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Green Pasta

My dear friends JM and Jan-Adriaan have been been toying with the idea of more meatless meals (specifically less red meat) and I’ve found myself  re-inspired. If hardcore braai aficionados like them can do it, there’s hope for us all. (Just kidding guys, you know I love you )

A few years ago I gave up meat for Lent and it was a truly rewarding experience. I don’t think meat is bad for you, I just think we consume far too much of it as a people.

My re-found inspiration has resulted in many meatless dinners like this one.

I first discovered this recipe in an edition of Pick n Pay’s Fresh Living magazine and I’ve adapted it, reworked it, added to it and subtracted from it over the years. The secret really is to just use what’s available in your fridge and enjoy in limited quantities.

green pasta

Green Pasta (originally titled some other kind of pasta)

Serves 2

200g spaghetti
4 or 5 baby marrows, shaved into thin strips with a peeler
1 cup of frozen peas
250g plain cream cheese (Simonsberg works best for me)
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Plenty of Maldon salt and pepper
2 tsp chopped garlic
Parmesan shavings

Cook spaghetti in plenty salty water. 5 minutes before the pasta is done, add the baby marrow and peas. Once all is cooked, remove from heat. But don’t drain it just yet!

In another bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, lemon juice and zest, and garlic plus half a cup of the water the pasta was cooked in.  Then drain the pasta, add the cream cheese mixture and toss well. Add Parmesan shavings. Serve with a side salad or plain for maximum creaminess.

Eat up and remember to wipe your face after.

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But, but… I cooked!

So last week’s Five Weekday Meals challenge was a bust. I can’t even remember all the excuses I had prepped for this, the shameful follow-up blog post. So I’m not going to bother.

Moving swiftly along.

I’m spending a lot of time at home lately – partly due to a curfew imposed by my wallet and liver, but also due to a rather sickly start to the year. Cough.

While I’m there, I might as well do something that matters. Cooking matters. When I feel like I’m accomplishing nothing in my life and there hasn’t been a single beep on my phone for HOURS, cooking makes me feel smart, nifty, strong and, well, accomplished.

So this is what I accomplished on Sunday (it’s pretty much the sum total of my Sunday accomplishments, unless you count finishing ANOTHER season of ANOTHER series).

Warm barley salad with tomatoes, mushrooms and Parmesan

warm barley salad

Serves 2

0.5 cup pearl barley
2.5 cups chicken stock
1 tbs olive oil
Half a punnet of brown mushrooms
Half a can of chopped tomatoes
1 small red onion, diced
half a green pepper, diced
Worcester sauce
1 tbs chopped garlic
1 cup of canned chickpeas
1 cup of cut cucumber
Grated Parmesan to taste

Cook the barley in the stock until soft – about 40 minutes. Set aside. Fry the onion, green pepper, mushrooms and garlic in a pan until soft. Add the tomato and chickpeas and Worcester sauce. Cook for 10 minutes on low heat. Taste – add a teaspoon of sugar or some chutney to add a bit of sweetness.

Dish the barley into bowls, generously grate some Parmesan over it, then add the tomato mixture. Serve the cucumber on the side.

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MONDAY: Tomato and onion tortilla pizza

This post forms part of the Five Weekday Meals Experiment.

I was relieved by this recipe for a number of reasons: I eat all of the ingredients, it looks light for summer and I’ve made a similar Weight Watchers recipe before so I was familiar with the territory.

I’ve always been the type of girl who eases into the water inch by inch instead of diving into the deep end. So inching into this challenge was just peachy with me.

tortilla pizza 2

Check out the recipe here.

A tomato and red onion ‘pizza’ with a tortilla wrap as a base. Very healthy pizza.

Problemo 1
The recipe calls for olive oil for brushing, but the instructions call for some sort of pasta sauce to coat the tortilla. FYI: El cheapo tomato paste and some dried basil works just as well. But now the instructions don’t tell me what to do with the olive oil? For brushing where exactly? The olive oil remains on the counter, unused.

Problemo 2
The recipe calls for Parmesan cheese. 1 handful. Sounds good, and I like the taste of Pamesan. However, when cooked in the oven at 200ºC, it definitely doesn’t become white and gooey. It kind of evaporates. It still tastes good, but it doesn’t look anything like the picture alongside the recipe. Unless the recipe was written by a giant whose ‘handful’ is the size of a watermelon. But a normal handful is more than enough for one tortilla pizza. I suspect it was meant to say ‘mozzarella’, but didn’t. I’d probably go for a combination of the two cheeses.

The recipe isn’t precise with measurements, which I like. Everything should be added to taste when cooking (baking’s another battle we’ll tackle another day).

As you can see, I added my own bits and bobs. I liberated the half a green pepper and opened a can of chick peas for added protein in this meatless Monday meal, plus some avo to add creaminess.

tortilla pizza 1

RATINGS (1 = crap, 5 = awesome)

Ease of recipe:    3/5
Not for difficulty – it’s incredibly easy, but the recipe writing is a little unclear.

Cost: 3/5
When did groceries get so freakin’ expensive? It’s a relatively inexpensive recipe because of the lack of meat, which is good. Also, you can get quite a few portions out of one pack of tortilla wraps. But it’s no ‘fish cakes and mash for R5 per portion’ type of recipe. You get what you pay for. Cheese be expensive, yo!

Taste: 5/5
Seriously, normal pizza just tastes weird now. The tortilla wrap creates such a delicate base off which to serve the amazing flavours of the sweet red onion and sharp Parmesan. Omnomnom. It is a little soft in the middle and crunchy at the edges, so I end up folding my slice in half and eating it calzone-style. (Did I say ‘slice’? I mean the entire tortilla. Because that’s how I roll.)

Overall: A solid 3.5/5.

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Five Weekday Meals Experiment

I love receiving Food24’s Weekday Meals newsletter on a Monday morning. I pore over the options, and every ooh and aah is more vociferous than the one before.

But that’s usually where the excitement ends.

After a morbidly-hued Monday, I usually opt for an over-priced, under-spiced Woolies meal and survive on fridge anomalies and take-aways for the rest of the week.

Cook? Pah. I’m too stressed/lazy/hot/cold/overworked/single/scared of the dishes to tackle meal preparation on my own.

However, changing my bad habits takes more than a plastic bag (I know – I need to take my own shopper) full of groceries that will probably change colour, shape and smell in my fridge over the next few weeks.

Five days, five simple recipes. I’ve got this.

Here’s what I’m offering: A bad Blackberry photo of my creation, my additions/remarks on the recipe and various ratings.

Let’s go!

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Pea Risotto

Dear Risotto,

You’re so versatile, easy-going and comforting. You’re like a best friend.

I’ve only just discovered that I’ve been doing you a disservice. I’ve treated you so ordinarily and not provided you with the tools to make you truly exceptional.

Well, it’s time to really stir things up. No longer will I dump you with chunky vegetables that you have to wade through. You deserve the finer things in life…

Pea Risotto

Pea Risotto

And that’s exactly what you’re going to get. Peas, butternut, cauliflower… before any of it touches your beautifully creamy grains it will first have to withstand a few minutes in the blender.

You deserve the rich colour and full taste of a pureed vegetable.

Pea Risotto

1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 cup of arborio rice
1 litre chicken stock
1 tbs butter
2 tbs olive oil
1-2 cups of frozen peas, thawed and blitzed in a food processor

Heat a pan or casserole pot.

Add butter and oil. Once butter is melted and foaming, add the onions and fry until translucent. Then add the garlic and fry for a minute. Add rice and fry on a medium heat until grains are glossy and slightly, ever so slightly browned.

Add a cup of stock. Stir continuously, almost massaging the grains of rice. Once all the liquid is absorbed, add another 1/2 cup of stock and stir again. Repeat the process until all the stock has been absorbed. Taste your pot. If the rice grains are still very chewy, add some more rice or white wine and repeat the process until the rice is soft and creamy.

Remove the pot from the heat. Add the pureed peas and stir in. The risotto will turn green.

Garnish with black pepper and salt/lemon juice and rind/parmesan or whatever takes your fancy.

I served my green rice with lemon chicken and cauliflower and cheese sauce.

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French Toast for Dad

Today you’ve been gone for 18 years. Long time.

Surprisingly I remember quite a bit about our time together. Dinner on the porch. Bread with butter, salt and pepper, cut into four squares. I still do that. A constant supply of Worcestershire sauce and HP sauce in the cupboard. You were so particular.

One Saturday morning, I was nine, I burst in the front door, said “Hi Dad” and proceeded to watch K-TV, a Saturday ritual at your house.

You hadn’t come down the stairs yet. So I went up. You were very sick at that time, you were thin, your boep had totally disappeared.

The culinary genius Esther wasn’t in that day. Boy, could she ration things out expertly!  So I took over in the kitchen. I made you a heap of French toast (and no doubt a terrible mess too) for breakfast.

I carried it up to you in bed. When you didn’t finish even half a slice, my heart broke.

You were too sick to eat.

But it’s all cool now, Dad. I know it wasn’t the French toast. You know how? Because my French toast rocks. Looky here.

I’ve never missed you like I miss you today.

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Autumn Cheese Sauce

Okay, cheese sauce is good any time of the year.

Autumn cheese sauce

However, the change of season leaves me craving the lightness of summer as well as the warmth of winter. What to do, oh what to do…

Adaptation.

I’ve added a sprinkle of this, a dash of that and a little bit of hope and luck to my cheese sauce recipe.

It’s like lemony, fragrant velvet on your tongue. Fo’sho.

Autumn Cheese Sauce

1 tbs butter
1 tbs flour
1 cup of warm milk
1 cup of grated cheddar
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp white pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
rind of 1 lemon
A handful of fresh basil leaves

autumn cheese sauce

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Once its liquid, add flour and mix into a roux. When it forms a ball, cook for about a minute or so on a medium heat.

Remove the pot from the heat and add a bit of the liquid. Mix quickly to form a thick paste. Return the pot to a medium to low heat. Add the milk little by little until the sauce is the consistency you desire. Use a whisk to deal with any pesky lumps.

Add cheese and stir with a wooden spoon. One combined and melted, add cumin, pepper, juice and rind. Stir. Add basil leaves whole and leave to stand for a few minutes.

Remove basil leaves before serving with you meal… say a crumbed chicken breast, juicy steak or as I like to enjoy it – with a big piece of crusty bread!

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Postcards from the Veg: Lentil Frikkadels

It’s the 9th day of  Lent.

Lentil Frikadels

Meatless Meatballs

It’s been nine days without meat or chicken.

While my choice to give up meat for Lent is on some level a spiritual and ethical one, I was really just curious to see if I could do it.

Sometimes you need the constructs of a tradition or ritual to help motivate you to try something that otherwise seems too difficult. It’s the same with New Year’s Resolutions:  Our little hupstootjie to make the transition easier.

I launched into my vegetarian diet with something that at least looked like meat. I took food24’s lentil burger recipe and adapted it for frikkadels.

I’d like to introduce you to meatless meatballs. Take that, Fry’s!

Lentil Frikadels

The Close Up

Lentil Frikkadels
Makes about 12

1 cup of brown, dry lentils
3 cups of water
1 stock cube/tbs stock powder

1 onion, chopped
1 baby marrow, grated
1 small green pepper, grated
2 tbs tomato paste
1 tbs garlic and ginger paste
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of raw oats/breadcrumbs
Extra stock/wine/water

Oil for frying

Right. Rinse the lentils and cook them in the water and stock for about 15-20 mins until soft. Puree or mash them until you’re left with a thick paste. It can be really thick. Like, so-thick-it-broke-my-blender kind of thick.

Fry the onion in the oil until translucent. Mix the lentil paste with the onions and the rest of the ingredients and incorporate. Use extra liquid – like wine:) – to make the paste more malleable so that you can form it into small balls.

Roll the “mince” into “meat”balls.

Heat about 30ml of oil in a pan. Place the meatballs slowly into the oil and fry. You don’t need to worry about them being done or not – no raw meat to worry about! So fry them just until they are golden brown.

Serve with a cucumber raita and a green salad.

And so the journey to the veg of the earth continues…

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Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving in America tomorrow. Although we don’t celebrate this holiday, I think it’s as nice a sentiment as Braai Day is here. There’s nothing trivial about getting together and giving thanks for well, being together. And if you happen to swallow a turkey and a pumpkin in the process, so be it.

Big ups for the little things that make these times special.

For a long time I’ve had this terrible affliction. When others do well/get lucky/have fun, I’ve always seen it as something I don’t have. Therefore there must be something wrong with me. What makes person X so darn special huh, and where can I get me summa that?

I’m rather ashamed of my childish attitude to other’s good fortune. My mom always taught me not to laugh at the misfortune of others, but in the process I forgot how to celebrate their triumphs.

In order to remedy this “disease”, I will proclaim all that I am thankful for.

Today I am thankful for:

My boyfriend
He’s what I always wanted, and I’m so glad he’s still here five Christmases later.

My job
I consume media for a living. Coincidentally, that’s what I do on the weekends too. Funny that.

My love of food
While my hips expand and my arteries clog a little more this festive season, I’m thankful that I can do something wonderful like cook Christmas lunch for my family and be blissfully happy throughout the process. Let’s hope they’re as “blissfully happy” with the results. Holding thumbs for no burnt offerings this year.

Just the food
I’m so grateful that we have food to cook. So many people don’t have food to cook.

Family: old, new and gone
The crazies, the over-protective ones and the cute ones. Whatever they are, they’re mine, and it feels nice to say I have them.

The return of O’Gradys
Thank you Simba. Thank you so very very much for the greatest chip ever. Thank you for only making two flavours so that I can never decide which is my favourite.

O'Gradys

O-O-O-O'Gradys!

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Intoxicating Spirits

The carols, the colours, the collective… I’m a sucker for Christmas.

Little Red Christmas Ribbon

For you, at Christmas.

Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas plays in the background while I dress in red, tie ribbons around everything – even the roasting pan – and imagine I’m Martine McCutcheon in Love Actually.

Hi, my name is Sam and I’m a Christma-holic.

I’ve started drinking it in and by December 25 I’ll be in high shpiritsh. But can you blame me? It really is all around us like Billy Mack says. I’m not talking about the Boney M and the window dressings. It’s become so much more than that. I’ll illustrate.

Exhibit A: Prince William and Kate’s engagement
It’s just the happy news the world needs to induce the warm ‘n fuzzies. Diana was the closest thing our generation had to a Mother Christmas and this announcement is perfectly timed with the advent of Christmas shopping. Everyone wants a piece of that love drug and buying it at Woolies is way easier than finding your own Prince Charming.

Exhibit B: Best of Lists
Best dressed, best movies, best albums, best everything! This information coupled with a credit card ensures that you can be and have what is perceived as the ‘best’ just in time for Christmas. It’s a great motivator to shop and spoil yourself and others. And if your credit card is maxed, put it on your wish list.

Exhibit C: Celebrity engagements and weddings
And more of that euphoria sets in. No matter what you think of said celebrities or if their impending nuptials are just a ‘showmance’, Love is in the air and it makes you think about your own relationship. If you haven’t decided to dump him or her by now, you’re stuck with them until Valentine’s Day at least.

Christmas is a time of commercial exploitation. It’s the best excuse we’ve got for our indulgences. But it’s also a time for me to spoil my family, impress with my culinary skills, act like a kid and be love-drunk on all the corniness that comes with it.

I heart Christmas.

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