Garlic Butter Braai Potatoes

Saturday was another gloriously bright sunny day and as this weekend is a long weekend with Monday being Labour Day, we’re taking full advantage of relaxing at home and slapping a few chunks of meat onto the BBQ, or rather, the Braai. We have a small bbq, but being South African through and through, we never stay away from the braai for too long.

Garlic Butter Braai Potatoes 3

So while hubby takes care of the lamb, chicken and boerewors, I set about preparing the potatoes. I’ve done these in the oven as roast hassleback potatoes a few times and they are truly scrumptious, having seen Nigella do these on one of her shows a few years ago, but they work really well as a braai accompaniment too…wrapped in tin foil and cooked on the coals – or the grid if the coals are still too hot.

Garlic Butter Braai Potatoes 1

All they really are are washed unpeeled potatoes, sliced about two thirds of the way through (from the top down and slices about 5 ml apart),  then filled with a buttery garlic and herb mixture. Sprinkle a little fresh salt over the top and wrap them individually in tin foil – voila! That’s it. Easy As! (And that’s my bit of Kiwi slang added in to show I’ve been here a long while now).

Garlic Butter Braai Potatoes 2

Place them onto the coals or the grid as previously mentioned and turn them occasionally. To check when they’re cooked, pierce gently with a skewer which should slide in easily when the flesh is delectably soft and ready to eat. Depending on the size of the potato, they can take anywhere from 30 – 50 minutes to cook but adding them early means they should be ready by the time all the meat is cooked and has rested for a few minutes. These probably won’t work if you’re having a bbq instead of a braai as the cooking is all done and dusted in only a few minutes and the potatoes won’t even be close to being cooked through.

Nigella gave a great tip to prevent you cutting the potatoes all the way through: place each potato in a wooden spoon or large serving spoon before slicing. Stop slicing when the blade touches the spoon. Then be careful when you fill them with the buttery mixture as if you pull the slices too far apart, they may snap off.

ingredients:
1 potato per person
1 tsp butter per potato
1 – 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (depending on the number of potatoes)
fresh parsley, chopped fine (or ½ – 1 tsp dried parsley)
tin foil

  1. Wash and carefully slice potatoes using the spoon tip above so you don’t cut all the way through.
  2. Add garlic and herbs to butter and combine well.
  3. Carefully insert into slice openings without snapping off the sections.
  4. Sprinkle with freshly ground salt and wrap up in tin foil, making sure the potato is completely covered.
  5. Place onto the grid if the coals are too hot or add directly to the outer edge of the coals. You will need to turn the little potato parcels occasionally so they cook evenly and don’t burn.
  6. Depending on the size of the potato and the heat of the coals, they will take 30 – 50 minutes to cook. Pierce them with a skewer to test. The skewer should slide in gracefully – then you know the texture is fluffy and beautiful.
  7. TIP: Don’t unwrap each parcel on your plate as it will be covered in dust and charcoal. Unwrap separately and discard the tin foil before placing onto your food plate.

Enjoy!

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M&M and White Chocolate Blondies

Squidgy, colourful and delicious is how I’ll describe these tiny squares of delight to you. I had never made a Blondie until a few weeks ago. My son had been asking to make the white chocolate fudge again so a trip to the store for more white chocolate chips was on the cards as I’d recently made the white chocolate and raspberry friands so didn’t have enough left over.

M&M and White Chocolate Blondies

Needless to say that the recipe on the pack of chocolate chips caught my attention. It was for white chocolate and raspberry blondies and as I only made the friands a few weeks ago, I decided to play with the recipe a little. Poor child is still waiting for his fudge!

An investigation into the resident pantry “treat box” revealed an unopened bag of M&Ms – they were calling out to me and it would have been cruel not to take them up on their offer. And so M&M and White Chocolate Blondies were born.

I have to admit that the stated baking time on the recipe rang a few alarm bells so I reduced the time by 5 minutes initially, but I was dismayed when I checked on them to find that they had baked hard like little bars – still very tasty, but not the gooey texture that brownies – oops! Sorry – blondies, are supposed to have. So what’s the  moral of the old children’s story about the little spider who didn’t succeed? Try, try and try again!

Subsequently, I’ve reduced the cooking time by a further ten minutes, but honestly, I stick with my gut on this one…when you smell the aroma of the baking cake/cookies wafting from the oven, please check it, because I see that as a signal that it is warning you it’s almost ready. So I’ve settled on a baking time of 30 – 35 minutes but honestly, start checking from 30 mins. This is a whopping reduction in cooking time of almost 15 minutes! Different ovens also run hotter/cooler than others so get to know your oven – it may save heaps of disasters and disappointments.

Once cut into slices, bars or shapes, sprinkle a little sieved icing sugar over the top or just serve them up as they are. They’re gorgeous to look at and kids love them. I suspect they’d work really well at a school fete or bazaar too.

ingredients:
125 g butter, chopped (no need to be at room temp as you’re going to melt it)
200 g white chocolate chips
½ cup (110 g) caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1¼ cups (185 g) plain flour
100 g M&Ms (doesn’t have to be exact, more or less – you decide)
icing sugar for dusting

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C or 160°C fan-forced.
  2. Grease and line the base and sides of a 19 cm square cake pan.
  3. Melt the butter, white chocolate chips and sugar in a large saucepan over a low heat, stirring so the chocolate doesn’t catch.
  4. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes. It may separate on standing but don’t worry, it will all come together perfectly when you add the next lot of ingredients. The reason for cooling the mixture is so you don’t get scrambled egg when you add the eggs in the next step.
  5. Stir in the eggs, then the flour and the M&Ms. Spoon or pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin and smooth out the top.
  6. You could add the M&Ms at this stage and just sprinkle them over the top or push them gently into the mixture, but it doesn’t really make a difference.
  7. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes (my oven was on the fan-forced setting). Please check it though. Some say it should be firm to the touch but then you run the risk of losing the squidginess. If you test it with a skewer, there should be a few sticky crumbs stuck to the skewer, not clean like a cake. But definitely not runny/raw.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tray. Then turn the blondie out onto a board and cut into squares.
  9. Sprinkle with the icing sugar or serve as is.

Enjoy!
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Apple and Ginger Loaf

You know the old saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, well, I’ve been a regular lemonade factory of late. It’s really tough seeing the positive in a situation when the outcome is so desperately far away from how you’d hoped it would be. The last few years have held extreme disappointment, frustration and trials just lining up to test me and my little family, but we resolutely somehow manage to carry on regardless.

Apple Ginger Loaf

There is a church on the main route to our village shops which has a notice board up out front. Some kind soul keeps posting messages of encouragement on the board, certainly not for us, but for the wider community. My husband and I shared a chuckle recently when we discovered that we both look to that notice board each time we drive past to see what new few but inspiring words we can take with us into that day. So thank you to whomever is responsible. It doesn’t solve our troubles, but it helps to focus on the positive and bring out a smile.

I am not religious by any stretch of the imagination. The first 20 years of my life were spent so entwined in a very strict religion that I think I’ve had more than my fair share, but I believe in God and that He has a plan for each of us. I just can’t seem to see what the plan is for me at the moment so feel a bit like a lost tyre bouncing down the motorway, completely out of control and hoping that I don’t collide with any more obstacles before I find a nice safe place to settle.

I see myself as more Spiritual than Religious if that makes sense. I don’t judge others for what they believe unless of course it impinges on the rights of individuals or groups to safety, security, their beliefs, etc. etc. I feel that one’s beliefs are personal and your relationship with whoever or whatever you believe in is also personal. This bond will be as weak or as strong as you let it be. And this is where I’ve been battling for a while now. I think some might go so far as to call what I’m feeling coveting, but I don’t quite think I’ve gone that far. But I do find it interesting and frustrating to say the least that some people can coast through this life as if they’re on a magic carpet. Admittedly I can’t see into their homes or souls to understand their hopes, dreams and challenges, but I’m close enough to them to know that they certainly haven’t had to face anywhere close to what I have had to deal with in my life – and this is where I’ve been trying to channel my energy – into not focusing on what I don’t have, but focusing on what I do.

And therein lies the challenge. I think it is a mistake that far too many of us make and once in that way of thinking, it becomes very difficult to extricate oneself. Is it perhaps a case of only seeing the things in another’s life that your heart yearns for while you completely miss the things in your own life that others think you are so lucky to have? Gosh, isn’t this life interesting. So many lessons, so little time. Perhaps I signed up for a crash course to fit as much into one life as possible, lol! Who knows. I sure don’t. But as we splash our way through this very wet Spring before being allowed to enjoy the splendour of another New Zealand Summer, I’m going to try to stop and smell the roses more often. Breathe the wonderful fresh air we are blessed with. Enjoy every moment I can with my immediate family, catch up with a few friends I haven’t seen in a while.

Plan for the future by all means, but know that Change and Disappointment are two things that are a constant in this life and try to go with the flow a little more. Thanks for listening. I wish we could have chatted over a shared cup of tea and a slice (or three) of this delicious Apple and Ginger Loaf. Never mind, I’ve probably had enough for us all. Find a hobby and focus on it in the dark times, baking is mine and I’ve even been battling to find joy in that recently but perhaps it’s time to explore a few new ideas and recipes. This one was particularly good, and easy too.

ingredients:
2 large unpeeled apples (I use red mostly as the green can be a bit tart)
1 x 400 g can condensed milk (yup, the whole can!)
1 egg, beaten
1½ cups self-raising flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger

And then I added a little something to the base recipe as it looks a little bland once baked and I thought it needed a bit of sprucing up. It is also delicious: a glaze.

Glaze:
250 ml icing sugar (130 g)
about 30 ml (just over 1 Tbsp) boiling water
2 ml vanilla essence

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan forced). Core and grate the apples.
  2. Combine the condensed milk with the grated apple and egg. Sift in the dry ingredients and mix gently.
  3. Pour into a 21 x 11 cm loaf pan lined with baking paper and bake for 40 – 45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes. Turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  5. In the meantime, prepare the glaze by sifting the icing sugar.
  6. Add enough of the water to make a smooth consistency.
  7. Add the essence or other flavour if you prefer, like lemon juice or a liqueur but probably not with this slice.
  8. Pour over the cooled loaf allowing it to run over the edges and quickly but gently spread it out over the top. The glaze will set quite quickly so you’ll need to work quickly.
  9. Cut into slices and serve.

Enjoy!
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White Chocolate and Raspberry Friands

I was introduced to Friands by a work colleague a little over a year ago when she brought these delicious little treats into the office one day for morning tea and I discovered another slice of sweet heaven. Friands may look like muffins or uniced cupcakes, but they are in fact, very different.

White Chocolate and Raspberry Friands

Not only are they usually oval in shape (a different tin is used altogether), but their ingredients are a bit unusual as well…not unusual in themselves, but just that by combining icing sugar and egg whites instead of whole eggs, the end result is wonderfully light and fluffy. Very little flour is used and the addition of almond flour makes them deliciously chewy. Another nice thing about them is their versatility. You can add just about any flavourings (lemon, poppyseeds, blueberries, coconut, chocolate, etc.) and they will continue to delight. I’m not entirely sure how the shape came about as I’ve read that in France where they hail from, they had no specific shape, but no matter.

My only advice though, is to let them rest in the tin/tray for about 10 minutes after removing them from the oven as they are so light and delicate that when I inverted the tray onto a wire cooling rack the first time I made them, the top half literally fell out of the tray. Treat them kindly and they will reward you. This might sound odd, but I also wasn’t sure whether to whisk the egg whites or just stir them in as the recipe didn’t say, but rest assured, you whisk the egg whites until they are white and frothy, almost at soft peak stage. This aerating of the whites and the sieving of the dry ingredients adds the volume which gives these little cakes the ability to rise in the absence of any other raising agents like baking powder.

Did you know that you can freeze egg whites? If you  normally make custards or curds and aren’t sure what to do with the left over whites, add about 2 or 3 to a mini freezer bag. Note the quantity on the bag for when you want to use them again and freeze. Then defrost at room temperature when you want to make pavlovas, meringues or friands!

ingredients:
250 g icing sugar
60 g flour
70 g almond flour/ground almonds
5 – 6 egg whites (depending on their size or 150 g if you prefer to weigh them)
80 g butter
80 g white chocolate drops
fresh or frozen raspberries
a little extra icing sugar for decorating

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C and grease the 12-hole baking tray.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave or using a double boiler. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Sieve the dry ingredients.
  4. Whisk the egg whites until soft peak stage.
  5. Gently fold the egg whites into the dry ingredients using a metal spoon.
  6. Slowly pour in the melted butter and chocolate mixture and combine with the same metal spoon.
  7. Split the mixture equally between 10 – 12 holes, filling each hole about two thirds of the way up.
  8. Push 2 or 3 raspberries into each friand and place the tray in the oven.
  9. Bake for 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into each friand comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. When cool, sprinkle with a little icing sugar to decorate and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

 

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