chocolate banana bread

Chocolate Banana Bread | The Secret Life of Bee

So I have been seeing a lot of chocolate banana bread on my favourite blogs and sites lately. Chocolate and banana go darn well together and I have always added roughly chopped chunks of dark chocolate to my banana bread. That and a handful of pecan nuts. Heaven. So I thought let’s see how my recipe does with some added dark cocoa powder…

Chocolate Banana Bread | The Secret Life of Bee

Well. Well well well. This little loaf didn’t last long. The smell is the first thing that hits you. Intense, rich chocolate with hints of vanilla, cinnamon and sweet banana. I am sold. As if all this is not enough I guess one could say this is a double chocolate banana bread because the chunks of dark chocolate inside are splendid little surprises of molten goodness. Chop your chocolate quite roughly and unevenly so you end up with some large gooey chunks and smaller melted in ones. Bliss.

Chocolate Banana Bread | The Secret Life of Bee

Chocolate Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 230g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 45g dark cocoa powder (I use NOMU)
  • 3 large ripe bananas
  • 150g muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste ( I use NOMU)
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 120g butter, melted
  • 100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method:

Preheat oven to 180˚C.

Place flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa in a bowl and whisk to mix.

Mash 3 ripe bananas in a separate bowl using a fork. Add the muscovado sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Mix. Add the eggs one at a time and then the melted butter.

Sprinkle in the dry ingredients and mix until just together. Finally add the roughly chopped chunks of chocolate.

Pour the batter into a greased loaf tin and bake in the oven for approximately 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out almost clean. You want to keep the cake moist and those chocolate chunks gooey!

If you can- leave to cool on a wire rack and then turn out. If you’re like me you’ll get involved the second it leaves the oven!

It’s ever so good with a swish of butter or a delicious nut butter like almond or macadamia nut. Yum.

Chocolate Banana Bread | The Secret Life of Bee

Chocolate Banana Bread | The Secret Life of Bee

 

orange curd & granadilla tartlets

Orange curd & granadilla tartlets | The Secret Life of Bee

I adore making little tartlets. I’m big on crust. I find one giant tart never gives me the right crust to filling ratio. That’s what I love about individual little tartlets. That and they always look so darn cute. Like a little tea party in your kitchen.

Orange curd & granadilla tartlets | The Secret Life of Bee

These tarts are very special as the granadilla you see here has come from my beloved little vine. I have been speaking to and nurturing this precious plant for months and am over the moon with the amount of fruit it yielded and also with the taste. They have the most incredible sweet pulp and the colour of their skins is incredibly vibrant. I’m like a proud mom. So not to mess with the exquisite fresh granadilla I used it as a topping for the curd. The curd is very sweet and needs the fresh tartness of the granadilla to balance it.

Orange curd & granadilla tartlets | The Secret Life of Bee

Orange curd & granadilla tartlets

Ingredients:

Sweet short pastry dough:

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 300g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 150g butter, cold
  • 60g free-range eggs (1 extra-large egg), beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste

Orange curd:

  • 2 large oranges, zested & juiced
  • 140g butter
  • 300g sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 eggs
  • 20g cornstarch
  • Grand Marnier (or orange liquor, dark rum and even brandy!)
  • fresh granadilla pulp

Method:

Preheat oven to 180˚C.

Begin with the pastry. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut the butter into little cubes and then ‘rub’ into the dry ingredients using your fingers. Once you have wet sand like texture add the beaten egg and vanilla in the centre. Use one finger to swirl the dry ingredients more and more into the centre. Turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface and barely bring it together into a ball. You do not want to over work or over heat this dough. Flatten your ball slightly and wrap well with cling film. Leave to rest in the fridge.

For the filling- zest and then juice the two oranges. Place the zest, juice, butter and half the sugar into a pot and bring to the boil. Whisk the remaining sugar with the egg yolks until pale and creamy. Add the remaining eggs one at a time and finally whisk in the cornstarch. When the orange mixture has reached a rolling boil, pour a little into your egg mixture and whisk to temper the eggs. Add a little more at a time until you have added three quarters of the mixture. Pour the egg mixture back into the pot and whisk the whole lot over medium high heat until it thickens and comes to the boil. This will take a few minutes so be patient and don’t stop whisking!

Transfer curd to a shallow dish and whisk in a heavy handed splash of Grand Marnier and let it cool slightly. Cover with cling film in contact with the surface of the curd and allow to cool in the fridge.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface until a couple mm thick. Fill greased tart molds with pastry dough making sure to press the dough into the corners and cut off neat edges. Fill with ceramic baking beans for the neatest finish or just prick the bottoms well with a fork. Bake until golden brown and crisp. Leave to cool.

Fill a piping bag with the orange curd. Pipe the curd into the tart shells when completely cool. Spoon over heaps of fresh granadilla pulp and serve!

Enjoy!

Orange curd & granadilla tartlets | The Secret Life of Bee

Orange curd & granadilla tartlets | The Secret Life of Bee

 

 

raw vegan brownies

Raw Vegan Brownies | The Secret Life of Bee

These raw brownies are officially taking up permanent residence in my fridge. I have been wanting to make raw treats for ages. Mostly because they’re delicious but also because buying them is super expensive. They took minutes to make and I am so chuffed with the taste. Making them was like a bit of a science experiment for me having never made something like this before and trying to get the texture and taste right.

Raw Vegan Brownies | The Secret Life of Bee

What I found is that they also lend themselves beautifully to adding fun flavours. Dried apricots, cayenne pepper or mint extract would be wonderful additions. They keep really well in the fridge as they soften at room temperature so take them out of the fridge for a few minutes before you want to serve them so they get fudgy and brownie like.

Raw Vegan Brownies | The Secret Life of Bee

Raw Vegan Brownies

Makes 12 small brownies, double the recipe for a more generous portion

Ingredients:

  • 130g medjool dates
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 20g desiccated coconut
  • 30g cocoa powder ( I used NOMU)
  • pinch sea salt flakes
  • 1 tsp vanilla powder
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil

Method:

Place all the ingredients except the coconut oil into a food processor and blitz until fine. Heat the coconut oil in a pan until it becomes liquid. Drizzle into the food processor and mix well.

Decant mixture into a lined little loaf tin or square tray. If you do not have one small enough decant onto some baking paper and fold, squeeze and shape it into a square. Place in the freezer to set firm.

Remove and slice into squares.  Dust with cocoa powder.

Keep the brownies in the fridge wrapped up tightly for a week.

Raw Vegan Brownies | The Secret Life of Bee

Raw Vegan Brownies | The Secret Life of Bee

lentil “risotto” with basil pistou

lentil "risotto" with basil pistou | The Secret Life of Bee

I make a LOT of lentils. They are super cheap and incredibly versatile. A lentil dish will provide you with a great amount of protein, dietary fiber, iron, magnesium and lots of other minerals and vitamins.  This dish is an easy weeknight supper that you do not need to fuss over and requires no stirring! So it’s not really risotto. It’s my healthy attempt at tricking my mind into thinking it’s eating a bowl of carbs. That being said it’s a delicious meal in it’s own right and sometimes you just need the practical meals in life which you can prepare after a long day at work.  The pistou can even be made in advance and if there are any leftovers lentils keep well!

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Pistou is pesto’s French cousin. Originating in Provence, pistou excludes pine nuts and cheese in the making and is simply garlic, basil, olive oil and salt. Some more modern versions do add Parmesan or Pecorino. This entire recipe can be vegan or vegetarian if you simply use vegetable stock and leave out the Parmesan at the end.

lentil “risotto” with basil pistou

serves 4

Ingredients:

Pistou:

  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 30g basil
  • 30g rocket
  • 30g baby spinach
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 300g cherry tomatoes, on the vine
  • 2 red onions
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • micro herbs
  • Parmesan

Method:

Preheat oven to 200˚C.

lentil "risotto" with basil pistou | The Secret Life of Bee

For the pistou: Using a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic clove and teaspoon of sea salt into a puree. Scrape the garlic paste into a food processor for ease and speed and add the basil, rocket, spinach and olive oil. Blitz until smooth.

lentil "risotto" with basil pistou | The Secret Life of Bee

Drizzle the cherry tomatoes with olive oil and sea salt and place into the oven for 15 minutes until cooked.

blistered cherry tomatoes | The Secret Life of Bee

For the lentils: Finely chop the onion and fry gently in a drizzle of olive oil until soft and lightly browned. Add the cup of lentils and ‘toast’ them on the heat with the onion. Add the three cups of stock, stir and cover for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and let the lentils simmer for a further 30-40 minutes until tender but not mushy. You should be left with little to no stock, just enough to keep the lentils slightly moist and risotto like.

Off the heat- stir in the pistou. You can add all of it for a big punch of flavour or as much as you like to taste and save the rest for delicious bruschetta. Finally add the zest of 1 lemon.

Serve with the blistered cherry tomatoes and a generous grating of Parmesan cheese.

lentil "risotto" with basil pistou | The Secret Life of Bee

 

 

vanilla choux buns

Vanilla Choux Puffs | The Secret Life of Bee

These little airy puffs of choux pastry filled with vanilla crème pâtissière say I love you with every little bite. Pile them up and serve in between you and your Valentine with a bottle of bubbly.

Choux pastry / pâte à choux is really a very easy pastry to master. There are two tricks. ‘Drying’ it out sufficiently in the pan and watching the consistency when you begin adding the eggs. You do not want a very wet dough. It must stand up on it’s own when you swish a finger through it so sometimes that means leaving a little egg behind when you’ve got a shiny, silky smooth pastry.

Vanilla Choux Puffs | The Secret Life of Bee

Vanilla Choux Puffs | The Secret Life of Bee

Once made the pastry is pretty robust. You do not need to pipe it out straight away and also if you pipe some dodgy looking choux you can scrape them back into the bowl and try again! You can also pre pipe them- freeze them and cook from frozen! Easy peasy! They are super light and fluffy and can be filled with anything sweet or savoury!

Vanilla Choux Puffs | The Secret Life of Bee

Vanilla Choux Buns

Ingredients:

Choux

  • 125ml full-cream milk
  • 125ml water
  • 110g butter
  • 5g sugar
  • 5g salt
  • 140g flour
  • 250g eggs (approx 5 large eggs)

Crème Pâtissière

  • 500ml full-cream milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 60g egg yolk (approx 3 yolks)
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 40g Maïzena

Method:

Preheat oven to 220˚C and line two baking sheets with silicon mats or baking paper.

Bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil. Take the pot off the stove and add the flour. Return to the heat and mix the dough thoroughly with a spatula, drying it out. 3-5 minutes.

Place dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix the dough on its own for a few seconds to release some steam and cool down.

Whisk the eggs and pour them into a little jug.

While the mixer is turning, slowly add the eggs a little at a time. Mix the dough thoroughly between each addition. It will split and then come back together again. You do not want the dough to be too wet so you may not need to add all of the egg. I often leave a tablespoon or two behind.

Fit a piping bag with a 10mm piping tip and then fill with the choux pastry.

Pipe mini ping pong sized balls onto the baking sheets and place in the oven. Switch the oven off for 10 minutes. Turn back on at 160˚C and cook for a further 20 minutes. Remove choux and leave to cool.

Vanilla Choux Puffs | The Secret Life of Bee

For the crème pâtissière- bring the milk and vanilla to the boil.

Whisk the sugar and egg yolks together until pale and creamy. Add the Maïzena and mix.

Once the milk reaches a boil- pour a splash of milk onto the yolk mix and whisk. Keep adding milk a little at a time. Then pour the mixture back into the pot and cook the pastry cream while whisking until it thickens and begins bubbling- about 3 minutes.

Cover with cling film on contact and place in the fridge to cool.

Jab little holes into the bottom of your choux with a piping tip and then fill with the pastry cream.

Dip the choux in your choice of topping- chocolate ganache, white chocolate or simple cupcake style icing.

Vanilla Choux Puffs | The Secret Life of Bee

 

 

chocolate chantilly

Chocolate Chantilly | The Secret Life of Bee

I have wanted to make Chocolate Chantilly for years now. Ever since I came across it i’ve wondered how it will turn out. You see attending culinary school we were always taught that chocolate and water could never be friends. This rather genius recipe shows just how incorrect that is in the right circumstances. It was created by the French chemist Hervé This. Hervé is really the godfather of Molecular Gastronomy and was one of the first people to bring science into the kitchen.

Chocolate Chantilly | The Secret Life of Bee

So I guess this ‘recipe’ is more of a technique than anything else. Heston Blumenthal made a how-to video for chocolate chantilly which you can watch here to give you and idea of what you’re about to embark on. Just a little note- at some point Heston says, “whisk like fury.” No fricking kidding Heston. You need to whisk the mixture over an ice bath until your arm wants to fall off. But at least I can tell you the reward is really awesome. The mousse you end up with is delicious and incredibly rich. There is no cream or anything else to dilute the intense chocolatey flavour. This is a perfectly vegan recipe. Due to the richness of the mousse if you’re not a vegan I suggest serving it with whipped cream and tart berries which will lighten the overall mouthfeel.  My recipe is adapted from Heston Blumenthal’s and i’ve spiked the water with earl grey and vanilla. Now whip out that whisk!

Chocolate Chantilly | The Secret Life of Bee

Chocolate Chantilly

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 200g top quality dark chocolate (I used 70%)
  • 200ml water
  • 1 earl grey tea bag
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • whipping cream and berries to serve

Method:

Boil the kettle and pour 200ml of water over 1 earl grey tea bag. Let it steep. In the meantime chop your chocolate into little chunks which will help it melt faster.

Remove the tea bag and pour the earl grey into a sauce pan on medium-high heat. Whisk in the chocolate and continue to whisk until it is completely homogenous. Add the vanilla and whisk.

Pour the mixture into a bowl and place into a larger bowl filled with  ice and water. Now whisk!

Keep whisking….

Whisk some more…

Wipe sweat from brow and keep whisking.

After sometime your mixture will begin to thicken like cream and then shortly after it will look like thick custard. Do not over-whip it. It sets pretty quickly from this point.

When you have a glorious thick, smooth and glossy mousse spoon quickly into desired pots or ramekins and place in the fridge.

Serve with whipped cream and berries.

*** The beauty of this recipe is that if you take your mousse too far the first time and it becomes grainy- you can spoon it all back into the sauce pan, melt it and start again. NB: make sure you start over with a new ice bath too.

Chocolate Chantilly | The Secret Life of Bee

Chocolate Chantilly | The Secret Life of Bee

jazz up your gin game

Gin & tonic | The Secret Life of Bee

A great gin and tonic never loses popularity. Especially with the fabulous weather forecast lately, a substantial amount of G&Ts have been consumed at a rapid rate. I’ve been a Hendricks lover for quite some time but the locally made gin offerings in South Africa have become incredibly competitive and super delicious with some of our brands really kicking international butt. So obviously i’m doing my bit for the country and the economy and drinking more local gin.

Gin & tonic | The Secret Life of Bee

Inverroche is one of them and I’ve done some serious damage to their stock pile since I’ve discovered it. Herbaceous and delicious the Classic is handcrafted using 15 different botanicals. Hints of juniper, citrus and wild Cape fynbos make this hooch a winner. To accompany my gin of choice I normally use Fitch & Leedes Indian Tonic and have also recently discovered Swaan Cape Tonic by AA Badenhorst Wines.  They are both superb.

Gin & tonic | The Secret Life of Bee

One of my favourite things about a gin and tonic is that you can have it exactly how you want it. There are no strict rules and you can play with flavour combos as much as you like.

The classic ratio is about 1 part gin to 3 parts tonic. I tend to be a tad heavy handed with the gin landing up with almost equal parts but you know it’s made with herbs so it’s practically medicinal. The next most important thing is keeping everything icy cold. I pop my gin in the freezer, tonic in the fridge and you can even chill the glasses. The next nifty idea is making tonic water ice cubes. Saw this on the kitchn and made a tray almost immediately. The trick here is to use flat-ish tonic or your ice cube won’t be very solid. But this nifty trick will not only allow the flavour of your G&T to be less diluted you’ll also just be really, really cool.

Gin & tonic | The Secret Life of Bee

Hendricks led me to the cucumber and peppercorn pairing which is still one of my favourite combos when pouring a G&T. Even infusing your bottle of gin in a jug with ribbons of cucumber adds a fabulous flavour and you can choose to strain it out.

Gin & tonic | The Secret Life of Bee

Grapefruit zest is another winner. Peel it with a very sharp peeler so as to avoid any of the white pith. That’s the bitter part. The zest is where the money is at adding heaps of flavour and aroma. This one has been further jazzed up with edible pansies that I froze into the tonic water ice cubes.

Gin & tonic | The Secret Life of Bee

This chilli infused G&T is a newbie for me and I was really just playing around but ended up loving it! Add as much freshly sliced chilli as your taste buds desire. Take the seeds out if you prefer a milder buzz, or even infuse the gin separately, but I thoroughly loved the warmth it added and used the whole chilli seeds and all. To accompany this spicy gin I added a sweet garnish. I caramelised pineapple with some brown sugar using a blowtorch. Let’s just say I will be making this a fair amount in the future.

Gin & tonic | The Secret Life of Bee

All of the above combos are fabulous but will never replace the classic gin and tonic with a wedge of lemon or lime. Squeeze the wedge into the glass and then plop it in.

Gin & tonic | The Secret Life of Bee

I do also love adding a dash of Angostura bitters to the mix and turning it into a pink gin. Add a sprig of mint, find a gin buddy and enjoy!

Happy sipping!

vanilla sponge cake with buttercream icing

Vanilla Sponge Cake with Buttercream Frosting | The Secret Life of Bee

So over one glass four glasses of wine with a friend recently, we got chatting about baking. Specifically baking for the every day home cook. Sometimes it’s great having an amazing, seriously involved recipe that takes you 36 hours to execute and the result is drool-worthy. But other times you just need something convenient and yum without creating Hiroshima in the kitchen.

Vanilla Sponge Cake with Buttercream Frosting | The Secret Life of Bee

I have never used a cake baking kit before but was so pleasantly surprised at the result. The NOMU Vanilla Cake Kit created a delicious vanilla sponge cake that baked evenly and perfectly. I also liked that the kit required eggs, butter and milk. So you’re using all the good stuff that makes a cake super yummy, except they just make your life easier by measuring all the dry ingredients for you in a perfect ratio.

Vanilla Sponge Cake with Buttercream Frosting | The Secret Life of Bee

This was a very special cake for a very special bride to be and I could not have been happier that it turned out beautifully and was totally delicious. So find an excuse to bake this cake ASAP and you won’t be disappointed!

Vanilla Sponge Cake with Buttercream Frosting

*This recipe makes one cake. I used 2 cake kits, doubled the ingredients and made extra icing for the featured cake.

Ingredients:

For the icing:

*The nifty NOMU Baking Kit comes with three clearly marked sachets. One cake mix, one caster sugar and one icing mix sachet.

Vanilla Sponge Cake with Buttercream Frosting | The Secret Life of Bee

Method:

Preheat oven to 170˚C. Grease 2 x 20cm cake tins.

Using a hand held or stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar on high until very pale and fluffy.

Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and milk. Mix.

Finally sift in the cake mix sachet and gently combine until just mixed together.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tins and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before icing.

Vanilla Sponge Cake with Buttercream Frosting | The Secret Life of Bee

For the icing: 

Beat the butter on high speed until pale and creamy.

Sift in the icing mix and beat until well combined.

Add two squirts of vanilla paste for extra flavour and the beautiful look of little vanilla seeds throughout the icing.

Once the cake is completely cool begin assembly. Place a dollop of icing onto a cake board or cake stand to ‘cement’ down your cake. Place the first layer down and top with a very generous amount of icing and spread evenly to the edges. Place the second layer on top and ice the entire cake with a very thin layer of icing. This is called the crumb coat which glues down stray crumbs so you have a neater and cleaner finish. Place the cake in the fridge for the icing to set.

Remove the cake once the icing has set and proceed with the final layer of icing. For smooth edges use an off-set spatula or palette knife and dip in warm water. Decorate with flowers, glitter, gold dust, mini meringues and lots of LOVE!

Vanilla Sponge Cake with Buttercream Frosting | The Secret Life of Bee

Vanilla Sponge Cake with Buttercream Frosting | The Secret Life of Bee

Vanilla Sponge Cake with Buttercream Frosting | The Secret Life of Bee