Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Apple and Almond Cake (Vegan and Gluten Free)

When I first read that the amazing Nina from My Easy Cooking was hosting a Monthly Mingle and her chosen theme was Apple Affection, I knew I had to take part and I knew exactly what I was going to make

an Apple and Almond Cake!!

I found this super simple recipe on What Kim Ate (and Grew)'s blog.

This cake is moist with a subtle hint of lemon and warm spices and has a delightful crunch from the almonds. The texture is wonderful and it has been added to my ever growing list of baked items that I could eat all the time, this list includes the gooey chocolate brownies that I blogged about at the beginning of the month.

My perfect winter Sunday lunch would consist of Beef Bourguignon and this Apple and Almond cake.

What utter, indulgent bliss :)

Apple and Almond Cake:
(makes 1 standard size cake)


  • 4 cups peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped Golden Delicious apples (about 4 medium)
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar (or fructose)
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp chopped dried lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup canola or other mild vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup cup red currant jam, at room temperature (I used St. Dalfour Red Raspberry Jam)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I used Glutagon cake flour)
  • 2 tsp baking soda (I used 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp bicarb of soda)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (I used all spice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped blanched almonds (I used half cup chopped almonds and half cup ground almonds)
  • Icing sugar (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 175C. Grease a 33 by23 cm baking pan. In a large bowl, combine the apples, sugar, and lemon peel; let stand for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the oil, jam, vanilla extract, and almond extract to the apple mixture; stir until the jam is well dissolved.
  3. In another large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg/ all spice and salt. Gradually stir into the apple mixture. Add the almonds, stirring well to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
  4. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack. When completely cooled, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.
Advance Preparation

The completely cooled cake can be covered with foil and stored at room temperature for up to two days.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Boeuf Bourguignon and The Wonderbag

Julia Child described it as "certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man."

The movie Julie and Julia resurrected this "peasant" dish into something of a fashion statement - if you hadn't heard of Boeuf Bourgignon; if you hadn't made it; if you hadn't eaten it - where had you been??

Well maybe I had been living under a rock because although I had eaten this fabulously rich and powerfully robust dish on numerous occasions - I hadn't made it, ever! That is, until this weekend...

When winter comes a-calling, my summer mind disappears and is replaced by a very one-track one that only wants comfort food! Slow cooked, delicious smelling, belly warming, toe curling yumminess - eaten close to a fireplace, preferably, while savouring a glass of red wine.

Boeuf Bourgignon sums up winter in one dish.

A few weeks ago, I was approached by a company called Natural Balance to review their product The Wonderbag, which is a heat retention/insulation cooker that looks like a hollowed out bean bag with a separate bean bag lid and a draw string.

When I first received my Wonderbag, I wondered how this bean bag, with its expanded polystyrene (EPS) balls, would retain enough heat to cook the food in the pot. I decided to put the bag to the test, with what was going to be the best stew I had ever made. EVER!!

Boy, was I impressed, The Wonderbag really works, hence the name - it is a wonder!

All that is needed to be done is to bring the pot of food to the boil, a stew requires about 30 minutes on the stove or in the oven, and then to transfer the pot to the Wonderbag; sealing in everything tightly, so that the heat does not escape, until the dish is ready to be eaten. (Do not open the bag until the food is cooked as the Wonderbag will not be able to do its job correctly.)

Not only does this amazing product save electricity, which is a huge benefit during winter in South Africa, (not forgetting the ever escalating electricity prices), but each one is manufactured by a previously unemployed skilled seamstress living in the Riebeek Valley. Every Wonderbag gives someone an income to feed and educate a family. It also saves energy, saves money and reduces the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. Wonderbag is registered with the UNFCCC (United Nations Climate Change) as a CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) and is in a carbon trading relationship with Nedbank.

By using a Wonderbag two to three times a week you can save:

•1.6 litres of paraffin a week

•13kWh of electricity a week

•500 kg of carbon per year

To find out more about this product, please visit their websites: Natural Balance and Goedgedacht.

Saturday seemed like the perfect day to make my Boeuf Bourgignon - I wanted to cook is slowly for many, many hours so that the meat would fall apart and the gravy would be intensely flavoursome.

*WARNING* Do not attempt to make this if you are planning on entertaining the same night - the best bet would be to make it the night before serving.

The recipe I used is from Simply Recipes and is based on Julia Child's recipe.

Boeuf Bourguignon
(Serves 6 to 8)


  • 170g bacon (I used 2 deboned pork rashers)
  • 2 - 3 Tbsp olive oil (if required)
  • 1.8kgs beef cubes (I used goulash), patted dry with paper towels
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups sliced onions
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 bottle of red wine (pinot noir, shiraz)*
  • 2 cups beef stock (I used Nomu)
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or tanned (I used 2 Tbsp tomato paste)
  • 1 medium bouquet garni: 8 parsley sprigs, 1 large bay leaf, 1 tsp dried thyme, 2 whole cloves and 3 large lightly crushed cloves of garlic (I used 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, bay leaves, cloves and lightly crushed garlic all placed in separately)
  •  Beurre manié: 3 Tbsp flour blended to a paste with 2 Tbsp butter (I used corn starch and you may also use dairy free margarine such as Blossom instead of the butter)
  • 24 pearl onions
  • Chicken stock or water
  • Butter/ margarine
  • 680g button or porcini mushrooms
*Contains yeast


  1. Blanch the bacon to remove its smoky taste. Drop bacon slices into 2 litres of cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer 6 to 8 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, and dry on paper towels.
  2. Remove the rind from the rashers and cut the rest into cubes. In a large frying pan, sauté the rind and cubes of bacon/ rasher to brown slightly (I didn't use oil here, I found the rashers had enough fat). Set aside.
  3. Brown the chunks of beef on all sides in the bacon fat and olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and put them into a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or casserole dish. Add the bacon to the beef.
  4. Remove all but a little fat from the frying pan, add the sliced vegetables and brown them, and add to the meat.
  5. Deglaze the pan with wine (Here I heated the entire bottle of wine in the pan to burn off most of the alcohol, after deglazing), pouring it into the casserole along with enough stock to almost cover the meat. Stir in the tomatoes and add the herb bouquet.
  6. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer slowly on the lowest heat possible, either on the stove or in a preheated 160°C oven, until the meat is tender, about 1 to 2 hours. (Here I put the casserole dish in the oven on about 180°C for half an hour and then transferred it to my Wonderbag to cook over night +/- 8 hours)
  7. While the stew is cooking (or the next day), prepare the onions. Blanch the onions in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Slice the end tips off of the onions, peel the onions and score the root end with 1/4 cm cuts. Sauté onions in a single layer in a tablespoon or two of butter until lightly browned. Add chicken stock or water half way up the sides of the onions. Add a teaspoon of sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer slowly for 25 minutes or until tender. The onions should absorb most of the water. If there is water remaining after cooking, drain the excess. Set aside.
  8. Prepare the mushrooms a few minutes before serving the stew. Sauté quartered mushrooms in a few tablespoons of butter and olive oil until browned and cooked through.
  9. When the stew meat has cooked sufficiently, remove all solids from the sauce (except the beef) by draining through a colander set over a saucepan. Return the beef to the casserole. Press juices out of the residue into the cooking liquid, then remove any visible fat and boil down the liquid to 3 cups. Off heat, whisk in the beurre manié, then simmer for 2 minutes as the sauce thickens lightly. Correct seasoning and pour over the meat, folding in the onions and mushrooms. To serve, bring to a simmer, basting meat and vegetables with the sauce for several minutes until hot throughout.
  10. Traditionally served with boiled baby potatoes, but can be served with rice or mash too
Finally after about 18 hours of preparation and cooking I was able to taste the fruits of my labour. Trumpets began to sound and violins began to play as I slowly lifted the spoon to my mouth, breathing in the heady aromas, and took my first mouthful of the velvety, intoxicating gravy and bit into a tender piece of meat (my mouth is watering as I write this).

Now, I see what the fuss is all about, Julia!! I am officially a self-cook Boeuf Bourguignon fan... for life.

I will be trying out a different recipe soon - I can't seem to get enough and want everyone to experience this unique dish for themselves. It is well worth the effort!!

Please cook this for the special people in your life; I can guarantee that they will love you forever :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gooey Chocolate Brownies

The Craving: Brownies, warm out of the oven, dripping with gooey chocolate and studded with walnut pieces
The Challenge: To make said brownies free from gluten, dairy and eggs
The Answer: Cookbook "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

I am the type of person who thinks about food A LOT - I dream about it, day dream about it, Google it, ramble about it, stare at it, convince others to try it and devour it.

If you have been following my blog recently you will have noticed that there haven't been many recipes this year and that is because this passion dimmed a bit, what with everything happening in my life... I haven't been waking up in the middle of the night with cold sweats and wildly beating heart as inspiration suddenly engulfed me.

{I was seriously beginning to think there was something wrong with me!}


THE CRAVING hit me, BAM, right in the taste buds!

It was an ordinary day at work; I was innocently minding my own business, when suddenly this tidal wave of a craving sent my taste buds salivating, my heart racing, my palms sweating, my brain whizzing... I had to have a brownie and I had to have it NOW!

Well I couldn't have it then and there, I had to be patient and wait until the end of the day... Tick, tock, tick, tock - it seemed to be one of the longest days EVER!

TOOOCCCKKKK... home time! I jumped in my car, raced home, clambered up the stairs, bashed through the front door and pounced on the cookbook - there had to be a brownie recipe, there just had to be!

Victory... "Brooklyn Brownie Cupcakes"

I scoured the list of ingredients, yanked open the cupboards to see what I had and with cookbook in hand, raced out of the door again and hot-footed it to the shops.

Now, breathless and drooling slightly at the thought of the brownie that was within my grasp at last, I started to make the batter:

*Calming breaths everyone*


(Makes about 10 - 12 brownies or 15 cupcakes)

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used Lindt Piccoli Couverture 70% dark chocolate discs)*
1/4 cup soya yoghurt (I used the chunky cherry soya yoghurt from Woolies)
1/2 cup black cherry preserve (I used Morello cherry jam)
1/2 cup soya milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons bourbon or any whiskey
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used Glutagon Cake Flour)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

*May contain small traces of gluten and dairy

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  2. Spray a loaf tin or any other rectangular baking dish with spray 'n cook (unless you would like to make cupcakes, in which case, line a muffin pan with cupcake liners and spray each line with spray 'n cook)
  3. At this point the recipe tells you to melt the chocolate, I didn't, I left the discs whole and put them in at the end
  4. Mix the yoghurt, jam, soya milk, sugar, oil, vanilla, almond extract and whiskey in a large bowl
  5. Sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt
  6. Mix thoroughly - I just used a spatula
  7. Pour in the Lindt discs and crumble in some walnut pieces
  8. Mix again, but do not over mix
  9. Pour into the loaf tin
  10. Bake for about 25 - 30 minutes
  11. Tip out of the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting into squares

THE RESULT: My brownie craving was sated! This recipe is so delicious, exactly what I was looking for; I couldn't even tell that the brownie didn't contain eggs, dairy or gluten. It was light and fluffy and somewhat cakey, but the gooeyness from the chocolate, made my day! I have been devouring my way through these brownies with glee and have even managed to freeze some. I will most definitely make this recipe again. A huge thumbs up from me!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Review: The Roundhouse

When the weather is miserable there is nothing better to do than eat! And this is exactly what we did last Sunday.

Felchin Chocolate Fondant with Seville Orange Ice Cream and Creme Anglaise
(The Creme Anglaise is ceremoniously poured at the table by the waiter)

The road to The Roundhouse in Camps Bay is long and winding (I feel a song coming on), but this road does nothing to deter you, in fact with each turn and twist, edged with age-old trees, I felt my excitement mounting and on arriving at this tucked away gem, the view, simply, took my breath away.

I was in awe as history seemed to unfold before my mind's eye.

(Taken from the web)

(Taken from the web)

In fact, while walking into the restaurant, I could imagine myself in a black and white movie - so transported to a bygone era was I.

Our friends were tucked away in an alcove, which immediately gave a sense of privacy, almost as if I was visiting a friend's home for lunch (A very rich friend with a well-oiled contingent of staff).

The Maitre d' was superb - explaining the intricacies of each dish and providing recommendations. We all decided to go with the "Express Lunch Menu", which consisted of three courses, with two choices for each.

Menu R180 or Menu with Pairing R345.

Most of us opted for the recommendations:

STARTER: Lezena Free Range Chicken Terrine and Parfait with Nasturtium Berry Tapenade, Eve Figs and Pine

The chicken was unbelievably tender and moist and the accompanying flavours and textures took my taste buds on a journey, with each mouthful being a new avenue to explore and savour.

MAIN: 24 Hour Lamb Shoulder with Charred Aubergine, Radish and Fennel

The charred aubergine and strong flavours of radish and fennel complimented this robust dish excellently. The lamb was melt in the mouth and the gravy unctuous.

DESSERT: Almond Frangipane with Vanilla Creme, Marzipan and Chocolate Croquant

The flavours struck an individual cord, yet harmonized brilliantly. I adored the tiny balls of marzipan, the crunchy shards of dark chocolate and the delicate almond frangipane.

Each dish was accompanied by heavenly wines, (chosen by one of my learned dining companions); a wooded, almost syrupy, chardonnay for the starter and a deep, powerful red blend for the main.

If this is what it feels like to be royalty, bring it on!
Prince Harry, where are you? ;-)