Viennese Whirls

I am having such uncharacteristically strong cravings lately. Not in a weird way (I’m not pregnant), but my body is definitely telling me which nutrients I am lacking. Like salty or spicy potato chips (which I normally only each about 4 times a year). And chocolate too, which is normal for me, but not normally such an insatiable desire…

There’s also the inability to stop once I’ve started. I guess this is what happens when you attempt to be healthy! (Though being healthy is definitely paying off – six pack, here I come!)

Pre-baked whirls

So the other day I had a craving for those little melting moments shortbread cookies. I really just wanted the sweet buttery-ness to melt and dissolve on my tongue. With a nice dusting of icing sugar of course.

I Pinterested recipes for the little gems and I came across recipes for Viennese whirls, which are just a slightly different consistency, making them pipable. Result: the most professional-looking home-baked cookies I have ever made! And even better when dipped in the rare perfection that is Bournville (seriously, though, why have they stopped selling that in my local shops? Where did it go?!)

Tea and whirls

Make sure when you’re making these that the dough/batter is extremely soft – pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds or cream it extra well; you may end up with a split piping bag if you don’t.

Whirl batter

I am also considering adding a dash of vanilla next time I make these, just to add a subtle sweet depth to them.

Tea and biccies

Viennese Whirls

Makes about 16-20

Ingredients

  • 250g butter
  • 55g icing sugar
  • 225g cake flour
  • 75g cornflour
  • About 200g dark chocolate for dipping (I keep the quantity low so I don’t end up eating all the leftovers!)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C
  2. Cream the butter and icing sugar together really well
  3. Sift the cake flour and cornflour together, and add to the butter mixture. Mix very well
  4. Place in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe onto a prepared baking sheet
  5. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, just before they start to change colour
  6. Remove and let cool before dipping in melted chocolate. Leave for the chocolate to harden

Getting Lucky at the Good Luck Club

The Good Luck Club

And by lucky I mean free food, because we all know that that is the best score you can get.

I stumbled upon this neat little restaurant on a casual afternoon drive home from work when I was actually looking for another restaurant, and discovered that the Good Luck Club, which I had never heard of before, was going to be having a Grand Opening launching their new expansion. I wasn’t planning on staying for lunch, but a launch I could definitely count myself included in. And man, was I NOT disappointed.

 

The Good Luck Club has a branch in Illovo, so the quality of the food in this new branch in Emmarentia was unsurprisingly delightful. I love how the menu brings Asian cuisine into the suburbs of Jo’burg, without being too pretentious (although the restaurant was packed to the BRIM with hipsters on opening night – it was the craft beer they were there for, I’m sure of it!)

Good Luck Club Dumplings

After 2 hours of waiting (apparently everyone knew it was opening night) we were finally served our free dim sum platter of 6 dumplings in 3 varieties. Though they were late, they were still steaming hot, and coupled with a deliciously spicy dipping sauce.

It is cheaper than many of the Asian fusion restaurants that are popping up around Jo’burg, however it is still out of my price range at about R98 for the average main (so much, and just for noodles or curry!?) As a result, I had the miso soup for main. It was tiny, but full of flavour, and of course packed with protein-filled tofu. Mr Kendz had the Thai Chicken soup, which he was thrilled with: there was a delicate balance of coconut and undertones of subtle and beautifully combined flavours – not overwhelming, and really generous with the chicken. He was satisfied after his half of the dim sum platter and his soup, so it is still possible to make it a cheap date and get some great tasting good quality food.

Good Luck Club Miso Soup

Deep fried banana spring rolls with chocolate dipping sauce for dessert. Delicious (even though we got it before we even got our dim sum)

Deep fried banana spring rolls with chocolate dipping sauce for dessert. Delicious (even though we got it before we even got our dim sum)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The restaurant itself is stunning – it is simplistic, with concrete walls and simple wooden tables. The lights hang off the walls on neatly wound cords of wire (I’m sure it’s safe!), and there are Sir Cats on the wall. I would go there just for Sir Cat. He’s majestic.

One day when I’m big and rich I will go to restaurants like the Good Luck Club all the time! But for now, I will just save it for payday (along all the other exciting restaurants Jozi is tempting me with).

Bean Republic, Corlett Drive

You know those places that every time you drive past, you think to yourself: “I really need to go there!” Bean Republic is one of those places. The facade out onto Corlett drive is all wooden, echoing the trend of coffee shops everywhere these days, with huge green signage beckoning you in. The colour scheme and decor are reminiscent of Cuba, but owner Edwin Ndlovu explained that his coffee is absolutely not “single origin”, but rather a collection of coffee, a big coffee Republic, where the best of the best coffee comes together to give you great coffee. Under the supervision of experienced and passionate Edwin himself of course.

There are quotes and satirical fictional headlines from newspapers all around the shop, so you really get the feel that you might be in some sort of republic after all

There are quotes and satirical fictional headlines from newspapers all around the shop, so you really get the feel that you might be in some sort of republic after all

After years in the industry, Ndlovu finally decided he needed to branch out on his own and do the job better than the people around him, because why should customers receive anything less? Bean Republic has been open since November 2012. Edwin Ndlovu Despite the vibey exterior and his catchy enthusiasm, however, the coffee was a bit disappointing. The flavour wasn’t full or significant, leaving a slight taste of dirty water, as weak coffee tends to do. The interior also felt like it left much to be desired, with a greasy countertop and peeling menus. Apart from that let down, the interior was also a fun mix match of furniture which Ndlovu has developed a collection of over the past 20 years, since he started working towards his dream. Downstairs is a room that looks like it probably bustles with less mainstream entertainment, which Ndlovu has big plans for this year. Some of which includes wine and traditional food menus, poetry readings and other performances. Bean Republic Downstairs They didn’t have any cake when I was there, but their cake menu looked amazing. Ever had Hummingbird cake? I feel like I might just go back there to give it a try. Edwin was in the process of creating some pasta recipes to populate the menu, to accompany the rump steak and other main menu options. Their breakfast menu is also really extensive with a good range of recently repopularised recipes like frittatas and solid classics like French toast, all for a highly competitive price. This is important because lately all restaurants are charging so much for the most important meal of the day! It’s definitely worth giving a chance, even if it’s just to have a chat with Edwin. He says,

“For coffee to survive, tea must die”

While I’m quite a fan of tea (though my love for coffee hasn’t died either), his message has political undertones, which I encourage you to find more about when you pay him a visit.

Gingerbread Cookies

Merry Christmas and happy new year and merry Christmas again! South African Christmas is really not our typical. It’s generally a scorcher of a day, and if you’re lucky, you get a “White Christmas” in the form of a massive hailstorm at the end of the day. There’s no Christmas jumpers, but maybe you’ll wear red “Christmas” shorts or a tank top, because really anything more than that and you’ll melt like Frosty the snowman.

Gingerbread cookies 1

Pardon my sad excuse at trying to write “The Kendz” with some leftover dough… At the end of the day, at least my name tastes good!

 

That doesn’t mean we don’t get to enjoy some other Christmas traditions like overeating and innumerable desserts. This year I made a meringue roulade filled with whipped Chantilly cream and strawberries. I didn’t even know such beauty existed until I got asked to make one, and wow! Really, do yourself a favour!

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Christmas is the perfect excuse to indulge in as much cooking and baking as you like, so I used the opportunity to make some Christmasy gingerbread biscuits for Mr Kendz’s mother. I initially wanted to use a recipe that didn’t use molasses or honey or those weird ingredients, but they absolutes sucked! So I had to give in, get some golden syrup, and it made the absolute world of difference to the cookies!

They are perfectly chewy and soft, a gorgeous golden colour. They are officially my new favourite biscuits… I tried to make a YouTube video of myself making them…

… But I got distracted and ended up eating them before I could make a complete video…

Last year I decided was my adventure year. I think I did pretty well: I started rock climbing, went on an overlanding expedition through Africa, and Mr Kendz’s and I went camping independently for the first time (and learnt what not to do on future trips). My goal for this year is creativity. I’ve already painted a pot for my coffee plant (check out my Instagram), and I got creative with some chalkboard paint I got as a stocking-filler. Big plans ahead for this year!!! And hopefully it’s also filled with more biscuits just as amazing as these babies.

Gingerbread cookies 2

Gingerbread cookies
Makes as many as you want it to (about 35 small cookies, or 20 gingerbread men)

Ingredients

  • 125g softened butter
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 125ml golden syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 375 plain flour
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together
  2. Add the egg and syrup and mix well
  3. Sift the spices and bicarb together with the flour and add to the wet mixture. Mix well until a well-incorporated dough has formed
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for 20-30 minutes
  5. Preheat oven to 170
  6. Roll out the dough to about 4mm thick (fairly thick, almost like shortcrust pastry) and cut into shapes using a cookie cutter
  7. Place cookies on a grease proof baking sheet/baking paper and place in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove when edges start to brown and let cool on a rack

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Chopper at Ngorongoro

Living in South Africa is great, but I must just clarify that we don’t all spend our time on a safari, we don’t have lions in our gardens and we don’t ride elephants to work every day (only some days). I know many people have cottoned on to the fact that we are actually a pretty progressive country, but we still get asked some of the most absurd things (see here and here).

Elephants in the mist

Elephants in the mist rain

Speaking of safari… I have never been to the Kruger National Park, even though I live in South Africa. Apparently some people think that is a little bit of treason… I, however, have not yet learnt how to appreciate seeing buck after buck after buck. It’s kind of like going bird watching when you know nothing about birds…

You don't need to know anything about birds to acknowledge just how majestic this one is...

You don’t need to know anything about birds to acknowledge just how majestic this one is…

So going into Ngorongoro Crater was a massive breath of fresh air. It was the last leg of our big adventure. We though we might attempt doing the crater, going across into the Serengeti, and traveling up through to Kenya from there, however, there were supposedly really dodgy border crossings there, so we chose not to risk it. It also transpired that Serengeti was ridiculously expensive, so it worked out well for us that we couldn’t make it.

In fact, most of Africa is just geared to wealthy (American) tourists who have lots of “dollas” – we had to pay to get into the Ngorongoro national park, for both of us as well as our Landy, Chopper. Then we realised that we had to pay AGAIN to get into the actual crater. As if we were just driving into the national park “on the way” to somewhere “better”. Yeah right, you need to actually see this place.

The crater has its very own climate as well... I can't even begin to tell you how quickly rains came and went and came again and then disappeared like they had never happened

The crater has its very own climate as well… I can’t even begin to tell you how quickly rains came and went and came again and then disappeared like they had never happened

Ngorongoro Crater is this massive bowl full of the most incredible African wildlife you could imagine, all enclosed in a natural game reserve of sorts. Except you don’t feel like the animals are actually caved in at all. They also live happily alongside some Masai people. So maybe some African people do have lions in their back gardens…

We saw all the animals. I didn’t realise that I hadn’t actually seen a buffalo in real life, but when I saw this thing, I finally learned the difference between them and wildebeest. It’s largely based on size, in case you weren’t aware.

Sup buffalo

Rolling buffalo

Judgmental Zebra is judging the buffalo who really just knows how to have a good time...

Judgmental Zebra is judging the buffalo who really just knows how to have a good time…

The animals in this little oasis are completely comfortable in their home, they show no fear about tourists because they know that they are the ones in charge. It is really great to see how conservation efforts are paying off, and it reminds you of why they are so important.

IMG_7781 IMG_7888

We had a really friendly and informative tour guide by absolute chance who we somehow managed to squeeze in the Defender with us. It was useful having him there because he knew were to go to find the specific animals, like the lions (who were asleep in the heat of the day. You know, cats and stuff) and the hippos.

Hippo and baby

The drive in and out of the national park as well as into the crater was extremely hectic uphill and downhill with blind rises and hairpin bends and of course, in true Landy style, we had a bit of a smokey moment, which was repaired in no time at all (again, in true Landy style).

Before the trip, I had never even heard of Ngorongoro, but I would highly recommend a trip there if you are ever considering a trip to Africa. It is the reason that going on Safari is so highly revered – nature is awesome, Africa is powerful and we will never truly be able to tame it. And that’s what makes it so special.

Ngorongoro Landscape

Achievement Unlocked – Level Macarons!

achievement

Macarons have been my biggest challenge to date. Generally I am quite satisfied with my ability to follow a recipe and get my expected result. With macarons, however, this was not the case.

Christmas Macarons

[Let me just clarify something quickly: macaroon vs. macaron. Think: coconut vs. almond flour.

Quick recipe for a macaroon: condensed milk and desiccated coconut, mixed in a ratio that lets you form little balls and place on a baking tray to bake at 180º until the edges start to brown and the biscuit is pretty firm]

My first attempt at macarons used a recipe from Dan Lepard‘s cookbook, Short and Sweet, which has proven delicious and basically perfect every time… until now. Then I tried Mary Berry and Great British Bake Off‘s chocolate macarons. I followed the instructions to a T, and they ended up burning anyway.

I figured it was time for a troubleshooting guide, when I stumbled upon this absolute gem. She even linked to her step by step guide to making macarons, which I tried after re-attempting Dan’s recipe using some of her advice. This was my result:

Her recipe was the first to start coming out right. But surely I didn’t have to follow all of her steps? Who has time to wait overnight for egg whites to mature? As it turns out, it is important, and it makes a substantial difference.

What also helped, was this guy. I absolutely love his work! His tutorials on macarons showed me that I might have been over-beating my eggs, and maybe I was “not overmixing” too carefully. Fully incorporated, people!

Red Christmas macarons

Eventually, I ended up with these bad boys, which I made for our Christmas party. Aren’t they beautiful! And added bonus was that they were gluten free, so everyone, even the fussies (though not the Banting folk), could enjoy dessert.

They were accompanied by vanilla cupcakes with green cream cheese frosting, and cute little marshmallow reindeer that my little cousin thoroughly enjoyed.

Marshmallow reindeer

Marshmallow reindeer

Vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Macarons

Makes about 30 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp creme of tartar
  • 210g powdered (icing) sugar
  • 125g ground almonds/almond meal/almond flour
  • 30g caster (granulated) sugar

Method

  1. Separate the egg whites. Leave overnight to mature in the fridge, and remove from fridge well ahead of time to allow to come to room temperature
  2. Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds together. Place this into a food processor and blend together until very fine and resembles a flour. Do this in stages, and make sure you’ve scraped down the sides of the food processor to break everything up. Also don’t go for so long that the mixture starts to heat up (we are making macarons, not over-sweetened almond butter)
  3. Sift the icing sugar-almond mix back into the bowl. If there are any remaining chunks of almond, remove them, they will make the mixture lumpy – DO NOT PUSH THEM THROUGH
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and creme of tartar until very soft peaks form – peaks should hold their shape for long. Add the granulated sugar here in two stages, beating until stiff peaks form (but not hard peaks – they should have some movement to them still). Colour your meringue mixture now, using powder or gel food colourings – don’t use liquid colouring
  5. Add one third of the almond mix and fold in gently. Once it has started to combine, add the second third, and repeat with the final third. Ensure mixture is of the same consistency and there are no dry patches
  6. Place mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle about 0.5-0.8cm in diameter. Pipe this onto a stencilled mat or template, taking care not to put too much mixture for each biscuit as they spread quite a bit. Tap the baking tray firmly onto your working surface to remove any air bubbles. If there are remaining bubbles on the surface, give these a pop with a tooth pick
  7. Leave to form a shell at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Just before that time is up, preheat oven to 160ºC
  8. Place baking tray in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 140ºC and continue to bake for another 5-7 minutes
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before sandwiching together with filling. I filled mine with canned caramel (boiled condensed milk trick) sprinkled with some salt (salted caramel), a coffee buttercream, and some leftover green cream cheese frosting from the cupcakes

My local – Urban Angel Café

It’s taken me ages to get this post out, purely because I love this little café so much that I would rather spend my time eating there than being tortured by the glorious memory of it. That’s before I even have to edit all the photos of their amazing food. Gosh no, it’s just too difficult. Urban Angel Café is my new favourite little hot spot, and it’s less than 3km from home!

Amazing range of breakfasts and café meals - quinoa with apple and salted caramel, french toast with banana and nut butters (homemade), and hugely delicious chicken prego burgers

Amazing range of breakfasts and café meals – quinoa with apple and salted caramel, french toast with banana and nut butters (homemade), and hugely delicious chicken prego burgers

So I’m writing this post in the comfort of their wafts of freshly baked bread, with an unhampered view of their mountain of fresh biscuits, sitting on the counter, whips of steam still practically floating above them.

This is my first draw once I walk in the door: every day they have something new and interesting on offer, from bagels and mince pies to protein bars and cheesecake brownies. Cookies and doughnuts and all sorts of different breads keep the meals special on each visit

This is my first draw once I walk in the door: every day they have something new and interesting on offer, from bagels and mince pies to protein bars and cheesecake brownies. Cookies and doughnuts and all sorts of different breads keep the meals special on each visit

What I absolutely love about this place, is their modern menu. And I don’t mean modern in a pretentious way, where owners are trying to sell the “next best thing”. I mean they genuinely care about producing meals that taste amazing and happen to have all these amazing new superfoods in them. You can go to Urban Angel café on pretty much any diet, and you will probably find something that suits you – and it’s guaranteed to be delicious.

The bagel bun is my go-to breakfast as a protein filled bun of fresh sour dough bread. Their meals are original with everyone's favourite toppings, like cream cheese! "Eggs done your way" is also one of the awesome things about the  cafe

The bagel bun is my go-to breakfast as a protein filled bun of fresh sour dough bread. Their meals are original with everyone’s favourite toppings, like cream cheese! “Eggs done your way” is also one of the awesome things about the café

And if you’re not on a diet, they have these incredible brownies that were recommended to me by everybody – friends and strangers alike – that I tried to resist for so long. I knew that if I gave in, it would be over for me. And it was… My advice: stay away from the brownies if you value your waistline.

Sweet and salty mocha with a swirl of caramel. Literally best drink ever!

Sweet and salty mocha with a swirl of caramel. Literally best drink ever!

For the most part, their creativity is pretty spot-on. My first experience of their food wasn’t that great though. I ordered a peanut butter espresso milkshake and was highly disappointed to find it was made with homemade nut butter, a combination of peanut and cashew. In the end it just tasted like very milky coffee with chunks of nuts. But hey, that’s what happens when you try to be too healthy, it doesn’t always work out. Pretty good otherwise!

Their meals are reasonably priced and really generous, full of healthy goodness! Grilled chicken with beautifully flavoured sides - their mash was some of the best I've ever had!

Their meals are reasonably priced and really generous, full of healthy goodness! Grilled chicken with beautifully flavoured sides – their mash was some of the best I’ve ever had!

Their service is great as well, always extremely friendly.

Urban Angel Café: Bakery, Café and Food Store can be found just behind the shopping centre in the office park (President Fouche Drive And Hawken Avenue, Randburg, Johannesburg). It’s a bit difficult to find, but I guess that way it can be a little piece of hidden gold until everyone learns about its magnificence.

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