Thursday, 24 May 2012

Koffie Koekies

Coffee Creams or 'Koffie Koekies', as they are called in Afrikaans, are coffee flavoured biscuits sandwiched with a fudge filling. They are traditional South African biscuits that every good 'boere vrou' (farmers wife) knows how to make. My mother used to make these every year over Christmas in an industrial sized batch to see her through the season's gatherings. I tried to find the origin of these biscuits but didn't have much luck. Only one of my friends from the Free State had heard of them, she said they called them 'crocodile biscuits'. A very descriptive name as the biscuits resemble a crocodiles back remarkably closely. This is due to the way the biscuits are made. The soft dough is put through an old fashioned meat grinder with a cookie attachment which gives the biscuits the lovely ridges and texture like the crocodiles back. One person turns the meat grinder by hand, while the other person catches the dough. A laborious two person job.

I don't have an old fashioned meat grinder or an extra pair of hands, so I roll the dough out, cut them in little rectangles about 5cm long and give them a stroke with a fork to give them texture. If you find making the fudge filling too fiddly, you can sandwich the biscuits together with apricot jam.

When you open a tin of these biscuits the most delicious coffee/caramel smell comes wafting out. They beat any store bought biscuit hands down. They remain one of my very favourite biscuits. Ever.

1 kg cake flour

5 ml salt
330 ml demerara sugar
400 g butter
250 ml golden syrup

15 ml bicarbonate of soda
125 ml very strong black coffee (you can use instant coffee such as Nescafe, but use at least 6 teaspoons)

5 ml vanilla essence

Fudge filling
375 ml white sugar
50 g butter or margarine

125ml double thick cream
30ml milk
5 ml vanilla

Sift the cake flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. Add vanilla to cooled mixture.

Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in a little coffee. Add this mixture and the rest of the coffee, to the cooled butter and syrup mixture. Add to flour and knead well to form soft dough. Cover and leave for several hours or overnight.

Divide the dough into two balls, place the one in the fridge while you work with the other. Roll out thinly and cut the cookies into 5 cm rectangles. Take a fork and scrap the top of the dough, to give it texture. Place on greased cookie sheets and bake at 200 ÂșC for 10 - 12 minutes until golden brown and baked through. Cool the biscuits on wire racks.

To make the filling, put all the filling ingredients, except the vanilla, into a pan and slowly bring to a boil. Make certain the sugar has dissolved before the mixture boils. Boil for 8 minutes, uncovered. Stir continuously so it doesn't burn. Remove from the stove, and beat with a wooden spoon until thick and cooled.

Sandwich the biscuits together with the fudge filling or apricot jam.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Hummingbird Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies

I have a friend who is 27 weeks pregnant, lets call her Hayley. She is as glamorous as she was on her wedding day and still bang on trend in her spring coloured jeans. Her perfect pins (she carries all in the front, of course!) would even make a Crayola crayon jealous. Sickening really, how does she do it? When I was 27 weeks pregnant I was already starting to resemble a certain ocean mammal and taking full advantage of the 'eating for two' scenario. What they don't tell you in the pregnancy small print (among many other things) is that once you have finished eating for two, you then have to lose the weight for two. Oh well, I might as well have another cookie...and rub some chocolate in my hair.

This recipe is from Hummingbird bakery, delicious as always. The dough expands a lot, give the cookies ample room to expand like a pregnant lady. If I am feeling naughty I leave out the raisins and add 100g chocolate chips and 100g dried sour cherries.

270g unsalted butter, at room temperature
160g caster sugar
160g soft dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
380g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
110g rolled oats
220g raisins

Preheat the oven to 170C. Put the butter and sugars in a bowl and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition. Turn the mixer down to slow speed and beat in the vanilla extract.

Sift together the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon in a separate bowl, add the oats and mix well. Add to the butter mixture and beat until well mixed. Stir in the raisins with a wooden spoon until evenly dispersed.

Arrange equal amounts of cookie dough on the prepared baking trays. Make sure that the cookies are spaced apart to allow for spreading while cooking.

Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes, or until golden brown and firm.Check them regularly to make sure they are not burning.

When you are happy that they are cooked through, remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly on the trays before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes 20 cookies.

I did have a chuckle when I read this quote: Being slightly paranoid is like being slightly pregnant - it tends to get worse. Molly Ivins

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Chicken and Chips Pie

This recipe is especially for my friend Olga, who can make me laugh no matter how dire the situation or weather.

Oh the weather of Britain, what a talking point at the moment! April certainly lived up to its folklore forecast, it was one of the wettest months on record, May bank holiday weekend was a washout and the month of May is set to be the coldest May for 100 years. Today is no exception, it is a cold, wet, rainy day in London. I'm recovering from a 24hr stomach bug while looking after my active toddler and expecting 6 people for dinner. Groan. This calls for cheats Chicken and Chips pie. The beauty of this recipe is to add whatever you have/fancy; green peppers, celery or a cup of cooked rice to make it go further, great for big families. Perfect comfort food in the coldest May in a 100 years.

You can make filling in advance, but don't add the potato chips until it's time to bake or they'll go soggy. You may need to bake a little longer as the filling will be cold. It's best to stick to salt and vinegar pototo chips, other pototo chip flavours don't do this recipe justice.

4 chicken breasts
300ml of chicken stock
150g button mushrooms
a bunch of spring onions
2 tablespoons of cornflour
2 tablespoons English mustard
1 cup of crushed salt and vinegar potato chips (I used Pringles)
100ml double cream
1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
a knob of butter
Black pepper

Cut the chicken breasts into 1cm strips. Put a glug of olive oil and a knob of butter into a large wide saucepan. Add the chicken and cook for about 3 mins until chicken is white and sealed.

In the meantime, slice up the button mushrooms and spring onions and add to the saucepan with the two tablespoons of cornflour and stir in well, cook for 2 minutes.
Add the 2 tablespoons of mustard, the double cream and 300ml chicken stock. Stir well.
Pick the thyme leaves and stir into the pan with the nutmeg, a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Tip the filling into an ovenproof baking dish. Top with the crushed salt and vinegar potato chips and bake for 20mins at 180 degrees or until filling is bubbly and chips are golden.

Serves 6.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Speedy Steak Supper

I vaguely remember the days of having a long, hot, deep bubble baths with a cold G&T in hand. The bliss of soaking and sipping. Washing the work strains and stresses away...pause, fast forward to present day. My bath is a quarter full of lukewarm water and I am sharing it with a small wriggly toddler, eight squeezy octopuses, five fairies, three ducks, two cars and a giraffe. No time for relaxing, need to get unwilling toddler out of bath, dressed, brushed, bedded and produce a meal for husband that will be arriving from work starving at any moment. Supper coming up in 15 minutes, seriously 15 minutes.

Lamb steaks or duck breasts can be substituted for the beef steaks, both meats work superbly well with these flavours.

2 steaks
150g couscous (75g per person)
Half a pomegranate
A handful of chopped mint
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon
Black pepper

Put the couscous into a large bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and just enough boiling water to cover the couscous. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside.

Season the steaks with black pepper and salt. Put the steaks into a very hot griddle pan. Cook for about 6 minutes in total, turning every minute. This will give you a lovely pink steak, around 8 minutes will give you a more medium/well done steak. Set steaks aside on a board to rest.

Now, deseed the half pomegranate and finely chop the mint. Take the plate off the couscous and fluff with a fork. Add the pomegranate seeds, chopped mint, olive oil, a good squeeze of lemon, black pepper and salt. Taste and tweak accordingly.

Put a nice big heap of couscous on a plate, slice steak and lay on top of couscous. I like to drizzle the resting juices of the meat over the steak for more flavour. Garnish with mint leaves and tuck in!

Serves 2.