“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” Alan D Wolfelt
I sit here and think about the last few blogs I have written, I have been really preachy. Let’s try something different… something more in the line of indulgent than health consciousness. My brother and mother have their birthdays 1 day apart from each other and this year we were all blessed enough to celebrate it with them. While this is 2 special occasions this would mean that there are 2 special requests for a good eating opportunity.
My brother’s birthday
I walked into my grandmother’s house and saw what lay ahead for dinner, Pap en Kaaiings. My heart felt a heavy beat and I realized that I am only going to have meat and carbohydrates for dinner. While this seems appropriate for most South Africans I do feel that I need more vegetables in my life (I’m sure I have written this same sentence before). I suggested that we should have a vegetable dish whereupon my suggestion was responded to by the term ‘vegan’… I made them promise that none of them better think about dishing any of our delicious vegetable dishes. We (my cousin, brother’s fiancé, and myself) had enjoyed our very easy vegetable meal.
½ a Butternut
1 Red Pepper
1 Sweet Potato
Rosemary (about 3 Sprigs)
Thyme (3-4 Sprigs)
1 teaspoon Garlic (and a bit more for love)
Salt and Pepper
Chop everything to similar sizes and mix it with the herbs, spices, and oil.
Bake at 180-200°C until veggies are soft and caramelized.
Feed it immediately to hungry family members, even if they say they don’t eat it… they can’t escape the truth.
For my mother’s birthday I decided, last minute, to make Millionaire Shortbread. Usually, I don’t make it because of how long it takes and upon a Google search, I found an ‘easy millionaire shortbread’ recipe. The only thing easy about the recipe is reading it because I feel like they miss out on a lot of important details. I am really sad to report that I had royally messed up the Millionaire Shortbread. It had ruined half of my day. If you have never made Millionaire Shortbread here are some tips:
The first layer:
Do not bake the Shortbread too long. Shortbread should be pale and like my grandmother said, all the ingredients are already cooked so there is no need to cook something.
When you work with the dough it should be cold and at the coolest time of the day, try to keep your hands cool as well. You shouldn’t work with butter when it’s hot because the butter will melt, making the dough difficult to handle and it won’t bake as well as a cold dough would.
When making the toffee, be patient… very patient! The thing with sugar is that it will burn as soon as you turn your back. Don’t cook the toffee on high heat, it tends to burn at the bottom and will make dark pieces in the toffee, if it has not burnt the pieces won’t ruin the toffee, it will just not look as nice. When you carry on with the toffee some of the pieces will go away or be disguised in the toffee colour. Continuously stir the toffee with a balloon whisk. The important thing about making the toffee is that you will stand in front of the pot and stir until your toffee is ready.
In this recipe that I tried, I felt that the ratio was a bit off. My family loved that there was so much chocolate on the top, there should only be a thin layer of chocolate. This recipe also says to melt the chocolate, alone, but I find that melting it with a bit of cream makes it easier to work with, and of course, makes it tastier. If you do have chocolate that looks grainy you could add a bit of cream or boiling water to make the chocolate smooth again. The chocolate goes grainy when you melt it at too high a heat. The cream chocolate ratio could be half the cream of the amount of chocolate used.
Lastly, let the toffee cool completely before you cover it with chocolate and let the chocolate cool completely before cutting it into blocks. Use a knife that you steam/warm-up with steam to cut through the chocolate and toffee to keep it smooth. And try to keep the shortbread off the chocolate and toffee, this means you would have to wipe the knife after every slice you make.
75g Castor Sugar
Pinch of Salt
Mix the flour, salt and sugar then rub the butter into the flour mixture until it comes together. Place on wax paper in a deep oven dish and spread the dough evenly in the oven dish. Take a fork to dock the dough (press holes in the dough about 2cm apart across the dough). Place it in the fridge to cool a bit.
Bake it at 170°C for about 20min, still pale but brittle. Let it cool while you make the toffee.
50g Brown Sugar
50g Honey (you could also use syrup or just 100g of sugar)
1 can of Condensed Milk
Pinch of Salt
Mix everything and stir on medium heat until everything had melted. You can turn the heat up a bit more to get the mixture to boil, keep stirring, do not leave the pot alone. Eventually, the mixture will get thick and bubbly. When you think you’re done, you probably aren’t, so keep stirring until you get that delicious toffee/caramel colour and a once thick, but still runny, mixture.
Pour it over the shortbread in the oven dish.
200g Dark Chocolate
Warm up the cream and break the chocolate in the warm cream and stir until all the chocolate has melted. This should only be done when the toffee has cooled completely. I usually only do this the next day.
So after I had completely disappointed myself I went to sit with my brother, his fiance, and my cousin under the lapa to try and calm down. It took a while, but I eventually felt okay enough to mention that I had made Millionaire Shortbread, which looked like a 5-year-old had made. I couldn’t stay too mad because there was 8kg of prawns being cooked for the whole lot of us. All I know about the prawns is that it was baked in the oven, there was a lot of butter, garlic, and lemon juice involved, and it was very rich in taste. Whilst awaiting this major treat we found out that there had been a slight accident which caused the family to get the wet vacuum out and try all sorts of ‘boererate’ to clean the sauce off the carpet and get rid of the smell at 11 pm. I suggested they remove the carpet and get tiles but my suggestion had been ignored. Regardless of the incident we still enjoyed the huge prawns!
After washing the carpet twice, my aunt put washing powder on the carpet and left it overnight. The next day they had cleaned that, let the carpet dry, and for their final step they had sprayed vinegar on the carpet to get rid of the fishy smell. I would suggest that you clean it immediately because the butter that gets cold would solidify and that makes it difficult to remove.
This week had also turned out to be quite exciting. I had started a new chef job at a coffee shop that had a lot of potential. I might just reveal where I am in the next blog but for now, I am seeing where things go. For my first day on the job, I made Chicken Pot Pies. In the lockdown, I had made a lot of Chicken Pies for hungry families that don’t always have the time to cook something great. Although I had gotten used to my grandmother’s recipe I had to learn a new chicken pie recipe, it sounds silly saying it now because obviously there are many different recipes. I believe that I did a good job, I had struggled a bit with the dough because it was a really hot day and butter (as mentioned before) does not like the heat, most of the time I waited for the dough to cool before rolling it out.
This week my cousin is getting married and she had asked me to make canapés for her and the bridesmaids for their lunch when they are all getting dolled up for the wedding. I’m making a few summer-appropriate snacks that would be light and fresh but you’ll have to wait until the next blog for recipes and photos!
So until you read again, try to make some millionaire shortbread and send me pics!
Blogpost by Anel du Preez (https://farcidupreez.wordpress.com/)