Simple apple cake

Simple apple cake

Easy Italian apple cake

This easy apple cake recipe is ideal as a hot dessert with cream or as a tea time cake served cold. It’s a really simple recipe and while the apples are sweet and delicious in the shops right now, you are going to want to try this one. Use nice large golden delicious apples they work perfectly but any good apple will be fine. The beauty of this cake is that it is really simple to make and never fails to please.

What you need

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
2/3 cup melted butter (use unsalted here)
Zest of 1 medium lemon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup milk
3 sliced and cored apples about 5mm thick

The process

Heat your oven to 180 Celsius

Add all of the ingredients except the apples to a large bowl and beat very well with an electric beater until you have a smooth well mixed cake mixture. Use a food processor if you have one.

Lightly butter a 23cm spring form cake pan and then flour it by placing about 2 tablespoons of flour into the cake tin and shaking and tapping it around until you have a fine film of flour coating over the butter. discard and left over flour.

Pour in the batter and cover the top of the mixture with the apple slices in a circular pattern. Don’t press then down, they will submerge slightly into the batter which is just what you want.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. The top should be golden brown and the cake puffed up between some of the apple slices.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 10-15 minutes before removing the sides.

Serve as a hot dessert with cream and a sprinkling of caster sugar or have as a tea cake. Try this one, it’s easy and impressive.

Cinnamon rice pudding

Cinnamon rice pudding

Tuscan Cinnamon Rice Pudding

Winter time is warm homely dessert time and this classic Tuscan rice pudding is as good as it gets when you feel you need a comfort pudding. It’s really important to use Arborio rice, it’s a creamy full rice that absorbs the cinnamon flavour perfectly. It’s a rich pudding that will serve 4 to 6 people depending on what you serve it with. If you have one of those fancy star shaped moulds it looks amazing.

What you need

4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (I know it sounds like a lot but it’s right)
1/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter
3 eggs separated

The process

Bring the milk to a boil in a large pot on a medium to high heat. As soon as the milk boils toss in the rice and give it a good stir, reduce the heat to medium and cook the rice for about 30 minutes until the milk has been absorbed then remove from the heat.

Add the cinnamon, sugar and 5 tablespoons of the butter to the hot rice off the heat and stir it in until the butter has completely melted and the cinnamon and sugar evenly distributed and leave it to cool to room temperature.

Now put your oven on to 180 Celsius while you finish the recipe.

Add the egg yolks and stir into the cooled rice, set aside. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and then fold into the rice mixture. You don’t want to mix it in, just gently fold it to distribute. It is fine to have white streaks through your mixture.

Now take the last tablespoon of butter and grease a 23cm round mould well. Spoon in your mixture and smooth over the top. You can give it a press and even a tap on the counter to make sure that there is no air in the mixture.

Bake it fo about an hour until the top is nicely browned and the rice is set.

Let it cool for a few minutes after removing from the oven and then turn it out. You may need to slide a knife around the top edge.

Serve while still warm with some whipped cream or sliced fresh fruit or both.

This is proper comfort food and if you like this you are going to love the Malva pudding recipe.

Quick apricot chicken pieces

Quick apricot chicken pieces

Apricot chicken pieces

This chicken recipe has got to be one of the easiest recipes I have ever come across, is seriously tasty and one of those easy recipes you can put together in minutes and please anyone. It’s an ideal weekday recipe when you feel like something really tasty but just want to put your feet up after a busy day at the office. A tip to save you time is to cook up a big pot of rice over the weekend, use what you want for the weekend meal and then to place portions of the cooked rice in bags and freeze it for whenever you need it. All you need to do is pop the frozen rice in a sieve over a pot of boiling water to thaw and you are ready in an instant. You can double or triple the chicken recipe without any problems, the only limiting factor is the size of your dish or roasting pan. (this is for 4 people)

What you need

10 Chicken thighs
1 cup chicken stock
1 heaped tablespoon smooth apricot jam
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
Handfull of dried soft apricots
Handfull of baby onions halved (optional but recommended)
Salt and pepper

The process

In a bowl whisk together the chicken stock, apricot jam and curry powder.

Place all of the chicken pieces, the apricots and onions into a bag, pour in the apricot marinade you have just whisked up, seal and set on the counter in a cool place for at least 1/2 an hour, longer is better.

While the chicken is marinading go and change, pour a glass of wine or crack open a beer, chat to the family, watch a bit of telly, you get the idea relax a bit you have pretty much already got the dinner sorted.

Heat your oven to 180 Celsius and place the chicken pieces in an oven proof dish or roasting pan and then pour over the remaining marinade. Pop in the oven for 30 minutes until nicely roasted and brown on top.

Done, serve with rice and frozen cooked peas or any green veg. To give the family all the veg they need, start them off with a bowl of the vegetable soup you made that you froze for just this sort of evening.

Another easy recipe is the Greek style chicken recipe from Jeremy Mansfield’s book Zhoosch which is really awesome.

Hearty Vegetable soup

Hearty Vegetable soup

vegetable soup

Vegetable soup

The best part of winter is that we get to eat soup and for me the time to get my fill of vegetables to ward off the colds and flu that so many people suffer with in winter. It is so important to eat loads of vegetables in winter and this soup will go a long way to keeping your immune system on top of things in winter so have a bowl a day to keep the doc at bay! (makes 8 servings) There are loads of ingredients so print this one and head off to your fruit and veg store, recipe in hand.

What you need

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large carrots diced
2 medium onions chopped
4 celery stalks sliced
3 L chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
2 leeks finely sliced
1 Handfull of green beans chopped (about 12 or so)
1 large clove garlic chopped
1 small cauliflower broken up into small pieces
4 baby marrows sliced
3 medium tomatoes skinned, seeds removed and chopped up (optional but very nice)
palm of chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
1 tin haricot beans or butter beans

Parmesan cheese

The process

Add the oil to a large pot on a medium to high heat and add the carrots, onions and celery, cook for a few minutes until the onions are beginning to soften. This should take about 3 or 4 minutes.

Now add the stock and the bay leaf and bring to the boil. Toss in the leeks, garlic and green beans, simmer with the lid on for about 5 or 10 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste and then toss in the cauliflower, baby marrows and tinned beans.

Reduce the heat, add the tomatoes and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes on a slow simmer. Stir in the parsley and serve with a grate of parmesan over the top.

I like to take 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the soup and pop it in the blender, blitz it and then stir back into the soup to thicken it up but not necessary.

You can also add a cup of cooked rice, 2 medium chopped potatoes or a handfull of pasta shells after adding the stock to change it a bit and make it a meal in a bowl. You can also add some shredded cooked chicken or diced ham to the recipe but whatever you do be sure to have it every day.

Seriously folks, if you have a bowl of this soup every day from now until the end of winter you will go a long way to avoiding the winter colds and flu and it is so very tasty you may just want to keep it up throughout the year!

It is very similar to the minestrone soup that is a classic Italian recipe

Winter is the perfect time to slim down and I came across this excellent challenge being offered by www.slenderchallenge.co.za where 20 people will be selected and will compete to see who can lose the most weight over a 12 week period. The program has been designed to effectively help people lose as much as 350g of  fat a day, yes folks, every day. If the program is strictly adhered to, you could be 10 to 12 kilo’s lighter after the first month.

Are you ready for the slender challenge? There is a R25000 value prize for the winner, so head on over to www.slenderchallenge.co.za to read about the research behind the program and to put your name forward as a participant. You can also follow the competitors progress on a daily basis through their daily blogs on the site, so even if you are a little skeptical about dieting and the claims they make, here you can follow the real time progress of each person.

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

onion soup

French onion soup

There is something very special about a good French onion soup and what I like best about it is the soaked toasted bread that floats to the top with it’s melted strong cheese and crisp edges on the bread. This is a classic French style soup that is great to have a small portion of before a meal. (makes 6 servings) You need soup bowls that can go in the oven.

What you need

2 tablespoons butter
1 kg yellow onions thinly sliced
4 1/2 cups veal stock
Salt and pepper

1 French loaf
Grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese

The process

In a pot on a medium to low heat melt the butter and add the onions. Cook them slowly stirring every now and then until they are beautifully soft and beginning to colour. Now continue to cook them stirring frequently until they are a nice golden brown colour, this should take about 20 minutes.

Add the stock, season with a pinch of salt and pepper and leave to simmer for 20 minutes or so. Taste it now and add any additional seasoning.

Slice up the French loaf into rounds that are about 1 1/2cm thick and toast them on both sides by placing them under the grill in the oven.

Now place 2 or 3 slices of the toast into the bottom of each bowl and pour soup over the bread. The bread will float to the top and now you want to cover it with a generous amount of cheese, pop them under the frill and grill the cheese until bubbling and brown.

Serve immediately by placing the bowls on a side plate.

Hint: when covering with cheese try not to get any on the sides of the bowl, it will look like a bit of a mess when the cheese browns.

It’s wintery now so there are a whole host of soup recipes on the way.

Steak pies

Steak pies

home made steak pie

Steak pie

I have had a few requests for pie recipes lately which is probably on account of the weather cooling down and this weekend was perfect to try out a homely steal pie recipe. This recipe can easily be adapted to make a pepper steak pie by adding cracked black pepper so for those who have requested pepper steak pies, this is for you as well. You want a steak that has little fat on it like sirloin or some good chuck that has had the fat removed. The recipe can be used to make 6 individual pies in foil pie tins available from any supermarket.

What you need

500g frozen puff pastry that has been thawed
1 beaten egg

Oil for frying
2 medium onions chopped
500g steak (I used sirloin) cubed into 2cm pieces
1 and 1/3 cups beef stock (for those who like a wine flavour substitute the 1/3 stock with red wine)
30ml Worcestershire sauce
30ml tomato paste
30ml flour mixed with 60ml water
Salt and pepper (for pepper steak pie add about 1 teaspoon of extra cracked pepper)

The process

Place about a tablespoon of oil in a pan on a medium to high heat on the stove and cooked the onions until they are softened but not browned. Now add the steak cubes and toss them around until the pieces are sealed on all sides.

Now toss in the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and wine if you are using wine, reduce the heat to medium low and allow it to simmer for about 40 minutes with the lid off. Stir it occasionally and allow the liquid to reduce and the meat to cook through.

You will still have a fair amount of liquid in the pan so now we need to thicken it up by adding the flour and water mixture. Bring it to the boil after adding the flour mixture and stir it constantly for about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool while you prepare the pie cases.

Flour a surface and unroll the puff pastry, dust the top with flour and using a rolling pin or wine bottle, roll it out to about 3mm thick. If you are using individual pie cases cut a circle that will fill the pie case and flop over the edges a little as well as 6 further pieces to cover the top, press into the pie case and trim off the remaining pastry from the sides.

Fill the pie cases equally with the mixture, place the tops on and crimp the edges together with your fingers to seal the pastry. Pierce with a fork or knife on top, brush with the beaten egg and pop into a 200 Celsius over for 20 minutes or until the pastry is beautifully gold and crisp.

This steak pie recipe can easily be made in a large pie dish as well, I don’t put pastry on the base of the dish but cover with a thicker piece of pastry on top with is straight from the pack, no rolling, just cover, pierce and brush with egg.

Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani

chicken biryani

Chicken Biryani

Briyani or biryani, (I’m never sure) can be very complex to make but here is my cheats version which does not involve layering and baking in the oven. Its really great and simple to prepare, just make sure you have all of the spices.

What you need

300g basmati rice
1kg chicken pieces
2 medium onions sliced finely
2 tablespoons garam masala
1 tablespoon minced garlic
6-8cm piece ginger grated finely
3 tablespoons red chili powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
2 teaspoons Turmeric
1 bay leaf
2 tomatoes diced
1 small tub plain yogurt
125ml milk
2 tablespoons butter
oil for frying
handful of chopped mint

The process

Wash the rice as per pack instructions (usually until water runs clear)

Boil rice in water with the bay leaf until 1/2 cooked, drain and set aside.

In a pan with some oil add the onions and cook for a  minute or so. Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala powder, chili powder, coriander powder and turmeric. Stir to combine (it will seem dry but bear with it) for about 1 minutes. Add the tomatoes and combine well, covering the tomatoes with the mixture and stir for 2-3 minutes.

Add the chicken pieces, yogurt and milk and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes on a low to medium heat until the chicken is almost cooked through.

Add the rice, mix it all together, then place a lid or cover with tin foil and allow to cook on a low heat for a further 10-15 minutes.

The rice should be cooked through and the chicken tender.

To make it real special, fry off some more sliced onions in butter until soft and golden, sprinkle with chopped mint leaves and mix it in at the end.

Cream cheese icing

Cream cheese icing

best cream cheese icing

Best Cream cheese icing

Cream cheese icing is what you would normally find on a carrot cake and using this recipe exactly as it is makes enough to cover the top and sides of a 25cm round cake. The icing is not very sweet but creamy and really delicious.

It’s a very versatile recipe so if you like your icing sweeter, add a 1/4 cup of icing sugar to the mix and to make a chocolate version, add the extra sugar and 1/3 cup cocoa powder.

This really is the best cream cheese icing you will ever taste so next time you make cup cakes or any cake for that matter, smother them in this fantastic cream cheese icing.

What you need

250g cream cheese (none of that low fat nonsense)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

The process

Butter and cream cheese must be at room temperature before you start or you will really battle.

Add the butter and cream cheese to a bowl and blend together with a mixer or a wodden spoon until well combined, then add the vanilla and give it a very good mix.

Now sift in the icing sugar mixing constantly until the mixture is velvety smooth.

If you are adding the cocoa for the chocolate cream cheese icing, sift the cocoa and icing sugar in together.

That’s that, the best cream cheese icing you will ever taste.

If you use a spoon to mix this icing you are going to get a good workout, the faster you mix and the longer you mix, the better it gets.

I have also smothered a banana bread in the original icing and I can tell you it is something you are going to want to try.

Potato rosti

Potato rosti

Potato rosti recipe

Potato Rosti

A great potato rosti can be topped off with steak strips, an avocado salad, smoked salmon and cream cheese or anything else you really enjoy. It is such a versatile dish and can be used for breakfasts, lunches or dinners. Add a few bacon bits to the mixture and it changes, some spring onions and you are onto something else. Potato rosti’s are just the most fantastic things once you have perfected your own flavours. This potato rosti recipe is the basis for anything you want it to be. (3-4 main course meals or 8-10 starters)

What you need

5 medium potatoes
1 medium onion grated
2 tablesppons cake flour
1 extra large egg
Sunflower oil and butter for frying
Salt and pepper to taste

The process

Peel your potatoes and pop them into a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes to par boil. You want them el-dente. Then remove from the water and allow to cool on a board.

While the potatoes are boiling cook the onions in a pan on a low to medium heat in a little butter and oil to soften, then toss them in a mixing bowl.

Grate the cooled and now fairly dry potatoes, be gentle with them or you will end up with broken bits all over the place. Add the grated potato to the bowl.

Now lightly beat the egg and add to the bowl along with the flour and season with salt and pepper. At this stage, if you are adding anything to the mixture like bacon pieces(cooked), spring onions or a flavouring do it now.

Use a fork to gently combine all of the ingredients, use a lifting motion to distribute everything evenly.

Heat about a 1/2 a tablespoon each of oil and butter in a pan on a medium to hot heat and cover the base about 1 – 2cm thick with the potato rosti mixture and give it a light press into the base of the pan. (Select a pan size that you have a lid or plate that will cover the top of the pan)

Once the bottom is nicely browned, place the lid or plate over the pan holding it tightly in place and quickly flip the pan over so that the rosti is now in the plate or lid. Place the pan back on the stove, heat a little more butter and oil and then slide the rosti back into the pan and cook until the base is golden brown.

Slide it onto a plate and top it off with your favourite topping.

The steak salad or the chicken salad is brilliant as a topping and a really fantastic meal. Otherwise use your imagination, bacon and aco with a few greens and some dressing, smoked salmon with lemon wedges and a few slices of avo. Make small ones and use it as a vegetable with beef Stroganoff or You get the idea.

Meat lasagna

Meat lasagna

Meat lasagna

This is the classic meat lasagna recipe that you have probably had a variation of many times in your life. The meat sauce is the classic meat sauce base used in most Italian pasta recipes that can be altered for your own taste. Every Mom, Dad, or Grandmother seems to have their own perfect recipe so start here and create your perfect lasagna. I like to add a tablespoon of Chutney substituting the wine with chicken stock to my meat sauce and sometimes a few fresh herbs that happen to be around the kitchen so send it and make your own. (Good for 4-6 people) Note: the meat sauce takes a while to cook but is well worth the time but if you have your own favourite meat sauce, use that.

What you need

Dried lasagna sheets cooked for 4 or 5 minutes and dried
1 liter bechamel sauce

Meat sauce

2 tablespoons grated onion
2 tablespoons grated carrot
2 tablespoons grated celery
1 heaped tablespoon butter
500g lean beef mince
1 cup white wine or chicken stock
125ml milk (1/2 cup)
pinch nutmeg
750g peeled chopped plum tomatoes
Salt and pepper

150g grated parmesan cheese

The process

Add the butter to a pan on a medium heat and then add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until translucent and beginning to soften. Add the mince and cook until the mince has lost it’s pink color. You don’t want it to brown and in fact begins to look grey, this is good.

Now add the wine or chicken stock, stir and allow to simmer until all of the liquid has evaporated. Stir it occasionally to make sure there is little or no liquid left. Now add the milk and nutmeg and allow to simmer again until the liquid has evaporated.

Now add the tomatoes with all of their sauce, stir, reduce the heat to medium low and leave to simmer for about 3 hours stirring occasionally. If you notice the sauce sticking add a little more chicken stock. You really want to do this, it softens the meat and produces an incredible flavour.

Heat your oven to 180 Celsius and begin the assembly. Use a 33cmx23cm baking dish and place a thin layer of meat sauce on the bottom, a layer of pasta sheets and then a layer of bechamel sauce. (I sometimes sprinkle a little cheddar cheese at this point). Repeat the process until you have completely finished the meat and end off with a layer of pasta sheets topped with bechamel sauce.

Sprinkle over the parmesan cheese and into the oven for 40 minutes until browned and bubbling.

That is the best Classic lasagna and meat sauce I have ever tried. You may want to try the Spinach and Ricotta lasagna recipe as well.