Hearty South African Rusks – A Family Recipe

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‘Rusks’ is the anglicized term for Afrikaans ‘beskuit’ (French ‘biscottes’ and Dutch ‘beschuit’). Along with Rooibos tea, rusks was the staple with which my mother and grandmother weaned me off of breast milk.

These double-baked dry clunky biscuits have been part of Afrikaner culture (French and Dutch descendants) since the late 1690s. Baking rusks was an innovative way of preserving bread (similar to preserving meat — biltong — by drying it) especially when travelling long distances at a time when fridges and freezers did not exist during the Great Trek and the Anglo Boer Wars.

Since then, rusk recipes have been passed down within families from generation to generation and they are still eaten today — typically being dunked in coffee or tea to soften them before being eaten.

In our family, the first warm batch of rusks — fresh from the oven — is usually enjoyed with butter, cheese, jam and a steaming pot of ‘moer koffie’ (freshly ground filter coffee)…

The recipe I’m sharing here is one that’s been made (developed and enhanced) for more than three generations by the women of one of my friends’ family.

Ingredients:

1½ kilograms self-raising nutty wheat flour
500 grams All Bran Flakes (crushed)
500 grams mixed seeds (pumpkin, sesame, poppy, linseed and sunflower seeds)
400 grams brown sugar (Demerara)
1 x Cup dried coconut (optional)
1 x Cup Raisins
3 x Tablespoons baking powder
1 x Tablespoon salt

750 grams butter
600 millilitres sour cream
1 x Cup full cream milk
100 millilitre white vinegar
3 x Large eggs

Rusks
Method:

(Below is a short video that will show you the exact baking method.)

Preheat your oven at 180° Celsius (356° Fahrenheit or gas mark 4)

Cut the butter into bricks, add together with the sugar and milk in a saucepan and place on the hob over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar is melted. (Alternatively you can melt the sugar, milk and butter mixture in the microwave.)

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and vinegar together.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in another mixing bowl.

Add the melted butter mixture, sour cream and eggs to the dry ingredients.

Mix well. Knead thoroughly and deep until the dough is dense without any floury bits.

Evenly press the dough in baking trays. You’ll need about 3-4 baking trays.

Lightly cut the dough, marking how large you want each rusk to be (usually 1½ x 3 inches).

Bake for 30-45 minutes.

RusksRemove from the oven and allow to cool down a bit, in the baking trays.

Lower your oven temperature to 80°Celsius (176° Fahrenheit).

Cut your rusks and remove from the baking trays. Lay them out on a cooling rack and allow to cool down completely. You’ll notice that the rusks are still wet on the inside. (At this point we usually select a few warm rusks to enjoy with butter, cheese and jam.)

Once the rusks have completely cooled down, they are ready to be baked for a second time.

Put the rusks back in the oven for 4-5 hours to be baked until they are dried out.

Few things provide a sense of comfort, security and belonging like the nutty smell of freshly baked rusks lingering in the kitchen… and enjoying them together with family over ‘n steaming hot cup of coffee.

Try them, you’ll see what I mean.

Indulge a little bit!

Rusks from Little Red Shoes on Vimeo.


Credits.
Image: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Recipe: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Video: FR Lubbe for Little Red Shoes


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Guilt-Free Sweet Potato Chocolate Brownies

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The Festive Season is in full swing and it’s always a daunting time for me especially when it comes to keeping myself in tow with all the delicious food around.

I have a relentless sweet tooth and it’s a challenge not to overindulge because piling on the pounds happen all too easily. With these protein-rich, gluten, dairy and sugar-free sweet potato brownies that problem is solved. They are quick and easy to make, and very moorish… even the kids at home can’t get enough of them. (Unfortunately, they contain nuts and is not suitable for those with a nut allergy.)

Best yet, they are completely guilt-free.

Who said you cannot eat healthy (and still enjoy your sweet treats) during Christmas?

Ingredients:

2 x Large sweet potatoes peeled and diced into squares
¼ Cup raw cacao powder
1¼ Cup (± 300 grams) ground almonds
¼ Cup honey
½ Dates (without the stones)
1 x Cup crushed nuts mixed nuts to your liking (I use wall nuts and macadamia nuts)
2 x Scoops (table spoons) organic peanut butter
½ teaspoon salt

Method:

Preheat your oven at 180°Celsius (356° Fahrenheit or gas mark 4).

Grease (with olive oil) and line (with wax paper) 1 x large baking tray.

Boil sweet potatoes for 5 minutes (or until soft).

Drain sweet potatoes and using a blender, blend ’till you have a smooth puree.

Add all the other ingredients apart from the mixed nuts.

Blend until you have a smooth consistency.

Add the cup of chopped mixed nuts and mix (don’t blend) well. This adds a lovely crunchy texture to the brownies.

Evenly spread your brownie mixture in the baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Your brownies are ready when the top is almost crusty, however the inside should still be moist (see photograph).

Cool down and cut into even squares.

Enjoy on their own or as a desert with a drizzle of honey and scoop of cream, crème fraîche (if you want to be a bit naughty) or plain Greek yoghurt.

Keep refrigerated.

These little devils must be eaten within 3 days… But I suspect they will not last that long.

Indulge a little bit!


Credits.
Image: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Recipe: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes


Can’t Find A Bagel? Go Grey Dog

“The bagel is an unsweetened doughnut with rigor mortis.”

— Beatrice and Ira Freeman —

What makes a bagel so damn good? Well, they’re chewy and they come with a story… Some say bagels symbolize the continuous cycle of life — without beginning and without end… Perhaps. Perhaps not… but they do have holes in them… Now, what does that mean?

The origin of the name is also ambiguous. Joan Nathan, the author of Jewish Cooking in America says the name comes from the German verb ‘biegen‘ — to bend. The late Alan Davidson wrote in his Oxford Companion to Food that ‘bagel‘ comes from the Yiddish word ‘beygel‘, which was taken from the German ‘beugel‘, meaning ring or bracelet. See? We’re going round and round on the topic… It’s all good.

GreyDog-300x283Whatever the case may be (and there is probably some truth in all of it… there almost always is), when Austrian Jews immigrated to America, bringing the bagel with them, they probably never even dreamed that more than 100 years later a bagel bakery will be found on almost every street in New York.

Bagels and New York City are synonymous. In fact, it would be more accurate if Lady Liberty held a salmon and cream cheese bagel above her head instead of a flaming torch… but let’s not argue about it.

However, if you can’t find a bagel bakery in New York then the next best thing is Grey Dog — a neighbourhood coffeehouse, with locations in the West and East Village and Lower Manhattan.

What makes Grey Dog so great? Well, firstly, it comes with a story… This charming and homely family-owned coffeehouse was named after Moose and Goose, the owners, Pete and Dave’s two Labrador retrievers, one white the other black.

Then there’s the menu: The food is simple, honest and fresh ranging from Challah French Toast, a Hummus & Feta sandwich with sautéed spinach, tomato, & pepperoncini to a simple (yet delicious) Tuna Melt with cheddar, plum tomato & Bermuda onion… My personal favourite is their Philly Steak & Cheese Wrap. You can check out their menu here:

Pete and Dave also understands that in New York, for a lot of people breakfast start at 2pm, which is why they serve theirs until 3pm. Okay, so they don’t serve bagels, but they make up for it with their huge portions, surprisingly reasonable prices, friendly staff (in fact, they remembered me when I visited a second time… so I went back for a third) and the place has a cozy neighbourhood atmosphere. Oh yes, their coffee is great too… by European standards.

Grey Dog has definitely succeeded in creating a little precious gem in the heart of one of the greatest cities in the world. This is probably why you’ll find a long line of happy (and most likely regular) punters stretching out the door on a Sunday afternoon. Don’t let this put you off. It’s only proof that this is a fabulous spot worth standing in line for. The staff does an excellent job in crowd control and once you’ve placed your order at the counter (a clever way of getting to know your customers) your table will be waiting — reserved with a coloured bandana… another quirky New Yorkie touch.

So, if you really can’t find a bagel bakery in New York (and you’ll be lying if you say you can’t… or you are blind and lazy… but let’s rather stay friends), then go Grey Dog. It’s a happy place.

Grey Dog has locations on 242 West 16th Street, 90 University Place and 244 Mulberry Street. For more information, visit their website here:

Coffee



Credits.
Images: All Rights Reserved © Francois Lubbe
Text: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes


Williams & Graham… Fuel Your Fantasy

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During a recent visit to Denver, Colorado, when my friend suggested we check out this ‘great new cocktail bar down LoHi’, I was a bit wary. Personally, cocktail bars hold the trepidation of either being populated with pretentious hipsters or a gaggle of raucous chavs — socially I don’t do well on either end of that spectrum. However, Williams & Graham Booksellers, has none of the above. In fact, I stand corrected on every preconception I ever held about cocktail bars.

As we enter, the first thing that strikes me is how minuscule Williams & Graham bookstore is. The dimly lit corner shop is covered with bookshelves, wall-to-ceiling, and behind the heavy dark wood counter lingers a suspiciously lonesome ‘bookseller’… not a cocktail shaker or Martini glass in sight. The lady who recommended the place instructed us to ‘let the guy behind the counter know that you want to speak to a man about a book.’

That’s exactly what we do. The ‘bookseller’ scribbles our names down on an old-style catalogue card, opens a drawer and files it away. Seconds later, a section of the towering bookcases give way to a secret door and a very friendly (dare I say ‘sexy’) hostess whisks us down into a dark, narrow passage…

Mixology3

Sean Kenyon… striking a delicate balance – W&G

Once inside the bar area — Wild-West 1920s-themed, with plush, shiny red and brown leather chairs and booths, dark wood furniture and quirky relics from the Prohibition era — my friend and I give each other a knowing look: we’re in for a memorable evening.

The atmosphere is relaxed, comfortable and friendly, and the fact that there is almost no overhead lighting gives the large single space an air of mystery and anticipation. Cosy booths, silhouetted by a free-standing bookshelf, lines one of the walls, providing an ideal space to chill out and catch up… or share a few secrets. The pièce de résistance is the chunky wall-length wood panel bar, formidably dominating the room with its masculinity (dare I say ‘very butch!’).

The bar itself is a well-stocked beast. The shimmering bottles of classic and rare spirits from all over the world lining the bar shelves, coupled with the rugged, bow-tied and bearded Mixologists (barmen) make the unmistakable statement that this is a place where drinking in style is the name of the game. No questions asked.

We get seated at the bar (prime location!) where our barman, Joe, introduces himself. He makes a point of taking our names and when it comes down to business, he explains the cocktail menu in the finest detail — striking a delicate balance between skilful flirting and perky professionalism. I don’t know if it is Joe’s darn handsome good looks or because my friend is sincerely fascinated by his profound knowledge and passion for mixology, either way, looking at her, she is obviously in Prohibition Heaven.

The cocktail menu is extensive (not in volume but in its eclectic list of ingredients), enticing and deliberately lacking pretence. The cocktails themselves are bright, fresh and bold, whether they’re classic revivals or something daring, rustic and modern. Don’t leave without trying the Blackberry Sage Smash — Williams & Graham Select Single Barrel Knob Creek, fresh blackberries, sage, lemon, & sugar— and the Long Way Down, with Smith & Cross navy strength rum, Appleton 12 year rum, Velvet Falernum, W&G orgeat, Allspice dram, fresh lime juice, Angostura bitters & mint.

If cocktails are not your ‘thing’, you’ll be pleased to know that they also boast a careful selection of Agave Spirits, Gin, Cognac, Brandy & Eau de Vie, American Whiskey, Scotch Whisky, Vodka, Irish, Canadian & Japanese Whiskey, Beer & Wine. So, there’s no reason to sit around feeling high and dry.

Serving Time

Serving time @ W&G

If I had to score Williams & Graham Booksellers, I’ll give them a 12 (out of 10). It’s easy to fall in love with the surprise entry. In fact, they’ve nailed the hidden entrance scenario. The ambience is great and the service impeccable. In a world where ordering a drink could be an agonizing dilemma, Joe made it exciting with his relaxed, intelligent and elegant manner. He made eye contact with us even when he wasn’t serving us and best of all, he remembered our names — pronounced flawlessly, which is an accomplishment by itself because ‘Nicolette’ and ‘Francois’ don’t sit all that well on the Yankee tongue. Needless to say, this very personal approach made a lasting impression.

The one thing that still is a work in progress (not that it influenced my score) is the food menu. Since their speciality is ‘fine drinking’, it’s obvious why the cocktail menu outshines the food selection both in breadth and depth. In all fairness, we didn’t order food on this occasion (we had dinner reservations elsewhere), so I’m not really at liberty to comment in detail. However, I am interested to see if they’re going to explore their full potential as a sought-after dining establishment. It will be a lovely addition to what they already have on offer, but it certainly is not a necessity.

Williams & Graham opened mid-2011 and since then the owners, Sean Kenyon and Todd Colehour, have been on a mission to make a lasting impression… if not also to change the face of Denver’s cocktail culture. In September 2012, Food & Wine magazine named them one of the Top 10 Best New Bars in the US, both Kenyon and Colehour were nominated, in March 2013, for best American Bartender of the Year and Best American Bar of the Year, respectively, by Tales of the Cocktail and in February 2013, the bar was announced as one of the semi-finalists for the James Beard Foundation awards in the Outstanding Bar Program category.

Kenyon and Colehour do know how to mix things in perfect measure, which is why they dance effortlessly between homely old-world and retro-chick with their ‘speakeasy’ joint. Williams & Graham’s overall personality stuck with me long after I’ve exited through the back door — which is the only way to leave this place. When I think back about my evening there, I still feel like I’ve done something naughty, but delicious… and that’s always a real treat.

Address: Corner of West 32nd Avenue and Tejon Street, Denver, Colorado.

Phone: (303) 997-8886

Website: http://williamsandgraham.com/

Visitors Tip: Since Williams & Graham is already popular among locals, it gets packed over weekends. It’s not your typical show-up-have-a-drink-and-leave joint and it’s best to make reservations because you can end up on the waiting list for 10min–2hrs. However, once you are seated, you won’t be rushed to leave, so it’s worth the wait.

Williams & Graham

Note of interest: A ‘speakeasy‘ — also called a ‘blind pig’ or ‘blind tiger’ — used to be an establishment that illegally sold alcohol and they were particularly prominent in the US during the Prohibition era, 1920–1933. During Prohibition, the sale, manufacturing, and transportation (bootlegging) of alcoholic beverages were illegal throughout the US. They were called ‘speakeasies’ because patrons spoke quietly about these places in public, or when inside them, so as not to alert the police or neighbours of their location.

The name is said to have originated with saloon owner Kate Hester, who ran an unlicensed bar in the late 1800’s in the McKeesport neighbourhood on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. Even though police and agents of the Bureau of Prohibition often raided these underground drinking holes and arrested their owners and patrons, they were extremely popular and profitable and continued to flourish… Proving that you cannot keep a good thing down.


Credits.
Images: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes, various internet sources – no copyright infringement intended
Text: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Vieo: 5280.com exclusive – vimeo


Bramley Apple, Lavender And Honey Pie

When I think of apples, I think of God, sex, sin, fertility, folklore, festivities, family and love.

The old apple tree in the back of my garden started to show her autumn armour in the past two weeks. Her glorious ripe red-cheeked fruits sit like a glowing blush between her beautiful amber and orange leaves, waiting to be harvested. She’s had a good year, and offers her blessings in sheer abundance.

It’s time to bake some apple pies.

Filling:

10 X Large Bramley Apples – unpeeled and diced into large cubes
1 X Cup of honey (I source mine locally)
2 X Cups of raspberries or blackberries
25ml Apricot Oil (or Olive Oil)
50 grams Unsalted Butter — cubed
1 X Teaspoon of Cinnamon
½ Cup of Lavender
½ Cup of Crushed Almonds

Method:

Heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Put the apple cubes and butter in a saucepan and heat on a high temperature on your gas top. Stir well until the butter is melted.

Add the apricot oil, honey and raspberries. Keep stirring and mix well.

Mix in the cinnamon, lavender and almonds. Cover the saucepan with a lid and allow to simmer for approximately 5-10 minutes or until your kitchen is filled with the smell of lavender, apples and cinnamon.

Crumble Topping:

2 X Cups of Nutty Muesli
1 X Cup Raw Oats
½ Cup Demerara Sugar (or Xylitol – a tooth-and-diabetes-friendly, non-fermentable sugar alcohol)
100 grams Unsalted Butter — cubed
½ Cup of Lavender

Method:

Mix the muesli, oats, sugar and lavender in a grinder or food processor. The mixture should not be too fine, neither to chunky.

Rub the butter cubes in with the muesli mixture to make your crumble.

Variations:

If you don’t have lavender at hand (I am lucky to have a few bushes in my garden) you can replace it with cocoa for the filling, and chocolate chips ( 70% cocoa dark chocolate crushed fine with a large sharp knife, will do too) for the crumble. The same measures apply.

Scoop your steaming apple filling in a large sweet pastry case or smaller single sweet pastry cases (this recipe serves 6-8, if you use small pastry cases). I buy mine ready-made. (I know it’s lazy, but it saves a lot of time). Cover with your crumble.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. Another good indication that you’re pie is ready, is the gathering of hungry mouths around the kitchen table. The sweet spicy smell of honey, apples, nuts and lavender is irresistible… if you don’t notice it after about twenty minutes, the only thing that could possibly have gone wrong is that you did not switch the oven on.

Serve hot with a dollop of cream, vanilla ice-cream or crème fraiche. Drizzle with honey and decorate with lavender twigs.

Indulge a little bit!


Credits.
Image: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Recipe: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes