I want to talk about January. I realise I’m a little late on the coming, but it really required some reflection: – I discovered a little gem tucked into the crook of Table Mountain’s elbow in the garden of Cape … Continue reading
2014 was definitely my favourite year. Ever. Ever ever. Travel, making new friends, learning new things, finding a direction. I feel like I’ve already waxed lyrical about all these things, so let me move on.
2014 was also an incredibly busy and frenetic year. I didn’t have a constant home for more than 3 months at a time, I practically lived out of hand luggage and I had to change languages at every new destination. Needless to say, there was not much time for cooking and working on new recipes, and, because of this, the blog posts came few and far between. Which is all the more reason why recipes had to really jump out at me to warrant a testing. And I thought I’d sum up a little collection of my ten best tried-and-tested recipes from the blogosphere that you really should try in 2015.
– Grilled Corn, Black beans and Quinoa with a Cilantro lime Dressing by Flourishing Foodie: The dressing to this salad is absolutely to-die-for and I use it on everything, from grilled chicken to roasted butternut. And this blog is a sparkly wonder to browse through.
– Strawberries and Danish Summer Cream by My New Roots: Strawberries were my fruity crush this year, and I got to enjoy them at the plucking, preparing, baking and mulling stage. This post was just more fuel to the fire. So much so, that I broke my long blogging silence with my version of the recipe.
– Hummus & Shakshuka by Green Kitchen Stories: This year I developed an infatuation with Middle Eastern food, particularly hummus. I can eat hummus with everything, but this combination is best. And the lovely authors at Green Kitchen Stories have the recipe for the creamiest hummus (but with a little extra work).
– The Green Smoothie: At the end of this year I (tentatively) cut out sugar to counteract the scary amount of German chocolate I ate. Cue the green smoothie, which takes some getting used to but makes you feel instantly healthy. This The Ultimate green Smoothie Formula infographic was invaluable.
– Zucchini noodles with pesto (any pesto!): Number one item on my birthday list this year? A mandolin. And I had zucchini noodles in mind. I still haven’t quite replaced the pasta cravings, but it’s a work in progress. I was inspired by the Zucchini Pasta with Mint-Pea Pesto by Julie from Julie’s Kitchen.
– Grain bowls: a quick, easy and nutritiously delicious way of eating. This is not just a recipe, it’s a whole new food culture that captures the essence of the healthy food movement, in my opinion. It simplifies the (sometimes) difficult task of packing in all those many health supplements in your meal. This video is a great step-by-step to making your own.
– Moroccan Spiced Carrots with Feta and MintI by Rosemarried: I started a new ‘Vegetables’ pinboard on Pinterest and strove to find new ways of cooking vegetables deliciously as mains and sides. This recipe just topped my list for both.
– Soba Noodle Salad with Rainbow Vegetables + Sesame Dressing by love.life.eat: Downtown Ramen Noodle Bar in Cape Town has ignited an insatiable appetite for Asian dishes that I have not yet fully explored. This was a healthy and yummy way to keep it at bay.
– Vegetable Lasagne by Green Kitchen Stories: Noticed a little blog crush going on? I wouldn’t deny it. These bloggers have a way of making vegetables look rich and vibrant. And this lasagne recipe was my go-to thank-you-meal for my hosts. I was always welcomed back.
Every year I skip the procrastinator-infested malls to stay at home and bake my gifts. It’s a win for everyone involved; my family get yummy gifts that were made with love (and, due to my strange lack of interest in baking at the moment, are only made once a year), and I get to keep my sanity.
Christmas this year has been strange. I, a self-professed Christmas nerd who decorates tree and table with manic enthusiasm and rallies the family into Christmas cheer, have felt oddly devoid of any of these holiday feelings. It might be the fact that I had to work (yes, I am now a working girl) almost all the way up to the holiday, or maybe because in my lengthy travels, I learnt to live off hand-luggage-sized belongings and little else. The excessive buying and gifting and eating has struck me now as a little, well, gross. Over the top. Unnecessary.
Having said that, I still love the fact that Christmas brings everyone together in a love of family-time and eating. Particularly in our family; friends and acquaintances that have few better options for this holiday time are welcomed to join in our activities, as long as they can keep up with our inside family banter. These people have now affectionately been given the title of the ‘Keith’, and are usually newly divorced men spending their first Christmas away from their families, and often end up drunk on our couch in just their underwear. It makes for great holiday entertainment, so it’s not entirely charitable.
Gift baking has also become a family occasion for me. My little cousin, Georgia, is a budding cook and baker, and she relishes any opportunity to keep me in the kitchen for extended periods of time. So together we come up with a list of cookies and bakes that are year-long favourites, and a few new recipes we want to try out, and set out to make them in the last two days before Christmas. Well, let’s just say our try-outs this year were not exactly successful. Blame it on my lack of practice in the kitchen this year, or just the fact that the day before a bake is expected is not the day to try a new recipe. Lesson learnt.
So here are the successful favourites (plus a new recipe that turned out pretty well, but might have needed a few tweaks in hindsight):
– Cranberry, white chocolate and pecan biscuits: Nigella Lawson’s recipe is the absolute best. Just a hint: they spread like crazy, so only press them down softly.
– Caramel Peanut Butter Fudge from Cafe Johnsonia: These are to die for. Seriously. This recipe needed absolutely no tweaks and could be done without a candy thermometer. Just continue boiling the sugar syrup until dark golden and test for softball stage by dropping a small amount in cold water and seeing if you can roll it together in a soft rubber-like ball between your fingers. Also, I just used plain golden syrup.
– Snowball cookiesi from The Little Red House: Deliciously moreish and devilishly easy to make. The recipe is also interestingly non-specific, which leaves you room to experiment and make it your own. We’ve tried it with both white chocolate and dark, and I personally prefer the white chocolate. The addition of cinnamon is a must.
– Almond shortbread wreaths with brandy glaze: I found this recipe at the Gourmet Traveller, and it is the most perfectly subtle combination of salty and sweet, fruity and boozy and crumbly and soft. Having said that, the dough ended up being a bit soft and the wreaths spread too far and didn’t hold much shape. Hence, I still need to work on this recipe before I can report back with much success. But maybe you can do your own experimenting.
Oh, and Merry Christmas!