Monthly Archives: August 2011

PEANUT BUTTER CUPS

i’m no baker. i’ve never been big on baking. there’s something about flour and rolling pins and aprons that never appealed much to me. and also the certainty that i’d always turn fudge into toffee. so i’ve generally always stuck to braai tongs and chillies and massive, manly pepper grinders. but, i DO have a weak spot for reese’s peanut butter cups (which in south africa are stupidly expensive). a big weak spot. and so when i saw a recipe for homemade peanut butter cups on brown eyed baker, well, i just about swooned. and i thought hey, avoid those importation costs, make a peanut butter cup today. and today i tried it. first, a word of encouragement: they’re really quite easy. foolproof even for a non-baker. (actually i messed up my first batch a little, but that’s because i’m more than a fool and i thought i could re-invent how to melt chocolate. i couldn’t.) second, a word of warning: these are so good, and so deceptively rich, that when you go oh i can manage one more mouthful, you soon realise you can’t and you’re suddenly not in the mood to do anything except throw up. this happened to me. and even my 5 year old who loved them so much she did her i-am-in-a-tv-ad-for-food face said dad i shouldn’t have too much of this i think cos it might make me feel sick. be warned.

this recipe is based on brown eyed baker’s recipe, with a few tweaks. i substituted butter for the vegetable shortening because i didn’t have any shortening and also i’d never heard of it. turns out it makes things a little more crumbly, which i didn’t think i’d need. also turns out you can use lard if you’re not a vegetarian, or butter if you don’t have any lard. and you’re not a vegan. then i used about a third of the castor sugar from her recipe because it seemed like there was enough sugar going on in that recipe already, and also because i didn’t have any more in my cupboard. but really, it didn’t need the extra sugar, and when i make them again, i may even cut the sugar down even more. i realised all that castor sugar also thickens the peanut butter mixture, so i added some flour, and it worked really well. then i used chocolate slabs instead of choc-chips. my favourite affordable chocolate here is beacon, and i made 3 batches – for variety (as in the centre pic above: one was pure milk choc, one was milk and white choc mixed, and one was mostly white choc). so here’s the recipe for a single batch:

time: about 1 and a half hours

need: 2 muffin or cupcake-holder baking tray thingies

paper cupcake cups

2 flat baking trays and baking paper

makes: about 2 dozen (or 3 trips to the dentist)

peanut butter – 1 cup (any kind, but preferably NOT the kind that has oil on top when it’s not stirred)

brown sugar – 1/4 cup

butter – 1/2 cup

castor sugar – 1/4 cup

flour – roughly 1/4 cup

chocolate – about 8 slabs of preferred brand (i used beacon milk and ivory cream and mixed them)

in a pan, melt 1/4 cup butter with the brown sugar and peanut butter. when it starts to bubble and the sugar dissolves, take off the heat and slowly stir in the castor sugar and then little by little add the flour and stir. allow to cool for about 10 or 15 mins til the mixture thickens enough to hold a shape. make and arrange small disk shapes with the mixture on the baking paper on the flat baking trays, like fat coins. the diameter should be a little less than the diameter of the paper cups. the thickness could vary – reese’s are pretty thin, i made mine thicker to increase the peanut butter to chocolate taste ratio. and cos it was easier. set aside.

put a paper cup into each muffin/cupcake shape in those baking trays. then melt the chocolate and 1/4 cup butter on low in the microwave, or in a pot over another pot of steaming water. when its liquid, spoon/pour just enough chocolate into the base of each paper cup to line it – between 1 and 3 millimetres maybe. reserve the remaining chocolate – which should be most of it.

put the trays of peanut butter disks, and the paper cups lined with chocolate into the fridge to cool for about 20 mins. then take them out and place a peanut butter disk into each cup on top of the chocolate. then re-melt the remaining chocolate and spoon/pour into each cup until the peanut butter disk is covered. place back in the fridge for another 20 mins.

eat, preferably with a child, and a great deal of restraint.

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THAI LADYBOY CURRY

i have to find a more appropriate name for this meal. something more authentic, perhaps with the words ‘nam pla’ in it. as it is, its a bit of a mix of things, and isn’t really any one thing or another. the ladyboy curry then. or maybe i should just call it recipe number two. anyway, it came from another regular hankering for that fresh fusion of thai tastes, the hot and the sour. and also from a jolt of inspiration from undomestikated’s moqueca – brazilian fish stew. the hankering had been there for a while, and i’d already stocked up on fresh lemongrass and all that hot asian jazz. but i’d been rehearsing all day and felt tired enough not to want to make a green curry from scratch, but felt enough inspiration to try something out. at its heart its a version of a thai green curry – but without the paste-base and some ingredients, and with tomatoes. and it was good. you know how tv chefs say ‘mmm, just smell that, that is going to be SO good’, and then they call over some bemused local sous-chef and hold out a wooden spoon and say ‘what do you make of that, consuela?’ and consuela sips from the spoon and goes ‘mmmm’? well that’s what thai cooking does in its sleep. the ingredients just naturally do that and you just know its going to be SO good and the consuela in you is going mmmm the whole time.

i did it with chicken, but i suspect it would suit fish as much if not more so. there’s a fish-free august drive now, to give the oceans a break and raise awareness of over-fishing, so chicken felt right for now. a vegetarian version would be good too, in which case i’d use more green beans and add mushrooms and pak choi. i left out dried lime leaves as i wasn’t making a paste and they can stay fairly hard if not soaked (or removed); and i left out shrimp paste, or kapi, mostly because after much fumbling and reflection i realised i didn’t have any. but i don’t feel either of these were hugely missed. also i’d forgotten to buy chillies and was out, so i used a few extra dashes of my increasingly powerful homemade chilli oil.

time: about 30 mins

feeds: 3 quite hungry people

chicken breasts – 4, (ideally) free-range, chopped

oil – exactly 4 dashes of strong chilli oil (or 2 good dashes of regular oil, or similar amount of ghee, and then 1-3 chopped green chillies, according to taste and tolerance)

onion – i only used 3 little shallots as helen is still breast-feeding and is trying to avoid lots of onion, but normally i would use at least 1 large onion

fresh ginger – 1 large thumb-size root. like a handyman’s thumb. or a very big hitchhiker. obviously you could also use the more traditional galangal, soaked and chopped.

lemongrass – 2 sticks (outer leaves peeled off and discarded), lightly pounded with a mallet, then finely chopped

lime – 1, zested, and halved

tomatoes – 3, chopped

thai fish sauce, or NAM PLA – 2 dashes, a little more than a tablespoon. too much nam pla, and too much chilli are about the only ways to ruin a thai meal, so start with less and increase to taste

coconut milk – 1 tin

green peppercorns – 1 teaspoon

green beans – a handful, chopped. could use peas or mange-tout or courgettes

fresh basil – about 3 tablespoons, chopped

fresh coriander – 2 handfuls. like boxer’s hands. including stalks. chopped

rice – to serve. i used brown rice, with a handful of red rice – takes an extra 10 mins to cook, but is just a little healthier than white rice.

heat the oil in a wok and add the chicken and onion. after about 6 or 7 minutes add the ginger and lemongrass. just as the chicken begins to brown add the lime zest and tomatoes and cook for another 3 minutes.

(if using fish instead of chicken, start with only onion, then add ginger and lemongrass, cook for another 3 minutes and only add the fish with the tomato and lime zest. if using fresh chillies, add with the tomato and lime zest).

squeeze the juice of the zested, halved limes into the wok, and then toss the squeezed limes in too. add the top third of the tin of coconut milk – the thicker, creamier part – and the fish sauce, the green beans and the peppercorns and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. add the remaining coconut milk, the basil and half the coriander, especially the stalky parts, and cook for a further 4 or 5 minutes. finally, remove the limes.

serve on rice, topped with remaining coriander. go ‘mmmm’ a lot.

for an added flourish to impress the boss, top with a few seeded and very thinly sliced red chillies. i didn’t do this as i don’t have any red chillies. or a boss. or a regular job.

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