Tag Archive | cooking


Being carless is beginning to make me experience severe cabin fever; I was going batty with little to do except watch my flowers open.

flowers opening
A glance at my very full laundry basket reminded me that I urgently needed to purchase a washing machine and prompted me to do what many people who live in city centres the world over do: catch a taxi.
My drivers, Cecilia and Thobile, were very entertaining and they showed me clever shortcuts to use there-and-back in future.

Thobile with her Cabs for Women taxi cab.

cabs for women
Washing machine duly purchased (they can only deliver next week), I did some other shopping for bits and pieces I needed, including a plunger for one of my bathtubs that won’t drain. Alas, the plunger hasn’t done the trick and I’ll have to fork out for a plumber to come around.
I had time for some lunch while reading up on some Italian recipes and thinking about my answers to Mandy’s ‘Getting to know you better’ series. All too soon my outing was at an end and I had to rush to meet Thobile for my ride home.
Mandy has revisited the series on her latest blog post and I thought I’d do it to see how many of my answers have changed since the last time I completed the quiz way back in 2011.
1. What is your favourite non-alcoholic drink?
Coffee, I drink copious amounts of it throughout the day.
2. What is your favourite alcoholic drink?
I’m an alcoholic in recovery, so I don’t drink, but I used to love red wine.
3. What is your favourite food?
I’m a bit fickle and it changes from day to day, generally I favour Italian food, but today I just read about it while eating good old fish and chips.

taxi outing lunch_edited

4. What is your least favourite food?
Carrot cake, I don’t get what all the fuss is about.
5. What do you eat that others think is really weird?
Tripe, I don’t cook it myself, but I make a pig of myself when I’m invited to eat it at someone else’s house.
6. What is your favourite thing to cook/bake?
I love cooking fiddly little things that look pretty, like stuffed and breaded pumpkin flowers. Pic from when I blogged about them on 21 November 2011.

7. If you could only chose one, would it be sweet or savoury?
8. What time do you usually eat your dinner during the week?
I’ve long had the philosophy that eating a big meal after 4pm is not good for the body. I have my main meal at lunchtime. If I am peckish in the evening, I usually have cheese and crackers.
9. What kitchen item/s have you never owned?
A chinois, I first saw Tandy using one to make sous vide crayfish bisque and have yet to get myself one.
10. What tip would you give to a newby cooker / baker?
It’s easier than you think, relax and enjoy the process and the rewards.
11. What is the best vegetarian dish you have eaten?
Parmigiana di Melanzane. I love it! Picture from when I made it from Jamie Oliver’s recipe on my blog on June 14 2011.

12. What is the easiest meal you can cook?
Mie goreng. Picture from the recipe I posted here on 2 October 2010.

13. If you could only grow 3 herbs in your garden, what would you grow?
Coriander, rocket and parsley.
14. What would you use as a substitute for salt?
Soy sauce.
15. What 5 items would you pack for a quick and easy picnic or day out?
Ciabatta, humus, taramasalata, cottage cheese and cranberry juice.

And now I’m hungry again …


Motley crews are, by definition, non-uniform and undisciplined as a group. They are characterised by containing characters of conflicting personality, varying backgrounds, and, usually to the benefit of the group, a wide array of methods for overcoming adversity. Traditionally, a motley crew who in the course of a story comes into conflict with an organised, uniform group of characters will prevail. This is generally achieved through the narrative utilising the various specialties, traits and other personal advantages of each member to counterbalance the (often sole) speciality of a formal group of adversaries. (Source: Wikipedia.)
We’re a motley crew at the moment, us at work. Our toenails are chipped, our legs unshaven and our eyebrows … well they’d give hairy caterpillars a run for their money. With our deadline for submission of our books for selection into the 2013 teaching curriculum, we’ve been pulling long shifts. Most mornings have found me having a good bawl; drying my eyes, getting on with it and collapsing at midday – only to start all over again for the afternoon stint.
(What fresh hell is this???My spellchecker won’t accept ‘bawl’ as a word. It damnwell is too, I’m doing it often enough these days! Hmphfff! :
More Wikipedia trivia:
“If the doorbell rang in her apartment, she would say, ‘What fresh hell can this be?’ — and it wasn’t funny; she meant it.” You might as well live: the life and times of Dorothy Parker, John Keats (Simon Schuster, 1970, p124). Often quoted as “What fresh hell is this?” as in the title of the 1987 biography by Marion Meade, “Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?”)

My desk has been an island of hell, but with the support of my amazing team mates, the impossible has been achieved and all my books are running nicely on track. Small, thoughtful gifts from caring friends form a little shrine to my spiritual sanity throughout this trying time.

I get home too wired to sleep immediately, and have utilized this energy to cook and freeze as many meals as I can and so ensure that I have a hot meal at work every day.

Eating a steaming bowl of Hoisin duck, telephone at my ear, while an irate author bangs on about outstanding artwork … well, it does make things bearable.
And so it goes … as my friend, Charlie, always says. We forge ahead and keep in mind that the end is in sight, and that – with it – comes the promise of the return to serenity. And chocolate always helps …


My dad was short of stature and had a ruddy complexion, helped along – no doubt – by his love of brandy and Coke. He was also partial to peri peri sauce and we always had a little bottle of the red stuff on the dinner table. A particularly good concoction earned my dad’s greatest praise and was labeled a ‘bastard’. I recall one night at supper, when one of my siblings wanted to add some zing to the meal and asked my mom “Where’s the little red bastard?” I got the short end of the stick and replied that he was away on business. It became a standing family joke that my dad, God bless him, took very well.

I’ve discovered a new product that would have invoked a howl of ecstatic agony from my dear old dad; this is a product to raise anyone’s hair on end. My recent chicken and pasta salad was positively wicked and a ginger beer and strawberry cooler was called for to render things bearable. It made me wonder – rather darkly – if anyone living alone has ever died from hot chili sauce.

I was hard-pressed to catch my breath and sweated for about an hour after eating.
My friend Paula has requested my recipe for ginger beer and I must ‘fess up that it’s a filched one. That Jamie lad gave it to me, although he doesn’t know he did:
I’m not going to be found guilty of plagiarism, so here is the link. It’s a sure win in these hot, hot, hot days of summer.
Speaking of summer and chicken, I’ve been hard-pressed to restrain myself from joining my colleagues in their daily consumption of take-away foods. I have succumbed on a few occasions and there was mass disbelief, until photographic evidence emerged…

I’ve now become disciplined and prepare healthier versions of chicken the night before. It makes me feel far more virtuous and I can almost feel my heart pumping its thanks.

I don’t quite understand, though, why everyone collapses into fits of mirth when they spy my lunch bag make its way into the office in the mornings …


Someone out in the road is being rude and making loud, crashing noises. It sounds to me like a Waste-Tech bin is being filled with metal and pieces of broken concrete. It’s late afternoon and I’m battling with the flu (again!), which makes it doubly rude and annoys me no end.

People are rude about habit. It is supposed to suggest sloppiness and laziness, but I don’t think they have thought about it properly. Habit is useful and comforting: it rides over the bumpy bits, it is the track that cuts across the hills and valleys and carries passengers safely through.” Elizabeth Buchan – Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman.
I bought myself a small treat. Having not chosen to own a television set, I nonetheless found that the radio didn’t do much to dispel the uncomfortable silence in my home. Sundays are especially bad and on impulse, I went out and purchased a small, portable DVD player and have taken to spending Sundays in my pyjamas, watching movies. I began with the entire first and second series of Downton Abbey and have move on to other period dramas. As habits go, this one seems perfectly acceptable.

More distressing is the slow disintegration of my blogging habits. I simply don’t have anything very interesting to say, much less any interesting food to blog about. I’ve nudged myself back into action by my very kind friend, Mal. She’s bestowed upon me the ‘One Lovely Blog’ award, of which I feel very undeserving, yet very grateful. Thank you, Mal. I’m to accept the award my nominating 15 other bloggers, which – for those bloggers who’ve befriended me over the past 5 years of blogging know – I never do, as I can’t isolate only 15 bloggers.
I also need to disclose 7 things about me, so here goes:
1. I obsessively remove price stickers from things. I am incapable of reading a new book while my finger constantly catches on that little scrap of paper on the back cover, I must pick at it until it comes loose.
2. I rub my feet against one another while I read or watch movies. I’ve tried to make a conscious effort not to do it, but then find I’ve been concentrating so hard on not doing it that an entire chapter has run away under my eyes and I can’t recall a single word of it.

3. I’m a magpie for many objets, but in particular for heart-shaped knickknacks. (This is, according to the very reliable Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the correct spelling. I can’t find the origin of the term, but would be very interested to know it.)

4. I should like to have been named Rose, after my mother. Roses are quite one of my favourite things and I always have a bunch or pot of them somewhere in my home where I can catch a glimpse of them. “Roses are the only flowers that have never had a nickname. No heart’s-ease or Dutchman’s breeches for the rose … Roses rustle in the wind and smell of heaven. They are tokens of love, as well as grief. Think of that.” IBID.

5. I have a new tattoo. It is on my wrist and very small. I suppose one could say I now wear my heart and roses just below my sleeve.

6. This past Monday was our National Heritage Day and – over the past few years – it has become our national habit to braai. My solitary barbeque was a bit sad and I couldn’t help but compare it with last September and to marvel at how much one life could change within the small time span of twelve months.

7. If I should be asked to give a young girl a piece of sage advice, I’d tell her to wear the highest heels while she can. And that life is too short to try to match everything perfectly.

Once again, thanks for the award, Mal. It’s flattered me and brought me back to the blog world.


“It must be the same all over England. People buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The superhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that.” – Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

In growing accustomed to living alone, I am becoming fascinated with strangers and I stare and stare; in supermarkets, in traffic and in the corridors at work. I try to interpret their posture or their facial expressions and I wonder about there being so many stories out there; some wonderful and some dreadfully sad. I wonder if they, too, look into my shopping basket and wonder about the single curl of smoked sausage, the small piece of blue cheese and the three slabs of dark chocolate …

I’ve become rather a slave to Lindt’s new wasabi infused dark chocolate, discovered at the same time as I found Ms Joyce’s wonderful novel. I’m devouring both shamelessly, with the freedom to do both well into the small hours of the morning without disturbing anybody.

This morning I took the book and a toasted sandwich into my garden, on which the Garden Gods seem to have bestowed a curse. With Betsy rabbit gone and no longer eating all my plants, new shoots were pushing their way up everywhere. My pigeon had finally flown away; her damaged wing healed, and was no longer coating everything in guano. Things were looking up, my roses were budding and my agave florets were sprouting again. And then the most ferocious hailstorm hit and everything was battered.

Still today has dawned sunny, I’ve cleared most of the debris and am considering a trip to the nursery. Optimism is a funny thing, the way it refuses to be quashed. My tranquil corner is restored.

On the new job front, things are going well – I was terribly stressed at first, but I’ve got my head around the work. I resolved to keep to myself and not make friends, but my resolve was very short-lived and the good nature of my colleagues won the day. Friday was ‘Casual Day’ and we were presented with pirate hats and had a bit of a party, which was tremendous fun.

Another thing I vowed was that I would not entertain in my new life in the little cottage. This vow, too, flew out the window with time and I’ve had a few dinner parties, which went some way to placating the disapproving funk my kitchen had been greeting me with in the mornings.
I’ve even resumed my habit of a weekly cake bake. A friend and I are currently working on a long-term ‘spiritual journey’ and she gave me an assignment to write on my personal perception of a Higher Power. Writing it made me feel so uplifted that I presented her with a heart-shaped cake.

My Higher Power is not embodied in my mind in the form of man or woman. Rather, my own Higher Power is an abstract concept which contains at its core a concrete set of moral values and principles. This set of values in its simplest interpretation sits in my mind as the essence of difference between good and bad. In effect, this Higher Power is – as I conceive it – “the absolutely RIGHT way’, in other words; the counterpart to evil. For want of a better term, I use the words ‘SPIRITUALITY’ ‘PIETY’ HOLINESS’ or – that term with which I feel most comfortable – ‘MERCIFUL GRACE’. For purposes of meditation and prayer in my daily life, I will continue to address myself to this Higher Power as ‘God’.

Have a peaceful week, my friends. I feel the need for another cup of coffee. And something sweet …





Optie has honoured me with a Versatile Blogger Award, for which I am very grateful, thanks Optie. The way this works is that I accept the award and pay it forward by nominating 15 bloggers for the award. I can’t possibly do this as there are far more than 15 bloggers whom I adore and think of as extended members of my family, and with whom I have shared almost 5 years of my day-to-day existence.
The second condition of accepting the award is that I disclose 7 things about myself. I don’t know that you all don’t already know everything there is to know about me, but here goes:
I don’t speak Italian.
If I did, I’d be able to conjure up all manner of lovely stories about the origin of food names. The pasta I used in this dish is called ‘Strascinati Pugliesi’ and I, drawing a logical link with the English word ‘pugilist’, immediately thought that the ‘pugliesi’ must mean ‘of the boxer’. I further imagined, rolling my tongue around both the pasta and the word, that ‘strascinati’ must be ‘stretched nose’. Ergo: ‘stretched nose of the boxer’. Witness this misshapen oblong and you’d have to agree that my logic was sound.

Anyhow, no matter what the noodle is called, I made a dish of baked pasta; with pork sausages, paprika and chili.
I always make enough of a dish to serve as two meals.
One is for my supper and the other for lunch at my desk the following day. Many of my colleagues buy their lunches from a local restaurant or from one of the many takeaway franchises nearby. As I get older, I am becoming very frugal and am content with my home-made lunches.

I have become the unwilling owner of a pigeon.
This may well be payback for the 13 dead pigeons I cooked not long ago. This live one was hurt when one of the dogs got hold of her and Our Alice brought her into my courtyard to convalesce. My uncle pronounced it a male, but was proved wrong minutes later when my feathered friend laid an egg. She’s completely ignored the egg and has taken to following my around from room to room, pooping as she doddles along and never taking her eye off me.

I don’t own a television.
I sometimes consider investing in one, but the thought of how many books I could buy for the price of a TV set always makes logic prevail.
I enjoy a peanut butter and chili sandwich.
Many people find this very odd, but see nothing strange in eating a bowl of peanut & chicken curry.
I learned this week, courtesy of Facebook, that I am a librocubicularist.
My spellchecker is balking at this, but I am assured that it is a real word. I revel in my librocubicularism; living alone means I can be as self-indulgent as I wish and take tea and biscuits in bed along with my books.

I don’t own a rabbit these days.
Big Red Betsy has gone to a petting zoo, where she has the run of a lovely big pen and lots of rodent friends. On arrival there, she promptly mounted another bunny and the bloke who runs the place has renamed her Big Red Robert.


Back from my ‘retreat’ for a while now and I haven’t had time to put up a new blog post. About the retreat I can tell very little; we were totally cut off from the ‘real world’; they even confiscated my camera, so I am unable to do the planned food review of the place. This can only be a good thing for my readers as a) the food was not easy on the eye and b) just looking at pictures of said catering would make the girth of the beholder swell. I returned with an insatiable craving for protein after all that starch.
Lamb chop, anyone?

A nice surprise awaited me in my inbox on my return; I’d gone for a job interview in early June and – after waiting a few days with no response – I’d completely forgotten about it, so I was delighted to find a formal offer for the job waiting in my email inbox. It’s a dream job, with an international publishing firm and I am project managing High School English Literature books. Nice work if you can get it *smug smile*.
There is little to report for Celia’s ‘In my kitchen’ challenge for August (see above reference to protein) as my days are running into one as I adapt to my new schedule. I cook enough in the evenings to provide for my supper as well as my work-lunch.

Here’s a picture of a beef curry:

Slim pickings for my first post after such a long absence, I think I’ll end with my gratitude- and wish- lists:
Today I am grateful for:
1. Warm shelter in the cold spell we’re experiencing
2. The privilege of landing a job that is challenging and enjoyable
3. An abundance of supportive friends around the world
4. Renewed communication with my daughter
5. Perky breasts and 50 days of sobriety
Things I am looking forward to:
1. Taking Our Alice and Karabo to the theatre (They’ve never been!)
2. The end of winter and the onset of spring
3. Buying and reading Jane Raphaely’s autobiography
4. National Women’s Day on the 9th of August
5. Pork chops and beetroot for supper

My blogging MOJO seems to be having an extended leave of absence, but I had to post this due to excessive nagging from certain quarters. (Christine and Rachelle, please take note!)

In the meantime, I will rely on the promise contained in this quote:

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there written in invisible ink and clamouring to become visible.” – Nabakov


I’m not sure how we drifted to the topic, but my doctor mentioned that his dad is a hobby-hunter and an excellent cook, being an Italian, this follows. My envy at his access to game lead to my being given thirteen frozen wild pigeons. I envisaged receiving a clingwrapped package of miniature versions of the plucked chickens I buy at the supermarket. My donor had not been as generous, however, and I got the birds as they died, all appendages intact and full-feathered. My staff were totally unfazed by this and were quite excited at giving me a lesson at the squeamish business of getting the pigeons naked without being daunted by the arduous business of plucking and cleaning, although there was some debate about the best plucking method.

Anyway, it didn’t take long and the capable pair had the buck naked birds coming thick and fast.

I made a briny bath of sea salt, juniper berries and bay leaves and left the clean little birds to soak for a few hours, as instructed by Our Alice. I had decided to invite my friend Brian, a photographer who is currently visiting us from Cape Town, to join me for a tasting menu of three pigeon dishes made in three different ways, served simply with a crust French loaf to mop up the juices.

Firstly, the most boring take: mainly because I had a glut of tomatoes and had spent Monday making up a big batch of tomato sauce for bottling; I made a cacciatore style casserole. Niki Segent’s tome ‘ The Flavour Thesaurus’ is rather scathing on this dish, saying “ Tomato and chicken are the controlling partnership in chicken tikka masala and in chicken cacciatore, or hunter’s stew – which is not, sadly, the invention of pockmarked Sicilian peasants , returning home with a brace of feral chickens slung over their waistcoats, but an English recipe from the 1950s , taught to nice girls by their mothers in the hope they’d bag the sort of chap who’d be neither too unadventurous not too suspiciously cosmopolitan to a slightly herbed slop of chicken in tomato sauce.” Not too promising a take on the dish, but I fried them lightly with diced bacon and packed them snugly under a blanket of my sauce. Slow cooked in my little casserole dish, in a bain marie, they were quite good and nicely robust for winter fare.

Next was the recipe of my own doing and the one I was most excited about. I stuffed Turkish apricots with ground ginger biscuits soaked in port wine and sandwiched them inside the birds’ cavities. I gave the skins a rub of masala, before wrapping them in bacon and sticking them in a 180C oven to roast to a crispy finish. I really like the way they turned out and the camera seemed to like them too.

My final take was a traditional poultry treatment; I did a lemon & herb seasoning, browned the meat quickly over hot heat and made phyllo blankets to seal in the seasoning. A successful dish and most likely the one that would go down best with folk with less exotic and adventurous eating habits. This one would also be great served at room temperature at a picnic lunch.

All in all, we had a lovely meal and a good evening of reminiscence and giggles, thanks Dr V, and thanks too to your dad. Our final verdict is that ‘wetter is better’ and they are most successful cooked casserole style over a long period in a liquid of some sort.
Now for an announcement: I am leaving on Friday for Cape Town, where I will take a detox programme lasting 28 days at a beach rehab facility. I doubt I will have access to the internet whilst there, so don’t be alarmed if I don’t visit blogs or reply to comments.
Bon voyage and take care.
Much love,


Adj. 1. erstwhile – belonging to some prior time; “erstwhile friend”; “our former glory”; “the once capital of the state”; “her quondam lover”
one-time, onetime, quondam, sometime, former, old
past – earlier than the present time; no longer current; “time past”; “his youth is past”; “this past Thursday”; “the past year”
Adv. 1. erstwhile – at a previous time; “at one time he loved her”; “her erstwhile writing”; “she was a dancer once”;
erst, formerly, at one time, once

(Source: thefreedictionary.com)

I paid a visit to my erstwhile employer on Tuesday and begged a favour; in my future job interviews, I should need to look snappy. She kindly obliged by giving me a new coiffure that has drawn much favourable comment from my pals. Now I can only hope that my erstwhile colleague, who has since moved to the field of recruitment, makes like a gale force wind and gets those interviews lined up pronto.

Very cold Johannesburg; early-morning frozen birdbath:

On the subject of pals, I mentioned on Facebook that I was going to stave off our sub-zero weather with a pot of carrot, apple and ginger stew. One friend suggested I had made a typo and meant a pudding instead of soup. No, no, the inherent spicy flavor of carrots, offset by the sweetness of Granny Smith apples and a dash of marsala-mix with a hefty pinch of ground ginger and a garnish of coriander … my kitchen carried a scent that, if bottled, would epitomize the perfumes of autumn and the health benefits of this combination are manifold. Interesting trivia I found on Wikipedia about carrots:
Lack of vitamin A can cause poor vision, including night vision, and vision can be restored by adding it back into the diet. An urban legend says eating large amounts of carrots will allow one to see in the dark. The legend developed from stories of British gunners in World War II, who were able to shoot down German planes in the darkness of night. The legend arose during the Battle of Britain when the RAF circulated a story about their pilots’ carrot consumption as an attempt to cover up the discovery and effective use of radar technologies in engaging enemy planes, as well as the use of red light (which does not destroy night vision) in aircraft instruments. It reinforced existing German folklore and helped to encourage Britons—looking to improve their night vision during the blackouts—to grow and eat the vegetable.

On the subject of warfare, I had my first cold shoulder from a now-erstwhile friend this week. I found an excellent and perfectly relevant piece on the net, written by one ‘ctomshaw ‘: “It’s fascinating to see what happens with friendships before, during and after divorce. You hear all the time about ex-partners fighting for custody of their children. What you DON’T hear about is losing custody of their friends.” This fellow, evidently terrified of being caught engaged in conversation with my by my erstwhile spouse, positively quivered in his haste to put a distance between us.

In response to this, I can only quote “Give him carrots!” I can’t find the source of this saying, but when I discussed the matter with Big Betsy, she was wholly in agreement with the sentiment.


Carpetbag steak or carpetbagger steak is a luxury dish, probably of American derivation, popular in the 1950s and 1960s in Australia and New Zealand.
It consists of an end cut of steak, such as scotch fillet. A pocket in the meat is made, into which oysters are stuffed and sutured with toothpicks or thread.
The combination of beef and oysters is traditional. The earliest specific reference is in a United States newspaper in 1891, which may indicate a connection with carpetbaggers or to gluttony. The earliest specific Australian reference is a printed recipe from between 1899 and 1907. Another recipe from 1909 includes cayenne pepper as an ingredient, which may indicate an American origin. The more recent Australian versions typically use Worcestershire sauce, as does the local version of Oysters Kilpatrick.

It is sometimes served standing up like a miniature mountain. Pockets in the meat are made by small cuts, into which oysters are stuffed and sutured with toothpicks. As the dish is broiled, the flavour of the fresh oysters permeates the steak and blends with the juice of the tender meat. A strip of bacon may be wrapped around the serving and surrounded by peeled and browned baby potato halves. In one style, the steak is marinaded in a sauce of thyme, pepper, tarragon, lemon, sugar and tamarind and served with a glass of dessert wine. The steak can also be flambed with cognac, when it is called “Carpetbag Maxine style”. (Source Wikipedia).
With Professor Tim Noakes doing an about face on his diet advice, a nice, juicy carbetbag steak and chips seemed the perfect treat for a sunny afternoon lunch. I’d forego the dessert wine in favour of a nice peppery First Sighting Shiraz though. With fresh oysters a scarcity, I made do with my dad’s old standby, tinned mussels and it was delicious.

This is a quick and easy meal for one and I used beef tenderloin, I ate out in my little garden. I think it’s coming along nicely, given that I had so little to start with.

My physiotherapist is very angry with me, as my shoulder injury forbids gardening, but I am a stubborn one when I want something done. Big Red Betsy has settled in well, but she’s in my bad books today as she ate all my pansies.

I’ve had two promising job interviews and hope to share some good news next week.
In the meantime, to all my British friends, enjoy the Jubilee festivities.