 50g strong cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 Tbsp. wholegrain mustard
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 8 streaky bacon rashers 

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Mix the cheese and mustard.
  3. Carefully cut a pocket into the side of each chicken breast.
  4. Stuff the cheese mix into each pocket.
  5. Wrap each breast with 2 rashers of bacon.  Don't wrap it too tight, just tight enough to keep everything together.
  6. Put your chicken breasts on a baking tray and pop it in the oven.  Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on your oven.



If you like oozing cheese (some people don't!) then use the mozzarella.  As you can see in these photos, the cream cheese doesn't ooze, but it is still very tasty.  So choose one or the other - whatever blows up your skirt!


Friday, 26 November 2010

Sosaties

Sosatie (pl sosaties) is a traditional South African dish of meat (usually lamb or mutton) cooked on skewers. The term derives from sate ("skewered meat") and saus (spicy sauce). It is of Cape Malay origin, used in Afrikaans, the primary language of the Cape Malays, and the word has gained greater circulation in South Africa.  - Wikipedia.org

Sosaties have been in our food tradition since the days of the Cape of Good Hope,  probably brought to the Cape from the island of Java.  In its most basic form, it is skewered meat, marinated in a curry sauce.  Traditionally mutton or lamb is used, but beef, pork and chicken can be used too.  They can be cooked in a pan, or in the oven - under the grill.  However, most people will cook sosaties over moderate coals as part of a South African braai.

Every South African braaier worth their salt has their own recipe, with a little more of "this" and a little less of "that".  See what works for you.


Marinade

Ingredients:
  • 5 Tbls smooth apricot jam
  • 5 tsp brown sugar
  • 3 pr 4 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 3 tsp Maizena (corn starch)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 tsp curry powder
  • 75 ml vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Sosaties

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium size onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1.5kg mutton or lamb, cut into 2.5cm cubes (or whatever meat you feel like)
  • 1kg pork, also cubed
  • 250g dried apricots, covered with water until plump, then drained (optional)

Method:

  1. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a pot and add the onion quarters. Cook on low heat, stirring frequently until the spices are combined, the sugar is melted and the marinade thickens slightly.
  2. Pour the marinade into a large dish and add the meat cubes.  Cover and let the meat marinate in a refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.  Turn the meat a few times.
  3. Remove the meat and onions from the marinade and thread onto skewers, alternating the meat and onion with apricots, if using.
  4. Braai the sosaties over moderate coals, turning frequently.  Alternatively, cook it in the oven under the grill for about 25 minutes or until cooked.  Turn frequently.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Cream Cheese Frosting

This frosting is not so sweet and goes very well with the Carrot & Banana Cake.  This recipe is from www.bbcgoodfood.com.




Cream Cheese Frosting
Ingredients:
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 300g cream cheese (like Philadelphia)
  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • 5ml vanilla essence
Method:
  1. Beat the butter until really soft, then beat in the soft cheese, icing sugar and vanilla. 
  2. Use a palette or cutlery knife to swirl the icing on top of the cake, then sprinkle with decorations or chopped nuts.



Carrot & Banana Cake

In the early 1990's, just after I left university, my friend Nico and I used to get together once a month, on my day off to do some cooking together.  We ventured into the (rather tricky) realms of trying our hand at traditional South African recipes.  I remember us baking milk tarts in their kitchen in "Barlinka Flats" in Stellenbosh, making an enormous mess because we put too much filling into the pastry shell.  Or making koeksisters of monstrous proportions because we thought the uncooked koeksisters should be more or less the size of the cooked ones.  Anyway, Nico once gave me a recipe for a very easy Carrot & Banana Cake and it came out perfectly every time.


That recipe was glued into an old, black hard cover exercise book I had for recipes I had collected over the years.  Unfortunately, after my move to Ilha Formosa, almost 8 years ago, I haven't been able to locate that book again.  I mentioned it to fellow South African expat, Connie the other day and she has that exact, same recipe!  Thank you, Connie!  It was a joyous reunion.


This cake (or fruit loaf, if you want) is super easy to make and it works in our little Taiwan ovens, too.  The ingredients are easy to remember; mostly a cup (250ml) of everything and one or two teaspoons of everything else.  If you have never baked anything else in your life, THIS is where you should start!
Photo by Shanglin Wu


Carrot & Banana Cake


Ingredients:

  • 250ml sugar
  • 250ml sunflower oil ( I would suggest that you don't use olive oil as it has a strong flavour)
  • 3 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 375ml flour
  • 15ml ground cinnamon
  • 10ml baking powder
  • 5ml bicarbonate of soda (also called baking soda)
  • 250ml (2 big or 3 smallish) ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
  • 250ml roughly grated carrots
  • 125ml finely chopped nuts (optional, but it does make the texture more interesting)

Method:


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Cream together (that means beat together) the sugar, oil, eggs and salt until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda; and add to egg mixture.
  4. Stir in the banana, grated carrots and nuts.  Stir until well mixed.
  5. Dump the whole lot into a greased loaf tin and pop it in the oven for +/- an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Note:
  • This is a fruit loaf, so the top crust will crack - it's supposed to look like that!
  • Because our ovens in Taiwan can be very temperamental, take care not to burn the top of the cake while the inside is still raw.  When the top of your cake has reached the desired level of brownness, simply cover it with a sheet of foil to keep it from burning.
I usually slice and serve this cake just as it is because the oil makes it beautifully moist.  However, carrot cake is traditionally frosted with a cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with some more chopped nuts.  Recipe for cream cheese frosting to follow.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Banana Bread & Butter Pudding

I have been quite busy this weekend.  After months of studying and finishing up my Chinese reading and writing course, I now have lots of free time on my hands.  What better to do with your free time than spending it with friends and cooking something delicious to eat.


This weekend I exchanged my cramped kitchen for the kitchen of the Good Doctor.  He has a great kitchen (Bosch oven, Kitchen Aid mixer and Le Creuset casseroles) for cooking and baking and I always jump at the opportunity to cook there.  We baked a very easy Banana & Carrot cake.  More about that in my next post.


I had a few very ripe bananas left from yesterday and was searching www.bbcgoodfood.com for some ideas on how to use up these fruit.  I came across this recipe for a Banana Bread & Butter Pudding.  The best part of it is that you can make it in the microwave oven!  No baking in the oven (unless you want to, of course) and you are done in just 20 minutes.  As you won't be browning this in a regular oven, the bread is first toasted in a toaster to give it that rich, golden colour.  The toast also seems to really suck up the milk, egg and cinnamon mixture that later turns into a baked custard.




Banana Bread & Butter Pudding


Ingredients:

  • 4 thick slices of white bread 
  • some butter for spreading
  • 1 large or 2 small ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 85g soft brown sugar (or just regular if you don't have brown)
  • half a tsp. of ground cinnamon
  • 450ml milk
  • 1tbsp corn starch (Maizena)
Method:

  1. Toast the bread in a regular toaster and spread with butter.  Cut the bread into triangles.
  2. Arrange the toasted triangles, butter side up and the banana slices in a microwave safe dish.
  3. Beat together the eggs, sugar, milk and cinnamon until the sugar has dissolved.  In a separate bowl, mix the corn starch with a little of the milk until smooth and add to the milk and egg mixture.
  4. Pour the mixture over the toast and bananas and sprinkle over a little extra sugar.
  5. Bake uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes on high.  Let it stand for another 5 minutes before serving.

Make it in the oven

If you don't have a microwave oven you can put the dish together the same way, but don't toast the bread.  Bake it at 180C for 30 to 40 minutes until the egg mixture has set and the bread has turned crisp and golden brown.