Steamed bread


Hello foodies! It has been forever since I last blogged, and every time I cook or eat something yummy, I feel a pang of guilt in my stomach, and promise myself that I am going to start doing weekly posts again, and after months, which accidentally turned into a year of talking and no doing, here I go…

So much has happened since I last posted! I…got a new job in reproductive health, adopted two furry critters,

Giorgie

Jane

finished my Masters degree in Public Health

Kristen, Phumelele and I on Grad Day

and got engaged!

Engagement

The recipe I am going to share with you is Lulu’s Steamed bread. According to the interwebs, steamed bread is a traditional Zulu dish typically served with meat, although my experience tells me that steamed bread has become a commonplace in many’s homes. I first tried it when Lulu brought it to work freshly baked for a colleague’s birthday and I simply couldn’t stop eating it, despite being stuffed to the brim. It is so moist and has a subtle sweetness that I can never resist. So of course I got the recipe and immediately went home to make it. Despite Lulu accidentally giving me the wrong ratios due to that the recipe is so engrained in her food repertoire that she no longer needs to measure and also accidentally waterlogging my ball of dough in boiling water, my bread was ridiculously delicious. Luckily, my second time making steamed bread was easier and just as delicious. Steamed bread can be eaten with anything from curry, stew and mexican food, to only with a smidgy of butter, which Lulu and I did all week when we were away on a work trip.

Steamed bread (serves four + leftovers)

IMG_2340[1]IMG_2338[1]

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 tbl sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm water

Directions

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together and then mix in the warm water
  2. Knead the dough (the dough should be slightly sticky-if it’s too sticky, add some more flour)
  3. Let the dough rise for about an hour
  4. Knead the dough some more
  5. Put the dough in a greased metal bowl
  6. Add about 5cm of water to a large pot that the metal bowl can fit into
  7. Gently place the bowl in the water (Don’t let the bowl touch the bottom of the pot; if it does, add a bit more water so that the bowl floats a little bit)
  8. Put on the lid
  9. Bring the water to a boil. Once the water starts to bowl, turn the heat down a bit so that the water maintains a lower, less hectic boil. Don’t keep the burner high enough for the water to bubble up into your dough bowl.
  10. Cook the bread for an hour. DO NOT open the pot lid until the hour is up.
  11. Carefully remove the bowl from the pot.
  12. Serve while still warm with anything!

 

 

 

Beth’s Chicken Pie


Chicken pie makes me think of American gradeschool hot lunch meals, comfort food, winter time, boiling hot filling that burns your tongue, and peas and carrots (every kids’ arch nemeses).  However, when Beth, Ty’s mom, told me that she had made homemade chicken pie for her book club ladies and it was a huge success, I was immediately sold! Sold on the fact that Beth’s cooking is delicious, I had not contemplated chicken pie since being a child, the weather was perfectly chilly, and I love trying new recipes.

The next evening I made Beth’s cousin’s wife Elna’s chicken pie all the way from the KwaZulu-Natal.  The chicken pie filling, poured the intriguingly liquid crust on top, baked it in the oven, and was so pleased with the end result – savory and creamy chicken pie topped with a uniquely bread-like rather than flaky crust.  I wonder what Beth’s chicken pie looked like!

Beth’s Chicken Pie

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • oil
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic or a few shakes of garlic powder
  • 2 pieces of boneless, skinless chicken cubed
  • dash of paprika
  • dash of white pepper
  • 250g chopped brown mushrooms
  • 2-3 stalks chopped spring onions
  • 2 stalks chopped leeks
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 tbl butter
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 chicken broth
  • 11/2 tbl maizena paste

For the crust:

  • 1/2 cup and 1 tsp milk
  • 1/2 cup and 1 tsp oil
  • 1 egg
  • 110g flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • a small handful of chopped spring onions
  • one thinly sliced onion ring

Directions

  1. preheat the oven to 210C
  2. saute the garlic and onions in oil and cook the chicken on high until browned
  3. add the butter, mushrooms, spring onions, leeks, some salt & pepper, a dash of paprika, and a dash of white pepper and cook for about 10 minutes
  4. pour in the white wine, chicken broth, and milk and bring to a boil
  5. reduce the heat, slowly add the maizena paste while stirring, and cook on low heat for another 5 minutes
  6. in a separate bowl, whisk all the pie crust ingredients together excluding the onions (it should be very liquidy)
  7. pour the chicken filling into a pie dish and gently and evenly spread the pie crust mixture on top
  8. sprinkle onion circles and spring onions on top of the crust mixture
  9. bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned

My Passover Seder


I am Jewish and my upbringing was very much influenced by Judaism and all its traditions.  I believe the best part about being Jewish is the delicious food but the worst part is being a hairy girl!  My favorite Jewish holiday has always been Passover because it entails lots of eating, really fascinating food symbolism, and singing.  “Passover” means the order and it is a celebration of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  We use a Haggadah, which means “telling”, to retell the story of Passover.  Check out this HILARIOUS rendition of the passover story.

Since moving to South Africa, I have not observed the Jewish holidays.  I think this is partly because I am unfamiliar with the Jewish community but also because I am searching for religious meaning in my life.  Ty and I were just accepted to the Birthright program, which is an awesome opportunity to travel to Israel with an organized group of young Jews to learn about our heritage, the history of Israel, and reconnect with Judaism.

This year, Ty’s parents came to visit, so it was the perfect opportunity for us to host our very first seder together.  It was really special to share something so much a part of my Jewish-American upbringing with my South African family.  All throughout our seder, memories came flooding in from all the previous years of passover seders – the huge Racow seders in Woodbridge, Grandma Jean’s mystery matzoballs, classic brisket, and enthusiasm, and me bashfully singing the four questions.

My four favorite Jewish foods are served on Passover: charoset, matzoball soup, noodle kugel, and matzo-brei.  This year, I was in charge of the Passover kitchen, which was a huge undertaking without my mom’s experience.  Luckily, Ty’s awesome mom, Beth, helped me cook and prepare for the seder. Unfortunately, I was so consumed by the cooking and preparing, that I did not take any mouth-watering, close-up foody photography, but believe me when I say it was all so so delicious!!!

My mom always made homemade chicken soup and then my sister and I made the matzoballs.  She would cook the soup and strain it in the morning before synagogue and I would burn my fingers and mouth while stealing stringy, delicious pieces of steaming hot soup chicken from the strainer.  When we got home, my sister and I would fight over who had to make the matzoballs, which usually ended up being me because I was the youngest.

I was a bit nervous to make my own matzoball soup, for fear of sinking matzoballs, but luckily Smitten Kitchen came to my rescue as usual with an insanely tasty matzoball soup recipe.  When it came time to make the matzoballs, I passed the honor on to Ty, as his rite of passage, and they floated. Success!

Matzoball Soup (serves 4 + leftovers)

Ingredients

For the chicken soup

  • Have a roast chicken for dinner the night before (I highly recommend my Chicken a la Queen recipe), then use the chicken carcass with pieces of meat still on it for the soup
  • 3-4 celery sticks cut into big chunks
  • 3-4 carrots cut into big bunks
  • 2 onions peeled and quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbl whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tbl coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3-4 liters water
For the matzoballs
  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 4 tbl oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 4 tbl chicken broth
Directions
  1. Add all the soup ingredients to a very large pot
  2. bring to a boil and simmer all morning before synagogue (for about 3-5 hours)
  3. As the broth boils off, add some more water to top it up every so often
  4. My mom used to strain the soup and leave only the broth, but since I’ve grown up I have realized that the soup veggies and chicken are the best part! So, instead of straining the broth, which not only gets rid of the lovely veggies but is also a big scary mission, carefully ladle out all the chicken bones and leave the rest in!
  5. Have your favorite person mix all the matzoball ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate for about 30 minutes
  6. Then have your least favorite person use their hands to roll the mix into small ping-pong sized balls
  7. Bring salted water to a bowl, reduce the heat to a simmer, and carefully drop the matzoballs in to the water to cook for about 20 minutes (Within minutes of dropping them into the water, the matzoballs should (hopefully) begin popping up and floating on the surface and puffing up as they cook)
  8. Carefully remove the matzoballs from the water, place them in the chicken soup, and let them cook for another 10-20 minutes
  9. Serve the matzoball soup with the chunky veggies, two matzoballs to start with (so as not to lose your appetite for the main course), and freshly ground coarse salt and pepper

The best part of the seder plate is the charoset, which symbolizes the mud that the Israelites used to make bricks when they were enslaved by the Egyptians. I had also never made charoset and found a great and super easy recipe on Epicurious.com.

Charoset (serves 4 + snacks)

Ingredients 

  • 2 peeled, cored, and shredded red apples
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup sweet red wine
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbl brown sugar

Directions: Mix all the ingredients together and spoon heaping portions of charoset on matzo

Although I grew up eating Grandma Jean’s famous brisket on Passover, this year I decided to make a beef roast, so adapted a great pot roast recipe from the Pioneer Woman.

Beef Roast (serves 4 + leftovers)

Ingredients

  • beef roast
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • handful fresh rosemary
  • handful fresh thyme
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • oil
  • 4 potatoes cubed
  • half a small butternut peeled and cubed
  • 2 onion coarsely chopped
  • 4 peeled and chopped carrots
  • 2 tbl garlic diced
  • maizena (corn starch)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Lightly oil the beef and rub lots of salt, pepper, and garlic all over it
  3. In a deep dish pan add the beef and create a bed of veggies, starch, and herbs
  4. Pour the stock and wine into the pan
  5. Cook the roast in the oven for about 1.5 hours and baste periodically
  6. When the roast is slightly pink inside, remove it from the oven
  7. Remove everything from the pan and pour the gravy into a small pot
  8. Create a maizena paste using about 2 tbl maizena and a tiny amount of water
  9. Bring the gravy to a boil, reduce the heat, add the maizena paste and stir until thickened. If the gravy has not thickened to your liking, add a bit more maizena and let thicken more until you are satisifed.
  10. Serve the beef with veggies covered in delicious gravy

My dad used to make sweet and oh-so-amazing matzo-brei as a special Passover breakfast. He taught me how to make it and I assure you that the tradition will carry on.  Then, in college, a friend taught me how to make savory matzo-brei.  So now I like to make both!

Matzo-brei (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 4 pieces of matzo
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • maple syrup or golden syrup if you live in South Africa and cannot find maple syrup

Directions

  1. Run the sheets of matzo under warm water until they soften
  2. In a bowl, break the soft matzo into small pieces
  3. In a pan, saute the onions and garlic with a bit of oil
  4. In another bowl, mix together half the soggy matzo, 3 beaten eggs, paprika, salt, and pepper
  5. In the original bowl, mix together the rest of the matzo with 3 beaten eggs, sugar, and cinnamon
  6. Leave the mixture to marinade for about 5 minutes
  7. In the same pan that you sauteed the onions and garlic, add the savory mixture and fry up for about 10 minutes
  8. In another pan, add the sweet mixture and also fry up for about 10 minutes
  9. Serve the sweet matzo-brei with syrup generously drizzled all over it

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese


Growing up, my all time favorite food was Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

INTERESTINGLY, Wikipedia.org and About.com Inventors say that Kraft was introduced in the US and Canada in 1937 during World War II.  The rationing of milk and dairy products, in addition to an increased reliance on meatless dinners, created a great market for the product, which was considered a hearty meal for families.  Their advertising slogan was:”Make a meal for 4 in 9 minutes.”

By choice and absolute pleasure rather than war time hardships and food rationing, I pretty much lived off of Kraft Mac & Cheese for the large majority of my childhood and adolescence.  I loved all of the special pasta shapes, like pin wheels, spirals, and blue Blue’s Clues dogs, which tasted even better than the original elbows.  Unashamedly, I was able to gobble down an entire box myself, which is most likely why I was such a chunker. But who am I kidding? Kraft remained a staple food group in my life all through college as well.

Ty had never had boxed Macaroni & Cheese, which led me to believe that he had a sad and deprived childhood.  SO, when he came to visit me in the US, we had a Mac & Cheese eating marathon where we indulged in Kraft and two kinds of Annie’s. Luckily he liked boxed macaroni and cheese, which reaffirmed my love for him.

When I moved to South Africa, I began having intense night sweat-inducing withdrawal as the bright yellow, artificial, creamy, cheese left my system.  Luckily, my mom sent us an emergency package full of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese sachets.  Since we had a limited supply, we rationed ourselves to 1 packet per month (like during war times), which enabled us to effectively maintain our supply for nearly 1 year.  It was devastating when we finished our last sachet and were forced to go many months without it.  However, earlier this month, a sweet sweet girl named Ann organized one of her American friends to bring us a few boxes when she came to visit!  Ty and I were unable to control our urges and are down to one box again!  Luckily, my mom’s friends are coming to South Africa JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME to refill our supply!

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

 

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (complete with pasta and sachet of cheese)
  • water for boiling the pasta
  • 2 heaped tbl butter
  • 1/2 milk

Directions

  1. add water to a pot and bring to a boil
  2. add the macaroni and cook on high
  3. strain the pasta when it is done cooking and pour it back into the pot
  4. place the pot on the warm burner and add the sachet of cheese, butter, and milk and stir vigorously.  Add more milk if you want the sauce to be thinner
  5. note: I am an extreme purist when it comes to Macaroni & Cheese so I would recommend adding NOTHING else

Chicken a la Queen


Every year, my stepmom makes turkey tetrazzini with the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving dinner, which is my absolute favorite meal not only because of its creamy, chicken-y, pasta goodness but also because it is special, in that I have to wait an entire year to enjoy it! When I first moved to South Africa in 2009, I cooked a giant Thanksgiving feast and of course made turkey tetrazzini with the leftovers to continue the tradition all the way in South Africa.

Salford Road Thanksgiving 2009

Ty absolutely loved it and from that moment on, I was determined to incorporate the comforting taste of home into our South African diet and embarked on a journey to create the perfect rendition of turkey tetrazzini.

As I was writing this post, it became evident that my experimentation occurred in phases:

  • Phase 1 – substituted chicken for turkey because it is much more convenient but just as delicious
  • Phase 2 – refined my sauce recipe to perfection
  • Phase 3 – mixed the sauce and pasta together and served immediately as opposed to baking it in the oven because it is quicker and dirties less dishes but is just as delicious
  • Phase 4 – experimented with vegetables to give a healthy flare
  • Phase 5 – learned (kind of) how to exhibit self-control in order to prevent oneself from going back for seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths
  • the most delicious Chicken alla Queen recipe for any and all occasions – not just the day after Thanksgiving!

Chicken alla Queen

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers (incase you haven’t realized by now, we love our leftovers))

  • 1 heaped tbl butter
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 heaped tsp diced garlic
  • 500g shredded rotisserie chicken or homemade boneless skinless herbed chicken breasts
  • 250g sliced brown mushrooms
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbl maizena (corn starch)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of your liking (Ty’s favorite is gouda (on everything))
  • 250-300g pasta with ridges (I prefer penne)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. melt the butter in the pan and saute the onions and garlic until lightly brown
  2. add the chicken (raw or cooked) and mushrooms and stir in the spices
  3. when the mushrooms have softened, add the stock, milk, and cheese
  4. at this point, cook the pasta
  5. once the sauce starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium
  6. create a maizena paste and slowly mix it into the sauce
  7. let simmer for 5 minutes while stirring periodically
  8. if the sauce is not thick enough to your liking, add a bit more maizena paste
  9. once the pasta is done, mix the pasta into the sauce and serve
  10. top with a dash of salt and pepper to taste