Tuesday, November 29, 2011

South African Milk Tart

If you had read my last post, you would have known that I recently started a full time job at an engineering firm. 

Scratch that.

I started a full time CAREER.

I was, at first, very excited that I no longer had to spend time completing assignments and study for exams outside of normal lecture hours. Although I have now regained my weekends, I have discovered that a 9 to 5 job doesn't leave you with very much time in the day. Add that to the Saturdays I spend teaching piano, it's not very much time at all to sit down and relax.

Cornflour + sugar + egg yolks + milk
But now it's almost Christmas and with it comes work parties, presents and lots and lots of food! And a holiday.

I really need one.

Adding the margarine and vanilla essense
For some reason, my family has been elected to have all the "get togethers" for family and friends this year and, because of all our busy timetables, we have turned to easy (but very yummy) recipes that can easily be prepared ahead of time so we're not in such a rush on the day! Luckily, we've been blessed with friends who have such recipes in their arsenal and are willing to share.

The South African Milk Tart was introduced to us by my mother's former work colleague and is different to most others that I have come across as the filling does not need to be baked but cooked over the stove and refrigerated. The creamy filling tastes like the food of angels (honestly!) and is not overly sweet. It also differs to the traditional "Melktert" in that it imparts a subtle coconut flavour thanks to this secret ingredient:

The packet tells me that Tennis biscuits are South Africa's favourite and I can certainly see why. Light and crunchy with a splash of syrup and coconut, these are the perfect base for the tart. The no-nonsense square shape also makes a square/rectangular pan perfect for laying the base -unfortunately I don't own one, so I spend ages breaking off little bits to cover the bottom..

Go on. Try this recipe. 

Glynnis' South African Milk Tart

3 cups milk
3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon of margarine
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1 packet of Tennis biscuits (available in your international food aisle. I have also been told that Arnotts "Nice" biscuits work too)
5 heaped Tablespoons of cornflour
1 teaspoon of salt

1. Separate egg yolk and whites into two separate bowls
2. Mix cornflour, sugar and egg yolks together to form a paste. Add extra milk if needed (don't worry, this won't throw off any ratio)
3. Boil milk and add the above mixture. Whisk until a custard-like consistency
4. Turn heat to low and cook again for about 10 minutes
5. Take the mixture off the stove. Add margarine and vanilla essence and fold through the mixture
6. In your other bowl, beat egg whites until stiff and fold carefully into the mixture
7. Cover the bottom of your tart dish with biscuits -don't worry about being neat and tidy
8. Pour mixture over the biscuits and spread evenly
9. Let it cool and cover with glad wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
10. Sprinkle cinnamon or grated chocolate over the top before serving.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Garlicky Flat Bread, Veggies, and Hummus

Now that I have completed 17 years of education and am starting full time work in a few days, it has suddenly dawned on me that my friends and I are becoming adults -with full blown CAREERS!

I'm going to be honest. It's a little weird.

Garlicky Flatbread: All purpose flour, yeast, sugar, water, salt, butter, and garlic. Not pictured: parsley
I always knew that adulthood was inevitable and was even looking forward to being all grown up,  having my own house and HOSTING DINNER PARTIES. This is not one of those "where did my life go" posts because, honestly, I couldn't be happier with my life right now. 

Flatbreads ready to go into the oven

A few of my uni friends have already started their careers opting to forgo the 2 months of summer holidays. I start in 5 days and could not be more excited -about doing actual engineering, I mean. Not too thrilled about starting a 9-5 job though.

Brush on garlic butter as soon as flatbread comes out

To further stress the fact that we are growing up, Jason, his sister and I have been charged with house sitting for his parents which includes looking after the dogs and cooking our own meals which suits me just fine. 

Simple Hummus: Chickpeas, olive oil, salt, lemon juice, garlic, and cayenne pepper

On the menu tonight, I decided, was going to be something spectacular. Jason's parents had kindly left steak in the freezer and what better than roasted vegetables and garlic bread as accompaniment?

Loveliest grilled veggie marinade: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, minced garlic
And with flat bread, must come hummus. These recipes make for a ridiculously easy and delicious meal which is perfect for the upcoming summer. Enjoy =)

Garlicky Flat Bread (makes 10-12)

1Tablespoon yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp white sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
50g butter, melted or 1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon chopped parsely

1. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Let sit for 10 minutes until it gets frothy.
2. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour yeast. Slowly add 1 cup of lukewarm water and mix until elastic.
3. Place dough on a floured surface and knead for 15 minutes until smooth and elastic.
4. Roll the dough into a ball and place it into a bowl which is coated with olive oil. Cover and let sit for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
5. Preheat oven to 260°C and make sure your tray is also preheated and sitting at the bottom position of your oven.
6. Divide the dough into 10 - 12 pieces and leave for 10 minutes.
7. Roll out each ball into a circle that is about 12cm in diameter and 0.5cm thick.
8. Bake for 4 minutes until the rounds puff up and turn over and bake for another 2 minutes.
9. While they're baking, combine the garlic, melted butter and chopped parsley.
10. Brush garlic mixture onto flat bread immediately after removing from oven.

Easy Hummus

Simple Hummus

1 can chickpeas, drained 
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lemon

1. Blend everything together in a food processor. 
2. Just jokes. There is no second step.

Yummy Veggie Marinade (great for eggplant)

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix everything together.
2. Brush both sides of your veggie slices with this mix before placing on a preheated grill.
3. Go wild.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Coca Cola Chicken Nibbles

The only thing better than cooking a yummy meal is cooking a yummy meal that doesn't take hours of preparation. Here's a yummy recipe that is delicious, and so incredibly easy that you will want to make these every night.

In our circle of family friends, my mother is somewhat famous for her marinated chicken and doesn't share it with anyone despite being asked dozens of times. Unfortunately, the recipe below is not her's as I have been sworn to secrecy but it's pretty damn good. Oh, and you only need 2 ingredients!

Pictured: 3/4 ingredients
 Well, 3 ingredients if you're counting the chicken nibbles themselves..
Oh, and 4 ingredients if you count the oil for frying..

After frying one side
..Ahh lets just say that the marinade requires only 3 ingredients.

Adding the coke. Your chicken should be cooked once the sauce becomes sticky
 Don't worry about the chicken tasting like coke as long as it just imparts a sweet flavour to offset the saltiness of the soy sauce. This is why it's so important that normal coke is used and not a diet version.

Or a bed of veggie noodles
This is by far the easiest thing to make and the ingredients are far more easily accessible than the dozens required in my mother's recipe. Coca Cola Chicken is perfect as a snack when you have people over or simply had with steamed rice.

Coca Cola Chicken Nibbles

500g to 1kg chicken (nibbles work best)
2 Tablespoons soy sauce (light)
1/2 cup Coca Cola (Note: Don't use diet!)
Oil for shallow frying

1. Coat the chicken in the soy sauce and mix well. Leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes
2. Pour enough oil to just cover the bottom of your pan. Place your chicken in the pan once it has heated and fry for 5 minutes on each side. Watch out for splatters
3. Turn the heat down to medium, add coke and cover for another 5 minutes
4. The chicken should be ready once the sauce has gone sticky. To check, prick the chicken with a fork and the juice should run clear when cooked.
5. Enjoy

Friday, November 4, 2011

Royal Thai Restaurant

One thing you should know about my dad is that, in terms of cuisine, he rarely likes to branch out.  Despite bringing me up to "always try everything" and forcing me to eat onions as a child (I'm still not the biggest fan of onions by the way), dad would consider food from other parts of the world only if a Chinese restaurant wasn't within a 12km radius. So eating anything other Chinese is very rare when we dine out as a family.

I'm not complaining, of course. I love my Chinese food but I can't help but think eating at the same 5 or 6 restaurants every time is a little hypocritical of my father. My mother is a little better as she comes into contact with a variety of different cultures at work although she would almost definitely choose familiar foods if given the chance.

I, however, have been completely brainwashed by the "give everything a go" mantra and absolutely love branching out and  living in the midst of a cultural melting pot such as Auckland gives Jason and I the perfect opportunity to try a variety of different cuisines. Usually it is the price that puts them off -"Why would I pay $50 for a single meal when I could feed 4 people for the same price at a Chinese restaurant?" I would often hear my dad exclaim so when we acquired some dining vouchers, I took it upon myself to introduce them to the Royal Thai Restaurant as the food there is quite similar to what they're used to. Baby steps.
Money bags -$10.20 for a plate of 6
We started off with two servings of money bags -"they're like wontons" I explain to my mother though the similarities ended with their appearance. These little morsels were filled with a mix of pork, chopped peanuts, garlic and spices with a side of sweet chili sauce. The money bags were quite different to ones I had experienced at other Thai restaurants which usually just involve meat and some mixed vegetables and the addition of peanuts provided another depth of flavour. The side salad was also nice and refreshing (not sure if it was meant to be eaten though..). Needless to say, mother was very impressed.

Keow Wan Gai (Thai Green Curry Chicken) -$19.50
Thai green curry is one of those dishes that is present on every Thai menu, but is never the same anywhere. Thank God, that this was one of the better ones I've had or else there would be less "branching out" in the future. The flavours were perfectly balanced while the green beans and bamboo shoots did well to cut the richness of the coconut milk.
Pad Thai Goong (King Prawn Pad Thai) -$25.50

Pad Thai is another of those famous dishes although past experience has warned me away. I reluctantly tried some at the insistence of Jenny, and discovered it wasn't as bad as I had remembered. The addition of bean sprouts, prawns and peanuts provided a nice crunch to the otherwise soft rice noodles but, overall, I found the Pad Thai to be a bit too sweet after a few mouthfuls.
Nua Gra Tiem (Beef with Garlic and Pepper) -$19.50
In order to ease the parentals into this new cuisine, we ordered some sizzling plates -something that is quite common on Chinese cuisine. The beef was a little overcooked in parts but was made up by the fact that it was covered in a delicious sauce! The orange slice garnish also tasted really good (again, I'm not sure if I was supposed to eat it) and I have now got an appetite for warm orange. Call me weird.
Moo Kra Ta (Pork with Peanut Sauce) -$19.50
The satay pork was cooked more evenly and every piece was very tender. However, the broccoli pieces were quite dry and perhaps needed a touch more sauce. The warm orange slice was also good.
Gai Yang (B.B.Q. Chicken) -$19.50

Last to come was a very generous amount of BBQ chicken and it was easily my favourite dish of the night. Even though the pieces were quite large, they were all cooked to perfection with the BBQ, chili and Thai herb flavour penetrating right to the center.

The Royal Thai Restaurant can be found at 243 Hinemoa St, Birkenhead, Auckland, New Zealand.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tomato Puff Pastry Appetizers

Up until the age of 15, I was taught to believe that alcohol makes you dumb and, as a child who prided herself on being smart, I was terrified of the stuff. It never occurred to me that my father, who has a beer or two with dinner every night, was a complete contradiction of that fact. By the time high-school parties rolled around, I was introduced to RTDs or "lolly water" and was amazed at how easy it was to drink! 

Dividing a pastry sheet into 9 squares
Of course, everything a teenager enjoys eventually becomes uncool

Upon starting my engineering degree, I was politely informed that no engineer should ever be caught without a beer in hand and that I should quickly procure a jug or two or kindly GTFO. So that was my first official introduction to beer. Of course I had sneaked little sips from dad's stash before but the fizzy, bitter taste completely put me off.

But now, at engineering events, I am rarely seen without a cold one in my hand but have come to the conclusion that beer is an acquired taste. Through countless conversations with my peers, I am convinced that nobody starts out liking beer but rather become accustomed to its taste over time. 

One thing that I must have with my beer, however, is food. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is complete without food and even the best beer should at least have some appetizers. Tomato puff pastries are one of my favourites to bring to parties as they are easy, quick and taste delicious! I bought them to the engineering pre-ball this year and they were quite the hit so I highly suggest you try them out.

Do remember to prick your puff pastry though..
The classic combination of tomato, cheese and Italian herbs is a winner and should not be tampered with. It is the perfect little appetizer as it is light, flavoursome not so overpowering. And the best thing? You can choose to make as many or as little as you want!

I couldn't wait to get to the party before trying one
And as for alcohol making people dumb? Judging by the hundreds of amazing engineers I've met over my 4 year degree, I have to say: HYPOTHESIS DISPROVEN.

Tomato Puff Pastry Appetizers

Ingedients (for each square):
1 puff pastry square
1 slice of tomato
1 Tablespoon shredded cheese
1 slice of onion (optional)
1 teaspoon mixed Italian herbs
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat your oven to 220°C
2. Slice your tomato into about 5mm thickness
3. Cut your puff pastry sheet into squares about the same thickness as your tomato slices. Remember to prick them with a fork so they don't puff up too much!
4. Place your pastry squares on some baking paper and sprinkle cheese on top
5. Add a thin slice of onion if using and top with your tomato slice
6. Sprinkle Italian herbs over the top and season with salt and pepper
7. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden. Keep your eyes on them!