Archive | November 2010


Slow roasted, pineapple and ginger glazed, pork.

Yuppiechef recently introduced a most beautiful pot; a heart-shaped casserole dish that I simply can’t afford at the moment. I’ve put a photo of it on my fridge in the hopes that my family will put a word in Santa’s ear.  As I pulled out my faithful old tin roaster yesterday, I wondered what my mom would have made of all these wonderful new kitchen gadgets we can choose from these days.

I’m not sure that she was deliberately trying to instill in me a love of cooking or whether she had simply allocated kitchen chores to me, as the eldest child. I can’t actually remember that my brother and sister had any chores at all, but I had no other chores than those that took place in the kitchen; and all of them alone with my mother.

The earliest memories, I must have been around ten years old, are clear as a bell; crumbing bread, sage and chopped onions for chicken stuffing, stirring grated cheese into cream for the cauliflower while she stood next to me and grated nutmeg into the mix.

It became my duty to make the salad for weekday suppers, while she saw to the meat. To this day the smell of cucumber in vinegar instantly brings to mind the little fluted glass bowl she liked to serve it in.

I expect that the washing up after cake baking fell to me because I could lick the mixing bowl and spoon in the scullery, where she couldn’t see me do it and so wouldn’t have to reprimand me for it.

Making the gravy from the residual juices from the roast in that ubiquitous aluminum kastrol* that every household had in those days, cutting gem squash in half and removing the pips, scraping the flesh of peeled potatoes to make hasselback bakes … and talking, talking, talking, while she washed the dishes and I dried.

No, I don’t remember feeling any resentment about my allocated chores. Not at all. And, while I dream of a set of gleaming Le Creuset pots, I cherish my own kastrol*, it’s like having my mom peeping over my shoulder in my own kitchen.

* Although kastrol is the Afrikaans word for stewpan or saucepan, these aluminum roasting pans were always called by this name amongst everyone I knew. Some time ago, Jenny Morris (the Giggling Gourmet) and I were talking on the phone about them, and she said that, as far back as she could remember, it had always been called a kastrol.



20 January 2010:


Something happened yesterday that made me stop in my tracks.  I went down to the mailbox to see if the postman had been.  Yes, there were a clutch of letters and I opened the bills and sundry invites in a desultory fashion, pausing every few paces to stoop and pick a weed or dead-head a rosebush.  I noticed a small white envelope.  On it was handwritten in black marker-pen ‘Fix the heart with a work of art’.  I opened it, expecting some sort of junk mail advertising.  A small copy of a photograph fell out, it looks like a picture of some spectacular cosmic activity; maybe a shooting star.  But it’s a beautiful photograph.  I looked inside the envelope and saw there was a letter, which I read.


This is what it said:

To the Recipient

Inside this envelope you will find a work of art.

Hopefully it will be as beautiful to you as it was to me when I put it in here.

It might not be conventional art, it might be poetry or prose or abstract or modern art, or anime graphics or webcomic panels.

It might even be song lyrics.

I chose it because it is one of the most beautiful things I know and I want to send it out to the world to be seen.

I don’t know you, and probably will never meet you, but people we know send us messages all the time, reporters in newspapers who tell us about the crime problem, advertisers who promise us perfect lives and looks, people in shopping malls who stare disapprovingly at what we’re wearing.

I have a message for you too, but it’s much simpler than any of these.  My message to you is:


Inside this envelope is one of them.

Holding this envelope is another.

That’s the message and here’s how to spread it:


First take out the artwork I have sent you.

Next, find a piece of art, maybe a favourite quote or movie still or drawing; a photo or even real object like a feather or pretty stone or leaf, anything that you feel is so amazing and beautiful that you would like to share it with someone.

Seal it in this envelope, along with these instructions (or a copy of them).

Give this envelope to someone.  You can do it directly by dropping it into their hand, or maybe into a shopping trolley, or into a random letter box or under their windscreen wipers in a parking lot.  Anything goes.


Anyone at all, but NOT someone you have met before or spoken to.

In this world strangers have more power over us often than those we’re closest to.

Please feel free to copy and print this.  I’m going to do it because, just for a moment, I felt that this sort of feelgood nonsense actually could work.




My alter-ego lives in Paris.  She is rich and has a lover who adores her; the man has an arrangement with a florist and a dozen long-stemmed white roses are  delivered at 8am every morning to her all-white apartment.

I’m bored with the story already, I’m really rather happy with this real me, as I stand at my kitchen sink washing the dishes from a truly satisfying kitchen session.

The fragrance of the lambVindaloo I made for Saturday’s supper lingers; I could make it hot as hell, O Bunn was away at a slumber party.


It’s been a calm, quiet Sunday. I made magic with mushrooms for my second entry into the Verlaque Braai Challenge. Using their Porcini Mushroom Balsamic Reduction, my sauce may just be the best thing I have ever cooked.  Earthy and sweet it is, and then the green peppercorns burst through the creaminess as a delightful surprise. A triumph and I am quite silly with pride.


Sautee a punnetful of chopped white mushrooms and one thinly sliced orange pepper in olive oil and butter.  Add herbal salt, thyme and pepper to taste. Spinkle over one tablespoon of flour and sear. Add a glug of Verlaque Porcini Mushroom Balsamic Reduction and stir to release sticky bits from pan. Allow to reduce completely and stir in 125ml cream. Add 1 heaped teaspoon of green peppercorns and set aside.  Reheat for 1 minute in microwave before serving with seared rib eye steaks.  (I marinaded by steaks in black bean sauce, balsamic vinegar and sesame oil.)

My feet are bare; my shirt is grubby with cooking stains and a flatulent dog lies asleep at my feet. Now it’s time to scrub up and take my offering off to the parent’s buffet at my child’s ballet class year-end concert. Quite the polar opposite of that lady in Paris…


For more contributions to the weekend theme, go to:


1. What time did you get up this morning?

Well, it’s like this; we have a confused rooster in the neighborhood …

2. How do you like your steak?

There’s a local saying: Skin it, wipe its arse, whip it across the coals and serve it. (Sorry Nancy and Lyndatjie!)

 3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?

An Education; fine film, see it!

4. What are your favourite TV shows?

BBC Lifestyle channel.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

Today I want to be in Fish Hoek!


6. What did you have for breakfast?

Nothing yet, I am going to make Mie Goreng in a while.

7. What is your favourite cuisine?

Impossible to answer, I probably lean most to classic French cuisine.

8. What foods do you dislike?

Those “add-a-packet-of-instant-whatever” recipes that housewives the world over are always swapping.

9. Favourite Place to Eat?

Home, ditto Carolyn.

10. Favourite salad dressing?

I like to let the ingredients mingle and create their own chemistry, lemon juice is great for bringing out flavours.

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive?

Ubiquitous fleet-for-the-directors’-wives Hyundai Getz. Our husbands got a good deal on a bulk-buy.


12. What are your favourite clothes?

Jeans and tunic-tops with ballet pumps.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance?



14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full?

A full glass.

15. Where would you want to retire?

Fish Hoek.

16. Favorite time of day?


17. Where were you born?

Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State.

18. What is your favorite sport to watch?


19. Who do you think will not tag you back

Whatever …

20. Person you expect to tag you back first?


21. Who are you most curious about their responses to this?

zzz …


22. Bird watcher?

I have to keep an eye on them, they come into the kitchen to eat the dog food and sometimes knock things off my shelves.

23. Are you a morning person or a night person?


24. Pets?

A whole book of stories full.

25. Any new and exciting news that you’d like to share?

Year-end ballet concert tonight, my child will shine.

26. What did you want to be when you were little?

A florist.

27. What is your best childhood memory?

Parfait on hot summer evenings on our front lawn.

28. Are you a cat or dog person?

Can’t live without a few hounds at my feet.

29. Are you married?

Yes, for the fourth time.

30. Always wear your seat belt?

No, bad me.

31. Been in a car accident?

Yes, nothing serious.

32. Any pet peeves?

Barking dogs, bored because they’ve been locked out.

33. Favorite pizza topping?

Anchovy, capers and chilli.

34. Favorite Flower?

Roses and Proteas.

35. Favorite ice cream?

Lemon sorbet.

36. Favorite fast food restaurant?


37. How many times did you fail your driver’s test?


38. From whom did you get your last email?

Client, requesting a Tuesday morning meeting to approve the book I’ve been working on.

39. Which store?

40. Do anything spontaneous lately?

Baked cookies.

41. Like your job?

It’s a feast or famine kind, I love it when I have lots of work and fret when there is none. 

42. Broccoli?


43. What was your favorite vacation?

Honestly can’t say, I’ve had some wonderful ones.

44. Last person you went out to dinner with?

Sally and Debbie.

45. What are you listening to right now?

Dogs next door barking.

Where the heck is 46? 

Where I am until the 8th of January.

47. How many tattoos do you have?


48. Coffee drinker?


49. How many children do you have??

One, plus a step-daughter.

50.  Favourite thing a teacher ever said to you on a report card

Can’t remember, it was generally all positive.


We were completely alone, Lulubelle and I. Old Spouse was off carousing at some year-end function, O Bunn was at a birthday party and Diski had found a hole in the fence and gone to visit with the dogs next door. I wasn’t as glum as Lulubelle at being the only ones home, but I was a bit grumpy at the prospect of not being able to have my customary Friday night glass of wine; the Bunn’s party would end at 9pm and one really can’t take the chance of drinking and driving, even with the party house being just a few blocks away.

There was nothing for it but to bake away the time, with forays to the lounge to watch the progress of Celebrity Masterchef UK.  I got a bit tearful when old Paul Young was sent off; affable bloke, but the years have not been kind to his face. In the kitchen I spotted a bottle of blackstrap molasses that I bought on a whim some time back.  I’d seen it in the supermarket and instantly had a flood of memories about my Grandpa’s farm.  He always had a gallon-drum of the stuff standing just inside the kitchen door.  I think he gave it to the cows every morning as a sort of booster, but my Grandma used it too, for all manner of things.  She’d put a saucer of it on the windowsill on days when the flies were really bad, the flies would gravitate to it and get stuck and there’d be a heaving mass like something from Dante’s Inferno by mid-afternoon. She also baked molasses cookies, a bitter-sweet confection that confused my young tastebuds.

I’ve come to love these biscuits; the spicy crunch is just perfect for vanilla ice cream sandwiches.


My recipe comes from Joy of Cooking, but I know it so well that I seldom refer to the book when making it.

¾ cup butter and 1 cup sugar, beaten until fluffy.

Add in and beat well:

2 cups flour, ½ tsp salt, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 large egg, ¼ cup molasses, 1 tsp baking powder.

You’re left with a soft dough, refrigerate for an hour until firm and workable, then form into small balls and coat with sugar.  Set on a baking tray an inch apart and bake at 180C for 10 minutes.  The biscuits will harden on cooling.


Two birds with one stone; another recipe for Tandy’s book using a McCain’s frozen veg and a vegetarian supper dish for my BFF, who is trying not to eat meat at night in the hope that this will banish the bad dreams she’s been having of late.


Yesterday’s McCain product was creamed spinach and I was in the mood for making puff pastry; I thought Eggs Florentine in a pie was a good idea.  (My foodie friend Marisa tells me that a variation of this is ‘Pascualina’; a popular Uruguayan meal) I found the defrosted spinach contained 50% water, which was a big disappointment.  I shot off to the greengrocer and got another bunch to steam.

1 roll puff pastry

(The busy mum for whom Tandy’s book will be written will use a roll of store-bought pastry.)

4 cups spinach, steamed and all water pressed out

4 lightly poached eggs


Mix and pour over the above:

250ml cream

2 eggs

1 tablespoon hot English mustard

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper

Bake at 180C for 35 minutes.


A big success, this dish, could be a fabulous kiddies supper for Tandy’s book; with a bit of bacon or a sausage on the side.

Like Tandy, I can’t resist a quiz, so here is one I found on her blog:

  1. What is your favourite comfort food (the dish you turn to after a really bad day)?
    Hard to say, I usually lose my appetite when I have the blues.  I’d probably pour a glass of wine and make lasagne.
  2. What would be the contents of your perfect picnic basket, and where would you have the picnic?
    Salmon, avocado and cream cheese-filled ciabatta rolls, a chilled dry champagne; on the deck of a shack at Smitswinkelbaai.
  3. What is your favourite summer fruit?
  4. What would be your ultimate foodie holiday destination?
    Sorry to be so predictable, but I will always choose Provence.
  5. What is your favourite restaurant?
    In Johannesburg it is a toss-up between Wombles in Parkhurst and Casalinga in Honeydew.  In Cape Town it is Catharina’s at Steenberg, Constantia and Cape To Cuba in Kalk Bay.
  6. Name your ultimate sunny day “super quaffer” wine or drink.
    Moet Brut Rose or First Sighting Sauvignon Blanc.
  7. What is your favourite cheese?
    Blue Rock from Fairview.
  8. Foie Gras – delicious delicacy or animal cruelty?
    I refuse to answer on the grounds that I may incriminate myself …
  9. Is risotto too much of a mission to make, or worth every minute spent stirring?
    It’s worth it, a nice show on the radio helps to pass the time.
  10. Who is your favourite celebrity chef?
    Anthony Bourdain really floats my boat.


Pic found on the web.

I’m reviewing McCain’s frozen veg this week.  My first thought when confronted with frozen vegetables is Why?  I have the most glorious fruit and veg store right on my doorstep and can nip across daily and hand-pick what I need.  But, I’m working on supplying Tandy Sinclair with some easy supper recipes for children, for her new book and must bear in mind that a lot of the meals in the book will be prepared by moms who work away from home and need to get their dinners done in a hurry after a busy day.  Hail the convenience of frozen veg!

There’s something very comforting about the combination of chicken, corn and rice. I made a fricassee; sautéed the stuff and reduced with a big glug of wine.  Things were looking fine and I thought a dash of cream just the thing to bring it all together.

Puce.  I had a pot of puce muck.  My Facebook friends tried to help with suggestions of food colouring or dimming the lights and eating by candlelight.  Too late.  The inhabitants of the house had seen the pot.  It looked like the inspiration for a 50s bathroom. 


Speaking of which, I kid you not, there is a blog dedicated solely to the cause …

“Seems like a bunch of the rest of the world — well behind our curve — actually dislikes mid-century pink bathrooms. They will regret what they have done.

On the other hand, I believe that to know pink bathrooms is to love them. Pink bathrooms are a wonderful part of our home design heritage.  And, there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that they are poised for a comeback — starting here, starting now.”

If you really want to know more: