Last year November we had friends of ours (from South Africa) visit us out of the blue. I can’t explain what a surprise and treat it was! We haven’t seen any of our friends since we left in 2008.
At the time they were here for a “look see”. Our friend had a few interviews lined up over their 10 day stay and they also had a short tour of the north island as they made their way through to each interview. We were blessed to have them visit us one of the evenings they were in Auckland. I made a traditional bobotie and we visited into the late hours of the night.
Fast forward 7 months and our friend secured a job and has come over to settle until his wife and children joins him in 2 months time. We invited him over for dinner tonight because being a man on his own living in a Motel for the first few weeks, who knows what he is eating?!
Good company calls for good cake and this upside down pineapple cake played right into our delightful stomach.
Our local supermarket Countdown had mangoes on special this weekend, so naturally I bought a bagful. Apart from making a mango salad for the kids’ lunchboxes, I made a Mango Coconut Pound Cake. The original recipe can be found here.
I have a soft spot for a traditional pound cake. It is a versatile cake and really easy to put together. Traditionally a pound cake is made by using a pound of each of the 4 ingredients: flour, butter, eggs and sugar. Today however, a pound cake has been adapted to often include flavouring agents, dried /fresh fruits and raising agents and most have changed the amount of ingredients needed to make the lighter and more moist. I prefer the traditional pound cake which is sliced like a loaf of bread, but there is a sense of freedom knowing you can experiment with tradition without loosing the heart of the recipe.
It is surely that time of the year: colder, misty mornings when you wake up and your toes curl up as they touch the cold kitchen tiles and you hurryingly slip your feet into comfy slippers, when a chilly wind can be heard outside and you wrap yourself a little tighter with your old yet functional gown. I really want to get excited for winter’s arrival as I dream of the Highveld winter with it’s sunny, clear blue skies yet freezing temperatures, but I can’t express enough how much I dislike the cold.
As a cheer-me-upper I decided to bake these citrus inspired muffins. I find that poppy seed and lemon baked goods can often be a bit dry, so I added a generous dollop of cream cheese in the center before baking them. They made wonderful lunchbox treats for the kids and they also filled the breakfast hunger spot for myself.
Happy Mother’s Day to ALL the amazing mommies out there!
All I ever want is:
to have a sleep in (I wake up SUPER early so to be in bed anytime after 7am is a winner in my eyes)
breakfast in bed and by that I do mean a warm cooked meal, more specifically eggs benedict
flowers, any flowers!
I do appreciate any gifts from my family but it certainly isn’t what is important to me. Being with them, relaxing and enjoying a ‘day off’ is what me heart yearns for.
Today I was able to lie in bed for some time before being asked to join my husband and the kids in the dining room. Spread across the dining room table were presents, lots of them! None of them wrapped, no surprises there. From a large white porcelain container to keep the flour in, to a new re-usable piping bag with nozzles from Jamie Oliver, to a ramekin set with blow torch (a hint that they want me to make more crème brulee), to a blue canvas print with a love quote on it…oh and chocolates, how can I forget about the chocolates. I felt so spoiled! These were all such thoughtful and practical gifts. I was overwhelmed by their generosity!
The afternoon was spend with my parents, where I was able to spoil my mom with gifts and a home baked dessert. Mom loves a baked pudding so I made a Feijoa & Apple Crumble as that is what I know how do to best.
With Mother’s Day around the corner, I started working on a new cookie flavour combination. I’ve always wanted to work with lavender but the thought of it tasting like soap always put me off. I knew getting the correct type of lavender (culinary lavender) will be beneficial so my search started. We have several lavender farms in New Zealand of which some are local, but most of them grow the fragrant lavender meant for soaps and lavender rich products. I finally found a farm in Masterton who grows cooking lavender, or more precisely . I ordered 2 packets and couldn’t wait to experiment with it.
Now, I didn’t want to only make a lavender cookie and looked at options that will elevate the lavender yet still stand out flavour wise. From what I read lemon and lavender are great friends and I know lemon adds a gorgeous citrus flavour to any dish.
Obviously I didn’t want to be heavy handed when adding the lavender, so I first grind it a little finer to release the lavender fragrance and then pinch-by-pinch added it to the wet batter until I could slightly smell and taste it. Once in the oven and baked, the most beautiful aroma oozes from the cookies. The most subtle lemon flavour followed by a stream of lavender.
I am really happy with these beautiful cookies and every small mouthful is a pleasure.
My sister tagged me in a post on Facebook to which I could only giggle as it is so very true. I have always enjoyed baking but only truly found my passion for it over the past few years. I think it came about when I started baking to fundraise for my daughter’s gymnastics competitions back in 2011. We had additional costs that year as we were travelling up to Auckland from Cambridge once a week for extensive training. I started out by baking one of the best biscuits I had ever tasted called Death by Chocolate biscuits. It is not an easy biscuit to bake compare to the ones I bake now, but they are devilish good. Rich, sweet, decadent and literally melt in the mouth.
Soon afterwards my husband bought me my first Nigella Lawson cookbook. I have made several of her desserts and baked goods but what I love the most about her books is the way she writes them. You might as well be having a one-on-one conversation with her. It’s personal, funny, witty, just like her.
Baking cakes only started in 2013 when I worked for a company where sharing your baking was considered the best thing since slice bread. At first I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes (the seasoned company bakers) so I didn’t bake anything for the first few months. It was only when we moved to our new premises in April 2014 and we lost more than 1/2 of our workforce that I brought my baking in. I baked traditional and fail proof cakes, muffins and biscuits at first. It was through the encouragement of my work mates that I started experimenting with flavours and cake combinations. Whatever I baked I took with to work. I baked for individual employees, whether it was to celebrate their birthday or send them off as a farewell. I felt great joy when I could share these baked goods with them. My most memorable cake was the Hummingbird Cake which I baked for the sales manager’s farewell. It was rustic and full of flavour and oh so pretty.
Today I still mainly bake to share. I bake to give as gifts, to show love and empathy when friends loose a loved one, for my husband to share at work (expecially when the ladies ask for anything sweet with chocolate). One of those cakes was a traditional Black Forest Cherry Gateau. I baked it for my husband’s birthday so naturally he took it into work for everyone to share.
I bake because I learn something new every time. I bake because I can’t think of anything more satisfying to do. I bake because nothing smells more divine than the aroma of freshly baked cookies. I bake because I owe it to myself to enjoy food.
We have SO many birthdays in April. Not only was it my dad’s birthday on the 19th, but a good friend of mine celebrated his birthday on the 21st, my mother-in-law on the 22nd and my brother-in-law today the 25th. I arranged for flowers to be delivered to my mother-in-law for her birthday as it is hopeless trying to send something through the post to South Africa. I have used NetFlorist several times this year to deliver beautiful flowers to friends and family and I highly recommend them! Their service is impeccable, their products fresh and they are very affordable having to pay in NZ$.
Today is Anzac Day. I spoke a little about what this day is all about in my post Poppies and I can’t help but get emotional on this day. In 2010 I attended my first dawn service to commemorate the returned soldiers and remember those who have lost their lives to bravely serve their country. These services stir your spirit and awaken a sense of gratitude.
In celebration of Anzac day I baked traditional Anzac biscuits. I have never baked these before and can’t believe how easy they are. The biscuits are believed to have been baked by the soldiers’ wives who would send them abroad. The biscuits are made from rolled oats, flour, sugar with butter and golden syrup as the binding agent. The more factual story is that they were baked and sold at public events to raise funds for the war effort. They received the name of ‘soldier biscuits’ and it was only after Gallipoli, and with the New Zealand and Australian troops known as ANZAC, that the biscuits were given the name Anzac biscuits.
My daughter also returned today from her 5 day visit in Tauranga and with her she brought a small jar of guavaberry jam which our friend made. I am in love! I served a small teaspoon with our coconut pikelets. It is tart yet sweet and goes well with the maple syrup and dark chocolate. We have a guavaberry bush and I will certainly be repeating this smooth, delicious jam recipe soon!
Today is my dad’s 64th birthday. He is certainly one of the most hard working people I know, and the worlds’ worst procrastinator. He leaves everything for the last minute which drives my mother (and us girls) insane! But we love him for who he is, and almost more so who he has become.
Since becoming a grandfather 15 years ago he has changed for the better. His firstborn grandchild definitely had a calming effect on him and 4 grandchildren later he is a great granddad. He doesn’t do as much with them as he did with us when we were younger, but he has patience, he speaks lovingly to them and always has an open arm for warm hugs. He still has his moods, his outbursts, sometimes drinks a bit too much, but he loves his family and we love him for that.
This morning it was only my son and myself at home for breakfast. I had some over ripe bananas in the fruit bowl and a bag of freshly bought feijoas. I found a 1/4 of a bag of frozen berries and chucked them all in with white chocolate bits to make scrummy mini breakfast muffins. They were a small mouthful of flavour.