Tag Archives: Mel Townsend

Purple Carrot Cake for Mum

I’m so excited!   My mother arrived last week to be with me and her beloved grandson’s. It’s been two years since I last saw her so it’s just a relief to have her here for Mother’s Day.

And although we Skype and call and Whatsapp all the time, nothing can beat a cup of tea and a chat over a plate of something decadent, to really appreciate mother and daughter time TOGETHER!

My mother has always been a very keen and accomplished baker.  We used to live miles and miles away from the closest tiny towns so our ‘entertainment’ was not going to a malls and movies or restaurants as there simply weren’t any around.  No, our entertainment was ripping out recipes out of magazines and sticking them into our recipe folder.  Or pouring over recipe books booked out from the library (no google search in those days lol)

We also grew most of our own vegetables and produce so there were always fresh eggs, fruit and ridiculously good milk from our cows.  We used to have a stainless steel milk separator which would spin off the rich and delectably thick cream either to be used on scones, churned into butter, or baked into cakes and cookies.

Oh the sweet memories!

Carrot cake was always a firm favourite, and although I’ve adapted this to be a little more glamorous essentially it’s just a jolly fabulous carrot cake!

Enjoy!

Beat together

185g softened butter with 3/4 cup brown sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy, and until the sugar is dissolved.

Add 5 ml Vanilla Extract or Paste and 2 eggs and mix together.

Grate 2 medium sized purple carrots, you can use normal carrots here if you wish, into the mixture.  Sieve in 1 cup self raising flour and 1/2 a teaspoon EACH of cinnamon, mixed spice or ras el hanout, and also 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda and 1 cup of pecans and/or pistachios. Mix together until combined and then pour into a greased cake or loaf tin.  Bake in a pre-heated oven of 170c for about 20-25 minutes until the cake is cooked, test with a skewer like they do in the movies lol!

Allow to cool.  While the cake is cooling you can whip up this delicious but ridiculously easy icing!

Take 1 small tub ricotta or cream cheese and into it add 2 tablespoons icing mixture, about 2 ml vanilla paste and the juice and zest of one lime.  Mix well and then dollop this onto the cake!  I cut the cake into portions first and arranged them on a platter before decorating each square with a dollop of the sweetened ricotta and a gorgeous little organic rose bud (available from my online store or at your local Indian spice shop)

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Crispy Skin Salmon with happy yellow butter bean or perfect pea mash

First of all, I just want you to know, that you too can get perfectly crisp fish skin EVERYTIME!

Crispy skin fish on happy butterbean or sexy pea puree…with a blackened lime

Want to know my trick?  It’s simple and will definitely be a game changer.  In order to have the fish perfect (not overcooked) and the skin crispy we HAVE to remove the skin!  I know…so easy!  I only remove the skin in the pan when we have cooked it down for about a minute so that it comes off easily.

Don’t try and remove it when the fish is raw and firmly attached, you will see in the video all I do it pick it up with my tongs and it literally peels off.  You would have to use a fish filleting knife to get it off raw.

In this recipe I’m using salmon, but any fish can be used and the method remains the same.  I switch between pea or butterbean mash…just to keep it interesting!

 

180g fish, skin on, per person

Salt and pepper to season

 

Method

This is my favourite recipe for when I am entertaining because it is practically stress free! A beautiful piece of fish or salmon needs little masking and if cooked perfectly, will simply shine!

 

The trick is to cook the fish properly and get the skin sexy and crispy. Soggy fish skin is never sexy and will You need to get your pan or BBQ SWEAR WORD HOT and greased with about 5 ml vegetable or rice bran oil in the pan just so that the fish doesn’t stick.

 

When the pan is hot, place the fish (not skin side) presentation side down, and use your tongs to make sure it doesn’t stick…I just give the piece a little wiggle to make sure it hasn’t stuck but will create a sexy crust of flavour and colour.

 

When the first side is brown (simply look underneath and lift with your tongs) turn it over to do the skin side too.  After about a minute or two you should be able to remove the skin using the tongs. Don’t stress if it breaks or you have to strip-peel it off, it is all part of the rustic glamour of this dish! Place the skin aside and then turn the now skin-free side down to brown it off. When the fish is cooked (check by placing a fork or knife in the centre of the thickest part and if it flakes when you twist it is done!)

 

Remove from the pan and now lower the heat and fry the skin nice and hot but not so hot that it burns in a flash…this will dry and crisp up the skin and the best way is to remove the skin so you don’t over cook the fish!

 

NEVER serve soggy fish skin…it is just not glamourous and can be easily crisped up by just allowing it some alone time in the pan.

 

Serve with one of these amazingly versatile mash recipes!

Rustic pea purée

 

2 cups frozen peas

1 onion finely chopped

1 clove garlic minced

150-250ml chicken or vegetable stock (depending on thickness required…please adjust)

5ml lemon zest

80ml cream

Method

Place all the ingredients into a medium saucepan and boil over a medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and blend to a smooth puree with a stick blender or manual masher.

Adjust the seasoning and thickness and then serve

Delicious yellow butterbean puree

(Serves 4)

2 tins butterbeans, drained

80ml  cream/milk or water (depends on your dietary preference)

1 chicken/mushroom/vegetable stock cube or use 1 teaspoon of powder stock

2 tablespoons pecorino or Parmesan grated (optional, you can keep this clean)

1 clove garlic, crushed

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder or freshly grated

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Method

 

Place all ingredients except the oil, in a large saucepan and heat over a really low heat, stirring regularly for about 10 minutes until tender making sure that it doesn’t dry out (add more cream or water/stock if needed). Once the beans have started to break down a bit more and look more cooked, add the oil and season to taste. Either wait for these to cool and then place in a food processor, or use a hand held masher or even stick blender.   Either process completely, or leave slightly chunky for a more rustic mash!

 

Place the sexy seared salmon or fish  on the pea puree and enjoy!

Happy Cooking…

 

With lots of culinary love

 

Chef Mel, The Vanilla Zulu

160624_052

Saffron, lime and chili infused butternut broth with creamy chive and feta dollop

Nothing is more satisfying than a healthy and nutritious bowl of fabulous pumpkin or butternut soup to warm the cockles of your heart.   Here’s a really easy and very sexy soup for you to try.  It’s all about adding a delicious dollop of creamy chive and feta for some texture, flavour and culinary bling.

Now not everyone can get their hands on saffron so do not fear, I have accounted for that in the recipe.  Read on fabulous foodie.

 

Saffron, lime and chili infused butternut broth with creamy chive and feta dollop                                 

 

Serves 6-8

 

2 teaspoons butter or olive oil

2 medium onions chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 good pinches saffron or use 1 teaspoon turmeric powder instead

600g -1 kg butternut, sweet potato or pumpkin cubed into 1 or 2 cm cubes (perfect way to use leftovers)

2 litres good chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to season

Zest of one lime

1 small chili crushed (or use more if you like!)

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese or use mature cheddar (optional)

80 – 100 ml fresh cream

100 g Danish style feta mixed to a paste with 1 bunch chives or spring onions, finely chopped. Alternatively use Greek feta blended with a few tablespoons of cream until smooth!

 

Method

 

Fry the onions in the oil or butter with the garlic until just soft. Now add the saffron or turmeric and finely cubed butternut as well as the stock. Allow to come to the boil and cook for about 15 -25 minutes until the butternut is soft,  Now add the zest and the chilli as well as the fresh cream. Remove from heat and blend with a stick blender and blend until ridiculously velvety and smooth.  If this is too thick for your liking add some more stock and thin it down.

When you serve simply garnish with dollops of the feta and chives, and even some fried shallots for crunch!

Boozy Vanilla Panna Cotta

 

Panna cotta really is the simplest thing to make, just have the confidence to try! 

image

Try my tested recipe, it makes 5-6 servings, and once you’ve mastered the basics imagine how many different flavours you could make!

You will need:

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups cream

1/2 cup white or raw sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla paste (you can get this from most supermarkets at about $9 but you only need a spoon for this)

4 sheets titanium strength gelatine soaked in cold water for 5 minutes, drain OR you can use 2 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatine dissolved in hot water DON’T use both!

Method

Simply place the cream and milk in a saucepan and heat until just about to boil. Make sure you stir so the bottom doesn’t burn, the only flavour we want is beautiful creamy milk and cream, if you do burn it start again!  Add the sugar and vanilla and stir until dissolved, and then add the softened and prepared gelatine and mix until dissolved.

Pour into glasses, ramekins, dariole moulds or similar, cover with cling film and then place in fridge. Depending on how large you have made them, they could take up to 6 hours to set so these are perfect made in advance!

Enjoy!

IN THE PRESS

FOOD AND HOME ENTERTAINING MAGAZINE

” Vivacious Melanie Townsend holds court with aplomb.  An interactive class that flourishes with lots of wine and laughter. Even shy students will be coaxed into the cooking action!: – Tracy Gielink

THE MERCURY NEWSPAPER

“Townsend, a bubbly, intelligent woman whose classes are fun and relaxed, says they’re about allowing a team to be creative by setting a time bound goal and encouraging them to think outside the box.  Apart from being a  necessity, food has long since been regarded as a great way to bring people together and because Townsend doesn’t even get into chef garb and speaks plainly, peoople are more open to experiment” – Omeshnie Naidoo