Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Failure to Fantastic

Failure is not always a bad thing, some great inventions have come from failures - in the kitchen and in life.

Van Gogh sold only one painting in his entire lifetime. I guess he was a failure, or perhaps just misunderstood. Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame had his chicken recipe rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it.  Persistence? Definitely. Tradition says that the Tarte Tatin was first created by accident at the Hotel Tatin. 

There is a saying that "success is no accident" - this was obviously coined by someone who had never cooked before - and certainly never in my kitchen. I am more of a "necessity is the mother of invention" type cook.

On the weekend I tried to make these . Unfortunately, my potatoes are not as well behaved and I soon realised that they were not going to stay stuck together while I fried them. So, a back up plan had to come into place.

I simply placed a little Willow Creek Chilli Olive Pesto  (courtesy of Willow Creek in our goodie bags from the SA Food Bloggers Conference) on each potato slice and deep fried them olive side up until golden brown and then turned them gently and fried the the other side for another minute. Once done I drained them on kitchen paper.

They came out really good, and I will definitely make them again as a quick snack.

It is better to have enough ideas 
for some of them to be wrong, 
than to be always right 
by having no ideas at all.
Edward de Bono

Monday, 29 March 2010

Winter Bean Soup

Dear Cape Town

After much debate, Hell would like to thank you for returning its weather.
Have an awesome day now.
Climate Controller in Hell
I laughed when I received this email, since it came at the end of what seemed to be the hottest 2 weeks I have ever experienced in my life. This was only 3 short weeks ago, and now I'm making bean soup for supper - what happened?
The days are so much shorter, the nights are colder and the sun no longer beats down like it's trying to melt the earth's crust. We've tilted along the axis, so watch out Northern Hemisphere, we sending summer your way!
Saturday we had rain, it was such a wonderful sound, even if it did only last 30 minutes, it was long enough for me to rustle up a comforting bean and lentil soup/stew.
Bean and Lentil Soup Stew
  Tin Tin Soup : I use the tomato tin as my measuring "cup"

1 Tin Chopped Peeled Tomatoes (keep the empty tin to measure out the rest of the ingredients)
1 "Tin" Dry Kidney Beans
1 "Tin" Dry Black Lentils
½ "Tin" Barley
1 Onion peeled and Sliced
1 Large handful Fresh Lemon Thyme (or a dessert spoon dried thyme)
3 Fresh Bay Leaves ( or dry)
1 chopped Green Chilli
2 Litres of Vegetable Stock (You can make this yourself or use a cube or concentrate)
½ Teaspoon ground Black Pepper
½ Teaspoon Ground Cumin

Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook for 6 hours, until everything is soft.
Add water if necessary.
Check the seasoning and adjust to taste. Do not add the salt at the beginning or your beans won't soften.
You can good this on the stove top, just leave it to simmer very slowly - stirring occasionally.
 "Everybody always talks about the weather
but no one ever does anything"

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Real Men Eat Quiche

Do "real men" eat quiche? Not many I know, truthfully speaking most South African men view chicken as a vegetable!

So what's the deal with not eating quiche? It started with the tongue in cheek book by Bruce Feirstein : Real Men Don't Eat Quiche . It was followed by a few sequels which included : Real Men Don't Cook Quiche; Real Women Don't Pump Gas, Real Kids Don't Say Please, Real Women Never Pump Iron and Real Women Send Flowers. As you can see, it's these kinds of stereotypes that help us see just how silly we humans are - just like the Silver-back gorilla who beats his chest to show how strong he is.

This is another futile attempt to fight the confusion of contemporary men about how they ought to behave, after a decade of attacks by feminists on traditional male roles and beliefs. Poor guys, they really don't know what they are missing.

I suppose if it was called a pie, they would have taken to easier - but "quiche" doesn't sound like something which mixes well with too much testosterone!

As I am eating alone, I can make quiche and eat it without threatening my husband's masculinity. Although I am sure there are plenty of men out there who would gladly eat this and enjoy it - although not while watching a football or rugby match with their friends.

Spinach, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Pear Quiche

250g Flour
120g Butter (Cold)
2-3 Egg Yolks

Pre- heat you oven to 200ºC
Blend the Flour and the butter in your processor (you can do this by hand my grating the butter and then rubbing in the butter to resemble bread crumbs).
Add the yolks one at a time until the mixture come together in a ball.
Flatten out the ball and wrap in in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out your cold dough and place in a quiche tin. Freeze for 10 minutes.
Blind bake for 20 minutes. (click link for instructions on blind baking)
Remove the baking beans and bake for a further 10 minutes until cooked and pale golden colour.

1 Bunch of Swiss Chard, thinly chopped
125g block of Blue cheese, roughly chopped
1 Pear (Cored and peeled and thinly sliced)
375ml Cream
2 Eggs
1 Tablespoon Butter
Salt and Black Pepper

Cook the pear in the butter until they are slightly soft and starting to colour.
Add the chard and cook until soft. Use a higher heat and stir continually to stop liquid forming.
In a separate bowl, mix all the other ingredients.
Place the pear and chard at the bottom of the prepared pie crust, evenly distributing the ingredients.
Carefully pour over the cream, egg and cheese mixture, also making sure to get even distribution of the cheese.
Bake in the oven for another 15 minutes, until golden brown, but still slightly soft to the touch in the middle.
Allow to cool slightly in the tin before removing and serving.
Best served warm but not hot.

Be who you are and say what you feel,
because those who mind don't matter 
and those who matter don't mind.  
~Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Guacamole and Pomagrantes

Avocados are now in season, what a wonderful time of year, it makes up for the loss of the peaches and other delicious summer fruits. I do find the winter fare of oranges, apples and pears slightly boring after a month.

But Avocados I never get bored of, with the added bonus of now knowing someone who owns a great big tree - FULL of fruit, the blessing I have are countless.

This Sunday was the South African Food Bloggers Conference and as with all great conferences, we all left with bags full goodies from very generous sponsors.

As an added bonus, I got to sit the table with the owners of Verlaque Fine Foods. Wonderful people, with a wonderful product which they are really passionate about and rightly so.

I had bought their Persian Pomegranate Concentrate, from Woolworths. I've been "playing around" with it for a while, splashing it in tuna salad, adding it to vinaigrettes but never really getting the full value of the sublime tartness,  I then got this great tip from the owner - try in guacamole!

Guacamole with Persian Pomegranate Concentrate

1 Ripe Avocado (peeled and stone removed)
¼ Fresh Green chili chopped (optional)
1 Handful of Parsley (roughly chopped)
10ml Verlaque Fine Foods Persian Pomegranate Concentrate
Salt to taste

Mash the Avocado with a fork - don't over mash, you don't want puree.
Add the other ingredients and mix.
Drizzle a little extra concentrate over the top, it's really delicious.
Serve with biscuits, pita or as a vegetable dip.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Human Rights and Poached Eggs

Yesterday we celebrated Human Rights Day in South Africa. Originally is day was celebrated (not in South Africa) on December 10th, to honour the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948. Later it was decided that each country should celebrate the day as they saw fit.

For many people basic Human Rights are everyday things that are taken for granted, and it is only when these are taken away, do you start to value them as a treasured gift - not only a right.

The reason South Africans celebrate Human Rights Day on 21 March, is in remembrance of the Sharpville Massacre, which happened on 21 March 1960. What started as a peaceful protest, in defiance to having to carry "pass books" (a compulsory document carried by all black people over the age of 16, controlling their movements), ended in the death of 69 people. A terrible scar in our country's history. Link
I am not going to bore you with what basic human rights are, chances are if you have access to the Internet and read food blogs, you already have most of those rights covered. My son might disagree that his basic human rights are infringed by the fact that I refuse to buy him a Sony Play Station, but he still has lots to learn about hardship!

If you would like to read more about Human Rights please click here to read The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In my household, we practice the right to good food. Food is mentioned in the above declaration, "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food...".

I am very happy to say that with this morning's breakfast, I covered that right and then some! It certainly is not something I would make on a working day, but as a holiday treat, it sure does raise the bar for the right to food and well-being.

Breakfast Rosti with Poached Eggs
Adapted from Woolworths Taste Magazine November 2009

Serves 1

1 Large Potato (Grated and left in water to stop discolouring)
1/2 Large Onion grated
30 - 50 g Butter
Salt to taste
a dash 0f Olive Oil

On medium heat, heat the pan (I used a 20cm non stick pancake pan) and gently melt the butter and the oil.
Take the potato from the water and mix with the onion.
Place in a clean tea towel and squeeze out all the water.
Place potato mix in the pan and press down firmly to form a flat disk, with no gaps.
Gentle fry until golden brown and then flip over and repeat until other side is cooked and browned.
Remove from the heat and allow it to rest for a while.

Egg Poaching
This can be done with a egg poaching pan or using the "chef" method.
I will explain the "chef" method, but please note this does require practice, so don't try it for the first time while you mother-in-law is sitting there watching.

Bring a saucepan of water to a gentle boil. Add 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar and swirl the water to create a whirlpool effect. Carefully crack the eggs into the centre of the whirlpool and poach until cooked to your liking. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on top of your rosti.

Like I said - you need to practice this, but once you perfect it, it does become easier. Try clicking here to see a step-by-step guide.

And as Julia would say "bon appetit"!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Blessings from Above

I have so many things to be grateful for over the last week. I should be falling apart after all the tragedies which have come my way, but thanks to the prayer, love and support of friends and family, I am doing very well.

My step-son was involved in a very serious motor-cycle accident, which really shocked us all. It was an extremely emotional time for our whole family. I am pleased to say that he is doing so much better now, although it will be a very long road to recovery.

As you can imagine, cooking was not top of my priority list, and for the last week I have been eating very sporadically. Now that things have started to settle, I decided to pull out a few stops and make a fantastic meal, even though I was only cooking for one.

Fresh Tagliatelle with Pesto and Garlic and Chilli Prawns
Serves 2

300g Cleaned Prawn Tails
1 Green Chilli
1 Garlic Clove
Oil for Frying

Fry all the ingredients on medium heat until the prawns are cooked through.

3 Cups Basil ( I used purple basil, fresh from my garden)
1 Cup Parsley (also from my garden)
½ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
50g Lightly toasted Pine-nuts (toasted in dry non-stick frying pan)
Juice of 1 -2 lemons (this you have to judge by taste)
2 Garlic Cloves
Olive Oil (this you have to judge by consistency required)
Salt and Pepper

Place all the ingredients in a food processor - except the oil.
Start whizzing the machine and slowly start adding the oil.
Once you think you have the right consistency, you need to taste and adjust the seasoning and acidity to taste.

Cook the pasta as per the instructions.
Drain the pasta, and stir in as much pesto as you require.
Top with the cooked prawns and serve.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Shipwrecked - The Cape of Storms

As the temperature in Cape Town soared well over 35ºC yesterday, people flocked to the beach in hope of a little respite. One thing you can always count on when you swim in the Atlantic Ocean, it's going to be cold no matter how hot it might be on the shore.

Our trip to the beach, took us to Blouberg beach, where you will find this shipwreck, left after a storm last year in winter.

The Seli 1 was grounded with 30.000T coal in September 2009, on it's way from Durban to Gibraltar. The NSRI were able to rescue all the crew members, in extremely dangerous conditions and Salvors pumped the fuel off the ship, which was also hampered by bad weather.

When you look at the ship, it almost looks like it was parked not wrecked - it calmly lies there, keeping watch over the beach goers.

It is no accident that Bartolomeu Dias called the Southern tip of Africa the Cape of Storms. It was later re-named the Cape of Good Hope, because of the great optimism of opening a sea route to India and the East. Depending on which season you make your visit, you'll find both names very suitable.

There have been so many ships that have come to the end of their sailing days at the Cape of Storms, some with tragic endings - like the Birkenhead, where only 193 of the 643 people on board were saved.

The Cape of Good Hope is the legendary home of The Flying Dutchman, crewed by tormented and damned ghostly sailors, it is doomed forever to beat its way through the adjacent waters without ever succeeding in rounding the headland.

Here is another wreck (pictured on one of our hikes), off Duiker Point, the Bos 400 which ran aground on 26 June 1994. Despite several towage attempts, the shipwreck was considered a total loss as salvors were able to recover little from the wrecked derrick / lay barge.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Hiking the Heavens

Hiking is more than just exercise, it goes much deeper. It is a wonderful few hours I get to spend with the man I love, without any outside interruptions and it is a spiritual renewal.

During most hikes I have a song in my head, usually an old hymn, something which speaks of the grandeur of God's creation.

This Saturday's hike was long and at times extremely painful (anyone who has climbed Plattekilp Gorge will understand that pain), but I loved it. Climbing to the top of a mountain and then looking down, that is living on the edge! Then climbing down the mountain and looking up, that is accomplishment!

If you ever think your life is going nowhere, get out and do a hike and you'll end up with a feeling of : "I can do it all - I am Superman!".

Here are some pictures of our Saturday hike. We climbed Platteklip Gorge, walked to Maclears Beacon, followed Smuts track and then turned off towards the Hely-Hutchinson dam and the Waterworks museum. We then went down, back to the Smuts Track and took a very steep decent down Skeleton Gorge.

Here is Hout Bay pictured from Table Mountain.

Maclears Beacon, the highest point on Table Mountain, is named after Sir Thomas Maclear (March 17, 1794–July 14, 1879) an Irish-born South African astronomer who became Her Majesty's astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope.

The crater Maclear on the Moon is named after him, as is Maclear's Beacon on Table Mountain and the town of Maclear.

There is an amazing collection of flowers on Table Mountain, like the King Protea pictured here - which is the South African National Flower.

And here is the Drosera trinervia (sundew), a carnivorous plant (no Meatless Monday here).

Pictured here is the Hely-Hutchinson Dam. It was constructed in 1904 by Thomas Stewart, a Scotsman and South Africa's first consulting engineer.
Before they could start building the reservoir, they had to construct a railway line, up Kasteelspoort (from Victoria Road Camps Bay), to transport the men and the materials.

Stewart and his men lived on Table Mountain for 3 years, before construction was completed on the Woodhead reservoir (next to the Hely-Hutchinson). Woodhead did not solve the water shortage in Cape Town (especially with the increased demand for water resulting from the Anglo-Boer War), and so the bigger Hely-Hutchinson reservoir was commissioned.The Alexandra, Victoria, and De Villiers dams which served Wynberg were built in the same period, all overseen by Mr Stewart.

Thomas Stewart also surveyed the Hottentots-Holland Mountains searching for suitable catchment areas, and discovered two excellent sites in the Steenbras and Wemmershoek valleys, which would see development in later years.

To read more about this extremely interesting and influential man please go here, where I was able to source my information.

Hely - Hutchinson reservoir has a maximum capacity of .95million cubic meters of water.

Here is the view from the top of Skeleton Gorge, overlooking the Cape Flats, False Bay and the Hottentot Holland Mountains in the background.

At the top of Smuts Track, named after Jan S. Smuts, who was a keen hiker. He was born on 24 May 1870, at the family farm, Bovenplaats, near Malmesburg - just outside Cape Town.

Jan was 12 when his eldest brother died, and he was then able to take his brother's place in school. He made excellent progress, despite his late start, and caught up with his contemporaries within four years. By the age of 16 he was studying at the Victoria College in Stellenbosch, which was the former name for the University of Stellenbosch.

Once he graduated from Victoria College, he won a scholarship and decided to travel to the United Kingdom to read law at Christ's College Cambridge and graduated in 1893 with a double First. As you can see, he was a very intelligent man.

But back to his love of hiking, because for me to tell you even half of his achievements, would take more than a blog post.

Jan was an amateur botanist - with a particular interest in grasses, and has a grass which grows in Irene named after him.

Jan Smuts ascended Table Mountain more than 70 times, even at the age of 70! So it is not surprise that they have named a path leading up the mountain after him.

How Skeleton Gorge got it's name is not known to me, but after the decent I do think it is very aptly named. It is certainly a decent for the brave!

The prize at the end of the hike is walking into Kirstenbosch Gardens - without paying (in money at least).

Monday, 1 March 2010

Meatless Monday

The idea of a meatless meal once a week is public health awareness program in association with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future. In 2009 Paul and Stella McCartney launched "Support Meat-free Monday" in the U.K..

All this you all know if you've been following Twitter, blogs or just hanging around the internet for the last year. It is not only encouraged for the health benefits of cutting down on meat consumption by 15%, but also a way to save the planet.

So, even with my best intentions, Monday is not always our meatless meal. I have however adopted the habit of having at least one meatless meal per week.

Here is a great meatless meal, which can work as a main vegetarian meal, a starter or a side dish for meat eaters that really can't do without their animal protein.

Paprika Peppers stuffed with Quinoa
Makes 2 servings

2 large Paprika Peppers
Half a cup of Quinoa - cooked
Half a Red Pepper chopped into small dice
2 Courgettes chopped into small dice
1 Handful of toasted pine nuts (optional, but very good)
Olive Oil for frying

Cut the Paprika peppers in half, remove the seeds and membrane, but keep the stalk intact.
Rub with a little oil and bake in the oven at 180°C for about 15 minutes, until just soft.
Fry the red peppers and the courgettes until just soft.
Mix together the quinoa, the peppers, courgettes and the pine nuts and season to taste.
Remove the paprika peppers from the oven - fill with the quinoa mix and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
Serve with fried haloumi cheese which you have rubbed with a little oil, stick one basil leaf on the presentation side and fry until golden and carefully flip over, keeping the leaf in place.

And there you have - Meatless Monday, a feast on it's own!

Professional Hands

I have been blogging for about 2½ years, and have just over 300 posts under my belt (which is bigger now than when I started)! Learning how to present my message in a friendly, yet interesting way is a challenge but the hardest part has been the photography.

Photographing your evening meal when the entire family are standing around waiting to eat, can become rather frustrating (for them more than me). Seeing whose plate looks the best, and then walking around the house looking for a good background and enough light, are only two of many problems which this blogger faces.

This Friday I was privileged enough to spend an afternoon with professional food photographer, Dirk Pieters and food stylist Aletta Lintvelt. What an inspiring experience! I would love to be able to tell you that they make it look easy - but actually it takes a lot of hard work to get the perfect shot.

Nothing in the picture is random - even the random tomato slice is placed perfectly into position. The photo is taken, checked, things are moved, lighting is changed and then photographed again. When I thought it was perfect, they were still not happy and as it turned out - you can get better than perfect!

Dirk really helped me see the difference that lighting and camera angles can make and gave me some sound advice which I can very easily adapt to my pictures at home, without Keith having to building on a studio.

Here are some photos from Friday all taken with my camera and no photo-shop....

Thank you so much to Dirk and Aletta for allowing me to spy into your world. I had a wonderful afternoon and learned so much from watching you work.

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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