When only the best will do, Pear and Leek soup… served with blue cheese crostini, crispy bacon bits, fresh pear and micro greens… The Princess turns 40…. Part 1 of 2

Serve this fabulous, quick and easy soup when you need to impress!

Sweet juicy pears from the farm...

Sweet juicy pears from the farm…

When I was asked to make the starter and dessert for Shannon’s surprise 40th Birthday party I stressed, yes, I stressed a lot, as I knew she would expect only the very best, and I would really like to serve the very best for my foodie friend. I spend three weeks searching for ideas, and instantly knew that “this was the one”, from the Crush! online magazine. I knew that the flavours would work for her, pear, leek, a touch of blue cheese, bacon AND it is visually pleasing.

For the Pear and Leek soup you will need:

Saute the leeks...

Saute the leeks…

50g butter
1 chopped onion
2 leeks, finely sliced
6 ripe pears, peeled and cubed
4 cups of chicken stock
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
125 ml fresh cream
salt and pepper
FOR THE GARNISH:
1 packet streaky bacon
3 fresh pears
2 hot dog rolls (yes that is right)
1 block creamy blue cheese
one small punnet micro greens (optional)

Click on this link for a printable recipe card Pear and leek soup ………. RECIPE CARD

In advance, if you want to, sauté the onions and leeks in the butter until soft and translucent. Add the cubed pears and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the cubed potatoes and sauté a further 5 minutes.

Add the boiling chicken stock, simmer for +/- 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Cool for +/- 10 minutes and liquidize until smoooooooth and creamy. Put aside until just before serving.

Crispy baked bacon

Crispy baked bacon

Also in advance “bake” the bacon in your oven until very crispy, cool and cut into small pieces. Slice the hot dog rolls into 1cm slices and pack on an oven tray, add one thin slice of blue cheese to each of the hot dog rounds. Cover with cling wrap until serving.

Elzaan mastering the monster finger cutter...

Elzaan mastering the monster finger cutter…

30 Minutes before serving:
Warm the soup and add the cream, while warming the soup, toast the blue cheese crostini in the oven until crisp and the cheese melted. THINLY slice the fresh pears.

Add the little bits of very important garnish.

Add the little bits of very important garnish.

Serve the soup, topped with 2 x toasted blue cheese crostini’s (floating on top of the soup), one thin slice of fresh pear, bacon bits and beautiful micro greens…

Just perfect, for "when only the best" will do...

Just perfect, for “when only the best” will do…

Needless to say, nearly everyone wanted seconds…. it is very important to add the blue cheese crostini, sweet fresh pear, and bacon bits, it is a flavor and sensory explotion…

Our sexy host, Taryn....

Our sexy host, Taryn….

Taryn served a lovely chicken curry and then it was time for the dessert, to follow in Part 2 of 2….

Every party needs a beautiful cake!

Every party needs a beautiful cake (by Monique) and the VERY BEST wine you can afford (Oak Valley, by Pieter Visser)…

For those who have not turned 40 yet, please promise me you WILL do something nice and exciting for this very special “once in a lifetime” birthday party! Memories forever…

The Birthday girl with her mom and dad..

The Birthday girl with her mom and dad..

A special friend...

A special friend…

THE DESSERT to follow in part 2….

Smoked Salmon tagliatelle and bunny paw prints, Part 3 of 3….. EASTER at Bosbokfontein Nature Reserve

I’ve waited eight months to post this recipe, it was the first one I thought of when I started my blog…. Now at last, 56 posts and eight months later, Shannon cooked it for me and I’ve managed to capture the process at this very special Easter venue…. Bosbokfontein Nature Reserve, a little piece of paradise….

After a long afternoon on the beach, collecting driftwood sticks for our silhouette bunnies and playing with my polariser ring we climbed up the hill and started cooking….

Collecting beach treasures...

Collecting beach treasures…

Early evening view from the deck...

Early evening view from the deck…

Shannon, first enjoying a glass of bubbles before hitting the kitchen….the one thing we missed, the champagne glasses….2 x boxes WILL be delivered , to say thanks…

4. salmon.jpg

It was time to light the candles… with no electricity, the house gets lit by flickering candles…

The lighting of the candles..for earth hour, we had EARTH weekend, no electricity for 4 days...

The lighting of the candles..for earth hour, we had EARTH weekend, no electricity for 4 days…

For the Salmon tagliatelle you will need:
6. salmon.jpg
+/- 150g smoked salmon
1 small bunch spring onions
butter and olive oil
5 large red tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar 200ml cream
2 tablespoons old brown sherry
200ml milk mixed with 2 teaspoons Ina Paarman white sauce powder or flour
salt and pepper to taste
3 shakes of tabasco
1 teaspoon grated parmesan per serving
2 handfulls chopped flat leaf parsley

Click on this link for a printable recipe card Smoked Salmon tagliatelle ………. RECIPE CARD

Peel the tomatoes

Peel the tomatoes

Cut a cross on one side of the tomatoes and dunk them in boiling water for 1 minute, this will make the peeling easier without loosing any tomato flesh.

Finely chop the spring onions.

8. salmon.jpg

In a heavy based pan or wok, saute the finely chopped spring onions in butter and a bit of olive oil. Cut the peeled tomatoes into small chunks and add to the spring onions. Fry for +/- 5 – 8 minutes to soften the tomatoes.

10. salmon.jpg

Add one teaspoon of sugar to the fried tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of Old Brown Sherry. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes.

11. salmon.jpg

Add the cream and milk mixed with 2 teaspoons of Ina Paarman White sauce powder OR two teaspoons of flour. Cook through. Chop the smoked salmon into smaller pieces and add to the pan with one tablespoon of chopped flat leaf parsley.

9. salmon.jpg

Add black pepper and salt to taste as well as 3 shakes of tabasco.

12.salmon.jpg

Serve on tagliatelle with one teaspoon parmesan and more chopped parsley.

Food for angels...

Food for angels…

Emma, my “tea please” little one, first had to have a tea party with Lara…

Think it is bed time...

Think it is bed time…

Early morning, Sunday… Bunny masks done, part 1 of 3, black silhouette bunnies, part 2 of 3, and now the bunny flour paw prints….

15. salmon.jpg

Cut out the paw prints and “stencil” them with flour….

16. salmon

We could not have asked for a better EASTER weekend, thanks to great friends and magical venues……

ps…. add a squeeze of lemon… just before serving..

Picture perfect summer picnic at the HOPE 2012 concert in aid of the Thembalitsha Foundation

IN AID OFF

When I think back to the HOPE 2012 concert, I think of PERFECTION…. the evening turned into a peach, every little detail from parking our car, the taxi’s that transported us to the Country Club, the friends who joined us drinking glasses filled with pink Rose, to the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever experienced and then I have not even talked about the Parletones, Watershed, Gian Groen and my picnic jars and lots lots more, and let me end by saying when Emma (7) wanted her Rooibos Tea at 11:15, I walked hand in hand with her and found the most amasing kiosk which made her a cup of tea….

The HOPE 2012 concert was in aid of The Thembalitsha Foundation, Thembalithsa is the Xhosa word for NEW HOPE and they aim to bring and restore hope to the desperate and needy people of South Africa, here in our Valley. Developing them to a point of self-reliance through the provision of healthcare, education and training….

Let me start with a couple of pics I took some months ago of what they do….

Visiting the needy at home...

Visiting the needy at home…

Home visits...

Home visits…

Caring for the sick at Thembacare..

Caring for the sick at Thembacare..

Now back to the concert….

Our spot...

Our spot…

Thanks Elzaan for keeping a spot for us, centre stage…

Shannon and Nicole who returned for her 30 day "trek throught the wild" on a school outing..

Shannon and Nicole who returned for her 30 day “trek throught the wild” on a school outing..

Now for the best pic of the night… Nicole went on “trek” walking, kayaking and cycling for 30 days, … she left as a young girl and returned a young women…. you are soooo beautiful Nicole…

Nicole, need I say more.

Nicole, need I say more.

Nina, Abby and Bella   .... friends having fun...

Nina, Abby and Bella …. friends having fun…

Little Emma and Lea..

Little Emma and Lea..

THE FOOD- CHILLI PRAWN JARS WITH PINKISH MAYO..

And now for the picnic snacks, lets start with the Cucumber avo chilli prawn jars with pinkish mayo…

Cucumber avo chilli prawn pots with pinkish mayo...

Cucumber avo chilli prawn pots with pinkish mayo…

You will need:
Cubed cucumber
Cubed firm but soft avo
Devained and peeled prawns
Chilli flakes
Butter and Olive oil
Mayo and a squirt of tomato sauce

Layer the cubed cucumber and cubed avo in the jars. Flash fry the prawns in a little bit of butter and olive oil, add chilli flakes and season well. Cool. Make the dressing by mixing 1 cup of mayonaise with a couple of squirts tomato sauce…

Click on the link below for a printable PDF RECIPECARD..
Chilli prawn and avo jars with pinkish mayo RECIPE CARD

No 12. Hope

Trading Prawn jars for Yummy Langbaken cheese... with Amanda

Trading Prawn jars for Yummy Langbaken cheese… with Amanda

TENDER PESTO AND YOGHURT CHICKEN SATES…..

If I need to list my 5 most used recipes, this one will feature on that list, I make it at least once every two weeks…. not on the stick but cut the chicken pieces in half after frying and dipping and then you stir the luke warm soft chicken into egg noodles, including the remaining yoghurt and pesto mix…. soft tender chicken with a hint of pesto… topped with grated parmesan and roasted pine nuts… lets return to the picnic….

The process... easy and really worth a try.

The process… easy and really worth a try.

You will need:
8 Elgin Freerange chicken fillets
1 small tub of bulgarian or greek yoghurt
2 heaped teaspoons pesto
1 cup flour
chicken spice

Slice the chicken fillets in half lenghways, and in half again (refer to picture above). Spice well with chicken spice, salt and pepper and roll the mini fillets into the flour. Pack the floured chicken fillets in one layer, if you stack them on top of each other they will become soggy. Mix the yoghurt, about 250 ml or a small tub with the pesto, don’t use more than 2 teaspoons of Pesto as you don’t want the pesto to be overpowering, the yoghurt needs to have a light green colour. Flash fry the fillets in a little bit of canola oil, secret no 1….. FLASH FRY, they must be just cooked but brown, and make sure the pan is hot before you start. Secret no 2…… remove the cooked fillets (the flour should have disappeared and crisped up the fillet) and take them from the pan with a tongue and dip them one by one straight into the bowl of pesto yoghurt, first the one side, then the other side and place on a flat plate to rest…. all in one movement, the very hot crisped cooked flour on the chicken will absorb the cool yoghurt and I am not sure WHAT happens but it turns the chicken into these tender soft juice little bites… so hot oil, don’t overcook, immediately dip into yoghurt and let rest…..

Once slightly cooled skewer them onto a medium length sosatie stick and cover…. ready for the picnic…. can be served at room temperature or warm…

Print on the recipe card for a printable PDF recipe card:
Tender Pesto and Yoghurt chiken sates RECIPE CARD

Sharing with friends...

Sharing with friends…

Nina and Abby, what a carefree age....

Nina and Abby, what a carefree age….

Amber, Emma and Rosie... fun fun fun...

Amber, Emma and Rosie… fun fun fun…

AND NOW, FOR THE MINI MILKTARTS….

Mom and daughter having fun...

Mom and daughter having fun…

These little milktarts are soooo easy I will most definately make them again for a picnic… they look great and taste even better, I had about 5 friends and little Danny asking for more…. but what a pity there were none left… Danny, now your mom can make them for you…

I am not going to add the recipe here but will insert the recipe card….
Easy mini milktarts… RECIPE CARD

Only the filo needs to bake for 10 min's....

Only the filo needs to bake for 10 min’s….

Little Danny, I promise that next time I will make a double batch…

No 38b. Hope

LET THE CONCERT START !!!

No 41. Hope

What a stage Emily organised!!! WELL DONE...

What a stage Emily organised!!! WELL DONE…

Emma having fun

Emma having fun

I think a 7 year old can only handle that much and at 11:15 she demanded Rooibos Tea….

Jayyyy we found some tea...

Jayyyy we found some tea…

Passed out under the picnic blanket, and resting for our BIG race of tomorrow morning...

Passed out under the picnic blanket, and resting for our BIG race of tomorrow morning…

Not part of this blog, but let me show you the race Mom and daughter did early the next morning…

Emma and Lara, the "lappoppe" at the Jolly Jester triathlon..

Emma and Lara, the “lappoppe” at the Jolly Jester triathlon..

Tying up the pink hair before our dam crossing...

Tying up the pink hair before our dam crossing…

Did I say this was an adventure race, me and Emma decending the very steep dam wall...

Did I say this was an adventure race, me and Emma decending the very steep dam wall…

The end... well done girls we might have come last, but you've completed the 3 km trail run, 12 km MTB cycle and dam crossing...

The end… well done girls we might have come last, but you’ve completed the 3 km trail run, 12 km MTB cycle and dam crossing…

WHAT a weekend, it started with our Christmas Party at Bodemloos Kombuis, where I’ve had the most devine sweet potato bake, (on the blog in a couple of days), then prepping for the Hope 2012 concert Saturday night, and Sunday morning the Jolly Jester triathlon… I think I need a couple of hours sleep….

Well done if you’ve managed to read through this blog post, it is a bit long, sorry, but what a fun filled evening for a GREAT cause….

Cannot wait for next year EMILY HOUSE!!!

Mediterranean skewers….. Let’s cook for 50 at a good friend’s 50th… Part 2 of 9

The Mediterranean skewers was on one of the “moodboards” I made for Shannon, it said at the bottom …….. “I don’t want you to feel you HAVE to use any of the ideas on the moodboards, I just want to get your brain going on something that might spark an idea you might like….” the skewers made it all the way to our lunch table…

Storyboard 1
(click on “storyboard-1” for a Microsoft Office Word version of one of the pre party storyboard/moodboards..)

We decided to serve “hand starters”, easier to get everyone to mingle….

For starters we served…
Smoked Salmon mousse served in espresso cups with cheese straws
Mediterranean skewers drizzled with a Red Wine vinegar reduction

The “birthday boy” busy busy busy, 2 hours before the guests arrive…

For the Mediterranean skewers you will need:
Medium length “sosatie” sticks
Green olives
Salami
Mozzarella blocks
Small Rosa tomatoes
Artichokes cut into small pieces
Red olives

Skewer one of each on the “sosatie” sticks and drizzle with reduced Red Wine vinegar reduction.

Skewer them all in the same pattern….

For the Red Wine vinegar reduction….
Boil together 125ml Red Wine vinegar and 60ml brown sugar, until slightly thick and reduced, remember it will thicken as it cools down.

We also served

Smoked salmon mousse in espresso cups… served with cheese straws.

The mousse was prepared the night before and the skewers about 3 hours before the lunch…. this gave us enough time to focus on the main meal…

The guests….

Time to start decorating the lunch table with visual appealing platters of yummy lunch…..

Mango and Raspberry skewers….. part 2 of 5 at Nieuview, Paternoster

Waking up on Saturday morning, hearing someone busy in the kitchen, and this is the view from the front stoep……

The view from our stoep at Nieuview, Paternoster…

How decadent to have a “starter” to our Breakfast…

For the Mango and Raspberry skewers you will need:

Firm but ripe Mango’s
Raspberries
Medium length sosatie sticks
A little bit of lemon juice

Skewer cubes of mango and raspberries, drizzle with a little bit of lemon juice.

The breakfast table…. thanks Shannon, Evie and Issie

Serve with ICE COLD Genevieve MCC, a match made in heaven…

ICE COLD Genevieve MCC…

And then, being surprised by some “early morning” gifts before Breakfast, and it is not even my Birthday yet…

Very special “one day in advance” gifts, feeling very spoil by my friends…matching PJ’s, thanks EVIE

And now it is BREAKFAST time, and guess what’s on the menu, obviously Eggs Benedict “with bacon”…. this recipe will follow at a later stage, it deserves a “special” spot on the blog….

Eggs Benedict, as Shannon knows, this was just one of several things that made this weekend extra special…

Wonder what’s for lunch Evie??

Purple figs wrapped in prosciutto with creamy Gorgonzola …. part 1 of 5 at Nieuview, Paternoster

The decision, a party or a weekend away with my friends for a special “you only turn 40 once” birthday celebration….

I chose a weekend away with friends, I supplied the accommodation and they cooked for me…. 4 blissful days at Nieuview, Paternoster.

These yummy soft warm figs were served by Shannon as snacks at the pool, overlooking the Paternoster beach…

For the Purple figs wrapped in prosciutto with creamy gorgonzola you will need:

8 soft purple figs
one small block of gorgonzola cheese
8 slices of prosciutto or parma ham

Cut the figs open, only halfway in a cross shape.
Place 2 x small pieces of gorgonzola inside each fig.
Gently wrap with prosciutto.
Bake at 180 degrees for about 10 – 15 minutes until the prosciutto is crispy and the soft gorgonzola oozes out….

Serve immediately….

Issie was in charge of the blueberry mojitos…

More “pool snacks” by Shannon…

Melon, Parma Ham and sweet white balsamic sauce, see recipe already on the blog…

NOW, let me show you Nieuview…. the secret destination… no one knew where we were going….

From the moment that i walked into Nieuview, i knew that i’ve made the right choice, this was the spot, EVERYTHING i wanted and soooo much more than expected….

Nieuview, situated on South Africa’s West Coast in the coastal town of Paternoster, the last house on the right…. it consists out of three units, sleeping 8, (adults only)… the units can be booked individually or as one large house, linked together with a covered entertainment area and small private pool overlooking the beach… as fully equipped as you can get… with a nearly 360 degree see view…

Nieuview… last house on the right, Paternoster, West Coast of South Africa…

Our bedroom, with a view…

A kitchen WITH A VIEW, …… the main cottage…

Main Cottage open plan kitchen and living area…

The “interleading area” between the three cottages overlooking the small splash pool and beach…

Pure relaxation with Shannon’s “pool snacks” on hand…

Over the next 4 posts I will show you more of “Nieuview”, i can really recommend this house for a “special weekend away” you need at least 3 days to fully enjoy this house, let your hair down and breathe in some fresh sea air…..

THIS is going to be one fun filled pure relaxation weekend…. i could not have asked for more….

Tomato Tart at the House of Eels, Vermaaklikheid Part 1 of 2

I will start this post by saying that THIS is my favourite recipe of all times (for now), and that should tell you all you need to know….

When Catherine invite you for a weekend away, you cancel all plans and you go…. mmm quite a statement, but Catherine has a way of choosing those special little gems…. Talking of gems, this weekend was in celebration of Gemma’s birthday and what better way to celebrate a birthday than with making a weekend of it.

The House of Eels… Vermaaklikheid…

House of Eels

The House of Eels on the banks of the Duiwenhoks river, 3 large bedrooms and one kiddies bunk room with 4 single beds, a very well equipped kitchen with open plan diningroom / livingroom, inside braai area and stunning outside stoep overlooking the Eel ponds below.

Our room…

Apparently the Eels used to come over the dry land from the river, into the ponds and be fed in the special “underground” room … we had endless conversations about how this actually worked….

I made this tart as our Starter for lunch on the Saturday.

For the tomato tart you will need:

1 roll of puff pastry
about 8 large leeks cut into very thin rings
cayenne pepper
3 or 4 tablespoons of cream
some mayo
one block of creamy blue cheese
small cherry tomatoes
a handfull of pine nuts
Thick reduced balsamic for serving
2 x loose bottom tart pans…

You can make the following in advance if time is a problem.

Saute the leeks in a bit of butter and olive oil until soft, stir often and don’t let them turn too brown.
Add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper (that MUST do ingredient to make or break this tart, don’t leave this out).
Stir in 3 – 4 tablespoons of cream.
The cream should just be enough to “wet” the leeks, it must not be runny, just moist and wet with cream.
Put aside till needed, it can cool down completely, but also can be used immediately if not made in advance.

For the pastry I used one roll of puff pastry cut lenghways in half, rolled out slightly.
Fit pastry into the pans, and put in fridge until needed.

Roast the pine nuts in a dry pan until they’ve slightly browned, stir continiously with a wooden spoon and remove the pine nuts from the pan as soon as they start to turn brown.

Gemma the birthday girl…

About one hour before lunch start packing the tart, you don’t want to do this earlier as the pastry will go soggy.

Spoon the leeks into the pans and even out, there should be no runny liquid on the pastry, the bottom of the pastry will still be semi visable, so not a too thick layer of leeks, see pic below.

Cover leeks with thin slices of blue cheese (i like the creamy blue one from spar in the gold and blue wrapping). And add small dollops of mayo over the blue cheese, see pic below for how much, as you don’t want the tart to become too “wet”.

Now for the fun part, cut the tomato’s into halves and pack on the blue cheese in neat rows.

Bake at 180 degrees in a pre-heated oven, make sure the pastry is properly cooked, golden and brown, rather too brown than too soft. This can take up to 35 minutes. Once baked, remove from the oven and let the tart rest in the pan for about 15 minutes to “settle”.

Remove the tarts from the tart pans, (Shannon will firmly but gently slide a big knife between the pastry and loose metal bottom of the tart pan to loosen the tart and in one swift movement push it off and onto a wooden board), ready for serving…

Drizzle with thick reduced balsamic reduction and sprinkle with the pine nuts.

We served these tarts on a rough piece of wood with a long sheet of baking paper underneath….. very visual…

Serve with a “green only” salad….

And after lunch, the kids went Eel hunting until it was time for dessert at 16:00…..

And guess what they nearly caught, right there where they’ve been playing the whole weekend…

Dessert to follow in part 2…