Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sweet Song of the Supermarket-Till Siren

There is something to be said for Sweetie Pies. Do they ever lose their gooey, magical charm? My long-pondered verdict? Nope. Never. Never, ever, ever!

Just look at my own sweetie-pie in this photo. The sheer delight painted in sticky marshmallowy smiles all over her face says it all: Sweetie Pies rock. Big time! Layla has inherited her Grampi's sweet tooth, but with a twist of sophistication: she turns her nose up at the usual kids' confectionary fare of rainbow jelly-tots, jelly beans and jelly-babies --- opting instead for Lindt dark chocolate, Marcel's English Toffee frozen yoghurt and halva ice-cream! (And, with great culinary flair, she prefers crabstick salad, kalamata olives and camembert to burgers and hot dogs! Is there a mini-Nigella lurking inside that sweetie pie of mine?)

Anyway - back to the Sweetie Pie phenomenon. After witnessing Layla's ooh-and-aah-accompanied decimation of said Sweetie Pie, I've been toying with the idea of creating a series of Sweetie Pie desserts and tea-time confections. Each time, however, the glamorously humble Sweetie Pie triumphs, making each idea of mine utterly obsolete. I give up! (*happy sigh*)

So next time you're at the till, waiting to pay, simply succumb to the goo and glory of that Sweetie Pie that has your name written all over it! I know I will. (Big thanks to my little gastronaut for reminding me that it's the tiny pleasures in life that fill that secret pocket of joy in your heart! That pocket of joy from which spring smiles at strangers, random acts of kindness, stopping to smell a wildflower growing on the pavement -- and picking it to put in your hair or give to someone who needs a dose of compassion and hope! Hmmm... Just had an even better idea: keep a few Sweetie Pies in your bag or car, and hand out at happy random!)

Au revoir, all x

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Vitamin Veg!

Yebo. The ol' battle between nutrition and child has arrived at my front door -- but thankfully with very little vengeance or veggie venom!

However... Vitamins exist for a reason. And that reason is unavoidably critical to the well-being and general health of my child. Hence, my frantic Googling of child-luring veggie recipes tonight!! Before, Layla was a regular muncher of cherry tomatoes, avo, cucumber, (raw!) aubergines and ... kalamata olives. (She once threw open the fridge door, age 22 months, requesting olives for breakfast. 12 olives later, and she was as ready for the day as I am after my first cuppa! Another time, at the same age, she sat on the kitchen counter while I shimmied up a summer salad, and - snacking on avo - announced, in no uncertain terms and with great culinary flair, 'Fantastic!' The first time I'd ever heard her use this um... fantastic descriptor!)

Supper tonight, vitamin/fibre-boosted and elegantly yummy: oodles of garlic turned soft and golden in olive oil, then - softly boiled cauliflower is added and 'smooshed' (i.e. unless you have a blender/whizzer) till smooth. Add milk, Ina Paarman's potato seasoning (Layla's seasoning of choice) and some grated cheddar. Reduce till creamy. Add pasta or noodles! Layla gobbled it up with relentless and gullible enthusiasm! Yeeeeeha! Another vitaminny victory!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Allium Sativum Ad Nauseum Etcetera Etcetera

Garlic. When I do eventually get round to writing my recipe book, it will just HAVE to be titled, 'Garlic' --- though quite how this will be translated into the dessert section still eludes me...
Tonight, I am cooking Supper Pour Moi Seulement. (Supper For Me All On My Ownsome.) But - rather happily, mind you. Because........ (*great smacking of lips/salivating*) I have used no less than SEVEN quite giantesque cloves of garlic. Yebo. Heavenly, eh?
Supper is:
1. Delicate mountains of garlic bathed till golden in olive oil over blue-moon gas flame.
2. Mushrooms, chopped in my apparently trademark 'chic carelessness'.
3. Milk - reduced lovingly to a cream.
4. Salt and pepper, of course.
5. Gnocchi boiling to its comfort-food tenderness.
6. And, the single mother's dash of economical flair: thin slices of extremely yummy cocktail 'sossies' originally bought for Layla.

And so, I sit myself down, glass of Audacia's 'Rouge Noble' to stir the dreams for slumber and my little feast-for-one.

Bon appetito!

Sent via my BlackBerry from Vodacom - let your email find you!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Culinary C*ck-up...

Three 'vrot' bananas and one ravenous toddler ---- and a mother with a problem: she's not into weighing and measuring in the kitchen. So, despite the glories of recipe books where dishes have been tried and tested and tasted by actual experts, this mommy decides to do her usual thang: fly by night/al fresco/c'est la vie etc. That is, 'I'm such a fabulous cook that recipe measurements are for sissies with no gastronomic intuition or foodie flair!' (*snort*)

Jamaican Banana Fritters? You MUST measure and weigh. Even if it means they will only be ready by tonight, or else you will end up like moi --- humiliated, scandalised... And hungry.

My initial mixture had too much banana and not enough flour, so the fritters burnt frighteningly fast into floppy, black sweet smooshes. And then, to remedy the smooshiness, I sieved in more and more and more and more flour. Result? Rubbery, bland things I was tempted to turn into flip-flops... Layla, however, saved my wannabe-chef-ego: she's gobbled them all up. And asking for more!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Little Spice is Super Nice!

Coffee with my friend, Youngju, a new arrival from Korea here in South Africa, always produces at least a thousand laughs - ranging from glooooorious little giggles to giant guffaws! How perfectly universal is the shared blessing of the human laugh!
Amy Tan
Youngju's sister makes (and sells!) her own kimchi. While we were having coffee at the little deli down the road from Layla's school, she jumped up to catch the manager to find out whether her order of Chinese cabbages had arrived. And, the flabbergasted delight on her face when I asked if it was for kimchi -- because I actually knew about something belonging to her and her roots -- reminded me of just how universal, just as smiles are, that alienating, lonely, misunderstood state of being a foreigner. To clarify: not merely a foreigner travelling through another country on an adventure, but a foreigner who has moved into an alien land and is trying to send down roots, and settle into a happy sort of limbo between belonging within their new, adopted culture and retaining the sense of their cultural own roots and original identity that is cradled in their mother country. (I first learnt about kimchi from reading novels written by Korean authors -- most notably and affectionately, Amy Tan. Nicely appropriate for this particular post, her novels are set within the expat paradigm of the Korean living in America.)

Kimchi can loosely be likened to a fabulously spicy and exciting sort of sauerkraut. It is essentially pickled and brined cabbage - but spiced up to the nines with red chilli! Orangey-red in colour (no doubt from the red chilli?!) it is literally exploding with vitamins -- and fibre -- making it one of the world's healthiest foods!

Kimchi is made of various vegetables and contains a high concentration of dietary fiber, while being low in calories. One serving also provides over 50% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C and carotene. Most types of kimchi contain onions, garlic, and chilli peppers, all of which are salutary. The vegetables being made into kimchi also contribute to the overall nutritional value. Kimchi is rich in vitamin A, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), calcium, and iron,[13][14] and contains a number of lactic acid bacteria, among those the typical species Lactobacillus kimchii.[15][16][17] Health magazine named kimchi in its list of top five "World's Healthiest Foods" for being rich in vitamins, aiding digestion, and even possibly reducing cancer growth.[18]
Love the uber-South African tray
holding the plate of sushi (which
I VERY happily sampled at 10am this
Youngju's sister and her mom were outside in the garden this morning, peeling a literal truckload of garlic (see pic.) (Reminding me of yet another expat experience ---- when my Indian friend, Navjot, cooked me up my own personal storm of curries in London where I was handed my very own rollertowel to mop up my tears and what(s)not!) I've asked Young to teach me how to make kimchi --- and upon her agreeing, I was told  it would take an entire day! Well, why the hell not?! When we can squeeze this day of slicing, dicing 'n spicing into our mommy-full days, I'll definitely be posting back here about it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Butter Fingers!

AT LONG BLERRY LAST I am  back in the swing of things after two very painful, exhausting months (which I will not be writing about, so sigh with relief! Only calorie-rich joy will find its way into today's blog post!)
Layla (with a wee bit of help from moi) made her very first birthday cake yesterday: and discovered the chocolatey bliss of spatula and bowl-licking! Because of the endless curiosity of the Toddler Chef, I opted for Ina Paarman's chocolate cake mix to cut down on our frustration levels. Because? Ok. Picture this: Layla sitting on the kitchen counter within lightning-fast reach of a thousand different ingredients (eggs, milk, vanilla essence, sugar, flower, cocoa, oil, butter...) and being told: 'No, don't touch! No, don't spill it!' And for me and my hating-to-perpetually-say-no parenting approach, I thought: the less ingredients, the better!

What was extremely lekker about using Ina Paarman's mix, besides the minimalism of ingredients, was that I only used a whisk and one mixing bowl! The only additional ingredients were 3 eggs, oil and a cup of hot, black coffee. Lusciously easy! (Saying that, the Ina Paarman's chocolate icing mix was a little more elbow-greasy and messy. The mix comes in a triangular sachet (complete with handy little icing nozzle) --- and then, you need to empty icing powder into a bowl with the butter. I should never have been so lazy to haul the electric beater out... Combining the butter and icing with a wooden spoon --- naggingly impatient toddler asking, 'Is it ready yet, my mama?' at least once every 15 seconds --- did not make for an easy icing experience! Oh yes - and then, you need to spoon the mixture back into the triangular sachet, snip off the tip to the size you want your icing to come out, and then squeeeeeeeze!)
Perhaps the most trying part of it was explaining to Layla - over and over and over and over and over - that we had to wait for Grampa to get home from work before we could tuck into his birthday cake. (*sigh*)
Anyway - the cake was delicious and moist --- but not nearly as delicious and magnificent as watching Layla sitting on the counter next to Grampa's cake (resplendent in a thousand Smarties), candles aglow, singing 'Happy Birthday' to him!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lazy Mama Pasta!

There's been very little culinary magic on my particular homefront thanks to an exhausting amount of editing, except for one special little lunch where I finally decided I needed more nutritional and gastronomic goodness than a slice of toast and the ubiquitous smear of Bovril.

{My Italian Mama alter-ego saves me from yet another slice of toast & Bovril!}
And so, one frazzled, overworked day at home, I created this little pasta-lunch which I call my 'Lazy Mama Pasta'!
I turned the stove on (one of this little mini stove/oven thingys - perched atop a very special oak cabinet) to boil up a small pot of water for my dubiously 'authentic' Italian fettucine. While the water took its usual age to heat to boiling to point, I reached for my culinary cure-all: garlic. And not just a sedate little clove or two, but 4 juicily fat ones! A fellow gastronaut-in-arms bought me an exquisite garlic chopper I have been unable to live without for the last 4 years ---- a half-an-apple sized clear pespex 'car' whose lid pops open to receive the peeled garlic cloves, and then - as you push the wheels along your worksurface, the blade inside the 'car' slices an' dices the garlic to chunky perfection. What I cherish about this, is how all the fullness and flavour is used, compared to that piddly garlic-crusher puree that's squished out into meek sauces, stews and soups!
Anyhow, onward ho! Frozen spinach whizzed till 'blanched' in the microwave (a pet-hate of my slow-loving nature, but sometimes unavoidable when juggling motherhood and working from home.) Feta out the fridge.

1. Ever so gently golden-up the garlic in olive oil. Scent with crushed black pepper, and salt according to taste.
2. Add the spinach, and allow the garlic-infused oil to work its magic on all that defrosted, supermarkety ordinariness.
3. Pasta ready, throw in the spinach/garlic - and crumble as much feta as you desire over the top, and - voila: easy luxury-on-the-cheap!

This'd work gorgeously if you replaced the spinach with either tomatoes&basil or peas&mint! But whatever you do ------ DON'T FORGET THE GARLIC!