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A Trip of a Lifetime on the Blue Train

July 17, 2015

20141009_161851Mid 2014 I was wandering down the aisle of our local grocery store and my eye spotted a colourful box of custard. Now….for me to buy custard is a rare event but the interesting wording that caught my eye made me reach out and lift the box of custard off the shelf and place it into my trolley amidst all the healthy LCHF and banting produce that I was purchasing that day! You see, it wan’t just any box of custard. It was a First Choice box of custard and it had blazoned across the front in bright cobalt blue a picture of the luxurious Blue Train and the words Pour Your Heart Out and win a romantic trip for two on the Blue Train! A bucket list item for my hubby and I if ever there was one and one which we knew that we would never be able to tick off the list under normal circumstances. But then….sometimes,in amongst the curveballs that wreak havoc, life gives you a wonderful opportunity! I brought that box of custard home and immediately sent off the sms as per the instructions on the box. After the box had been depleted of the delicious custard inside…served as treats to our grandsons when they visited, I washed and washed it until it was spotless,then dried it for a few days, giving strict instructions that it was not to be thrown into the garbage as I was going to win that trip and I needed the box as proof of purchase. It resided on the counter in the kitchen for almost 3 months while I dreamed about that trip on the magnificent moving 5 star hotel that is the Blue Train, the ultimate in luxurious accommodation and personal service to kings and presidents….and regular folk like us ūüôā Just dreaming about it and reading up about it introduced me to a world of grace, elegance and the romance of a bygone era but very modern and definitely of today’s world when you experience it. ¬†

And then it happened….one¬†Friday¬†morning early October I received a call that confirmed what I had known in my heart all along…..a call asking if I had entered the First Choice Pour Your Heart Out Competition. With my heart thumping out a tune in my chest and throat I answered in the affirmative and was asked to forward my contact details and certified copies of our identity documents to an email address. I spent the weekend in a tailspin, not sure if I had actually won or not. On the ¬†Monday I received another call cnfirming that my hubby and I were one of the very fortunate couples to have won a 27 hour ¬†trip on the Blue Train. We had to choose which journey we would prefer, either southbound from Pretoria to Cape Town with a short stopover in Kimberley which included an historical tour and visit to the Big Hole and open Mine Museum or the northbound trip from Cape Town to Pretoria with a stopover in Matjiesfontein with a similar historical tour. We decided on the southbound journey as I have never been to Kimberley and wanted to see the Big Hole. Included in the prize was an airflight to Johannesburg, transport to Pretoria and a nights accommodation at a luxury hotel!

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We chose our date and all the bookings and planning was done faultlessly by Carole, PA to the CEO of Woodlands Dairy and Club Travel Algoa Bay.The level of service and assistance we received was fantastic and Carole went way beyond the call of duty to accommodate us for the journey and date we requested. Early morning Nov 18th found us dropped off at Cape Town International Airport¬†by Care Transport and so our adventure began! ¬†We were flown via SAA to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg where we were picked up by our shuttle¬†and driven to¬†The Sheraton Hotel¬†in Pretoria. Yip! The Sheraton! The spoiling had begun! We were warmly welcomed and whisked into the hotel foyer and up to reception by the delightful Socrates. Our sign-in was flawless and we were given a delicious mango and granadilla cocktail to sip on and a hot towel to wipe and refresh our travel weary hands. We were handed our access card and escorted¬†into a lift by¬†Socrates, who was handling our baggage, and taken to the executive floor of the hotel and ushered into the Marula suite, a delightful space with lounge, bedroom, gorgeous bathroom with Bvlgari toiletries and a bed big enough to easily accommodate a family of 4! When we drew the curtains the view absolutely captivated us‚Ķ. the magnificent Union Buildings, perched atop Meintjies Kop and the terraced gardens with huge 9000 seat amphitheater dominated the skyline and filled our view up! The Union Buildings, designed by¬†Herbert Baker and built from light sandstone, overlooks the city. It is built in a mixture of architectural styles –¬†Italian Renaissance, Neoclassical, Cape Dutch and Edwardian architecture and is the official seat of the South African government and also houses the offices of the president of South Africa. After we had settled into our suite we took a walk through the beautiful terraced gardens where thousands of indigenous plants grow and gazed upon the magnificent¬†building and statues. After our walk we met up for a drink with lifelong friends Peter and Mary and then enjoyed a light meal and a delicious bottle of wine in the ¬†tea lounge relaxing and listening to the smooth crooning from a singer in the corner of the lounge.¬†We fell asleep that night, in that massive¬†¬†bed, watched over by the 9 meter high bronze statue of a benevolent looking, smiling Nelson Mandela, our Madiba with arms outstretched as if to embrace¬†and protect us.

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After a good night’s sleep we were woken by a very early morning wake up call. Our shuttle arrived to pick us up promptly from the hotel and we were driven through the early morning commuters to the beautiful old Pretoria Station. We were greeted by Blue Train porters who tagged and whisked our luggage out of sight very efficiently and we were directed around the corner to the Blue Train entrance where the red carpet awaited. We felt like celebrities arriving at an important event ūüôā Once we had our photographs taken at the entrance we were ushered into the building where hubby registered us both and we sat down to wait in the lounge. We were served tea and coffee and rusks and while waiting we were met by the kitchen manager who explained about the two meal sittings and times of meals. Unfortunately there was a large group of foreign tourists on board and they had the first sitting which meant that we would always be the second sitting with dinner happening very late. Then we sat and waited some more….and we waited. Eventually we were told that the train was running late because there was a cable issue. And we waited some more. Finally we were told that the train had arrived at the station and the staff all filed in and were introduced to us. We were ushered out by suite number, met by our personal butler and hurried through and onto the train. We were shown to our suite which, on first impressions, certainly¬†lived up to its reputation of¬†luxury and comfort. During the first little while on board while everyone was settling in lots of staff came and introduced themselves to us, explained how everything worked, took care of all our initial needs and gave us all the literature to fill in etc. Very efficiently run. Our luxury suite was very comfy with lovely couches (which would turn into beds at night) and comfy cushions, a table set with a platter of fresh fruit and a vase of fresh flowers and bottles of water. The bathroom with it’s marble tiles and gold fittings spoke of opulence¬†while the¬†lovely deep bath offered¬†long luxurious soaking, with a shower over the bath, a basin and toilet. ¬†red_carpet_blue_train_lounge
There was a tv with dvds to watch and also a music player with music to listen to. We didn’t get a chance to do either. There was too much else to do and so much to see through the window. Don enjoyed having the tv on to watch where we were going as there is a camera mounted on the front of the locomotive¬†and a map of the route on the tv. It didn’t take long and finally we trundled slowly out of the station on our southbound journey to Cape Town. The first part of the journey we seemed to move¬†along slowly through heavily inhabited areas, mostly squatter camps, gold mines¬†and mine dumps all along the way. Some disused and some in use. We saw Caesars Palace in the distance and then eventually we were in the countryside. The one thing I wished was different was that the windows¬†were not¬†double glazed and sealed and the train climate controlled throughout. So there was no opening of windows and hanging out to take beautiful photos of the passing countryside. And we did travel through some magnificent countryside.

27 hours on the Blue Train is all about the eating and drinking it would seem….gosh every time we turned around it was time to eat again. All food and drinks on the Blue Train is included in the price of the ticket, excepting for French Champagne and Caviar,which is understandable. Dining on the Blue Train is a wonderful experience. The dining car is luxurious and comfortable with each table separated from the next one, booth style, offering some privacy to the diners. It was an absolute delight to savour the exquisite gourmet food, complimented beautifully by some of the best wines on offer in South Africa, while watching the ever changing, gorgeous South African scenery flashing by. The menu offers a selection of¬†entrees, soups, fish, meat dishes, desserts, coffee and cheese platters, all beautifully presented. All the food is prepared on board, using the freshest and best ingredients, by top chefs, the wine is served in cut-crystal glasses and the cutlery is classic silverware while the crockery is bone china. High tea was served in the Observation Lounge and what a sweet spread that was. I enjoyed watching everyone enjoy the sweet treats while I sipped on my cup of tea and enjoyed the scenery. There was never a chance to get to sit in the seats at the back of the Observation Lounge. Once they were occupied by guests it seemed they stayed there for hours, drinking and playing cards or just chatting away.¬†

eating_drinkingBeing a sunset chaser I was determined to find a good spot and watch the sunset so, as the afternoon shadows lengthened and the sun started sinking towards the horizon, we made our way forward along the lengthy 2km snaking corridor, hanging on every now and again as the train swayed as it turned a corner or rocked across the tracks, and found a window seat in the lounge where we remained until it was dark. We had hardly sat down when we were brought a couple of champagne and cherry cocktails which we sipped on and then after that we toasted the magnificent sunset taking in the stark beauty of the brown grasslands of the Free State. country_scenes

Not long after sunset¬†we crossed the border from the Free State into the Northern Cape, the largest and most sparsely populated province of South Africa. It is just a wee bit smaller than the American state of Montana and a bit larger than Germany. It includes the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the Augrabies Falls and its most precious natural resource, the diamond mining regions in Kimberley and Alexander Bay. The Namaqualand region in the west is famous for its Namaqualand daisies which carpet the usually arid area with brilliant colour through the early spring months. It is an area I don‚Äôt know at all and would love to have witnessed some of it during the daylight hours and, in fact we should have if the train had not left so late that morning. The train finally arrived at¬†Kimberley station 2 hours later than expected and, as it was already night and too dark, the historical tour visit to the ¬†open mine Museum and theBig Hole was cancelled. What a major disappointment that was as I have always wanted to visit Kimberley, capital of the Northern Cape,¬†and the place where such stunning diamonds come from!¬†The first diamonds were found on¬†Colesberg¬†Kopje¬†on the farm¬†Vooruitzigt¬†belonging to the¬†De Beers¬†brothers in 1871. The ensuing scramble for claims led to the place being called New Rush, later renamed Kimberley.¬†From mid-July 1871¬†to 1914 up to 50,000 miners dug the hole with picks and shovels, by hand,¬†yielding 2,720 kilograms (6,000¬†lb) of¬†diamonds. The Big Hole has a surface of 17 hectares (42 acres) and is 463 metres (1,519¬†ft) wide. It was excavated to a depth of 240 metres (790¬†ft), but then partially infilled with debris reducing its depth to about 215 metres (705¬†ft). Since then it has accumulated about 40 metres (130¬†ft) of water, leaving 175 metres (574¬†ft) of the hole visible. Mining operations closed down in 1914 but the open pit became an attraction for visitors to the city and by the 1960’s relics of Kimberleys early days including buildings and memorabilia were being organized into a formal museum and tourist attraction. Over the years the Big Hole and Open Mine Museum have undergone various upgrades and between 2002 and 2005 the De Beers invested R50 million in developing the Big Hole into a world class tourism facility.¬†There is currently an effort in progress to register the Big Hole as a¬†World Heritage Site. (Historical info supplied by Wikipedia!)¬†

¬†We still had to endure the regular lengthy stopover at Kimberley, despite the late hour, and all had to exit the train as maintenance is done and water is changed etc. We were given a quick historical talk in the small museum inside the station building, enjoyed a glass of sherry and were given our little sherry mugs as mementos. Don and I took a long walk along the entire length of the train, yes it really is about 2km long, and a surprise awaited us. It was the first time we had seen the locomotive¬†pulling all those carriages and instead of it being the bright cobalt blue we were expecting it was an orangey red colour! So we kind of wondered if perhaps there had been an issue with the actual locomotive¬†and not with the cables that had held us up for that lengthy almost 2 hour¬†wait¬†at¬†Pretoria Station. Finally it was time to board the train and we went straight to our suite to begin the big dress up for the elegant dinner. It was a very late dinner seeing as we were ¬†2 hours late with everything and we finally finished dinner past midnight. Our grand plan was to enjoy a leisurely dinner and then take a walk over to the cigar bar and lounge, watch a bit of sport on the big tv screen and enjoy a nightcap. We certainly took the walk to the cigar lounge but it was almost empty, all the crowds had already left for bed so we enjoyed a quick night cap…an amarula on crushed ice, and then headed off to our suite. How lovely it looked when we arrived back. We had left it looking like a¬†lounge but on our return it was a beautiful bedroom with the finest bed linen and fluffy down duvets and pillows. On the pillow some delicious chocolate truffles awaited ūüôā My guilty pleasure!

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As with the sunset I was determined to watch a sunrise from the train as well so I set my alarm on my cellphone and fell asleep to the gentle swaying of the train and the swishing of the wheels on the track. I woke up with a start during the early morning hours and the train was stopped somewhere for a very long time before it eventually started up again. I remember it was deathly silent and pitch dark. I lifted the blind over the window and couldn’t see a thing out there. I don’t remember where it was but I woke again before my alarm and before the dawn and saw the sky lightening in the east so got my camera ready to take photos of the sunrise. I woke Donald from his slumbers so that he could experience it with me too. Somewhere between De Aar and Victoria West in the Northern Cape the sun finally made a dramatic appearance with the most amazing cloud formations giving it a stunning look ‚Ķ‚Ķ.now wasn’t that worth it? 20141120_050625We both snuggled back under our down duvets once the spectacle was over and managed to get in another hour or two of sleep before waking in time to get ready for….you guessed it…..breakfast! When I got out of bed I was horrified to find that I was suffering from a severe attack of motion sickness, the train was swaying quite a bit at that stage as the tracks were obviously twisting and turning. I took a trusty anti nausea tablet that I never travel without and we headed for the dining car with me wondering if I would actually make breakfast before dying! But of course I did, and after eating a hearty breakfast I felt 100 percent better and we headed back to the observation car to observe the passing scenery. By now we were passing through the edges of the Karoo and into the Western Cape and the landscape was totally magnificent. The change as you enter the Western Cape is dramatic and soon we were surrounded by mountains,beautiful green vineyards and wheat farms. Such beauty for the eye to behold.¬†PicMonkey CollageWe swayed and rocked through the Winterhoek mountains and Nuwehoek Pass while we sat¬†at the window enjoying our last hours on the train. We passed at speed through Wolseley where our dear friends Kevin and Sybil stood on the side of the tracks and furiously waved us on our way to Cape Town. Wish we could have stopped for a cuppa with them. Soon we were heading into the magnificent Hex River Pass and a kindly Blue Train employee showed us where to stand to get the best view of the train up ahead as it went around a fantastically long corner! It really WAS 2km long and I cannot tell you how many times we walked the length of it during those 27 hours ūüėČ How I managed I will never know because my right knee had collapsed about 6 weeks before the trip and I was living on painkillers and anti inflammatories. BUT I managed and I loved it so much!¬†

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Once through the Hex River Pass it was full steam ahead to Cape Town and the end of our journey. And before long we observed our beautiful familiar Table Mountain as we slowly trundled through all the stations along the way towards our destination. What a wonderful tale we had to tell our grandsons Ty and Jay who met us, with their dad Damon, at Cape Town station on our arrival. 

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Winners with First Choice Custard. And yes, that box travelled all the way with us.¬†It is still sitting in my cupboard. Maybe one day I will pop it into the recycle bin but it is still a very fresh reminder of what a wonderful experience and trip we had on the Blue Train. We have another small reminder as well, sitting on the dressing table in our bedroom at home…..this beautiful little clock gifted to us on our departure¬†

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First Choice are currently running another amazing competition. Connect with them on Facebook and Twitter  buy your box of happy yellow custard and send that sms. You NEVER KNOW what might happen. It could be YOU next time enjoying a bucket list item and crossing it off your list. 

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Thank you once again to First Choice Dairy and First Choice Custard. We have poured¬†our hearts out ūüôā We can never thank you enough for the amazing experience of this trip on the Blue Train. Thank you, thank you!¬†

Colleen (and Donald) xx 

Winelands Chocolate Festival Ticket Giveaway

July 15, 2015

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WHAT? A Chocolate Festival you say? And in one of my favourite parts of the Western Cape – the Winelands! This is going to be a¬†chocoholic’s dream and I wouldn’t miss it for the world…….in fact I am drooling already and dreaming of the 25th and 26th July as I close my eyes and breathe in all the amazing choccie aromas, relishing the smooth, luscious taste and texture of my favourite¬†dark salty chocolate melting in my mouth. The idea of walking into a large chocolate emporium where the best artisan chocolatiers, chocolate artists, pastry chefs and cake designers are doing what they do best has me almost speechless. ¬†It will be like Alice¬†disappearing into¬†a chocolate rabbit hole and tumbling into an underground world of chocolate. BLISS!

Want to know more? Read on………

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The Winelands Chocolate Festival – South Africa‚Äôs very first gourmet chocolate festival – will be a decadent culinary celebration of the best in South Africa‚Äôs chocolate industry. This amazing festival is being held indoors (hello winter!) at Lourensford Wine Estate in the Helderberg on 25-26 July 2015. SO soon…..I am wishing the days by ūüôā Think gourmet bonbons, chocolate bars, chocolate smothered honey nougat and truffles and this festival will offer your sweet tooth all that it craves and inspire you to think differently about how wonderful chocolate really is;¬† how versatile it is and how it fits into our lives so well.

Along with show-stopping premium wines, freshly-brewed coffees and tasty bistro food, the festival will allow you to experience chocolate in innovative and exciting ways, all while gaining knowledge about its history and production processes. Yes please!

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Highlights to look out for at the festival on the weekend of 25-26 July will include the Chocolate Theatre,¬†an¬†area dedicated to demos from top chefs and master chocolatiers, a place where you will be able to pick up some great tips and recipes from professionals. Demonstrationswill be given by, among others, Master Chocolatiers Dimo Simatos from Lindt,Alan Clegg from Alexander Avery¬†and Kees Beyers from Beyers Chocolates¬†as well as some renowned pastry chefs,¬†who will all show their eager audiences anything from how to temper chocolate and hand-craft truffles to creating chocolate lace and filling pastries with chocolate.Lindt¬†will be creating the scrumptious afternoon tea to be held at the Aleit & IS Art Gallery in the afternoon on Saturday 25th July.¬†Janine van Zyl (Cold Gold) will show you how to make real dark chocolate ice cream ‚Äď as well as some interesting and creative serving suggestions; and for all the tea lovers out there, Janine Baum from The Tea Merchant will be demonstrating how tea and chocolate are made for each other.¬†A seat at each live demo costs R50. For the full festival demo schedule click here.

Fancy yourself as a great baker? Take a chance and enter one of the many creative competitions taking place at the festival. Industry leading VIP judges will be hosting an exciting competitive showdown to showcase some of South Africa’s most talented baking artisans.Categories include, amongst others, the best looking Chocolate Cake and the most beautiful multi-tiered Wedding Cake. For more detailed information as well as the entry form, click here.

Got little children? Not a problem for the Chocolate Festival. Why not add to the family fun and let them play dress up? On Sunday 26th July, all under 12’s are free. There will be a Fancy Dress Competition at 12 midday for girls and boys between 2-6 years.The best dressed Cocoa Fairy OR Charlie the Prince of Chocolate (or Chocolate Pirate, Cowboy or Superhero) will each win a scrumptious prize. For more details and entry, click here.

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There will be a show stopping¬†chocolate inspired Fashion Show presented by the Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion Design¬†on both days at 11:00. Be ready to be dazzled with amazing, innovative chocolate-inspired fashion.Try something original by getting your nails done, creatively and expertly! If you are a little more daring, Mark Minnies will be on hand to adorn your body with temporary tattoos. Oh I am SO in for this ūüôā¬†You‚Äôll even be able to be framed in chocolate when you have your special Freys photograph taken at the show.

An¬†Art Exhibition will display illustrations on the topic of the ‚ÄėThe Chocolate Wrapper‚Äô while thrilling¬†Flash Mobs¬†by¬†students will be adding some energized musical ambiance to the event. Talented singers and musicians from Cape Town University‚Äôs Music School will be demonstrating random skits throughout the festival. Be ready to be blown away when you least expect it. ¬†

And then, as the afternoon shadows lengthen and you’ve had your fill of chocolate and are overloaded with inspiration and information, the Chocolate Lounge (open all day with free entry)¬†will beckon you to wind down for a little while. From 4pm on both event days you can¬†enjoy bistro foods, tapas, cocktails, and a glass of wine or MCC while relaxing to¬†live music and late afternoon cabaret. Sounds like a bit of heaven to me.

Not only will The Winelands Chocolate Festival be a delicious culinary celebration of the best in South Africa’s chocolate industry, it will give you an opportunity to interact with the people and the talent behind the chocolate. Like a kid in a candy store, get ready to unwrap and savour the pleasantly layered Winelands Chocolate Festival, where good flavour and exquisite chocolate designs await you. Diarise the 25th and 26th July now and go and book your tickets!

Buy tickets online at Quicket or at the door.

Ticket Prices:

Adults: R120
Students: R100
Chocolate Afternoon Tea:
R250 (sold out)
Family Package (Two Adults + Two Children Under 12): R85.00 each
Demo’s: R50

BUT WAIT! There is more……………

I have a set of double tickets to give away to a lucky couple. Just like the browniegirl facebook page, and then tell me in the comment section under the advert of this post, how you feel that moment when you pop a block of smooth dark chocolate, or a delightful chocolate truffle into your mouth. The comment that raises the most blissful image in my mind and makes me drool will win ūüėČ Get to it. ¬†Please note that no travelling or accommodation expenses are included in the prize!

This competition is now CLOSED! Thank you to everyone for the wonderful entries. Our winner has been notified. Enjoy the Festival ūüôā

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Enjoy,

browniegirl ūüôā

All photographs in this post used with permission from The Winelands Chocolate Festival and Wired Communications! 

Disclaimer: I am attending The Winelands Chocolate Festival with a media accreditation pass. All festival information supplied by Wired Communications and written in my own words. Opinions expressed are my own.

Roasted Kohlrabi Cauliflower and Avocado Soup

July 7, 2015

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I am a bad, bad browniegirl. A couple of weeks ago I promised that I would post a second recipe that I developed using the wonderful fresh produce in a hamper from ZZ2 so that I could participate in their #mouthwateringbox¬†campaign. Well….life happened…or should I say school holidays and other stuff happened and that went onto the backburner in my mind and would have stayed there had I not been reminded by a comment from a dear friend on one of the banting groups this evening who is having a problem with eating avocados suddenly. She can’t take the texture. So I dropped her a note and made a few suggestions as to how she could maybe stomach them and suddenly I was reminded about the post that I was meant to write. Oh my! I do apologize to all my readers. It is already late at night and last night I was up into the wee hours so I have that little fist beating at the side of my left temple telling me it is way overtime to get some sleep and rest. So without further ado…..my second recipe that I developed using the ZZ2 fresh products – a delicious soup just in time for this icy cold snap that we are having. The wind is howling around the eaves as I write this and I am warm and cosy with a gas heater warming my study. My dog Tasha has hogged best spot right in front of it ūüėȬ†

ROASTED KOHLRABI CAULIFLOWER AND AVOCADO SOUP
Serves 4
Ingredients:

4 small Kohlrabi bulbs ‚Äď leaves removed and peeled, cut into cubes
¬Ĺ head of cauliflower – cut into florets
30ml Olive Oil
2.5ml Freshly Grated Nutmeg
5ml Cumin
5ml Garam Masala
1 Large ZZ2 Onion, peeled and roughly chopped
5 Sprigs Thyme ‚Äď leaves stripped off
1 Bay Leaf
4 Cloves ZZ2 Non Radiated Garlic ‚Äď peeled and roughly chopped
1 liter chicken stock
The heel of a piece of Parmesan Cheese *see note below*
1 ripened ZZ2 Avocado Pear ‚Äď cut in half, pit removed, peeled then cut into cubes
125ml Fresh Cream
Maldon Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

Method:
Preheat the oven to 200deg Celcius
Place the cauliflower and kohlrabi cubes into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the spices.
Drizzle over the olive oil and place on the middle shelf in the hot oven
Roast 20 to 30 minutes until tender. Remove and set aside

To Make the Soup:
In a medium saucepan sauté the onions, bay leaf and thyme in about 2 tsp butter until they are limp and translucent
Add the garlic and sauté another minute or two
Add the roasted vegetables, the parmesan heel and chicken stock, bring to the boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally with a spoon, trying to break up the parmesan heel now and again
Turn off heat and allow to cool for about 15 minutes then remove and discard the bayleaf and bits of parmesan heel left over and blitz in the saucepan with a hand held stick blender/immersion blender until the veggies are smooth. You can do this in a food processor too if you have one
Add the avocado pear (keeping about 8 cubes aside for garnishing later) and blitz again until smooth
Add the cream and stir through then force the soup through a fine mesh sieve (placed over a large jug) to make it silky smooth
Pour the soup back into the saucepan and return to a medium heat and heat through
Check for seasoning and adjust according to taste with salt and pepper
Divide soup into 4 bowls and garnish as preferred

GARNISHINGS:
Grill two streaky bacon rashers until crispy then set aside (finely shredded biltong is also divine)
Cut the avocado cubes into smaller neat dice
Divide the avocado dice between the 4 bowls of soup then crumble the bacon over the top
Parmesan shavings

OR
Finely chop 125ml soft ZZ2 Sundried Tomatoes
Basil Leaves
Parmesan shavings
Garnish each bowl with some of the sundried tomatoes sprinkled on top then add some basil and parmesan shavings
Serve the soup with delicious crusty country bread or seed loaf slathered with butter
COOKS TIP:
Don’t ever get rid of your parmigiano reggiano rinds. These rinds, which a friend told me are known as heels in Italy, add the most wonderful flavor to soups and stews. Pop them into a Ziploc baggie as you get to the end of each one and keep them in the freezer for those times when you need one to add to a soup or stew for extra flavor. Just be sure to remember to remove the heel before blitzing the soup!

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And then, for all my South African readers, you still have a couple of days to enter the delicious giveaway from ZZ2.  Pop over and tell them what dish YOU would create with this same box of mouthwatering ingredients (shown in the pic below). You have until Friday 10 July 2015 to head over to the ZZ2Facebook page  and leave your entry as a comment on their page. All entries will go into the grand draw and the lucky winner will be the recipient of their own Mouthwatering Box, plus a nifty avocado tool PLUS a R1000 Checkers Voucher. This competition has nothing to do with browniegirlblog or myself and the lucky winner will be drawn by ZZ2 themselves.

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Enjoy, and do enter into the give away. I am heading over that way tomorrow to look for your exciting ideas.

browniegirl xx

Disclaimer: I received the mouthwatering box plus a R300 Checkers Voucher from ZZ2 Farms. The words, opinions, recipe and photographs are my own.

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Bacon Wrapped Caprese Stuffed Chicken Breasts and a Lucky Draw

June 18, 2015

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A couple of weeks ago I was invited to participate in the ZZ2¬†¬†#mouthwateringbox campaign I received this amazing box of delightful fresh products and had to create a delicious dish using two or more of the products found in the box. My imagination went crazy looking at all these fabulous veggies. I immediately opened up a packet of the sundried cherry tomatoes, a new product now on the shelves! They are so so good….just like sweeties. I had to stop my grandsons and myself from chowing through them all before I could produce a recipe! Be sure to read through to the end as there is something for you, my readers, in this too!

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I did a lot of planning and have actually made a couple of dishes using these wonderful products which included onions, non irradiated garlic, 2 x sundried tomatoes, 2 x Romanita tomatoes, 2 Avocado Pears, 1 x Spanish Sante tomatoes, 1kg LSL Tomatoes, 1 box Bacio on the vine, 1 box Rigoletto on the vine and a very nifty little avocado tool. What a stash!

Here is the official dish that I am sharing with you:

mouthwatering_box BACON WRAPPED CAPRESE STUFFED CHICKEN BREASTS

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 Skinless Chicken breasts ‚Äď patted dry, tenderloin removed and butterflied open with a sharp knife.
25g ZZ2 Sundried Cherry Tomatoes ‚Äď reconstituted in 50ml boiling water & 10ml Olive Oil for 20 minutes
1 ZZ2 Non Irradiated Garlic clove ‚Äď crushed or finely grated on a microplane
12 big Basil Leaves or more if smaller ones
4 Bocconcini Balls ‚Äď cut into 4 slices each
¬Ĺ ZZ2 Avocado Pear ‚Äď pit removed and peeled then sliced into 12 thin slices
Salt and Pepper to season
16 Streaky Bacon slices

For the Sauce:
30mls White Wine
5mls Dijon or Wholegrain Mustard
125mls Cream

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 200deg Celcius
  • Brush the bottom of a medium sized oven and hob proof dish with olive oil ‚Äď the dish needs to be the size that the 4 breasts will fit in tightly together
  • Strain all the liquid off the reconstituted tomatoes and mix the crushed or grated garlic into the tomatoes
  • Place one butterflied chicken breast onto a board, season with salt and pepper then line the middle with 3 basil leaves (use 4 or 5 if they are small)
  • Add one sliced Bocconcini ball on top and then ¬ľ of the tomato and garlic mixture
  • Lay on 2 or 3 slices of avocado pear
  • Fold the end of the breast closest to you over the filling and roll and tighten it gently then bring edges in from sides and roll over to the end opposite edge. Place aside with the folded ends underneath.
  • Repeat with all the chicken breasts until all the ingredients are used up.
  • Lay out 4 long slices of streaky bacon side by side on the board ‚Äď if the slices are thinnish and not too long use a rolling pin or bottle to lightly roll over them to thicken and flatten and lengthen them a bit.
  • Place one chicken breast in the middle of the bacon ‚Äď folded over side uppermost this time as you want to fold the bacon over at angles to cover the folded over edges. Once completed place the chicken breast with the folded over bacon ends on the bottom in the prepared oven proof dish
  • Repeat with the rest of the breasts and fit them in snuggly side by side in the dish so that when they bake they will not unravel.
  • Bake for 25minutes then turn the temperature up to the highest it will go and turn the top grill on. Leave to grill and crisp up for 5 minutes maximum. Remove from oven and place the breasts on a plate in a warm place loosely covered with foil.
  • Place the oven tray onto medium to high heat on the hob, deglaze the pan with the white wine and stir in the mustard. Once the wine has reduced add the cream to the pan and allow it to reduce and thicken, scraping all the caramelized bits off the sides and bottom of the pan with a spoon to add all the delicious flavour.
  • Remove from heat and set aside
  • Slice each breast diagonally into 4 or 5 slices and arrange each one on a plate with a bit of the creamy sauce poured over.

I served this delicious meal with roasted ZZ2 vine Rigoletto tomatoes, steamed snow peas and a velvety smooth, garlicky parmesan cauliflower mash

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LCHF/Banting/Keto/Paleo friendly recipe

And now, dear South African readers, as promised earlier here is something for you! This is an invitation to you to tell ZZ2 what dish YOU would create with this same box of mouthwatering ingredients. To enter for this fantastic give away please pop over between today and 10 July 2015 to the ZZ2Facebook page  and leave your entry as a comment on their page. All entries will go into the grand draw and the lucky winner will be the recipient of their own Mouthwatering Box, plus a nifty avocado tool PLUS a R1000 Checkers Voucher. This competition has nothing to do with browniegirlblog or myself and the lucky winner will be drawn by ZZ2 themselves.

Enjoy, and do enter into the give away. I look forward to watching out for your exciting ideas.

browniegirl xx

Disclaimer: I received the mouthwatering box plus a R300 Checkers Voucher from ZZ2 Farms. The words and recipe are my own.

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Good Food and Wine Show 2015 Ticket Giveaway

May 18, 2015

I am about to be greatly disappointed. The annual Good Food and Wine Show 2015 is about to hit Cape Town and I know that I will not physically withstand being able to attend. Having been under the knife for a Total Knee Replacement almost 3 months ago there is no way that I will be able to stand around, walk, mingle with thousands of others trying to see, hear and taste all the divine stuff that will be on show there. But spiritually, and through social media, I shall certainly be there and I look forward to that immensely.

I can imagine all the last minute stress and flurry of activity before this mouth-watering event launches on Thursday 21 May.  4 action-packed, and I DO mean action-packed, days of this scrumptious event will delight every culinary palate. As well as all the usual food and wine stalls showcasing local (well loved and new) products, there will be Feature Areas (including an all new
Health Hub¬†section where health and fitness expert, Lisa Raleigh,will be present at the ‚Äėwell i am‚Äô Kitchen.¬†The Real Meal Revolution will be there too¬†catering for all the LCHF/banting foodies out there and of course¬†¬†fantastic local¬†and international chefs will be demonstrating new and innovative ways of cooking and introducing the latest, state-of-the-art culinary equipment. I am told by the media release that the spotlight this year will be on home-grown chefs and South African food trends. Exciting stuff and I am so jaloooooors!¬†To see what all is on show please take a look here¬†and elsewhere on the site for information wink wink nudge nudge…….you really do need to visit the site, trust me!

Here are just 3 of many reasons that MY disappointment will be great: matt2

Matt Preston – photo courtesy of his website

flamboyant, cravat wearing, quick witted, tongue in cheek humour, razor sharp mind, caring and just all round fabulous¬†MasterChef Australia judge & co-host, food critic, award winning food writer, cook book ¬†author…..need I say¬†more? So badly want to see this man in action!
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Dorothy Klerck Рphoto via Sugarspooks.com

Brilliantly talented Dorothy hails from Wellington right here on our doorstep in the Western Cape and designs and sculpts THE most amazing cakes. I have been an avid follower of hers on instagram and would love the opportunity of meeting and seeing her in action. Especially since I discovered that she has made some of the most stunning steampunk cake designs. I adore steampunk and have a whole pinterest board dedicated to it. Dot is busy crafting the official GFWS2015 cake as I write this and the tiny sneak peek pics she is posting are proving highly intriguing. You are all in for a major treat! Visit her at eat.cake.party  to find out more about this fascinating lady.

  jenny morris

Jenny Morris – photo via facebook

Aaaah what can I say about Jenny,¬†AKA The Giggling Gourmet,¬†that you don’t already know? ¬†South African Celebrity chef, TV and radio presenter, author of beautiful cook books, culinary teacher and caterer. Sure Jen is all of these including being one of SA’s most loved ¬†food personalities. But when you get to know her she is so much bigger than any of those words that describe her. We have had the honour (and trepidation haha) of entertaining Jenny and her husband, David, in our home and they are just awesome people. I am going to miss my hugs this year!

The Celebrity Chefs Theatre will feature international and local chefs who will inspire, teach and engage closely with you. Heading up our local line up is Chef Jacqui Brown, who will be joined by Pete Goffe-Wood, Alfred Henry, Shaun Bruce, Jose Gomez and Coco Reinharz.There is so much more that I am going to be missing out on but alas time is short and I need to get this blog post out as I have tickets waiting to give away to FOUR lucky couples.

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To stand a chance of winning a pair of general tickets tell me the name of one of the Feature Areas at the Good Food and Wine Show this year. Answers can be found on the website already given or if you read carefully also in this blog post. The first 4 correct commenters will win tickets. Only for Cape Town readers please or for those who will already be in Cape Town this weekend 21 Р24 May 2015. No travelling or accommodation costs are included in the giveaway.  

EDIT: 19/5/2015 12.15pm

This ticket giveaway is now over. Congratulations to the first 4 correct commenters. You will receive details on how to collect your tickets from Teena on behalf of GFWS. 

For all those unfortunate ones you can still buy tickets at Computicket or at the door.

Ticket Prices: Adults: R130

Ages 13-18: R110

Pensioners: R110

Ages 7-12: R50

Ages 0-6: Free

Combo: R155 (includes a taster glass and 5 tasting vouchers ‚Äď additional vouchers at R25 for a book of 5)

Glass: R30 (bought separately including 5 tasting vouchers)

10+: R1000 (or R100 per ticket based on 10 or above)

Enjoy! And good luck if you’re entering the giveaway. I will notify all winners tomorrow Tuesday 19th before midday ūüôā

Colleen

 

Running back to back from 2o to 22 May is the Food for Thought Conference as per the media release below for all those interested:

 food for thought

Sustainable fishing, living Halal, food securityand how to do business in Africa are just some of the critical themes under discussion at the Food Hospitality World Africa conference ‚Äď Food for Thought 2015.¬† South Africa‚Äôs premier food and hospitality industry event, Food Hospitality World Africa takes place 20-22 May at the Cape Town Convention Centre (CTICC) alongside the country‚Äôs biggest consumer exhibition, the Good Food & Wine Show.

The Food for Thought conference Рcreated by conference industry leaders, MCI Рwill stimulate debate around many issues that stretch far beyond food and hospitality alone but which fundamentally affect the industry.  The aim of the Food for Thought conference is to provide a platform for engagement and to inspire delegates with new insights and information.

Othertopicsequally important to the industry include The Good Kitchen, where leading SA chefs talk about their increasing demand and need to source their ingredients direct from farms and producers; and We are what we eat ‚Äď knowing the effects of unhealthy, processed foods, how does the hospitality industry adapt to be more responsible in its offering to consumers.

www.foodhospitalityworld.co.za

Disclaimer: I have received no personal reward for this blog post from Fiera Milano or The Good Food and Wine Show. The results of the giveaway will be fair and accurate according to the time that commenters post the correct answer to the question above.

Living la LCHF lifestyle

April 14, 2015

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Most of my family and good friends know, but not many of my readers out there do, that about 18 months ago I started out on a new journey to improve my health. I was morbidly obese, my health was giving in, a series of blood tests showed that my cholesterol remained high and was increasing  (I have suffered from hypercholesterolaemia/dyslipidemia for the past 14 years), I was pre-diabetic, I had sub clinical hypothyroidism, my blood pressure was dangerously high and I was suffering from depression. My longterm friendly GP was very honest with me and told me the dangers I faced and that without doubt within 6 months I would be Type 2 Diabetic and faced the dangers too of heart disease and strokes. My brother had just suffered a massive debilitating stroke that left him with right hemiplegia about 6 weeks before that doctors appointment of mine so I just knew that I had to do something to help myself. I have a wonderful family and two beautiful grandsons and I still wanted a bright and happy future with them.

Thus started my journey to better health. My doctors only advice to me that day was to lose weight and to cut out bread. Now….therein lay a problem. I was a lover of all things bread. It was part of our staple diet during my childhood and I looked at my doctor with horror. I told him I was doing the Low GI thing and his next words were…..DONT EVEN HAVE BREAD IN YOUR HOUSE! I stared at him for a moment or two and then said OK, I can do this. I haven’t touched bread since…..well not bread made from any wheat or rye or gluten free flour products! About a week or so after my doctors visit I went to the farm in the Free State to assist in caring for my brother Rey, and to help settle him into home life as a hemiplegic once he was discharged from hospital. I spent 10 wonderful weeks on the farm with them throughout September, October and part of November. I fitted into farmlife as if I were made for it, I found my way around the big farmhouse kitchen and cooked and baked and helped where I could, I assisted with Reys daily rehabilitation exercises, I pottered around in the garden, I picked beautiful flowers to fill the vases and brighten the farmhouse. I made friends with the crazy gander who fell in love with me and the bits of bread that I always carried in my hand to feed to the geese, chickens and peacocks. And I bonded with my brother in such a special way. I spent 3 visits there over a period of a year and I loved every bit of it. I loved it when it was so dry and brown that the grass crackled under my shoes and the dust devils blew up in swirls and we prayed for rain. I loved it when the storms came and the rain fell in sheets, I loved watching the brown landscape turn green before my eyes. I loved the wide open spaces and the inky black skies at night, the stars so bright and close I could almost reach out and touch them. I fell in love with the Free State during that sojourn……..

PicMonkey Collage

While I was enjoying my stays at the farm all the time I grew healthier ¬†happier. I knew I was losing weight as my clothes were telling me. At that stage all I did diet wise¬†was to cut out all obvious white carbs, not only bread but pasta, potatoes, rice, all wheat products and sugar, I knew nothing about LCHF or banting or Paleo and Keto that first time I stayed on the farm. I only started learning about it on my return home when I could get onto the internet and google and find interesting articles and videos to educate myself with. I discovered The Real Meal Revolution¬†bought the book and studied many more writings to educate myself and slowly my new lifestyle fell into place.¬†¬†I learned that fat wasn’t so bad after all and I learned that all things wheat are bad, that sugar is poison. I learned about good and bad fats. I learned about carbohydrates and fibre and protein and all the additives and sugar in low fat supposedly healthy processed foods. I learned to read labels! I started going back to basics and learned how to make my own double cream yoghurt because I could¬†only find low fat yoghurt at the time. And the weight fell off me and I felt better and healthier than I had ever felt in my life. A year after my initial dr visit¬†I once again sat in his consulting room¬†and had all the blood work done again…… with the most amazing results. My cholesterol is the lowest it has been in 14 years, there was no sign of pre-diabetes, my subclinical hypothyroidism had corrected itself, my blood pressure was that of a healthy young person! And my weightloss really impressed him. We were both well pleased!
2342I have lost quite a bit more weight since this last photo was taken. Ironically with the weightloss I started walking a lot and the damage I had done to my body over the years of bad eating habits and obesity resulted in my right knee collapsing totally that I was virtually unable to walk at all. At the end of February I had a total knee replacement and am making good progress and soon I will be back to walking like a pro again. I have to have the left one done as well in the next year or so but am praying my new healthy lifestyle will make it go away! My whole family have changed their lifestyles and they are all seeing such positive change. My daughter who suffered from IBS and PCOS and endometriosis so badly that she had to have a hysterectomy last year at age 35 has never looked or felt better. So we are all seeing and feeling the benefits of our new lifestyle.

These delicious crackers are one of my staple foods. Daughter and I enjoy them a lot for lunches and snacks.¬†I often enjoy a couple of crackers with creme fraiche and salmon, or some charcuterie or just mashed avo. You can find the recipe in the¬†Real Meal Revolution book but I have adapted it to suit my own tastes (as I always do) and I sell it in my little banting shop and at markets in 4 different flavours. They are delicious and are always the first crackers to disappear off my cheese boards at book club ūüôā

Google the recipe if you don’t have the book and try them out. They are a really great lunch box filler.

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I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. I hope to¬†be back soon with some more interesting¬†LCHF, Banting, Paleo and Keto info. And of course they are all gluten and sugar free too ūüėČ

Colleen

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Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue and Mousse Cake

March 30, 2015

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Hello Chocolate lover! It’s been a while since I had a marathon baking session in my kitchen and it has been on my mind a lot lately to step out of my comfort zone and bake something that is a bit of a challenge to myself. As you all know I am self taught in the kitchen, an ordinary cook and baker with a passionate love for ¬†food….and cake! I watched and learned a lot in my late mom’s huge kitchen during my childhood and then put into practice all that I learned over the years, using my lovely family as guinea pigs, mostly surprising both them and myself with my offerings. But sometimes it is good to test yourself, to challenge what you know you can do and raise the bar a little bit. Sometimes, like when you watch those divine chefs on tv and wish you could do what they do, produce what they do to knock the socks off those you love…just every once in a while………


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My opportunity arose a couple of weeks ago when I got a call from Woolworths SA¬†, one of the main sponsors of Masterchef Celebrity SA,¬†asking if I would be willing to collaborate with them on a “You Too Can Cook Like A Celebrity ” ¬†Challenge. Of course I totally fell in line and agreed when I heard what their¬†special ingredient was going to be for the week….CHOCOLATE! I started gleaning all the information I could about how to work with chocolate¬†and what all you can do with it. I kind of got a general idea of what I wanted to do very early and then started building my dream cake in my mind and on paper. It was so much fun heading to the foodstore and being able to blow the contents of my purse on¬†some¬†of the best quality¬†ingredients that I could find – slabs of darkest chocolate, organic eggs, beautiful Ayrshire cream, unsalted butter, raw hazelnuts!

I spent a few day working on my recipe and then working out how best to carry it out. Although the missive was “it can be as simple as you want it to be or it can be as elaborate and fancy as you would like” I decided to go with elaborate. So bear with me…….the recipe is longish and involved but if you plan it all as I did and you can do some of it ahead of time it really isn’t all that difficult to assemble to parts.

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT MERINGUE AND MOUSSE CAKE (made over 3 days)

(Serves 16 as it is a very rich dessert)

Moderately difficult as it involves a number of techniques but a delicious challenge and very satisfying when you see your guests faces and hear the oohs and aahs of delight!

DAY ONE:

CHOCOLATE MIRROR GLAZE (can be made up to 3 days in advance)
INGREDIENTS:
6g (3) Gelatin Leaves ‚Äď soaked in 1 liter cold water until soft about 20 minutes
250g Granulated Sugar
50g Dark Cocoa Powder ‚Äď sifted (I use NoMU)
100ml Woolworths Ayrshire Whipping Cream
125ml Water
50g 85% Lindt Dark Chocolate

METHOD:
Combine the sugar, cocoa powder, cream and water in a saucepan and heat over moderate heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved and it comes to the boil
Remove from the heat, stir in the chocolate pieces until melted
Squeeze most of the water out of the gelatin leaves then drop them into the hot chocolate glaze and stir until dissolved
Pass the glaze through a rough sieve and stir gently then allow to cool for about 15 minutes
Pass the glaze through a fine sieve so that it has no bubbles or tiny lumps in it. I hold the sieve close to the bowl so that no little bubbles form when it pours through
Set aside to cool enough to glaze the cake (if making beforehand seal once cooled and place in the fridge until required. You would have to warm it slightly to make it pourable before use if refrigerated)

HAZELNUT MERINGUE LAYERS:
INGREDIENTS:
4 XL egg whites
2.5ml cream of tartar
200 ml granulated sugar
125 ml Raw Hazelnuts ‚Äď roasted in a dry pan until lightly browned then ground finely
1ml vanilla seeds
Pinch Maldon Salt flakes

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 110deg C and place rack on bottom shelf of oven
Line 2 30x20cm (ungreased) cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using the same springform pan bottom as a template trace a circle onto each sheet of paper then turn the paper over on the cookie sheets so that the pencil mark is on the underside
In a very clean metal mixing bowl using a very clean whisk beat the egg whites with vanilla seeds and cream of tartar until soft peaks form
Beat in the sugar gradually ‚Äď 1 tablespoon at a time – until glossy stiff peaks form.
Fold in the ground hazelnuts gently using a metal spoon
Divide in half and spoon the meringue onto the paper using an offset spatula to spread it evenly inside the circles and smoothing the tops
Place both pans on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for about 1 hour until crisp and dry. Check it after 45 minutes as they are thin disks and ovens vary
Turn off oven and allow to cool for an hour before removing and cooling completely in the pan. Turn out onto wire racks and peel off the paper backing

Store in an airtight container until required. Can be made 2 or 3 days ahead of use
(You could make one thick meringue layer, baking for about 1 ¬Ĺ hours and cooling for 2 hours in the oven if preferred but I wanted a 4 layer cake at the end of the process)

DAY TWO:

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE FILLING

INGREDIENTS:
100g 85% Chocolate ‚Äď chopped
200g dark chocolate 70% – chopped
6 XL Egg Yolks ‚Äď at room temperature

250g Philadelphia Cream Cheese – at room temperature

500ml Woolworths Ayrshire Whipping cream
6g Gelatin leaves – softened in 1 liter cold water for 20 minutes
120g Castor sugar
5ml Vanilla Extract

METHOD:
Place the egg yolks, cream cheese, vanilla extract and 100g of the sugar into a bowl and beat until pale and thick
Place the chopped chocolate in a glass bowl. Pour 200ml cream into a jug and micro on high until the cream just comes to the boil. Squeeze most of the water from the gelatin then whisk the leaves into the hot cream mixture. Pour this over the chopped chocolate and leave to melt then whisk gently until all the chocolate has melted
Pour the still hot chocolate mixture slowly over the beaten egg yolk mixture while the mixer is running on low and whisk until all mixed in. Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes before adding the whipped cream
Beat the rest of the cream and 20g sugar until stiff peaks form then add 2 tablespoons to the egg mixture to loosen and fold in. Fold in half of the remaining whipped cream gently and then fold the rest of it into the egg mixture until evenly distributed
Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge to set for a few hours

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYERS: (repeat recipe for 2 layers)
INGREDIENTS:
4 XL eggs ‚Äď separated (room temperature)
1 Egg Yolk only
200g Castor Sugar
130g 85% Chocolate (this amounts to 1 slab plus 3 blocks of Lindt)
50g Unsalted Butter
2,5ml Maldon Salt
1ml Vanilla seeds

METHOD:
Melt butter and chocolate in the microwave on low for 2 minutes ‚Äď whisk after each minute then set aside to cool a bit once smooth
Preheat oven to 160deg C
Brush bottom and sides of a swissroll tin 30x25cm with melted butter then line with parchment paper. Brush paper with butter as well
Place egg whites into a very clean mixing bowl and beat on high with a very clean whisk or blades until frothy. Add half the sugar, 1 Tbs at a time, beating all the time until medium stiff glossy peaks form (not dry stiff peaks) Set aside
Place egg yolks, salt, vanilla and sugar into a second large mixing bowl and using the same blade or whisk beat on high speed until pale and thick ‚Äď about 3 or 4 minutes
Beat the slightly cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture
Fold the egg whites gently into the chocolate mixture with a metal spoon until evenly distributed then pour the mixture into the prepared pan
Bake for 15 minutes then remove and cool
Repeat recipe for the second layer
Once cooled cut into 2 circles using a 23cm Springform pan as a template
Turn over onto a wire rack and place a warm wet tea towel over the base of the pan for just a few seconds to loosen the cake.
Remove the pan, peel off the paper, remove the offcut bits of cake and wrap the 2 circles gently in clingfilm (I use a piece of cardboard as a base as these cakes are delicate and light) and store in an airtight container.

TO ASSEMBLE:
Brush base and sides of a 23cm springform pan with melted butter. Line the base with a circle of parchment paper and brush paper with butter as well
Place the first chocolate circle into the base and drizzle 20ml of hazelnut liqueur over the cake
Place one third of the chocolate mousse filling on top and smooth with a spoon or spatula. Tap the pan gently on your counter top to fill up any gaps
Place a layer of hazelnut meringue onto the smoothed and straightened mousse in the pan, and fill with half the remaining mousse. Give another tap on the counter top to settle it all into place
Repeat with the second meringue layer and pour the remaining mousse over the top. Tap on the counter top again once or twice then smooth the top with an offset spatula until it is even and very smooth
Place the final chocolate cake layer on top and press down gently so that it is level with the top of the sides of the pan. Drizzle 20ml hazelnut liqueur over the cake then cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight before coating with the mirror glaze

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DAY THREE:

UNMOULDING THE CAKE AND COVERING WITH THE MIRROR GLAZE:
Remove prepared mousse cake from the fridge and wrap a warm towel around it to loosen from the sides and bottom of the pan. Unclip and remove the sides of the springform pan and place cake on a wire rack over a clean baking tray (I left it on the base of the springform pan because it was easier and you don’t see the base at all once glazed)
Warm the mirror glaze in the microwave for 30 seconds, give it a gentle stir to mix then pour the  glaze onto the centre top of the cold cake. Using an offset spatula level and spread it outwards and allow it to run over the sides of the cake, covering it completely. You can use the spatula to smooth the sides a bit if you like but the rippled patterns look quite good
Allow to stand for 15 minutes or so until it has set a bit then gently lift the cake and place it on a serving plate or board and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour to set completely
(the extra glaze that dripped into the baking tray can be lifted with a spatula and poured through a fine sieve to remove any cake crumbs and kept for dessert or ice cream topping (yummy with some chopped toasted hazelnuts swirled through it)

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CANDIED HAZELNUTS (Prepare while the cake is cooling in the fridge)

INGREDIENTS:

20 Hazelnuts ‚Äď lightly toasted (this will ensure you have extra to allow for breakages)

20 thin cocktail sticks with sharp ends

250ml sugar

15ml Water

5ml lemon juice

Pack of Prestik or Blu-tack

METHOD:
Prepare a dripping space for the candied hazelnuts Рunderside of a cupboard hung over your counter top is ideal. Line the surface directly below with newspaper. Stick 20 balls of prestik (tick-tack or Blu-tack) evenly apart in a row on the underside of the cupboard (I did this the night before!)
Poke a wooden cocktail stick into the bottom of each hazelnut and set aside
Place a large pan of iced water close to the stove to stop cooking once the sugar is at the correct level of cooking (pan must be big enough to hold the saucepan)
Place the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Don’t stir but you can swirl the pan gently to ensure all the sugar has dissolved. You can wash down the sides of the saucepan with a brush dipped in cold water if needed to avoid crystals forming in the candy
Bring it to the boil over moderate heat then watch it carefully as it boils and allow it to turn a light to medium amber colour – no darker otherwise it goes bitter
Remove from heat once the desired colour has been reached and plunge the saucepan into the icy water bath to stop the cooking process and to cool the candy down for about 10 minutes. It is cool enough when you can dip the back of a wooden spoon into it and it forms a long slow droplet when you remove it. The shard of candy should be able to snap cleanly when cold
Gently dip and swirl the prepared hazelnuts into the candy then remove and stick the back ends of each cocktail stick into the prepared prestik balls, working from the ball furthest from you and allow to drip in long strands and cool and harden completely before removing the wooden sticks gently and breaking the beautiful candy spikes about 10cm or so from the hazelnuts (it was a damp humid day when I made mine so the spikes would not stand up. I remedied it by breaking the candy off close to the hazelnuts…not the same visual effect I was looking for but it worked well)

TO SERVE:

Remove cake from the fridge, decorate with the candied hazelnuts around the outer edge and some roughly chopped hazelnuts in the centre then cut into wedges and serve. We ate ours as is but you could cut the richness with a few fresh or frozen raspberries and a dollop of creme fraiche

169Disclaimer: The ingredients for this cake were sponsored by Woolworths SA

Take a look at their beautiful page and get loads of new ideas of how you too can cook like a Celebrity Chef!

Thank you Woolworths SA for this lovely opportunity and challenge. I really enjoyed it.

Browniegirl xx

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