Peanut butter mince pies

I was eating toast with peanut butter and fig jam and getting ready to make mince pies when I had a brainwave: what about adding peanut butter to the mince pies? It’s the same combo as PB and jam… the addition ended up being pretty successful (if I do say so myself). The result: super easy mince pies with a twist. I’m going to be making these all this week for my family.

Make about 12 mince pies

1 roll of ready-made shortcrust pastry, defrosted in the fridge
About half a jar of fruit mince (make sure it doesn’t contain suet if you’re vegetarian)
12 tablespoons peanut butter (I prefer organic sugar- and salt- free PB)
1 free-range egg, beaten

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to make it about the thickness of a R5 coin. Cut out circles using a mug or glass and then roll up the remainder of the pastry and roll out again to cut more circles until it is all used up. Fill half of the circles with a tablespoon of peanut butter and a tablespoon of fruit mince  and use the remainding circles as lids, using a bit of water to seal the two together. Pinch the two circles together to seal firmly. Place the mince pies in a greased muffin pan and poke the top of each with a fork. Brush over a bit of beaten egg on top of each mince pie. Place in a 180C oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the mince pies are golden.

Super healthy banana and cinnamon muffins

I had some seriously ripe bananas that were about to expire in my fruit bowl this week, and I hate throwing away food so I had to do something with them. I didn’t have a whole lot of ingredients at home, so I just made up a recipe from what I had and it turned out really well. These healthy banana and cinnamon muffins have no sugar and are low in fat so they’re completely guilt-free. I’ve been eating them as a pre-exercise snack – they’re great if you need something to tide you over if you go for an early morning run.

Super healthy banana and cinnamon muffins

Makes about 14 muffins

  • 3 seriously over-ripe bananas, mashed
  • 175 plain low-fat or fat-free yoghurt
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • A handful of raisins or sultanas (or a mix)
  • A generous pinch of cinnamon
  • A handful of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and linseeds
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup bran

Mix together all the wet ingredients. Add all the dry ingredients one by one, stirring well. Once combined, pour into the mixture into greased muffin pans, filling each pan 3/4 full. Bake in a 180 C oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the muffins start turning golden.

Beetroot and carrot burgers

I recently bought a juicer because I’m completely addicted to carrot and ginger juice and I reckoned it would be cheaper to start making my own. Juicing is a big mission – you need so much fruit and veg to make a small amount of juice (now I know why the juices were so expensive at the health shop). I’m still loving making my own juices though. My favourite combo at the moment is carrot, beetroot, apple and ginger. It’s zingy and fresh and makes me feel healthy just thinking about it.

The only thing with juicing is that you produce so much waste. All the dehydrated stuff you’ve juiced just gets thrown away. I love beetroot burgers (Kauai used to make a delicious one) so I decided to use the carrot, beetroot and ginger pulp that came out of the juicer as the base for burger patties. The result is fibre-rich, dense and slightly crunchy burgers (with the help of seeds and chickpeas) which are incredibly easy to make.

If you don’t have a juicer, you could grate the carrots, ginger and beetroot and then squeeze all the juice out of them. It makes things much easier if the juicer does all the work for you though!

Beetroot and carrot veggie burgers

Makes 6 patties

  • 2 cups of carrot, ginger and beetroot pulp (go easy on the ginger though)
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained and mashed with a fork
  • Half a cup of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and linseeds
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • Soy sauce
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Cumin seeds
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Cayenne pepper

Combine the seeds, pulp, chickpeas and eggs together and mix well. Add a dash of soy sauce, balsamic and tabasco, a generous pinch of cumin and a fair sprinkling of cayenne pepper. Season well with black pepper. Taste the mixture and if it’s a bit bland add more soy, tabasco or balsamic. Mould the mixture into patties and place them on a lightly oiled baking tray. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes at 190 C until slightly hardened on top and then turn over and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve with salad, sweet potato wedges or roast vegetable cous cous.

Zhenjiao (fried dumplings)

I lived in Taiwan for five months a year ago, teaching English to five-year olds. While I missed Western food while I was there, I really got into Taiwanese food culture. It’s so different – most people don’t have ovens, so no roast veggies or lasagne – and many people don’t cook, because they don’t have the time and it’s cheaper to eat out. On almost every pavement in Taipei there is a street food stand or plastic tables and chairs set outside a small restaurant. It’s like that in other countries in Asia – Thailand and Vietnam are the same – where street-side eateries are at the centre of food culture. Taipei has some amazing night markets, where you can find everything from oyster omelettes are centred around food. There’s a constant smell of frying and some overwhelmingly pungent food aromas (like the retchingly unavoidable fermented tofu). My favourite street snacks were dan bing (savoury pancakes fried with an egg and served with chilli and a dark salty sauce), manto (steamed sweet buns), tsong tse (sticky rice in bamboo leaves), bhao zhe gaolizai (steamed dumplings filled with cabbage) and shue jiao (small steamed dumplings). (My pinyin spelling is probably terrible, so if you know the correct spelling of these please let me know!)

I met Taiwanese expats Lisa and Mingwei Tsai recently, and I was so excited when they invited my boyfriend and I to make Taiwanese dumplings with them in their kitchen, because I’ve so missed them and I can’t find them anywhere in Cape Town.  Mingwei owns Nigiro, the tea house inside Origin (tel 021 421 1000) on Hudson Street in De Waterkant, where, in addition to drinking fabulous tea, you can eat Lisa’s fat steamed dumplings (bhao ze gaolizai), which are better than any I ate in Taiwan.

These dumplings are a bit of work, but so worth it. Make them with a couple of people if you can – it makes the work much quicker, and more fun.

The recipe makes 50 small dumplings.

For the dough

150 g bread flour
150 g cake flour
225 ml water
A pinch of salt

For the filling

1 cabbage, chopped
A handful of dried shiitake mushrooms, chopped
3 carrots, grated
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
Sesame oil
Mushroom extract
Chinese five spice

Fry the mushrooms in a bit of oil until softened and add to the cabbage. Mix in the carrot and celery and drizzle over some sesame oil. Add 4 tsp of salt, a grinding of black pepper and generous pinches of Chinese five spice and mushroom extract.

Make the dough by combining the ingredients together to form a dough-like consistency.

Flour a large work surface and roll out the dough quite thin. Cut circles with a glass or a cutter and fill with filling. Press the edges of the dough together to form a crescent-shaped parcel, and make sure that the edges of firmly sealed.

To cook the dumplings, cover the bottom of a large saucepan with a thin layer of oil. Cook the dumplings in batches, laying them out on the bottom of the saucepan in one layer. Cook on a medium heat, adding a ladle of water from time to time and putting the lid on to steam them. They are ready when they’ve gone a bit crispy and have turned golden brown.

To serve, make a dipping sauce of soy sauce mixed with freshly grated ginger. Drizzle over chilli oil if you like a bit of heat.

Chocolate and banana mattress pancake

I got this pancake recipe from my new favourite food blog, afoodieliveshere and tried it out for breakfast on my recent camping trip to Beaverlac in the Cederberg (lovely campsite, by the way). I added cocoa for a bit of chocolateyness, and changed the name to mattress pancakes. This is a no-fuss solid mass of pancake that can be cut up like a pizza to feed your hungry camping friends. Bring along some honey to drizzle over the pancake slices, and you’ll have a breakfast for camping champions.

Makes one giant mattress pancake

1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup cold milk
2 large free-range eggs, beaten
3 T sugar
1 T cocoa powder
1 banana, chopped

If you’re an organised camper, you could mix all the dry ingredients together and store in a tupperware container for your camping trip. If you’re like me and you throw a whole lot of things into a bag when you go on a trip without much organisation, then it’s easy to mix together the ingredients when you’re there. Mix the dry ingredients together first, then make a well in the centre and break in the eggs. Add the milk slowly and mix thoroughly. Mix in the banana and heat up some butter in a frying pan over a gas cooker. Pour in the pancake mixture in one go and cook until the bottom is pretty solid. Flip over with some confidence (you may need an extra pair of hands to help with this) and cook over on the other side until golden.