The saying, “If you can’t stand the heat – get out of the kitchen” can become uncomfortably true in the middle of a South African summer. But in winter, our kitchens offer us a place to huddle and be sheltered from the storms, both physical and otherwise. Food can nourish us and feed our creativity by connecting us with the larger world. The familiar warm embrace of an oven can provide our souls with a comfort nearly impossible to come by from anything else.
Grace Stevens – celebrity chef, dame of deliciousness and mother to comfort food is here to share with you her top tips to take the food that puts you in a good mood from the pages of her recipe book to the plates of an evening you won’t forget.
Celebratory Carrot Cake
A recipe that is very nostalgic for me is my carrot cake. When I was pregnant with my first child, I would crave carrot cake to the point where it would be all I could think of. Problem was, I couldn’t find any that balanced the sweetness and spices just the way I wanted. And so my carrot cake recipe was born. It amazes me how so many years later, I still feel a familiar tingle of excitement every time I enjoy a slice. If you want to take this delicious recipe to the next level, try roasting the nuts beforehand to bring out their natural oils and intensify their rich rounded nutty flavour. Not to mention, the smell that fills your home with expectation makes that cake all the more delightful when you finally get to enjoy it.
Oscar Wilde is infamous for having said “Everything in moderation, including moderation” and I agree that we should make time and place for all food. Although my chocolate mousse recipe is certainly not an everyday occurrence in my household, it has a way of reminding me that spoiling ourselves occasionally is part of a healthy lifestyle. Its super-smooth yet light texture perfectly echoes and offsets the deep chocolate flavour. Although it is divine served on its own, add a little whipped cream and berries for tartness – it is simply sublime.
Recipes that use fruit have an amazing way of giving you a snack of summer delight to savour in the chilly winter months. Personally, citrus flavours are just what I need to boost my spirits on a winter’s day. In my lemon and blueberry cake, citrus flavours dance together with the brilliance of blueberries to make a treat that is full of antioxidants and has summer baked straight into it. Early research has even shown that the essential oils in citrus zest help to protect you from feeling gloomy as they have mood-lifting properties. And if by accident you spill the cake when liberating it from your baking tin, a good patch up with buttercream gives the whole family something to giggle about.
Food is a powerful trigger for some of our most profound, positive and playful memories. After many years in the cake making industry, Grace admits that when she works she still hears the wise voice of her home economics teacher telling her how to bake a perfect cake.
In an increasingly complex world, we can take comfort in the simple truth that a full belly makes a happy person. When we know someone has taken time to make a meal for us and put effort, love and skill into it, we can taste their care for us. With so many more of us cooking at home, the options to express our affection for our loved ones through wonderful winter treats are only limited by our personal tastes.
By Grace Stevens
- 4 eggs
- 315g brown sugar
- 250ml oil
- 500ml cake flour
- 5ml cinnamon
- 5ml ground ginger
- 3ml ground clove
- 3ml bicarb
- 10ml baking powder
- 400g grated carrot
- 1 grated apple
- 100g raisins
- 75g chopped walnuts
Cream Cheese Buttercream
- 100g full cream Cream Cheese
- 50g butter
- 300g icing sugar
- Zest of 1 orange
- 30ml orange juice
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare 2 x 20cm round cake tins or 1 x 25cm Bundt tin.
- Cream the eggs and sugar together until light.
- Sift dry ingredients and add the raisins after tossing them in flour to coat.
- Turn the mixer down to low and add oil in a steady stream until completely combined.
- Add flour 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Fold in carrots, nuts and apple.
- Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean (35mins for 20cm round tin).
- Remove from tin and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
- Combine buttercream ingredients and beat well.
- Spread onto cooled cake and top with nuts or orange zest.
Chocolate Mousse and Almond Tuilles
By Grace Stevens
- 4 egg yolks
- 60ml castor sugar
- 500ml cream
- 225g dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 5ml vanilla extract
- 1 egg white
- 50g icing sugar
- 50g butter, melted
- 50g almond flour, well sifted
- 2ml vanilla extract
- 30g Shaved almonds
- 150ml cream
- 15ml castor sugar
- 2ml vanilla extract
- grated chocolate
- Place egg yolks, 30ml sugar and 180ml cream in a medium saucepan and mix well.
- Over medium heat, cook the egg mixture until it is thick. Remove from the heat.
- Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and vanilla extract.
- Cover with clingfilm over the surface of the custard and allow to cool.
- Whip the remaining cream and sugar until soft peak.
- Fold a third of the cream into the cooled custard and mix to loosen the custard.
- Fold the custard into the remaining cream.
- Divide mousse between six serving dishes, I used small glasses. Martini glasses also make a dramatic serving dish.
- Place in the fridge until serving.
- Preheat oven to 180ºC
- In a medium bowl, mix the butter, sugar and vanilla extract.
- Add the egg white and almond flour and mix well to a paste.
- Rest in the fridge until needed.
- Drop teaspoon amounts of batter onto a silicone mat or silicone paper and spread into a circular shape, getting the batter as thin as possible.
- Sprinkle with shaved almonds.
- Bake for 4 minutes, until the tuile turns golden brown, you will have to watch them carefully.
- Remove from the oven and quickly slide a pallet knife under the tuile and wrap around a wooden spoon or small rolling pin to shape. Rest on a dish towel until firm. Repeat with remaining tuiles. You will have to work quickly.
- Repeat with the rest of the batter or until you have enough tuiles to serve.
- Whip cream, sugar and vanilla extract until stiff.
- Place cream in a piping bag with a star nozzle.
- Pipe a swirl of cream on top of each mousse. Top with grated chocolate.
- Place a tuile on each dessert just before serving.
- Serve immediately.
Lemon and Blueberry Cake
by Grace Stevens
- 120g butter
- 250ml castor sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 10 ml baking powder
- 2 ml salt
- 500 ml cake flour
- 125 ml milk
- 300g blueberries
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 30 ml lemon juice
- 100g soft butter
- 375 ml icing sugar
- 50 ml lemon juice
- Heat oven to 180°C.
- Grease a Bundt tin and dust with flour
- Add lemon juice and zest to the milk (it will curdle, this is fine)
- In electric mixer, whisk butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat until pale and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
- Sift dry ingredients.
- Beginning with the flour, add flour and milk to the butter mixture.
- Fold in blueberries.
- Spoon into the prepared tin.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
- Remove from tin and place onto a cooling rack
- You will ice the smooth “bottom” of the cake.
- Beat butter and icing sugar together well before adding lemon juice.
- Spread onto cooled cake.
- Decorate with blueberries and more lemon zest.
Replace the blueberries with raspberries
Replace the lemon zest with orange zest
For more delicious recipes, follow Grace on Instagram @ grace_stevenschef or meet her in person and book your personal master class on www.gracestevens.co.za