Friday, 30 April 2010

Into the Wild with Food

I haven't said much about our big hike this year (Namib Naukluft Park)- simply because time and personal issues have over shadowed the build up. Now with only 1 week left before we leave for Namibia and the 8 day hike, it's all systems go and little else fills our days. We eat, sleep and talk hiking all the time.

Last year I did a whole series on the food preparation and the actual hike. This was a very good excersise, but after actually hiking 6 days with gourmet food on our backs, we learnt a few hard lessons. While eating well is important, we now know that you can and have to live with less luxury - espeically now that the hike is 2 days longer than last year.

An important lesson I learnt was that time spent cooking - is time and gas wasted. The sun sets early and you have to hike until the last possible minute, but still leave enough time to set up camp, cook, eat and clean up all before nightfall. Once it is dark, you don't want to be washing plates, laying out your sleeping bag or worse, still cooking.

I started yesterday with my first experiment - Mieliepap cakes. They are very easy to make, and most importantly -the weight to nutrition ratio is perfect for long hikes.

Mieliepap Cakes (Cornmeal Cakes)

1 Cup Mielie Meal (Cornmeal)
¾ Cup Hot Water
1 Chicken Stock Cube
30ml Milk Powder
30ml Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Oil for Frying

Mix all the ingredients until you have a stiff "dough".
Leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Heat the oil in a pan.
Shape the dough mix into patties, and fry in the hot oil until golden.
Serve immediately while still hot.

Friday, 23 April 2010

A South African Mingle

When I saw this month's monthly mingle at What's for Lunch Honey? I jumped for joy - South Africa! Since then I have had nothing else on my mind except : " What am I going to make?".

Trying to think of a dish which shows South Africa's diversity and treasures is not as easy as I thought it would be. It's like asking a rainbow which colour it likes best.

But when it really comes down to the most basic level, the meal will certainly have mealies (corn) in it. It could be mealie meal, beautifully explained by Nina or even samp mealies like mine.

Samp is dried whole white corn, known in the US as hominy. I was amazed to see that the earliest reports of it's use dates back to around 1500 -1200BC in current day Mexico and Guatemala.

Samp is not fast food, you have to wash it, boil it, rinse it and then boil it for a few hours until it's beautifully soft and fluffy. By adding the beans, you have a complete meal, which then only needs very little meat and gravy to ensure a completely satisfying meal.

I have chosen mutton to make the stew with which I served the samp and beans. Mutton is not a popular choice of meat any more, everyone wants lamb. Mutton is tougher, leaner and not as sweet as lamb, but it full of flavour and of course cheaper.

This stew is very simple, I have not allowed any "foreign" influences make this something other than what you would have expected before we all started reading food blogs and French cookbooks. This is food my Gran and her Gran would have made.

Samp and Beans
2 Cups of Samp
1 Cup Sugar Beans

Wash the samp well, until the water runs clear.
Place in a large pot, covered with hot water and bring to the boil for about 10 minutes.
Rinse the samp and then return to the stove, add about 4 cups of water and bring back to the boil.
Add the beans (no need to soak).
Reduce the heat and allow to slowly boil until both the beans and the samp are soft, checking regularly that there is enough water.
It is cooked when both the beans and the samp is soft.
You can then add the salt to taste.

Mutton Braise

1kg Mutton Stewing meat ( I used back chops cut in thirds)
1 Onion
1 Large Carrot cut into small dice
1 Beef or Lamb Stock cube
Salt and White Pepper

Fry the Mutton on high heat until sealed and browning.
Add the onion and the carrot and fry for another 2 minutes.
Add the stock cube, salt and white pepper.
Add a little water and de-glaze the pot, making sure to get any flavour bits which might be stuck to the pot into the sauce.
Reduce the heat to very low and simmer for about 2 hours, slowly adding a little water at a time - building up the gravy.
Continue to simmer until the meat is very tender, and falling off the bone.
Serve hot with the samp and beans.

This is my submission to Whats for Lunch Honey's monthly mingle.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

In Black and White

Last week when I blogged about 2 of my faults, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well they were received. In the light of that success I thought I would go back to the confessional and tell you another fault, just to test how loyal my readers really are!

Again the fault revolves around food :  When I'm alone I hardly ever cook. I make absolutely no effort to eat healthily and could live on coffee, cereal , crisps and  cookies. My dear husband is usually the one getting the "You really should eat more healthily" lecture from me,  until he's out of town and then the tables are certainly turned.

If a group of behavioural psychologists where interpreting this behaviour, I am sure they could write a thesis on the fact that I only make an effort in order to show off  (me a show off? an absurd idea!) and when there is no one to appreciate me, I fall apart.  I think it's mostly got to do with the fact that cooking for one is like kissing your brother (or sister) - there's no surprise or romance, just pure function.

In the light of my latest chastisement from Keith about me not eating properly, I decided I would make a special effort last night - Baked Butternut filled with White Beans, Black Olives and melted Camembert cheese.

 Black and White Baked Butternut
Serves 2 (or in my case 1 plus 1 leftover)

1 Butternut, cut in half length ways and seeds removed
2 Sticks of Cinamon
Olive Oil
1 Tin White Beans (rinsed)
10 Black Olives Stoned and halved
4 Thick slices of Camembert Cheese

Roast the Butternut, for about 60 -80 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius, drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with salt and with one stick of cinamon placed on each half .
Mix in a bowl the white beans and the olives, seasoned with salt.
Once the butternut are cooked through, add the bean and olive mix into the holes of the butternut, top with the cheese and another little drizzle of olive oil and bake until the cheese has melted and the beans are warmed through.
Serve and enjoy.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Beetroot Soup Winter Warmer

Winter has arrived in true Cape Town style - yesterday was beautifully sunny and then this morning it's cold and pouring with rain. So it's time to start making soup and comfort foods again.

I like beetroot, although I seldom make the effort to cook it. It's messy and takes time to cook, but once you have got through all the mess and the stains, it is worth it.You have to wear gloves when you peel them, otherwise you'll look like an extra from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Roasting retains much more flavour, you also need to keep the root and stalk intact while cooking or you'll end up loosing all the intense redness and nutrients.

This is my take on tradition Borscht, which sounds more like a Russian lingerie shop, but is actually just beetroot soup. It's of Ukrainian origins and is popular in many Eastern and Central European countries.

   Roast Beetroot Soup with Smoked Paprika

750g Beetroot
2 Brown Onions (with skin)
1 Handful Fresh Thyme
3 Bay Leaves
Olive Oil
10 ml Honey
10ml Balsamic Vinegar
750ml Beef Stock 
7ml Smoked Paprika (Hot or Medium)
1 Baked potato -(optional for serving)
Sour Cream -(optional for serving)

Place the beetroot, onions, thyme, bay leaves and salt with a generous splash of olive oil in a roasting pan  and roast at 200ºC for about 60 -90 minutes until soft.
Remove the beetroot from the roasting pan, and rub the skin off (please remember the gloves).
Cut the beetroot into quarters and place in a large pot.*** (see note below)
Add the onion flesh only (no skins) .
Add the all the other ingredients and bring to a boil.
Simmer at a rolling boil for about 30 minutes.
Purée the soup to your liking, I like it smooth with a few beetroot pieces for texture.

Serving options :
***Retain one of the beetroot and cut into small dice.
Cross cut a baked potato (which you can bake together with the other ingredients) and squeeze it to make the insides puff out.
Place a serving of hot soup in your bowl, add the potato, top with sour cream and garnish with diced beetroot.
Drizzle with a little olive oil.
I served mine with pretzels, but a good rye bread would be more traditional.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Chocolate Heaven

I have two faults, actually I have more than two ( I hope you're surprised), but since this is a food blog and not a confessional box, I just stick to the two relevant ones. Both these faults stem from the same under lying problem, my love for food. 

The first fault is I spend far too many hours reading food magazines, food blogs and watching cooking shows. This means I have copied, pasted, printed, bookmarked, saved and torn out  enough recipes to put me in the "obsessive complusive" catagory.

The second fault is purchasing cooking and baking equipment, some of which are seldom used and there are a few which are still in the packaging, who knows how long after they were purchased.

But, I don't forget the things I buy, I know exactly where they are - I just haven't had the right recipe (see fault one) to use them. When I came across this recipe from Nina, at My Easy Cooking, I knew I would be able to use the huge baking tin I bought about 8 months ago, which was still in it's original packaging.

When I read Nina discription "This chocolate cake recipe is unconventional, dead-easy to make, egg free and you use only one bowl for mixing and baking" and " makes a huge cake", I was set. I went straight to copy, paste and print!

I did make one change, I left out the 1/2 tsp fine cloves and 1 tsp fine cinnamon and dissolved 6 heaped spoons of instant coffee into the boiling water. Please click here for the recipe and instuctions.

“One who looks for a friend without faults will have none.”

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Home for Lunch

I only work half day, well perhaps I should say I only get paid to work for half the day - the rest of the day's duties, are all done free. I am not complaining, both my paid and unpaid "jobs" involve things I love.

One of the really great things about coming home early is I sometimes get to spoil myself with a wonderful lunch, like this Moroccan Roasted Chicken with Deep Fried Camembert.

The chicken was prepared at the Cooksplayground on Monday with Jenny. This chicken was smothered with a combination of Moroccan spices, preserved lemon and fresh coriander and then roasted, but you can use any left over cold chicken.

Deep frying camerbert is really easy. Slice a round of Camembert into eight, dip the pieces into beaten egg and then roll in breadcrumbs, fry in hot oil, turning until golden on all sides.

To assemble the salad, place the sliced chicken and fried Camembert cheese on a bed of rocket and dress with your favourite dressing, which for me is Verlaque Fruit infused White Balsamic Reduction.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Roasted Tomatoes and Verlaque

I was taught the Ten Commandments  in Sunday School many years ago. It is a list which was spoken by God and is seen as a moral foundation to my faith. The last one talks about coveting your neighbour's house, his wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour. 

I really don't covet my nighbour's wife (or husband), I don't think they have a servant (or a slave) and I haven't seen any livestock, except for their cats, which I can categorically say I hate.

But in food land, I covet many things. I read about the fresh product markets in France, where you can buy 8 different kinds of onions, the Italians who have joints of Parma Ham hanging in their barns and the Spanish fish markets where you can but real anchovies. Then the Americans that have things like peanut butter chips, blood oranges and San Francisco Sour-dough bread and muffins the size of small children.

But occassionally something comes to the shelves of our supermarkets in South Africa, locally made which makes me feel totally superior. One such product I recieved at the SA Food Bloggers Conference was Verlaque Fruit infused White Balsamic Reduction.

So, today I am not coveting - I am totally smug and especially with these Roasted Tomatoes using the Verlaque Fresh Cranberry Infused Reduction. 

I slow roasted quartered tomatoes (with the skin on) on a low heat, 110ºC for 4 hours. Before baking them I sprinkled them with a little olive oil and salt and then a generous splashing (aka Jamie Oliver) of Verlaque Fresh Cranberry Infused White Balsamic Reduction.

It bakes right down, without drying out, with a sticky, sweet, tangy fruit syrup. I served it as a vegetable, but it would work really well in a salad, with cheese or as a antipasto.

“People often ask for what others have, 
while not prepared to go through 
what others went through to gain it.”

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Pear Tarte Tatin at the Cooksplayground

I have a recurring dream nightmare, I am either sitting in Mr Stanford's accounting class wearing my pyjamas or I  remember I was supposed to study for my biology final exam and didn't. While neither of these actually ever happened, there is something in my deep subconcious that haunts me.

So,20 years on I have gone back to school, but this is a much better school - there are no exams, I get to meet fantastic people from all walks of life, I cook then I eat (and don't even have to do the dishes) and I even take the leftovers home (a whole new take on homework). The Playground has no "popular" kids, and no one is checking how you walk or talk - it's how you stir the pot not the crowd.

If high school was this much fun, I am sure I wouldn't have my recurring nightmare, perhaps I would then dream about is getting as big as a whale and not fitting into my pyjamas.

So, you want to know where this CooksPlayground is? Click the link. I have to quote from Jenny's site, to  best to explain what learning to cook is about on the Playground. "Taking a recipe and owning it". We learn the basics of a recipe and then we play with flavours we like until we all have a dish, uniquely different and delightfully delicious. Jenny is a master of "ExperientialCooking™", she even has the trademark!

I am going to share picture of the Pear Tarte Tatin which we made this week. I won't give you the recipe, that you can get from Google - but I will share my inspiration to use crushed cardamom with the pears, a match made in heaven.

Served with some lightly whipped cream - makes a great simple dessert.

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water."

It is not your business to succeed, but to do what is right : when you have done so, the rest lies with God.
C.S. Lewis

Search This Blog

South African Food and Wine Blogger Directory

The South African Food and Wine Blogger Directory