Tag Archives: refrigerator

Adi’s Cookies

26 Oct

Inspirational!Today was a lovely chilled day, reconnecting with the KL I love so much … seeing friends, being inspired and challenged by strong women. My beloved friend, Adi, gave me a beautiful gift – an astonishingly lovely vanilla bean paste that she brought back from holidays in Bali … and this paste was truly magical. It was a mix of vanilla bean, cacao nibs and chili! What a taste combination … and what a scent. When I opened the jar this deep spicy dark chocolatey vanilla musk wafted out and assailed me with its deliciousness.

I couldnt wait to cook with it … and it set me to thinking. Pastes are such a lovely conglomeration of tastes – this one in particular has a balance of dark deep flavours, invigorated by a faint sting of chili. Beautiful! I decided I was going to make refrigerator cookies with the paste, and I also dreamed up a whole variety of other pastes I could make inspired by this one.

If you cant put your hands on a vanilla, cacao nib, chili paste (and unless youre in Bali, and visiting the Puri Ganesha Villas where it was concocted, I doubt you can!), you can make your own paste from any number of wonderful combinations.

Just pound together a few ingredients that inspire you – a mortar and pestle would do well by you here – and bake some cookies or make a cake with the paste as your flavouring inspiration.

Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Crystallised ginger, cranberries and cinnamon
  • Grated lemon and orange peel, hazelnuts and raisins
  • Mint, cacao nibs, and pineapple
  • Dried blueberries, saffron, and almonds
  • Macadamias, a touch of honey, and nutmeg

Once you have a paste that you love, you can add it to so many things – to cakes and glazes. You could stir some into a pudding or ice cream. Use it to perfume a cupcake or frosting. Rub it onto an apple before baking, or stir it into a fruit crumble… you will have a haunting, unique flavour that will intrigue and delight.

Or you could make these cookies. I love refrigerator cookies. Basically, you make a simple cookie dough, lushly rich with creamed butter and sugar, and flavoured with the paste of your choice, and refrigerate the dough, rolled into logs, for at least a few hours. This allows the butter to firm up, and then you just slice the cookies and bake for a few minutes. Any left overs, you can freeze for up to six months, so you always have fresh cookies to hand. What a pleasure and a luxury! And once you have a paste that you love, the entire process takes literally 20 minutes to put together!

Enjoy this recipe, and be comforted. And thank you to Adi for inspiring me in so many ways!

Makes about 48 cookies / 2 logs

  • 2 sticks (16 tbsp) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp sour cream (or you could use cream cheese – or even leave this out – I just love the slight tang this provides)
  • 2 – 4 tsp vanilla, cacao nib and chili paste (or one that you make up!)
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached organic cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp sea salt (I used 1/2 tsp because I wanted to bring out the spice note of the chili – use less if your flavour combinations are softer)
  • 1 tbsp milk or buttermilk

In a stand mixer, fitted with a flat paddle, or a electric hand beater, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This takes a few minutes, so be patient. Its not just mixed together, but actually starts to fluff up…

Add the egg and sour cream and mix well. Add 2 teaspoons of the vanilla paste and taste – adjust if needed.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and sea salt. Add to the butter mixture in three batches, adding a touch of milk in between each batch to keep the dough soft and pliable. Mix in the flour very briefly, just until the dough comes together, then add a bit of milk, mix again, etc.

Once all the flour has been incorporated, turn the dough out onto a long strip of waxed paper. Divide the dough into half, and roll out into a thick log. Wrap tightly in separate pieces of waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or freeze until you are ready to use.

When you are ready to bake some cookies (and I have to ask myself, when am I not?!), preheat the oven to 200C (400F)

Line a cookie tin with greaseproof paper, and take out a log of cookie dough. Cut slices about 1/8th inch thick from the log, and arrange on baking sheet. They wont spread very far, so they dont need to be very far apart.

Bake for 6 – 10 minutes, until the edges are just starting to brown, and the cookies are firm to the touch. Cool on racks for a few minutes before devouring.

Enjoy and be inspired!

PS – forgive the blurry photograph, am still sorting through my luggage looking for my camera!

Favourite Things (Part 2)

26 Jul

I was thinking just now (when the fire alarm woke me for no fire) about posting a few more of my favourite things. As a cook, I get obsessional. I have favourite knives that no one else is allowed to use, and, for example, I only like using the biodegradable rubbish bags. I only drink Ceres juices (from South Africa of course!) and while I will buy plastic bread, I try and only have organic milk and eggs. Strange, but these are my balances, in my kitchen. Its a pleasure to have been able to develop these choices and learn what balances appeal to me and only me. You would be surprised how much of a struggle it is sometimes to claim my own space. All this musing reminds me of a story …

When I first rented my apartment, I went shopping to fill up my pantry. I get nervous when I dont have enough in the pantry to make at least 3 good meals. Anyway, I stopped at the jam aisle, and flush with that particular pleasure one gets when living on one’s own, tried to figure out what jam I wanted. I suddenly realised… I knew what kind of jam my Ayah liked, my Mum, my sister, my ex-housemate, my other ex-housemate, my ex-husband… I knew what kind of jam was every body’s preference – except for mine. Hell, I didnt even know if I liked jam at all! And then I realised, jubilantly, that now was the time to figure that out…

It might sound like a minor episode, and in reality, it was, but it was also an empowering experience. Shopping truly for myself, and my tastes. For my desires and my comfort. Mindblowing, after a life of cooking and feeding everyone else. I think that is when my commitment to being a vegetarian really sunk in and stuck – because I did not have to do it for anyone else but me.

I suppose the reason I am telling this story now is that this blog is intensely personal as well. I cook what I like, when I like (to paraphrase Steve Biko). I cook to share, of course, and as an extension of my loving for family and friends, but also because cooking is me. And I cook because its what I love, and where my passion lies.

So on to my favourite things. Some may seem very ordinary, but they are indispensable to my kitchen. I couldnt do without them…

Pretty little cheese all in a row

Greaseproof paper / baking paper

Goddess, I love this stuff. I use it every single day, for something or another. Its such a simple kitchen staple, and until I really started cooking on a regular basis, and for my own whim and fancy, I didnt realise how much I used it, and relied on it. I like it better than plastic wrap or aluminum foil because its paper – much more environmentally friendly to throw away (some bits can even be recycled) and much better chemically when interacting with hot, soft, wet or otherwise foods.

I use greaseproof paper to line my baking tins for everything from cookies to roasted butternut. They are a wonderful means of preventing that sticky gooey mess that ends up at the bottom of the tin and that takes hours to clean. They are a brilliant way to ensure that cookies and cakes bake evenly, and dont stick to the pan. I used to think it was a waste to use baking paper on top of a perfectly good baking tin – but I used it once – in response to strict instructions in a recipe – and have never looked back.

I use it to wrap all my cheeses in comforting, organised little packages. I hate the plastic cling wrap or packaging that most cheese comes in these days. Once the cheese is open, the plastic encourages it to dry out quickly, or even for mold to form. I butter my cheese (I know, crazy, but it works) lightly to keep it moist, and wrap it in baking paper. It is fresh and delicious and there is so much less wastage.

I use it to cover puddings or mousse or soups – anything liquid that will form a skin – when I store in the fridge. This little bit of paper (sometimes I oil it a bit so as to prevent major sticking) prevents the skin from forming, and makes me feel much happier than if I were to cover a hot liquid with plastic wrap. I always worry (I told you I was slightly obsessional) that the plastic will release toxins in reaction to the hot liquid, and that would be bad for the consumers (namely me and those I love).

I use it around my cutting board, and underneath a bowl when grating cheese, to pick up the mess, and make for instant cleanup. Oh I love this stuff. Its simple and inconspicuous, but its a staple I cannot do without.

How do I love thee...

Immersion Blender

I have loads of fun toys and gadgets in my kitchen. Ive got my beautiful and deeply beloved Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer (I saved up for that baby, and have used her a lot), my Cuisinart food processor, and my professional ice cream maker (on sale, and adored). But the one thing that I have found I use all the time is my Kenwood cherry red immersion blender. I bought it on a whim because it was on (another) sale. I thought, this might be fun to play with at some point. When I unpacked it eagerly at home, the plug point wasnt attached, and I am not technical in that way, so I left it until I found a friend who would figure it out for me.

I didnt really think it would get that much use in my kitchen, but to be honest, its the thing I turn to for most of my pureeing, chopping, mashing needs. I made the most amazing blueberry banana smoothie with my immersion blender – in seconds – and it just liquidised all that frozen fruit in the blink of an eye. I make the densest creamiest soups with it, I mash potatoes with it (they come out like silk if you use a deft touch, otherwise they can get a bit gluey), I creamed butternut and spinach for a pie and mixed them with sour cream — all using the immersion blender.

Its such a simple piece of equipment as well. It looks like a … well, now come to think of it, it could be, to a naughty mind, just a little obscene! Its a large wand, with a head that holds rotating slicers. It operates like a food processor, but its much smaller, and because its handheld, much easier to control. Dont get me wrong, I love my food processor. But in part because of space issues, its a big pain in the tukus to take it out of its little storage space. And once I am done, the food processor involves a lot of parts to clean up. Not so with the immersion blender. You pop off the metal part of the wand, wash it, and you are done. It is awesome. Probably my new absolute favourite gadget. I keep thinking of new ways to play with it…

Hardworking and beloved!

Fridge

When I first moved into my apartment, my landlady provided me with a fridge. Dont get me wrong, it wasnt an awful fridge. But it was definitely from the 1970’s, that particular vomity green colour that all major appliances had back then. It was very retro in not a cool way, and it wasnt very big. I could barely fit my juice and staples in, and I certainly didnt have enough freezer space for more than ice cubes and a carton of Ben & Jerry’s. I thank the good Goddess that this indispensable piece of kitchen equipment is par for the course. But when I renovated, I decided I deserved a larger fridge. I think I might have gotten my measurements wrong, or in my mind’s eye my kitchen was bigger than I thought it was, because this fridge just fit. I had to get things built around it, but I dont care! I love love love it.

Its freezer is on the bottom – a clever bit of design, because you dont use the freezer as much as the fridge part, and so bending to check out whats in the bottom of the fridge lurking in the veggie bin, is a thing of the past. My fridge is full of stuff – my vitamins and staples (flour, sugar, salt – all of which I keep in the fridge because of the high heat and humidity here) – as well as food I have just cooked and am saving for friends to eat and taste – or thats waiting to be frozen for next week – and fresh fruits and vegetables waiting to inspire me. It gives me great satisfaction to look into a full fridge – may be its that Jewish-Muslim feeding people thing, but I love knowing that if someone drops by, I will always, always have something to offer them.

My fridge makes me feel safe (against hunger, because as anyone who knows me knows, I could just fade away! 😉 ) and satisfied. When I look in my fridge, I see all the things I have made (thats one last lone oven roasted fig in the centre, by the way, waiting for AngelKitten and Ezril), and I know that I have expressed my love and passion in a way that is distinctly me. I also am inspired. Sometimes I just look in the fridge and think… Oooh, I will make that today! Or I think, I need something soothing and quiet. And whatever my mood, I can always find inspiration there.

Its funny, but taking photographs of the interior of my fridge was a bit intimidating. Kind of like showing your your undies to complete strangers. Oh well, its me, and this is my blog, so fudge it 😉