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….




Small dinner parties

We have had occasion, this month, to host two very different dinner parties.  One was a birthday for a friend of ours and her teenage daughter, and the other for new-ish friends into whose home we have been warmly welcomed.  The birthday celebration was mid-week and relatively impromptu, while the other was a little longer in the planning and coincided with the Easter long weekend.  I thought I’d share with you how these two, rather different dinners were put together – from the planning to the table setting.

First off, most of our entertaining is with food that doesn’t take us away from our guests.  What is the fun in having people to share a meal with you if you’re banished to the kitchen because the what you’re cooking demands all your attention?

Simple does, however, require some planning and advance preparation. One of Pearli_Weber_2014the easiest meals to produce with the minimum of fuss is a roast:  a lot can be done beforehand and, depending on what you’re roasting, it’s looking after itself when (and for a while after) your guests arrive.  We always do our roasts on the Weber which has two benefits – you can roast your vegetables under the meat which also has the most wonderful smoky flavour.

Tom and I are a great team in which there is good division of labour:  he looks after the fire, and the nyama (the Nguni word for meat) and the vegetables that are cooked in the juices that run out of the meat as it cooks.  The menu is also usually a joint effort and its planning takes into consideration our guests and the time we have at our disposal.  Entertaining during the week and with little notice can be a challenge.  It’s not a 10-minute trip to the local supermarket or butcher to get something that’s not in the pantry cupboard, nor is there a premium food store from which one can select items to make up a gourmet meal in the blink of an eye.  Then, I admit that I an my own worst enemy:  I work until late-ish, so time is at a premium and then, to make matters worse, I’m not good at taking short cuts.  So, acknowledging that I make the rod for my own back, I cope by doing careful planning which starts a couple of days (or more) before the event, itself.

The birthday dinner

Table_April2014As her birthday was on a week night with school and work the following day, this was a simple, two course meal with a Brut Methode Cap Classique from Lords, a local winery, as an aperitif. We did a topside of beef on the Weber with fresh, creamed spinach from the garden.  Of course, there was gravy made by deglazing the pan in which the roasted potatoes and butternut and had been cooked.  Potentially the most complicated part of the meal (partly because I’m not a great fan of desserts) was the berry crisp:  a relatively healthy dessert made with frozen mixed berries and topped with a butter and oat crisp, and which was baked for an hour or so in the oven.  The great thing about this dessert that it must rest for an hour or so, which makes it good to do in advance (I did it as soon as I came out of the office, and it went into the oven while everything else was being prepared).  Serve it with cream or Greek yoghurt.

So, in addition to South Africa’s answer to a good Champagne, this simple meal was special because I set a table that was different, and which included items that are special to us, and have their own stories to tell.


 Long Weekend Get-together

Since moving to the village, we have been fortunate to meet new and interesting people.  Not all live permanently in the village, so getting together can be tricky, and we were delighted to discover that over the Easter weekend, our respective calendars were included the same free evening.  Wanting to 100_2836reciprocate their hospitality, we decided to stick to our tried and trusted recipe and have a roast – leg of pork – on the Weber, with the usual suspects happily cooked underneath it.  This time we had wine braised leeks (leeks are to be the subject of another post…) and the traditional apple sauce and gravy with the roast.2014-04-13 18.23.03Because it was a holiday weekend, we decided that we needed three courses, and in South Africa, it is traditional to eat pickled fish over Easter.  The thing about pickled fish is that you cannot make it today, to eat tomorrow – it must pickle – so I made it the weekend before.  People think it’s difficult to make, partly because it’s often deep fried before being placed into the pickling sauce.  I don’t do this:  I don’t like deep fried anything, so the fish is baked (a tip from a Cape Town local) and then the warm sauce is poured over it.  Allow this to cool and then store in the fridge.  Because of the vinegar and sugar content, pickled fish can be kept comfortably (in glass rather than metal or plastic) for as long as three months.  If you have the fridge space and you like pickled fish, make a big batch!

The dessert was also something typically South African:  pureed brandied peaches whipped into Greek yoghurt and topped with cream.  Both the dessert and the starter were plated, which, along with a pretty table, added to the sense of occasion.


So, two quite different dinners that were variations on single menu:

To begin – MCC or pickled fish
The main bit – Roast beef or pork with seasonal vegetables and the traditional accompaniments
To end – Mixed berry crisp or Brandied peach whip

And the best part: because quite a bit was done before people arrived, we spent virtually all our time actually with our guests!

A twisted Vicheysoisse, among other things…

For the last year or so, I have been making and selling seasonal soups at our local pop-up market.  A soup that I made on a whim, and which we enjoyed, didn’t take off, so I didn’t Spinach and leeksmake it again.  In my recollection, there had been no sales.  Then, imagine my surprise, two Saturdays’ ago, a regular, who has been stocking up on soup, said, “What about that one you made with spinach and sweet potato?”

So, at Jean’s request, I made it again – this time in the height of summer.  Consequently, we tried it chilled:  it was as delicious cold as it was hot.  So, this is my twisted Vicheysoisse:

Roast the sweet potatoes – with onion and garlic if you like – for about 45 minutes.  Add to a large soup pot and then add roughly shredded spinach (including all the stalks – why waste them when you’re going to puree the soup anyway?), followed by vegetable stock to cover the sweet potato.   Bring to the boil and simmer for about half an hour, until all the vegetables are soft.  Puree with a hand blender and season to taste.  Serve with a swirl of plain yoghurt and a grating of nutmeg.

And, of course, the soup-making was accompanied by more seasonal quiche fillings – this time, with the addition of beautiful peppers from the garden.  Two different fillings – first, leeks with red pepers and then roasted vegetables (butternut, sweet potato, garlic, baby tomatoes, onions and peppers).

2014-02-09 09.53.17-1

Quiche-cum-savoury tarts

I promised this a while ago……………

This is a very easy way to make a quiche – I don’t have scientific measures, and when Di asked me for the recipe, I had to think about it.  So, here goes –

The basicsquiches

I use puff pastry (short pastry works just as well) and I buy it frozen.  This recipe takes half (or a quarter if you use the little dishes that I have in the picture below; and the thawed pastry keeps in the fridge for a week with no deterioration)
The custard is three eggs and 2 dessert spoons yoghurt (greek or bulgarian or low fat – whatever you choose), P&S to taste, beaten together.  If you like a less “eggy” tart, 2 eggs work just as well.

I use a rage of fillings, but our favourites are herbed leek & onion and spinach.

Leek & Onion
bunch of leeks, cleaned & chopped
medium onion, sliced
clove garlic (optional)
Fresh herbs to taste (any you would like, and which work well with cheese e.g. oregano, parsley and thyme)
115g cheddar

Spinach & Feta*
bunch of spinach, cleaned & chopped
medium onion, diced
1 tsp fresh fennell, chopped finely
half “wheel” of feta, crumbled
(optional extra about 2 dessert spoons diced, roasted butternut)
*sometimes I use cheddar – just for a change or if I’ve run out…..

Saute the onion until transparent and add the garlic, if using.  Saute for a couple more minutes and then add you veg of choice and cook until tender.  Season to taste.

Grease and line your pastry dish – I leave the pastry quite rustic.  If I’m using cheddar, I put that in first and then the rest of the filling on top of that.  The feta goes on top of the spinach and then pour over the custard.

Bake in a hot oven (200 Celsius) for about 40 minutes, depending on the size of your dish.

This serves four for a a light meal with a green salad.  For the more hungry, add some crusty seed bread or a potato salad.