All for One

By which I mean, all for me! I have been single and living on my own for a year now, and people are often surprised (and disbelieving) at how much I enjoy it. And today, while doing my weekly trawl through the Sunday secrets on postsecret.com, I found the following secret and I absolutely concur:

upsidedown

Those poor souls who have to cook vast quantities of food with other people’s preferences in mind (ha!) are often curious as to what  I eat. It’s an easy one to answer – whatever I like, really. I absolutely despise those articles written by well-meaning i.e. patronising individuals on how single people can also eat well… as if we are all sitting in the dark, sad and lonely, eating cold soup from a can, and they are now giving us permission to enjoy a meal for a change.

I have only one response to that and it kind of sounds like this: Blueurghhhhhhieugh! (you have to pull a scary face and stick your tongue out, to achieve the right effect).

{yes, it is a raspberry blowing a raspberry}

{yes, it is a raspberry blowing a raspberry}

In the real world, more and more of us are eating alone and not because we are a bunch of miserable individuals with no friends… read this article on the subject, it’s all kind of inevitable. It is not coincidence that almost every food product comes in single-serve portions these days.

It’s easy and fun to cook for one, and if an idea bombs out no-one ever has to know about it. You can go mad in supermarkets and buy strange things like squid ink in little sachets. You can be as decadent or disciplined as you like (am I sounding a bit Shazzer of Bridget Jones over here?) (I love her rant, if I can dig out my copy of the book I will put it in a postscript). There are, however, 3 points of concern that I have when it comes to cooking for one:

1. The clean-up operation – I don’t mind slicing, dicing and gently poaching under the light of a full-moon a long list of ingredients for a single plate of good food, but somehow the amount of dishes always seems disproportionately high, just at the moment that I’m feeling very full and in need of a nap.

2. I don’t like to fire up the oven if it’s not for a large quantity of food (this is in line with Shazzer’s statement about the sandal-wearing beardy-weirdies). All that electricity for one meal is not ok.

3. Yes it is possible to cook a large quantity and store leftovers etc. But this is just not true for something like an entire cheesecake. You know perfectly well that even before the first spoonful of cream-cheese is out the tub that you are going to eat it in it’s entirety and then feel at first elated, followed shortly by billiously unwell.

All of this plus a well-timed email from Caribou has led to an exploration into single-serve cooking in the microwave – there are thousands of recipes and techniques on the Net but very few with edible results. I valiantly worked my way through them and will be posting the successful recipes over the next week or so… I wouldn’t replace all my cooking with nuking stuff in mugs, but it’s an easy way to make something yummy with minimal effort and time (as long as you aren’t expecting to have an identical end-product when using the microwave, of course).

i heart cooking for me

PS: Here’s someone who is totally singing to the same tune.

PS: About that promised excerpt from Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding – it’s all too rude, Shazzer has quite a mouth on her. You will have to read the book, the movie doesn’t count.

 

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Boere-Sushi

Sushi is one of those love-hate foods – either you absolutely adore it and crave it and would gladly swap a beloved relative for it, or you can’t stand the thought of sticking an alien piece of raw fish in your mouth and grimace every time you walk past a sushi bar. I’m one of the former, who love it to bits because it’s little and bitsy and pretty and delicate and fills you up without making you feel heavy. It’s just one of those niche things… so it occurred to me that maybe it’s not the little bitsy prettiness that bugs out the latter group, but definitely the raw fish and seaweediness of the whole deal. And so … a concept was born. Drumroll please…. I give you Boere-Sushi, perfect as posh little nibbly things for entertaining and with suitably familiar local ingredients so that you will not find random bits of “sushi” stuffed between couch cushions or into pot-plants by suspicious diners…

(I just googled “boere sushi” – I can’t believe how many people had the same idea! Dang nabbit).

pat the pap

all parts assembled

roll 'em

ready to chillax

This is such an easy base recipe, you could try putting a strip of thin boerewors down the middle, or wrap the whole lot in springbok carpaccio, or serve it with Mrs Balls for dipping, or fry it quickly before slicing to give it a nice crunch, or pressing the log into crushed toasted nuts before slicing, or or or… you get my drift, it’s a bottomless pit of local-is-lekker variations. My mind’s already wandering into a vaguely milk-tart-koeksistery-sushi direction which could be calorifically disastrous.

sliced and diced

So, to make enough boere-sushi for about 4 people, depending how greedy they are, you will need:

A fist-sized blob of prepared pap. I can’t cook pap and I don’t usually eat it, so I bought it ready-made at the local supermarket.

About half of a ripe avocado

A few peppadews, drained – I like the hot ones, but if your guests are still getting over the shock of boere-sushi rather start out with the sweet ones

Biltong powder

Worcestershire Sauce

This can’t be easier, really – lay a sheet of clingwrap down on the counter. Don’t worry about having one of those fancy-shmancy sushi-mats, it’s not necessary. I used one of those reed-like placemats but just for effect – makes it look as if you are going to lots of trouble, but has no real purpose.

Squash the cooled pap out into a square-ish shape. It doesn’t matter if the angles aren’t quite 90 degrees, all will work out in the end. It shouldn’t be more than 1cm thick, as it is quite gummy texture and a little of this sushi goes a long way.

Slice the avo quite finely and chop the peppadews into tiny bits. I was lazy and simply sliced the peppadew, but this caused problems when it came to slicing the sushi neatly – the knife kept ripping out bits of peppadew which I of course ate without thinking, so lots of pieces did not have peppadew in them at all – oops. Lay down a strip of avo and peppadew on the pap, then generously apply biltong powder to the rest.

Using the clingwrap as an aid, firmly (but gently – it won’t do to squash right through the pap) roll the pap up over the ingredients. Wrap the clingwrap round it and refrigerate it long enough to firm up but not so long that it’s icy cold. If you want, you can pat the log into a square-ish shape like real sushi at this point. I rolled mine in more biltong powder but chopped toasted cashews could be fun too.

Using a sharp knife, slice the sushi – eat the ends, since these will look wobbly and will not be good enough to present to guests. For authenticity you could try walloping the knife through the sushi at great speed, like the guys behind the sushi bar – but only if you have very good aim and hand-eye co-ordination. Guests rarely appreciate bits of severed finger in their hors d’oeuvres.

lekker!

 

Serve you beautiful boere-sushi with good old Worcestershire sauce for dipping instead of soy (with a whole chilli reclining in it instead of wasabi, if your guests are quite brave) and remember to announce loudly that it contains no raw fish or other terrifying things.

 

PS: I tried this out absolutely months ago but completely forgot to post it – Jani kept reminding me, so Jani, here it is finally, and CONGRATS to you and Mr. Jani on your marriage yesterday!!!

{and steri-stumpies, of course}

{and steri-stumpies, of course}

TGIP

One more day to go

One more day to go

Hey ho the derio

One more day to go!

‘Til PAYDAY!!

(If you didn’t silently sing that to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell – you had a deprived childhood).

if only it were true

Five Things: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Doesn’t it feel like January has been dragging on f-o-r-e-v-e-r already? Well my wallet definitely agrees with me. It’s like after grudgingly agreeing to handing each of us minions a year-end bonus, they like to get their own back by giving it two weeks too early. And we fall for it and think “Oh hoorah! I have lots and lots of money which I will proceed to spend on stuff I don’t need to impress people I don’t like!” (thanks Will Smith for the quote). And then all these Scrooge-y old farts sit back and rub their hands together, cackling with glee, waiting for the day it dawns on us financial lemmings that actually they’ve turned January into a very expensive 6-week month. Again. Year after year.

So, since we are all feeling the pinch, let’s enjoy our misery while it lasts and look at all the lovely things out there that we can’t buy.

All together now – wallow!

This is actually not the most expensive burger – the most expensive one (The Douche Burger, I kid you not) contains gold leaf, but this one’s got a gold and diamond toothpick. The extravagance of extracting debris from between your molars with a piece of jewelry…

{shipwrecked 1907 Hiedsieck}

{shipwrecked 1907 Hiedsieck $275000}

{silver and diamond baby spoon $1230}

{silver and diamond baby spoon $1230}

“5 scoops of the richest Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream infused with Madagascar vanilla and covered in 23K edible gold leaf, the sundae is drizzled with the world’s most expensive chocolate, Amedei Porceleana, and covered with chunks of rare Chuao chocolate, which is from cocoa beans harvested by the Caribbean Sea on Venezuela’s coast. The masterpiece is suffused with exotic candied fruits from Paris, gold dragets, truffles and Marzipan Cherries. It is topped with a tiny glass bowl of Grand Passion Caviar, an exclusive dessert caviar, made of salt-free American Golden caviar, known for its sparkling golden color. It’s sweetened and infused with fresh passion fruit, orange and Armagnac.

The sundae is served in a baccarat Harcourt crystal goblet with an 18K gold spoon to partake in the indulgence, served with a petite mother of pearl spoon and topped with a gilded sugar flower by Ron Ben-Israel.”

Obscene! I want one.

But this last one is my favourite – civet-poop coffee. These cute little fluffums eat the coffee beans then poop them out, and then a clever man in the Philippines sells it for a ridiculous fortune, saying to himself “pasusuhin”… (yes, you guessed right. It means sucker).

My sister shared a cup with a friend at Haas Coffee Collective in Cape Town and described it as strong and creamy… my laptop is fighting with me so I’m not able to upload the photo she took, I suppose this one is the closest approximation:

{kopi luwak at Haas Coffee Collective, Cape Town}

{kopi luwak R80}

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Green Fingers (Part II)

I love this guest-blogging thing. Caribou, if only I could taste the outcome of all of this culinary genius… *not-so-subtle nudge-nudge wink-wink”. Eat your heart out Mrs. Ball:

Green Tomato Chutney:

“I found the original recipe for this on BBC Food, by James Martin, but I bastardised the method because I’m lazy and impatient.  I confess it was probably easier than any other recipe I’ve tried with my shed-loads of green tomatoes…

all together now

Ingredients:

175g/6oz light brown sugar

150ml/5fl oz white wine vinegar

1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped  (the second time I made this I used a small onion so I don’t think it’s that important for it to specifically be a shallot) – good, because a good shallot is hard to come by down here in deepest darkest – Cakepoppie.

1 garlic clove, peeled, finely chopped

2cm/¾in piece fresh root ginger, peeled, finely grated

1 red chilli, finely chopped

125g/4½oz sultanas (I used a raisin and sultana mix)

600g/1lb 5oz green tomatoes, quartered

Method:

Put the chopped tomatoes and onions in a colander and stir in the salt.  Allow to sit for a while as the salt extracts any excess water.

Put the vinegar in a pan and dissolve the sugar.  Add all the other ingredients and bring to a boil, then add the tomato/onion mix.  Wait for it to boil up then turn down to a simmer until cooked through.

Pot up!

Yes, that really is it.  If you are using ripe tomatoes instead of green tomatoes (which I haven’t tried yet), your cooking time will reduce.

chunky chutney

Troubleshooting:

The original recipe calls for you to quarter the tomatoes, but this gives REALLY CHUNKY chutney depending on the size of your tomato.  If you like that, good!  For me, I chopped the big tomatoes into 8, and smaller ones into quarters.  As I grew them myself they all turned out different sizes anyway.  Each piece was about the size of the top half of my thumb to the joint.

The recipe also said to melt the sugar in a pan then add vinegar.  But when I did it this way the sugar wouldn’t melt (maybe I had the wrong sugar, who knows), and then when I added the vinegar, it crystallised!  The next time I did it I added a tiny splash of water to the pan first, dissolving the sugar in it rather than melting the sugar neat.  Tastes just as good.

This recipe makes a sweet, chunky chutney that falls apart because there’s no gluey stuff, unlike the gloopy kind that sticks together like Mrs. Balls.  It’s very yummy with meat, and perfect for hot dogs and burgers.”

true dat

PS: Did anyone else find it strange that, in the movie Legally Blonde, the stepdaughter’s name was Chutney? Who on earth is called Chutney?? – Cakepoppie.

Guest Post: Green Fingers (Part 1)

If you know me at all, you would have known by the title “Green Fingers” that this is not my own work… I have watched the weeds grow taller than my baby cycad, and despite my best intentions my herbs keep dying. I considered pruning the weeds into fancy topiary shapes (cupcakes!) and telling people that I planted them intentionally, but my garden service people keep beating me to the garden with their secateurs.

tomato wellies

Anyway, I digress. One of my BFF’s has incredibly green fingers, I mean really they’re so green that Shrek and the Hulk are completely jealous (what colour do you think they turn when they are envious? Hmm). She GREW in her GARDEN an enormous crop of TO-MAY-TOES! And they are even EDIBLE (Caps because to someone as horticulturally-challenged as moi this is a miracle, right up there with finding an image of Jesus on a potato chip). Now, what to do with all this fresh fruitiness? All I could think of was Whistlestop-Cafe-style Fried Green Tomatoes (but with a different meat course – ew) but of course this doesn’t work when you need to preserve such vast quantities.

just di-vine

Caribou outdid herself by trying not just one but three different tomato recipes, and so I’m super-dooper-excited to hand the keyboard over to her for the first guest post ever… drumroll please….

 

Green  Fingers – Part 1

by Caribou

“This year, I had a bumper crop of tomatoes in my tiny back garden.  Unfortunately, UK summertime being what it was, they didn’t ripen due to lack of sunshine and heat.  Not one of my tomatoes turned red!  What was I to do with all the green tomatoes?  I couldn’t bear to waste them, so I asked my BFF, Ye Olde Search Engine, and what follows is the fruits of that labour…

Please remember, I’m not a chef, or a food technologist, but these recipes were pretty easy, and proved very popular amongst friends and family.  Unfortunately, my idea to make tons and give some away as little ‘look how crafty home made these gifts are’ Christmas gifts fell by the way side because we ate it all before the festive season.

bringing the harvest home

green as a seasick martian

jammin'

Green Tomato Jam:

Honestly, there are hundreds of recipes out there.  They seem to have sugar and lemon juice in common, but I picked this particular one, suggested to me by my cousin Ami, from a New Zealand magazine because it had the fewest ingredients and in reality I’m actually quite lazy.

let's jam

Ingredients:

1.3kg green tomatoes

120g preserved ginger

Juice of 6 lemons

1.8 kg sugar

Method:

Chop the tomatoes and finely chop the preserved ginger. Add lemon juice and the tiniest splash of water. Boil for about 30 minutes until soft.

Add sugar and boil for about ¾ hour or until set.

Spoon into your prepared jars.

Troubleshooting

I’ve made this recipe twice now.  It worked out beautifully both times but both times I ran into the same problems…

First, this recipe makes an enormous amount of jam (I came out with about four 500ml jars).  Make sure you have plenty of sterilised glass jars around – common wisdom online is to wash in soapy water, rinse well, splash a bit of boiling water in the bottom and microwave for 20 seconds.  Careful, these will be hot!

Don’t put hot jam into cold pots.  Nuff said.

My jam refused to set into a proper consistency.  Ever.  So if this happens to you, never fear!  Just keep simmering it.  It took almost an hour more than the recipe stated, along with many late-night, panicky texts to the owner of this blog for advice, so don’t lose hope.  Finally it resembled thick syrup, rather than jam, and I gave up.  However, after spending a night in the fridge it seemed to thicken up a bit more.  It’s nowhere near the hard jam you get from the shops in consistency (but it’s way yummier).  It’s more the consistency of gloop.  ‘Gloop’ being the technical term for viscosity somewhere between molasses and double cream (it’s a broad spectrum).

I recommend you chop the ginger up really fine or you’ll get shots of potent ginger when you occasionally bite into a piece.  If you like your jam smooth, chop your tomatoes tiny.  If you like your jam chunky chop them bigger.  I like mine chunky coz it matches my figure.

The best way to use this jam is as jam was intended to be used by the Creator:  on scones with clotted cream (or cream cheese).  I’ve also found it works with cheese sandwiches, and someone has recommended I bake a cheesecake and top it with this jam.  I will leave that to someone else to try – cheesecake is beyond me.”

still life of jam

Five Things: Colour Me Hungry

I spent the festive season at my parents’ place in the Republic of Cape Town. One can’t help but get into a holiday mood with all the bright colours happening…

What a dish!

{doing dishes isn’t so bad when they’re pretty…}

if you eat enough of the spicy smokey yumminess at Cafe Mojito on Long Street, you could be a fat Cuban

{if you eat enough of the spicy smokey yumminess at Cafe Mojito on Long Street, you could be a fat Cuban}

Babushka glasses!

{Babushka glasses – would you like that vodka in small, medium or large?}

That's a wrap! (Cafe Mojito again)

{That’s a wrap! (Cafe Mojito again)}

placemats with pizzazz

{placemats so loud you can hear them putting you in your place}

Searching for a Heart of Gold

I have such a vast backlog of bloggable stuff (including very, very belated Christmas goodies) that each time I look at the photos and recipes I feel quite exhausted without having done anything. So let’s start the year off with something simple…..

heart of gold indeed

I love the Neil Young song that is the title of this post, but (embarrassingly) I had no clue who sang it or what it was called – I just knew it played in Eat Pray Love at the part where Julia Roberts wakes up and removes the turkey from the oven at an ungodly hour. Arb, yes. So when my sister gave me a hot pink MP3-player already loaded with songs, I was mighty excited to come across the song again. I played it on repeat for about 3 hours straight then googled the lyrics, then the aforementioned sister sent me the following quote that she had coincidentally come across on the same day:

“Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold

– but so does a hard-boiled egg.” – Anon

I love hard-boiled eggs. I don’t know why so many people will not admit to this – it’s as if there’s something hideously uncool about boiled eggs, like they’re right down there with wearing socks and sandals, or having the ability to do the Macarena really well. Perhaps it’s because boiled eggs have got this bad reputation as blue-ringed, farty-smelling lumps of vulcanised rubber that originated in a hen’s bum?

Think again – they’re pre-packed little purveyors of economical high-quality protein – 12% of it them Dr Atkins favourite macronutrient! They have a bit of sat fats and cholesterol too, but not enough to kill you as we were warned in the 80’s (why listen to someone with a bad perm and a bubble skirt anyway?). The point is that they really do have a heart of gold, and I don’t know why that quote makes it sound like a bad thing.

So since I’ve totally sold you on the idea that boiled eggs are not something embarrassing and shameful to eat, you must be thinking “who has time to fire up a stove and then study one of the many convoluted methods out there that guarantee no blue ring, and then it ends up looking like the yolk has a 5 o’clock shadow anyway?”. The answer is no-one, because Alton Brown has sorted us out…

gently does it

fortunately my parents have a transparent kettle...

you can actually SEE the heat...

is it just me or is it hot in here

the meditative egg

you crack me up

So, this is what you need to do:

(I let all of this happen while I make myself glamorous for work, for a pretty much effortless breakfast… all I need now is an eggstractor – I kid you not, check the link out).

Wash and dry as many room-temperature eggs as you plan to consume. I have had the privilege of taking tours through several egg factories (oh man. I’m soooo tempted to say “egg plants”) and it doesn’t matter if the carton says “washed”, give them a bit of spit and polish anyway. Don’t forget to be gentle, and if there is even the slightest suggestion of a crack in the shell leave that one for an omelet.

Gently place the eggs in your kettle. They should be in a single layer and there needs to be enough room for them to bounce around a bit – depending on the size of your kettle and the size of the eggs you could probably get between 2 and 4 in there.

Cover with at least 2cm of tap water, then press play on your kettle. When it switches itself off, wait 15 minutes. Pour the hot water out (into a suitable receptacle, to be used to water your potplants later!) and fill the kettle with cold water – as soon as the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel them. I find that the best way to do it to knock them around on the kitchen counter to crack the shell all over, then start peeling where the air sac is at the blunt end. Jamie Oliver does a far better job but it’s a bit too David Copperfield for me (the magician not the Dickens character). Not a blue ring in sight.

perfect!

If you are a Wodehouse fan, then you will know what I mean when I say: Don’t be a hard-boiled egg – try this, you will thank me.

If you are not a Wodehouse fan it’s because you’ve never read his books, so give it a try. You will thank me for this, too.

Get Neil Young going and think how much easier this is than having to go to Hollywood or Redwood, or crossing an ocean to find a heart of gold.

ah bless

PS: If you happen to notice a large volume of foam spewing forth from your kettle at any point – I hate to break it to you (haha, another bad pun) but the egg has, um, broken. Sorry. Don’t let it put you off the idea forever.)

PS Again: How cool is this idea?? How did I not think of it? And why didn’t I think of such an awesome name for my blog before they did? Dang nabbit.

2012 in review: You like me! You really, really like me! :-)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

I know it’s lame but I totally had a Sally Field moment when I saw the stats for 2012, especially considering that the blogs been dead for a while.

Thanks La for being my number one commenter!

Watch this space for lots of yumminess in 2013 :-).