canning TOMATOES

So my dear friend Nicky has once again given me an abundance of beautiful heirloom tomatoes from her garden..from where she harvests seeds for her online shop THE GIFTED TOMATO
Well, never to be one to let a frugal opportunity go by, I whipped out my canning jars and set to work on preserving these beauties!
Firstly I pop the mason jars in the dishwasher to sterilize them and just before the end of the cycle I start with a huge fury chopping tomatoes to more or less the same size chunks. Heat a little olive oil and start frying the tomatoes, adding 2 heaped table spoons crushed garlic and a generous dusting of origanum and Italian spices. Let this lot get to a boil for 3 minutes. I don't do it for longer to preserve the beautiful color of tomatoes. Also, at the same time put the lids in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes to sterilize.
With a clean cloth I get a jar form the dishwasher and fill it with the tomato sauce to almost the rim of the jar. Push down any chunks stick out from the surface and pour a little olive oil over until the bottle is completely full. This is a technique my mother in law used way back in her day on her farm in the Free State in South Africa. Dry the lids and screw onto beautifully canned jars. Within minutes the lids will pop inwards..if that makes sense and you are ready to show off your preserved tomato sauce!
You can of course add whatever spices you like. The important thing to remember is to make sure everything is sterilized and hot when canning!


I have been preserving lemons since I first got onto Pinterest...and have been doing so ever since as any recipe that calls for lemons will have a much richer, deeper flavour if you use preserved lemons instead.
Few preserves are as easy as this...I start off by popping my mason jars into the dishwasher to sterilize. After washing and drying off a couple of Meyer Lemons (in this case), I give each lemon three slits, making sure to keep it in tact and not cutting it all the way. I then stuff each crevasse with plenty of Kosher salt and squeeze the salted lemons snugly into the sterilized mason jars. After fitting the lids on, I turn the jars once a day for the first two weeks.
The lemons are ready once they get a glazed appearance!


GRILLED HALIBUT by CeciliaRosslee
 This is a dish I made this week for Della, whom I cook for at night. She knows exactly what she likes, what is good and what is REALLY fabulous....and this is one of those never fail dishes!

So, I'm giving it exactly as my daughter, Sita makes it....she is the true gourmet in the house....

Pre heat oven to 350F. Wash Hulibut and pat dry with paper towel.
In a small pot, melt 3T butter, garlic and lemon. (make sure not to burn garlic).
Brush a baking pan/cookie sheet with butter mixture and place fish in pan.
Slice half a bottle of black Kalamata olive and place on top of halibut pieces.
Pour 3/4 of lemon butter over fish, making sure it is completely covered.
Dip cherry tomatoes in rest of lemon butter mixture and place on baking sheet with fish.
Bake in oven for 20-25min. Check for flakiness after 15-20min.

Serve on a bed of rice pilaf with peas and steamed vegetables.


Click here for Alton Brown's Recipe ~ as below


  • 1 3/4 pounds oranges, 4 to 5 medium
  • 1 lemon, zest finely grated and juiced
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 pounds plus 12 ounces sugar
  • Special Equipment: 10 (8-ounce) canning jars with rings and lids, funnel, tongs, ladle, and 12-quart pot


Wash the oranges and lemon thoroughly. Cut the oranges into 1/8-inch slices using a mandoline, removing the seeds as you go. Stack the orange slices and cut them into quarters. Place the oranges into an 8-quart stainless steel pot. Add the lemon zest and juice and the water to the pot, set over high heat and bring to a boil, approximately 10 minutes. Once boiling, reduce the heat to maintain a rapid simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 40 minutes or until the fruit is very soft.
While the fruit is cooking, fill a large pot (at least 12-quart) 3/4 full with water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Place 10 (8-ounce) jars and rings, canning funnel, ladle, and tongs into the boiling water and make sure the water covers the jars by at least an inch. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the lids and leave everything in the pot until the marmalade is ready.
Meanwhile, place a small plate in the freezer. Increase the heat under the orange mixture to return to full boil. Add the sugar and stir the mixture continually, until it reaches 222 to 223 degrees F on a deep-fry or candy thermometer, and darkens in color, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. You may need to adjust the heat in order to prevent boil over. Test the readiness of the marmalade by placing a teaspoon of the mixture onto the chilled plate and allowing it to sit for 30 seconds. Tilt the plate. The mixture should be a soft gel that moves slightly. If mixture is thin and runs easily, it is not ready.
Remove jars from the water and drain on a clean towel. Place a canning funnel onto the top of 1 of the jars and ladle in the marmalade just to below the bottom of the threads of the jar. Repeat until all of the mixture has been used. The amount of marmalade may vary by 1 to 2 jars. Wipe the rims and threads of the jars with a moist paper towel and top each with a lid. Place a ring on each jar and tighten.
Return the jars to the pot with boiling water, being certain that they don't touch the bottom of the pot or each other. (If you don't have a jar rack, try a round cake rack, or metal mesh basket. Even a folded kitchen towel on the pot bottom will do in a pinch.) Add additional water if necessary to cover the jars by at least an inch. Boil for 10 minutes. Using canning tongs, carefully remove the jars from the water, place in a cool dry place and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 24 hours before opening. Once open, store in the refrigerator. Unopened marmalade will last for up to 6 months.


In South Africa, we have a fabulous store/deli/restaurant called Melissa's and it must be one of THE most divine food shops I have ever been to. Massive dishes of rustic fair is laid on beautiful, long wooden tables from where you dish up for yourself and pay by weight. The shop windows are lined with THE MOST DIVINE pickles, jams, jellies and chutneys each one beatutifully labeled with a posh Melissa's label. Wood fired ciabatta( also lovingly known as Melissa's bread) is sold from deep baskets set amongst buckets of long stemmed roses. Each store has a special cheese room with regulated temperature and many old, long tables where patrons read newspapers and show off for being there...which is just so cool and hip! So it is with a huge longing for Melissa's pickled aubergine that I set to work on this UNBELIEVABLY delicious jar of my own Cecilia's variety! Okay, I did call in the help of dear old Jamie Oliver, who lisped the recipe on some or the other youtube video...but what makes mine even better is that I accidentally mistook coriander seeds for mustard seeds and VOILA! Honestly one of the most delicious pickled anything I have ever had...even if I may say so myself!! Try it and you be the judge!

1/3 Cup Olive Oil
1/3 Cup Canola Oil
1/3 Cup Vinegar
1t Crushed Garlic
1t Chili flakes
1t Coriander seeds
1t Dried Origanum
Combine all of the above ingredients and keep to the side until needed.

Slice 4-6 Aubergines finely and salt evenly, leaving it in a colander to sweat for an hour.
Add one cup each of water and vinegar to a pot, bring to a boil, and cook aubergine slices for exactly 3 minutes.
Remove and fill sterilized Le Parfait Terrine Canning Jars, 35.2 oz. (Google Affiliate Ad)mason jars. Pour pickling oil and vinegar until jar is almost full. Cover and keep refrigerated. I am not sure for how long it would last as I have already had half of my first batch within 2 days!!! But I think it would be 3 least!


My son went fishing at White Rock Lake on the Santa Lucia Preserve and came back with a rainbow trout! So we simply dotted it with butter, lemon juice, chopped rosemary and garlic and herb salt! Grilled it for 16 minutes and VOILA! THE BEST fish ever! The potato wedges were also grilled and served in newspaper - as is the custom in Britain and South Africa!


My no knead ciabatta (of which the recipe is below....way have to scroll down forever and a day...) quartered and baked at only 10 minutes, wrapped in tissue paper with a stamped I made from The Graphicsfairy. I simply stamped some old ribbon as well as a 'thank you' stamp I bought for CHEAP from Marshall' of those discounted Martha Stewart jobs, onto tracing paper and VOILA you have yourself a beautiful wedding favour....or any party favour for that matter!


PUMPKIN FRITTERS are what South Africans make with their left over pumpkin...which I might add, you can eat buy throughout the entire year! I found it most peculiar, when I first moved to the States, that pumpkin only pop out of the ground a few weeks before halloween and thanksgiving (which is only celebrated in the USA) and is then only ever seen again at the top of the canned veggie isle in the supermarket, staring back at you from some faded picture on a can, until the following October!

So, great is my delight when, once a year, I can get my hands on some fresh, white pumpkin( rest of the world...crazy I know, but that is how it works here in the States) and set to work to make THE BEST pumpkin fritters ever. I remember as a little girl, every Sunday after church, making these with my mom shouting out the 'recipe' from somewhere else in the kitchen, which she got from who knows where as I think every boeremeisie, somehow, just knows how to make it!

Start off by steaming 4 cups of pealed, cubed pumpkin until nice and tender (about 20 minutes). Mash pumpkin until smooth. Add 2 Cups of flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and one egg. Whisk until well blended.
Heat oil, or butter (or both!!!) in a pan and fry spoonfuls until medium brown on both sides. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and E N J O Y !!!!!


PASTA must be every person's go to meal when in a quandary about what to eat. So that's how I got myself cooking up the most delicious pasta dish with simply what I had in the fridge.

The inspiration for this Bellisimo dish came when I stared at this bunch of freshly picked Basil and it stared back at me. 
I simply cooked a quarter pack of spaghetti, and tossed in some chopped heirloom tomatoes, feta cheese, chili flakes and a good drizzle of olive oil.
FYI ~ this fabulous cheese board (Lazy Susan) can be found here

Topped with a few slivers of parmesan and you have one BELLISSIMO dish of pasta!


So, my very industrious friend, Nicky, brought me some freshly picked heirloom tomatoes from her garden, in exchange for a freshly baked ciabatta from my oven.

No sooner did she leave when I found myself with knife in hand, chopping(and munching) away at these little beauties. Now the naked chef, a.k.a Jamie Oliver has a fabulous tomato salad recipe which I remember vaguely from way back when....on which this one is totally based...the vague memory!

Just chop up a W H O L E lot of heirloom tomatoes, the more colours the better and sprinkle with a lot of salt. Let is stand in colander for at least half an hour. This brings out all the fabulous, organic tomato flavours!

The simplicity of lettuce and basil makes this a classic salad. No need for salad dressing as the savoury tomato juices give this simple yet stylish salad a lovely, deep flavour.


Since living just South of Watsonville, America's artichoke capital as they like to call it, and a stone's throw away from the Carmel Cottage who has been winning soup prices for their BEST ARTICHOKE soup, I decided it time to try my own. 

The star of the show is of course le artichoke! I have tried my best to steal, beg and bribe the Carmel Cottage's soup recipe from waiters, to no avail I must add, but have at least over the years managed to get a hint here and there!

Forget the nonsense about an artichoke being like a woman's heart and how hard it is to get to it, because according to my waiters.. the secret to their soup is that they boil the artichoke in water until tender and then use the water as the base and stock for their soup!!! That took 2 years of $12 by the plate to get out of them!

Here then my recipe:
3 Artichokes, covered with enough water and boiled for 30 minutes
2 Large Carrots, chopped
Few small organic onions, chopped
1 Large Leak, chopped
1 Large potato 
2 Litres Stock
1/2 t Chilli powder
1/2 t Oreganum
Salt and freshly ground Pepper

While boiling artichokes in water for 30 minutes, chop up all other ingredients and put in large pot. Stir fry in a little olive oil and butter.

Add artichoke stock as well as chicken stock, peel and chop potatoes and add to stock and vegetables. Get to boiling point and then reduce heat to simmer for 45 minutes. Liquidize soup with a stick blender and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in lovely plates and drizzle some fresh cream on top, finish off by adding a few artichoke leaves, just so everyone would know you made this soup from scratch!



Having now lived in the States for 4 years, I have come to the conclusion that there is only one country that can do justice to a cheesecake and that is the one with New York as it's first port of call for many immigrants! 

I got this recipe from Good Houskeeping and thought, seeing that I don't have a granny hailing from this country with a special recipe, the next best thing would be to get it from the people who are known for their test kitchens and seal of approval!
So, start by crumbling 8 Graham crackers or digestive biscuits.

To this add 4 T melted butter.

And stir with a fork until well blended.

Pour mixture into a spring form pan.

I use a potato masher to get a nice even crust...but the good old flat hand would do too! Keep in refrigerator to set until needed.

Whisk together 3 packets of Philadelphia cream cheese, 3 eggs and one egg yolk, 3/4 cup sugar and 1.5 teaspoon Vanilla essence, 1 T flour and 1/4 cup milk until nicely blended. Pour into prepared spring form pan and bake at 370 F for 25-30 minutes and let cool down completely. Leave in fridge overnight. 

Pour your favourite preserve, homemade fruit jam or canned pie filling over cheesecake.

Get out the best china,  pour yourself a nice cup of tea (Rooibos for me of course!)

And enjoy the best New York style cheesecake in the world!


Here is an absolutely wonderful dish, African in every aspect ~ simple yet super tasty!

The inspiration for this delicious chicken dish came from my all time favourite recipe book, Falling Cloudberries which I brought with me from South Africa! So, whenever I get a little homesick, I whip it out, get inspired and get cooking!

Start off by placing chicken pieces in an oven tray and lightly season with salt and pepper. Mix together a marinade of 1/2 C Olive Oil and 2 T French Mustard (a good quality mustard makes all the difference).

To this, add 2 tablespoons dried Origanum and whisk thoroughly. (my daughter made this little pottery bowl in 3rd grade when we were still in South Africa)

Place a few cloves of garlic all over chicken pieces, do not peel them. Also, place large potato wedges in between chicken pieces.

The star ingredient of this dish is my pickled lemons! ( For this, make a few slits in a coupe of lemons, stuff with Kosher salt and place in a sterilized Mason jar for 3 weeks. It will draw the liquid from the lemons and preserve it beautifully!) These lemons add a beautiful depth to any dish that calls for lemons. Should you not have preserved lemons, and 3 weeks to wait for this fabulous meal, then use 2-3 entire lemons (skin, white, pulp, the whole lot!) 

Chop the entire lemon up, skin pulp and juice and add to marinade. Smear all over chicken pieces and bake in a hot, 350F / 180C oven for one hour. Pour 1/2 C white wine over chicken and bake for another hour, turning the chicken once or twice.

Serve on a bed of rice with a lovely green salad and E N J O Y!!!


If I could, I would eat basil pesto 3 times a day, and sometimes I actually do! So, to my greatest delight I happened to get 3 massive bags of basil for $10 a week or so ago. Not someone to let a good deal go by and definitely not the opportunity to make the best pesto E V E R, I set out to show you just how I do it.

This recipe comes from INA PAARMAN (South Africa's equivalent to USA's INA GARTEN) and I have, like we all do, adapted it over the years by just eyeballing it as I go...So, I am not sure what kind of recipe I am actually giving here, but if you just follow my instructions, I am sure it will be FABULOUS!

ALWAYS start with fresh pine nuts, roast 1/2 cup in a little olive oil for only a few seconds. Take off heat.

In South Africa we use Macadamias, which I have added here. It is much cheaper than pine nuts and gives it a wonderful flovour. Add the 2 cups tightly packed basil leaves to the warm nuts, and leave in pan to wilt. Give it one or two stirs. Do not turn heat back on. This allows for the natural oils of the basil to release.

Put leaves in food processor and add 2 cups of olive oil. Blend until finely chopped. Add one heaped teaspoon of salt. It will taste too salty but once the pesto is added to pasta it will be just right!

Add 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese to basil paste and whisk briskly. Do not over blend as it would become too much like a paste. If you find the pesto too thick for you liking, just add more oil.

This is such and easy yet impressive pesto recipe that you will be sure to impress anyone!

Bottle immediately after preparing pesto. I usually drizzle a thin layer of oil over pesto before I seal with a lid. Pesto also freezes well.


THE BEST SPANAKOPITA ~ {spinach pies}

When still living in Cape Town, I had a wonderful Greek friend, Helen Tomazos, who taught me how to make the absolutely best Spanakopita! In fact, Helen used to make  the Spanakopita for her brother's restaurant, which happens to be one of the 5 top restaurants in the Cape! I had a most fabulous, formal veggie garden and in turn for some of my fresh spinach, Helen would show me the secrets from a true Greek kitchen!

Of course, only the best and freshest would do, and in true European style, N O T H I N G gets wasted....whatever part of the plant can't be cooked, gets pickled! So, what you need for these delicate pies are, spinach, onion, parsley, feta cheese, eggs, salt and phylo pastry.

Start off by chopping and frying one large onion or a bunch of spring onion in a little olive oil. Keep the white parts with the roots and place in a glass jar with water and see your money's worth increase as these little gold mines keep on growing and growing and growing for you to use over and over. In fact, I keep some in a pot of soil in my kitchen window, some in my veggie bed outside and some in a glass jar!
Add a large bag of spinach to the fried onion and stir until wilted. Remove from heat. This trick I learned form my Italian neighbor in Cape Town who told me never to boil spinach as it only draws water.

Chop up a bunch of fresh parsley and add to cooling spinach mixture. The parsley adds a depth of earthiness to any spinach dish and is really what makes Greek food good! Once cooled down, add 1/2 cup feta cheese and 1 teaspoon salt. It will taste too salty, but once it is in the pies it would be perfect. Mix in two whisked eggs and you are done with the filling.

In the meantime, thaw a packet of phyllo pastry. Unroll and keep moist with a wet dish cloth. The phyllo sheets are very thin and dry out super quickly, so do keep it covered at all time. Divide sheets in 3 and cut into strips.

Start off by smearing one strip of phyllo with melted butter. Place a second sheet on top and butter again.

Place a small heap of spinach filling on one corner of buttered phyllo strip as shown.
Roll the corner of the pastry towards the other end to form a triangle and keep on rolling towards opposite ends until you are left with a triangle shaped pie. Butter outsides.

Place on ungreased {needless to say actually} cookie sheet and bake in a hot oven (370F or 220 C) for 25-35 minutes or until nicely brown.

Let the Spanakopita cool to room temperature and serve to your delighted guests! You can also replace spinach mixture with a combination of different cheeses and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top.

This meringue recipe I first came across on my blogging travels at Cream Puffs in Venice and just had to simply try out! Not only are meringues low fat, but so is Nutella.....just saying!

Like all meringues, these start with eggs!

That is egg whites, carefully separated from the yolk. You have to make absolutely sure you do not get any yolk in the white as this would prevent the whites becoming stiff. Also, never use plastic utensils when working with egg white as plastic contains oil {as it is made of oil} and would therefor also prevent the egg whites from forming proper peaks.  

In a stainless steal or glass bowl, whisk together 3 large eggs. Add pinch of salt and a pinch of cream of tarter and whisk until nice and stiff.  Gradually add 1/2cup + 1 T of granulated sugar until the egg whites are glossy and very, very stiff. Fold 1/2 cup warmed up Nutella  very carefully, say just twice or three times. You are working towards a swirl effect and at the same time want to retain the just whisked air in the meringue mix.

With two spoons, drop rows of small meringues on two line cookie sheets. Place in a 300ºF, pre-heated oven, for 10 minutes and immediately lower temperature to 200ºF, swopping trays from top to bottom to ensure even baking. Let bake for an hour after which the meringues should be nice and firm, if not, let bake for another 20 minutes. Switch oven off and let cool down with oven for a couple of hours.

That is....if you can wait that long!!!


Now I know it is at present piping hot in the Southern Hemisphere, not that it is really any cooler here in California, but it is winter on this side of the world and I am really missing a good pot of curry. Not that I don't love Mexican food, but Indian curry is a little harder to find where I live. Now keep in mind, the curry I cook is of Malay decent as I learned to cook curry in Cape Town where the descendants of Malay slaves still live and cook after 250 years.

So the basis of any good curry is obviously the spices! I use a mix of Masala, curry, chilli, cumin, cayenne pepper, cilantro, ginger and cinnamon which I fry in a little oil and butter. Add chopped onion and fry then add some chopped garlic. 

There are so many ways of making curry, depending on which area of India a dish originates, but seeing that this one originates from my kitchen....I take liberty to give it to you the way I learned it over a period of 20 years from Muslim ladies in the local grocery and spice stores in Cape Town.

To this mix, I add my meat, chicken in this case, but the same goes for mutton or beef or minced meat, and then some pealed potatoes. Very important to remember {this I got from an old lady in the curry isle at Pick & Pay, Gardens Centre} to only add a can of tomatoes after the potato has cooked through as tomatoes prevent potato from becoming soft and tender!

Add a few peas just before serving.

For the roti {flat bread or naan} I use 5 cups of bread flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 a cup of ghee or clarified butter {heat butter until it seperates from milk. Let stand and discard milk} Add 2 cups warm water and mix together until it forms a soft dough. This is unleavened {no yeast} bread and gets its 'rise' from the method below:

Divide dough up in 5 balls and roll out to 4cm or 1/8".

Spread ghee on top and sprinkle with flour.

Fold over and repeat ghee and sprinkled flour.

Fold over once more and repeat ghee and flour. Fold over one last time and tuck little corners in to from a little ball. Let rest for a few minutes. Roll out once again into a large disc, the size of your pan.

Spread some more ghee on the dough and place directly in very hot pan. {I know, it has cholestrol written all over it!} With in a minute the bread will rise and make big bubbles, this is due to the folding over of the dough. Let bake for a minute or two, spread some more ghee on top side of bread and turn over. Let it bake for another minute or until nice and brown.

Turn over on sheet of freezer paper, wax paper or brown paper.

Fill with one or two scoops of curry filling.

Roll up like a burrito and wrap with paper. This is the way we eat it in Cape Town as well as Israel and parts of the Middle East.

In India they mainly eat it open with one hand, tearing the bread and dipping it in the meat sauce. Delish!!!


This might be not only the worlds best lemon meringue pie, but it must be the easiest too! 

The inspiration was, as usual, a whole lot of lemons that came home after my daughters visit to her friend's house. Beautifully yellow, organic and perfectly ripe lemons!

So, the base is simply a packet of grahams crackers with a dash of cinnamon. Put in food processor or place in a zipper locker bag to crush until fine crumbs.

Melt one stick of butter in a pan or microwave and add to biscuit crumbs, stirring through completely. Press out into a pie dish, making sure it is evenly distributed. Leave in fridge to set until needed.

Pour two cans of condensed milk into a bowl and add the yokes of 3 eggs. Stir.

Add the juice of many lemons ~ to the tune of a cup! And stir until completely blended. Pour into pie dish and smooth out nicely.

Place 3 egg whites with 3 tablespoons of sugar and whisk until nice and fluffy. Place the stiff egg whites lightly on top of lemon custard and bake at 370°F for 20 minutes. Let it cool down and leave in fridge until visitors arrive!

Before I knew it, the lemon meringue was gobbled up and I was unable to take a photo of an actual slice!

Bon appétit!


When I set eyes on these sweet Martha Stewart cupcake liners there was only one thing on my mind...Valentine!!! 

So without wasting anytime, waiting for Valentine to arrive, I made these darling little cupcakes, complete with pink icing ♡'s. To make it a bit more healthy {??? } I used strawberry jam to colour the icing, hence the speckles in the pink ♡'s!

I simply made an icing mix of confectioners powder, butter and a drop or two of milk, eyeballing as I go along! 

Hope these sweeties inspire you to get your creative juice flowing with only a fortnight to go before Valentine!



So, this year for Valentine, I am planning a lovely soup evening, seeing that it is at long last winter here in California! And there is nothing lovelier than a} Tomato Basil Bisque and b} Parmesan Chips to boot!

In terms of taste, this must be the simplest treat ever to make. Grate some parmesan.

And place heaps on baking sheet, shaping in heart shape, or any other shape depending on the time of year, really.

Broil on high for only a few minutes. I don't close the door and keep my eye intently on these hearty beauties as I don't want it to burn.

Balance delicately on the edge of a lovely bowl of hearty soup!

And voila! Happy Valentine!

X ♡ X


So, with Valentine around the corner, I am starting to focus on all things hearty! Here is my easy as pie recipe for that special person who warms your heart.

No need for large, expensive cookie cutters, just plain old pencil and paper will do. Cut out a heart shape of your own liking.

Lay out a sheet of puff pastry and trace, cut close to edge of paper with a sharp knife.

Score an inch inside of the heart (do not cut all the way through) and use left over pastry for smaller sweet. Bake in a hot oven, 420 F/ 210 C for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

In the meantime, peel a few carrots, drizzle with olive oil and herbs to your liking. Here I sprinkled it with Ina Paarman (all the way from South Africa) Lemon and Herb. Bake in a very hot oven for 10 minutes.

Cut chicken breast in smallish pieces and cover with a mixture of flour, salt and pepper and freshly ground coriander, lemon peel and mustard.  Fry for 2 minutes in olive oil and set aside. Blanche half an onion and add one can of mushroom soup, one can milk and salt and pepper to taste. Add cooked chicken and sprinkle some frozen peas in just before removing from heat. Set aside.

Remove carrots from oven and let cool slightly.

Remove top part of inner heart to reveal a recessed 'bowl' for the filling to go in.

Fill heart with chicken filling and decorate with smaller hearts. Too cute, I know!

This makes for a very easy meal to make, which can be prepared a day before the time and simply warmed up on the night for that special Valentine of yours.

Bon Appétit!


On all my travels have I never been able to find good bread outside the parameters of Europe, until I came across this no knead, easy as pie recipe. And...seeing that every single person that tries my ciabatta wants the recipe, I thought it easiest to post it here for them and everyone else to get it!

{ I N G R E D I E N T S } ~ so simple you might not believe it

7 Cups Bread flour
1.5 t salt
1 T yeast
3 c warm tap water

 Desolve yeast in 1/2 c (of total amount of water) and let ferment for 5 minutes. {if you prefer using instant yeast, use one packet which you simply add to the flour before adding water}
Add to rest of ingredients and stir until it forms a very sloppy dough.
Cover and let rest for 4 hours. 

Sprinkle cookie sheet with maize meal and a little bread flour and tip dough out onto it.
Lift edges of dough gently and stretch to form a basic snow shoe form {origin of ciabatta}
Place a small bowl of water in oven to form steam during baking.
Bake bread for 16-20 minutes {or until nice and golden brown} at 500°F / 350°C.

And voila!!! A ciabatta!!!

To add  a special touch I have gone over to Graphics Fairy where I got the wreath and artichoke graphics and added the text inside. 

I wait for the bread to cool down completely and then half wrap it with tissue paper, this one is sparkly in  tune with Christmas, add the little card and fasten with twine! So now I'm ready to bless a friend or neighbour with my homemade ciabatta!

with all my love,


Apple Crumble is what South Africans make in lieu of Apple Pie, a recipe they borrowed from the French Huguenots who first arrived in the Cape during the late 1600's.

This week, my dear landscape artist friend, Nicky Thomas,  sent me two bags of her organic apples which she harvested from her beautiful mountainous garden. 

So inspired was I by these sweet beauties that I wasted no time to throw together an Apple Crumble! 

First peel, core and slice enough apples to fill a deep pie dish. Here I used about 8 apples.

For the piece de resistance crust I simply use a shortbread recipe as follows:
3 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Sticks Butter
4 T Castor Sugar
2 T Corn Starch
Cream butter and sugar together then add dry ingredients gradually until it combines. Cover with plastic and let rest in the refrigerator until needed.

In a glass bowl, drizzle the rind and juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 cup sugar, freshly grated nutmeg, 2 t cinnamon and 1/4 cup heated apricot jam over sliced apples and mix through.
(This lemon is from another friend's garden!)

Grease a deep pie dish.

And fill with apple filling.

Grate cool, firm dough roughly and place abundantly on top of filling. Bake pie for 35 minutes @ 350°F / 180°C or until golden brown.  This makes for a wonderful, crispy topping.

And there you have it, a slice of truly delicious Apple Crumble!



One of my family's favourite dishes in winter is this very simple, yet extremely delicious meal called Baked Ziti.

The cornerstone of any good Ziti is lots and lots of wine!!! I add almost an entire bottle to the bolognaise sauce. 

So, I start off chopping an onion, garlic and frying it. Adding the mince, tomato puree and a few cans of tomato.

Always, cut one fresh tomato horizontally and grate it into the meat mixture. This gives it a lovely zesty lift.

The main secret to my bolognese sauce is mutton stock, which I get on my visits to South Africa, I am not sure if one is able to find it in USA, as I have not seen it anywhere! Mutton stock gives the meat a subtle, meaty flavour, vs the too savoury, beefy taste of beef stock. To all of this, I add a lot of origanum, salt, pepper and fresh basil leaves. I let the sauce simmer for a good hour, topping it up with red wine every so often.

Cook pasta shapes for 7 minutes, until just al dente and place equal portions in French Pillivuyt dishes.

Top with bolognese sauce.

Sprinkle grated mozzarella on top and bake for 20 minutes at 350F or 180C.

Decorate with a sprig of fresh basil leaf. Serve with a simple salad of spinach leaves, tomato wedges and slivered parmesan. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over and ENJOY!!! Be prepared for a LOT of compliments!!!

With love,

FRENCH PEARS POACHED IN RED WINE poires pocheés au Vin Rouge
Poires au Vin Rouge

Perfectly ripe pears

Autumn is the perfect time of year to have this fabulous French dessert. Not only are pears in season, but also cheap and the perfect light compliment to a warm autumn meal.

Pealed pear

Start by pealing pears in a vertical direction, keeping the stem in tact and slicing a bit off the bottom so as to make sure it will stand up nicely.


In a pot, melt together 1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2  bottle good red wine

On stovetop 

Place pears in simmering wine mixture and add a few cinnamon sticks.

Nutmeg grater 

Sprinkle freshly grated nutmeg, (I bought this little grater from Jan de Luz in Carmel) and some cloves over pears

Rouge poires

Let simmer for 25 minutes, turning and basting pears every so often. Be careful to not bruise pears as they get softer.
Remove pears and simmer sauce for a further 7-10 minutes until it is reduced to a thick syrupy consistency.
Drizzle sauce

Place each pear in a pretty little plate and drizzle sauce over

Ultimate elegance

Pouched pears are best served at room temperature, but can be prepared a day before and served cold too.

You can also top the pouched pears with custard, ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

Bon Appetit!


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Pizza di cipolle, fungi,salumi e mozzarella!
For anyone who has ever had the privilege to travel to Italy (yes I know, my blog is actually about all things French, but hey, Italy borders France right?) would know that pizzas in Italy are much different than what we eat in the rest of the world. In Italy, the classic pizza is a subtle masterpiece, a no-frills pie that showcases only a handful of the best ingredients.

To make the dough, start by adding1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast to
1/2 cup warm water (the hottest tap water works best)
Let rest for 5 minutes

In a mixer add:
1 1/2 cups bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

Once the yeast looks all nice and frothy it is ready to use
Make a well in the flour and salt and add the yeast mixture

With the dough hook attached to mixer, knead dough for a good 3 - 4 minutes

Cover with a cloth and keep in a warm, draft free place for more or less 2 hours 
or until dough has doubled in volume

My utensils are as basic as this recipe, I don't use a fancy baking stone etc, but simply roll the dough out onto a well floured cookie sheet

Add chopped cipolle (onion)

and fungi (mushrooms). As you can see, this pizza does not get a tomato base and is know as a pizza bianca (white pizza)

Add mozzarella and salami last. And here is the BIG secret...bake at a high temperature (420F) on the lowest  rack in your oven, to imitate a pizza oven environment. Bake for exactly 15 minutes flat

As soon as you take pizza out of oven, sprinkle some torn basil leaves for that authentic, classic pizza taste you can only find in Italy!

Hope this will inspire you to make your own classic pizza!


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This recipe hails back to the first Ina Paarman (most well known, respected and down right best ever cook from South Africa) cookbook which, since I never had a recipe book stand, is almost unrecognizable by now! Since moving to the States, I had to convert this recipe from metric to imperial, keeping in mind that flour, sugar and baking powder are all different in consistency compared to ingredients anywhere else in the world.

First of all, whisk 6 egg whites until nice and firm, I always add a few teaspoons of sugar to help this process a long.

Set egg whites aside and prepare rest of batter

Next mix together the following until light, fluffy and cool:
6 (yes six!) egg yolks
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup boiling hot water

2 cups all purpose flour
1 T baking powder (2T elsewhere in world!)
1/2 t salt
4 T - 1/4 cup cacao powder
1 T vanilla essence

With beater blade, fold in egg whites, first a spoonful and then the rest. Do not whisk the whites at this point as it will lose the air and prevent proper rising of cake.

This part, in memory of my childhood, goes straight to my kids! Pour batter into a deep, well greased cake tin as it really rises very high! Bake for 45 min at 350 F or 180 C.

To decorate, I simply break up a slab of Hershey's chocolate bar, pop it in a zipper locker bag and microwave for less than a minute, no steam, no water no problem.

Clip the one bottom corner of the bag and squeeze melted chocolate onto a cookie sheet.

Spread chocolate out until about 1/4 " or so. Place in fridge to set until nice and hard.

With a sharp knife at an angle, push forward until scrolls easy as that! Keep in a airtight container until needed.

I usually heat up a bottle of nutella chocolate spread in leu of icing, but seeing that I didn't feel like going to the store today, I simply eyeballed some icing sugar, cacao, T butter and a very, very small amount of milk and whisked it together.

At this point the cake should be ready. Let the cake rest in the cake tin for 3 minutes exactly. This gives it enough time to firm up but not too long for it to get stuck to the sides of the cake tin. Turn upside down and release onto a serving plate. IMMEDIATELY wrap with plastic film in order to retain moisture....this is a golden rule that I give as a gift to you!!! 

As soon as the cake has cooled down, warm icing sugar for a few seconds in microwave before pouring over cake. Decorate with chocolate scrolls and prepare yourself for the most compliments you have ever received for a chocolate cake!!!

I did not say it is the healthiest of best chocolate cake for your waistline, but indeed the best Chocolate Cake you have ever tasted!!! Give it try and let me know how it came out.


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My 14 year old daughter could not decide on a theme for her party, so we went for soft, faded blue and dark chocolate, so that boys and girls could both feel welcome! We decorated the table with mainly One Dollar store finds and couldn't be happier with the result and Dad with the budget!

All in a row

You could quite easily call this the One Dollar table as I even bought the cute little frames for $1 at Michaels as well as the fab class canisters from Dollar Tree!
Placing everything in rows create not only lovely order but also a sense of sophistication.

Cupcake stand

If you look carefully, you'll notice the tiers of this stand are separated by upside guessed it, $1 candle stick holders, glued to different sized plastic and glass plates.....all from Dollar Tree!

Death by Chocolate!

I must confess, the one area I never skimp on, is good quality food, and for these cupcakes only the best would do! We used a recipe for triple chocolate chip cake complete with a runny mouse centre and Nutella chocolate spread for best kept secret until now...a.k.a. death by chocolate!

Baby burgers

These little sliders were a neat idea as it was simple enough to make and even easier to gobble up! I added the little bows on top for a touch of whimsy!

More Chocolate!!!

What is a party without bundles of chocolate! The ribbon wrapped around the $1 glass canister gives it a slight edge over it's humble beginnings.


The bases of both this marshmallow display as well as the cake stand are simply boxes I covered with fabric. Wasn't able to find nice enough gift wrap at a price low enough for a thrifty spender like me, so I decided to go for this fabric which was on sale!

Intermission fair

I created a coke and popcorn stand on the opposite side of the room where kids could help themselves to some movie fair. Once again, the simplest of eats, placed in rows make for beautiful eye candy!

Paper plates and cups

With not much outlay, a good party was had by all, though none of the kids knew how to open a soda bottle!!! 

Birthday board

To round everything off nicely, I simply wrote this message on a framed chalkboard and hung a ribbon with paper triangles stapled to it on top.


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BEAUTIFULLY displayed rosemary cheese scone!

My mom used to make this scone recipe on a weekly basis as I was growing up. She used to give table laying classes and would often use this very versatile recipe in a number of different ways. I, for one, use it as a crust for quiche or savoury tarts and especially when unannounced guests arrive, and have nothing to serve them in a jiffy, is when my ma's cheese scones come popping out the oven in no time at all!

Rosemary from my garden

This recipe starts out in the garden. I pick a few sprigs of rosemary. For a more Italian fair, use fresh origanum, basil or thyme. You'll need the following too:
2 Cups (500 ml) All purpose flour
1 stick butter 
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 t salt
2 t baking powder
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2-3 sprigs chopped fresh rosemary
Add butter to flour

Rub butter into flour with fingertips until pea sized. This ensures a nice flaky scone. Add chopped rosemary, salt, baking powder and mix through.

Add eggs.

Make a well in the centre of flour and add 2 eggs. Whisk with a fork until blended then slowly add milk until dough becomes quite sticky. Add grated cheese, crumbled feta and whatever else you might feel like, I sometimes add fried onion and spinach or ham and mushrooms.

Place batter in muffin pans.

Place equal amounts of batter in greased muffin pans. I like to use my heart shaped muffin pans as it makes my kids feel extra specially loved.  Bake in a pre heated oven at 350 F or 180 C for 25 minutes. Leave in pans for 3 minutes to give scones time to set. Remove and let cool down. These scones can be served as is, with grated cheese or cream and jam, you decide!

A beautiful plate of cheese scones!

AS EASY AS THAT! From the time a guest arrives in the drive way to when you serve the tea, is how long it takes to make these super easy, delicious cheese scones! ENJOY!!!

- X -

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This most amazing idea I first got on squawkfox and was absolutely bowled out! Imagine making the tastiest, movie like popcorn on the cheap, with only a brown paper bag! Gourmet popcorn without the smelly, expensive, full of additives option of store bought popcorn.

What you will need to make the BEST, EASIEST, CHEAPEST GOURMET POPCORN:
1 Plain Brown paper Bag
half a cup of popcorn
salt to taste

Add kernels
Pour 1/2 cup of kernels in the bag. Add no oil, no butter, no hydrogenated nothing... just plain old popcorn kernels!

Fold bag twice

Simply fold bag closed, do not staple, it will cause sparks, and place in microwave oven. It works exactly like the smelly, expensive type you buy in stores, let the kernels pop until there is almost 2 seconds between pops. Remove from microwave and be prepared to be stunned by your cheap, perfect movie like popcorn!!!

Ready for some seasoning!
Now, popping with excitement, remove the bag from the microwave and sprits either olive oil or canola oil on perfectly popped popcorn and sprinkle with whatever your heart desires!

Enjoy straight from the packet!
AND VOILA! Fabulous Gourmet Pop Corn, at an un-gourmet price!


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The origin of this most delicious dish lies deep in Yiddish culture, most certainly Polish, adopted by the Russians and later brought across the Atlantic by Jewish Immigrants, where it is mainly prepared with a cheese filling and fruit topping. I first came across this heavenly dish at Bistro 211, Carmel, California and when I took the first bite, it felt like I have always loved it but never tasted it before. Strange but true, seeing that everyone that tastes a cheese blintze for the first time feels the same.
Here then the (my) recipe:
Make about 12 Crepes or British/South African pancakes

Fill with two tablespoons of following filling:
Mix together: 3 tubs of cream cheese
2 egg yolks
2 T sugar
1 T vanilla essence
1 T flour

Put filling in centre of crepe and fold sides over until it forms a square envelope. Place in tray and bake for 30 minutes at 350 F or 180 C

Dilute Rasberry Jelly with some water and heat.
Place, melon, banana, strawberries and blueberries on top and drizzle rasberry coolie over.
Finnish of with icing sugar dusting and ENJOYYYYYYY!!!!