Expos and Festivals

Since I’ve started blogging, I have been to a large amount of expos and festivals, often on my own dime, and I can count on the fingers of half a hand the times where it has actually been worth it. I usually avoid publishing anything on this blog that have “negative vibes” but maybe, if I say something, things will change.

My biggest issue with these events is the selling of tickets but never controlling overcrowding. If you are selling tickets to an event, you should know ahead of time what the absolute maximum number of people can enjoy the even at a time. Emphasis on the word ENJOY. Do you enjoy fighting for samples, having nowhere to sit and having to queue for drinks? Well, no. I don’t either. If you oversell for an event, you will have complaints. If you’re justifying your heavy ticket price for a “small, exclusive event” then, for heaven’s sake, don’t sell 12 000 tickets.

Gripes, issues, challenges, expos, festivals, family, food, wine, quality, costYou often don’t notice a good event until you go to a bad one. We went to the Getaway show earlier this year and the following worked in its favour.

  • Each tent had a letter associated to it. The stands then were marked on a map with that letter and a number. You could therefore easily figure out where the stand was that you were looking for.
  • The tents were air conditioned and there were places to sit and catch your breath when the sunshine outside became too much.
  • There were tons of people but it never felt crowded because the whole field was used and the tents were spread out so that you never felt like you could barely move in a confined space.
  • Kids (under 12) were allowed in for free. There were rides that they could go on and keep themselves entertained for hours. If those rides had been free, then I would have been happy to pay for a ticket for them. Since they weren’t free, I was glad to pay since I didn’t have to pay for the kids to get in to the Show.

The next issue I’d like to address is the price of everything. There was one year I decided to find out how little I could spend at a Show. After paying R100 to get in, I spent about an hour looking at all the stalls. A handful of products were outstanding enough to warrant a purchase. If I had bought 1 of each item I found impressive, I would have spent around R500. And that was before I had even bought anything to each to sustain myself through the show. So, if you and a partner (or heaven help you, a family) go to one of these shows, you can expect to spend a minimum of around R1000 per person especially if you want to attend the Celebrity Theatres.

My question is this, if you are already paying over R100 to get in, why should you pay more to watch someone cook for 30 minutes? I know there are shows that let you into the cook alongs or demonstrations as part of the ticket price but this is few and far between. To expect someone to pay R120 for a ticket PLUS R50 per 30 minute cooking demo is a bit much.

Yes, I know food and wine festivals are very different from travel expos but if you cannot find a way to distribute your samples without people crowding around your table and leaving nothing for anyone else, then rather don’t bother. It feels like we’re trying to make something work without thinking this through smarter. Brands have an opportunity here to think outside the confines of their 6x6m stand and find an innovative way to introducing new people to their products.

I also recognize that not every event is billed as “family friendly” but you guys are missing out on a huge market here. I don’t like leaving my family behind (and organize baby sitters) so that my husband and I can attend an event on our own. If you cannot make your expo and festival family friendly then you will lose out on a huge portion of your available target audience. The Cheese Festival and The Getaway Show have the right idea. If they can get it right then I’m sure you can think of something.

My final gripe is the shocking food, especially when it comes to wine festivals. Good grief people! Just because most of the people attending are too tipsy to notice, it doesn’t mean that the blotting paper you’re selling should taste like cardboard. Have you no shame? I have spent R50 on a dry roll and overcooked piece of steak one too many times. If this is my own option at a festival then I’d rather not go.

Come on you guys. We CAN make these events family friendly and not devastating on the pocket. I’m not saying I want stuff for free. I just want to feel like it was worth driving all the way out there because I had great food and a great time with my family. I’m willing to pay for it but the standard of these festivals and expos have dropped so low, that it has put me off for life.

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Out and About: July

Despite the fact that July was an incredibly busy month, it feels like we will never get to the end of it already. I feel like payday was a million years ago and there is just SO MUCH MONTH left! In terms of events, product launches and media drops, it feels like everybody and their cousin decided that July is perfect for everything to happen and since I work full time, I have to weigh up my options before I say yes to all the things.

When I take annual leave at work and, instead of using the time to rest and recuperate, I use it to attend blog related functions, I find myself feeling a bit ragged after a few weeks. Instead of getting to sleep late on my days off, I have to get up at the crack of dawn so that I can navigate the traffic and arrive at a function on time. Since then there is an expectation to create content during and after the event, work takes over and the event itself is anything but relaxing. It is enjoyable of course, but it is also hard work.

Out and About: July

Travel, blogging, out and aboit, cape town, blogger, events, south africa, foodieThis month started with a fantastic weekend in McGregor. We were invited to explore McGregor as a family and the weekend was jam packed with places to visit and roadtrips within roadtrips. I wrote about it over here on our family travel blog TazzDiscovers.

We were planning to go to Travel Massive at The Village Idiot but the event fell on Anton’s birthday so we had to give it a miss. Around the same time I had a week where I was scheduled to lead Worship at church two weeks in a row which meant fitting in practices after work during the week.

Travel, blogging, out and aboit, cape town, blogger, events, south africa, foodieThen Zomato turned 7 years old. So they had a party at Protea Hotel Fire & Ice. Did you know I share my restaurant reviews on Zomato? You can check it out here. It is by far the easiest and most effective way for me to review restaurants and I love the fact that the app picks up on your location and can suggest places nearby where you can go and have something delicious to eat. I have used it many times when I am home with my family and we want to go somewhere but we are spoiled for choice in Cape Town. I often then use the app to search for coffee shops and restaurants in surrounding towns so that we can not only explore new places for TazzDiscovers but I also get to add a review to my Zomato profile.

Travel, blogging, out and aboit, cape town, blogger, events, south africa, foodieAt the end of that same week, Societi Bistro launched their culinary Tour Through France. 10 weeks, 10 wines, 10 exceptional wines. This gastronomic experience will be available for your eating pleasure from 22 July to 29 September with the weekly menus changing every Wednesday.

Travel, blogging, out and aboit, cape town, blogger, events, south africa, foodieThe very next week I was in Pretoria for a meeting on Monday and Tuesday before I was back in the office on Wednesday with just enough time to sort out a day off for Thursday. Good Housekeeping is kind enough to invite me to attend their Celebrity Bake Stars event in Cape Town every year and the goody bags are so awesome, I really have a hard time saying no. If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram and my Facebook page, you can relive my experience by checking out the #GHBakeStars hashtag. The event managed to raise R15 000 for The Institute for the Blind.

All that’s left really, is the Winelands Chocolate Festival happening at Lourensford this weekend. If you can’t get there yourself, follow me on social media on Sunday to see what it’s all about. Sitting in on the baking demonstrations is by far my favourite part of these food expos so I will try and share as much as possible as I learn more about my hobby of choice.

That just about wraps up my first “Out and About” post. I do love how busy I was in July and I wish I could have said yes to more events. Unfortunately attending events does not pay the bills and so I have to hold down a day job and find time to take care of my family while blogging as often as I can. This does mean that blogging slips down the to do list a bit as creating unique content takes more time than you would imagine. It also requires a level of creativity that sometimes escapes me when I haven’t had the time to recharge my brain.

C’est la vie!

 

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Lemon Drizzle Cake

baking, recipes, lemon, drizzle cake, lemon syrup, lemon glaze, things to do with lemonsIf you follow me on social media, you may have picked up that my family and I spent an amazing weekend away in McGregor earlier this month. This was part of a media educational that we were invited to and we will blog about it on our family travel blog, TazzDiscovers.

We plan to take the kids out of school at the end of the year, sell the house and write our way around South Africa with a special focus on all the towns that don’t get huge exposure from hefty tourism budgets and marketing. If you’d like to know more, keep an eye on our Instagram, TwitterFacebook and Pinterest accounts.

The house we had the pleasure of staying in for those 2 nights and 3 days was called The Kite House and it has the most gorgeous back garden. There are birds aplenty as well as a pool (which was super tempting to take a dip in but it was SO COLD) and a lemon tree on either side of the garden simply dripping with fruit. I checked with the managing agent of the property and got the go ahead to harvest as many lemons as we possibly could. We found a tiny corner in our already overstuffed car to squeeze the lemons into and drove home with the smell of lemons wafting around our little Figaro. Yes, we named the car (which is a red Ford Figo) and she’s been part of the family now for just on 5 years.

So obviously with all the lemons in the house I had to make lemon everything to use them up. I tried a new recipe for lemon meringue for Anton’s birthday, which was a perfectly edible flop. I made lemon curd for dayz and I’m still working through our citrus harvest. I made Citrus Pie Bars last night and I plan to give the flopped lemon meringue recipe another go when I find some time this weekend. I like the idea of preserved lemons but I have no experience in how to use them once they have been canned. I’ve never eaten preserved lemons with anything before and I have no idea whether I will like them. Do you have any ideas?

While you’re thinking about it, how about we make this recipe for Lemon Drizzle Cake? I know people think of Lemon Drizzle Cake as a loaf but loaves have never spelled celebration for me and, since this was a replacement birthday cake for Anton, I had to make something that looked a bit special.

baking, recipes, lemon, drizzle cake, lemon syrup, lemon glaze, things to do with lemonsLemon Drizzle Cake

150g self raising flour

5ml baking powder

85g ground almonds

120g butter, at room temperature

120g castor sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

125ml buttermilk

10ml lemon zest

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius and prep a large cake tin (or 2 smaller tins for a layered cake) with butter or non stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Sift together dry ingredients and set aside. Beat butter and sugar together until smooth and creamy then add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Slowly add the dry ingredients, alternating with splashes of buttermilk. Once all the ingredients have been full incorporated, fold in the lemon zest.

Pour mixture into prepped cake tin and bake for about 40 minutes until done. If cake starts to brown too fast, lightly place a layer of foil over the top of the cake after about 30 minutes of baking. Bake until the cake is cooked through. You can check this by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick is dry, it’s done. If not, bake for a further 10-15 minutes until done.

While this is baking, start making the syrup.

Lemon Syrup

Place 200g of castor sugar in a small pot with 150ml freshly squeezed lemon juice. Heat gently until the sugar has melted. Boil for about 5 minutes until the syrup has thickened and reduced. Pour this syrup onto the cake straight after you have removed it from the oven. Use a fork to prick holes all over the cake to aid absorption. While you are waiting for the cake to cool off, make the glaze.

Lemon Glaze

300g icing sugar, sifted

50-80ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed

10ml lemon zest, for decoration

Combine icing sugar and lemon juice and stir until thick and smooth. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and top with lemon zest. Give the glaze about an hour to set before serving. This can also be made a day ahead but it doesn’t keep very well. Eat within about 3 days for best results.

 

 

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Boston Cream Pie revisited

baking, recipes, boston cream pie, cake, creme patisserie, pastry cream, custardOne of the hazards of keeping a blog going for almost 5 years is that you start forgetting what you’ve already posted and run out of ideas for new things to write about. Maybe I should start learning how to bake recipes made famous by the French, Italians and Greeks. The recipes I’ve been playing with lately are certainly more complex than I usually post but I’m trying to improve my skills.

You may have noticed that I have started including a few personal posts in amongst the recipe posts and I find that I really enjoy sharing just a “normal life” post with you instead of feeling obligated to include a recipe. What do you think? Do you like these posts or should I rather stick to recipes?

Like most writers, I am horrified by the quality of my older posts. I had so much to learn when I started blogging and I’d like to believe that there is a vast improvement in what I write today vs how I posted 3 years ago. I am my own most vicious critic to the point where I am sometimes overwhelmed by how much I still need to learn and grow.

Boston Cream Pie revisited

baking, recipes, boston cream pie, cake, creme patisserie, pastry cream, custardWhen I looked at a post I did about Boston Cream Pie in 2012, I cringed at the quality of the writing as well as the horror of having “copied and pasted” the recipe. I haven’t made that mistake in so long that I had forgotten that I did that in the beginning. I was so tempted to delete that post and replace it with this one but I think it is a good comparison and reminder about how much I have evolved since then. I think I’ll leave it there to encourage me that I am actually improving.

I used the same custard recipe as posted in the previous post but I went out of my way to find an awesome sponge cake recipe that would really make this cake a show stopper. Back when I started baking, one of the first cakes I taught myself to make was an old fashioned, Hot Milk Sponge and this is what I want to share with you today. Remember, you want to make the custard and the ganache before you start baking the cake so that everything has enough time to cool down. You could even make these two components the night before so that you have enough time to assemble everything and chill the cake in the fridge for a few hours so that everything sets before serving.

Boston Cream Pie

Crème Patisserie

125ml muscovado sugar (divided)

5 large, free range egg yolks

45ml cornflour (Maizena)

500ml full cream milk

1 vanilla bean

60g butter, cut into small cubes

Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Place seeds in a medium bowl together with your 5 the egg yolks and 60ml of the sugar. Whisk briefly to combine sugar and egg. Set aside.

Heat milk and the remaining 60ml sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Place the empty bean pod in the milk to infuse the milk with vanilla flavour. Stir the milk gently until the sugar has dissolved and it has almost reached boiling point.

Carefully add half the hot milk to the egg mixture and whisk to temper the egg. Add the egg and milk mixture back to the pot and return to the heat. Stir continuously until the custard is thick and smooth. Remove from the heat and beat in the butter one piece at a time until each piece has melted before adding the next one. Transfer into a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure you press the plastic wrap down onto the custard to prevent a skin from forming.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

125ml fresh cream

250g dark chocolate

Heat cream to boiling point in the microwave (about 2 minutes at 100% power). Chop chocolate up roughly and place into the hot cream. Allow to stand for 2 minutes before stirring gently until smooth and glossy. Set aside until cool, stirring every 10 minutes. If the chocolate sets up before you use it, place it in the microwave and heat for 20 seconds at 60% power. Stir again until smooth before using it to top the cake.

baking, recipes, boston cream pie, cake, creme patisserie, pastry cream, custardHot Milk Sponge

4 large, free range eggs

500ml white sugar

5ml vanilla extract

250ml milk

100g butter

560ml cake flour

15ml baking powder

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius and prepare two large cake pans with non stick spray or butter. Line the bottom of the pan with baking paper. Set aside.

Place eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Slowly add sugar and beat well until light yellow in colour and thickened. Add vanilla extract and beat well.

Combine milk and butter in a heat proof bowl and heat for 4 minutes in the microwave at 100% power until the butter has melted. Stir well and keep aside.

Sift flour and baking powder together and add to the egg mixture. Set stand mixer to lowest setting and mix gently until combined. Slowly add hot milk to the cake batter and mix well until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure there are no pockets of flour left behind. Mix briefly on medium speed until the batter is well combined.

Divide batter between 2 prepped cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes (rotating the pans after 20 minutes). Use a toothpick or clean knife to check if the cakes are done by inserting the toothpick/knife into the center of the cake. If the knife still shows signs of wet cake batter, return cakes to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes until the cakes are done.

Set cake pans onto a cooling rack and wait 10 minutes before carefully turning the cakes out. Carefully remove baking paper from the bottom of the cakes and cool completely before putting the cake together.

Assembly

Level the tops of the cake and slice each cake in half horizontally so that you have 4 sponge cake layers. Place the first layer onto a serving plate and top with about 125ml of the custard. Place the next layer on top and repeat until you have stacked the 4 layers together. Place this in the fridge to set for at least 1 hour.

Once the custard is sufficiently chilled and the tower of cakes seems stable, remove from the fridge and carefully top with the chocolate ganache. Allow cake to stand and ganache to set for about 1 hour before serving.

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Motherhood: My story

motherhood, what it's really like, being a mom, birth story, post natal depression, realityWhen I first became a mom in 2004, describing myself as an absolute mess is a pretty accurate description. I had just turned 26 and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had read some of the books and been on the receiving end of a lot of advice, but nothing could prepare me to have another human being completely dependent on me.

Zac’s birth was traumatic. He had aspirated meconium and couldn’t breathe when he was delivered. There is nothing more eerie than the absence of a baby’s cry in the delivery room. When I first laid eyes on my first child, he was turning blue and it obvious distress. Within seconds he was whisked away from me and taken to NICU. I gave birth to him at 1pm on Sunday afternoon.

Motherhood: My story

Since I had been given an epidural, I was not allowed to leave the bed for about 8 hours so I couldn’t go to my baby. I sent my husband to be with him (so that at least one of us was there) so I was left alone. I had to rely on someone else’s assessment of the situation in NICU because I couldn’t see for myself. By Monday morning I was emotionally numb. Both my tummy and my arms were empty.

I had been asking to see my baby for hours and hours and no one would help me. By late morning I was asking the nurses why we couldn’t do “kangaroo care”. One of the senior nurses seemed shocked that I knew about it. It took another few hours of nagging until eventually they gave in. Within hours, Zac’s stats improved so much that he could be removed from most of the pipes and wires that were helping him. By Monday evening he was taken off all the machines.

I had absolutely no idea how much this experience would affect me until many months later. My gynae had prescribed the generic version of Eglanol for “having the blues”, after assessing me before I left the hospital, but it had no impact on my emotional state. It didn’t even help my milk supply (which is apparently a common side effect for this anti psychotic).

Zac was born weighing 3.48kg and by the end of his first week he weighed 2.94kg. Nothing will make you feel more like a failure than not being able to feed your baby. When the baby nurses are starting to use the words “failure to thrive” it’s like a sword piercing your heart.

motherhood, what it's really like, being a mom, birth story, post natal depression, realityAll of this accounted for undiagnosed and untreated Post Natal Depression that plagued me for our first 18 months. My maternity leave consisted of me feeling house bound because I was told I needed to get the baby settled into a routine as soon as possible. Zac was such an easy baby once he was on formula – although he did battle with reflux for 9 months.

Since he was content, I had no idea what to do with him so, he spent a lot of his time in his cot staring at his mobile while I sat in the lounge in a daze. (When you are emotionally disconnected it feels really fake and silly to play and mentally stimulate a baby who feels foreign to you).

I was emotionally disconnected and, because I had no idea what was normal and I had spent my life being told that I was “too sensitive” and “too emotional”, I couldn’t make sense of what I was feeling.

There is a very good reason why many cultures and religions have an older woman (Mother, Aunt, older sister) stay with the new mom. That kind of comfort, reassurance and support is essential for a first time mom could feel completely lost in how much a baby changes your life. Without this support, new moms fumble around hopelessly trying to fit the baby in with “normal life” of cooking, cleaning and whatever else they feel they are expected to do.

Why don’t we talk about how terrible those first few weeks are more often? People should be prepared to have physical support available so that they have a literal hand to hold, ear to listen, shoulder to cry on.

New moms, please don’t be scared to ask for help. You don’t have to do this alone. You also don’t need to shower, brush your hair or clean the house. Feed yourself and your baby and everything else will fall into place. Remember to drink enough water and alfalfa tonic is the absolute best thing in the world for milk production. Trust me, I’ve tried everything (literally) and this is the only thing that generates twice the amount of breast milk within 4 hours.

If one of your friends has become a new mom lately, please be a physical presence in her life. If you’re scared that you will impose, just drop off a veggie-filled hot meal. Maybe put on a load of washing for her or tidy the kitchen. There are no words to express how much those small gestures will help. Let her focus on building a relationship with her child. Everything else can wait.

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Recipe Testing

baking, rules, testing, recipeWhere do I begin? There are a lot of recipes on the internet, many of which claim to be “The Best” but, how can anyone claim that their recipe is the best when taste is so subjective? I don’t really want to make an example of any recipe in particular but I think I need to show you something.

Go have a look at this recipe. Then have a look at the comments. I have taken to reading the comments before trying any recipe for the blog so that I’m well informed about the results other people have had. I picked up that this recipe has one huge error in the method and I wanted to see if anyone else found a way to make it work. Can you spot it?

Recipe Testing

Who knows, maybe the science was different for someone else and they managed to beat egg white and sugar together to make meringue by adding all the sugar to the unbeaten egg white. In the interest of clarity for those who haven’t tried this before (in my experience) it won’t work.

The egg white needs to be beaten to soft peaks before gradually adding the sugar. If the meringue was then going to be used inside the cake batter then maybe you could get away with it, but since you wanted to top the uncooked cake batter with meringue it would be in your best interest to follow the rules of baking science and make a meringue that can hold its shape.

Since I didn’t want to crush the meringue when I sliced the cake in half horizontally, I decided to make a two layered cake. This meant that all of the meringue would be on one layer while the other would be naked. I knew I was taking a risk but I made the necessary compensations to try and get it to work.

The other thing I had a problem with is the fact that the meringue needs to cook for 30 minutes at 180 degrees celcius (without burning) and the cake needs to cook through underneath that layer.

My meringue started burning after 10 minutes and after I placed a layer of foil lightly over the top, the cake with the meringue layer was still wet in the center after 30 minutes. You have 5 egg whites to 250ml sugar. The meringue WILL burn.

This leaves me in a bit of a sticky situation. I could share the recipe the way I made it but I’ve changed it so much that the end product is probably nothing like the one the recipe creator tried to achieve. If you look at the comments of the food52 online editor it sounds like the cake is meant to be fairly biscuit like in texture but it softens during that hour in the fridge once the fruit and whipped cream softens everything up.

In order to keep the meringue crisp as I prefer it to be, I never place it in the fridge. Soft meringue is just rubbery caramelized egg white and just the thought of it makes me want to gag. At first, I was going to try the recipe again but this time, follow the instructions exactly the way food52 published it, but my brain is kicking against the idea of wasting ingredients because I’m convinced that the end product would be inedible.

What do you think? Have you had a similar experience with recipes you have tried? This is one of the reasons I am posting less frequently. More and more of the recipes I’ve tried recently haven’t worked and I feel I have to “fix” the recipe before I share it with you.

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Apple Lattice Pie

recipe, apple pie, lattice crust, tart, a la mode, winter treats, delicious, baking, fruit, applesApple Lattice Pie

With the cold weather arriving in Cape Town over the past week, there are A LOT of Apple Pie recipes popping up all over the blogosphere. It seems like Apple Pie is the thing most people think of when summer waves goodbye and I wonder if it’s because desserts, where the main ingredient is fruit, makes us feel more virtuous.

I’ve made quite a few apple based recipes (like these muffins or a delicious apple pear crumble) since I started blogging, but I’ve never tried my hand at making a lattice pie. I don’t think I’ve eaten a lattice pie in Cape Town before even though it seems to appear in many American sitcoms and movies. Of course, in most of these cases, the characters order “Apple Pie a la mode” (i.e. with ice cream) but since most people find eating ice cream in winter a bit strange (not me!) I chose lightly sweetened whipped cream instead.

As always, I simplified this recipe a lot. It really doesn’t need to be this complicated! The pastry does need to chill but so does the filling so please factor sufficient time in so that you’re not frustrated. I prepped everything on a Saturday morning before we went exploring and put it together in the afternoon.

Apple Lattice Pie

Pastry

625ml cake flour

20ml sugar

180g butter

1 large egg beaten with 30ml cold water

Place all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Turn the machine onto a medium setting and drop pieces of butter down the chute. Work quickly so that the dough starts to look like breadcrumbs as quickly as possible. Add egg mixture and let the machine run until the dough is wet all the way through and the dough starts pulling together into a ball. Bring dough together and wrap in plastic. Place in the fridge until ready to use.

Filling

1.3kg apples (I used red Starking apples), peeled and evenly sliced

30ml fresh lemon juice

160ml muscovado sugar

125g butter

2.5ml ground cinnamon

1.25ml freshly grated nutmeg

1 egg whisked with 15ml water to make an egg wash

45ml extra sugar for sprinkling over the pastry

Place lemon juice in a large glass bowl. As you peel and slice the apples, place the apples directly into the bowl of lemon juice. You will need to toss the apples in the lemon juice as you go to prevent the slices from turning brown. It all cooks down to mush anyway so it’s not a train smash if it goes wrong for some reason.

Once you have finished preparing the apples, add the sugar to the bowl and mix together well so that all the apple slices are covered. Heat butter in a large saucepan until very hot, add apples to the pot and stir gently. Turn down the heat and cook for around 10 minutes until soft.

Place a colander over the bowl you used earlier (to mix the apples, lemon juice and sugar) and place this in the sink. Drain cooked apples into the colander using a spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Catch all the juice you can in the bowl under the colander. Transfer apples to a clean bowl and stir through the spices. Set aside to cool.

Place the liquid you collected back into the same pot you used earlier and turn up the heat on the stove. Cook liquid over medium heat, swirling the pot often until the liquid has thickened and started to caramelize (about 10-15 minutes). Place caramelized sauce into the bowl with the apples and stir will. Set aside to cool

recipe, apple pie, lattice crust, tart, a la mode, winter treats, delicious, baking, fruit, applesPut it all together

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celcius and grease a deep pie dish with butter. Break the dough in half and roll out the dough between two pieces of baking paper. Carefully transfer the dough into prepped pie dish, pressing dough into the corners of the dish and trim edges. Place cooled filling into the dough lined dish and set aside.

Roll out remaining dough and use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to slice even strips of dough. The strips will need to be longer than you first anticipate so roll out the dough longer than you think you need to. Lightly place strips over the top of the pie first in one direction. You will need to still lift the strips so that the other strips can go over/under so work carefully. Interleave strips now working in the opposite direction to form a lattice. My lattice work is terrible so clearly I need loads of practice.

Pinch the edges of the lattice to bind together with the edges of the pastry. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle generously with white or castor sugar. Bake for 45-60 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with whipped cream sweetened with 30ml castor sugar and 5ml vanilla extract (this is for 250ml fresh cream).

 

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Meeting The Cake Boss

cake boss, buddy valastro, kfm, live broadcast, good food and wine show, baking, cake, decorating, tv shows, tlcEvery now and then all the stars align and a few things fall into place where it is absolutely essential that I take a day’s leave and just relish in the opportunities set before me. If I had my way, I would blog full time. Not for the perceived glamour but because I love working hard, especially when it is for doing what I love. Friday was an uncomfortable day for this introvert but I pushed myself to grab the opportunity with both hands and make the most of it.

To be perfectly honest I do struggle to get myself to work on time. After 11 years, the challenge is gone. I know how to navigate the loopholes and get the job done well despite the obstacles placed in my path. I’m actually glad I had the opportunity to work for government. It has made me a stronger and more resourceful person and, while I look forward to the day my contract runs out in November, I will miss the income deposited into my account every month. Nothing scares me more than the thought that I won’t have a guaranteed source of income to feed my family. I am more valuable than this though. I can do some good and it’s time to step outside my comfort zone and take on the world.

Life seems to be getting busier and busier. I wanted to include a recipe in this blog post but in the end I decided that there is no way I would expect you to waste so much time and ingredients on a cupcake that it just marginally better than a normally baked one. In order to come to that conclusion, I did have to waste a lot of time and ingredients this weekend, but I’m chalking it up to experience.

cake boss, buddy valastro, kfm, live broadcast, good food and wine show, baking, cake, decorating, tv shows, tlcLet me tell you a little bit about Friday. Shall I start with the fact that I felt like I was stalking The Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro by the end of the day or should I mention the over 10 000 steps my FitBit counted between 8am and 5pm that day? Tell you what, I’ll start at the beginning.

While I was in Johannesburg for a (day job) meeting, KFM popped me an email inviting me to their live broadcast with Buddy Valastro on Friday morning. Well obviously you don’t say no to that so, that was that. Then another email appeared in my inbox confirming that my media accreditation for the Good Food and Wine Show had been approved which meant that I could see Buddy in action on Friday afternoon in the celebrity theatre. See what I mean about stars aligning?

Meeting The Cake Boss

It goes without saying that applying for leave and chatting with my blogger friends Tandy and Teresa to meet up at the Good Food and Wine Show was on the cards. It’s always more fun to meet up with friends who have similar interests at shows like this one. Walking around a food show by yourself is incredibly sad and boring.

cake boss, buddy valastro, kfm, live broadcast, good food and wine show, baking, cake, decorating, tv shows, tlc

On the left is Tyrone Rothwell who nearly fooled us into believing he was The Cake Boss.
On the right is Jacques from Ons Plaaskombuis in Brackenfell who won the best milktart competition.

In brief, the live broadcast was awesome. I had never been to one before and it was fascinating to watch how the KFM Breakfast Show interacts with one another in real life. Clearly when everything runs on an incredibly tight schedule, there is actually a whole lot of timing and planning going on behind the scenes to produce a professional show. Everyone is really friendly though but very, very busy!

TLC’s Next Great Presenter Search

While at the Good Food and Wine Show, I attended the TLC press conference they mentioned that they were looking for Africa’s “Next Great Presenter“. Buddy was there as part of the show to tell us what it is like to be the host of one of TLC’s shows and how he would audition if he wanted to take part. It was easy to see why he is as successful as he is. His personality is infectious and he makes a point of thanking his fans.

cake boss, buddy valastro, kfm, live broadcast, good food and wine show, baking, cake, decorating, tv shows, tlcAt the Celebrity Cooking Theatre, Buddy showed us how to make animals using fondant and how he usually goes about decorating a cake. I found it interesting that he brought one of his interns, Ora, with him who is actually from South Africa but moved to Hoboken, New Jersey to learn from him.

To say I was exhausted and footsore when I arrived home on Friday would be an understatement but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I am so grateful for all the opportunities I have had since I started blogging. Thank YOU for reading and interacting. There are no words to fully encompass how much I appreciate each and every one of you.

 

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Easy Chocolate Mousse

chocolate, recipes, easy chocolate mousse, dark chocolate, mousse, decadentIn case you haven’t noticed, I enjoy chocolate from time to time. By “time to time” I mean “daily” and I am downplaying the “enjoy” part a bit. Ever since I went to the Lindt Sale at Cape Quarter, I’ve been sitting with just over 2kg of their 70% dark chocolate in the pantry cupboard and I’m pleased to say that I haven’t sneaked a single one to munch. In fact, I think I still have a 100g dark chocolate Lindt bunny sitting in the cupboard. How’s that for self-control *gives self a gold star*.

I may not have been sneaking any to munch on but I have been baking with it which means that I’ve made quite a dent in the stash since I’ve made this chocolate mousse 3 times over the last 6 weeks. Every single time I leave it in the fridge to set so that I can take a picture to use on the blog, I come back to the fridge to find huge finger marks gouged into each pot.

Now, I could get angry with the kids and shout about it or I could cover it in whipped cream and photograph it anyway. The thing is, since the recipe uses 300mls of cream, I rarely have any spare to do that with. When I served it on Easter Sunday, I may or may not have covered the gouges with speckled eggs.

So, I’ve tried it topped with whipped cream and I’ve tried the speckled eggs option but neither of these can top the “wait-until-it-comes-to-room-temperature” option (the waiting nearly does my head in) and enjoy the smooth deliciousness. It deserves a moment of silence. You’ll see!

In terms of method, it doesn’t get easier than this and its gluten free so it means it’s healthy…right? So let’s get to the recipe, shall we?

chocolate, recipes, easy chocolate mousse, dark chocolate, mousse, decadentEasy Chocolate Mousse (from here)

3 large eggs, at room temperature

60ml castor

300g dark chocolate*

300ml cream

Beat eggs and sugar at high speed until pale and creamy (about 10 minutes). While you are waiting, melt chocolate at 60% power in the microwave for around 3 minutes, stirring every minute until melted. Set aside to cool.

Add melted chocolate to egg mixture and fold in gently. Keep going until there are no streaks of egg left and everything is well combined. (I found this to be the hardest part because my arm got sore. You cannot skip this part (I’ve tried) because beating the chocolate into the eggs makes a heavy mousse).

While you are folding, beat the cream to soft peaks and fold into the chocolate-egg mixture. Again, be gentle and take your time. You don’t want to knock the air out of it. It will be worth it, I promise.

Once the cream is fully incorporated you can pour into champagne glasses or ramekins to set in the fridge for 2-3 hours. The mousse is incredibly rich so small portions are better. This recipe makes at least 10-12 portions. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before you want to eat them so that they can be served at room temperature.

* If you use Cadbury or Beacon (please don’t ever use baking chocolate), add 15ml cocoa powder into the egg and sugar mixture once it has reached the pale yellow and creamy stage.

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Reflections of a Mother

parenting, mother's day, reflections of a mom, advice, valuesAs Mother’s Day is coming up, I am reflecting about how being a mom has changed my life. The wound of my mom’s death 6 months ago is still too raw so I won’t write about it until it actually starts feeling real and not just like a bad dream.

Reflections of a Mother

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been a mom for 10 years already. Some days it feels like I’ve learned nothing at all in the past decade but, every now and then, I go to bed satisfied that the kids have learned something useful and have taken a step forward in their emotional intelligence.

parenting, mother's day, reflections of a mom, advice, valuesIf I had to choose 5 things I’d like them to have a decent grasp of by the time they leave home, I think compassion would be the first thing on that list.

It took me a long time to look outside of myself centeredness to realize how much pain there is in the world. My life doesn’t suck. Everyone is battling a war that no one knows about. Treating people with kindness doesn’t cost you anything and it could make a huge difference in the lives of those we come into contact with.

parenting, mother's day, reflections of a mom, advice, valuesSince I started working 18 years ago (OMW I’m getting SO OLD), I have come across a number of people who have chosen to believe that life owes them something. They bring unpleasantness and negativity into the work environment to the extent that you would rather find a way of doing something yourself than asking for their help. While you cannot avoid these kinds of people, you can make a conscious effort to not be one of them. A good attitude goes a long way in making your life something you can be proud of. It will help you to learn concepts and pick up skills more easily and ensure that you always feel like you’re moving forward.

parenting, mother's day, reflections of a mom, advice, valuesThe one concept my kids already have under their belts is curiosity. Thankfully I think all kids are born with this ingrained in them but quite a few seem to lose it after a while. I never want my kids to stop asking why. I want them to have an interest in people, cultures, countries, languages and food. I never want to stop learning and I want the same for them.

I think the hardest concept for anyone to learn is responsibility. When I look at parenting self help books, a number of them suggest that chores or looking after a pet is a good way to teach kids this concept. The thing about this idea is that it is too small to encompass the knock-on effect of the concept. I want my kids to know that their actions and choices have an impact on their family and friends. The choices they make should be made mindfully because we are part of something so much bigger than we can imagine. Life is, essentially, fluid and organic which means that each life experience gives us an opportunity to learn and grow.

parenting, mother's day, reflections of a mom, advice, valuesThe last concept is one that I’m still battling to come to grips with and I’m not sure what to call it. I want my kids to have lives that are rich in experiences, not things. I want to give them the gift of wanderlust and fill their minds and hearts with a whole world full of travel. Even though the world tells us to BUY-ALL-THE-THINGS, I want them to shake off that ideal and see what is really important. I feel that making a difference in the lives of those around us is what should bring us happiness at the end of the day.

I’d love to know what you think. Do you agree or have I missed something important? I still have so much left to learn and I’d love to learn from you.

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