Tag Archives: dessert

Five years of marriage

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Hello all,¬†sorry I’ve been so quiet lately… there’s been a stack of stuff going on, much of which I’ve been longing to blog about, but there just never seems to be enough time. ANYway, I’m sure life’s exactly the same for you too ūüôā

Anni 1

The other day Ninja and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. As clich√©d as it may seem, I can hardly believe how quickly the time has passed since my wedding day ūüėĮ

We celebrated the occasion with a fancy romantic¬†dinner at an Italian¬†restaurant recommended to us by a friend. (Another goal worked on: Goal #70, visit 5 new restaurants. This was the third so far.)¬†What a gorgeous dining experience! The restaurant is Caf√© del Sol in Olivedale, Johannesburg, and here’s what we enjoyed for our three courses of the¬†meal…

Anni 2

My starter

To start the evening I ordered the Italian Primavera Rolls ‚Ästrice pastry rolls¬†filled with real imported Parma Ham, rocket¬†and smoked mozzarella, then deep fried & served with a creamy white wine sauce. They were oh! just incredible! :mrgreen:

Ninja's starter

Ninja’s starter

Ninja chose the tasty¬†Avocado al-Ritz, which involved¬†pan-fried queen prawns dressed in homemade basil pesto mayonnaise, served with avocado, rosa tomatoes¬†and a zesty Parmesan¬†and rocket salad. (I must apologise that some of the pics aren’t that clear; it’s a bit tight trying to focus¬†with a 50mm prime lens on a crop-sensor camera when I’m stuck at the table and can’t ‘zoom with my feet’! And I didn’t spend too much time taking pics because we were so eager to start eating.)

My main dish

My main dish

I was tempted by just about everything on the menu, but since our friend had specifically suggested we try the risottos, I obeyed. I ordered the Porcini Mushroom Risotto, which is a warm creamy mix of earthy Porcini mushrooms, green peas and a drizzle of truffle oil. I was not disappointed at all, but I’d forgotten how filling a risotto can be! Next time I would definitely ask for a half portion.

My man's main meal

My man’s main meal

Now, I ain’t no steak-chompin’ cowgirl, but whoah! Ninja’s main course was fantastic! He didn’t take long to choose the Lamb Rack (which Caf√© del Sol rightfully claims is one of their bestsellers) ‚Äď 400g of French trimmed lamb rack served on Porcini mushroom and pea risotto with a deep & delicious red wine jus. That meat just melted in our mouths (Ninja was benevolent enough to let me taste a bite).

And then came the best part…

My dreamy dessert

My dreamy dessert

…the sweet treats! To round off the delicious evening, I picked the Amaretto Semi Freddo: creamy and cool, this homemade delight is drowned in the Italian liqueur Amaretto & garnished with crunchy Amaretti Biscotti. Say it with me: ‘Ahhhhh…!’ It was so good that when I took my first bite I had to hold up a hand to stop Ninja in the middle of his sentence, just so I could close my eyes and enjoy the¬†exotic flavours.¬†Yeah, I¬†literally did that. Poor man ūüėČ

Ninja's 'dessert'

Ninja’s ‘dessert’

You’d be right if you thought that looked like a starter. It’s the Haloumi Stack that¬†my funny hubby ordered for ‘dessert’. (You see? I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that Ninja doesn’t do dessert. He¬†wouldn’t know a sweet tooth if it bit him in broad daylight!) Still, what mattered was that he was just as happy with his meal’s ending as I was with mine…

Ninja & Zest ~ 5 years

Ninja + Zest ~ married 5 years!

…and that we’re both even happier together now than we were when we started this journey five years ago ūüôā

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

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For our Spring Day feast I made us a really quick, easy, inexpensive and tasty dessert. It only uses three ingredients and satisfied every palate, rounding off our feast with a treat that’s¬†both fruity and sweet. I don’t really have a proper¬†name for it though, so let’s just call it a strawberry and marshmallow dessert.

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

You could start making this dessert the¬†day before your dinner party. I did, by preparing some jelly (I think you guys¬†call it¬†Jell-O overseas?) in four dessert glasses. I only¬†had the¬†raspberry flavour in my cupboard at the time, but you could always experiment with different options. And I’m sure this¬†would¬†work with¬†other fruit too, such as bananas or peaches.

Jelly base for dessert

Jelly base for dessert

This jelly base set overnight in the fridge, so all I had to do today was to slice up some fresh strawberries and prepare the marshmallow sauce.

Fresh strawberries form the next layer of the dessert

Fresh strawberries form the next layer of the dessert

The hot marshmallow sauce was a random idea I’d had. I wasn’t sure it would even work, but luckily¬†it¬†did ūüôā

In a double boiler (a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water) I melted together about two cups of mini pink and white¬†marshmallows. I guessed they’d become quite sticky, so I first greased the bowl with vegetable oil. As they started melting I stirred in¬†a little¬†milk, which thinned and smoothed the sauce beautifully.

Melting marshmallows

Melting marshmallows

The last step was then simply to spoon the warm, sweet, sticky sauce over the strawberries, and serve them up.

I was concerned the marshmallow sauce would be too sweet (you know how sickly sweet they get when you cook them over a fire?), but when the sauce mixed with the tart, unsweetened strawberries, the balance was perfect.

Quick, easy, cheap, creamy,¬†sweet and almost healthy ‚Äď it’s everything you¬†want in a dessert! ūüėČ

Spring Day feast

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Happy Spring Day to those in the southern hemisphere! Sorry my northern friends, I¬†don’t mean to rub it in that your warm weather is slowly seeping southwards ūüėČ

But winter isn’t over for us¬†yet ‚Äď it was absolutely freezing icy cold this morning. When we went to church we¬†joined huddles¬†of hunched-over¬†people¬†wrapped in¬†thick coats and jerseys. Even the heartiest singing didn’t warm us up today!

Thankfully, though, Jozi is usually sunny even when it’s cold, so as I write here this afternoon I have warm bright sunshine flooding my desk… and cheerfully¬†highlighting all the dust I haven’t got around to cleaning… Meh.

Anyway, enough of that. What I’m really here to write about is the delightful Spring Day feast I made for Ninja and my parents today. My folks were originally coming over to meet their new ‘grandrats’, but since that’s been delayed we just turned it into a celebration of the first day of spring.

Spring Day 2013

Spring Day 2013

For the decor I chose mismatched and cheerful colours, using what I had around the house instead of spending extra on new fancy stuff. For example, I had these bright orange paper cups in the cupboard, so I just prettied them up with spring-themed flower stickers.

For Marzipan

For Marzipan

I used my multicoloured bamboo placemats and colourful serviettes left over from my first special dinner. Ninja had also bought these cool 3D/holographic bookmarks for each of us, so we gave my mom the horsey one and my dad the eagly one (oops, couldn’t resist inventing a word there).

For Daz

For Daz

I also snipped a few sprigs off a jasmine bush to use as our centrepiece. I so enjoy the scent of those flowers: it always tells me my favourite season has arrived at last.

Jasmine

Jasmine

And now for the best part: the food ūüėÄ I made us a three-course meal as follows:

Spring Day menu

Spring Day menu

In case you can’t see the¬†text on the¬†pic, our starters were those mini pizza mushrooms that I first made for this dinner and then again for this dinner. I also recently hosted my in-laws for lunch and made it for them too. In fact,¬†I could quite easily make that starter for every fancy dinner for as long as I live, and never tire of it. Those ‘shrooms¬†are just so darn delicious!!!

The main course was ham and spring onion clafoutis with roasted cherry tomatoes and avocado with basil pesto mayo. This is where I had the most fun, since I love experimenting with new dishes and flavours. (I’m determined not to lose that interest even though I no longer have as much spare time for experimenting as I had before…).

I’d never made a clafoutis (say: ‘klafootee’)¬†before, but I based my recipe on this one and simply substituted ham and spring onions for the basil and tomatoes. I also used four¬†small ramekins rather than one big dish.¬†It’s such a simple and easy recipe, and my family enjoyed it (though we all added some extra salt, without which it would have¬†tasted far too mild and milky).

Tomatoes ready for the oven

Tomatoes ready for the oven

The roasted cherry tomatoes are an idea shared with me by my best friend. She first made it for me with pasta and wilted spinach (oh, how well¬†we ate that day!), but the tomatoes work perfectly on their own too. Simply wash them, pop them in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with whatever herbs and spices you like (I used origanum, pepper, chives¬†and salt). Then bake them for 30 minutes at 180 ¬įC ‚Äď which was ideal in this case because that’s the same as for¬†the clafoutis, so I baked them together.

Savoury clafoutis with roasted tomatoes and avo with basil pesto mayo

Savoury clafoutis with roasted tomatoes and avo with basil pesto mayo

As you can see from the pic above, the poor clafoutis had no patience with me fussing with the photography… it started to deflate almost as soon as I took it from the oven ūüėõ Still delicious though.

The basil pesto mayo was also a hit (with everyone except my plain-eating husband, hehe). Since I enjoy basil but can’t eat the garlic they usually put in commercial pestos, I decided to make my own pesto. As a replacement for the pine nuts used in standard pestos, I added a few spoons of ground almonds. Hmmm. Didn’t¬†do much for me.¬†Then I simply mixed up low-fat mayo and milk, and¬†stirred tiny shreds of fresh¬†basil into the mix. Yum! A perfect complement to the plain avocado, with none of the disadvantages (for me at least) of using garlic.

And the dessert of fresh strawberries and hot marshmallow sauce? That’ll be my next post ūüôā

Resisting temptation

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Temptation

Six days left of the 21-day sugar detox, and I’m quite proud of my progress. I’ve¬†managed to¬†avoid sweet and carby temptations¬†for over two weeks now ‚Äď though it’s not so easy¬†when they get handed to me on a platter!

The cute vanilla and white-chocolate cupcake pictured above is from a work colleague’s birthday tea. My friend and I who are doing the 21DSD each took a cupcake… not to eat but¬†to freeze at home, in readiness for this coming Sunday when the detox ends.

Shew. I haven’t been so close to sugar in weeks. I held it close and inhaled the sweet¬†creamy scent…

But since I’m so close to the end I didn’t want to spoil my good streak. So I snapped a pic and hastily stashed away the cupcake in the freezer.

A marvel of self-control.

:mrgreen:

Seriously though, this detox hasn’t been as hardcore as I expected it to be. In fact, once it’s over I think there are quite a few lessons I can take away and principles I want to adopt on a more permanent basis.

For example, I’ve discovered that I really don’t need sweetener in my tea. With the possible exception of some rather earthy herbal infusions, most of my teas¬†are palatable enough¬†without honey.

I’ve also realised that although carbs do have a place in my normal¬†diet, I can happily reduce the amounts I eat and still feel full. So I can enjoy a warm bowl of oats on a winter’s morning ‚Äď but it doesn’t have to be a big bowl, or every morning, or sweetened overly much.

I’ve learnt that there are many other fine flavours to be enjoyed other than just ‘level-10 sickly sweet’! So¬†I’ve started looking at sweet treats with new eyes now. I feel drawn to flavourful,¬†healthier,¬†freshly baked, homemade treats rather than store-bought ones packed full of unnecessary extras.

I’ve been surprised at my resistance to my old cravings.¬†I think the beauty of the 21-day sugar detox is that by telling your brain that ‘it’s just a detox, not a diet’, somehow your body relaxes and doesn’t feel so deprived anymore ūüôā

On the downside, though, I would be happy not to see meat for the next month. Cutting out carbs has¬†made me increase my protein portions, which isn’t so appealing to someone who was never much of a carnivore in the first place. Hmmm… methinks that once this detox is done, I should give that month of¬†vegetarianism another shot…

Custard cake with cashews, currants and banana

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What do you get when you combine quiet hours on a cold Sunday afternoon with an experimental, sweet-toothed housewife and the bare month-end essentials in the cupboards? A recipe for an unusually yummy cake, of course!

Yesterday I ticked off another cake for my Goal #22 of baking five different cakes.¬†Since I had no eggs in the house I¬†used the egg-free, dairy-free¬†custard cake recipe I’ve posted about before, but dressed it up with a number of delicious tweaks.

The idea came to me when I thought about some of the fruits, nuts and spices that I enjoy adding when I make a bowl of custard for dessert. If those ingredients taste great with custard dessert, why not add them to custard cake?

To the dry ingredients I added 1 teaspoon mixed spice. To the wet ingredients I added 1 small mashed banana. Then when the mix was combined, I folded in 1/4 C cashews (chipped and toasted) and 1/4 C currants. Those amounts were arbitrary,¬†based on all I had left¬†of the ingredients. But they turned out to be just¬†right ūüôā

Cashews and currants about to be stirred into the mix

Cashews and currants about to be stirred into the mix

The recipe made enough for one small square pan.

Cake mix in the pan

Cake mix in the pan

The first time I tried the custard cake recipe I sprinkled white sugar to make a crispy crust. This time I went half-half with white sugar and brown treacle sugar.

White sugar and treacle sugar toppings

White sugar and treacle sugar toppings

The cake looked and smelled great when it came out of the oven. I didn’t wait long to taste it!

Custard cake with cashews, currants and banana

Custard cake with cashews, currants and banana

The results were even better than expected: a moist, slightly dense cake with¬†a pleasant¬†dash of¬†fruitiness. I was also excited to discover that the treacle sugar had added a¬†surprise element… it had¬†melted and trickled down into the cake, so that some slices¬†contained a warm and¬†sticky¬†molasses centre. Nom nom nom nom! :mrgreen:

Treacle sugar surprise

Treacle sugar surprise

Well, I knew I¬†loved it, but would it pass the¬†hubby taste test?¬†At first Ninja looked¬†dubious about the currants (he loathes cooked fruit), but soon he was asking for a large second slice ūüėÄ Success!

Proof that eggless cakes can be awesome too

Proof that eggless cakes can be awesome too

Paired with a steaming cup of rooibos tea on a chilly autumn night, this cake made a splendid after-dinner treat.

We all know it’s risky to experiment with baking… many recipes will flop if you mess around with their ingredients too much. But¬†never let that stop you from adding new flavours¬†to your old favourites ‚Äď you’d be amazed at what a couple of¬†arb additions¬†can do ūüôā

Light chocolate cake

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Despite my sweet tooth, I’m not actually a big fan of chocolate. Or of cake.

That is, except for my mom’s decadent chocolate cake with coffee icing.

Our wedding cake, baked by my mom

As you can see, she baked¬†these¬†for our wedding. (I’ll have to explain about¬†the wheat ears another time…!)

I always¬†start to¬†crave this cake¬†when the weather turns cold as it has this past week,¬†and baking 5 cakes is¬†Goal #22 on my list. So I decided to start off my first cake with our family’s favourite recipe.

I would have followed¬†my mom’s¬†recipe exactly if I’d had all the ingredients, but as it turned out my ‘lite’¬†version was delicious in its own right.

 

So here’s her recipe first:

Ingredients for chocolate cake

¬ľ C cocoa

1 C boiling water

4 large eggs, separated

1¬Ĺ C brown sugar, firmly pressed into cup

¬Ĺ C oil

1 t vanilla essence

250 g flour

1 T baking powder

2 ml salt

Method for chocolate cake

  1. Grease and line two cake tins.
  2. Mix cocoa and water. Leave to cool.
  3. In processor, beat egg yolks until light. Gradually add sugar.
  4. Add cocoa, oil and vanilla essence.
  5. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and gradually add to mix.
  6. Beat egg whites until fluffy. Blend in with a metal spoon.
  7. Bake at 180 ¬įC for ¬Ī35 min or until a knife inserted comes out clean.
  8. Cool completely before icing with coffee icing.

 

Ingredients for coffee icing

75 g butter, softened

250 g icing sugar, sifted

1 egg, separated

1 T cocoa

2 T strong coffee

¬Ĺ t vanilla essence

Method for coffee icing

  1. Blend butter and icing sugar.
  2. Dissolve cocoa in coffee. Add vanilla.
  3. Add egg yolk to butter and icing sugar.
  4. Add cocoa mix.
  5. Stiffly beat egg white and fold into mix.
  6. Ice cooled cake and decorate as desired.

 

This makes for a rich and dreamy cake that’s¬†perfectly complemented by the unforgettable flavour of the coffee icing.

Even so, I’m glad I risked making my version with the limited ingredients I had, because it made for a light and fluffy, not-too-sweet cake that I’d happily make again. Here’s my revised list of ingredients:

Ingredients for light chocolate cake

1/8¬†C cocoa (I halved the cocoa because I’m not such a chocoholic)

1 C boiling water

3 large eggs, separated (I only had 3 eggs)

1 C brown sugar, firmly pressed into cup (I only had 1 C brown sugar)

¬Ĺ C oil

1 t vanilla essence

250 g flour

1 T baking powder

2 ml salt

 

For the icing recipe I had to¬†exclude the cocoa, coffee¬†and egg.¬†Anyway, I made one small square cake and a few cupcakes with the mix. Next time I think¬†I’ll skip the cupcakes and make a bigger cake.

Freshly baked cake filling the kitchen with a choc aroma

Freshly baked cake filling the kitchen with a choc aroma

I was itching to use my new cake-icing set…

Cake-icing set

Cake-icing set

…but since it was late and I was tired,¬†I ended up turning my first cake into something of a cakewreck! (Plus the pictures are all blurry hand-held night shots, sorry guys.)

First cake(wreck)!

First cake(wreck)!

How not to decorate a cake: write ‘Yum’ on top¬†in¬†suspicious brown goo…! ūüėÄ Haha, it really cracks me up! ūüėõ

At least the cupcakes looked a bit more presentable:

Butter icing

Butter icing

The icing was fun to work with,¬†even though¬†butter icing always seems a bit rich to me. I usually pick/smear/scoop off the butter icing on other people’s cakes as it is (am I the only one?). So I didn’t overdo it this time around.

Anyway, the flavour of the cake¬†was spot on. Even Ninja enjoyed it,¬†since it wasn’t sickly sweet or so chocolatey that it resulted in headaches.

‘Yum’ indeed

And the whole experiment reminded me not to take myself so seriously in the kitchen, because baking is supposed to be fun.

Of course we all want our goodies to look lovely, but sometimes it’s¬†much better¬†to¬†play around, doodle icing all over and lick the batter from the bowl ūüėČ

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¬†‚Äď 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 ūüėȬ†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

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 ‚Äď even after about 15 minutes it remained at pouring consistency ‚Ästbut 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!

Valentine’s mousse-and-custard trifle dessert

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If you hadn’t noticed by now, you’ll soon realise that I’m a sucker for desserts. They knock me down and tie me up every time I plan a special dinner! Although I’m not a big fan of chocolate (too much dairy and my throat reacts badly), I couldn’t pass up a chocolatey, decadent dessert to end off our special romantic dinner.

Armed with some Woolies duo white-and-dark choc mousse, Woolies mini chocolate cake slices and some homemade custard, I made this terrific trifle:

Here are all the ingredients together:

First I crumbled the mini cake slices (sans icing)¬†into the bottom of each bowl…

Then I added 125 ml milk to each batch of the mousse powder and whipped them up…

I layered each of these with the homemade custard, to form a classic layered trifle. On top of the final mousse layer I poured custard into a heart-shaped cookie cutter (which I should have done later once the mousse was set, but oh well!).

And I finished off the decoration with silver dragees (which I should have added just before serving, because they ‘melted’ into the dessert since I made it the day before and kept it overnight in the fridge).

A little messy (read ‘authentically homemade’)¬†but¬†the effect was worth it! Delicious, and the perfect end to our dinner¬†ūüôā

Tempura hake nuggets, mini baked potatoes and a veggie trio

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Instead of the same ol’ chicken drumsticks I’ve made for previous dinners, for the Valentine’s dinner I chose a fish recipe instead. After much deliberation I decided on hake nuggets in crispy¬†tempura batter. I didn’t want a thick batter such as the one usually made with egg and flour, so I used self-raising flour and soda water instead.

After browsing various websites I learnt the following basics of tempura:

  • everything, even the flour, should be well chilled before coating and frying
  • the oil must be very hot and deep enough to cover the fish
  • fish must be defrosted before use (you can do this in a bowl of water)
  • expect a mess!

Here’s my batter, made of 1 cup self-raising flour and 400 ml chilled soda water:

I first dusted the thawed fish pieces with self-raising flour. When the oil was ready, I mixed up the batter and dipped the fish into it, immediately transferring the nuggets to the sizzling oil.

I was anxious to get all the pieces in the pot while the batter was still bubbly, so I ended up with a batter-and-oil-splotched kitchen within minutes. Thankfully my dear friend was standing by to help me mop up some of the mess! Anwyay, I fried all of the pieces at once, and drained them thoroughly on absorbent paper before serving them (on kitchen paper) with the rest of the main meal:

To make the tangy mayo, I¬†thinned lite mayo with a little milk, then added paprika, salt and dried¬†herbs to taste. (You could¬†easily¬†make endless variations on this, with hotsauce and other flavours.) The tempura batter absorbed a lot of oil, so it was good that we only had a few pieces each ‚Äď that way it wasn’t too rich. The mayo was a great addition because the batter had no salt in it, but I’m sure salting the fish once fried¬†and adding a squeeze of lemon juice would be just as fantastic.

The baked potatoes were also lovely and oh-so-easy to make. Wash and dry potatoes of a similar size. Rub them all over with butter (this makes the skin crispy; if you want soft skin, rub them with oil). Then sprinkle with salt and bake at 190 ¬įC for 1 hour, turning once after the first¬†30 minutes.

I chose a ‘red’ veggie trio to stick with the Valentine’s theme of red and white. I sliced up some purple carrots, dished up some pickled beetroot, and put together some cute tomato hearts. The tomato hearts were a lucky find from¬†The Inspiration Room on Facebook. Perfect for V-Day ūüôā