Carrots – yes ways – three ways


This post first appeared in 2015, and since then, the recipes have gone through a number of developments/iterations/whatever word you’d like to choose.  Originally, it was carrots, two ways.  Now, I’ve added a third.

Growing carrots

One of our earlier harvests – around 2104

Our soil is rocky and very clayey.  Certain root vegetables grow, but very differently from what one would expect.  Short and stubby or a bit twisted, so they’re right at home.

However, working the garden the last eight ten or so years (with a break thanks to the drought and other crud), has improved the soil quality:  fewer stones helped along with our own compost and locally sourced manure.  Of course, crop rotation – a necessity – also helps.  Carrots are a crop we can grow all year round – with patience.  They are a slow crop.  They are also versatile because they are great for eating raw and cooked;  hot or cold; in salads and as sides.

Putting up my hand

Let me nail my colours to the mast.  Again.  I am not a fan of the local traditional carrot salad which is just too sweet, or the salad of finely shredded carrots with pineapple and raisins.  They are in the same category as coleslaw – with slightly less vehemence.

As happens when there are two of you, and a crop is ready to harvest, the choice of accompaniments for meals becomes somewhat restricted.  We go through patches of wonderful (and ongoing) crops of carrots, but there is a limit to the number of carrot sticks one can eat.

But now –

I can get quite creative with carrots and love growing heirloom ones of different colours.

Carrots make great table decor. Especially with my bunnies which often graced the Sunday Supper table.

A word to the wise:

Don’t be conned by the lovely colours of heirloom carrots:  I thought they’d make my pretty pickle extra pretty. Well, they did, until the colour faded into the pickling brine…overnight!

“No!” to the death boil

I definitely don’t do boiled carrots.  I had too many of them as a child – boiled to death, they were.

A few years’ ago, thanks to celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, I learned about finishing carrots off in the oven.

I subsequently found the recipe, by which time the practice of parboiling* and finishing off in the oven, had become a Fiona SOP.  I have to agree with his sentiment that the practice makes the carrots “meatier”;  it certainly does intensify the flavours and it’s become my favourite way of preparing carrots – whether they have the full Oliver treatment or not.

* save and freeze the water you drain off – for gravy or vegetable stock

Photo: Selma

The “pukka” Oliver treatment involves orange, herbs, butter and garlic.  Of course.  Bung them in a pot with some salted water, bring to the boil for about 10 minutes.  Drain and spread on a baking tray with butter (or olive oil), squeeze the orange juice over the carrots, doing the same with the garlic.   Now, whack that into a pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes.  Serve hot or cold. With extra herbs.

I have also created variations – with or without the oranges and herbs – used my spicy plum jam as a glaze and served them cold with blue cheese on a bed of rocket (arugula).

Rocket and me

Contrary to popular opinion, I’m not overly fond of hot, peppery stuff and for years I really didn’t like rocket in anything other as one of the leaves in a green salad.  When it was the vogue to have rocket with everything, I was often found to be picking it out of my salad or asking for an alternative.  Yes, I can be that customer, and if it can’t be done, I’ll find an alternative restaurant dish.

Then, a few years ago we visited Babylonstoren and toured the garden.  I left with their book which is less about recipes than it is about ingredients and combinations that work.

Among these was beetroot with rocket and goat’s cheese (chevin to be precise).-It’s become another favourite combination.  The sweetness of the beetroot works really well with the pepperiness of the rocket, rounded off with the saltiness of the cheese.

That combination gave me the idea of trying carrot with rocket as I did for this dish – and with the saltiness of blue cheese.


Monster rocket leaf from the garden

I am now a whole lot more adventurous open to recipes that include rocket and am now exceedingly annoyed if anyone tampers with my self-sown rocket plants.  Because, theoretically, once you have rocket, you always have rocket.  Unless someone frantically weeds it all out.  This monster plant survived the last weeding frenzy.

Which brings me back to carrots.

Going back some a few years, I built a stash of carrot recipes, many of which I’d rejected or not tried. Because, well, just because.  Then, because of Sunday Suppers, and because I keep an eye open for dishes that are vegan and vegetarian-friendly, I have a somewhat different lens.

Among the recipes is one with almonds, olives and cranberries.  Yes, you guessed right:  with rocket as more than garnish.

I gave it a go.  It’s a winner.

The best carrot salad(s)

Carrot salad with rocket, almonds and olives

What makes this salad best of all, is its versatility and with various additions or subtractions, it can form a main course for either vegetarians or vegans. What’s more, it stores well so one can make it ahead of time.

In summary:  roast the carrots, slivered almonds, garlic and salt and pepper.  Set them aside and then combine with pitted olives.  Serve on a bed of salad (and rocket) leaves dressed with apple cider vinegar and honey, or spicy plum jam. Garnish with more rocket leaves and flowers.

In a jar – better storage and/or for a picnic

Regular readers and followers of my Insta feed know that I have a stall at the Saturday morning market in McGregor.  Last winter, I resumed my soup offering (which had ground to a halt because I served the soups at Sunday Suppers).  Now the seasons are changing and the weather’s warmer, soup’s not quite so popular and instead of ditching the jar idea, I am now offer either a seasonal soup, salad or meal in a jar. This wasn’t the first – that was the Butternut and Lentil salad that everyone raves about.

Remember I said that this salad stores well?

It really does. It also looks very pretty in jars.  I sold a few at the market and those I didn’t, I stored in the fridge.  As a test.  The rocket leaves stayed crisp, for a full seven days. That makes it a great market/street food product and a winner for the busy person who plans and prepares ahead.

The full, recipes are available to download here.

Oh, and if you do download the recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?

Post script:

The spicy plum jam to which I refer, is a condiment I’ve been making for a number of years.  I did share the recipe, and that post, like so many others, went the way of an erstwhile website host.  A new post – with the now tried and trusted recipe – will appear during (or after) plum season.  I shall be making more.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised appplications.

    • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

    • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Original artwork: @artywink
    • I also share my occasional Instagram posts to the crypto blockchain, Hive, using the new, and really nifty phone app, Dapplr. On your phone, click here or on the icon, and give it a go.

Salad Days I

No, I’m not referring to either my youth or the best days of my life, but rather to logical menu choices during the hottest summer in many, many years.  Certainly since we arrived in McGregor.

The average maximum temperature, this December was 31ºC (89ºF)*, a degree higher than 2014, as was the average minimum, at 19ºC (66ºF).  More interesting, though, are the spikes: the highest maximum was 41ºC (106ºF) as opposed to “only” 37ºC (99ºF) the previous year.  This is the type of heat that we usually associate with February, and when summer crops are virtually all harvested.  The heat, the wind and the humidity without rain, has taken its toll;  the grape harvest has started earlier than the farmers can remember.  Wonder what it will mean for 2016’s wines?

The impact of the heat and the equally desiccating wind shows:

Summer fall:  Neighbours’ willow, virtually naked of leaves.
A glorious, yellow leaf carpet.

And because we water only the vegetables and flower beds, the grass is, in places, crisp underfoot.


In that heat, the menu has to be dominated by salads, but because (as you’ve heard me say so often) one can have too much of a good thing, innovation is important.  There are only so many carrot sticks one can eat and watermelon can do more than serve as a refreshing fruit (especially when there’s only two…).

Watermelon provided the base for the h’ordeuvres for Christmas dinner and was a refreshing and flavourful salad that’s already become a favourite, as has the carrot salad that formed part of the main course.

Watermelon, feta and olive salad

For the Christmas menu, I had planned what has become for many of our friends, one of my signature dishes:  Jamie Oliver’s Thai Watermelon Salad.  It’s one of those recipes that needs all the ingredients, so if one can’t get them, it has to be plan B.  This year, because of the heat, it was impossible to find any fresh coriander.  So, with an enormous watermelon in fridge….the watermelon had to be used…it wasn’t paying rent.  At that late stage, visit to the local shop was out of the question, so I had to make do with what was in the pantry and in the garden.  Another celebrity chef to the rescue: Nigella Lawson.  I had everything except the limes, but there was lime juice in a bottle.  Problem solved.


1 small red onion
4 limes
3 ¼ lb watermelon (sweet and ripe)
8 oz feta cheese
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
1 bunch fresh mint (chopped)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
⅔ cup pitted black olives
black pepper

Peel and halve the red onion and slice thinly.  Put this in a small bowl to infuse with the lime juice.

Peal the watermelon, and cut into approximately 4cm / 1½ inch triangular chunks, removing as many pips as possible. Cut the feta into similar sizes and put them both into a large, wide shallow bowl. Tear off sprigs of parsley so that it is used like a salad leaf, rather than a garnish, and add to the bowl along with the chopped mint.

Pour the onions, with the juice over the salad in the bowl, add the oil and olives.  Gently toss the salad so as not to break up the feta and melon. Add freshly ground black pepper and taste to see whether you need to add more lime juice.


This is a very pretty salad which worked well to add a touch of red to our white Christmas – and is so easy to make which is belied by the really interesting combination of flavours:  it’s all about getting the proportions right.  I’ve done it both with and without mint which has been equally acceptable.

Roasted Carrot Salad

A raw carrot salad with dill was also supposed to have featured on the Christmas menu.  Until The Husband discovered that the gardener had “weeded” the dill that he had been carefully nurturing.  Needless to say, “we” were not amused, so with plan B underway, it had to be “plan Z”.  A few recipes were reviewed, The Husband consulted; Roasted Carrot Salad was selected. I had to make some adaptations.  These and what I’ve subsequently done, come after the original recipe by Morgan Nowicki:


2 pounds (1,8kg) carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 (4 oz) package crumbled Danish blue cheese
2 cups arugula (rocket)

What to do

Preheat an oven to 400ºF (200ºC).

Combine the carrots, almonds, and garlic in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread out onto an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake the carrots until soft and the edges turn brown, about 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool to room temperature.

Once cool, return the carrots to the mixing bowl, and drizzle with honey and vinegar; toss until coated. Add the cranberries and blue cheese; toss again until evenly mixed. Combine with the arugula and serve immediately.

What I did

Because I didn’t have almonds or cranberries, I omitted the latter and substituted the almonds with pumpkin seeds.  I also elected to roast the carrots in larger chunks – either whole or cut longitudinally and the cloves of garlic were roasted, whole.**  I also elected not to toss the rocket leaves with the carrots, but rather to present them on a bed of rocket.


The result was acceptable, but more acceptable, was the second time I made this, when I –

  • par-boiled and then roasted the whole carrots and
  • substituted the almonds with crushed macadamian nuts which were roasted with the carrots and garlic.

On this occasion, and because I knew that I’d roasted more than we needed, I simply plated the carrots with the cheese and served the leaves separately.  The carrots we didn’t eat, kept well in the fridge for another meal.


 And now, it’s back to the weather…

Certain parts of South Africa are in the throes of a drought;  some say that it’s the worst in 20 years, others 50.  Either way, the figure is moot when some farmers haven’t been able to plant crops and the maize harvest will be the lowest for 20 years. Farmers unable to feed their livestock, are sending animals to other provinces and suitable grazing, or to slaughter.  There are towns without water and which are being supplied by generous members of the public.  So meat, for the moment is cheap, but when that’s gone, that and all other food prices will skyrocket.  Not helped by our currency with is currently sailing through the doldrums.

So, this, the heat and an abundance of tomatoes, and other crops coming, all mean that our salad days are set to continue.

Clouds that promise rain but only bring unbearable humidity.
Clouds that dance around the mountains, promising rain but only bring unbearable humidity.

* Data supplied by The Husband who diligently records the daily maximum and minimum temperatures and the rainfall.
** Roasting minced/crushed garlic can end up with it being overdone and bitter.  Rather roast the cloves whole and then squeeze out the creamy garlic and mix it in with the dressing/liquids to drizzle over the salad.

© Fiona’s Favourites 2016


Veld Kos

My basic cooking and food choices are largely influenced by my English and Scottish background and living in South Africa.  Over the last 20 or so years, as ethnic foods have become both more fashionable and available, it has become easier to experiment with flavours and different ingredients.  My mother cooked “English” food and through a woman who looked after our house, and then later at boarding school, I was introduced to samp (dried, de-husked corn) and beans, and morogo (wild greens/spinach).  Patience and I would go into the vegetable garden and pick “weeds” and turnip leaves which were then added to the warm umgqusho (as she called it in isiXhosa), or to the mealie rice or pap (porridge).  These memories of the warm, bubbling pot, the vegetable garden, and the stories my Dad used to tell about the family allotment in Glasgow, are the roots of my interest in edible plants.  An opportunity to learn about veld kos – edible indigenous plants – was not one to be missed.

Last weekend we joined friends at Loubie Rusch‘s talk on Veld Kos (field food) at the Pink Geranium.  The Pink Geranium is a wonderful nursery not far from Stellenbosch (but more of that, another time).  Loubie is a landscaper by profession, and passionate about the potential of indigenous plants for food and food security.  There was a great deal to absorb, and I have come home to look at some of the plants in our garden with a new, and adult eye.

Oxalis corniculata
Portulacaria afra

Why, “adult” eye?  Well, as a child, we ate the flowers and leaves of a plant that appeared every spring, Oxalis corniculata, also known as wild sorrel, suurings in Afrikaans (suur is sour in Afrikaans) – it does taste a lot like sorrel.  These are yellow ones in our garden, but the ones that we ate growing up in Grahamstown, were purple.  I now know that the entire plant – flowers, leaves, stems and corm – is edible, but that it must be treated with respect because of the oxalic acid content (spinach and rhubarb also contain oxalic acid).  We used to nibble Elephant’s Food – the fleshy, sour leaves of the Portulacaria afra or spekboom which hedged the property on which we lived, and past which I used to walked to primary school;  in those dry, drought years, this hedge was the greenest thing in sight.

Tulbaghia collage Sept 2014

Before this weekend, I had also partaken of wild garlic (Tulbagia) .  In addition to having a strong (very) garlic smell and flavour and, like the conventional garlic, it is a great companion plant for roses and an essential addition to home-made insect repellents.  Again, we have the purple variety in the garden –  Loubie introduced me to the white ones.

Loubie used leaves from the first three of these plants to make the most delicious tzatziki-type dip, which we tasted with carrot sticks.  The sweetness of the carrots was beautifully juxtaposed with the sourness of the yoghurt, oxalis and spekboom.

She also introduced us to dune spinach, which she stir-fried with some oyster mushrooms.  She had made a pesto, which which she combined with cherry tomatoes, but for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you (because I can’t remember) what went into it!  It all looked and tasted delicious.

Loubie Rush sharing her passion for Veld Kos at the Pink Geranium
Loubie Rusch sharing her passion for Veld Kos at the Pink Geranium

I have come home inspired, and in addition to the first three plants I discussed, all of which grow abundantly in our garden, I will be experimenting with two other plants that grow there, in equal profusion:  the wild rosemary, Eriocephalus africanus (Kapokbos in Afrikaans), and the sour fig, Carpobrotus edulis, a member of the Mesembryanthem family, and which has a long and rich culinary history in the Western Cape.

Wild rosemary (L) and conventional rosemary
Eriocephalus africanus (L) and conventional rosemary

The wild rosemary grows in the same, neglected corner of our plot as the nasturtiums of which I spoke a while ago, and has a more peppery but less strong aroma than the conventional rosemary that I already use quite a lot.   As you see, the leaves are similar.

Coming back to the sour figs – a friend in Cape Town was very excited when she saw sour figs growing in our garden.  I knew about sour fig jam and dried sour figs, but I hadn’t known what they tasted like, or how to go about using them, green and/or fresh, in a salad, let alone in a stir fry.  We have loads of these in our garden because they are a great, drought resistant ground cover that helps to stabilise banks, so I will soon be experimenting with them.

Sour fig collage Sept 2014
Carpobrotus edulis

The plants I’ve mentioned are just some of the plants Loubie told us about.  Wild asparagus we also have in the garden – I’ve been pulling it out – now I shall be giving it TLC.   I’ll keep you posted about this new aspect of my culinary journey…