Monthly Archives: March 2013

Love feasts and other disasters

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Uh oh. Tonight is a special bring-and-share ‘love feast’ gathering at our church. Normally I enjoy this kind of thing. But since yours truly has been working hard on a proofreading job  obsessively researching DSLR cameras  generally somewhat distracted of late, my dinner-and-dessert contribution towards tonight’s meal is currently… still under construction.

I know that the idea of a love feast or ‘agape feast’ probably sounds a bit strange to those out of the loop with church jargon. But it’s just a shared meal to celebrate as a church family something important – in this case, Easter: the time we rememember Christ’s sinless life, His sacrificial death and (praise God) His victorious resurrection. The love feasts are meant to be done in the same spirit as of those old first-century saints who gathered together regularly to share meals and worship the Lord.

So, something worth putting in effort for, right?

Except that I haven’t.

And now I’m in a flap to get things ready. And when I’m in a flap, I tend to do unsaintly things.

Such as freeze my jelly pudding to try to rush the setting process. And then forget the jelly in the freezer, only to take out a bowl of raspberry icicles an hour later. Which I then proceed to whisk into wobbly pink foam, believing that the other guests will prefer a childish pink mousse over frozen icy jelly.

Disaster-recovery on raspberry jelly

Disaster-recovery on raspberry jelly

OK, so that’s my dessert half done, and back in the fridge to set. I plan to tastefully cover that delightful pink mush with a thick layer of irresistable homemade custard. Hopefully the brethren won’t think twice when I say that my dessert is “just plain ol’ jelly and custard”.

Er… yum?

Of course it’s just typical that I think about what to make for dessert first.

Now for the meal. We’re supposed to bring enough to feed ourselves and share the rest, but it’s not clear how many will be seated at our table to dip their spoons in our dishes. On the one hand, I don’t want to seem miserly by arriving with too small a portion. But on the other hand I can’t afford to create a lavish supersize dish to feed the 5 000!

So I’ve decided to make an enormous potato salad with special extras such as cheese, tinned tuna and toasted sunflower seeds. I know it’s not exactly a balanced meal, but at least it’s vegetarian 😉 And if it’s not quite what the church leaders had in mind, here’s hoping the spirit of forgiveness will pervade our love feast this evening…

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.

~Proverbs 15:17 ~

Jokes aside, though, my biggest concern in all this is that I’ll get so worked up about making a meaningful contribution to the dinner, that I’ll miss the point of the celebration altogether. Just as we so easily get carried away at Christmastime, believing it’s more important to bake fruit pies and prepare roasts than it is to focus on the reason for Christ’s birth.

And Easter is an especially precious time for Christians because if Christ had never died or risen again, our hope for salvation and the forgiveness of our sins would be void. So this is not the time to become distracted with superficial tasks. If we do nothing else this weekend, may we pause to consider the Saviour. The only God who reached down to man instead of expecting man to reach up to Him. May we remember why He came to earth. May we learn from His life, be humbled by His death, and be thankful for His resurrection.

Bless you all this Easter!

Zest

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Vegetarianism: take two

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Last week a friend treated me to brunch at a lovely restaurant called Gingko (yes, check off another one for Goal #70).

Gingko: The second restaurant for Goal #70

Of course, I used it as an opportunity to work on Goal #42 as well, and eat something I’d never tried before. I ordered a shrimp, avo and ricotta frittata (shrimp being the novel ingredient for me). Here it is:

Shrimp, avo and ricotta frittata

Shrimp, avo and ricotta frittata

Gingko is a lovely restaurant with seating outdoors in a leafy garden. It was a beautiful spot for catching up on some girl talk over a good meal. The food is mainly organic and mostly vegetarian or vegan, although they do cater for carnivores too.

Seeing the amazing menu, I started thinking about my weak attempt at vegetarian eating. And I think I can see why I failed at meeting my goal of going vegetarian this past month.

It’s because I didn’t remind myself of the reasons I had for putting such a goal on my 101 list in the first place.

People choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle for many different reasons; it could be for religion, better health, animal rights, saving the planet or just saving the ozone from all those noxious bovine gases!

My reasons for wanting to try out a relatively meatless diet are simple and personal:

  1. I believe taking a break from meat for a month would be a good detox for my body.
  2. I need a push to improve our diet coz I don’t think Ninja and I are meeting our 5-a-day quota for veggies and fruit.
  3. While I’m still learning more about the treatment of animals raised for food, I want to distance myself from known cruelty as much as possible.
  4. I’ve got about 4 extra sticky kilos that I just can’t seem to shift, so I’m hoping reducing meat will help with weight loss.
  5. I want to try vegetarianism in order to challenge myself to experiment with new recipes and ingredients.

If I’d kept these points in mind, I might not have given up on this goal before the month was out.

Another reason I think I failed to stick to the plan was that it was too strict. From some articles I’ve been reading online, it seems that many vegetarians eventually turn back to include some form of meat in their diets – mainly for health reasons. I certainly don’t want to become anaemic or anything, and I need to be careful because I have low blood pressure as it is. So instead of cutting off everything at once, perhaps I’d have more success if I revised the rules a bit.

I’d like to try for Goal #36 again in the month ahead, but here’s how I’ll play it next time:

  • Include chicken and fish, but only free-range chicken and wild-caught, eco-friendly fish. That way hopefully I’m only choosing creatures that had a fairly healthy and stress-free life.
  • Eat no pork, beef, lamb or other red meat.
  • Include eggs and dairy as before.

It’s easier for me if my ‘month of vegetarianism’ runs from one grocery shopping date to the next, i.e. the 25th March to 25th April. So I’m starting it today.

Off I go now to do grocery shopping and fill my basket with more goodness for the greater good 🙂

The Cold War

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Bleh. It seems that to mark the change of season, I’ve been ambushed by Sore Throat and The Sniffles.

Time to bring out the big guns!

Warriors in my Cold War

That’s my army of herbal infection fighters and immune boosters. If invading germs are able to get past my first defence of healthy eating and balanced living, I always turn to these natural medics first; my goal being to recover before I have to wave the white flag and retreat to the doctor’s rooms…

My task force includes the following commanders and their soldiers:

  • General Bio-Strath with his team of 61 nutrients, vitamins, minerals, trace elements and amino acids
  • Lieutenant General Sinus Tea with sage, thyme, yarrow herb and marshmallow root
  • Major General Berry Elixir+ with prunus spinosa extract, vitamin C, rooibos tea extract and lemon
  • Brigadier General Olive Leaf Extract
  • Colonel Echinacea Extract
  • Lietenant Colonel ViralChoice Effervescent Supplement with vitamins, minerals and echinacea
  • Major Tonsil+ Tissue Salts with atropa belladonna, merc sol, calc phos, echinacea ang, ferrum phos, hepar sulph, kali mur and kali bichromium
  • Captain Combin Assist Tissue Salts with calc fluor, calc sulph, ferrum phos, kali mur, kali sulph, mag phos and nat mur
  • First Lieutenant VirAway Lozenges with honey and homeopathic herbal helpers
  • Second Lieutenant Fresh Lemon, serving in the form of lemon tea with honey
  • And finally, a whole band of fresh-fruit fighters, represented here by Chief Warrant Officer Blueberry

Yes, I am taking all those vits in their various forms and doses. At the same time. All aided and abetted by rest, simple meals, sunlight, fresh air and more rest.

Sore Throat and Sniffles won’t know what hit ’em 😀

Chaaaaaaaarrrrrrge!

Marriage lessons on a motorcyle

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Don’t fall off your chair.

You’re about to see the first pic of me ever posted to this blog 😛

Yes, that's me!

Yes, that’s me!

That’s me, all trussed up and ready to go for a motorcycle ride with Ninja. And don’t worry, I know I look about 12 years old next to that bike, but I didn’t do the riding. I was safely straddling the pillion seat, clinging to my husband like a baby koala to its mother’s back.

I managed to work on three of my 101 things in 1001 days goals yesterday. For Goal #10, I went on the first of ten motorbike rides with my man; for Goal #70, I ate at the first of five new restaurants; and for Goal #42 I ate the third of five new things I’ve never tried before.

The bike ride was both thrilling and threatening.

It’s not that I’m afraid of bikes; in fact, I was raised by biker parents (not that they were Harley-riding, leather-tassle-toting Hell’s Angels or anything). Both my parents enjoyed biking before they even met each other, and they had real bikes, not those awful showy cruisers that sound more like tractors. When I was old enough, my dad took me for rides too. So motorcycles were part of my childhood.

I used to think that my dad was the only man I’d ever trust to give me lifts on a motorbike. But then Ninja learnt to ride during our dating years, and my world of safe bikers is now population: 2. I really enjoy going for rides with my husband, since he’s a sensible and safe rider and he communicates clearly to me what’s expected of me as his pillion.

So yesterday’s bike ride wasn’t threatening because of him. It was all the other hooligans on the road!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The bad parts of the trip only came at the end. The first leg of the journey was lovely.

My really girly helmet

My really girly helmet

We decided to travel towards Hartebeespoort Dam, a very famous chilling spot on weekends and public holidays (such as yesterday, which was SA’s Human Rights Day). The main road leading there takes you through open areas of grassland, hills and trees. It feels like you’re leaving the city behind you for good.

Biking offers a special thrill and a freedom that even the fastest car will never supply. There’s that element of risk that’s just so different from taking a trip with four wheels. I love flying over the roads with the wind rushing around us; I love the little flip of fear that my tummy does when we lean around the corners. I enjoy sitting high up and being able to see past the traffic, and it’s always fun waving at bug-eyed little children in the backseats of cars.

Anyway, to get to the eateries you have to circle around the dam, riding on a bridge that only allows traffic through from one side at a time. I managed to take a pic of the entrance to the bridge because we’d had to pull over, since poor Ninja got a speck of something or other stuck in his eye.

The ‘Victory Arch’ at Hartebeespoort Dam

The inscription across the top of the archway says ‘Sine aqua arida ac misera agri cultura’ on this side, and ‘Dedi in deserto aquas flumina in invio’ on the other side (which I unfortunately couldn’t capture on camera). Apparently the inscriptions mean something like ‘Without water agriculture is arid and miserable’ and part of Isaiah 43:20 in Latin. (Hmm. I’d even go so far as to say that without water, agriculture is impossible. But maybe that’s just me.)

Sine aqua arida ac misera agri cultura

If the arch looks old, it’s because it is – the dam was started towards the end of the First World War, and only completed shortly before the Second World War began. Since then, Harties (as it’s affectionately known) has become a top leisure spot. These days there are loads of fancy homes settled along the shores of the dam, and there’s lots to do in the area, from hot-air balloon rides to a small zoo.

But there is one problem with the dam: it’s always been full of algae, water plants and weeds. And sometimes (like yesterday) it can really pong! Yuck :/ Bikers get the full impact of nasty smells; at least the car drivers can roll up their windows! Eventually we found a great little Italian restaurant ristorante opposite the zoo, where the fresh air was free of foul smells. Here’s a pic of the signboard and view:

Catalino's restaurant

Catalino’s restaurant

And then, since I was in the mood for achieving goals, I ordered something I’ve never tried before: curry on a pizza!

Chicken curry on pizza

Chicken curry on pizza

It was unusual and surprisingly yummy 🙂

On the way back, we managed to skip the long queue for the bridge. That really is one of the best things about motorbikes. Car drivers hate it when bikers are pushy, but Ninja rode very politely and safely, so people let him into the front of the queue. Since he commutes with a bike daily, he knows how to show good manners on the roads.

After we’d left the bridge and dam area behind us, the less pleasant side of the ride began. My back was starting to ache because of the backpack I carried, so there was that. But worst of all were some of the rude car drivers who toyed with us as we simply made our way home. Wherever possible Ninja got out of the way so that faster cars and bikes could pass us. But one car driver in particular started driving up our tailpipe and hooting at us to move aside even though there was no space to do so. Such arrogance just boils my blood! And as we got nearer the suburbs, there were several cars that just started pulling out of driveways in front of us as if we didn’t exist.

It was hair raising. On a bike one feels so exposed; accidents that would merely be fender benders in a car, on a bike would result in broken bones or worse. By the time we got home we were rather shaken up. When my nerves are on edge like that, nothing calms me like something sweet 😉 So we had some cherry jelly as we discussed the day’s events…

Cherry jelly, a great nerve tonic

The trip gave me a new appreciation for the kind of dangers that my man faces on the bike each day. It also made me think about the ways in which going for a bike ride together is similar to being married:

1. You need to be fit for it. You use so many muscles and so much concentration to be a good rider or pillion passenger; it doesn’t happen without practice. In marriage you also need to work at a strong relationship; no one is naturally the perfect spouse.

2. There has to be a leader and a follower. Biking wouldn’t work if we both tried to take control and steer things our way, and neither does marriage. In God’s good design, he gave husbands and wives different but complementary roles.

3. You need to move as one. When Ninja leans into a corner, I have to trust him and copy his movements so that the bike stays balanced. In the same way, in marriage we need to make decisions together and move forward as one.

4. You need to look out for each other. Ninja warns me when to hold on tight or stand up for bumps in the road, and sometimes I help him by pointing out danger or directions. In our marriage we take care of each other in the same way.

5. You have to have a goal. A bike ride to nowhere is no fun, just as a marriage with no shared dreams and destinations lacks meaning.

6. You need to trust God for your journey. I never leave on a bike ride without praying for our safety, and in the same way marriages are protected when couples lift up their lives to the Lord.

7. There’s only space for two. Three people can’t fit on a motorbike, just as three’s a crowd in any marriage.

8. You need to know your limitations. Each bike is different, and each rider has different skill sets. Acting like you’re on a superbike when it’s really just a scooter will cause endless problems. And in marriage, comparing your unique circumstances to other couples around you will always leave you dissatisfied.

9. Hold on tight. Since we can’t talk to each other, we communicate with touches and squeezes during a bike ride. Which is not a bad idea for marriage, either 😉

10. It’s supposed to be fun! In bike riding as in marriage, make the most of every adventure and every opportunity to be together. You’re meant to enjoy the ride!

World Sparrow Day

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Goal #78 on my list of 101 things says I must celebrate 5 obscure holidays… and if there ever was an obscure day to commemorate, it’s gotta be today. World Sparrow Day. Celebrating feathered friends of the garden variety all around the world.

Cape sparrow

Cape sparrow

I don’t know if blogging about it counts as celebrating, since I haven’t gone as far as to build a little birdhouse (although I may well have done so if we had a garden of our own). But my nod to World Sparrow Day will have to just be in blog format because, well, sorry birdies – I don’t tweet.

In South Africa we have two main types of sparrows: the Cape sparrows (a male is shown above) and house sparrows. They’re prolific breeders, chirruping singers and as nondescript as sparrows everywhere, I reckon.

But it makes me smile to know that the Lord notices and cares for these utterly plain little guys too 🙂 Watching simple, humble sparrows go about their day, I’m always reminded of that Scripture (Matthew 10:29) that says: ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.’ It’s a comforting thought. As my MacArthur Bible commentary notes, ‘Divine providence governs even the most inconsequential details of God’s creation. He cares for all that He created, regardless of how insignificant.’

Happy World Sparrow Day! 🙂

Autumn equinox

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Today is the autumn equinox in the southern hemisphere (and it will be spring tomorrow for those of you in the north). Although the weather is rather breezy today, I haven’t yet seen any of the trees turning yellow or orange. However, the weather is a notch or two cooler than it usually is in summer, so the change of season is definitely on its way. I’m so grateful that God didn’t create a monotonous world in which there was only one season!

Autumn and spring are my favourite seasons, more for what they symbolise than for the weather they bring. I love autumn because it’s an ideal time for reflection and introspection. Following on the heels of summer, which is usually a lively, chaotic season, and coming as it does just before the lockdown of winter, autumn is like the yellow bulb on the traffic light – a warning that it’s time to slow down, to look around, to pause and consider.

Autumn harvest © Sunshine Scrapbook

This pic is one I took this time last year, when Ninja and I took a weekend break to a log cabin a couple of hours’ drive from here. I think the bales of hay epitomise the beauty of autumn: the bundling up of summer’s goodness and the preparation for winter’s harsher demands.

Each year when autumn comes around, I long for a completely different life. One far, far away from the city. A life on the land, the way people used to live, experiencing the seasons firsthand. I’ve felt that way for as long as I can remember. I was born into a standard suburban life, but if I give myself quiet time to muse, my heart always longs for something more natural and homegrown and earthy, somehow.

As if I’m remembering a life I’ve never actually lived, autumn conjures for me images of cornucopias filled with the season’s best; the smell of homemade jams and preserves packed away for the winter; long walks in vast golden meadows; shorter days and evening fires; a sense of shedding summer’s excesses and looking forward to winter’s lack and peaceful silence. It seems more beautiful, for some reason, if I picture myself in another time, another place, another life.

I’m convinced that autumn (or fall) is far more striking in the northern hemisphere than it is here down south. The blazing glory of Japanese maples or the timeless beauty of New England’s deciduous trees is something I’d love to see in person. We do get some pretty leaf colouration here, of course, but Jo’burg also seems to have far too many evergreens 😛

This year I want to appreciate this short season to the full. Autumn seems like a good time to unplug from technology and step outside instead. In the middle of my busy, boxed-in urban life, I want to stop to acknowledge the changes in the natural world around us – and to notice how those changes mirror the inner seasons of my heart.

Surviving a picnic in Johannesburg

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If you’re ever in Johannesburg and looking for a spot for a picnic, you can’t just spread out your red-and-white-checked blanket in any old public park. I don’t know what it’s like overseas, but here in Jozi, and pretty much everywhere in SA, we always think of safety first.

Most of our small public parks are overrun with shady characters. The bigger parks are usually fenced off to try to keep unwanted elements out… but even an eight-foot pallisade with barbed wire doesn’t necessarily mean you’re safe. For example, we have a large fenced-off, residents-only park in our neighbourhood. But Ninja and I never go in there anymore since we’ve heard of people being mugged at gunpoint in the park while innocently out walking with their dogs and kids.

Some public recreation areas started out well but over time have gained a bad rep. Emmerentia Dam in Johannesburg is a great example of this. People still use the park frequently, as it’s popular for picnics, dog walking, rowing and feeding the flocks of Egyptian geese. But there have been a few ‘incidents’ over the years, so now the whole point of going to the park in the first place – to relax and forget about the cares of life for a while – is tainted with the need to be alert and aware and suspicious all the time.

It’s almost like we Jo’burgers have a mental checklist for surviving picnics and public outings:

  1. Don’t bring any valuables. Or, if you have to bring valuables, keep them hidden.
  2. Park your car in the safest spot you can, preferably keeping it in sight the whole time, or going back periodically to check that a) it’s still there and b) it hasn’t been broken into.
  3. Take note of everyone around you. Be alert all the time.
  4. Only picnic during daylight hours, in an open spot where you’re clearly visible.
  5. Don’t interact with strangers. If anyone approaches, fob them off as soon as possible. Rudeness is better than gullibility.
  6. If you’re going to be distracted focusing on little kids or photographing the scenery, make sure one of your companions is on sentry duty.
  7. You will, of course, have companions with you. Never, never, never go to picnic places alone. Especially if you’re a woman.

I’m not exaggerating.

But on the upside, I do know of one safe spot left for picnics in Jozi: the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens. I’ve mentioned them briefly in a previous post. The gardens are vast and beautiful and well maintained and safe. You have to pay a nominal entrance fee, but I think that’s what’s saved them from deteriorating like so many other spots.

Once you’re past the ticket booth, it feels like you can relax a little at last. You’ll see the better side of Jozi stretched out before you on the rolling green lawns: families of every colour and creed; people of every shape and size. You’ll hear happy children playing and laughing adults unwinding together under the beautiful shade trees. The park enforces very strict rules about noise and littering, so you’ll find your fellow picnickers are generally pleasant and well behaved.

Most visitors bring their own picnics, but there’s also a restaurant with a kiddies’ playground. On certain days there guided walks, music shows and free yoga classes. At certain times of the year the resident black eagles attract a lot of attention at their nest near the waterfall.

The gardens are a popular place for romantic celebrations, too; we know several guys who picked that spot to propose to their girlfriends, and Ninja and I celebrated our one-year dating anniversary there too. There’s something special about this natural haven in the middle of our city. A little bit of escapism; a chance to do nothing more pressing than admire God’s creation and stare up at the sky.

Ninja and I recently picnicked there to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Here are a few photos I took on the day:

The botanical gardens on a sunny summer's day

The botanical gardens on a sunny summer’s day

The messy nest of the black eagles

The messy nest of the black eagles

A stunning male white-bellied sunbird

A stunning male white-bellied sunbird

A locust in the 'Big Bug Expo' in the gardens

A locust in the ‘Big Bug Expo’ in the gardens

All the big bugs are cleverly crafted from recycled scrap metal

All the big bugs are cleverly crafted from recycled scrap metal

Monster mozzie!

Monster mozzie!

Scrap-metal spider

Scorpion against a classic South African backdrop

Scorpion against a classic South African backdrop

A twisted tree branch

A twisted tree branch

A path to one of the hiking trails

A path to one of the hiking trails

Phew! We survived another picnic in Johannesburg. Fancy that 😛

How to eat bugs for lunch

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A brief pictorial, courtesy of the green wood hoepoe

Step 1: Stab your long, sharp bill under a fold of tree bark

Step 2: Pluck the bug out of its hiding spot

Step 3: Grip your lunch tightly so it doesn’t get away

Step 4: Chug it down

Step 5: Gulp!

Step 6: Move on in search of your next snack

Minnie Mouse party and cake decorations

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One of my friends enlisted my help for her daughters’ Minnie Mouse-themed birthday party this weekend. She made the cake and cupcakes, and I made the decor. It was only my second time working with fondant icing since the ninja cupcakes, and the first time I’d tried to decorate a whole cake with fondant. All in all, I’m pleased to say the results weren’t a total cake wreck! Plus, since my friend made all the goodies herself, I didn’t even have to break my March goal of no baking 😉

Minnie Mouse cupcake toppers

Minnie Mouse cupcake toppers

The main theme colours were pink and red, but I used a variety of colours and designs (as usual, since production-line kinda creativity isn’t really my style).

More Minnie Mouse cupcake toppers

More Minnie Mouse cupcake toppers

We had one large cake for the eldest birthday girl, a large cupcake for the little sister, and a number of normal cupcakes for the guests. My favourite part of the decor was definitely making the Minnie Mouse face for the large cake.

Minnie Mouse cake decoration

Minnie Mouse cake decoration

My methods may be those of a serious novice, but they worked. I got the template for the face here, printed it out on normal paper and ‘traced’ around it with a knife on the rolled-out white fondant. Then I cut out each section of the paper template and traced it onto the black, pink and red fondant. I added the finishing touches with edible ink.

When it came to covering the cake in icing, we decided on white and red with a pink strip, and black around the sides:

Cake under construction

The youngest daughter’s cupcake looked like this in the end:

Minnie Mouse mini cake

OK, I know it’s pretty plain, but to be fair… she’s only just turned one. I don’t think she would have appreciated anything more artistic: all she wanted was something to squelch in her hand and shove in her mouth 😉

As for the other cupcakes, we frosted them with pink butter icing and stuck a bow on each one.

Cupcakes: bright, beautiful, sweet AND fluffy!

Here are some pics from the final results on the day of the party…

Cake pops

Cake pops

I think these cake pops should count towards my Goal #42 – Eat 5 things I’ve never tried before. They were chocolatey and chewy and yummy. I also think we should have had a lighter hand when sprinkling on those dragees… they crunched so loudly when people bit into them that it sounded like horses munching on dry corncobs! Ow.

Minnie Mouse party

Minnie Mouse party

It was a scorching hot day, so unfortunately the poor fondant bows started to sag and melt…

Bye bye bows…

But the big cake made it to the end:

Minnie Mouse cake

Don’t you just love baking for birthday parties? 😀

Coconut milk custard with raspberries and pistachios

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Here’s a dairy-free, gluten-free treat that manages to be decadent and fairly healthy at the same time! I had a can of coconut milk in my cupboard, originally intended for making coconut sorbet. Instead, I decided to experiment with making my own creamy, coconut-flavoured custard.

Ingredients for coconut milk custard

This is what I came up with:

1 tin (400 g) coconut milk

2 1/2 T custard powder (I used a tartrazine-free, gluten-free, unsweetened powder)

2 1/2 T honey

1 banana

Fresh raspberries

Pistachio nuts

Optional extras: raspberries and pistachios

Optional extras: raspberries and pistachios

These are the steps I made up as I went along:

1. Heat the coconut milk with the honey in a double boiler, stirring gently. Heat until it’s quite warm but not boiling.

2. In a separate bowl, mix the custard powder with a little of the milk to form a paste. (If you’re using a different sweetener to honey, mix it with this paste rather than with the milk.)

3. Add the custard paste to the hot milk, stirring constantly.

4. Keep stirring as the mixture thickens. (I found that mine didn’t get very thick – even after about 15 minutes it remained at pouring consistency – but I’m not sure if that’s due to the custard powder, since this was the first time I’d used that brand.)

5. Slice up the banana (or fruit of your choice) in a serving bowl.

Banana always goes well with custard

Banana always goes well with custard

6. Pour in the custard and top with raspberries and pistachios (or other fruit and nuts of your choice).

Fantastic fresh raspberries

Fantastic fresh raspberries

I just used what I had on hand. Raspberries are in season in South Africa at the moment, and I thought that marvellous toasted pistachios would add a unique flavour to this creamy dessert.

Coconut milk custard with raspberries and pistachios

Considering this was a first-time experiment, I’m impressed with the results. The custard wasn’t as thick as I usually prefer mine, but next time I’ll try a different custard powder and/or another tablespoon thereof, to see if it will thicken further. Otherwise, it was perfect: the coconut flavour came through clearly; the bananas added substance; the raspberries added zest and the pistachios added crunch. Yum!