Giving it Beans – II

I began this post on a Wednesday in March. Now it’s nearly the end of November. Quite a year it has been, this 2017. The only thing to do, is to give it beans.

I began this post, I discovered when I had a moment to get back here, on what would have been my mum’s birthday.  I had intended to complete it a week or so later, keeping a promise to the Fairy Godmother.  That was a Wednesday in March.  As I write, it’s November and nearly a year since the fire.

March seems an age ago.  Gandalf was still a kitten.  Quite a fan club has our Gandalf.  Of our felines, he is The Queen of Tarte’s favourite.  Then there’s Selma who spent as much time snapping Gandalf as she did my Sunday Supper cooking!  A visit to Gandalf, never mind The Cats’ Mother, is a non-negotiable part of any of her visits to McGregor!

Fiona and Gandalf
Having a cuddle between peeling the spuds. Photo: Selma

Then there’s his Fairy Godmother who journeys to Africa at least twice a year;  her affair with Gandalf began with a chance sighting on Facebook.  Well, as they say, the rest is history, and prior to her last visit, she decreed that she would be having face time with her feline godchild.  Because the visits are frequently infrequent, she has a burgeoning social circle, so we all gathered at The Sandbag House.  All because of her tryst with Gandalf!

An adolescent Gandalf staring adoringly at The Fairy Godmother.  Photo: The Fairy Godmother

The Fairy Godmother is due to swoop in again at the end of the month.  She will discover that although Gandalf has grown up and given up doing the Charleston in his dinner, he has developed a few other habits.  Perhaps – just perhaps – the consequences are a little less messy.  They are equally annoying and endearing, but they do have serious implications for elements of the reptile population of our garden:  he has a penchant for lizards, snakes and skinks.  It’s Gandalf’s prodigious catching of the latter that on one occasion, seriously dented The Husband’s image.

That is an angry skink (aka a legless lizard) clamped to The Husband’s thumb.  So much for his being thanked for coming to the rescue.

So, ahead of the Fairy Godmother’s visit which, ironically, may (rain permitting) coincide with the first picking of this year’s crop of beans, here’s the recipe for her salad, a dish that I made up because we simply had to eat beans, mini-tomatoes and basil:

The Fairy Godmother’s Mediterranean Style Green Bean Salad


Three or four handfuls of young green beans (probably 300 – 400 g)
A handful of cocktail tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on their size
A handful of black olives, pitted
(adjust the quantities for proportion and the number of people you’re feeding)
Half a bunch each of chives and basil
A dash or two of Vinaigrette

Top and tail the beans and blanch and plunge into cold water.  Cool, but don’t let them get icy cold – the warmth helps the flavours to “meld”.  Combine with the tomatoes and olives.  Lastly, add the vinaigrette.  Here, err on the side of what seems like too little:  this salad benefits from standing a while to let the flavours develop and the tomatoes will add their own juice to the dressing.

Finally, chop the chives and add the basil leaves, toss and serve.

And while I’m giving it beans, I am reminded that blogpal Ark says that his “missus won’t eat them [beans] once they have swollen in the pods … they are too stringy”.  Well, yes they can get stringy, and also could be a bit chewy.   I’m too Scottish to let slightly overgrown beans go to waste, and equally, I’m not into vegetable death by boiling, which was my mother’s way of addressing virtually any vegetable:  what follows is as close as I get to that (unless it’s by mistake).  Although this dish is not pretty – the beans lose their bright green colour – it’s more than palatable and is a good way of dealing with a late harvest.

Late harvest green beans – for “the missus”

In a heavy bottomed-pot,  sauté a chopped onion in butter and a little olive oil.  Top, tail and french cut the beans – a little smaller than you might normally.  Add them to the pot with a little water.  Cover and simmer until soft- probably about 15 minutes.  The liquid will disappear during the cooking.  Season with salt (if necessary) and pepper. Add a little extra interest with some garlic (at the onion stage) and chopped fresh thyme.

And so…quite a year it has been, this 2017.  As it draws to an end, for many in our circle, it’s been a year of inordinate challenge and change.  Hardly anyone I know has not been confronted with big decisions and life-changing events.

The learning:  to be like this couple and give it beans.  Fizz and her husband were our first international Sunday Supper guests.  They travel the world and have a decades-long love affair with Africa – even though she’s not too good on her pins anymore.  Life-loving, gracious and an absolute delight.




Black and white

That old cliche that nothing in life is black and white is also a truism.  I’ve not been here for a while because it’s been a very interesting time:  I came to a crossroads

That old cliche that nothing in life is black and white is also a truism.  I’ve not been here for a while because it’s been a very interesting time:  I came to a crossroads and had to make a very difficult decision.  To give up my day job.

Just on a year ago, I was increasingly less able to manage the jaundice that was developing in my working environment and then my work encroached on my blog space. As you know, posts have been sporadic over the last 18 or so months:  it’s not for lack of material, but rather an inability to focus because the jaundice had become a cancer.

It had to be excised.  Living in one of the most beautiful places in the world (I believe) no longer soothed my soul in the same way because I didn’t have the energy to enjoy it.

Early winter colours over my beloved McGregor

Back to not having a day job.  Terrifying and liberating, that decision has been. Liberation came with the deciding. The terror is because, I am again following my heart, leaving the toxicity of what was my “day job” to start something using skills and resources I am only just beginning to recognise as having value outside that milieu.

I am doing more cooking – regular Sunday Suppers @ The Sandbag House – and have even had the privilege of having a Sunday Supper documented by professional photographer friend, Selma.

In action: cooking Selma’s Sunday Supper

You will find her take on Sunday Suppers here – and while you’re there, explore her blog and fabulous photography.

And, some of the recipes for Sunday Suppers, are Fiona’s Favourites and already feature here – check out the leaflet below, which is how I market them in the village.  You can find out more on The Sandbag House Facebook page.

New recipes have emerged;  as I said, I’m not short of material….

So, it seems, I’m getting my groove back.  Cooking and little bit of writing.  As I start my new journey which has seen me learning how to do a website on another platform, I am doing more cooking and taking the odd photograph.  Like these two.

Both are in a house are included on that website (still a work-in-progress), and my new venture.  The first, a beautiful pestle and mortar with a lemon squeezer.  The latter, I am sure, would be much happier in my kitchen!  How’s that for a confession?

Here, I just liked the contrast of the stainless steel against the surfaces.  The property owner was a little alarmed.  Fiona, that’s so ugly, the surface is not good….

So, until next time, the photographs are all that are black and white….in my life at the moment, anyway!

Giving it Beans – I

When I dreamed up this title, “Giving it Beans”, I knew it was “punny”, but I had no idea that it would end up having such resonance in the days that followed.

When I dreamed up this title, “Giving it Beans”, I knew it was “punny”, but I had no idea that it would end up having such resonance in the days that followed.

The Husband, over the last year or so, has begun embracing the art and science – and it really is also an art – of the vegetable garden.  This is significant because, as I’ve mentioned before, he was a stock farmer in a past life, with no interest in, let alone, he used to tell me, any success with, things that were green and had their feet in the ground.  He was much happier – and more effective – with warm-blooded creatures that ate, breathed and – well, you know the rest of the sentence…!

This season, his tomatoes have been winners, about which we are both delighted – we can’t live without them.  We have grown these for years, but last year’s crop was dismal, making this one a bit more notable.  However, the crop that’s been more spectacular, has been the beans.


Notwithstanding the fire, which left one end of bean patch rather the worse for wear.


Before the fire, we’d had a goodly crop, with bean meals for breakfast, dinner and tea.  Almost literally.  One forgets how amazing nature is:  we thought that with this damage, that was the end of the beans.  Nope.  Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!

It’s been the most peculiar summer – weatherwise.  We had February heat in November, and February was not as hot as it could have been, and the summer nights have been mostly quite cool, without the oppressive heat we’ve come to associate with them.  Consequently, and in a bastardisation of the “peas pudding” rhyme, we’ve continued to have green beans hot; green beans cold, tra la…

I’ve had to become quite innovative to avoid our having too much of a good thing.

Green beans with pesto and balsamic reduction. Green beans with zoodles and olives.  Green beans with mushrooms, red onion and topped with grilled parmesan.


And then, there’s more:  green beans with pasta.  Green beans with passata.

Eventually, in self-defence, and to give us a bit of a break, I preserved some using a traditional Afrikaans recipe:  curried beans.  The recipe I use is in my mother’s recipe book.


I have jars of them on offer at the market and one morning I heard a browser comment, “Curried beans!  It’s years since I’ve seen these.”  A local, and a regular customer, says that they’re a meal in a jar.  Also in the last little while, although I can’t remember where, I heard a remark about “traditional curried beans”.  That got me thinking.  The village Piano Man and foodie, had lent me a quartet of recipe books a while ago.  All of them very interesting, and this comment about curried beans sent me to one in particular:  Renata Coetzee‘s The South African Culinary Tradition.

In it, and in my old favourite recipe book, and through GoG,* I found various a version of the curried bean recipe that I’d been using.


On left, the cover to Coetzee’s book, and the recipe yielded by her research.  On the right, Mum’s handwritten recipe, from Auntie Doris, and dated 1973, with our notes converting from imperial to metric, and for making it in larger quantities.  All three recipes are fundamentally the same.  Mum’s recipe includes water for the sauce – I’m thinking that next time, I’ll reduce the water.

Auntie Doris’s Traditional Curried Beans

4 lb (1.2kg) green beans, cut
2lb (0.6kg) onion, thinly sliced
3tbsp cornflour (maizena)
2tbsp currry powder
3 cups vinegar (white or brown)
3 cups sugar
2 cups water (which I may now omit)
2 tbsp salt

Cook beans – not too much – you still want some crunch.  Pour boiling water over the sliced onions and leave for 5 minutes.  Pour off the water & repeat.  Combine with the cooked beans in a large enamel or stainless steel pot.

For the curry sauce, put the sugar, salt, cornflour, curry powder and water in a stainless steel or enamel pan and boil for 5 minutes.  Add to the bean mixture and boil for 5 minutes.

Bottle in sterilised jars and seal.

The finished product:

As I finally get to publish this post, I reflect that today would have been my Mum’s 90th birthday.

Top, with Mum and Dad and Auntie Doris;  below, mum in the mid-1960’s I think, and 20 years later.

I am also reflecting on the last weeks:  three people in our village are bereft.  All have lost their life partners.  One of them, a daddy’s girl like me, lost her papa and then six weeks later, her love.  One of my oldest, but faraway friends, and who shares my Mum’s birthday, has just lost her dad.  My heart breaks for them all.

Life is hard.  Life is good.  Give it beans.

Next time:  The Fairy Godmother’s Bean Salad

*GoG – good old Google.  Google is old now, isn’t it?

Bags of Provence

Courgettes: the moment you turn your back, they transmogrify from delicate, green fingerlings into giants that can be well-nigh unmanageable. I recently found a way of managing them.

After the fiery end to November, and before the aspirant grand wizard‘s arrival, December started off relatively gently.  We love the long, balmy evenings and spectacular sunsets of summer.  Even if they are best viewed over the ravages of the fire and the somewhat charred vegetable patch. sam_8588A chef was among the kind souls who helped to fight the fire that afternoon, and very tongue-in-cheek, suggested a new trend:  smoked vegetables.  Particularly courgettes.  Funnily enough, we had been told by a restauranteur in Paternoster that he was going to be experimenting with exactly that in the next while.  More of the fabulous food we ate during that trip, another time, perhaps.

Returning to the courgettes:  the moment you turn your back, they transmogrify from delicate, green fingerlings into giants that can be well-nigh unmanageable.

The charred remains of one of the courgette plants and the delicate little courgette – often hidden by the gorgeous golden flowers.

My mother loved giant courgettes – she called them marrows:  she would halve pip, and cut into chunks and boil them to death.  I am my father’s daughter:  he really didn’t enjoy the watery mush that made its way to the supper table.  Not even lashings of butter helped. I rarely boil vegetables.

Not long after the fire, I was given a bag of Herbes de Provence.  Grown locally, the herb mixture is packed in handmade bags, cleverly made from a combination of (also locally) screen printed hessian and tartan, evoking their origins in McGregor.


The brainchild of Lavender Lady, a McGregorite, whose idea it is to make the traditional flavours of Provence available in South Africa, and with the longer term vision of creating sustainable jobs in the village.

I grow herbs and use them, fresh, in virtually everything, particularly during summer when they are abundant.  The aroma that wafted out of that bag of dry leaves and flowers was amazing.  I couldn’t work out the different scents.   How does one use them?

“Just add a pinch to whatever you’re cooking,” Lavender Lady said.


So back to the not-so-baby marrows and not being one for waste, they had to be eaten.  Flavourless, marrows are, and full of water, so I figured that the best way to deal with them was roasting.  Not confident that just this would deal with the deficit in flavour, the Herbes de Provence had their first “outing”.  The result has, happily, become the current go-to way of dealing with the overgrown courgette.

Herbes de Provence roast marrows with pecorino

Roast Marrows with Herbes de Provence

Halve the marrows, remove the pips and discard.  Cut the marrow into sizes that suit you.  I’ve done them  in large chunks like in the pictures above, and also in smaller, bite-sized pieces.

Sprinkle a baking tray with olive oil and place the marrows on it, skin-side down.  Drizzle with a little more olive oil and dot with butter and then sprinkle Herbes de Provence over the marrow flesh.

Bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes and then turn the marrows over and return to the oven for another 20 or so minutes or until they are cooked to your liking.

Remove them from the oven and turn them over and sprinkle with a sharp, hard cheese like Parmesan or Pecorino, and serve warm.

McGregor Herbes de Provence

This particular blend of herbs is interesting.  There is a number of different combinations for Herbes de Provence; it was only in the 1970’s that “Herbes de Provence” became commercially available.  The introduction of lavender was specifically to suit the North American market.  In Provence, these herbs are used fresh and include savoury, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, origanum and sometimes mint, all of which grow wild in the Mediterranean.  (As I discovered when I lost myself walking down from Castillo de Bellver back to Palma when I was in Mallorca.  But that’s another story.)

Lavender Lady’s blend, McGregor Herbes de Provence, doesn’t have the savoury or the mint, but it does include basil, parsley, fennel seeds and lavender blossom.

It also makes a fabulous herb butter which works well on bread, potatoes and braai mielies (barbequed corn) – or anything else that goes well with a herb butter.


Chicken, grilled with a Herbes de Provence rub or basting is easy and delicious.  Now I’m planning stews and hotpots with Herbes de Provence when the weather gets cooler.  Of course, this herb blend would make the perfect bouquet garni for classic French dishes such as Beef Bourguignon and Coq au Vin.

Those experiments will wait for the longer, cold evenings of winter which suddenly become a little more palatable.



The Epicentre

Riots of reds, festivals and feathers

t has been a somewhat riotous time in South Africa over the last few months. Funny how, 1976, 1986 and now 2016 are all memorable because of riots – about education. No, I’m not going to break my own rule – yet. Despite all this, life goes on and red has been a theme running through our spring days.

It has been a somewhat riotous time in South Africa over the last few months.  Funny how, 1976, 1986 and now 2016 are all memorable because of riots – about education.  No, I’m not going to break my own rule – yet.

The riots to which I allude are either fun or infinitely benign and only consequential in that they represent my honouring a promise I made a while ago, and when I mentioned that we’d had unseasonably hot weather.  Since then, the pendulum has continued to swing, so to speak, with cold, a bit of wet (not enough) and heat – over 35°C last week, with much more to come.  The Husband reminded me, yesterday, that we’ve had snow in both September and November – heaven sent that would be, if we have a repeat performance.

Despite all this, life goes on and red has been a theme running through our spring days.  It begins each year as we watch the weavers’ dowdy winter plumage turn cardinal red.

Enter a caption

It’s also the time of year that our valley is féted with a phalanx of festivals.

A pelaton cycling the Ride2Nowhere, McGregor Food and Wine Festival and celebrating poetry

Fiona’s Favourite had an offering for two of them, with one concluding with an “official” inauguration of the newest addition to The Sandbag House.  More of that another time.

One festival was at the tail-end of winter and the other at the top-end of spring.  The former should have been cold and windy, the latter balmy, sunny and warm.  Instead, the weather gods did as they are wont, and it was the other way around.  Although my “menu” had been set for the winter festival, a look at the weather forecast suggested mid-summer!

Then Jan Boer arrived at the local with the now-regular gift of under-sized beetroot.  This time, in much larger quantities than usual.

More beetroot than we could wade through – and we enjoy beetroot.

Talk about seeing red!


Cleaned, boiled and bottled.  Everything was red.

It did, however, solve the problem of something cool and refreshing to serve in the mid-summer heat of late winter.

So, here’s my long-promised recipe for beetroot Gazpacho.  It’s adapted from a recipe by Justine Drake and in Jenny Morris’s 2006 book More Rude Food.morrisdrakegazpacho

Just realised that this is at least the fourth recipe that has a Jenny Morris‘s connection….

Beetroot Gazpacho

6 – 10 (depending on the size) beetroot, cooked and peeled
2 long English cucumbers
1 each red and yellow peppers, stem, pith and seeds removed
2 red chillies
3 cloves garlic
4 tblsp red wine vinegar & a dash of balsamic
2 cups vegetable stock (the recipe says chicken)
1 litre tomato juice (or 3 cans, peeled, chopped tomatoes)
1 onion (red or white)
freshly ground black pepper (I left out both the sugar and the salt:  enough of the latter in the stock and with the baby beetroot I used, and the balsamic vinegar, sugar wasn’t necessary)

Blitz all the vegetables except the beetroot until chunky.  set about a quarter of this aside.

Place the rest of the ingredients in a sufficiently large bowl and pureé with an immersion blender until smooth.  Be careful not to splash!  Taste and season accordingly.

Then add the chunky vegetables and stir through and/or reserve to garnish when serving.  Chill and allow the flavours to develop before serving.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream, créme Fraiche or yoghurt.

Note:  Traditional Gazpacho includes bread, but because I stopped eating bread if I can possibly do so politely, some two years ago, I left it out.  By all accounts, it has not detracted from the flavour or the texture.


© Fiona’s Favourites

Of Fish and Feathered Fishers

It’s been a busy month, and we had three feathered visitors around our house who had never before shown themselves. As a consequence of the busy-ness, creativity and kitchen inspiration have been somewhat lacking and meals easy and very, very simple. Simplicity in terms of ingredients and cooking.

It’s been a busy month, and we had three feathered visitors around our house who had never before shown themselves.

First, this pretty fellow, a brown-hooded kingfisher which, size wise (23 – 24 cm), is somewhere between a pigeon and a dove:


Later that week, I spied this really large chap from the bedroom window, a giant kingfisher (43-46cm) who has the most terrifyingly large bill:


The photograph is not fantastic, taken with my Samsung Galaxy A3, through the (very dirty) window.  Until this week, we have had an exceedingly dry winter, so I’m guessing that these feathered foreigners are venturing into new territory to find food.

Anyhow, enough of that for the moment.  As a consequence of the busy-ness, creativity and kitchen inspiration have been somewhat lacking and meals easy and very, very simple.  Simplicity in terms of ingredients and cooking.  This is one which has been a fall-back that I dreamed up and which requires little preparation and even less attention in the cooking:

Fish baked in cream

2 portions of white fish (I used hake)
2 carrots (if you have them), julienned
125ml cream
clove of garlic
bay leaf & a few peppercorns
fresh parsley – chopped
salt & pepper


Season the fish with salt and pepper.  Place the bay leaf and peeled clove of garlic at the bottom of a suitably sized, oven proof casserole dish, followed by the carrots and then the fish, skin-side up  and pour over the cream.  Finally, sprinkle some of the parsley over it all, reserving most of it. Cover with the lid (or foil) and bake at 16oºC for about 45 minutes/until done.  Once done, remove the lid and top with the remaining fresh parsley.


When I’ve not had carrots, I’ve replaced them with a layer of red onions and sprinkled chopped, green onion tops over the fish.  Serve with your choice of starch (The Husband’s is potato) and another vegetable, or salad if you wish.


Then, we had a third feathered visitor this month and one whom I’ve often heard hooting in the deep of the night, or in the quiet hour before sunrise.   Early one evening, The Husband summoned me from the kitchen to view “Pearli’s Ramparts”.  Looking at his size in relation to the gable, and the shape of the “ears”, s/he must have been a Cape Eagle Owl (48 – 55 cm).


Reference:  Newman, K, et al, 2000:  Newman’s Birds by Colour, Struik, Cape Town

© Fiona’s Favourites

Too much of a good thing – almost!

A year ago, I wrote of other milestones and a year later, this month or the week before last, to be precise, was one of celebration – of a different and more personal milestone. It culminated in a beautiful feast with friends from near and far.

A year ago, I wrote of other milestones and a year later, this month or the week before last, to be precise, was one of celebration – of a different and more personal milestone.  It culminated in a beautiful feast, and among the guests, we were honoured to include our favourite Russian Bride and another cat’s mother, among others from near and far.

Beautifully prepared and presented by the team at one of The Husband’s favourite places, Lord’s Guest Lodge.


In the aftermath, the week that’s just gone was one of recovery and recuperation, not least for this almost-wannabe vegetarian, from having consumed red meat on more consecutive days than I can remember, delicious though it was.  So, on the final evening of a near weeklong festivities, a Sunday evening braai, I decreed that the meal needed to include a little bit more veg than flesh.  Well, for me and one of our guests, anyway.

Stuffed Butternut

Select a good sized, unblemished butternut with a nicely rounded base, and for the stuffing, slice an onion and lightly sauté with a clove of garlic, chopped, and some sundried tomatoes;  cook until the onion is translucent before adding about half a bunch of finely shredded spinach.  Finally, add about a tablespoon spoon of your choice of (crumbly or grated) cheese – I like blue, but in the absence of that, you could use, and it’s just as nice, feta or even cottage cheese.  Add a sprinkling of freshly chopped fennel, too, if you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wrap in oiled foil and bung in a moderate oven until done – about 45 minutes to an hour.


These babies take quite a while to cook, but are worth the effort – not to mention the forward thinking!  This was, theoretically, to have been cooked on the braai*.  However, we have a new braai (more to follow on this in time), and after more than fifteen years of using only the Weber for outdoor cooking, we are on a learning curve.  However, the results were satisfactory even if I had to finish things off in the Solardom.

These stuffed butternuts make a fabulous side dish or a vegetarian main meal with a salad – just what I needed at the end of a seemingly very carnivorous and fun celebration week.



© Fiona’s Favourites

Humming with hummus

May was an interesting and busy month. Not just in my day job, but also doing something that was a first for me.

May was an interesting and busy month.  Not just in my day job, but also doing something that was a first for me.  During March, one Saturday morning, minding my stall, as is my wont, Treasurer of a local committee passed by and made small talk with The Husband – probably about the job he’d recently done for them.  When the niceties were done, he turned to me.

“We’d like you to do the snacks for our AGM.”

Er, what?

“We’d like you to do the snacks for our AGM.”

I thought I’d learned when to say no.  Evidently not, because I heard something completely different coming out of my mouth:

“I’m sure I can, just let me know the date.  If it doesn’t clash with The Day Job…”

Then panic set in:  how many, what type of food, budget, how to cost, how many of each, et cetera, et cetera? Of course, there were the carnivores and vegetarians to consider; neither could contaminate the other.  Treasurer and his wive are vegetarians of longstanding.

Questions answered, Treasurer was advised of what could be done within the budget.  The Chairperson and committee were duly consulted, budget adjusted, numbers confirmed and D-day approached.

Knowing full well that I couldn’t do it all (sometimes (ha!) I have a sense of my own limits), I enlisted the help of Ms Thyme who is, hands down, a much better cook and chef than I (actually, she catered for my most recent significant birthday), as well as another vendor to provide a few things.  The rest I set about doing.  Here’s a “to-do” list that was up in the kitchen which reflects a bit of the “menu”:


And this is what it all looked like, all packed up and ready to go.


Good thing The Husband insisted on a “grown up” sedan with a boot big enough to party in!

So, there was a platter for carnivores, complete with mini meatballs, scotch eggs and devils on horseback (the latter two, my creations).


And one for the lacto-ovo vegetarians, including some gluten free jobs (aka mini frittata – my own recipe), with spanokapita and samoosas.


The table, set, ready and waiting – with the other bits, all duly labelled and flagged to ensure no contamination-I-mean-confusion.


That cheese and nut stack was inspired by a lack of space and Ms Thyme who also lent me the cake stands.  What would one do, if one couldn’t phone a friend?

The response was gratifying and, it seems, my first catering job was a success.


For those who’ve complimented me on my hummus, and which has suddenly in demand at the market, here’s the recipe which is a combination of a few recipes that I’ve used and which is the one I’ve settled on:


2 tins chickpeas (garbanzo beans for those of you’re in the US), or an equivalent quantity dried, soaked and cooked
3 garlic cloves, peeled
90 ml olive oil + extra for serving/garnish
90 ml lemon juice (preferably fresh – then also add some lemon zest for extra zing)
30 ml tahini (I make my own – I’ll tell you how, next time I make some)
100 ml chopped Italian parsley
1 tsp cumin

Drain the chickpeas, reserving the brine.  Put all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and blend with a stick blender, adding a little brine until the right consistency is reached.

This makes quite a decent quantity, but don’t fret, it keeps well.  When you serve it, put a swirl of olive oil over the hummus and top with a sprig of parsley.

© Fiona’s Favourites 2016

Big bird liver

I have mentioned, often, how much I enjoy autumn. There is, however, a chill in the air, so the menu moves to hearty, warm and warming meals. Sometimes, dishes hark back to our respective childhoods, with the key ingredient one that is now mostly shunned.

I have mentioned, often, how much I enjoy autumn.  It is the season of special light, colour, sunrises and sunsets.

Morning sun through the autumn vine leaves over the outside shower

After a sunrise rather like this


There is, however, a chill in the air, so the menu moves to hearty, warm and warming meals.  Sometimes, dishes hark back to our respective childhoods, with the key ingredient one that is now mostly shunned.  Except, perhaps when it’s incorporated into some or other more “sophisticated” product like paté, turned into a canapé or parfait.  It’s also “risked” when incorporated into not-often-eaten or fashionable ethnic cuisines, and then it’s usually from a smaller bird:  chicken.

Well, that is my experience, anyway:  my home made chicken liver paté is one of my best sellers at the market, but suggest to many people that one should have liver for supper, the response is often one of revulsion.

Offal?  I’d never eat offal.  Urgh!

However, both The Husband and I grew up eating liver.  Usually lamb or sheep’s liver.  Sometimes ox.  We had to; or in my case, if I didn’t eat my supper, the meal was put on top of the fridge and became breakfast.  In The Husband’s case, it was that or nothing.  Going hungry wasn’t an option for him;  still isn’t.

So, the other evening, supper’s protein was ostrich liver, which netted a hail of almost-insults from my social media pals.  Occasionally, one sees liver and onions (with the ubiquitous mash) on a pub menu and, I confess that I, too, tend to shun it.  Why?  Liver, like fish, is very easy to overcook and destroy.  This brings me back to my childhood memory of liver, I now know as overcooked:  hard, grainy and with an awful, dry texture that neither gravy nor mash could ameliorate.  Besides, for me, mashed potato was (still is) also an “un-favourite”, unless as tatties and neeps.

Anyhow, for a change, it’s good to eat something different;  and liver is a great source of not just protein but iron and a whack of other nutrients.  I’d not considered ostrich liver until, a few years’ ago, we had it when we went to friends for a casual supper.  The dish was not dissimilar to this, but I’ve made it my own in that it I only use fresh ingredients and no commercial soup or stock powders, and when I thought about it, it could be considered as a “sort-of” stroganoff.  I make it from time to time – both with ostrich and lamb’s liver.  I don’t think it would work with chicken livers because it’s difficult so slice them, which would have an impact on the cooking time and what the dish ultimately looks like.

Ostrich liver and onions – Stroganoff style


± 500 g liver (ostrich/lamb/your choice)
2 onions
250 g mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
125ml water
2 T seasoned flour
2 generous sprigs marjarom (chopped)
½ bunch Italian (flat leaf) parsley (chopped)
¼ red or yellow bell pepper
Good glug of red wine
2 – 4 dessert spoons Greek yoghurt

Thinly slice the onions and mushrooms and sauté in a combination of olive oil and butter until soft.  Add the garlic (crushed or finely chopped) and marjoram.  While this is cooking, cut 0,5 cm slices of liver and roll in the seasoned flour.  Add to the mushroom and onion mixture, add the water and yoghurt and allow to cook gently for about 5 minutes.  Add the red wine, watching carefully because you don’t want the liver to over cook.


Finally, add a good heap of chopped parsley.  Serve over broken** potatoes (or mash!).


The secret to the flavour of this meal, served with a side salad, is not just that the liver is cooked until it is just cooked through and still soft, but the red wine and sweet bell peppers.

Lovely and warm after a sunset that heralded one of the first cold nights of the approaching winter.


© Fiona’s Favourites 2016

Helen’s Red Roasted Soup

I cant’ remember exactly how long I’ve known Helen; it doesn’t really matter. we have re-established a virtual friendship with at two, no, three things in common: a fondness for things feline, a penchant for wine with an enforced aversion to reds and an enjoyment of cooking.

I cant’ remember exactly how long I’ve known Helen:  was she at Victoria Girls’ Primary School (VG) when we moved to Grahamstown in 1970, or did she come to the school in 1972 or 1974, or somewhere in between?Fi_VG_circa1972Yip, that’s me, front right with what looks like knock knees.  Truth be told, I was probably cold; never had knock knees.  Didn’t cope well with cold;  still don’t.  I can’t see Helen in this photograph taken at a recent school reunion of a photograph* – 1972, I think, looking at my hair.

I know that she doesn’t remember this, either:


My one and only foray into acting in 1974:  an operetta,  Beauty and the Beast.  I had a role as an ugly sister, Fatima.  As I recall, I had a solo at around this point in the proceedings.  Always forgot the words, which is the main reason I remember this.  Oh, and the bolero and pants were luminous yellow.  I recall my mother making not just my costume but a whole hoard of others.

Either way, when Helen came to VG,  doesn’t matter.  She and I must have had a few things in common;  doesn’t matter what because she I have re-established a virtual friendship with at least two, no, three things in common:  a fondness for things feline, a penchant for wine with an enforced aversion to reds and an enjoyment of both cooking and experimenting in our kitchens.

Oh, and also in my band of virtual friends are the camel’s head and hump.

So, when Helen dreamed up a soup based around red vegetables, of which we have a surfeit from time to time, I had to give it a go.


She kindly sent me the recipe:

Helen's Roast tomato soup.PNG
Helen’s recipe for red roasted soup

What I did:

  1. Without red onions (this year’s crop was good, but they were small), I used white onion and I added a little yellow pepper to make up the quantity of red peppers.
  2. I added the garlic to the bits that were roasted and popped the creamy garlic out of the skins before putting all the bits in the pot.
  3. Like Helen, I used the liquid from the carrots to make up the right quantity of vegetable stock;  I use a commercial, dried, low sodium and MSG stock powder.
  4. The tomatoes came out of the garden and instead of 2 tins of tomatoes, I added a jar of my own bottled tomatoes.
  5. I didn’t skin the roasted tomatoes – I prefer to keep as much fibre as possible in the soup.  One could strain it afterwards, though, if one wanted.
  6. I didn’t weigh out the basil:  I picked what I thought would be the right amount and flung merrily it into the pot.

The use of the different coloured vegetables didn’t affect the flaming red or the flavour – it was delicious.  Here it is packed for the market.


Happily I didn’t sell much (not soup weather the last two Saturdays, and a very quiet market that week), so we this delicious soup formed part of our lunches last week.  Not quite as tastefully presented as Helen’s:


Helen’s heavenly Roasted Red Soup is set to become a permanent addition to my regular repertoire!

*which explains the shiny UFOs, top left

P S I hope that sometime in the not-too-distant future that our virtual friendship will result in a real life re-kindling around our table and with a couple of glasses of our favourite tipple!

© Fiona’s Favourites 2016