Tag Archives: fruit.

The Garden of Eden at Babylonstoren

12 Feb

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You have to see this place to believe it. It is heaven on earth. An eight acre fruit and vegetable farm growing over 300 varieties of plants, each one edible and grown as biologically as possible. The picture below is of an heirloom variety of pumpkin called Turkish Turban.
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Fruit and veg are harvested year round for use in their restaurant, Babel. The garden is divided into fifteen areas for vegetables, fruits, berries, bees, indigenous plants, ducks and chickens. Gravity feeds water into waterways from a stream into the garden as it has done for 300 years.

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You can take a guided tour of the farm, as we did, before enjoying a lunch made from freshly picked fruit and vegetables you have just seen growing. Don't forget to stop off for a fresh herb tea in the beautiful greenhouse before lunch.

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You can pick your own blend of fresh herbs from the garden. I chose lemon verbena, pineapple sage and mint which was refreshing and light and made up for the beautiful rose water and strawberry cupcake we couldn’t resist to go with it.

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Lunch at Babel is a joyful celebration of fresh local produce served in a natural and generous way.
The maxim of the restaurant’s creator, Maranda Engelbrecht Cape Town’s food and style guru, is that the food should be served as naturally as possible, not messed about with or chopped into oblivion. Pick, clean and serve is her approach and it works. You really get that “fresh from the garden to the table” feeling.

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The restaurant is in a converted cow shed with floor to ceiling glass walls and white painted original brick. It is light, informal and incredibly chic. The menu reflects the seasons and what has been harvested that day. The salads are either red, green or yellow and abundant with beautiful produce in that colour. Speaking to Maranda she told me that she wanted the fruit and vegetables to be the main ingredients and the meat and fish to be additional. We chose the yellow which included edible lilies, passion fruit and carrot, papaya, tamarillo, pineapple, nectarines, yellow heirloom tomatoes, roasted corn and melon. You could add smoked trout, chicken or yoghurt cheese but it was perfect without.

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It is the attention to detail that makes this such a memorable experience. The freshly made bread was served with a herb oil made from a mixture of herbs from the garden.

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We were given an aperitif of chenin grapes and cheesecake mouse which was stunning.

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I ordered the Artichoke & Goats Cheese Tart with caramelised onion, tamarillo & basil for my main.

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The pastry was so crumbly and light and the filling creamy and delicious. All the main courses come with chips and vegetables. Now about those chips….

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They were the best I’ve ever tasted. The Washer Up (who makes amazing chips) was not pleased to be knocked off the top spot but these were special. Thick and chunky,hand cut, very crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy in the middle. The perfect chip served with course sea salt, cracked pepper and fresh lemon to squeeze over. The Washer Up insists it must be a superior potato to the one he uses. Something about the workman always blaming his tools comes to mind.

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After lunch we had the absolute pleasure of meeting with Maranda Engelbrecht one of the driving forces behind this incredible concept. She let us have a look around her new venture there that is almost ready to launch. Another converted barn being made into a delicatessen and bakery selling freshly baked breads, homemade charcuterie and cheeses as well as a wine tasting area. Is there no end to this woman’s talents? She is leading the food revolution in South Africa and I, for one, am definitely on board.

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Thanks Maranda, it was a pleasure….

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Quince Frangipane Tartlets

2 Dec

Quince are definitely an unusual and underrated fruit. Until I moved to Spain I had never even seen one let alone tasted one. The Spanish love the quince and make an exceedingly sweet paste/jelly called Dulce de Membrillo that is delicious served with Manchego cheese. It’s a classic tapa. If you would like to make some, Chica Andaluza has the recipe.

They look like a big yellow, gnarly apple and have a kind of peach fluff on the skin when they are on the tree. The flavour and texture are similar to an apple but it has a delicate floral perfume. They are in season here at the moment so I wanted to make something gorgeous with them to showcase their delicious flavour.

Continue reading

Flax Seed, Raisin and Date Breakfast Loaf

14 Nov

This is the bread that I served with my Goat’s Cheese Brulee. It also the bread that I have had for breakfast every day since the first time I made it two weeks ago. I love it.

It is packed with seeds and fruit and sweetened with honey. There is no yeast involved so no kneading, no proving and no waiting two hours for it to double in size. You just mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, tip it into a lined loaf tin and bake it for 1 hour 50 minutes. Continue reading

Unbelieveably Easy Fresh Fig and Almond Ice Cream

16 Aug

This ice cream is amazingly simple to make and it’s vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free and guilt-free. It also tastes lovely. Don’t believe me? Just try it and see. You’re going to love me for this, I promise.

As you probably know I have a huge bag of fresh figs in my freezer (thanks Leigh) and am desperately trying to use them up. The thing is they don’t seem to be going down.  I’ve made Fig Chutney, Fig Jam, Fig Muffins, Fig Granola Crumble, and just recently Fig & Feta Sambouseks.

While I was out walking this morning with the dog, taking pictures of  figs, I felt something crunching under my feet. I  looked down and saw that I was walking over almonds (not Driving Over Lemons).  In the tree above my head I saw that the almond kernels are now hatching out of their furry jackets and falling to the ground.

I picked up as many as I could carry and took them home. The thing is I don’t have any nutcrackers but they look great in the pictures. I must buy some nutcrackers though.

Anyway, back to the ice cream. I’ve seen a few recipes recently for an ice cream made just using frozen bananas. You just freeze them and then whiz them in a blender, that’s it. So I threw a couple of bananas that were going a bit brown into the freezer.

The next day when I went to retrieve them I realised that it was going to be impossible to peel the things because the skins were frozen solid. I’m such an idiot, you are supposed to peel and chop them up first!

Thankfully I found Sawsan’s recipe which explained this in detail so I tried again (with different bananas). I added some coconut milk to get it going, grated coconut and lime zest too. You can eat it like a slushy straight away or freeze it for a few hours to firm it up.

While I was looking in the freezer I saw the huge bag of figs and wondered if it would work with them just as well. So I tried them, and it did. I used low-fat coconut milk and ground almonds for creaminess and vanilla extract for a little sweetness.  I’m sure Greek yoghurt would be lovely in this too if you didn’t want to use coconut milk.

So there it is. A simple ice cream made without an ice cream maker or all that tedious stirring every hour. Just use frozen fruit and blend it with coconut milk or yoghurt and add any other flavourings you like.

Fresh Fig and Almond Ice Cream Recipe

Makes about 1/2 litre, easily doubled, vegan, gluten-free

  • 8 fresh figs (frozen for 24 hours before using)
  • about 200 ml (1/2 tin), low-fat coconut milk, shake the tin before opening
  • 55 gr (1/2 cup) ground almonds
  • a few drops of almond extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan for garnish

Take the figs out of the freezer, quarter them and put them in a blender or food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Pulse to get it going then blend until well mixed and smooth. Taste, if you want it sweeter add some honey.

Eat straight away if you can’t wait or pour into an ice cream tub and freeze for a couple of hours or more until firm. That’s it. How easy is that?

Serve sprinkled with the toasted flaked almonds.

The possibilities are endless. I want to try mango and banana next time with coconut milk. If you want to add some texture with nuts or broken up cookies, (I’m thinking crushed Amaretti biscuits) stir them through after you’ve blended then freeze as usual.

Just remember to peel and chop the bananas, if using, before you freeze them…..

Things That made Me Smile Today……………..

We picked up our new cushions at the weekend for the banquette seat on our terrace.

I’m really pleased with them. The guy that made them has done a fantastic job.

I’m thinking “Ralph Lauren in Provence”….

I just wish it would cool down a bit so I could sit outside and enjoy them!

Mint Julep Peaches via Iran

5 Jul

I’ve been saving this recipe for a long time, waiting for when peaches came into season here. There’s quite a complicated reason why I wanted to try it so much, that I will explain. But first, here are the beautiful peaches. I was so happy to see them.

  I read a book called Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. Set in Iran in the late 90’s, it is a true account of a teacher and her former students, seven young women, meeting every Thursday to discuss forbidden works of Western literature.

The books discussed are Pride & Prejudice, Lolita and The Great Gatsby. Their personal stories are intertwined with those they are reading, creating a rare glimpse into women’s lives in revolutionary Iran.

Reading about these classics made me want to discover them for myself. I am particularly interested in The Great Gatsby but still have not got around to purchasing a copy, mainly because most of my time is now spent cooking, photographing and blogging about food. That leaves little time for anything else.

 Which brings me back to the peaches. I was watching an episode of Nigella’s Forever Summer when she started talking about The Great Gatsby too, this is what she said:

There’s something about mint juleps that I associate with the deep heat of midsummer. I have to say this association is an entirely literary one: I’ve never sat in the wilting sun drinking a mint julep in my life; the most I can muster is a few in cold college rooms in my cocktail-drinking student years (which certainly dates me). But there is, I always remember, I hope not erroneously, from The Great Gatsby, that pivotal scene, when they’re all sitting around in the airless heat, deranged, before everything happens, drinking mint juleps. Anyway, there is something intensely summery – leafy, fresh, spicily aromatic – about these peaches, poached in sugar-syrup and bourbon and sprinkled with mint”.

That was it, I was hooked. I had no choice but to make them. I don’t have time to read the book but I can make the Mint Julep Peaches. It’s a definite case of food over fiction at this moment in time.

In case you are interested, this is how you make  a Mint Julep:

 From drinksmixer.com

4 fresh mint sprigs
2 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 tsp powdered sugar
2 tsp water
Muddle mint leaves, powdered sugar, and water in a collins glass. Fill the glass with shaved or crushed ice and add bourbon. Top with more ice and garnish with a mint sprig. Serve with a straw.
 
Mint Julep Peaches Recipe
 
Serves 2 – 3, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer
  • 350 ml water
  • 350 gr caster sugar
  • 125 ml bourbon
  • 4 peaches, white flesh with pink skins if possible
  • fresh mint leaves & sprigs to garnish

Put the water, sugar and 100 ml of the bourbon in a large frying pan, swirl it about to start dissolving the sugar, then put it over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Let it boil away for about 2 minutes then turn it down and let it simmer.

Meanwhile, cut the peaches in half and remove the stones if possible (you can remove them later when cooked if not). Put the peaches, cut side down, into the gently bubbling syrup and poach for a couple of minutes before turning them over and poaching for another 2 or 3 minutes cut side up.

It depends on the ripeness of your peaches as to how long they need.  You can test the cut side with a fork to see if they are tender but not too soft. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate and continue until all the peaches are cooked.

Pour any of the pink syrup on the plate back into the poaching liquid. Then measure 100 ml of the liquid into a small saucepan with the remaining 25 ml bourbon (or maybe a bit more), put on the heat and boil until reduced by a third. Don’t reduce it too much or you will get a toffee- like syrup that won’t pour out of the jug and hardens on contact with the plate (like I did)! Luckily I still had the rest of the poaching liquid to use.

Meanwhile, carefully peel off the skins of the peaches, they should come away easily. You can leave them, cut side down, on a plate covered with cling-film until you are ready to serve them.

Pour the reduced syrup into a jug and leave to cool. You can freeze the rest of the poaching liquid to use next time, just add a bit more water and bourbon and reheat.

To serve place 2 or 3 peach halves cut side down on a plate and pour over the thick pink syrup. Sprinkle over some chopped mint and garnish with a few sprigs.

Retire to a shady spot, sit back and enjoy……

Individual Fig, Apricot and Almond Granola Crumbles

3 Jul

Breva is the Spanish name for the early crop of figs that ripen around the time of the festival of San Juan (the longest day of the year) at the end of June beginning of July. They are very well prized for their size. Larger than the later crop of  Higos, they have a distinctive pear shape and are not as sweet. There are different colours ranging from a yellowy-green to a purpley-black.

While I was clambering up a slope and balancing on one leg trying to get a decent picture of these brevas on a tree at the side of the road where I walk with the dog, the lady from the finca (farm) called out to ask if  there were any brevas there.

After almost falling over from shock at the unexpected voice through the trees, I hurriedly explained, through my embarrassment, that I was taking pictures (while waving my camera in her face) and not stealing her lovely fruit. I needn’t have worried she wasn’t at all bothered and wouldn’t let us go without taking a large handful of the softest juiciest figs you have ever seen.

I decided to make a “healthy” crumble with these delicious brevas and a layer of almonds because I saw some growing on the same finca.

When I got home I saw that I had some apricots in my fruit bowl that weren’t going to last another day so I added those in too. Apricot and almond is a classic combination that goes really well with the fresh figs.

Don’t bother to peel the figs, just wash and slice them. Stone and quarter the apricots and layer them with the figs in the ramekins . You don’t need to add any sugar, the fruit is sweet enough.

Sprinkle over a few drops of almond extract (or Amaretto) and then scatter a thin layer of flaked almonds over the fruit.

For the crumble topping I used some of my homemade granola that I had saved before adding the dried fruit to it. Add a generous layer to the top of the ramekins and bake for around 12-15 minutes.

Individual Fig, Apricot & Almond Granola Crumbles

makes 3 deep individual ramekins, vegetarian, gluten-free

  • 3 large figs (brevas), washed & sliced
  • 3 apricots, stoned & quartered
  • a few drops of almond extract per crumble (or 1 tsp amaretto per crumble)
  • a handful of flaked almonds
  • homemade granola (without the dried fruit)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Layer the figs and apricots (1 each per person) in the ramekins, add a few drops of almond extract (or 1 tsp amaretto) to each followed by a thin layer of flaked almonds. Top with a generous amount of the granola (without dried fruit) and bake for 12 – 15 minutes taking care not to burn the topping.

You can serve it as it is in the ramekin it doesn’t actually need anything with it, but…..

If you like you can carefully remove the crumble from the ramekin (I got The “Washer Up” to do it, it was his idea!)

And serve it with a blob of vanilla ice cream. If you are feeling really decadent I’m sure it would be lovely with some Amaretto-spiked whipped cream too. This was my dad’s idea. I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t be improved by adding Amaretto cream to it though. Must be in the genes…..!

Buen Provecho!

Braised Quince with Grilled Manchego Cheese

3 Nov

Manchego & quince is a typically Spanish combination. The contrast of the sharp, cured sheep’s cheese with the jelly like sweet fruit paste called Dulce de Membrillo is a classic tapas dish. Served with triangles of the quince paste on top of triangles of Manchego or even on cocktail sticks a la cheese & pineapple.

To be honest I find the Dulce far to dulce (sweet) and the grainy texture offputting. So when we saw some quince growing I decided to buy one and see if there is another way to prepare it. Speaking to the senora in the market, I asked how you know when they are ripe. She said that you cannot eat them raw and they have to be cooked for along time and then she started talking about, muslin & hanging for days at which point I switched off, I don’t have the patience for that, but I bought one anyway.

Searching the internet for easier ways of preparing quince I came across a gorgeous blog called The Traveler’s Lunchbox which had a fantastically simple recipe for braised quince, which I just had to try..

Braised Quince

Serves 2 – 4 with cheese

  • 1 large quince
  • about 250 ml water
  • 50 gr sugar
  • the zest of 1/2 lemon

First heat the oven to 160degrees. Wash and dry the quince then halve them or cut into wedges. Place in a baking tray and pour the water on top and sprinkle over the sugar and lemon zest. Cover the tray tightly with aluminium foil and roast in the oven for around three hours.

You will know it’s ready when the quince is completely soft and the cooking syrup is a deep ruby-pink – leave them in the oven a bit longer if necessary. Take the tray out of the oven, remove the cooked fruit and strain the syrup into a jar. I didn’t have a lot of syrup as I only roasted one quince but if you do more you can use the syrup as a quince cordial to serve with chilled cava or champagne as an unusual cocktail or in make a jug of the cordial mixed with sparkling water & ice.

To eat the quince, simply remove the papery peel and cut the soft fruit from the core. Serve slivers of the quince on slices of cured Manchego or other strong, sharp cheese. The combination is lovely and the braised fruit is so much easier and tastes fresher and less sweet than the paste/jelly.

For a delicious lunch I drizzled some olive oil over a halfed baguette, added slices of Manchego and the braised quince slivers and put it under a hot grill for a few minutes to melt the cheese. I love finding new ingredients especially when they’re beautiful like this. If you see some in the market buy them and become a fan….

Walking For Inspiration

18 Sep

This is basically a food blog set up to share my insane love of food with like minded people. We live in a small village in Andalucia & every morning we take our crazy dog Rufus for a walk in the “campo”. We walk past small farms growing fruit & vegetables which inspires me to cook with seasonal produce & come up with recipes using these ingredients.

I am a vegetarian but my partner Allen is not. We eat vegetarian food at home all the time and we are constantly surprising ourselves with new delicious dishes. I am really conscious of not being a “vegetarian” blog as I want everyone to try these gorgeous dishes & not even notice that they are vegetarian!

Rufus At Home

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feel good food that's good for you

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