Summer Loving and Healthy Lunches

Summer is just about here! And to celebrate the warmer weather, I like to take full advantage of the beautiful surrounds of St Francis Bay.  The Cape St Francis beach is one of my favourite places to spend time, the sand always forms magical patterns and creates a fairytale atmosphere.

sand patternsshadows

lighthouse from the beach

To celebrate the summer, I thought I would share one of my favourite easy and healthy lunch time dishes.

Spinach, Feta & Mushroom Quesadilla

1 whole wheat tortilla wrap
¼ cup mozzarella cheese
1 cup fresh spinach which has been blanched in boiling water
4 button mushrooms, sliced and cooked in a little olive oil and garlic.
30g Danish feta, crumbled
seasoning
¼ tsp nutmeg
chopped dill

Mix the spinach, feta, mushrooms, nutmeg and dill together.  Season to your liking.

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat.
Place 1 tortilla onto the pan.
When warm, flip it over.
Sprinkle about half the Cheddar cheese evenly over the one side of the tortilla.
Top with the spinach mixture.
Add a little more cheese, fold over in half and press down lightly.
Cook until the bottom gets a little colour, flip over and let the other side also colour.
Slide onto a cutting board, using a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife, cut into 4.
Serve with a little side salad of your choice.

spinach feta and mushroom

Cinnamon Pancake Happiness

Nothing comforts me more on a cold rainy day than pancakes.  Typical South African Pancakes with cinnamon sugar and a splash of fresh lemon juice.

With this weekend that just went by, the wind was howling, the rain was pouring so it was the perfect excuse to whip up a batch of cinnamon pancakes.

cinnamon pancakes

South African Pancakes

2 ¼  cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
50g melted butter
5 eggs
600ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
30ml ginger liqueur (use Old Brown Sherry if you want)
oil for frying

1 tsp Cinnamon
3 tbsp Sugar (I used white, but can use brown)
½ tsp ground ginger

Mix the cinnamon, sugar and ginger together in a clean shaker.

Place all the pancake ingredients in a mixer and mix until you have a smooth batter.

Add a little of the batter at a time to a frying pan which has been wiped with oil, just cover the bottom of the pan.  Cook until tiny air bubbles start to appear, flip over for a little colour and place onto a plate.  If I am making cinnamon pancakes, I like to sprinkle the cinnamon mixture over the pancake and cover so it sweats and the sugar almost “melts” into the pancake.

Now this is me completely happy, however, pancakes are more versatile than this, I have used pancakes in catering jobs, filled with chicken mayo or bacon & jalapeno, and of course the more classic banana and caramel. So I wanted to make a breakfast pancake for Justin, he is a bacon & egg kind of guy.

I used cream cheese, bacon & scrambled eggs, with rocket and fresh peppadews, grown in my moms garden, and wow it was delicious.

bacon and egg pancakes

Roasted Butternut, Caramelized Onion, Danish Feta & Mixed Herbs Quiche

Quiche and myself have a love hate relationship.  I love the idea of quiche, but I hate that eggy flavour of quiche.  So I am always sceptical at ordering quiche at restaurants, but am all for making quiche at home.

This was a meatless Monday dinner, so feel free to adapt the ingredients if you insist on using meat.  I would add a little crispy bacon bits to satisfy the carnivore in you, but otherwise just as it is pretty delicious.

Roasted Butternut, Caramelized Onion, Danish Feta & Mixed Herbs Quiche
serves 8 – 10

Enough shortcrust pastry to suit the size of the dish you are using to make your quiche in
1kg butternut roasted (I roasted it the same was I always do when making my butternut soup)
2 large onions, chopped pole to pole
200g Danish feta, roughly crumbled
chopped mixed fresh herbs of choice
200ml milk
100ml cream
3 eggs
seasoning
1 tsp sugar
1 clove of garlic, diced
200g grated cheddar
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180C

I made my quiche in a large spring form tin, you don’t need to grease the tin as the pastry won’t stick.

Roll out the pastry and cut to desired size. You want to ensure that you have a pie like crust for the quiche, so ensure your pastry comes up the sides of the tin.  Remember your pastry shrinks when baked so leave a little room for shrinking.
Blind bake for 25 – 30 minutes.

While the butternut is roasting, fry off the onions in a drizzled of olive oil, sprinkle the sugar over the onions and let caramelize, add the garlic and sauté gentle.  Do not burn the garlic as this will make your quiche bitter.
Mix the butternut, onions and feta, with the herbs in a bowl, season to taste.

Mix the milk and cream together and add the eggs.  Ensure that the mixture is well incorporated.

Place your butternut mixture evenly in the pastry base, pour the milk mixture over, tap the tin once or twice to get the mixture to seep through the butternut, sprinkle cheese over the top and bake for 45 minutes.

Turn your oven up to grill for 2 – 3 minutes just long enough for the cheese to form a nice crust over the top.

Remove and let cool for 5 minutes, release spring form clasp.  Let sit for another 5 minutes.

Cut and serve with a beautiful garden salad.
IMG_20130312_115911

Basil & Three Cheese Soufflé

Chefs, foodies, home cooks and students all fear the dreaded Soufflé.  But in essence, they should not be feared at all.  As long as you have your fundamentals down you should have a successful soufflé time after time.

The word soufflé is the past participle of the French verb souffler which means “to blow up” or more loosely “puff up”.

Once I get an idea in my head, I don’t let it go.  I was paging a magazine which had a bean soufflé recipe; my husband was not very excited about this idea, so I opened my fridge door and put a few ideas together.

Basil & Three Cheese Soufflé
makes 6 servings

50g whole meal flour (extra for dusting ramekins)
50g softened butter (extra for buttering ramekins)
500ml milk
1 small onion
1 star anise
3 cloves
2 sprigs of Thyme
100g mature white cheddar, grated
100g boerenkaas, grated
50g feta cheese, crumbled
2 tsbp Princess Pesto basil pesto
6 eggs, seperated
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Prepare ramekins with butter , using a pastry brush, brush the butter in an upward motion (this is a very important step). Dust with flour and black pepper and place in freezer.

Preheat your oven at 200°C

Mix the butter and flour together to form a paste.  Place in fridge to harden.
Heat the milk over a medium heat with the onion, star anise, cloves and thyme infusing in the milk for about 15 minutes. Strain and place back on the heat.
Whisk in cold butter, the milk will thicken, cook out for about 5 minutes, stirring continuously.
Whisk the egg yolks, cheese and basil pesto together and then into the milk mixture.

All this point you can stop and set aside for up to 2 days.

Whisk your egg whites until just before hard peak.  You don’t want dry egg whites.

Fold your whisked egg whites into your mixture gently.  Spoon mixture into the prepared ramekins.  Ensure that the mixture is level on top.  Using a paper towel and run your finger along the inside edge of the ramekin, this encourages the soufflé to rise.

Place in oven for 10 minutes, drop your heat to 180°C for a further 15 minutes.

As you can see, mine raised beyond expectations, careful though, as soon as you remove the soufflé from the oven, it will start dropping within a minute.

cheese souffle

Oven Baked Biltong, Citrus & Thyme Chicken Schnitzel

I saw a post on Facebook a few weeks ago which asked…what is healthy eating…there were so many different answers, and all great ones…then I stood back and thought to myself, what is healthy to me…and I remind myself of my motto for healthy eating…choose right

I chose right when I made this healthy alternative to a deep-fried chicken schnitzel.  This is an easy, healthy and quick light dinner for the beautiful summer evenings we have been experiencing…let’s hope it lasts (touch wood)

Oven Baked Biltong, Citrus & Thyme Chicken Schnitzel
Makes 2

2 chicken breasts, about 130g each
135g bread crumbs
3 tbsp biltong powder
zest of one orange
2 tbsp thyme, chopped
seasoning
2 eggs
1/8 cup water
1 cup flour
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C

Butterfly the chicken breasts.  See end of post for tips

In a bowl mix the bread crumbs, biltong powder, orange zest, thyme and seasoning

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and water together (this is the egg wash)

Place the chicken breast in the flour, then into the egg wash, then into the bread crumb mixture.  Make sure the chicken breast is well coated in the flour and egg to ensure the bread crumbs stick to the chicken breast.

Place on an oiled baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, place in the oven for 15 – 25 minutes, until cooked and has a good gold colour to it.

Serve with sides of choice, I enjoyed this with rosemary and garlic baby potatoes and a Greek salad.

** Store the left over bread crumbs in an air tight container for next time.

How to Butterfly a Chicken Breast
Lay the boneless & skinless chicken breast on the surface of your cutting board.  You can remove the tenderloin or work around it.  With the edge of your knife parallel to the cutting board, begin cutting down the length of the side of the breast. Carefully slice the breast in half, almost to the other edge. Open the chicken breast like a book.  If you have ticker parts of the breast, repeat the process until you have a nice thin chicken breast.

Chicken Stir Fry with a quick Sweet & Sour Sauce

I have a confession…I am a preserve addict.  When I walk into any shop that sells a “homemade” preserve, I have to purchase it.  I have things like Cherry & Guava Jelly, Pickled Habaneros, Pineapple Marmalade and something that is the star of this post…Pineapple & Gooseberry Jam.

So what do we do with jam…put it on toast?  I am a little bored with that idea…I use jams to make sauces.  One of these sauces is a quick sweet & sour sauce for my chicken stir fry.  It goes a little something like this…

Pineapple & Gooseberry Sweet & Sour Sauce
makes 4 portions

2 tbsp Pineapple & Gooseberry jam (you can substitute  this with Apricot jam)
½ cup spirit vinegar
1 tsp fresh ginger grated
¼ cup boiling water

Place all ingredients into a pot over medium heat.  Let cook out and the ginger will infuse beautifully.

With a stick blender, blitz up to a pourable consistency.  This can stay in the fridge, so  make a whole batch for later use.

With my sweet & sour sauce, I made a quick Stir Fry.

2 chicken Breasts (optional or substitute with Tofu)
400g stir fry of choice
2 pks Two minute noodles (toss out the spice that comes with it!) – cooked according to packet
2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
seasoning
olive oil
3 tbsp sweet & sour sauce from above
fresh chilies, chopped (optional)

Heat a wok until scorching hot.  Fry off the chicken in a little olive oil, add vegetables, thyme and seasoning. Fry off for about 5 minutes, you want your vegetables to still be crunchy.  Add the sweet & sour sauce, ensure the chicken and vegetables are coated in sauce.  Add cooked noodles, toss and serve.

This dish can be served hot, or as a summery salad.

Enjoy!

New Age Bangers & Mash

How often does the “what’s for dinner” conversation go down in your house?  When do you actually decide what you are going to make for dinner, whether you are going to cook or go out?  These are all important questions, for those who are faced with the daunting task of having to decide what to feed your family.  You don’t want the boring same old same old, having said that, if you are anything like me, having to go to the store to buy ingredients just for one meal makes me rather grumpy.  Unfortunately, the love to shop card is not part of my make up, so it’s a task and a half.

So for my New Age Banger & Mash I dug around in my freezer and just used what I had in the house.

I love potatoes, I can have potatoes done any way, but I wanted something different…

500g baby potatoes
1 onion, roughly diced
1 generous tsp garlic, chopped or used crushed garlic
50ml brandy
1 tbsp sugar
handful of parsley, chopped
Olive oil
salt & pepper

Parboil the baby potatoes; you want them just soft enough that you can squash them between your palms.  Set aside to cool

In a pan, fry off your onions over a medium heat, add the sugar and let caramelize.  Add the brandy to deglaze the pan, add garlic and briefly cook until all the liquid has cooked out.

Squeeze the baby potatoes between your palms just to break them, you looking for a rustic kind of look.  Add to your pan with onions, toss around until well combined.  Add the parsley, season and set aside.

Now to put something together on a plate!

Pork bangers – boil off your bangers and fry off in a little olive oil.  If you want to keep it slightly healthier, set your oven to 180° C, after boiling them off, just pop them in the oven until nicely the bangers have a nice colour. Healthier but it does take slightly longer.

I popped a packet of peas into a pot, a knob of butter, orange zest and a splash of orange juice.  Cook just until the peas are heated through.  The fresh citrus flavours with the peas are a lovely combination.