How to make food soar, how to make desserts fun
On the agenda, Indelibly rich, “Crangipane bars” (brown sugar shortbread layer, frangipane layer & a cranberry custard over top), also my version of a Persian Pilau and South African Rooibos tea steeped with cranberries
I “warmed up” or rather I should say, “wised up” to cranberries, a few years ago when I finally got my head out of the bog and learned that these berries had more than one novel use to offer. I was put off mostly by the sharp pucker and the bitter after taste, yet, was always inclined to keep an open mind and garner enough willpower to dispel this frivolous distaste of such a precious fruit. Not only is the cranberry high in antioxidants and has a rich source of vitamin C, but the juice of this berry has a profound and a positive impact on fighting bladder, kidney and urinary tract infections.
I was also reluctant to mask the nutritional value of this berry with a boat load of sweeteners, but after enjoying its subtle tartness by adding just a little raw and unfiltered wildflower honey, and the fact that it once helped heal my bladder woes, I not only respected its claim to medicinal efficacy, but I began to fall head over heels in love with its culinary magic! So while, this crimson marvel was enjoyed and utilized by the American Indian as mediums for medicinal poultices or dyeing cloth for that matter, for me, it was the special glory that revealed itself in the sweets! I am darn sure that this goes for a lot of you, skeptics, out there as well. Decades have passed since this beloved crimson jewel with its dynamic versatility was introduced by the American Indian to the Pilgrims; indeed a gift never to be forgotten and might I add, a gift more worthy than a shiny, precious stone!
Let the infinite recipe applications begin!!!!! Cranberries will no longer “wane” in the shadow of that “feathered monstrosity” that demands all of our “bloody attention” and praise, (said in a rather visceral South African accent).
Crazy good, “Crangipane bars,” (I made these for Valentine’s Day)
These are really bar shaped cookies which have three distinct layers; a brown-sugar, soft crumb, creamy shortbread-like base, a frangipane, (almond cream), middle layer and a cranberry custard layer over top. I cut them into heart-shaped cookies for Valentine’s Day. I struggled a bit with the baking science for the three layers, especially since “the spontaneity of tweaking” was not an option and all the layers had to be cooked evenly, but after two attempts, “the crumb” of this cookie surpassed even my humblest of expectations!
As I bit into the cookie, the crumbly shortbread layer, with its soft crunch, slowly melted away, the almost meringue-like, nutty frangipane layer was rich and slightly crispy, while the delicate cranberry custard layer rendered just the right amount of pucker……sinfully delicious yet virtuously enjoyed!
Top layer of the cookie
This swirling mass of deliciousness is cranberry custard slightly sweetened with raw & unfiltered wildflower Colorado honey, made into custard with eggs and goes over top etc…. I could see this layer just bubble away, while it was still in the oven.
I adapted this recipe from a rather distinguished pastry chef, Ms. Amernick, but in the interim totally revamped 99.9% of its make-up just because I had other plans for this cookie, laying in the wake of this equally delicious recipe! Perseverance and patience bring delicious things to life! But as you can see, I also had some divine intervention of a little “Angel,” given to me by Jo, of “Literally in the Moment”! Thanks Jo for such a beautiful little keepsake, also the fuzzy bear from “Make a Wish Foundation” for the munchkin and also the scented oil lamp. Jo, who is an avid and knowledgeable gardener in her own right, grows garlic and religiously mails me bushels of it. I roast the garlic immediately in the oven with olive oil and use it in all of my dishes! I love all of your treasures!
Please take one, on your way out!
Persian Pilau, (Basmati rice with saffron and honeyed cranberries).
I “Americanized” the recipe by adding the honeyed cranberries…..Oh crap, I am almost hesitant to anticipate, how some people are going to give me a freakin thrashing for doing this! Chill out, I say, “don’t get your darn knickers all wadded up! It was a good thing, adding the honeyed cranberries! This is my party and I’ll do what I want to! He! He!” Anyway, I also made South African, “Bobotie” (pictures in a future post), as an accompaniment to this Persian Pilau. Sometimes, I make my roasted turkey dinner as an accompaniment to this luscious rice dish as well!
Let me tell ya, governments should acquire my services for any type of “peace talks” between nations. With this dish alone, I have the Americans, South Africans and Iranians eating out of one “pot.” What can I say, food is the common thread that holds everybody together!
My Mom and my aunt, Tietie, made a very similar sweetened yellow rice dish called “Geel rys” ( yellow rice) which they always served with “Frikadel” in South Africa, ( by the way the “Geel Rys” and the “Frikadel,” ( kicked up ground beef casserole), were wayyy better than this Persian Pilau; I am going to let you into a family secret, my Mom’s eldest sister made the most flavorful food, and now when I ask my husband to taste some of my variations on her classic dishes, he always says, “I do not know your Tietie, so I shall just say what you were going to say anyway, ” It still is a bit shy of that flavorful stamp of Tietie approval!”You know what, I am soooo okay with that!!!
Anyway, I decided to keep the rice savory and used some of my “honeyed cranberries left over from my “Crangipane bars” as part of the sweetened element for this dish. Normally, this rice dish will be even more caramelized on top, with lots of crunchy bits on top. I prefer it a little less crunchy with lots of aromatics, (no disrespect to any cuisine of course). My family will even eat this savory rice all by itself!
South African, Rooibos herbal tea steeped in sentiment and a little cranberries and Minneola Tangelos for good measure!
Indigenous to South Africa, and harvested in the Cedarberg Mountains, since time immemorial by the Khoisans, this deep-red orange hue of this wonder tea leaf “foretells” nutritional good fortunes and pure satisfaction. It is naturally caffeine- free, mineral-rich and has an antioxidant property – the taste is so unique, there is no other! Look for it at Vitamin Cottage, Sunflower Farmers market or Whole foods
I can still recollect, the times when my mom prepared this tea, the Cape Malaysian way, for my grandfather, (Boeya), and how he would savor it for hours! BTW, Thanks Auntie Mona, for naming me the International Woman of the Year! This means a lot coming from a well-traveled, gourmet cooking expert!
For the South Africans:
” Dit is soos ek hom nou kan hoor, ( my oupa), “maak my n’ regte koppie tee man, moenie vir my hierdie “Amerikaanse gemors injaag nie man!” he! he!
Please use organic ingredients when possible!
Rooibos tea (I make a warm version and also a “Sparkling, iced Rooibos” version!)
- Rooibos Herbal tea
- Some of the honeyed, vanilla bean cranberries, left over from the cookies
- Minneola tangelos or lemons
- Stick cinnamon
- Raw, unfiltered wildflower honey (Clarks of Colorado)
Simmer 3 tea bags in three cups of boiling water with some cinnamon sticks for about 2 mins. Add the honeyed cranberries & simmer for 1 more minute. Take off the heat and steep further in a pretty porcelain tea kettle. Serve in pretty tea cups with slices of Tangelos & some of the juice. Sweeten with the unfiltered honey if you wish.
You can also make a sparkling iced Rooibos tea version, by adding a little ice and sparkling water or ginger & lemon for a sore throat but this is another post!
Please use organic ingredients when possible
- 2 cups fragrant Basmati rice ( the kind that is grown in the Himalayas)
- 2 big shallots
- 2 T ghee plus another tablespoon
- 1 t saffron
- 2 T pounded garlic, (in the mortar & pestle), about 5 cloves, or more
- 2 -3 curry leaves
- 2 green plus 1 black cardamom ( has a smoky aroma)
- 2 small cinnamon sticks
- Kosher salt
- ¼ c sultanas
- Half of a red bell pepper chopped
- Red chili chopped, seeds removed
- ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted in a small pan with a little unsalted butter and a special spice mix, you can use paprika.
- ½ c of the honeyed cranberries, I had some left over from my cookie recipe
- Garnish with spiced pistachios ( same way as the almonds)
Boil a kettle of water, and soak the saffron in 1 cup of this hot water, set aside. Keep the kettle on low. Finely slice the shallots and sauté in the 2T ghee until translucent, on medium heat. While the shallots are sautéing, wash the rice in a bowl under running water, ( rub the rice between the hands), until almost all starch is gone, drain and set aside. Add the garlic, curry leaves, cardamoms, cinnamon, red bells and the chili, to the shallots, stir and sauté for another 3 minutes. Now add the drained rice, some kosher salt, the sultanas, and stir around to incorporate all the aromatics and also to “toast” the rice kernels in a way (about 2 mins.). Now add the cup with the soaked saffron, hot water and all, plus another cup of boiling water and turn stove on high, cover the saucepan, and cook until all the water has evaporated. Remove lid and then add enough boiling water again to cover about ½ inch above rice, plus the other tablespoon of ghee & cook until all the water has evaporated, turn stove on low and let the rice simmer for about 15 mins. In an oven safe domed dish, layer the honeyed cranberries on the bottom and then spoon the cooked rice on top, place in a 350 degree oven and let this bake for about 15- 30minutes, maybe a little longer for the crispy and more caramelized bits of rice & cranberries on the top. Unmold on a rice platter, sprinkle with the spicy almonds & further garnish with a little bit of the spicy pistachios
The munchkin, now 2 yrs old, always jumping, playing and loves good noshes! He cracks me up when he talks on his imaginary cell phone, complete with all of your hand gestures and hilarious expressions. Yep, this little guy knows his way around a computer as well! Mmmm! I wonder whom he imitates? he! he! When I tell him to pick up his toys, he says that he is tired and just wants to relax, um! didn’t I just say those exact words?. He! he! Kids say the darndest things! I swear he has a personality as big as the Rocky mountains!
I love these versions !
Grammy award performance of Chris Brown- Beautiful people.……love, love this version
Grammy award performance of Adele- Rolling in the deep……..adore this song!
Lady Antebellum-Just a kiss..…….love, love this song
Thanks for visiting!