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.

Tripping the Light Fantastic

When I wrote this just over a hear ago, South Africa, had been in the throes of loadshedding.  I was reminded of this post because it marks a nasty trip that I took.  I cannot believe that was a year ago, and how much, in so many ways, things have not changed.  Loadshedding has made an unwelcome return.  And a lot has.  But that’s for another time.

Lights out

If you play(ed) SimCity as I did in the mid-1990’s, you’d have known these outages as “brown outs” your city grew too big too quickly.  It’s about the only computer game I’ve played (other than one or other game of solitaire), and that on an already ancient ICL Elf and before the advent of a GUI.* Fortunately, this time round, and even though Eskom descended to level 3 loadshedding, for some reason, they haven’t flipped the switch in McGregor.  Last year, when they did and when the lights came back on, I tripped the light fantastic.  Literally.  They were scheduled to go off at 22h00 hours.  They did.

We had forgotten and were engrossed in some Friday, end-of-the-week easy-to-watch drivel on the box.  Although it was full moon, the moon was on the “wrong” side of the house, so it was as dark as night.  I ferreted out my phone, lit a candle and headed upstairs.  I asked asked The Husband who was making our ritual cup of tea, “You’ll make sure all the lights are off, won’t you?”

“Yes dear,” was the long-suffering reply.

Never giving it another thought, I settled into bed and did a little candle-lit reading before we “turned out the light”.  What seemed like about two minutes later, I wake up and the house is ablaze.  In my sleeping stupor, I need to turn the lights off. As usual for January, we were in the throes of a heatwave.  So, heading towards the stairs, I realised that the soles of my feet were dry and slippery.

“Put on your flops,” said the little voice in my head.

“Ag, no,” said the other sleepy, more stupid voice in my head.

Three quarters of the way down the thirteen-step flight of stairs:  slip-trip.  Crash.  M-o-a-n.  Like a the wounded cow I was.  I landed on my posterior which is relatively well padded, but where my spine ends abruptly because the coccyx is long gone.  Because of chairs having been pulled from under me when I was about six or seven.   Thanks to the momentum, I fell backwards with the spot marking an old spinal injury, perfectly positioned to catch the edge of the step above.



The Husband roused from his stupor to find a mo(o)(a)ning cow at the bottom of the stairs.  He helped her to her feet and up the stairs.

Fortunately, I had a card of painkillers in the bedside table and took a couple.  Let’s just say that they didn’t really help.  Everything hurt.  Front, back.  Moving was agony.  The following morning, was market day.  There were things to do.  Somehow, they got done.  The Husband lifted, carried, fetched and bent.  I could do none of it.

Market day

Somehow, the market I did.  Slowly.  I sold all the jam tarts (bar one which The Husband enjoyed) and the cheese and sun dried tomato muffins that I would normally not have made.

As things happened, my market friend, Chicken Pie Janet, had been laid low with a muscle spasm, so I done a few different things not in my usual repertoire.  That said, I’ll never do chicken pies.  According to her customers, nothing could ever match hers.

Full House Sunday Supper

After the market, I get back into the kitchen to prepare for Sunday Supper.  For the first time in a month, we had had enquiries, and they had converted into bookings.  We had a full house.  Probably the last full house Sunday Supper since.   I’ll come back to this.

The menu for that week’s Sunday Supper was simple.

But.  My usual practice is to prepare the soup and dessert on Saturday afternoon and the main on Sunday.  There should have been very little “big” prep for the main course.  I had cleaned out The Country Butcher’s stock of apple-smoked chicken.  There were be eight diners and ten people to feed (including The Husband and I), and none of them was vegetarian or vegans.  I was concerned that I would run out of chicken.

Plan B

Hastily, I had to conjur up a plan B and remembered the gammon that had escaped Christmas.  For the first time, in Sunday Supper’s two-odd year history, guests had options for their main course.  In addition to the mango and smoked chicken, I added melon and ham as an alternative.

In a fair amount of pain, I had to think of the least agonising way to do that, so I cooked it in the slow cooker.  It cooked at the same rate that I was able to move.  Somehow, I got myself through Saturday and by about 6pm, the soup – a banting take on a vichyssoise – and the cheesecake (with grating help from The Husband) were done.  Recipes for these to come – in time.

Sunday dawned and every bit of my torso ached and hurt when I moved.  Just getting myself from horizontal to vertical was a challenge.  Bending from the knee was mandatory rather than recommended.  The day was a steady, achy plod to get things ready for the main course and set the tables.  The Husband always rearranges the furniture and sweeps.  He had to help drape the cloths, the white and blue, from Russia with love, had its Sunday Supper debut.

Cheesecake with fresh granadilla (TL) and the caremelised leek and cauliflower soup (BR); the tables ready and waiting for diners.

Chilli Lime Mango Salad – Three ways

This is a great meal for hot summer days or evenings.  Sunday was day two of what had been a six-day heatwave with temperatures in excess of 35ºC (95ºF).  This time, when I set the menu, I trusted the man in the weather app.  It was also the time of year when we can have diners who are omnivores, vegetarians or plant eaters – from all over the world.  This salad fits all those bills.  The champions of this salad include fresh mangoes, three fresh herbs dhanya (coriander/cilantro), mint and chives as well as onion rings.  The dressing is equally simple:  runny honey, lime juice, chopped chilli and olive oil.

Serve on a bed of leaves and with couscous, or on a bed of noodles, with a side of green salad.  For carnivores, chicken is the the of protein of choice and feta feta cheese with cashew nuts for vegetarians; for plant-based eaters, either lose the feta or substitute it with a vegan cheese.

Most of the ingredients for the salad and dressing – from our garden. Red onions are prettier, but white will do if you don’t have any.

Download a printable version of the recipe here.

A last word or two

It would seem that our diners enjoyed their evening.

With hindsight, and now I’m in a lot less pain and a lot more mobile, I have absolutely no idea how I pulled Sunday off.  Next time there is loadshedding, I hope not to be tripping the light fantastic.

A year or so, on

Looking back, I still have no idea how I managed to do either the market or Sunday Supper.  Our diners had no idea that I was in such agony.  I am glad.  It was also an object lesson on what one can  achieve if one sets one’s mind to it.

As I mentioned, that evening was probably the last, and possibly ever, full house for Sunday Suppers.  The COVID-19 virus wave was beginning to spread.  We were watching what was happening to the east and to the north.  Waiting.  It was coming and I shared my initial thoughts in a rant and commented on how what have now become known as the “non-pharmaceutical interventions” worked.  Funny how, nearly a year later, and even with the roll out of vaccines, and as this very catchy virus that can make people very, very sick, mutates, it is these practices that have become mandatory in virtually every country in the world.

Manadatory mask for stepping out in public:  with the not mandatory but essential in McGregor sunnies and sun hat at the market.

How things change.  How things have not.

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

Photo: Selma

*Graphic User Interface – for the unitiated.  Invented by Steve Jobs and adopted by Bill Gates and responsible for mice.

Post Script

  • In search of English writing, research and editing services, look no further:  I will help you with – 
    writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers

    formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
    more information here
  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I plan to add 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 on the image below to sign up –

Image: @traciyork

  • I also share my occasional instagram posts to the crypto blockchain using the new, and really nifty phone app, Dapplr. On your phone, click the icon below, and give it a go.

I’m sure I did. Positive. I did.

Butternut and lentil salad with harissa

You know when you could have sworn that you’ve done something and you have clear memories. Of. Exactly. What. You. Did.

Well, I had that experience with this a Moroccan Lentil and Butternut Salad recipe. I was convinced that I’d written about it. A long time ago. Because, I realised, I’ve been making this salad for well nigh eight years, and quite regularly. The first time, it was part of a Christmas spread when we had vegan diners, and quite a long time before plant-based eating had become quite the thing that it is. It came from a magazine but, as is my penchant, I’ve made it my own. I now realise that I’ve been making it since before I started blogging in 2016.

Last Saturday morning, ahead of the market, I posted this on my Instagram account advertising my vegan offerings for that morning’s market in McGregor.

Butternut and lentil salad with harissa

Moroccan lentil and butternut salad and vegan garlic mayo (a non-authentic aioli – depending who you speak to) on offer at the Saturday market

In my dreams

In my IG post, I explained briefly what it was, adding that it included homemade Harissa.

Then Katie J asked if I’d shared the Harissa recipe.

Nope. But I shall.

As a nutrition coach and fitness trainer, Katie’s a whizz at plant-based food, herself (find her – and her recipes – on WordPress or as @plantstoplanks on Hive).

So certain was I, that I’d “done” the lentil salad, that I trawled this blog and my crypto blog where things were saved after my earstwhile host absconded.


I searched all my pics – even the “lost ones” – thats another story.


Clearly, I’d dreamt all that.

Harissa notes

Katie’s question was, however, the nudge I needed to tidy up the Harissa. That, I knew, I’d not done because it was still on a scrappy piece of paper complete with crossings out and undecipherable notes. It had been on my mental (very) “to do” list. For a couple of years. Again, I’ve made it my own. When I searched online for for a recipe, I discovered that some:

  • include garlic, others don’t
  • liquidise or make a puree, others don’t
  • include tomatoes, others don’t
  • are hotter (with chillies, cayenne, etc.) than others, which really is a personal preference.

All include roasted or charred bell peppers, chillies and spices – cumin, coriander and fennel. In considering my requirements and the recipes which call I leave the tomatoes. One can always add them if need be.

Butternut and lentil salad with harissa

All of that said, Harissa really is a simple, spicy roasted pepper (and chilli) paste. It’s flavour is distinctly North African and Middle Eastern. My last batch was finished off in the broad bean burgers. Because the Moroccan lentil and butternut salad benefits from a goodly amount, I had to make a new batch.

Butternut and lentil salad with harissa

About 500ml Harissa. Stored in repurposed jars. The lid of the large jar is scruffy which explains the equally scruffy photo. Note to self: take another, prettier photo. Don’t wait years…

Stores well

I make a batch of Harissa once or twice a year. My notes say that it can be stored for up to a month in the fridge. I have, however, stored it successfully for much longer by doing two things:

  • gradually decanting into a smaller, sterilised jars as I use it.
  • covering the top of the harissa with olive oil which effectively “seals” in the red paste (also a great way to extend the life of a pesto).

You can download a PDF of the recipe here.

Dream becomes reality

This lentil and butternut salad is, like so many of the things I make, versatile. It consists of roasted butternut and lentils with a “dressing” of sauteed onion, garlic, harissa and tomato paste, with fresh parsley and coriander (cilantro) added last.

Butternut and lentil salad with harissa

Lentil and butternut salad served with sides of couscous and a mixed salad

It’s a meal on its own and it can be eaten warm or cold although flavours do develop if it’s allowed to stand over night. If you do that, and want to eat it warm, reserve the fresh herbs to add just before serving.

You can download a PDF of the recipe here.

A few last things about this salad:

  • If vegan doesn’t do it for you, a dollop of tzatziki or a crumbling of feta cheese adds a different and delicious dimension.
  • It has featured on our Sunday Supper menu and sells well at the local market.
  • It keeps well in the fridge. I haven’t tried it, but I suspect it would freeze satsfactorily – without the fresh herbs.
  • As I mentioned, it benefits from standing which also makes it a great make-in-advance dish that can also stretch over a week. It not only saves cooking but because one doesn’t have to finish, one doesn’t feel as though one is eating lentil salad for seven days in a row.

Now, I know I did!

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 plan to add 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 because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain. Click on the image below to sign up –

Image: @traciyork

In yet another aspect of my life –

English writing, research and online tutoring services
writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

Zoodle Doodles

It’s the time of year when Sannie Boervrou‘s generosity knows no bounds.  Call them what you will, courgettes, zucchini and (not-so-baby) baby marrows, I’ve been making pickles, salad and this year, zoodles.

I had long been wanting a spiraliser, and having done a bit of homework, came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t find one that didn’t have some or other drawback.  So, given my tiny kitchen and dearth of storage space for large kitchen gadgets, the key criterion was size.  The price was a bonus because I found it on a sale.

Home I came, with what looks like a giant, double-sided pencil sharpener.  One side makes spiral shavings and the other, which I discovered the hard way, has vicious teeth, makes spaghetti-like bits of vegetables.


I did post a salad with strips of courgette, last year, but since then, I’ve not just experimented with the spiraliser, but also with the flavours.  Particularly, the vinaigrette.  Because the zoodles have a delicate (some would say bland) flavour.  Consequently, for my salads, rather than using a balsamic vinegar which could be too overpowering, I use a local red wine vinegar made in a balsamic style, and which I often use – good flavour without the heaviness of the traditional balsamic.  In addition to lettuce and forgoing the cucumber (for obvious reasons), my standard inclusion is slivers of red onion.


So, a relatively plain salad, that is a great accompaniment to virtually any meal is really easy.  Depending on the meal, add different fresh herbs for a complimentary or contrasting flavour profile.  Here I used coriander and basil and garnished with a bit of red endive.

Equally, one can add, particularly for colour, and I often do, tomatoes and olives.


What I also enjoyed, and which worked much better than the slivers of courgette, was adding zoodles to pasta with pesto.  I have mentioned (probably ad nauseum), that I make my own pasta.  Anyhow, sometimes, at the end of a hard day, I really just want to do a meal with the least possible fuss.  Served, if possible out of just one dish.  Zoodles and pasta allow one to do just that.


This, simple warm pasta salad consisted of roasted cherry tomatoes, lightly sauteed mushrooms and sweet bell peppers that were served on top of pasta and zoodles through which I had stirred basil pesto.

For those who want to avoid the carbs, zoodles make a super substitute for rice, potatoes and, of course pasta.  I’ve also been experimenting with rosti, but have a way to go to perfecting them….

© Fiona’s Favourites 2016

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Thai – African Style

Twelve or so years ago, when Thai cuisine was viewed as a relatively novel ethnic cuisine, and one which we enjoy, we happened on a very useful publication from Australian Women’s Weekly.  Page 32 has recipes for red, green and massaman curry pastes.  This last, I have made often, although, I confess, not for a while.

This is for blog pal, Peggy, who I’m sure, is familiar with Australian Women’s Weekly, and who also shares fabulous recipes – tried and tested – and all from page 32.

But I digress.  One of our favourite summer suppers is based on the beef salad in this book.


I have made this with beef, and not, I might add, with rump, but rather with a hunk of stewing steak which when rare, and cut across the grain, works just as well.  Some (i.e. The Husband) would say it’s better because it’s more flavourful.  That said, we have this salad most often with ostrich.

No, contrary to popular opinion, The Husband doesn’t starve when I’m away – he’s a dab hand in the kitchen.  His photographic evidence.

At the time we discovered aforementioned book, ostrich meat was cheaper than beef.  That’s changed. For two reasons: flocks took a serious knock with the avian flu pandemic, but more importantly, ostrich is a not a “red” meat:  like chicken, it is lean.  Which brings me back to The Husband who, as regular readers know, is a dedicated, salad-eating carnivore who has been both a beef and poultry farmer.  Early on in our relationship, my suggestion that we have ostrich was met with, “Why would I want to eat ‘big chicken’?  Chicken isn’t meat!”

He and the local boere* are of a mind:  chicken is amper vleis.* * 

To cut a long story short, he was persuaded to try it – at least once – and although not immediately a convert, was game to try it again.  Preferably disguised as something else.  This salad does exactly that.

What I do

Having followed this recipe to the letter, I discovered that the inclusion of the chopped herbs in the dressing, which is actually the basting sauce, was a mistake.  If you’re searing the meat on a smoking hot, cast iron griddle, the herbs (and garlic) char.  The salad ends up full of unsightly, unpleasant-tasting black bits.  Instead, I combine the first four ingredients for the dressing-cum-basting and reserve the fresh coriander and mint, and depending on my mood, either leave them whole or chop them to add to the salad when I assemble it (not always in the dressing).


On this occasion, I decided to serve the meat separately from the rest of the salad.  The sliced, seared ostrich was presented on a bed of coriander and mint, with a mixed salad.


Where I’ve needed to include a starch, I’ve also served this on a bed of rice noodles, making it a great summer supper.

* farmers

* * almost meat

Bountiful broad beans

Next to the pea patch, we had a bed of broad beans.  Broad (or fava) beans are another childhood memory:  picking them during a sunny winter afternoon and then shelling them in front of the fire for supper.  We had another bumper crop this year, I am delighted to say, so some are safely stored in the deep freeze.


Ever since I lived on my own and had a patch of ground, I have grown vegetables (or tried to).  The Husband happily tells friends that when he met me, and I had a tiny terrace cottage with an equally tiny back garden, he discovered a couple of enormous tomato plants among the ornamentals.  I have yet to loose an almost childlike excitement with which I greet the first picking or pulling of any vegetable that privileges our garden.  Then I set to thinking about what I’m going to do with it.  Usually, the first pickings are the sweetest and most tender so they get the least amount of “treatment”.  So it was with our first broad beans:  lightly boiled (not to death like my English mother would have cooked them) and as an accompaniment to supper.  However, that gets really boring …

So, in addition to that way, I also use them in salads:  blanch the beans and pop them out of their grey skins and toss the beautiful, bright green cotyledons into the salad.  This salad, in addition to the broad beans, and as the flavours seem to work well together included mint and chives, as well as pepino.  For a little extra colour, a scattering of calendula petals topped it off.

Salad with broad beans, pepino, chives and mint

I have mentioned my love affair with Katie Caldesi’s Italian Cookery Course, and in it, discovered a traditional Italian dip made with broad beans and mint.  I had never thought of including mint with broad beans.  Mint is for peas – or so I had been brought up to think (by that same English mother….)  Anyway, I looked at the recipe and gave it a bash:  essentially, it’s broad beans (popped out of their skins if they’re big – I didn’t with this batch as they were still tiny), mint, finely grated Parmesan cheese, garlic leaves (or a small clove if you don’t have the leaves), all of which are whizzed or pulsed together into a course mixture. Serve on crostini drizzled with olive oil.Broad bean dip

We enjoyed it so much that I now make it quite often and have also used the basic idea, mixed with parsely pesto, as an accompaniment for home made pasta.

Like this week, which has gone in a flash, all to soon, the bean plants are spent and the bed liberated exposing the artichokes we weren’t sure would survive the winter………  More of them, anon….

Anyone for eggs?

I have always loved eggs. As a little girl, I loved eating Dad’s scrambled eggs; of course I had had my own, but they were much nicer when I perched on his knee, eating them off his plate. He loved his eggs on buttery toast and topped with a good sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper. Another “egg” memory associated with Dad, and which I’ve mentioned before, is my (actually Dad….) bidding for the winning egg and succeeding, at the Gonubie Agricultural Show. I guess those eggs must have been quite expensive in the grand scheme of things. Why was I besotted with those particular eggs? I have no idea, except that they were generally a beautiful white, not the brown we are used to, now.  And always double yolkers.Double yolk eggs

Eggs feature quite a bit on our menu;  fortunately, we both could eat them for breakfast, lunch and supper!    There was a time when an egg-rich diet was considered potentially dangerous.  Not so, nowadays, and for two key reasons, it seems:  they don’t contain “bad” cholesterol, and it would appear that there are now even questions about whether cholesterol is the consequence of too much unsaturated fat.  Adding fuel to this fire is the move to a low carbohydrate, high-fat diet – people are Banting bonkers at the moment.  I’m not knocking it as I have been leaning in that general direction for a while…

Eggs are an essential ingredient in many things we eat, often without realising it, for example mayonnaise,  cakes and cookies, rich pastries and of course, in custards, including the savoury custard in a quiche. My home made pasta is egg-rich.  So, we eat eggs, often, and not just for breakfast.


Over the weekend, have sort of a ritual.  I loathe early mornings and am virtually non-functional, so what needs to be done must be done in “auto pilot”.  On a Saturday, because there is no alarm, things are a little more leisurely, but we still need to be at the McGregor pop-up market, and set up by nine o’clock,  so our day begins without breakfast.Speckeldy EggAfter the market, we get home and unpack the bakkie (also known, depending on where you live, as a pick-up or ute), and Tom does breakfast: soft boiled eggs, toast and coffee.  He’s a real egg-boiling pro, and if the batch of eggs contains a speckled one – it’s always mine!  The speckled egg is another throwback to my childhood and Alison Uttley’s wonderful stories about Grey Rabbit and Speckeld Hen;  stories that my granny read to us when she visited South Africa in 1969 into 1970.  A “speckeldy” egg always gets me clucking with childlike delight!

Sunday is a whole different ball game; breakfast is the full catastrophe! Fried egg, beautiful, homemade bacon, fried tomato, mushroom, brinjal, potato… And, needless to say, toast or croissant, and coffee. We love our Sunday brunch which, weather permitting, we usually eat on our lovely, sunny veranda.


So, if that was breakfast, what about lunch, you ask.  Well, ever since I was a tot, a favourite sandwich was egg mayonnaise – it still is.  I even enjoyed the ones we got at boarding school!  There can be few things more delicious than lovely fresh bread, hard boiled egg, grated and mixed with home made mayonnaise, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Jazz that up with some fresh parsley, a lettuce leaf and some sliced tomato, and you have a feast!

But you don’t have to stop there:  firm, but not quite hard-boiled eggs (so that the yolk is not quite cooked and a lovely rich, orange colour), added to a green salad are delicious, on a hot summer’s day.

On a cooler day, here’s a thought:  poached eggs on freshly picked spinach, wilted, with tomatoes, topped with a dollop of cottage cheese, grilled.  Fresh fennel goes well with all of these components, so I use it both as a garnish and as an element in the meal – with or without lovely crusty bread.Poached eggs on spinachAbout poaching eggs:  make sure that your eggs are as fresh as possible, and add a little vinegar to the water when you cook them.  Once they’re cooked to your taste, remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on a cloth (not paper towel – it sticks to the egg and is hard to get off).  Allow them to drain for a little while – there is nothing worse than a poached egg that deposits puddles of water over your plate!


A regular supper, one night during the week, has egg as the main protein, in one form or another: an omelette, a Spanish Omelette, a frittata, or a quiche, accompanied by a garden salad.  A two-egg omelette, with a filling of your choice, which includes cheese, is a really filling and easy meal.100_3048If you’re nervous about folding an omelette, and other than practice, my technique is to make sure that I use a pan that is the right size, and I don’t believe anything is non-stick, so I always add a knob of butter and olive oil.  Don’t overheat the pan….  Once the eggs are in the pan, don’t fiddle with them until you see that the edges are cooking.  Then, with a small egg lifter, draw a little egg towards the centre and allow the runny egg to flow out to the edge.  Once the egg is mostly cooked, add your filling – on one side and then gently lift the other over it.

Another tip about folding omelettes over their fillings:  make sure that you have the pan handle at nine o’clock.  Put the filling on the same side, between twelve and six o’clock.  Then you can comfortably hold the pan and gently lift the other side of the omelette over the filling, and then slide it onto a warm plate.  If you’re left handed, do it the other way round, i.e. have the handle at three o’clock, etc…

Have a look at another supper that includes eggs, cooked in a tomato sauce….




Veg-ing out

wpid-20140730_200027-1.jpgI have flirted with vegetarianism on and off for about thirty years, particularly when I lived alone – which I have done, not unhappily, on and off, until I finally settled down with Tom.   One of the first, if not the first, recipe book I bought, was the A – Z of Vegetarian Cooking in South Africa.  And two of our favourite quiche fillings (leek & onion, and spinach & feta) are based on recipes from this book.  I do confess that I work very hard at not thinking about the journey that meat must take to reach my kitchen.

Consequently, entertaining friends who are vegetarian is fun! Well, I think so, anyway.  For some, it’s a challenge, so I thought I’d share with you what I did when our neighbours joined us for a long overdue dinner, a few weeks ago.

It was a Friday evening and Fridays are my day in the kitchen, preparing for the market.  This particular Friday, I was really in the mode, so it was in for a penny, in for a pound.  The broccoli was ready to pick and we had ripe gooseberries, so there were two ready ingredients.

That said, it was cold and miserable and had the makings of becoming even more so, and what is more warming than cottage pie, I thought.   So, instead of the beef mince, I used beautiful green lentils, soaked and cooked, that were added to sautéd onions and mushrooms.  This was seasoned with chopped garlic, some tomato paste, a twig of fresh rosemary and a good glug of red wine.  A lesson I learned, and which I had forgotten, was that it’s really easy to let this mixture dry out – watch it and add water and/or vegetable stock so that it stays nice and moist as the flavours develop.  Transferred to an oven proof dish, this was topped with a potato and butternut mash, dotted with knobs of butter and baked in the oven for about 20 minutes to half an hour.  The butter is what gives you the crispy, caremelised crust on the cottage pie which was served with a garden salad.

100_2974 100_3150So, we started our dinner with broccoli soup, made with the first picking, and discovered to my delight, that not only does Ant enjoy soup,  but particularly loves creamy ones.

For dessert, we had a gooseberry tart with jam I had made earlier in the day.

No meal is complete without wine.  We don’t really do the wine-pairing thing.  Although we do take the menu into consideration, we choose what we like, and what we think our guests will like.  As usual, we chose beautiful wines from our valley:  Tanagra‘s Heavenly Chaos (isn’t that a wonderful name for a wine?), a lovely red blend, which is beautifully different every year, and Springfield’s Life from Stone, one of my favourite Sauvignon Blanc wines.

Pat and Ant, it was fun – we’ll do it again! 100_3151

Eating to live and living to eat?

I enjoy preparing and eating food.  I lost my sweet tooth a long time ago, although I do enjoy the odd dessert from time to time. 100_3048 My preference is for uncomplicated meals which, in old fashioned language, would have been known as “balanced”.  Although not vegetarian, I prefer not to eat meat every day, eating quite a few vegetarian meals – often with eggs and cheese.

Over the last few weeks I have heard and read much about converts to the Banting diet, and similarly also heard what the detractors are saying about it.  Also, over the past few months, I have made certain choices about my own eating habits:  in mid-January, I decided to try to do without bread and potatoes.  During the week.

I know from previous efforts at diets that they are deadly:  for personal harmony and for the weekly menu, particularly if it’s not just me that’s to be considered.  So, I decided that those were the only two things that I would change – and only for me.  I continued having my evening tipple and cooking dinner in exactly the same way as I always had.  Lunches, for me, are salads which include either lots of cheese or cold chicken and, sometimes quiche or soup (there is always a protein, and with most tasty protein, there is fat).  As time has progressed, I have found myself avoiding other starches, 100_3046particularly rice and commercial pasta.  I make my own pasta, and as I’ve mentioned before, that has had an impact on the quantity we eat per serving, so I’m still eating that.  Also, when we entertain, I still make and keep our guests company with dessert, and the menu choices are not influenced by my particular proclivities.

Since I’ve been thinking consciously about these choices, and as more and more people are Banting, I have realised that for some, their conversion to a particular eating regime has become an all or nothing affair.  Similarly, I am astounded, respect but fail to understand, people who go on diets that make them feel as though they are living in hell.  Each to their own.

So, my “almost-no-carb-journey” has been a relatively easy one because I’ve not cut it completely.  I have taken on board, with great relief, that full cream milk and butter are ok.  (Tom has never approved of low fat anything…)  I have long rejected margarine because of the way it was made, and what it consists of (and it tastes horrid).  A few years ago, on examining the contents of yoghurt, come to the conclusion that Greek yoghurt was better for one than the low fat options that are full of sugar and starch stabilisers!

And then, there’s more:  Having stuck to my choices, I no longer get hungry and consequently am not eating as much.  I am happy 100_2530to stop eating when I am satisfied.  I thought that I would find it difficult to stick to this when I was travelling;  it hasn’t been.  It’s easy to “lose the chips” and order a burger without the bun.

And what has all of this meant in terms of my own well-being?  I have certainly lost weight – my friends and my clothes are telling me so.  I don’t have a scale, so I couldn’t tell you how much.  I feel better in myself and have more energy.  And best of all, because I do still get to enjoy a slice of toast and Bovril or pizza, and my glass(es) of wine, I really don’t miss the bread and potato.

So, I do eat to live, and I live to (cook and) eat!

Beetroot: it’s beautiful – and delicious

We have a bumper beetroot crop at the moment and although it’s easy to bottle, it’s also100_2859 great doing new things with it.  Freshly pulled, beetroot cooks more quickly than when shop bought, and is beautifully tender and sweet – another reason not to just pickle it.  Besides being delicious roasted or simply added to a leafy green salad, here are two salads that have become firm favourites with us.

This first one is often requested by our friends, so I suppose it has become one of my “signature” dishes.  The other is a new addition to the repertoire.  More of that in a mo….

Beetroot and plum salad

The original recipe for this salad comes from Fruit & Veg City’s range of recipe books which I have adapted (Not that there’s an outlet anywhere near McGregor…).  I’ve served it on a large platter for a buffet meal, and this Christmas, served it plated, as a starter – either way, the presentation is the same, just the scale varies – and it’s very attractive.2013-12-25 18.55.52

In terms of quantity, I usually work on one beetroot (cooked and sliced) and plum per person and then work the leaves and other bits accordingly. Make sure that you select beetroot of similar sizes so that when you assemble your plate or platter, you don’t get all balled up because things don’t look right.

The salad consists of fresh plums, pitted and quartered, red onions, thinly sliced (or chopped spring onion leaves), all marinated, in a lemony vinaigrette for about an hour.

To assemble:  if you’re using a platter, place a circle of overlapping slices of beetroot around the edge and then pile salad leaves in the centre (the original recipe says baby spinach), top with the plums, reserving some of the marinade, and sprinkle crumbled feta over these and then drizzle some of the remaining marinade over the plate.

Rocket, beetroot and goat’s cheese salad

We recently went to see the magnificent gardens at Babylonstoren.  There is al100_2759so a restaurant, Babel.  The menu is based on seasonal fare with much of the produce from the garden and surrounding area.  Although we didn’t eat there, we did get the book about the garden and its produce, and also some of the recipes they use. The approach is interesting, in that it talks about a particular vegetable, and what other ingredients compliment it.  On the way home from our visit, we also passed Fairview and had bought some of their fabulous goat’s cheese.

100_2864So given both the glut of beetroot and my reluctance to use rocket (which, I think can be overpowering), I gave one of the combinations suggested a bash – beetroot, rocket and goat’s cheese.  This is what I came up with:  Beetroot on a bed of rocket, with slices of black pepper chevin, drizzled with lemon and parsley pesto.

It was delicious – the sweet beetroot is a fantastic counter to the peppery harshness of the rocket and the textures work beautifully.

And then, there’s more…

Remember that if you’re growing your own beetroot, the leaves are a wonderful addition to salads and stir fries.  The flavour is rather earthy, like spinach, and young leaves add lovely colour variations.