Monday, February 3, 2014

Turkish Fig Frozen Yoghurt

One of my childhood foodie dreams was to eat sweet fresh figs. As strange as that may sound, access to fresh figs has been limited by price alone. And that's not to mention that, even when you do get your hands on some reasonably priced figs, they taste like rubbish. It was not until I visited Japan in their summer of 2011 that I was able to enjoy for the first time, the soft and succulent flesh of a sweet fresh fig. It was morning tea I will never forget. 

To compensate for the lack of fresh figs in my life, my mother would buy me dried figs from the supermarket. Despite not being as jaw-dropping amazing as their fresh counterparts, they are absolutely incredible slathered in peanut butter. I used to think that was all that could be done with them (apart from eating them straight out of the packet) until I came across this recipe for froyo with poached figs. Clearly poached figs was simply something I just hadn't heard of before, but I was surprised to learn that it's done using whole dried figs; The whole idea of continuing to blog was to help me learn so I guess it's doing its job! 

The original recipe calls for almonds and pistachios to be used as a garnish  but I didn't have either so I pan-fried some pumpkin seeds instead - it worked out great! And for those of you who are curious: yes, this recipe tastes even better than half-price froyo on Tuesday nights ;) 

Yoghurt ice cream with poached dried figs (adapted from a magazine cutout, the source of which I can't locate)
Serves 4-6


1kg good quality plain yoghurt
8 Tbsp caster sugar 

For the syrup
1 cup water 
1 cup sugar
1 cardamon pod
12 Iranian dired figs/apricots/peaches 

To serve
4 Tbsp slivered almonds 
4 Tbsp pistachios
1 Tbsp caster sugar 


Making the 'ice cream': Place the yoghurt and sugar in a bowl and whisk together. Either place this in an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions, or place in a container in the freezer until the yoghurt is half frozen. If you opt for the latter, whisk the mixture again (or pulse briefly in a food processor) to break up any lumps and then put it back in the freezer until firm. 

Making the syrup: Place the water, sugar and cardamon in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add your dried fruit of choice, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the dried fruit from the syrup with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Return the syrup to the heat and cook until the syrup thickens, then remove from the heat.

Serving: Mix the nuts/seeds and 1 Tbsp sugar together  until well combined. Spoon the ice cream into bowls, add the fruit, and drizzle the syrup over the top. Sprinkle the ice cream with the nut mixture. Eat. 

- Matilda

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pushing Daisies: Perfect Pear Pie

Some time in the last two years, I managed to get myself addicted to binge-watching television programmes. I think it starts out with some Japanese tv dramas, then rewatching the first four seasons of the new Doctor Who because I hate the last two seasons so much, and then to other things. I hate to even think about how many hours I have spent in front of my computer screen, watching television. Grey's Anatomy, House, Game of Thrones, Scrubs, the list goes on. Some, like Grey's and GOT, I won't finish - Grey's because it is over-the-top dramatic  and GOT because I've read the A Song of Ice and Fire books and they are just so much better than the television version. In fact, I would go as far as to say the television adaptation is awful in comparison. George RR Martin, you sir are a literary genius. 

On the other hand, there are programmes that are worth continuing watching. House and Scrubs I will put in that category, more for their relevance (however inaccurate) to my chosen career than anything else. The first four seasons of Doctor Who also make it (I can't resist David Tennant), as does Broadchurch for its heart-wrenching brilliance. Even among these, one stands out: Pushing Daisies. A comedy-drama that revolves Ned the pie maker who has the ability to wake the dead, it is the most unassuming and hilarious work I have ever watched. The bright colours and playful acting make it seem like it should be a programme for children, but the sexual innuendos and underlying darker themes of life/love/death (the usual) make it both heartwarming and thought-provoking for adults.  

GIFs from Tumblr

Despite having been cancelled at the end of the second season, Pushing Daisies made such an impact that one of the pies made by Chuck (Ned's one and only with whom he has an extremely unconventional relationship) for her aunts has been accounted for by none other than Martha Stuart. It was as delicious as they made it look on the show and I have now found my go-to pastry crust, as well as a go-to filling should I wish to make a pie. I suppose I just said  I have a go-to pie, which is true. MAKE THIS. And WATCH ALL TWO SEASONS of Pushing Daisies. You will not regret either one.  Especially the latter - Lee Pace's eyebrows are amazing. 

I got in trouble for not wiping down the table before taking this photo... sorry. We don't usually live and eat in filfth. 

Ned and Chuck's Perfect Pear Pie (inspired by Pushing Daisies; recipe from Martha Stewart)


For the crust 

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon sugar
225g chilled unsalted butter, cut in pieces

¼ to ½ cup ice water

For the filling
1 pie dough for 2 crusts (as per above)
1 cup pecan pieces, toasted
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
½ cup packed dark-brown sugar
½ cups fresh or frozen cranberries
½ pounds pears, peeled, cored, cut into medium pieces
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, in pieces
2 Tbsp corn starch
1 large egg
sanding sugar (optional)


To make the crust: Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter and combine until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the ice water slowly while mixing, just until the dough holds together (do not over-mix). Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide it in two. Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten, and form two discs. Wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

To make the pie: On a lightly floured surface, roll out one half of the dough into a 30cm circle, brush off excess flour, and fit the dough to a 23cm pie dish (obviously mine was a bit smaller than this - I halved the recipe). Press the edges down around the inside, trim the dough to 1-1.5cm over the dish. Roll out remaining half of dough and transfer it to a baking sheet. Chill the pie shell and disk of dough. 

In a large bowl, combine the pecans, cinnamon, salt, sugar, cranberries, pears, butter, and corn starch. Mix well and transfer the mixture to the cold pie shell.

Whisk the egg with 2 teaspoons of water and brush the egg glaze around the rim of the dough. Transfer the cold disk of dough on top, press down gently, and press the top and bottom pieces of dough together, around the rim (you can either do this or do what I did and cut strips of dough to make a lattice pattern). Trim the top dough with scissors to about 1.5cm and fold it under. Crimp the edge of the pie as desired. Brush the surface of the pie with the egg wash. If going for the solid topp, make 3 slits in the top for steam to escape. Sprinkle sanding sugar over the top if desired. Freeze the pie for 30 minutes to firm up the butter and heat the oven to 200
°C, with a rack in the lower third. (I didn't freeze the pie so instead heated up the oven before I started assembling the pie - time is money!). 

Bake the pie for around 20 minutes, or until the crust begins to brown. Reduce the heat to 180
°C and continue to bake until the crust is richly golden brown, rotating as needed, for 40 to 55 minutes. Transfer the pie to a wire cooling rack to cool.

Serving: Cut pie and serve warm with ice cream (this step is mandatory).

- Matilda

P.S. Basically, the facts are these: I need to stop watching television. Well, stop binge-watching it at the very least. Somehow the desire to do such things deserted me during the holidays but I am more than certain that the itch will return come semester one, i.e. today, when this post is published. Here is a public declaration and promise to myself that I will not let myself get sucked into television as I did in 2013! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

30 Things to Do with Eggshells by The Prairie Homestead

List compiled by Jill on The Prairie Homestead.

**It is very important to only use eggshells from healthy, natural chickens if you or your animals are going to ingest the shells. Eggs from factory farms are not only less nutritious, but can also carry harmful pathogens. I personally have no problem eating raw eggs from my own free-range hens, but I wouldn’t do so with eggs from the store.**

1. Feed them to your chickens. Boost your flock’s calcium intake by crushing the shells and feeding them back to your hens. My girls much prefer crushed egg shells over the oyster shell supplement from the feed store. I wrote a post a while back that has all the details of collecting, crushing, and feeding the shells. 
2. Use the shell’s membrane as an all-natural bandage. I just discovered this idea, so I have yet to try it, but what a cool concept! The membrane of the shell is reported to help promote healing in cuts and scratches. This post should be able to answer most of your questions about using membranes as a first-aid tool. 
3. Boil the shells in your coffee. My first thought when I read this idea was ”Why on earth would you do that?” But apparently, people have been boiling eggshells in their coffee for centuries to help clarify the grounds and reduce bitterness. I have yet to give this a try myself, but it might be worth a try. Here is a Boiled Eggshell Coffee tutorial.
4. Sprinkle the shells around your garden to deter pests. Soft-bodied insects like slugs or snails don’t like crawling over sharp pieces of shell.
5. Give your tomatoes a calcium boost. Blossom-end rot is a common tomato problem, but I recently learned that it is actually caused by a calcium deficiency in the plant. Experienced gardeners often place eggshells in the bottom of the hole when transplanting their tomato plants to help combat this problem. I’m definitely trying this next year!6. Eat them. Yeah, I know. First I told you to eat your weeds, and now I’m saying to eat eggshells…Hey, I never claimed to be normal. ;) But yes, many folks actually do eat eggshells for their awesome amounts of calcium.  I’ve never actually tried it, but I know that several of my readers have. This post will give you all the info you need to make your own calcium-rich eggshell powder.
7. Use them to start seedlings. If homemade paper pots aren’t your style, give some of your smaller seedlings a start in rinsed-out shells. This post from Apartment Therapy will give you all the info and photos you need to get you started.
8. Toss them in the compost pile. Add calcium to your compost by adding shells to your pile or tumbler.
9. Sow directly into the soil. If none of the previous idea sound appealing and you don’t have a compost pile, then you can simply turn crushed shells directly into your garden patch. It’s still better than sending them to the garbage.
All of the following ideas were submitted by readers of The Prairie Homestead:
10. Potting Soil Addition: Used coffee grounds and egg shells are wonderful in potted plants. I use a 1:4 ratio. (From Tala)
11. Blade Sharpening: Keep them in the freezer and use to clean and sharpen blender blades by adding water. Then pour the mixture into your compost bin. (From Greenie and Ceridwyn)
12. Canine Remedy: I save mine and let them dry out, when I have a good size amount I crush them, then use a coffee grinder and make them into a powder. If one of my dogs get diarrhea, I just sprinkle a couple teaspoons of the powder on their food for a day and the diarrhea goes away. (From Terri)
13. Calcium Pills: I save my eggshells in a large bowl, then I steam them to sanitize them and let them dry. Then I grind them down (I use a vitamix but I think any blender would do if you crush them a little first, or just do it in a coffee grinder) into a fine powder and spoon them into 00 gelatin capsules for homemade calcium pills. (From Mari)
14. Mineral supplement: I sometimes soak egg shells in lemon water for a few weeks in the fridge. Then I add a tiny bit to my shakes to get extra minerals. (From Jill)
15. Tooth RemineralizingNatural has an article about using comfrey root & fresh egg shell (organic & pasture raised) for re-mineralizing your teeth.  Not sure about this particular method, but it would make sense due to the healing properties of the comfrey AND the minerals in the egg shell.  (From Jennifer)
16. Sidewalk chalk: 5-8 egg shells (finely ground), 1 tsp hot water, 1 tsp flour, food coloring optional…mix and pack into toilet tissue rolls and let dry. (From Linda)
17. First Aid Treatment: Fresh egg membranes applied, then allowed to dry, will “draw” minor infections: splinter, pimple, boil, etc. (From Anne)
18. Making Water Kefir: You can also use egg shell to nourish your water kefir grains.  You just add 1/4 of a clean egg shell to your water kefir while it’s brewing.  We’ve done this instead of buying mineral drops and it seems to work great. (From Jenna, Sherry, and Tiffani)
19. Christmas Ornaments: When I found a large cache of slightly-flawed plastic suncatcher ornaments to paint cheap at the local flea market a few years ago, I snatched a big bunch of them up.  I mixed regular acrylic colors with Elmer’s glue and various “texturizing” elements to pack those suncatchers with.  I tried everything from small seeds and spices, to sifted sand, and my favorite turned out to be crushed egg shells.  They were no longer transparent, but the flaws were covered, and they make very nice Christmas tree ornaments, wall hangings, mobiles, etc.  (From Sweetp)
20. Make Calcium Citrate: Make your own calcium citrate using only fresh farm raised, preferably organic, egg shells.  Rinse residual egg out of the shells and air dry. Crush the shell and add 1t. lemon juice per egg shell and cover.  The lemon juice will dissolve the shell and there you have it… calcium citrate. (From Mary Anne)
21. Calcium-Rich Vinegar: I was taught by my herbalist teacher to make a calcium rich vinegar by adding calcium rich herbs (nettles, dock, etc) and one clean high quality eggshell to apple cider vinegar.  It needs to infuse for at least six weeks, then be decanted.  But the calcium from the shell and the plants goes into the vinegar and can be used as regular vinegar would be in salad dressing, over cooked greens, etc.  (From Sara)
22. Pan Scrubber: Crushed egg shells work great to scrub pans that have food stuck in them. Yes they will break up, but they still do the job! (From Rose)
23. Ice Cream Addition (?): I was told companies put egg shell powder in cheap ice cream to add extra calcium.  I imagine you could do this when making homemade ice cream as well. (From Brenda)
24. Comestic Booster: Make it into a powder and add a little bit to your nail polish to strengthen nails. Take that same powder and put it into ice cube trays with water and rub it on your face– it helps reduce the look of wrinkles. Put the powder in your lotion– it softens your hands. (From Amy)
25. Add to Broth/Stocks: For extra calcium and minerals. (From Becky and Tiffani)
26. Arts and Crafts: Use to make mosaics or mixed-media art projects. (From Carol and Janet)
27. House Plant Booster: My Grandmother kept eggshells covered with water in a mason jar which she used to water her African violets. She had the most magnificent plants imaginable! (From Cynthia)
28. Wild Bird Treat: You can also feed them to the birds. They’re high in calcium and are great for birds in the spring when they are laying eggs– just make sure to sterilize them. Bake them in the oven for 20 minutes at 250 F and crush them. (From Susanne)
29. Laundry Whitener: To help your whites not to turn greyish, put a handful of clean and broken down eggshells and 2 slices of lemon in a little cheesecloth bag with your clothes in the washer. It will prevent the soap deposit that turns the white clothes grey.(From Emilie)
30. Garbage Disposal Cleaner: Toss a few shells down your disposal to help freshen things up. (From Carol)

And that's it! Click on the link above to see more reader suggestions that were submitted to The Prairie Homestead :)

- Matilda 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Espresso Ice Cream

For years I begged for an ice cream maker: "We'll save so much money on ice cream!" ... "We'll get to eat more of a variety of ice creams!" ... "It'll be fun!!" Before I realised, I am no longer a child. I have my own bank account. I have my own PayPal account. I have my own eBay account. I can buy my own ice cream maker! And so I did just that. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year Matilda, may you have a good time and try not to gorge yourself on too much ice cream.

Blue Ribbon is our 'cheap' ice cream brand of choice and when I was little, they made an absolutely delicious coffee flavour. Maybe people weren't buying it (oh don't worry, we were) or maybe the powers that be just decided that they didn't like coffee, but one day Blue Ribbon's coffee ice cream just did not appear  on the supermarket shelves. So after a test run of the ice cream machine with some peach froyo, it seemed fitting that I break in the machine with my family's favourite ice cream from my childhood. 

Usually food tastes better in your memories than when you eat it again after a long time, but with this ice cream it was not so. Good luck trying to stop at one or two scoops... 

Espresso Ice Cream (from Brown Eyed Baker)
Makes approximately 1L 


1½ cups whole milk
¾ cup granulated sugar
1½ cups whole bold-roast coffee beans
Pinch of salt
1½ cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ tsp finely ground espresso


1. Warm the milk, sugar, whole coffee beans, salt, and ½ cup of the cream in a medium saucepan. Once the mixture is warm, cover, remove from the heat, and let sit  at room temperature for 1 hour.

2. Rewarm the coffee-infused milk mixture. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm coffee mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

3. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (apparently it should register 76°C on an instant-read thermometer but I don't have one of those so I just winged it). Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Press on the coffee beans in the strainer to extract as much of the coffee flavor as possible, then discard the beans. Mix in the vanilla and the finely ground espresso and stir until cool over an ice bath.

4. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

5. Try not to eat in one sitting. 

- Matilda

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In Honour of Jacques Kallis: Melktert

South Africa may have won the Test series against India with their win in Durban at the end of December last year, but they also suffered possibly their biggest loss ever: Jacques Kallis. After an astounding career spanning 18 years Kallis has provided not only his nation with a cricketer to be proud of, but a cricketer the world can hold in awe and respect. The numbers speak for themselves.

Image from Zinara's Tumblr

Growing up, watching the Saffas play was always a source of frustration for me. And it was because of this one man: Jacques Kallis. It didn't seem to matter what our top bowlers (or batsmen) did, he would find a way to defy them and put his team in a strong position at the end of a day's play. Even when his form slumped, he was still formidable. It seemed that just his presence on the field was enough to make the Aussie boys look like silly schoolchildren. Sure, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are scary as hell, but they don't have the same feeling about them as Kallis does. It would be a lie to say I am happy to see him leave the International Test arena; I would have loved to have watch him play in Australia just one more time. 

Getty Images
In honour of this great South African all-rounder,  I decided to make a South African milk tart, or melktert in Afrikaans. It is very Dutch, so I'm not sure whether or not you would call it a traditional recipe... but in today's post-colonisation world, it's hard to draw lines as to where 'traditional' begins and ends. Either way, it is good to eat and that is the most important thing. Much lighter than European or Chinese custard/egg tarts, it is unique in its milky taste.  It is absolutely delicious topped with berries and some whipped cream. 

My tart pan wasn't as wide and deep as the one used for the original recipe so I made another mini-tart with the leftover pastry, as well as a baked custard with the remaining filling.  I've always wanted to make baked custard so I unintentionally manged to kill two birds with one stone! 

Milk Tart (from Delicious Magazine, April 2006)


For the crust

250g plain flour
110g icing sugar, sifted
110g unsalted butter. chilled
1 egg

For the filling 

2 cups milk
1 cinnamon stick
2 eggs, serparated
1 Tbsp cornflour
5 Tbsp plain flour, sifted 
5 Tbsp caster sugar 
½ tsp baking powder
25g butter, softened 
½ Tbsp ground cinnamon 
1 Tbsp icing sugar, sifted


To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 180°C and lightly grease a 24cm loose-bottomed tart pan. Whiz flour, icing sugar and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and continue to process just until the mixture forms a smooth ball. Cover it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface, then line the pan. Trim off any excess pastry, refrigerate for 10 minutes, line the tart pan with baking paper, fill with rice and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and bake for a further 5 minutes.

To make the filling: Place the milk and cinnamon stick in a pan. Bring to scalding boil, remove from heat, then allow to infuse for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven to 170°C. Place yolks, flours, sugar and baking powder in a bowl, add a little infused milk, and stir to form a paste. Stir in the remaining milk, discard cinnamon, return the mixture to the pan over very low heat and cook for 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat, beat in butter, cover top with baking paper and cool.

Whisk eggwhites, then fold them into the custard. Pour the custard into the pastry case and bake for 25 minutes or until the filling is set and slightly puffed. Remove, cool slightly, and sift combined cinnamon and icing sugar over top. 

Serve with fruit and cream.

Getty Images
Thank you for everything, Mr Kallis. It has been an absolute pleasure and an honour to have been able to watch you play. All the best for the future and I hope South Africa is able to manage without you being around the team... although I wouldn't mind if they let us beat them in the upcoming Test series!

- Matilda