Tripping the Light Fantastic

Of late, in South Africa, and as I keep on mentioning, we’ve been having loadshedding.  Actually, if you play(ed) SimCity as I did in the late 90’s, you’d have known them as “brown outs” if you’d grown your city too big too quickly.  It’s about the only computer game I’ve played (other than one or other game of solitaire), and that was on an already ancient ICL Elf and before the advent of a GUI.*

Fortunately, the lights haven’t gone out for nearly seven days. However, the last time they did, when came on, I tripped the light fantastic.  Literally.  They were scheduled to go off at 22h00 hours.  They did.  We had forgotten and were engrossed on some Friday, end-of-the-week easy-to-watch drivel on the box.  Although it was full moon, it was on the wrong side of the house, so it was as dark as night.  I ferreted out my phone and a candle and headed upstairs and asked The Husband who was making our ritual cup of tea, “You’ll make sure all the lights are off, won’t you?”

Never giving it another thought, I settled under the sheet and did a little candle-lit reading before we “turned out the light”.  It seemed about two minutes later that I woke up and the house was ablaze.  So, in my sleeping stupor, I need to turn the lights off.  In case I haven’t mentioned it already, we’re in the throes of a heatwave.  So, heading towards the stairs I realised that the soles of my feet were dry and slippery.

“Put on your flops,” said the little voice in my head.

“Ag, no,” said the other  sleepy, more stupid voice in my head.

Three quarters of the way down the thirteen-step flight of stairs:  slip-trip.  Crash.  M-o-a-n.  Like a the wounded cow I was.  I landed on my posterior which is relatively well padded, but where my spine abruptly ends because the coccyx is long gone.  Because of chairs having been pulled from under me when I was about six or seven.   Thanks to the momentum, I fell backwards with the spot marking an old spinal injury positioned to catch the edge of the step above.

M-o-a-n

G-r-o-a-n

The Husband roused to find a mo(o)(a)ning cow at the bottom of the stairs.  He helped her on to her feet and up the stairs.

Fortunately, I had a card of painkillers in the bedside table and was able to take a couple.  Let’s just say that they didn’t really help.  Everything hurt.  Front, back.  Moving was agony.  The following morning, being Saturday, was market day.  There were things to do.  Somehow, they got done.  The Husband lifted, carried, fetched and bent.  I could do none of it.

But the market I did.  Slowly.  I sold all the jam tarts (bar one which The Husband enjoyed) and the cheese and sun dried tomato muffins that I would normally not have made.

Tarts made with home made peach jam; cheese and sun dried tomato muffins.

My market friend, Chicken Pie Janet, has been laid low with a muscle spasm so I did a few different things I’d not normally have done.  I’d never do chicken pies.  Nothing could ever match hers.

Then it was time to get back into the kitchen to prepare for Sunday Supper.  For the first time in a month, not only did we have enquiries, but they converted into bookings.  We had a full house.

Full House Sunday Supper

The menu for this week’s Sunday Supper was simple.

But.  My usual practice is to prepare the soup and dessert on Saturday afternoon and the main on Sunday.  There should have been very little “big” prep for the main course but I cleaned out The Country Butcher’s stock of smoked chicken and I was concerned that I would run out.  There were be eight diners and ten people to feed (including The Husband and I), and none of them were vegetarians or vegans.

Implement Plan B

I hastily had to conjure up a plan B and remembered the gammon that had escaped Christmas.  For the first time, ever, guests would have options for their main course to which I added melon and ham as an alternative to the mango and chicken.

Chilli Lime Melon and Ham Salad served on rice noodles

In a fair amount of pain, I had to think of the least agonising way to do that, so I cooked it in the slow cooker.  It cooked at the same rate that I was able to move.  Somehow, I got myself through Saturday and by about 6pm, the soup – a banting take on a vichyssoise – and the cheesecake (with grating help from The Husband) were done.  Recipes for these to come – in time.

Sunday dawned and every bit of my torso ached and hurt when I moved.  Just getting myself from horizontal to vertical was a challenge.  Bending from the knee was mandatory and not recommended.  The day was a steady, achy plod to get things ready for the main course and set the tables.  The Husband always rearranges the furniture and sweeps.  He had to help drape the cloths.

Cheesecake with fresh granadilla (TL) and the caremelised leek and cauliflower soup (BR);  the tables ready and waiting for diners.

Chilli Lime Mango Salad – Three ways

This is a great supper for hot summer days or evenings.  Sunday was day two of what has been a six-day heatwave of temperatures in excess of 35ºC (95ºF).  This time, when I set the menu, I trusted the man in the weather app.  It’s also the time of year when we can have diners who are omnivores, vegetarians or plant eaters.  This salad fits all those bills.  It’s built around fresh mangoes, three fresh herbs dhanya (coriander/cilantro), mint and chives as well as onion rings.  The dressing is equally simple:  runny honey, lime juice, chopped chilli and olive oil.

Most of the ingredients for the salad and dressing. Red onions are prettier, but white will do if you don’t have any.

It can be served on a bed of leaves and with couscous, or on a bed of noodles, with a side of green salad.  The choice of protein, as I’ve mentioned, is smoked chicken for the carnivores. For vegetarians, it’s feta cheese with cashew nuts and for the plant eaters, either lose the feta or substitute it with a vegan cheese.

Smoked Chicken and Mango Salad on a bed of rice noodles.

Download a printable version of the recipe here.

A last word or two

It would seem that our diners enjoyed their evening.

With hindsight, and now I’m in a lot less pain and a lot more mobile, I have absolutely no idea how I pulled Sunday off.  Next time there is loadshedding, I hope not to be tripping the light fantastic.

*Graphic User Interface – for the uninitiated.  Invented by Steve Jobs and adopted by Bill Gates and responsible for mice.

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa


Photo: Selma

Post Script

In addition to WordPress I blog on a number of platforms:

  • Steemit – a crypto, social network and blogging platform, to which I post from WordPress using the SteemPress plugin.
  • If you’d also like to use your WordPress blog to earn crypto, join us on SteemPress.

  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars.  If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord
  • Should you join the Steem platform, you are welcome to contact me on Discord on be sure to look out for the Steem Terminal – a dynamic team of folk who will happily guide you through the apparent quagmire of blogging on blockchain.
  • Instagram is a mostly visual platform where I post microblogs about fluff:  usually food and the cats as well as posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.

 

Comforting favourites

This blog is all about my favourites.  Mostly.  I do write sometimes about the things that weigh, but mostly, it’s about things, people, stuff I love and which make me content.

I have difficulty separating comfort food from favourite food.  I love food, and cooking and my kitchen (actually, any kitchen) is one of my most favourite places in the whole world.  I’ll find my way around any kitchen and cook.  When I travelled to Johannesburg on business, I’d sometimes often stay with one of my dearest friends.  One day, her then partner commented that they were running late and that someone had to see to the supper.  Quick as a flash, her reposte:

Oh, I’m sure Fiona’s already doing something about it.

She was right.

So, technically, what is the difference between comfort and favourite?  Beside the fact that one is a noun and the other an adjective:

Comfort
– [a] state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint

Comforts
– things that contribute to physical ease and well-being.

Favourite
– preferred to all others of the same kind

Source

I have some favourites that are not connected to food:  my favourite animal (cat – unless you hadn’t guessed).  Favourite human – The Husband.  Favourite rugby team:  the Springboks.  Now, food, well that’s another matter, and for me, in many respects, the two are intertwined.  Comfort is all about well-being and contentment, and food is associated with the most ancient of our senses:  smell.  Without a sense of smell, we can’t taste.  I cannot conceive of a world in which I will never taste again.  I have had some experience of that.

Going on twenty years ago, I went on a business trip to Japan.  The timing was less than optimal because it coincided with moving house – the first home that The Husband and made together.  It was also about six months after the my father’s death; my mother had died eleven months before that.  Oh, and although neither had anything to do with the break-up of the other’s previous marriages, we were both going through divorces.  That was just for starters.  As the year progressed, the company I’d invested in, and where I was working, went belly-up, The Husband retired; we got engaged.  Look at that list and Google the things that cause the most stress in one’s life…

I returned from Japan (nearly 48 hours’ travelling with no sleep), having spent five days staffing a stand at a trade show, with a twisted ankle and a really bad cold.  The ankle healed, cold went, but the streaming nose and eyes didn’t stop, and with those streams went my sense of taste.  Well, mostly.  It came and went – largely associated with the extent to which my nose was blocked.  That could be triggered by anything from a glass of Chardonnay and cooking a pot of fragrant rice, to nothing of any consequence.  This is one of the reasons for my preference for Sauvignon blanc.

It’s the only time in my life that the kitchen wasn’t a happy place and I didn’t enjoy cooking.  I was never sure how a meal would turn out.  The Husband still tells the story of our going out for supper one evening (when I returned from yet another business trip), and I chose the least expensive thing on the menu:  a soy burger.  He was appalled.  My response:

“I can taste nothing.  What’s the point of paying a lot of money on something I can’t taste?”

The Husband still tells me I’ve never produced a meal that was not both edible and delicious.  Even then.  I guess he’s biased, but I’ll take it.

What I could taste, though, was salt and sour, so salt and vinegar chips, or crisps as they’re known elsewhere, became my go-to comfort food.  There was a vendor who came to the office daily.  I’d make a daily purchase.  Only salt and vinegar.  Nothing else.  No salt and vinegar.  No crisps.

We ultimately discovered that it was the house:  it was damp and full of mould.  We moved eleven months later and within a week, the symptoms were gone.

I could breathe.

I could taste.

Everything.  All. The. Time.

I still enjoy salt and vinegar chips but eat them less frequently now.  Actually, I can’t remember when I last had a bag.

Ingredients

Now, my comfort foods are determined by taste and flavour – and have history – of course!  The foods are tied into two of my favourite ingredients:  eggs and tomatoes.  Regular readers and watchers of my Instagram account will know this.  Eggs routinely feature – and not just for breakfast.

I’ll eat eggs any which way. For breakfast, lunch, dinner and tea.

Of course, my most favourite way to eat eggs is scrambled.  I wrote a bit about that here.

Growing up, an annual crop was tomatoes.  They are not essential to every meal, but if you’re at a loss as to what to cook, and short of other ingredients, the trusty tomato is an essential standby.  She has stood me in good stead.  Often.  When I’ve suddenly had to produce a meal.  Some might say that a meal without a tomato is like kissing a man without a moustache.  Or eating beef without mustard.  As I’ve “grown up”, I’m not sure about either, and am certain it’s a matter of taste.  That said, we do eat a lot of tomatoes.  Raw and cooked.

As with eggs, I’ll eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and tea.  When we have a good crop, this is a common exchange:

Me to The Husband, “What would you like for dinner?”

Him, “What are you thinking?”

Me, “You can have anything you like as long as it’s with tomatoes…”

Combine tomatoes with eggs, and I’m even happier.  Poaching eggs in tomatoes?  Great, comforting supper on a cold night.  A shakshouka is my idea of heaven.

A cheat’s Shakshouka – not quite as spicy and with just what was available.

As is homemade cottage pie.

Cottage pie infused with red wine and rosemary, topped with butternut and potato. (Photo: Dennie Pasion who described it as “the best”).

Then there is pasta

Pasta is both a food and a key ingredient.  I make my own, but before I did, and when I lived alone, a pasta supper was a very easy throw-together.  With tomatoes, of course.  I confess, too, that there were times I happily ate pasta with grated cheese and tomato sauce (ketchup).  I kid you not.

Pasta, now that I make it myself, is not the unhealthy thing of commercial pastas:  one jumbo egg to a cup of flour is ample to feed the two of us.  When we ate commercial pasta, we’d eat twice the quantity.

Pasta suppers – with and without tomato.

Most often, our pasta suppers are vegetarian affairs – usually with herbs, if not vegetables, from the garden.

My top three most comforting meals (foods)

Among the meals that bring me most comfort are a traditional roast and gravy – especially lamb with mint and onion sauces, followed by the dishes that I conjur up with the left over meat, vegetables and gravy.  These are based on dishes my mother used to make and which I loved.

If, though, I have to narrow it down, and one must, to just three –

Third place:  Creamy tomato pasta

Creamy tomato pasta – need I say more?

Second place: Fish, parsley sauce and peas

This meal gives the lie to my Scottish roots as it is very English.  Blame it on the Sasenach genes I inherited from my mother.  Fish, parsley sauce and peas.

An added bonus would be new potatoes, boiled with mint.  Or chips.

Top spot:  Tomato soup

The pièce de résistance, though, is tomato soup.  It has always been a favourite and when I’m feeling poorly or when I can’t do coffee (because two cups are the limit for my caffeine intolerance), I will have a cup of tomato soup.  I confess.

My daily fix. In a blue and white mug. Of course.

In my mid-twenties, I had the worst dose of ‘flu – and I do mean influenza – I had ever had in my life.  I lived alone and the only thing that kept me alive going was tin after tin after tin of Heinz’s tomato soup.

“Do you need anything, Fiona?”

“Tomato soup”.

Not chicken soup.  Not chocolate. Just tomato soup.

Fresh tomato soup.

Now I make my own tomato soup with fresh tomatoes.   Add cream and you have cream of tomato.

Two last words:

As I was preparing this, I realised that other than the scrambled egg post, it hadn’t entered my head to share my recipes for roast lamb with its trimmings, let alone the fish and parsley sauce and the tomato soup.  Let me know if you’d like any of these, and I’ll add them to my “to do” list.

And, secondly –

There is a bunch of great people on Steemit who run a monthly contest-cum-writing prompt.  This is rambly my entry.

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa


Photo: Selma

Post Script

In addition to WordPress I blog on a number of platforms:

  • Steemit – a crypto, social network and blogging platform, to which I post from WordPress using the SteemPress plugin.
  • If you’d also like to use your WordPress blog to earn crypto, join us on SteemPress.

  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars.  If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord
  • Narrative, a crypto blogging platform
  • Instagram is a mostly visual platform where I post microblogs about fluff:  usually food and the cats as well as posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.

On the Steem platform, I am part of these communities

Fusion Flat Breads

I loathe coleslaw.  It’s a long and irrelevant story, summed up in two words:  institutional food.  In my case, that was boarding school, followed by university.  By the time I reached university, I just simply didn’t eat what I didn’t like.  At school, that was less possible.  However, more than forty years later, coleslaw remains a least favourite dish.  I have probably made it, but the memory is permanently erased from my brain.

It’s not just coleslaw. I have a distinct aversion to white, cooked cabbage which I blame on my mother and boarding school.  At school, the cabbage was boiled to death and its presence in the day’s meal was announced by the “aroma” that hung around for hours.  When I was very little – like four or five – my mother’s preferred way of preparing cabbage was also the death boil. She served it covered with a deluge of celery salt.  Actually, she used celery salt on a lot of things including jacket potatoes.  As a consequence, celery is culinary ingredient that I’ve only come to appreciate in the last few years.

Photo: Selma

Back to cabbage:  somewhere between the death boil of my toddlerhood and my tweens, red (or purple) cabbage became available and my mother remembered a recipe for braising cabbage with onion and apple;  no water.  Suddenly cabbage became imminently edible and that recipe, with a minor addition, is a favourite not just of ours, but of some of our guests, too.

Photo: Selma

However, as usual, I digress.

A few weeks ago, the temperature went from freezing cold to scorching the trees, so the idea of cooking a hot meal was less than appealing.  Back to my mother:  occasionally she’d make a cabbage salad – not with mayonnaise and grated carrot – but rather with a French dressing or vinaigrette;  with white cabbage.  At the time, for reasons unimportant, I had a rather large red cabbage and carrots in the fridge.  I love the combination of bright purple and orange, so an idea began to form.  I rejected a French dressing and opted for Asian flavours.  Again, because of what I had on hand – dhanya (coriander/cilantro) and mint from the garden.

An Asian style salad is born

After weaving my way around the Interweb for a while and finding no recipe for which I had all the ingredients, I came up with my own Asian style salad and accompanying dressing of vegetable oil, lime or lemon juice and chilli jam.

It was delicious.

A good thing, too, because there was a vast quantity which, I discovered, keeps well in the fridge.  In addition, this salad also has the versatility I like for creating meals for vegetarians (and vegans) as well as carnivores.

The salad was great on its own, but also made a great base for two other dishes:  as a bed for slices of rare sirloin and sautéed brinjal and hummus.  One could also add seeds and nuts for protein, or even whole chickpeas (garbanzo beans) instead of hummus.

Download a printable recipe here.

Wot, no bread?

After the brinjal and hummus meal, as is occasionally my wont, I shared a photograph on social media.  I mused that a flat or pita bread would have worked well with that meal.

Next thing, one of my pals comments that she has this “really easy” recipe and voila, the recipe’s there.

But.

It uses self-raising flour which, I gather is a British and South African product, but which I no longer keep in the pantry.  Anyhow, after another wander around the Interweb, I discovered the ingredient(s) essential for the rise and adjusted the recipe accordingly.

Quick and really easy they are and, if you’re using self-raising flour, you need only two other ingredients:  full (or double cream) yoghurt and a little salt.  Probably the most time-consuming part is the resting and rolling.  The resting can happen while you prepare the other bits of the meal, and because they’re cooked in a hot dry pan on the hob, the cooking is relatively quick.

What I learned

The mixture makes quite a large quantity – as many as eight breads, roughly 20cm in diameter.

I discovered that although one can keep the dough, it does deteriorate.  A far better option is to make all the breads, allow them to cool and freeze them.

Download a printable version of the recipe here.

A Mediterranean and Asian Fusion

I now know that this combination of ingredients is also the base for yeast-free Naan (Indian) bread, which makes these breads the perfect bridge between the flavours of east and the west.  Of course, they can also be made to any shape you choose and round, can be cut and split into pockets.  Then, I popped in a dollop of hummus and a goodly quantity of the salad, in a fusion of Asian with Mediterranean flavours.

The result was delicious and on reflection, this is one of those meals when the components can be prepared in advance and don’t spoil.  A great option for those meals when it’s going to be impossible to cook.  For whatever reason.

About Mary

I got to know Mary when she was sharing a home with her sister who was one of my favourite teachers.  When I did my teacher training, Ursula took me under her wing and in the subsequent years, remained a good friend and mentor.  Ursula is no longer with us, but I’m delighted that my connection with her continues through my friendship with Mary – albeit largely on Facebook.

What Mary didn’t say when she shared the recipe is that it these breads are as delicious and versatile as they are easy to make.

Thank you, Mary.

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa


Photo: Selma

Post Script

I didn’t realise when writing this post, that I did so on the 7th anniversary of Ursula’s death.  She is much missed.

In addition to WordPress I blog on a number of platforms:

  • Steemit – a crypto, social network and blogging platform, to which I post from WordPress using the SteemPress plugin.
  • If you’d also like to use your WordPress blog to earn crypto, join us on SteemPress.

  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars.  If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord
  • Narrative, a crypto blogging platform
  • Instagram is a mostly visual platform where I post microblogs about fluff:  usually food and the cats; posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.

On the Steem platform, I am part of these communities

Designed by @zord189

Of licenses, liars and scrambled eggs

She came into the kitchen, clearly distressed, and asked, “Do you vear licenses?” pointing at her eyes.

“Umm….ye-e-s…”

“So could I pliz have some of zat liqvid to clean mine?”

Then the penny dropped.  LensesContact lenses.  I had taken a flyer and thought that our Ukranian house guest was talking about prescription spectacles.  This was after her first breakfast in The Sandbag House.  Each day, it consisted of fresh fruit salad, homemade meusli, yogurt and honey.  Snuggled in the wax wrap is a muffin – for later.

I’ll come back to the breakfast, but that exchange about the contact lenses got me thinking about languages.  I am a pretty proficient English speaker and writer.  At school I was compelled to learn a second language – Afrikaans – then South Africa’s only other official language.  It was not a language to which I had any exposure:  neither parent spoke another language fluently having been born and brought up in the UK.  My mother had a smattering of French and my father, having worked in the Parks’ Department in Kampala, was at one time, relatively proficient in Kiswahili. That I managed, somehow, to scrape through Afrikaans with a passing grade at school and, subsequently, a one year course at university, is nothing short of a miracle.  I have dabbled with learning French – an opportunity offered by the Alliance Francaise, a million years ago.  I picked up less than a smattering of isiXhosa when I lived in the Eastern Cape doing community development work. I learned a smidge of Spanish from having spent three weeks in the Old City in Palma de Mallorca.

The view across the way from the room where I stayed when I was in Palma de Mallorca.

Returning to Afrikaans:  a prerequisite of my teacher’s qualification was oral proficiency in that language.  I was automatically credited with written proficiency (ha!) by way of having completed that one-year, watered-down university course.  Four years later, I had to do an oral exam in a language that, to be frank, I had rarely heard spoken, let alone understood.  Preparation had been a weekly group discussion in which, I suspect, I was largely silent.  Unless required to speak.  Because I couldn’t.  The appointed day arrived and I presented myself.  The panel consisted of the local school inspector and our tutor.  She also happened to be a family friend which makes what transpired all the more mortifying, and which is why the entire episode is etched in my memory.

“Goeie môre Mejuffrou Cameron.”

Burble, mumble…um… Good morning!

Pleasantaries done, the serious stuff of working out whether I could “praat die taal” ensued.

“Sê my, hoe bak jy ‘n sjokelade koek?”

Well, let’s not get stuck on the stereotypical question by a man of a young female student, because my response:

I’ve never baked a cake, let alone a chocolate cake.  Besides, I don’t like chocolate cake.

“O!

“Sê my, wat van motorbestuur?”

Oh, good, I could answer this!

“Ek bestuur nie motor nie, maar ek is van plan om in die volgende tyd, my leuenaars licensie te kry…”

So you don’t drive?  You need to get your learner’s license?

“Ja, seker in die volgende paar weke, sal ek my leuenaars toets gaan doen…”

And I warbled on happily about my leuenaars liensie until I took my leave.

It was only a looong time after I left that room that it dawned on me that I was was not planning to get my leerlings lisensie but rather, my liar’s licence…

Needless to say, I scored the lowest possible grade in Afrikaans proficiency – an “a” as opposed to an “A”.  It allowed me to qualify and to teach only at an English medium school.

That is a lesson that lives with me.  Learning, let alone becoming proficient in, a language not one’s mother tongue when you are not immersed in it, is inordinately difficult.  My Afrikaans is much improved – because of where I live – it’s the mother tongue of most folk in the community and people who work with and for us.  Improved proficiency, however, hasn’t given me the confidence to hold an entire conversation in the language, let alone read and write it with any comfort.

English, is a complex language with many equally confusing words. Having not only trained as an English teacher, but having been an online writing tutor where many of my students were second language English writers, I have great empathy with the struggles of speakers and writers of second languages.

Returning to our Ukranian guest:  she was in McGregor for the seventh edition of the annual weekend of Poetry in McGregor.  Through our conversation I learned that she’s been in South Africa for only a year.  Her work as a poet and academic, had put her in touch with some South Africans and her proposal to the Ukranian government, earned her a diplomatic role.

She fell in love with McGregor – and my scrambled eggs – which brings me back to breakfast.  Her three-night stay was punctuated by Saturday and the only morning I make it clear to guests that there will be no cooked breakfast.  A continental breakfast will be set on a tray and/or put in their little fridge.  The first morning:

“How would you like your eggs?”

“Oh, any vay.  Vot iss easier for you? Boiled, scrambled…”

I’ll scramble eggs any day.  As it so happens, eggs, scrambled is one of my favourite ways of eating them.  I confess that I’m fussy.  I like them the way my father ate them.  I loved sitting on his knee and insisting on eating them off his plate:  creamy on buttery toast and with a good grinding of black pepper.

Our guest enjoyed her scrambled eggs so much, she contemplated no other choice for her last breakfast. And –

“How do you make them?”

Fiona’s Mum’s creamy scrambled eggs

First, I don’t do scrambled eggs in the microwave.  Nor do I do them in a frying pan.  I do them in a small saucepan.

Second:  making scrambled eggs is not a quick exercise.

Thirdly, it’s a study in concentration:  take your eye off them and they spoil.

Ingredients

2 eggs per person

2 generous knobs of butter – even if you’re using a non-stick pan

a dash of milk – proportional to the number of eggs, of course

salt and pepper

  1. Beat the eggs.
  2. Add the milk if using (I always do).
  3. Season to taste.
  4. Heat a saucepan with a good quantity of butter – it must coat the base.
  5. When the butter is sizzling, pour in the egg and stir.
  6. Continue stirring frequently until the egg mixture begins to cook – it sticks to the sides and bottom of the pot.
  7. Now it is essential to stir continuously, making sure you move the cooked egg into the middle of the pot, agitating the mixture all the time, so that it doesn’t stick.
  8. Do not overcook them otherwise they go watery,
    and remember
    scrambled eggs continue cooking in the hot pan after you take them off the heat.
  9. Once they are creamy and lumpy the way you like them, remove them from the heat and add a knob of butter.
  10. Serve either on their own, or use some of the ideas below.
Oksana’s delight at her Scrambled Egg Breakfast

Breakfast stacks

I cobbled this breakfast together a few years ago, the morning after we had returned from a short trip and we hadn’t had time to shop.  I ferreted in the fridge and wandered round the garden and discovered eggs, bacon, spinach and tomatoes, as well as fresh chives and parsley. After a week of hotel breakfasts, I wanted something different.  I made a thick, rich tomato sauce starting with onion sautéd in the fat from the crisply fried bacon which had been set aside to drain.  Once the bacon and sauce had been sorted, I wilted a small bunch of young spinach leaves and made a batch of creamy scrambled eggs.

While all that was going on, plates were happily warming and waiting to have the breakfast bits piled on them.  First the wilted spinach and then a dollop of the tomato mix, followed by the scrambled egg and, finally, the crispy bacon.  Before garnishing with a sprig of parsley and a fresh chive flower, I chopped some and sprinkled chives over everything.
2013-11-17 09.58.34

Back to our guest:  when she dparted, she left not only a beautiful beaded bracelet with a traditional pattern from her beloved Ukrania, but a note in our guest book that stole our hearts.

And when I expressed my appreciation for both on Facebook, her riposte:

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa


Photo: Selma

Post Script

In addition to WordPress I blog on a number of platforms:

  • Steemit – a crypto, social network and blogging platform, to which I post from WordPress using the SteemPress plugin.
  • If you’d also like to use your WordPress blog to earn crypto, join us on SteemPress.

  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars.  If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord
  • Narrative, a crypto blogging platform
  • Instagram is a mostly visual platform where I post microblogs about fluff:  usually food and the cats; posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.

On the Steem platform, I am part of these communities

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Cookin’ with gas

In 1986, I moved into my first flat (apartment); it had a gas stove. Even though I only lived there for six months, that gas stove was seminal to the development of my cooking skills and more importantly, my love affair with gas. It was an antique,…

In 1986, I moved into my first flat (apartment);  it had a gas stove.  Even though I only lived there for six months, that gas stove was seminal to the development of my cooking skills and more importantly, my love affair with gas.  It was an antique, rather like this one.

Gas stove
Antique gas stove (Source)

I lived in Yeoville, Johannesburg, and the gas was piped into the block, and metred.  That was a bit of a joke:  the metre was somewhere under the sink and had a coin slot.  When the gas “ran out”, all one did was open the rusty coin drawer, haul out a lurking coin and pop it into the slot – always the same coin.  As I recall, I was billed all of R1,50 a month, if that.  In today’s US Dollar terms, around 10c, and then around $3,75…

The first time I had someone over for dinner, as an entirely novice cook, whose repertoire, at that stage, consisted largely of some sort of mince** disguised as spaghetti bolognese, I decided that I would serve whatever it was (probably mince) in a roasted pumpkin.  I have no idea where the notion came from, but through trial and happily, no error, I roasted a lovely little green pumpkin in my antiquated gas oven.

The next abode had an electric stove, and because it was a house-share situation, the repertoire grew, but I missed “my” gas:  the instantaneous heat, that meant I could fry an egg in the blink of an eye.  And the grill:  located just under the hob, which meant it was easy to keep an eye on and made the most fantastic grilled cheese.  I lived on cheese and tinned tuna in that first flat:  I had no fridge, so I had to eat most of the perishables that I bought, that day. I ate lots of vegetables.Garden bounty - onions, peppers, brinjal, onion, beans, tomatoesMercifully there was a Spanish greengrocer – and lovely man, who could speak little English – on a corner about two blocks away.  I learned to select very carefully and found ingenious ways of ensuring that the perishables I did have to buy, stayed cool.  However, as a consequence of having to eat an entire tin of tuna in one sitting, I still have a very serious aversion to it.  Only the most ingenious of disguises will even begin to tempt me to eat anything other than fresh tuna.

My next encounter with a gas stove was in the first property that was really “mine”  (or the bank’s, I should say).  Like the other building in which I had lived a few years before, this flat also had piped gas, but without the antiquated metering system.

So, the love affair continued, spurred on by a move to Queenstown, in the Eastern Cape.  Here, for the first time, I needed to produce a meal every evening.  This is when I really started learning to cook:  I discovered the importance of planning and timing.  The former as self-preservation and the latter, a combination of planning and experience.  All this after I’d successfully produced my first solo Christmas lunch of turkey and all the trimmings – for at least ten.  I had never, ever, single-handedly stuffed or roasted a turkey! And somewhere between that first flat and my departure from Queenstown, a table that indicated the temperature for each gas mark, found its way into the now-faithful recipe book.
GasMarksFarenhCelsius By that time, I was hopelessly smitten.  So, when many years after that, and in another life, The Husband and I re-did our Cape Town kitchen, a gas stove was not negotiable.  Admittedly, my love affair with gas was only one of three reasons for this:  I have a “thang” about eventually being “off the grid” and South Africa, in 2008 (as we did again in 2015 and 2018), had a national electricity crisis. So, with my first-never-to-be-repeated (yes, another first) kitchen revamp, came a new gas hob. GasStove6Meyer I was in my element.  And a far cry, it was, from that first stove:  electric igniters. Then, when we moved to McGregor, a gas stove was not negotiable;  nor was a kitchen revamp.  Never say, “Never”, they say.

SandbaghouseKitchenBefore
The old kitchen with the dishwasher on the veranda

Rotten woodwork (in all senses of the word), no space for the dishwasher (which “lived” on the veranda for three months), not to mention a virtual absence of practical storage space, necessitated urgent and serious action.

SandbagHouseKitchen1
The new kitchen

Look, a full gas stove!

With a thermostat and calibrations for the temperature, rather than the gas marks which characterised my first two, this stove which has produced the best shortbread I have ever baked.
I still, by the way, roast cucurbits.  A few years ago, one of the vendors at the McGregor market was selling the most beautiful, young gems – they were enormous.  I could not resist:  one would make an entire, delicious meal.  The Husband was not convinced, so, not to be thwarted, I set out show him otherwise.  The solitary squash, duly pricked and lathered with olive oil, was baked in a moderate oven until it was soft but not mushy.  It needed to be firm enough to be halved and the shell reserved intact. RoastGems1 Once the it had cooled down enough to handle, the stalk was removed and the fruit was cut in half.  I scooped out the pulp, complete with seeds, chopped it and seasoned with salt and pepper.  Then I added a knob of butter, and put the mixture back into the shells and popped them under the grill to warm through.  Finally, they were topped with some lovely labneh, and fresh, chopped chives. RoastGemLabnehChives An enormous meal, we had.  That salad was definitely greed and not need…

And all this, because I had to learn how to cook with gas and had a silly notion of roasting a pumpkin – nearly 30 years ago!

© Fiona’s Favourites updated from the first posting in February 2018.

** ground beef for my US readers

Jambalaya Juggle

There are certain things about Sunday Suppers that are always a juggle: the kitchen arrangements, for starters.  It’s an open plan space and a large proportion of the space is occupied by the stove and other appliances.  Working surfaces are limited, so I have to be super organised.  To begin with, there was a lot of juggling which, with practise and better organisation, has become a lot easier.  Like ensuring I’ve got all the bits out and don’t have to go thundering around the house to fish out dessert dishes or ice bowls or…  It doesn’t really matter as long as I’m not having to make like a duck diving for food in a pond when our guests are enjoying supper.

Different seasons also present juggles of a different kind.  Each week’s menu needs to suit both carnivores and vegetarians which, somehow, in summer is easier to do.  Not that I am complaining.  I enjoy the challenge and I enjoy discovering dishes that are sufficiently versatile that they can accommodate a range of dietary requirement.  One of these is the humble jambalaya.

A couple of years ago, I had a short stint doing streetfood type suppers for a friend of mine who has a little wine bar in the village.  When winter approached, the type of fare had to shift from a boerwors roll (a type of hot dog) to something that might be a little more substantial and which would stay hot.  Anyhow, for various reasons I canned the idea of stir fry (I don’t have the equipment and when the wind howls – as it does – the gas flame just blows out).  Similarly, paella and risotto went the same way, but for different reasons, but my research – which was focused on the vegetarians – threw up a Jambalaya recipe.

I had only ever heard or read about Jambalaya in novels set in Louisianna or New Orleans.  The word had certain appeal.  And I liked the basic ingredients – onions, peppers, butternut squash – and, of course herbs and spices including chilli.  I had found a one-size-would-fit-all dish:  with the addition of slices of chorizo or similar some cooked chicken or shrimp, I had found the solution.

Suffice it to say that that first attempt was a hit.  I came home without as much as a grain of rice.  I have since looked a little more into the origin of the dish and, like the bredie I wrote about a while ago, it’s a great exaple of the fusion of foods from different cultures, and reflecting the history of Louisiana:

Jambalaya has its origins in several rice-based dishes well attested in the Mediterranean cuisines of Spain, West Africa and France, especially in the Spanish dish paella (native to Valencia), West African dish jollof and the French dish known as jambalaia (native to Provence). Other seasoned rice-based dishes from other cuisines include pilafrisotto and Hoppin’ John. (Source)

I have, since making that the first time, made some adjustments, some necessitated by my own preferences and others simply because of what may (or may not be available).  One of the key changes is to replace the herbs with McGregor Herbes de Provence and to roast the butternut and either add it later and/or to use it as a garnish.  A third change, for vegetarians, has been to add either chickpeas (plain or spiced – recipe to follow in time) or lentils.

So, without further ado, here is my basic jambalaya:

Basic, slow cooked Jambalaya

meat or vegetarian proteins added later

Serves 8

This Jambalaya can be the base for either a meat or a vegetarian meal. The quantities are such that the basic dish, once prepared can be split into two quantities making it easy to do both meat and vegan meals at the same time.  It’s also done in a slow cooker which is not just easy, but really encourages great flavour development.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 sweet bell peppers (all colours, chopped)
1 chilli (de-seeded if you don’t like heat) and chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ bunch soup celery, finely chopped
1 tin peeled, chopped tomatoes or 2 – 3 fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 – 2 fresh or dried chillies, chopped
2 cups rice
2 cups vegetable stock
25g (sachet) tomato puree
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp McGregor Herbes de Provence
½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

For vegans

1 tin of lentils or chickpeas or other spicy vegan substitute

For carnivores

1 large chorizo sausage and/or left-over bits cooked chicken or frozen mixed seafood

What to do

  1. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, peppers, and celery to oil.
  2. Cook onions until they begin to soften, about three minutes then add in garlic, chilli and tomatoes. Continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes
  3. Add the Worcestershire sauce and rice. Cook rice in mixture for 1-2 minutes before adding liquids.
  4. Finally, add remaining ingredients.
  5. Once combined, pour into the slow cooker and set to low.
  6. Do not disturb for 3 – 4 hours, but watch the liquid. Once it’s all been absorbed, open the lid and stir.  If the rice is not cooked, add more liquid and replace the lid and allow to cook until the rice is soft.
  7. At this point, add your choice of additional ingredients, replace the lid and allow these to cook/heat through.

Serving suggestion

Serve with roasted vegetables like butternut, cauliflower and broccoli o r a side salad to make a hearty, complete meal.

Download a PDF version of the recipe here.

Post script

This is my second contribution to @quorator’s #tastytuesday series.  https://steemit.com/qurator/@qurator/qurator-s-tasty-tuesday-85

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa


Photo: Selma

Post Script

  • I blog on two platforms:  WordPress and Instagram, and the former auto posts to Steemit.  Instagram is a mostly visual platform where I post microblogs about fluff:  usually food and the cats; posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.
  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars.  If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord

On the Steem platform, I am part of these communities

Designed by @zord189

 

 

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A stew is a stew – or is it?

Words fascinate me and I have confessed to choosing to eat something – just because its name appeals to me (more of that when I get round to re-publishing that post). I live in a country with eleven official languages – and dialects.  Also, in South Africa, are peoples of Bushman descent whose languages are ancient and have either been lost, or are in danger of being lost; some have never been codified (written down source). I ruminated about this when Jan Boer gave us oorskot (surplus) peaches. Because I have blogpals all over the world, I often wonder about the etymology of words, as I did when I decided to make a bredie the other day.  Bredie is a winter favourite and typical of Dutch South African cuisine.  Because my heritage is British, it’s not a word that was used in my childhood home.  We would have a stew or a casserole – identified by it’s main ingredient, i.e. beef, chicken or lamb mutton.

As is my wont, I began thinking about the etymology of bredie expecting it to have its roots in India or Malaysia.  The dictionary, says that a bredie (n) is a

Southern African a meat and vegetable stew

Its etymology was unexpected, but when I thought about it, very obvious.  It was the Portuguese – in the 15th Century who first rounded the Cape, in the form of Bartolomeu Dias (or Bartholomew Dias, my primary school history taught me), on his way to the East.  He was the first European to have anchored off the South African coast;  there is a monument to his exploits in the Eastern Cape, near Alexandria, and not far from where I grew up.  The Portuguese went on to colonise not only bits of Africa (like Angola and Mozambique), but also India. The word has its roots in the Portuguese word, bredos or “edible greens.” Now I know why every bredie – in one incarnation or another – includes vegetables.

The most common popular one, is a tomato bredie which, come to think of it, really does show its Portuguese roots.  It’s not my favourite because it’s too reminiscent of the cuisine of boarding school and university.  The two that I prefer, and make, are butternut and waterblommetjie.  Waterblommetjies (little waterflowers) are indigenous and grow in the natural waterways, ponds and dams in the Western Cape, and flower in spring.  I talk about my first encounter with them here.

An original fusion food

A couple of weekends ago, we knew Sunday was going to be cold and it’s also low season, so we were not sure whether we’d have diners for Sunday Supper.  I decided that I’d have a homely, easy plan B:  a stew.  Stews are a fantastic, nutritious way to use inexpensive cuts of meat – and they are usually the most flavoursome.  I am not fond of beef and I find that stewed beef can be like eating bocks of soft wood.  It was also going to be a one-pot supper.  After all, it was a Sunday night off.

This brings me back to the bredie:  traditionally it’s made with mutton or lamb – fat cuts like rib or neck.  I prefer the latter – there’s less fat and more meat and its equally flavoursome.  I’ve already alluded to the vegetable components that make the variations on the theme and the consitiuent vegetable determines the spice (or herb) flavourings that are added (which, incidentally, also cut the fat).  This is the influence of the East – India and Malaysia – making the bredie an original fusion food.

The Boers were descendants of the Dutch colonists, and who trekked to the hinterland of South Africa;  the Malay folk were slaves and religious exiles sent to Africa.  Much of the food in South African homes is a fusion of our rich history.

This is how I made a butternut bredie.

100_3236

Butternut Bredie

You will need an appropriate quantity of lamb or mutton stewing meat (I used neck), one or two onions, a  green pepper (or a chilli if you like a bit of heat), a clove of garlic, a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger and a stick of cinnamon;  butternut – cut into cubes or chunks and potato, similarly prepared.
100_3238If you are using a slow cooker, place half the raw vegetables along the bottom, reserving some for the time being. Sauté the chopped onion, pepper/chilli, garlic and ginger, and then seal the meat in the same pan.    Put the meat on top of the vegetables in the slow cooker and then deglaze the pan with a little water or stock to make a gravy.  Add the remaining vegetables and then pour the liquid over that and put on the lid.

“Fire up” the slow cooker and leave it alone to develop into a wonderful rich bredie – a good few hours.  The vegetables will be tender and the meat will be soft and fall off the bones!  100_3239Download a PDF version of the recipe (and its variations) here.

A note about the fat:  for those who are Banting, it’s not a concern.  For those who don’t like it – there was much less fat than I expected.  Don’t shun fat – that’s where the flavour comes from!
Traditionally, bredies are served with boiled rice, but I’m sure it’s good with pap (corn porridge or grits (for my American readers) – a bit like polenta) and other vegetables.

A last word

A stew is not a stew when it’s a bredie!

Post script

On Steemit, there are a number of weekly contests or themes.  One is Tasty Tuesday, and last week blog pal, Lizelle, challenged invited me to participate – specifically with South African fare.  So this is my first contribution.

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

  • I blog on two platforms:  WordPress and Instagram, and the former auto posts to Steemit.  Instagram is a mostly visual platform where I post microblogs about fluff:  usually food and the cats; posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.
  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars.  If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord

On the Steem platform, I am part of these communities

Designed by @zord189

Let me help with your English writing
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
More about why I am offering this service here
Contact me

 

Marmalade magic

Marmalade seems to be one of those things that people either love or loathe.

There was always marmalade in our house and my father’s favourite treat, a happily received gift or precious purchase for high days and holidays, was a jar of Rose’s Lime marmalade.

Source

When that wasn’t available and before my mother stopped working full time, marmalade came out of a tin.  After we moved to Grahamstown and she worked mornings only, she began doing more preserves.  Marmalade became a “thing” because the commercial stuff was too sweet.  They liked the more tart, slightly bitter flavour of Seville oranges – she scoured the shops and markets for them. As I recall, she only ever made orange marmalade.  Never lemon;  most certainly never three fruit.  I have no idea why because, as I have learned, it’s possible to manipulate the flavour of the three fruit – see below – to get the flavour profile one prefers.

Mum’s go-to recipe was is in her Good Housekeeping recipe book which Granny sent to South Africa as Mum’s Christmas present in 1970.  I inherited it and it is still my go-to book for the standards and basics.

It works hard and is full of my (and The Husband’s) notes converting British Imperial measures to metric and ramping up the recipes to make larger quantities.

At boarding school, there would be pots of marmalad on the breakfast table.  Of course it was the commercial version and girls spent a great deal of time – if they ate the stuff – fishing out the rind.  Until the pots were more rind than jelly.

I also like marmalade and I can’t remember not having it in my cupboard.  When I lived alone, it was a weekend treet, on hot buttery toast.  Or if I needed a snack when I came in late after an evening out and it was prudent to have something to eat before crashing.

Glorious yellow, lemon marmalade with a light rye toast from the local market. And, of course, butter.

I first made marmalade nearly 20 years ago.  I balled up the instructions and after cutting and chopping things for what felt like the entire day, I just bunged everything into the pot and hoped for the best.  It certainly wasn’t the best, but it was edible.  Nor was I deterred.  Before we came to McGregor, I would generally make a batch that would last us roughly a year – depending on how many jars were turned into gifts.  Practise, if not making perfect, resulted in the production of a perfectly passable product.

In McGregor, the tradition continued.  I’ve had a stall at the McGregor market for six years and I started with soup.  I don’t recall at which point my offering expanded to include the odd jar of what I pickled and preserved; soup now rarely features.

Sometimes the table is a trifle weighed down!

Now, it seems, the marmalade is becoming a sought-after commodity.  Not only do I have kind locals and friends from further afield collecting jars for me to repurpose, but Longtime Friend puts in her order when she announces an intention to visit.  What’s more, she demands a giant-sized portion.  Certain regulars, when it’s out of stack, pass my stall and give me a quizzical, “Marmalade?”

Recently, some of them gave up hope.  Almost.

I’ve had no stock until about six weeks ago and they-who-have-been-waiting-forever, and with, I kid you not, squeals of delight, have already purchased a goodly number (one of whom tells me that a jar lasts two weeks…).  So, I’ve made a further two batches.  One, a lemon and lime from surplus unwanted fruit, and the second, my usual three fruit, also from surplus fruit with the addition of oranges which did have to be bought.

My tried and trusted marmalade recipe(s)

First, some words to the wise:

  • don’t rush the process:  it takes as long as it takes – at least several hours with the chopping, boiling, and boiling and bottling
  • don’t rush the process:  it takes as long as it takes – don’t think it’s set before it’s set.  Test, test and test again.
  • don’t rush the process:  if you do, and it does not set, all is not lost:  empty the jars back into the pot, wash and sterilise them, boil up again until setting point is reached – more of that a bit later

I double the three fruit recipe and the lemon/lime recipe I triple, to make big batches.

Three-Fruit Marmalade

Yield:  ± 5kg

Ingredients

4 lemons
2 sweet oranges
2 grapefruit
3,5 litres of water
2,5kg sugar

What to do

  1. The three types of fruit should weigh about 1,5 kg. For a tarter, less sweet marmalade, use either Seville oranges or juse one orange.
  2. Wash the lemons and oranges, cut in half and juice; put the juice into the stock pot and save the pips (depending on where you’re from, i.e. the seeds or the pits).
  3. Wash and peel the grapefruit. Remove the thick pith and string, save to combine with the pips, and tie into a piece of muslin.*
  4. Roughly cut up the grapefruit flesh and add to the pot with the orange and lemon juices.
  5. Thinly slice all the peel (can be done in a food processor, but I have resumed hand  chopping – it takes as much time when you’ve had to fish out and chop the bits that “escape” and are too big) and add to the pot with the grapefruit flesh and the juices. Drop the muslin bag in, and tie it to the handle of the pan.
  6. Add the water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1 to 1½ hours – the peel must be really soft and the contents of the pot have been reduced by about 50%.
  7. Remove the muslin bag, squeezing out as much of the liquid as possible. Dispose of the contents and save the muslin for the next batch.
  8. Add the sugar, bring to the boil and simmer, stirring frequently, until setting point is reached.**
  9. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes.
  10. Pot into sterilised jars and seal.

Lemon and/or Lime Marmalade

Yield:  ± 2,5kg

Ingredients

500g lemons
1,5 litres water
2,5 kg sugar

What to do

  1. Wash the fruit and remove the stem end.
  2. Place in a pan with the water and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for 1½ to 2 hours until the fruit is really soft.  This can be done the night before so that the fruit cool enough to handle.
  3. Remove the fruit from the water;  leave it in the pot, don’t throw it away (set it to one side).
  4. Slice the fruit thinly and save the pips (see three fruit marmalade).
  5. Return the sliced fruit to the pan (and water). Weigh it.  If it weighs more than 1,5 kg, bring to the boil to reduce.
  6. Add the sugar, bring to the boil and simmer, stirring frequently, until setting point is reached.**
  7. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes.
  8. Pot into sterilised jars and seal.

* I have loads of muslin – a story for another time.  That said, do get some: it’s re-useable.  Machine wash it when you’re done.  Remember that boiling fruit is more than 100ºC and for a ling time, so it’ll sterilise during the cooking process.

Both marmalade recipes are available to download and print here

**About setting point

I have never used a sugar thermometer to tell me about setting point (perhaps that’s my problem).  Jams and jellies set with the help of pectin.  Pectin, in citrus is in the pith (white parts) and pips.  It’s also found in spades in apple pips.  So, for the person who said that they couldn’t get their jams to set: do the muslin thing with pips from lemons and/or apples.

I digress.

How do you know when setting point is beginning to happen?

First, you will see that some of the mixture catches on the sides of the pan, and if you put the spoon across the top, the drips don’t fall all the way into the pan;  an even more telling sign is if, when you’ve not stirred it for a while, it looks as though a skin may begin to form across the top of the mixture.  The test I use:

  • a small ceramic dish into which I put about 2 tsp of the hot almost-marmalade
  • put this into the deep freeze for 10 minutes
  • when you remove it from the deep freeze and brush your finger across the top, the marmalade sticks to your finger and is the right consistency for a jam or marmalade, you have reached setting point
  • if not, rinse and repeat

Maintaining the levels…

Just when I thought I was catching my breath with a few jars of lemon and lime, as well as a new batch to put into stock, I was chucked a curved ball.  So, on Wednesday, seven jars of the new batch were collected for personal delivery, in Maastricht, to a rather famous fiddle-playing, orchestra-leading waltz-player.  It’s the third time some has gone there;  the first time as an unsolicited gift from our Dutch friends.  Now the friends are asked to take a supply, and each time the orders get bigger.

There must be some magic in that marmalade.

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

  • I blog on three platforms:  WordPress and Instagram, both of which auto post to Steemit.  Instagram is mostly a visual with microblogs about fluff:  often food and the cats and posts sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.
  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars

On the Steem platform, I am part of these communities

If you’re a compulsive Instagrammer like me, Share2Steem and earn


Let me help with your English writing
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
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Red lentil coconut curry with brinjal

Just on two weeks ago, via Instagram, I declared myself happy with a new vegetarian (and vegan) dish for Sunday Suppers, and shared only a photo, promising to write up the recipe.  I have a list which, I fear, is growing.  So, as I believe it’s important to do as you would be done by, and to follow through, here is the recipe.

The back story

When we lived in Cape Town, one of our favourite annual events was the Good Food and Wine Show.  One year, I picked up a recipe book from a local chef who was promoting her range of spices.  As so often happens, little books get swamped by bigger ones.  Then the novelty wears off, and the next fad begins, so they’re forgotten.  Anyhow, I still have some of the branded spice jars which have been re-filled, so when I was looking a vegetarian and/or vegan curry option for Sunday Suppers, I remebered the book, and that Yudkhika had included at least one great recipe for brinjal.  Unless you hadn’t guessed, we had a bumper crop this year – so I fished the book out.

It turns out that there are two brinjal recipes, one of which includes a curry sauce with coconut which, somewhere in the recesses of my memory, I think I did make.  The original recipe would work as a side dish, or entree, but not as a main because it had no protein.

The recipe – with my notes. Yes, I actually noted what I had done!

Well, that wasn’t going to defeat me and I decided to turn the sauce into a dahl.  Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

2 medium sized brinjals – we only had small, heirloom ones – which were salted because they are bitter – I used about 4
oil for frying
1 onion, finely chopped
2 t chilli powder (or to taste – I used a fresh chilli, finely chopped)
½ t turmeric
1 t ground cumin
2 t ground coriander
2 – 3 cloves of garlic – crushed
1 T (15ml) Magic Masala*
2 tomatoes, skinned and copped
1 tin (165ml) coconut cream or 30 ml desiccated coconut
salt to taste
½ cup red lentils
1½ cups water
½ bunch fresh spinach or Swiss chard, finley shredded (optional)
fresh coriander (dhanya/cilantro)

Salt the brinjals, cut into 2½ cm slices and set aside.  While they’re sweating, make the dahl by sautéing the onion over a medium heat until caramelised.  Add the spices and cook for a few minutes without burning and then add the tomatoes, lentils and water.  Bring to the boil and then simmer until the lentils are soft and most of the liquid is absorbed.  You may need to add water, depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes.  Stir in the spinach if using, Magic Masala and coconut cream.  If you’re using the desiccated coconut, add it with the water.  Simmer for a couple more minutes so the flavours mingle.

While the dahl is cooking, fry the brinjal slices and drain on absorbent paper.

Once drained, place them on hot plates (and/or gently into the dahl) and plate.  Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with fragrant rice.

 

Brinjal with red lentil and spinach dahl

*Magic Masala

1 tsp each of cumin and coriander seeds and a dry, red chilli.  Roast for about 10 minutes at about 140°C, or until they are a shade darker.  Allow to cool and grind.

Brinjal with red lentil dahl

Both versions were equally delicious and have been added to the Sunday Supper repertoire.

Click here to download a printable version of the recipe.

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

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Sizzling sisters

I have been making koeksisters – a traditional South African pastry – for the McGregor Market for going on five years.  I started doing it on the back of the suggestion of another stall holder;  I had last made koeksisters in the early 1990’s. 

I have been making koeksisters – a traditional South African pastry – for the McGregor Market for going on five years.  I started doing it on the back of the suggestion of another stall holder;  I had last made koeksisters in the early 1990’s.  I remembered them as being enormous and for the current anti-sugar generation, far too big.  Essentially they are a pastry that is dipped into a sugar syrup and left to infuse so that the more syruppy, the better.  

There are two types of koeksisters in South Africa;  both are a sweet, deep-fried confectionary.  One has Malay roots and is traditional in the “coloured” community and are rather like a spicy doughnut that is rolled in coconut and are colloquially known as”koe’sisters”.  The ones that I make have Dutch roots and are traditional Afrikaans fayre.  Of course, for a rooinek* to make them and to sell them at the McGregor market in the shadow of the Dutch Reformed Church is one thing, but to be told by ‘n regte, egter **  boer or “coloured” that they are “delish!” is a source of some pride!

I did a bit of research as I was perfecting my product, and one of the things that I learned is that there is no such thing as a “koeksuster”.  Every search engine I used, chucked up “koeksister”.  So, the literal translation of the name cannot be “cake sister” – a common misconception.  The Afrikaans word for “sister”, one’s fraternal female sibling, is “suster”.  Rather, the “sis” is alliterative¹:  omdat hulle so ‘siss’ as hulle in die warm vet en koue stroop gesit is***

The recipe (below) that I use comes from a book given to mem, nearly 30 years ago, in a past life.  It was also the first South African cookery book I had ever had.  A few years ago, I was looking for a do-it-all local book for a friend and discovered that it was still in print!  What a delight to find my basic South African culinary Bible – the perfect gift for that occasion.

I have, of course, made a few minor (I suppose that depends on perspective) adjustments, i.e. butter instead of margarine, slices of fresh ginger and whole cinnamon instead of the ground-up stuff.  These last go in with all the syrup ingredients – right at the beginning.

Here are my other tips for making good koeksisters:

  • Make the syrup first.  Do not stir – if you over stir it, the sugar crystallises and your koeksisters will be dry.  Not good.  Added to that, surplus koeksisters should be kept in the fridge or frozen.  The syrup will crystalise with time, so you don’t want it doing that ahead of schedule.

  • You cannot make koeksisters in a hurry:  the dough must rest.  In an oiled bowl.
  • And when “they” say the longer it rests, the better, they’re absolutely right.  I used to try to make the syrup and the dough the night before, but I don’t get that right any more, but still, the colder the better. Leave the dough to rest in the fridge.
    I’m generally not happy with my koeksisters if I make them in the nearly 40°C (100°F) of a McGregor summer’s day:  the dough gets soft and is really difficult to work with. 
  • The long rest also means that you don’t have to rush to cut and plait them – take your time.  It doesn’t matter if they dry out a little… Each square is about 4cm x 4,5 to 5cm.

Other than the resting, during which you can do something else, this is the longest part of the job – can take about an hour.

  • As a rule of thumb, I roll out the dough, on an oiled surface, to about 1cm thick.

  • When it comes to the frying, I don’t have a cooking thermometer, so my test to tell that the oil is the right, is the handle of a wooden spoon.  If the oil sizzles around it, I’m good to go.
  • The same cold rule for the dough applies to the syrup.  Keep it in the fridge until you’re absolutely sure that you’re ready to use it.  At this stage, the oil is ready before the syrup comes out of the fridge and the kitchen island is covered with perfectly plaited koeksistertjies.

  • Keep the syrup cold by resting the pot in a bath of iced water – it heats up from two things – being close to the stove as well as from the heat of the freshly fried koeksisters.
  • Cook only three or four at a time.  As soon as they come out of the hot oil, plunge them into the ice cold syrup so that they s-s-suck in all that sweetness.  Place them in a plastic container and allow to cool.

Koeksister production line

Once you’ve fried all the koeksisters, you’re likely to have syrup left.  Pour that (with the cinnamon sticks and ginger slices) over the pile that you have made so that they stay moist.

Seal them into the container to store, once they’ve cooled, put them in the fridge or a chiller – the cooler the better.  In an ordinary fridge, they do lose their crispness, but their flavour improves as the cinnamon and ginger syrup percolates into them.

Koeksisters last well – for as much as a month – because the sugar is a natural preservative – as are both the ginger and cinnamon.

* literal translation is red-neck and is the derogatory termfor the pith-helmeted English soldiers whose necks would get sunburnt duringthe Anglo-Boer war (http://www.urbandictionary.com/)

** real, proper

***because they sizzle when they’re placed into the hot oil and the icy syrup

****little koeksisters

¹http://www.allwords.com/word-koeksister.html

Updated from the original 2015 post on https://fionasfavourites.net/

© Fiona’s Favourites

Until next time Fiona The Sandbag House McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

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