Just a quick post to wish all who stumble upon this a very blessed Christmas!
I’m a big fan of Woolworths food. They concoct such a delicious variety of treats – and not all of them are destined to add blubber 🙂 Possibly my favourite Woolies invention is their Slimmer’s Choice Vanilla Frozen Yoghurt. So it was only natural that this would be the ideal way to wrap up our 7-course dinner. Ninja preferred his plain, but I topped my vanilla scoops with a fiery homemade hotsauce. Yum!
200 ml strawberry juice
3 T white sugar
1. Gently heat the strawberry juice and sugar in a pot.
2. Mix a little cornflour (approx. 1 t) with 3 t water. Add to juice in pot.
3. Stir well so the mix doesn’t stick to the pot. Add Tabasco sauce to taste. Allow to thicken.
4. Pour warm sauce over cold yoghurt and enjoy.
1. Instead of water, I used 3 t beetroot juice, because I wanted the sauce a hot pink colour to match our dinner theme (and I didn’t have food colouring on hand).
2. The sauce becomes gelatinous as it thickens and cools. I made mine a few hours ahead of time and just warmed it up on the stove 5 minutes before I needed it.
3. I know shops overseas sell hotsauces specially made for use with dessert, but I’ve never seen anything like that on South African shelves. What’s nice about this homemade recipe is you can vary it, using different fruit juice flavours etc.
The penultimate course in our 7-course dinner was a simple salad with a surprising bite.
In hindsight, I’d say that the almonds should have been roasted rather than curried. The curry clashed too much with the chili flavour of the dessert. But you can do the almonds any way you like, so here’s the recipe:
Small pack baby salad leaves
1 sour green apple (Granny Smith), peeled, cored and cubed
Fried bacon bits (optional; I only used them because I had some left over from the ‘shrooms)
Cheddar cheese, cubed (Curry and cheese? What was I thinking?!)
Almonds, blanched and quartered (I fried mine in curry powder and lemon juice, but I suggest roasting them instead)
Then, as Jamie would say, ‘whack it all together’ and enjoy. You can vary this salad as much as you like (I sometimes wonder why we post salad recipes at all; the fun of it is in the spontaneous variety). I just used what I had on hand. In all honesty, though, I really just threw the salad together absentmindedly, because my tastebuds were already tingling at the thought of the dessert… 😉
There are so many loose ends to tie up at the end of the year. One of the things I need to finish now is posting the recipes for the 7-course dinner I made for the Ninja. So here’s a quick breakdown of the fifth course: the main meal.
I discovered roasting bags earlier this year, and my chicken dishes haven’t been the same since! I applaud Glad, in particular, for their easy-to-use cooking bags in various sizes. Anyway, so making the chicken for our fancy dinner was as easy as marinating the drumsticks in a blend of Nando’s lemon & herb rub and Robertson’s chicken spice. I did this the day before, drizzled a little olive oil over the drumsticks, wrapped them in foil and kept them in the fridge. When it was time to roast them, I simply transferred them to an oven bag, placed it in a glass dish and roasted them for 30 min along with the potatoes.
If there was one element of our dinner that I was disappointed with, it was these spuds. I followed the original recipe as closely as possible, but the potatoes came out rather dry and tasteless. I chose this recipe because they could be prepared ahead of time.
However, it would’ve been worth the effort if I’d just made normal roast potatoes. I’m still on the lookout for the ultimate crispy roast potato recipe though, so let me know if you think you’ve found it!
These were a lovely addition to our meal. Whip them up in 15 minutes as follows:
1. Cook baby carrots in water with a pinch of salt.
2. When they’re tender, drain off any remaining water and turn down the heat a little.
3. Add 2 T of each of the following to the pot: butter, brown sugar, honey and lemon juice.
4. Stir well until the carrots are properly coated. Serve with extra salt and black pepper if desired.
As Christmas has rolled around (just saying that makes me think of the rolling around we’re likely to do after Christmas… all those festive feasts!), I’ve found an opportunity to accomplish another of the goals on my list. This time it was #43: Give someone a handmade gift. I’ve baked several batches of my favourite ginger biscuits and packaged them like this:
I popped packets of 10 biscuits, tied with tinsel (or ribbon), inside small brown paper bags. Then, using mini wooden pegs from a craft shop, I pegged a pretty teabag (from Pukka) onto the bag.
As a final touch, I decorated the pegs with small silver charms of teabags, teapots and teacups:
I’ve given these to quite a few friends I’ve seen so far, and plan on making a few more batches tomorrow in time for handing out on Christmas day. Homemade treats are such a cost-effective way of giving gifts, and the extra touches with the presentation have drawn as many exclamations of ‘Oh, wow!’ as the biscuits themselves!
The fourth course in our fancy dinner was a palate cleanser – or, as Ninja quipped later after a little too much wine, a ‘planet cleanser’! This was the only recipe on our menu that I didn’t adapt or rework at all. The recipe I used is here.
Unfortunately, even though I made this the day before, it didn’t freeze properly in time for our meal. So it came out looking more like lemon and thyme spittle. But it was edible spittle, nonetheless 😉 If I make it again I’ll freeze it for several days beforehand.
Adding a sorbet to the menu was a good idea, but this one turned out very sour. We barely sampled a teaspoon each, and our palates were thoroughly scoured (and the planet too, no doubt). Although the recipe needs adjustment to get rid of the hardcore acidity, it was refreshing and did its job in preparing our mouths for the flavours of the main course.
Oh. My. Goodness. Why have I lived this long before trying out stuffed mushrooms?!?! They are incredible!! At least, the ones I made for our 7-course dinner starters were. I’ve heard it said many times that you shouldn’t try out a new recipe for a dinner party, in case it’s a dismal failure and you spend the rest of the event with your culinary tail between your legs. But when I was searching for starters for our meal, the various recipes I found for baked mushrooms seemed so easy that I wasn’t worried about them making their debut at our dinner. (As with the appetisers I made, there’s a myriad options for filling mushrooms. The recipe below catered to our specific taste preferences, but you could add virtually any stuffing you’d like.)
8 large brown mushrooms
4 T bacon bits, fried and chopped
4 sundried tomatoes
1 t water
1 t olive oil
1 T butter
Herbs of your choice (I used dried origanum, dried chives and black pepper)
1/2 C cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
1 C mozzarella cheese, grated
1. Using a kitchen scissors, snip the tomatoes into little shreds. Mix in a small bowl with the herbs, water and oil. Leave to soak until needed.
2. With a sharp paring knife, cut out the stems of the mushrooms. Finely chop up these stems.
3. Melt the butter in a pot and fry the stems with the bacon and the crumbs. Add the tomato mix.
4. Fill the mushrooms with the fried mixture.
5. Add a few cheddar cubes to each mushroom, and top with grated mozzarella.
6. Bake the mushrooms on a greased baking tray at 200 °C for 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and slightly browned.
7. Carefully remove from tray and eat immediately.
1. I found that greasing the tray was really important so that the mushrooms came off easily.
2. My menu for our dinner said that these would be crumbed mushrooms, but they looked so good when they came out of the oven that I completely forgot to add extra crumbs on top!
3. I had already fried and chopped the bacon separately the day before, so I just added it when stuffing the mushrooms.
4. You can also make the filling of stems, tomato and crumbs a couple of hours beforehand. Just keep it in the fridge until you need it.
Ninja’s verdict on this course: ‘Magic! Magic mushrooms!’
My verdict: I could have happily eaten this for each of the 7 courses, haha! They tasted like mini mushroom pizzas. These will definitely become part of our regular mushroom treats 🙂
This second course in our 7-course dinner was really a no-brainer, and I’ll admit I didn’t put much effort into it – it was simply there because I needed a soup course 🙂 In an idealistic world I might have slaved for hours making a whole two cups of delectable homemade broth, but in order to spend more time with my man than with my stove, I opted for this quickie instead.
2 C boiling water
1 Cup-a-soup 20 g individual portion sachet (I used a creamy chicken and chives flavour)
1 t chicken or veg stock powder
1/3 C frozen peas and corn
Handful rice vermicelli noodles
1. Place boiling water in a pot with the soup and stock powder.
2. Add frozen veg and noodles. Cook gently for about 5 minutes until veg and noodles are tender.
3. Serve with seeded bread rolls, warmed up for a minute in the oven or microwave.
As an appetiser in the first course of my 7-course dinner, I made these simple, sweet cucumber cups. You can find endless variations on this idea around the web, but the recipe below is my own.
1 large English cucumber
1 tin Alaskan red salmon, cleaned
2 T mayonnaise
1 T chutney
1 T tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
A splash of lemon juice
1. Peel the cucumber in any design you prefer. Discard the rounded end bits.
2. Slice the cucumber into 4–6 rounds of about 3 cm each.
3. Using a teaspoon or a melon baller, remove most of the insides of each round, to form a little cup.
4. Mix all the other ingredients together and spoon into the cucumber cups.
These were easy to make ahead of time, and the crisp cool cucumber offered a refreshing contrast to the sweet, tangy fish mix. As you can see, I served them with Kiri cream cheese squares and cherry tomatoes. Yum!
Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I’ve never owned a proper branded eau de cologne – I’ve always made do with cheap, simple deodorants. But ever since I first sniffed a tester of this baby, years ago now, it’s been on my list of things to try before I die 🙂
My 58th goal on my list of 101 things was: Buy myself a bottle of expensive perfume. I can cross this off my list now because Ninja beat me to it: he bought me Hugo Boss Deep Red for Women as a gift to go with our 7th anni dinner! It’s gorgeous, and – like any great fragrance – makes me feel that way too.