Thursday, 25 February 2010

Totally Irresponsible

Since becoming part of the press, well I only have one little blog - but I still publish my views and write articles and I might not be have received my Pulitzer prize for journalism yet, but I'm working on it. These things can take time. I still believe in the value of responsible reporting.

A mark of a true democracy is not how many people are at the voting booths, but rather in the freedom of the press to report on the events - even if what they say is not popular to the ruling majority.

There is a big "BUT" in the freedom of the press. I think that in our world of instant access to information, we have become news junkies. Publishing news has become more important than truth or morals. I strongly feel that the media / press has a moral responsibility to society.

I grew up in a country where news was bias. Some people lived for 50 years totally ignorant of life around them. The pictures which I see now of events which took place, surprise and horrify me. I thought I lived in a peaceful country where every one was happy and lived a good life. Now of course I know this was not the truth, and that is thanks to the press, who opened all our eyes to the harsh realities of so many of our fellow South Africans.

But there are things which, while they might be true, are not news worthy or morally right. Off the top of my head I think of a few, which you might have heard or seen and wondered the same - or perhaps you feel it's your right to know.

A local man thought he had won R91 million in the lottery, his photo was taken and he story printed in a local rag. The reporter in question, never bothered to check his ticket and as a result he and his family had to go into hiding. Turns out that he had the right numbers, just the wrong date!

Brad and Angelina are breaking up or NOT. These people have children, at least one of their children attends school, where he has to find out that his parents are getting divorced. So what if they are? And why do we need to know every time Jennifer gives Brad a call? I certainly would not want my son to hear this kind of news on Twitter or where ever else people spread this kind of rubbish - true or not.

In 2006, the New York Times printed an article claiming a woman was jailed in El Salvador for having an abortion. It turns out that the woman had been convicted of murdering her child after birth. The author relied on an unpaid translator who had worked with an abortion rights group.

These do not start to cover the amount of bloggers out there, who come out with some really outrageous claims and statements. While these people might not be paid, and they certainly have a right to say whatever they want, morally it is not right.

Food blogs are a dangerous playground, and I have found that there are people out there who don't know that using Google pictures and then claiming they made the dish (with a beautiful photo attached), is just not fair on the rest of us who believe them. If you haven't made it - just say you got the recipe, it looks great on paper but whether it works or not - is any one's guess.

This brings me to my latest creation. As a responsible food blogger, and part of the responsible news media (I couldn't resist that), I feel I should warn you about making this. If you have children, are watching you weight or simply have a highly addictive personality, then please don't read any further. These Chocolate Nut Fudge squares are like heroin. Once you have one, you will not be able to stop and because they only take 5 minutes to make you'll be hard pressed to convince your family you don't have time either.

I came across this recipe, and it did have a warning - but I certainly don't think it was strong enough, irresponsible blogging! Now I have a batch sitting at home (which was supposed to be a gift) and I can't wait to leave work just to start eating again. Thank you to Marisa at the Creative Pot ,you have made my next month at the gym a living nightmare!

Choc Nut Fudge
Makes 36 (ouch I forgot to count, could have eaten that many?)

2 x 100g dark chocolate slabs
1 x 100g milk chocolate slab
1 x 390g tin condensed milk
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp peanut butter
1/2 cup salted peanuts
a pinch of salt

1. Break chocolate into a microwaveable bowl, add condensed milk and peanut butter and microwave on 60% heat for 4 minutes or until melted.
2. Stir, adding salt and peanuts until evenly combined. Pour into a greased 18 x 18cm dish, smoothing the top and place in the refrigerator for a few hours until set.

I manage to salvage some form of health with diner, grilled Cape Salmon with a salad and a baked potato - followed by a few Chocolate Nut fudge squares!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

oh Madame, Your plums look so good....

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

A Poem by William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams (September 17, 1883 – March 4, 1963), also known as WCW, was an American Poet. He was also a pediatrician and general practitioner of medicine.

This is your piece of useless information for the day, keep it for the next diner party when the conversation starts to lag or when you need to impress someone with your extensive literary knowledge.

Under McCarthyism, he would have fallen into the "Red Under every Bed" category and becaus e of his very pro-communism stance, he found himself loosing a consultantship with the Library of Congress in 1952/3, an event that contributed to his being treated for depression - just what every good poet or artist needs to really get ahead of the game.

In May 1963 he was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems. The Poetry Society of America continues to honor William Carlos Williams by presenting an annual award in his name for the best book of poetry published by a small, non-profit or university press.

So there you have it - WCW the poet who became most famous after he died. I have to say - the Plums have my vote. Especially in the light of the season we're in - all you need are plums! We have gold ones, green ones, little prune plums (sweet like sugar) and my personal favourite the big fat purple plums.

I bought some on Saturday and turned them into what I consider my best jam ever! It's sweet and tart, all at the same time. Your tongue will go into taste heaven, not knowing where the pleasure is going to hit next.

Plum Jam Royal

1.3KG Plums (some must be under-ripe to ensure you have enough pectin)
700g Sugar
Juice of 2 Lemons (keep one of the lemons you squeezed)

Place the stoned fruit and the sugar in a large bowl and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.
Place the fruit and sugar in a large pot and bring to heat slowly, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the temperature and boil until setting point it reached.
Add the juice and 1 of the squeezed lemons.
I use a thermometer, which must get to +5 above water boiling point (which for me at sea level is 105°C)
Remove the lemons before bottling.
I also use the ice cold saucer test to double check. (Google these tests to see which works for you).
Place in hot sterilized jars, while jam is still hot and seal the lids.
I have never used paraffin, alcohol or wax paper on the top, but you can to ensure preservation.

My best news today is that I will be attending the
If there are any bloggers out there who would like to
attend the most exciting blogging event

to hit the shores of South Africa,
Do whatever you have to make sure you don't miss out.
This is not going to be just a meet and greet,
we are going to be learning from 2 of the
most successful and incredible South African food bloggers.
Plus you'll get to meet me!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Oh Baby, baby

I trust you all made it through Valentine's Day without any heart-ache or break. For those who wished for love, I trust he or she came through . I'm not really big on Valentines Day, actually that is an exaggeration - I am a non-Valentine person.

I get extremely irritated by the hype. Perhaps we should start a Valentines day where we promote loving those that don't usually get it - like the elderly, the homeless or the single mom fighting to make the end of the day with all her marbles in the bag. Instead of wasting money on old flowers, which are so over-priced, let's give a little kindness to those who really need it more.

So there you have my rant - it's of my chest and I'm back to happy!

Last night's meal was a first for me - Baby Octopus. I bought a bag of frozen cleaned baby octopus a while ago, and have building courage to cook it. Turns out, it is really simple and can be cooked just like calamari. Just make sure you remove the beak if it's not done already.

Salt and Pepper Baby Octopus

500g Baby Octopus ( Cleaned and cut into bite size pieces)
Salt and White pepper
Corn four
Oil for Deep frying.

Dry the octopus and season with salt and pepper and dust with cornflour.
Deep fry in hot oil for about 1 minute, depending on the size.
Serve with lemon and savoury rice.
That is it - simple and very tasty!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Where were you ???

I have forgotten so many things in my life, things that while they were happening I thought I could never forget, but I did. There are days which I do remember, events that still bring goosebumps to my arms and raise the pitch of voice a little.

There are the obvious ones, like my wedding day - but not the entire day, just small seemly insignificant things that when I close my eyes, I can transport myself back into that white meringue dress, with the dropping white roses in my hand and I feel the excitement like it was yesterday.

The day we fetched Markwin to come and live permanently with us, knowing we would never have to live through another Sunday afternoon tantrum of a 4 year old, begging you not to take him back to "the home". Him sitting in the administrator's office, all alone, with all his worldly possessions in a black garbage bag, dressed in someone else's Sunday best. He looked so small and scared, everything and everyone he knew he was leaving behind.

Today is a day which I remember and it happened 20 years ago. Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster prison, near Cape Town, after 27 years incarceration. I stood, together with hundreds of thousands of people lining the National Highway, waiting to see his car pass. Seeing the power salute from the car window, knowing that this day would always mean something big. I was only 18 years old, but on that day I became a part of a something bigger than me .

Then 4 years later, standing in the rain for 2 hours queuing to cast my vote in the first democratic election - I would have stood there for as long as it took, too be part of that special day.

Red- letter days - A term which comes from the Medieval Church calendars, where the calendar showed special holy days in red ink.

My Red-Letter days are so beautifully summed up in the song: "A Whole New World" -

A whole new world.
Every turn a surprise

With new horizons to pursue
Every moment red-letter
I'll chase them anywhere

There's time to spare

Let me share this whole new world with you

Well, I have a new dish wish I made, not red-letter - but very different to my usual fare. I got the idea from the March edition of the Your Family magazine.

Pork Neck Steak and Chickpea Pilaf

3 Pork Neck Steaks (you can use lamb lion, steak or even chicken)
1 Onion
½ Teaspoon Chopped Garlic
1 Tin Chickpeas
¼ Teaspoon of ground Coriander
1 Teaspoon Cumin
1 Teaspoon Paprika (I like the hot one)
1 Teaspoon Dried Chili Flakes (Use less if you want)
2 Handfuls of chopped Spinach or Swiss Chard
½ Handful of fresh Parsley ( I really didn't measure this one)
150g Basmati Rice
2 Teaspoons Chicken Stock Powder (or one cube)
Lemon wedge to serve

Fry the steaks on a medium heat, in a little oil until cooked, and allow to rest.
In a pot fry the Onion and garlic until soft and golden.
Add the spices, stock and rice and cook for 1 minute
Add about 1 cup of water and cook for about 20 minutes, until the rice is just done.
Add the meat, which you first chop into bite size pieces and the chickpeas.
Heat through the meat and the chickpeas.
Stir in the spinach and the parsley.
Check if you need a little more moisture and turn off the heat and leave it for about 10 minutes.
Serve with a wedge of lemon.

Will I be with you forever or will you be gone in a minute?

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Sword Fighting

I have a confession : I love sword fish! However it is on the SASSI orange list and while these species may be legally sold by registered commercial fishers and retailers, an increased demand for these could compromise a sustainable supply.

Consumers are encouraged to consider the implications of this choice, and I did, but I gave into temptation. I even left it in the freezer for a whole month before I couldn't wait any longer.

I did however buy a very small amount and made it into a pasta dish, so that it would be stretched further - it's like showering with a friend to save water!

Please don't hate me for my choice, I do recycle and I have a solar powdered hot water cylinder. I re-use my shopping bags and help the poor, so please can you cut me some slack?

Sword Fish Pasta

500g Sword Fish cut into bite size pieces
Half a lemon
1 Tin chopped Peeled Tomatoes
1 Sachet Tomato Paste
1 Large Onion
2 Anchovy Fillets
1 hand full Fresh Oregano
2 Teaspoons Dried Chilli (Less if you scared)
Sugar or 10 ml Chilli Jam
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Fry the anchovy fillets until they have dissolved.
Add the onion and fry until soft.
Add the rest of the ingredients, EXCEPT the fish and simmer for at least an hour.
Add water as necessary.
Heat a pan with a little olive oil and once hot fry the fish until browning, but not cooked through.
Add a little lemon juice to the fish and then add fried fish to the sauce.
Simmer for another 3-5 minutes and serve with either spaghetti or tagliatelle pasta.
Garnish with basil.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Jonkershoek Nature Reserve and Goodbye

This weekend we hike in the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, which lies near to the town of Stellenbosch. The Jonkershoek mountains, with their high peaks and deep kloofs, form part of the larger Boland mountain range (part of the greater Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve).

The Eerste, Berg, Lourens and Riviersonderend rivers all have their sources high in these mountains. The mountainous topography has a significant effect on the rainfall (can be as high as 3.6m per year!), which is of the highest in South Africa. Snow is not unusual on the higher peaks during the winter months.

The natural vegetation of the Jonkershoek area is mainly mountain fynbos. More than 1 100 plant species are known to occur, of which a number are rare and/or endemic to the area.

Mammals include leopard, honey badger, baboon, klipspringer,mongoose and numerous smaller animals like mice, shrews and rats. Most of these are shy, however, and seldom seen.

Large raptors such as black eagle(which we spotted) , the occasional fish eagle and spotted eagle owl occur, while kingfishers and typical fynbos birds (sugarbird, orangebreasted sunbird and protea seed-eater) are more abundant.

There are a number of beautiful hike in the area, from a gentle amble to the 'big daddy hikes" we did.

You can take a walk through the wild flower garden, which will only take you about 30- 45 minutes or if you really are adventurous and have a reasonable level of fitness, you can do the Swartboskloof hike, which is 18km.

This trail leads via Kurktrekkernek to Witbrug.

Hikers face a steep 4.5km ascent followed by a fairly level top section

with panoramic views

and then a steep 2.6km descent down Kurktrekker to join the Tweede Waterval route.

Yesterday I said goodbye to a very close and special friend, Angie. She has gone home to Waco Texas to resume her life as a nurse and to be near her family. I will miss her so much, her infectious laugh, her giving spirit and her total commitment to her faith, has been an inspiration to me for the last 2 years. It was not a goodbye, because a friendship like this will never end just because of the distance between us.

She is going to hate me forever for publishing this photo, but I can't resist showing just how happy I am when I am with her. Just a note - it was very windy at the top of the mountain - hence the wild hair!

You've been so kind and generous
I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you
For your selflessness, my admiration
And for everything you've done

I want to thank you
For your generosity
The love and the honesty
That you gave me

I want to thank you
Show my gratitude
My love and my respect for you
I want to thank you

"Kind & Generous" Natalie Merchant

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Steak on your Plate

Yesterday, 2 February, marked a very important day in the history of South Africa. It has been 20 years since F.W. De Klerk made the speech, which would see the beginning of a new South Africa, and the beginning of democracy in a country that had been colonized by the Portuguese since the 16th century and by other tribes from the Niger River Delta 2500 years before that. Not forgetting the bushman, who were here long before anyone can remember.

As not to steal the thunder from Mr De Klerk and bore everyone with the history of South Africa leading up the speech (25000 years is a rather long time to cover), I thought I would use this as a forum to celebrate the South African Nobel Laureates, of which Mr De Klerk is one.

South Africa has 9 winners starting with Max Theiler in 1951.

Max was born and educated in South Africa, he graduated from UCT in 1918. He left South African to study further in London and later moved to the USA, where he spent the rest of his fruitful days. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for developing a vaccine against yellow fever.

1960 saw Albert Lutuli being awarded South Africa's first (of 3) Nobel Peace prize's, for his role in the non-violent struggle against apartheid. He died in 1967, at the age of 69, after a fatal car crash near his home. He was succeeded as President of the ANC by Oliver Tambo.

It would be another 19 years before another South African would become a Nobel laureate. This would be another South African born and educated here, but who would leave and reach fame off this country's shores. Allan MacLeod Cormack, who became an American, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, for his work on developing the X-Ray.

My favourite laureate was awarded our second Nobel Prize for Peace in 1984. Desmond Tutu, our Rainbow Warrior, was the first black South African Arch Bishop of Cape Town. Who will forget watching his tears as he listened to the testimonies of the victims at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the 1990's, or him walking down Adderley Street in his Springbok rugby jersey after we won the World Cup of Rugby in 1995!

Nadine Gordimer, a writer and political activist won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. She truly showed how mighty the pen can be, her stories dealt with moral and racial issues during the apartheid era.

And enter stage right 1993, arguably two of the most famous South Africans - one of which has won more than 250 awards over 4 decades. I guess he is our most famous citizen and still to this day, almost every international celebratory or politician puts meeting Mr Nelson Mandela top of their "things to do in South Africa" list!
The other winner that year was F.W. De Klerk, and while he no longer enjoys the spot-light as much our Madiba, his leadership during those early days, working towards a peaceful transition to democracy in South Africa, can never be discounted.

Sydney Brenner, Nobel laureate number 8, was the winner in 2002 of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. A biologist, born and educated in Johannesburg, his parents were both emigrants to South Africa. He was one of the first people to see the model of the DNA structure. You would need your doctorate to understand all the work he did, but from the little that I understand - CSI would not be as interesting without his work!

Our latest winner in 2003 is J. M. Coetzee. He is now an Australian, who lives South Australia. He has won 2 Booker prizes and the Nobel Prize for Literature. His first Booker Prize was in 1983, for The Life and Times of Michael K and the second in 1999 for Disgrace, which was made into a movie starring John Malkovich.

So there you have the complete brag list of South African (and a few ex's) Nobel Laureates. It is a list which makes me proudly South African.

But all this talk of people achievement brings me back to one universal truth in life - everyone wants "steak on the plate" and not "pie in the sky". But with these wonderful Steak and Kidney Pot Pies, you can have steak and pie on the same plate! I have kept the flavours very simple, to bring out the taste of the meat, rather than drowning them out too many herb and spices.

Steak and Kidney Pot Pies

500g Stewing Steak (I used goulash)
200g Kidney (Lamb or beef)
Flour for dredging
1 Onion, peeled and sliced
½ Teaspoon Dried Ginger
1 Tablespoon finely chopped Fresh Thyme (reduce this if using dry Thyme)
A generous sprinkling of White Pepper
Oil for frying
250 300g Puff Pastry
1 Egg

Dredge the steak and kidney in flour - shake off the excess.
Fry the onion until soft and browning.
Add the meat and fry until lightly browned.
Add the spices, and combine.
Turn the heat to lowest setting, add a little water and simmer for about 1½ hours.
You need to keep adding water and stirring - don't add too much water at one time.
By slowly adding the water, you braise the meat (so it becomes tender) and get a nice thick rich gravy.
I like lots of gravy - but you can adjust this according to your preference.

Once the meat is ready, place into little oven proof pots and top with a pastry lid big enough to go down the sides by about 1cm.
Cut slits in the pastry lid to allow the steam to escape.
Brush the pastry with a beaten egg and bake at 200°C for about 20 minutes, until golden brown and puffed.
Serve with either vegetables or salad.

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

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