Apricot and Banana Muffins

Every Passover, we really do look forward to munching on the symbolic matzah. Plain, with chopped liver, with hummus, egg and onion, or, at breakfast, with butter, jam or a fruit compote or dipped in eggs with a dash of cinnamon and transformed into matzo brei, like french toast – deelish! Unfortunately, the novelty can wear thin as well, so here’s an alternative for breakfast.

I experimented with some muffins made out nut flours, combined with rice or tapioca flour, and came up with this one. It turned out pretty tasty, contains protein from the soy flour and almonds, and fibre from the fruit and almonds, and was wonderful eaten warm, split in half with a dollop of creamy, melty butter 🙂

Apricot and Banana Muffins

  • 1 cup soy flour
  • 3/4 cup – mix of tapioca or potato flour and ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup canola
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup apricots
  • 1 cup banana, squished (about 2 medium)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  1. Mix the dry ingredients together
  2. Combine wet ingredients separately
  3. Add wet to dry, mix gently till just combined
  4. Add nuts, banana, apricots – gently fold in
  5. Use ice cream scoop to spoon into Pam-ed muffin pan
  6. Bake in pre-heated 175C oven for 20-25 mins
  7. Turn out and cool on rack when done
  8. Dust with sugar and eat immediately!

April 24, 2008. Tags: , , , . Baked Goods, Breakfast, Brunch, Cakes, Fruit, Gluten-free, Jewish, Passover. 1 comment.

Quinoa and Lime Salad

The first time I encountered the word ‘quinoa’ was in a book about weaning babies. The quinoa seeds, which were the staple of South America’s *Incas for millenia, are now treated like a grain or cereal and are sought for their high nutritional content – clearly why it was included in that babyfood book.

Many a time have I walked into a healthfood store with the specific aim of enquiring about quinoa, the processed version of which looks like irregular white sesame seeds or grains of broken rice, but have chickened out for not knowing how to pronounce the thing!

That was some years ago, but now I can say proudly it is the keen-WAH seed which is chockful of proteins (about 17-20 percent) and 4 percent fibre, not forgetting 50 percent iron and magnesium, 40 percent potassium and 6 percent calcium.

During Passover, quinoa is an excellent substitute for the five grains that one avoids during the week – wheat, oats, barley, rye and spelt – and rice or couscous recipes are easily transposed to quinoa, which is what I’ve done with this salad. Cooked, the seeds look like the prettiest bits of tiny pasta with a light, curly edge 😀

*the Incas, who once had the largest empire in pre-Columbian America, likely had quinoa to thank for their mightiness. Eventually, their numbers shrank not due to malnutrition, but invading Spanish conquistadors and smallpox.

Quinoa and Lime Salad

  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, boil in 3 cups of water for 15-20 minutes and drain
  • 1 green chilli, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (spring onion is good)
  • 2 tbsp lime juice (lemon will do too)
  • coriander or cilantro leaves, handful of, chopped
  • handful of baby tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1 ripe mango, diced
  • salt and pepper as required

  1. Saute chilli, garlic and onions in some canola oil till translucent and fragrant
  2. Add red pepper, cook for 2-3 minutes
  3. Take off the heat and dump onto quinoa
  4. Add the tomatoes, red pepper, mango, lime juice
  5. Grind pepper on top, add 1/2 tsp salt
  6. Fork the mixture through gently till flavours are incorporated
  7. Chill till ready to use

April 23, 2008. Tags: , . Asian, Dinners, Jewish, Nutrition, Passover, Salads, Sides, Superfood, Vegetarian. 1 comment.

Layered Passover Cake

I first had a piece of this at an aunt’s house and was completely bowled over. Since then, I’ve had pregnancy-like cravings and fantasies about the cake, and a fresh heightened respect for my aunt. Who would have imagined that the humble matzah could undergo such a dramatic and majestic transformation?

The dreamy layers of rich chocolate cream sandwiched between crunchy crackers defy epithets and the finished product – sliced – looks unbelievably complex and intriguing. I never thought I’d find myself making it some day, but here I am. Don’t be put off, it’s deceptively straightforward to put together – all you need is matzah, chocolate and lots of self control not to attack it before it’s done 🙂

  • 3 super-fresh eggs, separated
  • matzah, 1 box of
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 squares semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • Nutella, jar of (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • fresh orange juice
  • Pour the orange juice into a large flat plate. This is for soaking the matzah in for about 10 seconds a side.
  • Melt the chocolate in 10-second intervals in the microwave. Stir till silky and glossy
  • Separately, whisk the butter with the sugar

  • Add the 3 yolks to this mixture one by one, add vanilla, beat till creamy

  • Beat in the melted chocolate. Set aside

  • Whisk the egg whites with a clean, dry whisk in another bowl till soft peaks form.

  • Fold egg white mixture into the chocolate-yolk mixture

  • Place one juice-soaked matzah on your serving dish, spread a layer of chocolate cream on it, about 2 tablespoons’ worth
  • For every other juiced-up matzah layer, spread Nutella or a Passover-kosher hazelnut-chocolate spread of your liking, for extra oomph. This is optional.

  • Keep layering thus for about 7 or 8 layers. Reserve some chocolate cream to cover the top and sides of cake, and for stuffing in mouth.
  • I resisted adding chopped chunks of chocolate in between the layers or dollops of marmalade for added oranginess – but feel free to do so
  • Decorate with almonds, slivered, sliced or whole, or crushed pistacchios, on top of the cake and all round too if you fancy.

No baking necessary, just keep covered in the fridge. Scrummy!

April 20, 2008. Tags: . Baked Goods, Cakes, Jewish, Passover. 1 comment.

Matzah – The Unleavened Bread

Birds twitter and flit, busy with their nests, while cheerful crocuses pop their pretty heads above the damp, freshly thawed ground. This is spring, my most relished of seasons, which brings with it the Jewish (and Samaritan) festival of Passover.

Pesach, or the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, celebrates the Jews’ exodus from Egypt and their delivery from slavery. The feast spans eight days and is marked by special prayer services and holiday meals which prohibit the eating of chametz – basically the five grains, wheat, oats, barley, rye and spelt and anything made with them.

Bread and regular grain products like cereal make way for matzah during the festival days — this is a flat, unleavened cracker-like bread made from wheat which hasn’t been given a chance to ‘rise’ – and which symbolises the fact that the enslaved Jews had to leave Egypt in a hurry when they won their freedom.

Matzah tastes very much like a cracker and some of its incarnations – salted, or covered in chocolate – are rather morish. I will abstain from describing the nitty gritties of how to make it, being as it is a complicated process and since it’s easily purchased. I will, however, add a picture of my son making some matzah – just to prove it can be done 😀

Slather with butter or cream cheese, soak in egg and milk for a french toasty cracker, or scoop up chopped liver with it. Yum!

April 16, 2008. Tags: , . Jewish, Passover. Leave a comment.

Lunch in a Hurry – Veal Escalopes

Mid-week lunches can be a challenge for the time pressed. I often tailor my meals around what the kids have, omitting the bits I can’t countenance (macaroni and cheese – too much stodge for me midday) and including the more palatable (freshly made fish fingers or steamed veggies).

Escalopes or scallopine, thin slivers of meat such as turkey or veal, are the perfect subject for a quickly assembled meal. The slim slices are pounded with a mallet to about 1/8 of an inch thick, allowing them to be cooked in minutes. They’re low in fat and have proved a hit with the children too. What’s not to like? Slice them and bung ’em in a wholewheat wrap with salad, avocado and mayo if you prefer 🙂

  • 2 escalopes of veal
  • breadcrumbs – 1/2 a cup
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • an egg, beaten
  1. Mix the breadcrumbs, parsley, chilli flakes and seasoning
  2. Dip the escalopes in the beaten egg
  3. Coat them in breadcrumb mixture
  4. Heat 3 tbsp canola oil in a pan
  5. Sear the escalopes for about 1 1/2 minutes a side.
  6. For anyone concerned about the pan-frying, spray with Pam and bake in a preheated oven at 200C for about 10 minutes

Couldn’t be simpler. Serve with a salad and a smile 😀

April 12, 2008. Tags: , . Dinners, Kids Cuisine, Mains. Leave a comment.

Chilli con Carne

Here’s a one-dish meal for the working week. You could freeze half of it to economise on stress at a later date. I love beefing it up with lots of veggies. As for the tea, you could either drink it, or, as I do, add it to the chilli! A cup of black tea or black coffee seems to work yummy wonders with this and other spicy, stewy meat dishes – the flavours steep and add a discernible musky note which you’ll definitely appreciate a day or two later 🙂

Serve with a crisp salad and brown rice or wholewheat wraps, with a dollop of thick yoghurt and a sprig of fresh herbs on top. I have used a mixture of parsley and rosemary here, but it works beautifully with fresh coriander too. 😀

  • 500g extra-lean minced beef
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large can tomatoes
  • chicken or beef stock, 1 cup
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp corriander, ground
  • 1 small can kidney beans
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 courgette or zucchini, sliced into quarters
  • parsley
  • rosemary
  • 1 cup of strong breakfast tea made out of 2 teabags
  1. Saute the onions in 3 tbsp olive or canola oil till fragrant and lightly browned
  2. Add garlic, saute 1 minute
  3. Add chilli powder and ground coriander, stir till fragrant and spices are cooked
  4. Add the meat, stir till colour turns from red to brown
  5. Bung in tomatoes, kidney beans, grated carrot, tomato paste and tea
  6. Stir, leave to cook 40 minutes. Add stock as/when necessary
  7. Season, add zucchini, leave to cook another 10-20 minutes, adjust stock/liquid levels as needed
  8. At this point, divide and keep half aside for freezing if you wish
  9. Add half a handful of mixed rosemary/parsley which has been chopped, stir into the chilli, check seasoning
  10. Keep the other half of the herbs aside to garnish the dish before serving.

April 10, 2008. Tags: . American, Dinners, Mains, One-dish meals. 4 comments.

Cupcake Day!

Cupcake days come around every fortnight at my children’s school – it’s a tasty fundraiser and there is no dreamier sight than all the cupcakes laid out in their kaleidoscopic glory in the designated room at school, no speedier fall from grace once the marauding masses are marched in.

While the kids have plenty to look forward to, it can be a bit of a challenge for a working parent to rush home, put the dinner on, dig out mouldy bits of snacks from backpacks and then find, shock and horror, that the school calendar dictates that 24 little decorated gateaux are due at the school by 9am the next day!

Luckily, some of this stress can be relieved with a bit of help from Hines or Crocker, and your young elves who would be happy to delay bedtime if an army of cupcakes awaits their decorating orders.

Here are the products of our most recent cake-in-cup adventure 😀

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April 2, 2008. Tags: , . Baked Goods, Birthdays, Cakes, Cupcakes, Kids Cuisine. 2 comments.

Blueberries – The Super Fruit

These dark, sweet, velvety berries are the most delicious little things, what luck that they are categorized as a ‘superfood’ — doctors and nutritionists recommend that you chomp on half a cup of these each day.

The indigo superheroes, which hail from a shrub that produces bell-shaped flowers, pack a profound nutritious punch, frozen or fresh. They are rich in vitamin C, potassium (needed for the nervous system and muscle function), antioxidants (which may protect cells from free-radical damage) and phytoflavinoids (cancer fighters). They are also said to damp inflammation, improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Blueberry season peaks in July and the berries, which are native to North America, are also grown in Australia, New Zealand and South America. They’re a little pricey, but why not steal a little from the cookie and cake fund to get a wallop of the good stuff?
One cup, eaten by the handfuls, scattered on salads or in muffins, simmered into jams or jellies or whizzed into smoothies, will give you a third of your vitamin C requirements for the day and 15 percent of your fiber needs.

Try this:

Blueberry Smoothie
2 cups frozen blueberries
1 cup yoghurt, low fat is fine
1/2 tsp sugar or sweetener
1/2 a sliced banana
1 cup pineapple chunks
Water or orange juice for thinning

Adjust the liquid levels to achieve maximum yumminess.
Whiz in blender till silky. Voila, a royal smoothie!

April 1, 2008. Tags: , . Fruit, Nutrition, Superfood. 4 comments.