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Camembert Stars

9 Nov

Camembert StarsSo Halloween has come and gone and in my book that means it’s time to start getting excited about Christmas! I adore Christmas and lets face it – what’s not to love?  You get family and friends time, pressie time and most importantly to me FOOD TIME!  But with all those times happening,  the one thing I tend to be quite short on is time itself.  Enter my best friend when it comes to canapés – store bought puff pastry.  I think it’s okay to admit you don’t make your own puff pastry because let’s face it, with the exception of sweaty contestants on the Great British Bake Off, NOBODY makes their own puff pastry.

You can do wonderful things with puff pastry that are super easy and yet still manage to knock the socks off of the people you are feeding.  Take these savoury palmiers or seeing that it is almost the silly season, these melty-cheesey puff pastry stars that only need 4 ingredients.

CS INGTo make twelve stars take:

  • two sheets of puff pastry
  • a camembert round
  • a chutney of your choice (I went for an apple and walnut because it felt quite Christmasy, but cranberry or sweet chilli would also work beautifully.)
  • and an egg.

CS PrepPreheat the oven to 200°C and then dust the surface you are working on with a quick shake of flour and place one sheet of puff pastry on top.

C Egg WashBeat the egg and brush it liberally onto your pastry. Don’t throw the egg wash away -you’ll need it a bit later.

CS CheeseCut your cheese into twelve bite sized chunks. This will only use about half the round of camembert – save the rest for crackers!

CS fillingPlace about half a teaspoon of chutney on your egg washed sheet of pastry and then place a chunk of the cheese on top of that.

CS CuttingPlace the second sheet of pastry on top of the first one.  Then using a star-shaped cookie cutter cut out twelve stars.

CS Wash and toppingPlace your stars on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Use the rest of the egg wash to wash the stars and if you want sprinkle them with some sesame seeds to give them some character.


Bake until golden brown and delicious – about twenty minutes and then bite into the most amazing melted cheesy bit of gooey goodness. ENJOY!


Salmon and Avocado Bites

15 Jun

S&A 1 The English summer has hit and the weather has been about as lovely as you could hope for in England with long warm evenings that call for . . . nay DEMAND . . . drinks and nibbles in the back yard. Now that the BH and I finally have a back yard worth speaking of that’s where I want to spend my time.  So the search for yummy nibbles that takes no time a all to prepare (who wants to spend time in the kitchen when you can be enjoying the sunshine) is on all over again, but I think I have a winner with this one.

SnA INGTo start take:

  • a packet of wonton skins (you can pick these up at any oriental grocer)
  • Cooked smoked salmon
  • an avocado
  • one or two spring onions (to taste)
  • Olive oil (and toasted sesame oil optional, again to taste)
  • Yuzu juice
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

I have very recently discovered Yuzu juice   (thank you Waitrose) and I am more than a little in love.  Its tartness cuts right through the richness of both the salmon and the avocado without being too sharp and it adds a really nice oriental touch to the dish.

SnA WontonIn keeping with the oriental (ish) theme of these little yummies,  I decided to put the filling into wonton cups and not pastry cups.  This worked out really nicely as the wonton wrappers did not go soggy even though they were filled about two hours before serving. Heat your oven to 180°C .  Then brush a muffin tray with olive oil and then push the wonton wrappers into the tray to form little cups. Brush the pasty with a little more oil.

SnA WT crispPlace these in the oven and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on these as they burn very easily.  If  you can’t find wonton wrappers or if you’re just feeling that industrious, check out Kitchen Simplicity’s blog on how to make them yourself here.

SnA Spring OnionWhile the wontons are browning,  make your filling.  Finely chop a spring onion, or two if you really like onions, and place in a bowl.

SnA AvoCube your avocado.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  If you want to know the best way to open, remove the pit and cube your avo, pay attention.  Take your sharpest knife and cut down until you reach the pit.  Then turn the avo keeping the knife touching the pit until the knife meets up with the original cut.  Put the knife down.  You should have a complete line running around the avo.  Take a side in each hand and twist and pull which should leave you with half avo in each hand.  Then take your knife and with some force,  but not too much, hit the pit.  Give the side of the avo with the pit in it a gentle squeeze and pull out the pit with the knife.  Now with the skin still on and not cutting through the skin, cut the flesh of the avo into cubes.  Then grab a spoon and scope the avo on top of the onion.

SnA FillingFlake the salmon with a fork and add to the avo and onion and then toss with a 50:50 mix of yuzu and olive oil.  You could substitute some of the oil with a little sesame seed oil for an extra flavour kick. Add salt and pepper to taste . To be fair at this point if you just wanted to eat this as a salad, no one would blame you.

SnA ReadyOr,  you could of course, take the filling and and add it to the wonton cups and sprinkle on a few sesame seeds to up the impressiveness of the dish.  I hope you and  your guests enjoy.

Chicken Cacciatore

21 Jan


So the 21st of January 2013 is supposed to be the most depressing day of this year.  It’s cold and gloomy outside and it’s still months before it’s going to warm up. Payday is still days away and with most of us stretching ourselves thin over Christmas, making things better with some retail therapy isn’t an option.  AND we’ve all been dieting since the start of the year and let’s face it people depriving yourself of chocolate is going to make you feel just a little bit glum. My solution is the culinary equivalent of a hug; Chicken Cacciatore.  Now mine isn’t an authentic recipe, but it’s yummy and warming and it’s packed with tons of veg, so you’re not even really breaking the diet.


To start take:

  • 800gm of chicken thighs or drumsticks
  • two large or four small carrots
  • two sticks of celery
  • a tin of chopped tomatoes
  • an onion
  • a pepper
  • a punnet of mushrooms
  • a clove or two of garlic
  • a stalk of rosemary
  • a bay leaf or two
  • about 50gms of flour seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika and dried thyme
  • olive oil


Dice and saute the onion, celery, carrots, garlic and peppers in the olive oil until softening.  Slap your forehead and take out the chestnut mushrooms you bought especially for the dish, but then forgot to photograph for the ingredients picture.


Cut the mushrooms in half and add them to the veg mix and blame blue Monday for your forgetfulness with a sigh.


While the veg is softening, add the seasoned flour to a ziplock bag and piece by piece coat the chicken pieces in the flour.  I tried, by the way, to take an attractive picture of raw chicken, but I just don’t think it’s possible. Sorry. Image

Remove the veg from the pan and add a splash more olive oil and then brown the chicken in the pan. Image

Once the chicken looks yummy, open the can of tomatoes and chuck the tomatoes on top of the chicken.  Add the veg from earlier, the two bay leaves and some chopped rosemary (to taste.)

Cover the lot and let it simmer away filling the kitchen with steamy deliciousness, which is almost as good as a hug, for about half an hour. Image

Pop it on top of some mashed potato and feel better. You deserve to.

Cheese Souffle

12 Sep

Souffles have gotten a really bad rap.  They are supposed to have caused chefs across the land to wail and beat their brows.  They are supposed to have sent the smuggest of Stepford wives to the corner trembling.  They are supposed to have caused even that F-ing Chef to cry like a baby girl.  I just don’t buy it.  Yes, they can come crashing down faster than an Essex girl wearing platforms, but that’s really the only tricky thing about them.   I mean when you get right down to it, all a cheese souffle is, is a simple cheese sauce enriched with eggs and baked.  Hardly rocket science. Come on, I’ll show you.

To make ten individual souffles take:

  • 6 eggs (separated)
  • 100gm butter
  • 100gm sharp mature cheddar cheese
  • 375 ml of milk
  • 60 gm of all purpose flour
  • 1tsp mustard
  • 1tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 190°C.  Now melt the butter in a saucepan and use the some of the melted  butter to brush the sides and bottoms of the ramekins.  Some people like to coat the inside of the ramekins with bread crumbs, but I don’t think this is necessary. Then add the flour, mustard and paprika.  Cook the smooth paste for about 2-3 minutes.

Add the milk a little at a time and then, while constantly stirring, bring the mixture to a boil.  Once it comes to a boil, allow it to simmer for a further two minutes, then remove from the heat and add the cheese.  Once the cheese has melted beat in the egg yolks.

Whip the egg whites to a soft stiff peak and then add about 1/6 of the egg white to the cheese sauce.  Mix well to lighten the sauce and then gentely fold in the remaining egg white.

Carefully divide the mixture between the ten ramekins and then run your finger along the inside rim of each souffle.  Pop into the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until poofed  up and golden, but with a slight wobble to the middle.

Serve with a crispy salad to contrast the texture of the soft souffle.  See, seriously easy.

Chili Beef Wonton Cups

13 Aug

So I was watching Masterchef USA last night.  Yes,  I confess that while I eschew reality TV as a whole, I make exceptions for Masterchef and the Great British Bake Off.   I mean who among us food bloggers doesn’t secretly dream of winning one or the other?  Honestly?  So while watching,  the contestants were given a MASSIVE bowl of mince, or ground beef if you prefer, and told to come up with a dish that wasn’t a hamburger.  An amazing challenge when you consider just how much you can do with it.  Now the best part about watching shows like this is that they challenge you just a little bit.   They make you ask yourself, “What would I do?”  Which I love, because it’s so easy to become complacent in the kitchen.   Anyway, this is what I would have made.  Simple enough to be fail-safe,  tasty and hopefully unique enough to make an impact.  BH has nicknamed them Wanton Delights.

To make 18 chili beef wonton cups take:

  • 18 Wonton Wrappers
  • 400 gms of mince
  • 3-4 spring onions (sliced)
  • 2 large red chillies (sliced)
  • 1 piece of ginger about the size of your thumb (pealed and grated)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • basil to taste (Thai basil if you can find it)
  • 2 tsp of corn flour
  • 3 Tbs of soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 180 °C.  Then heat a little oil in a wok or frying pan and add your aromatics; spring onion, garlic, chili and ginger.  I LOVE  the smell of Chinese aromatics!  Allow to cook for a minute or two and then add your mince.  Cook until the mince is cooked through.  Add your corn flour to the soy sauce and mix to dissolve.  Add the soy sauce – corn flour mix to the mince and continue to cook for a few minutes until the mixture resembles the one in the picture below.  Finely slice the basil and add to the dish for the last minute of cooking.  You don’t want to loose the flavour of the basil by adding it too soon.

Brush the bottom and sides of a muffin pan with olive oil and press the wonton wrappers into the bottom to form cups.

Brush the wrappers with a little more olive oil and place in the preheated oven for 5-7 minutes until brown and crispy.  Keep a close eye on them as they can burn very easily.

Hmmmm, crisp and gorgeously golden.   Allow to cool slightly then remove from the muffin tin and fill with the chili beef mixture.  Garnish with a slice of raw chili  and a sprinkle of spring onion.

Steak and Balsamic Pepper Salad

30 Jun

So summer has been pretty much non existent in the UK this year.  We’ve had about two weeks of sunshine in total.  Now while I don’t really mind too much as I had more than my fair share of sunshine when living in Taiwan, I have really missed making summery food.  I’ve had visions of making home ice-cream and barbequing in back yard, but the rainy, miserable days have left me  more inclined to  hearty soups and stews.    So when today promised blue skies and gentle breezes, I knew I had to seize the chance and make my favourite summer salad.

It’s a simple creation, hardly worth the recipe,  and doesn’t really take much work at all which makes it perfect on those days where you would rather be outside enjoying the sunshine than tied to the kitchen.  It does however really pack a punch when it comes to flavour.  So much so that even those who don’t really enjoy salad, will ask for seconds.

To start take:

  • 300 (ish) gms of steak
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 bag of your favourite salad leaves (I’m partial to baby spinach)
  • 1 small Camembert (cut into squares)
  • 80 ml of olive oil
  • 60 mls of balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 220°C.  Then slice the red peppers length ways into slices about half a centimeter wide.

Place the peppers in an oven proof bowl and pour 60ml of the olive oil over them.  Place in the oven and cook for about 20-25 minutes.  Check on the peppers two or three times during the cooking and give them a shake or a stir to prevent the top layer from drying out.

Remove the peppers from the oven and while still hot pour the balsamic vinegar on them.  The hot peppers will absorb the vineger making them meltingly sweet. Allow the peppers to cool in the oil and the vinegar.

Cook the steak.  It really doesn’t matter how you do it.   I brushed the steaks with the remainder of the olive oil and used a cast iron grill pan and fried them for two minutes a side.  I was hoping for a medium rare steak, but as the steaks were a touch on the small side, they were closer to medium well after they had rested. Allow them to cool and slice as thinly as you can.

Just before serving, sash the salad leaves and mix in the peppers.  The balsamic vinegar/olive oil mix that they are lying in is going to make the dressing.  Add the slices of steak and then the cheese.  It really is a meal in itself.


Pita Bread with Houmous

27 Jun

Bread scares me!  It really does.  It’s one of those food stuffs where the whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts.   To get to the whole however,  you have to put the parts though a series of steps that have become quasi-religious with superstitions and myths.  There are just so many factors to take into account and so many places where it can go wrong; The kneading, over proving, under proving, too much salt, the temperature of the water, the temperature of the oven, GAH!  It’s enough to make you rush out to your local bakery.

But this is one fear I want to conquer. I want to fill my house with the smell of baking bread.  I want great golden crusts to take centre place at my dinner table and I want to smile smugly when people asked me where I buy my bread.  Most of all though I want to eat that first hot, butter-melted slice of bread.   I’m going to start small with this pita bread recipe and its ubiquitous companion houmous , but watch this space. I WILL conquer bread!

For the Pita Bread:

  • 225 gm of white bread flour
  • 7 gms of instant yeast
  • 1 Tbs of olive oil
  • 1/2 a tsp of salt
  • 160 ml of luke warm water

For the Houmous:

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 Tbs of Tahini
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 1 Tbs of lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs of olive oil
  • Cumin to taste (about 1 tsp)

Add the flour, olive oil, salt and yeast to a large bowl and mix well.  Slowly add the water a bit at a time and stir until it comes together in a sticky dough.  Place the dough onto a well floured surface and kneed the dough for ten minutes.  Time this!  It isn’t something you want to skimp on.

After ten minutes of kneading, the dough should be considerably smoother and it should spring back if lightly poked.  Place it in a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm or a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for an hour.

After an hour, the dough should have doubled in size.  Punch it back down and then divide the dough into six to eight balls.  Cover the balls and leave them to rest for five minutes and then, on a floured surface, roll them out into flat circles.  The circles should be no more than five mm high. Cover the circles with a tea towel or cling film and leave to prove for a further thirty minutes.  At this stage, heat the oven to 230°C and place a baking tray in the oven to heat up.

This would be the perfect time to make the houmous.  I must apologise for not having any pictures on the houmous, but there really isn’t much to photograph.  Drain the chickpeas, but keep the liquid back in reserve.  Add all the ingredients for the houmous into a food processor or blender and turn it on.  Once it has combined, slowly add the reserved chickpea liquid a bit at a time until you get the desired texture.   Taste the oh-so-awesome,  creamy goodness and add more cumin or salt to taste.

After thirty minutes, place the dough rounds on the hot baking tray and put the tray back in the oven.  Bake the pitas for six minutes if you like a light soft crust and for ten if it’s a crispier brown crust you want.

The dough will poof up and make gorgeous pillowey pockets of dough.  Serve with houmous, or slice open the top and fill with your favourite filling for a great sandwich.

Pork, Apple and Ginger Dumplings

19 May

The BH and I were recently in London for a few nights and while we were there we couldn’t resist the lure of Chinatown. One of the  restaurants we ate in while there, yes we ate in more than one,  was a Taiwanese restaurant called Leong’s Legend, where the Three Cup Chicken and Scallion Pancakes literally had me in tears.  They weren’t particularly great and the portions were tiny, but the food tasted of a place I had called home for eight years.  They say smell is powerfully emotive, I think taste is even more so.

Rather than satiating my need for Chinese food however,  all my trip did was remind me how much I love cooking with Chinese ingredients.   My Taiwanese friends should stop reading now.  My friends who fancy themselves experts ON Chinese food should probably look away.  What I’m about to make isn’t “traditional” nor is it “correct,” but it is Fudgin’ Good.

To start take;

  • 1 pkt of Dumpling skins
  • 1 onion (finely diced)
  • about 4 scallions (sliced)
  • a piece of ginger about the size of your thumb (finely grated)
  • 1 apple (coarsely grated)
  • 500 gm minced pork
  • 2 tsps corn flour
  • 60 mls (4Tbs) of soy sauce
  • vegetable oil
  • water

I’m going to mention hardware here too because you’re going to need a large frying pan/wok that has a lid to cook these babies.

Splash a generous glug of oil into the pan and bring to a medium heat.  fry the onions and scallions for a few minutes and then add the ginger and apple.   Continue to cook for a further three to four minutes and then add the pork and cook until completely done.  This is where I have deviated from traditional methods which add the pork to the skins raw, but I’m a little squeamish about raw pork, so I hope you’ll forgive me.

Add the corn flower to the cold soy sauce and stir well, then add this to the cooking mince.   This will thicken up the mixture and make it easier to stuff the pastry skins.  Allow the mix to cool and then pop on a good DVD that won’t require too much cerebral action, cause you’re going to be stuffing for a while.

Brush the edges of the skin with water and then make at least three pleats on one side of the circle.  Then take a teaspoon of the filling and place in the middle of the dumpling skin. Then press the un-pleated side to the pleated side and seal.  Repeat.  Thirty times.  *sigh*  It is worth it though.  Trust me. Look below.  See how pretty.

Clean out the frying pan/wok and heat another splash of vegetable oil in the pan and bring to a medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, place as many dumplings as you can in the pan without crowding them.  Cook until the bottoms are crispy and brown, about 3-5 minutes.  Now comes the fun part.  the thing your mother told you never to do.  Ever!  We’re going to add water to a pan of hot oil.  Get the water and the lid ready.  Splash about 100mls of water into the bottom of the pan and immediately cover with the lid.  Leave the dumplings to steam for about five minutes until the skins begin to look translucent and then serve with a dipping sauce of your choice.  Enjoy!

PS  You are you going to probably have a lot of filling left over.  It’s great on toast, or noodles or even just on it’s own.

Courgette Fritters

15 Apr

The BH and I were up quite late last night, so when we finally dragged ourselves out of bed this morning we were in the mood for a something a little more substantial than the usual breakfast fare.  Something leaning more towards lunch than breakfast on the brunch scale.  I had managed to take a packet of bacon out the freezer the night before, but beyond that I had no idea what I was going to serve.  Which is why, if you had popped your head through the kitchen window of  a tiny terraced house in a leafy English suburb this morning,  you would have seen a bath-robe, slipper-clad woman staring at an open refrigerator mumbling to herself for a good fifteen minutes before grabbing some courgettes from the crisping draw and shouting EUREKA loudly enough to scare the dog waiting hopefully at her side for her to drop something.

I adore courgettes, or zucchini if you will.  They are flavourful, versatile and they really come into their own when battered and fried.  Somehow, despite this very Scottish way of cooking them, you still feel they are at least a little bit healthy. It’s probably because they’re green.  So it was settled.  We were having courgette fritters.

To make 10 fritters take:

2 medium courgettes

1 medium egg, beaten

1 heaped tsp of sweet paprika

25gm of a hard sharp cheese like Parmesan or Pecorino Romano

1/2 a cup of self rising flour

1/4 of  an onion, very finely chopped

1 Tbs of coarse salt

1Tbs of vegetable oil, anything with a low smoke point

First grate the courgette as coarsely as possible.  You can use a cheese grater, a mandolin or my personal favourite,  especially if someone else is doing the dishes, a food processor. Then line a colander with a clean tea towel and put the colander over a bowl.

Put the grated courgette, chopped onion and salt in the bowl and mix together.  The salt is suppose to help draw the moisture out of the courgette.  Leave the mixture alone for about ten minutes.  Then fold up the edges of the dish towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.    It is gob smacking just how much moisture you can squeeze out of two courgettes.

Put the now dry, or at least drier, mixture in a bowl and add the cheese, paprika, beaten egg and mix well.  Next,  fold in the self rising flour to make a really thick batter. Then add the vegetable oil to a flat  heavy pan and heat on a medium heat for about a minute or two.

Spoon about an tenth of the batter in to the pan, AND THEN LEAVE IT ALONE!   Don’t touch it.  Let it cook for at least two minutes until a golden crust has formed on the bottom.  Try to flip it any earlier and it WILL stick.  Trust me.  Don’t do it.

Once it’s cooked on the bottom, turn and cook the other side  as well.  Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen towel and then fry the rest of the batter in batches.   Once all the fritters have been cooked serve with a spicy tomato sauce.

the port elizabeth blogger

The Banting Cook

Banting recipes – low carb, sugar free and gluten free. Banting recipes I have tried - those that have failed and those that have been a success! I am not a dietician, I'm just a gal who loves to cook banting food, and keep it as good as possible! Obviously all recommendations throughout this and other posts are not intended as an alternative, treatment, or prevention of diseases, medical treatments or advice. The reader takes full responsibility for counting nutritional information such as carbs, while trying any and all recipes :-)

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