We are lucky in that the small village we now live in is full of avid amateur gardeners. Something myself and Luke are gradually aspiring to. Every Wednesday they meet at a local spot to socialise and trade their garden vegetables, herb seedlings, eggs, and freshly cut flowers. A large bucket of bright lights spinach took up most of the table space today, so I grabbed myself a bunch. Strawberry seedlings also went into my basket.
We had arrived quite early and I was sad to see no broad beans. One of the sellers must have seen the disappointment on my face. ”Don’t worry,” she said. ” The Rastafarians should arrive soon, and they always have broad beans.” No other shopping experience compares.
We wait eagerly for cherry season every year. Nothing quite like cherry picking to put one in the Christmas mood. Klondyke Farm in Ceres opens their cherry orchards to the public for the entire month of December (except Christmas Day). It is a great day out, starting with a drive up and over the beautiful Bainskloof Pass, and once at the farm you claim your picnic or braai spot under the pine trees.
In the orchards you really need to go from tree to tree and suss out your preference. Sweet or sour, the varieties range from Morello to Bing to Montmorency, and the farm has very thoughtfully colour coded the trees to help inexperienced pickers identify these.
Luke and myself filled two large buckets, which equated to 10 kilos. Now comes the laborious task of stoning the cherries. We bottle a couple batches with brandy and sugar. They make fantastic gifts. The rest we freeze in zip lock bags for future use. Cherry ice cream, cherry compote, cherry pie …
My niece gave me the brainwave idea to bake some cherries into a batch of chocolate brownies. I had made a batch of chocolate prune brownies out of Bourke Street Bakery a couple months ago. The addition of prunes was met with mixed feelings. Prunes. You either love them or hate them I guess. The texture of the brownie was great though. Fluffy as opposed to fudgy, and still surprisingly moist and chewy (mostly attributed to the alcohol soaked fruit).
Chocolate Cherry Brownies (adapted from Bourke Street Bakery)
300g stoned cherries
200ml brandy (or hot tea for an alcohol free version)
55g plain all-purpose flour
40g unsweetened cocoa powder
scant teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
300g good quality dark chocolate
80g unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
4 free range eggs
100g creme fraiche
145g dark chocolate chips
Place the cherries in a bowl and pour over the brandy or tea. Cover and set aside to soak for 3 days.
Preheat the oven to 170 celcius. Grease a 20 x 30cm cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper. Sift the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder into a bowl.
Put the chocolate, butter and sugar into a stainless steel bowl and sit over a saucepan of simmering water – making sure the base of the bowl does not come into direct contact with the water. Stir for 10 minutes, or until the chocolate has melted. Allow to cool, then transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture, mix to combine, then add the creme fraiche, chocolate chips and cherries with the remaining soaking liquid, and mix until just combined.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until just set. Place your hand on top of the brownie in the center and wobble to feel if it is set. Allow to cool completely before turning out of the tin. Use a hot knife to cut into squares.