Country eating..and eating…and still eating

When you are invited to spend the weekend contemplating scenery like this, it is only proper that you devote a few days to thinking about food before the fact, so that nothing can get in the way of two days of carefully planned indolence (not to mention that there are no shops, so if you don’t have it with you, you aren’t going to eat it).

The brief: four (maybe five) adults, two children. No hunger.

How could I not fall down the brownie hole once again? We needed snacks. And I needed to try two recipes that my pathetic poor willpower could not resist. “Peanut butter brownies with chocolate chunks” (you see? Though we may argue about whether they are brownies or blondies, seeing as they came out, well, “blonde”):

And continuing with the healthy theme (I had to think of the children!), there was of course the King Arthur Flour recipe for “Tasting is Believing Whole-Grain Brownies”. These I imagined turning into an adult (=boozy) dessert by topping them generously with sticky-brandy-and-coffee-prunes and a dollop of brandied mascarpone. (I tested this latter idea on the hapless Philosophe the night before we left. It worked. So, apparently, does wholewheat flour in a brownie.)

Well, we never got to that dessert (a coconut pie got in the way, as well as a box of those evil Lindt chocolate balls), but we did manage to scarf most of the brownies, and the prunes and mascarpone have been churned to a delightful (=boozy) ice cream, awaiting the attack of Signe’s sweet tooth later this evening.

More importantly, a delightful weekend in the country was the perfect opportunity to get busy with Ottolenghi’s caramelized garlic tart. Three whole heads of garlic, and a lot of goat’s cheese. I was all over it.

That was a damn fine tart/quiche/lunch, and if you like garlic and goat’s cheese you should do yourself a favour and get Plenty and get cooking.

And if you like lobster and pasta and wondered how the twain should ever meet, consider Alfred Portale’s lobster bolognese. That was our (superb) dinner on the first night, and lunch for some two days later.

In fact, after days of eating (and drinking) magnificently, no meal was perhaps more so than our final one, even though to look at the table you may have struggled to see the narrative thread. It was lunch on the stoep in the sun. There was a delicious Asian-y salmon salad. Warm crusty bread and butter. Guacamole. Salami. A slab of White Rock with Cranberries from Fairview (a most delightful little cheese, tart and sweet and cheesy all at once. And so good for your urinary tract!). There was a slice of caramelised garlic tart which no one wanted to claim but still managed to disappear, crumb by crumb. There was a small bowl of lobster bolognese which went the same way.

We first washed it down with some De Trafford Chenin, and then we carried on washing it down with the Secateurs Chenin.

For dessert there were peanut butter “brownies”. Wholewheat brownies. Some coconut pie. Sticky koeksisters brought by our travelling friend the extra adult the day before. And there was of course also a selection of “sweet shop” goodies from nowhere less than The Fat Duck in Bray (Heston is a genius).

Needless to say we were happy and full when we packed up and got into our cars to roll back to the city. And doubtless already thinking about the next occasion for cornucopia. That’s just how we roll.

We are not unlucky people.

Twitter saga with The Awful Poo Lady (#TAPL)

In case you missed it, here follow accounts of the fascinating saga that unfolded over the last few days involving nutrition-nazi Gillian McKeith (“PhD”), and Ben Goldacre (actual PhD, and author of Bad Science). (Short of long, @gm accused @bg of telling “lies” about her in his book. Read the chapter in question for yourself here). This is a story of the great value of social media over bad science.

From Jack of Kent, (a blog “mainly about the misuse and misrepresentation of Law”), “The Integrity and Honesty of @gillianmckeith”

From Cubik’s Rube, “The Awful Poo Lady Loses her Shit

From David Naylor, “Gillian McKeith vs. Ben Goldacre

From BoingBoing, “Pseudoscience’s “Awful Poo Lady” can’t flush twitterings

Strawberries soaked in vodka fail to impress

So after my recent bold declaration that this Doctor’s brownie adventures are officially over, I was naturally confronted with all sorts of Facebook banter offering yet more tips and tricks for that thing I had just renounced. The most evil of these was a recipe which calls for cocoa powder dissolved in hot water (rather than melting chocolate), along with the suggestion that the water be replaced by booze (Nina, you know who you are).

Talk of booze in food often takes the turn of trying to discover how best to keep it in there. If you dissolve cocoa in a cup of bourbon, won’t it all just evaporate during baking (for instance)? In other words, how does one maintain the integrity of a truly boozy brownie?

Well since brownies were out, and I had recently spotted a recipe for white-chocolate-raspberry blondies, things quickly spiralled downhill. In the fridge: raspberries, no; dried strawberries, yes. In the freezer: vodka, yes. The strawberries looked very pretty in their vodka bath, and the vodka looked very pretty when I removed the strawberries a few hours later (it was, in fact, bright red, which leads me to seriously doubt the naturalness of the dried strawberries. But hey, colourful vodka cocktail coming up soon).

Worse: the blondies were dry, and not boozy at all. Had they been presented at tea time as what old Danish aunties call “sandkage” (this one you can work out for yourself), they would have been a hit. But as blondies, they were dismal failures.

I’ve made blondies before, and they were yummy and chewy and more-ish, so I blame the recipe. But I should have known better – it came from a British magazine, and what do the Brits know about blondies? Like, who would actually follow a Jamie Oliver recipe for brownies? (Don’t bother, I already did.)

Speaking of which, I believe Mr. O is now doing his very own 30-minute meals. This is amazing. Because that is exactly what Rachael Ray has built an entire empire on. He was even on her show earlier this year. So it’s not like they don’t know each other. Couldn’t he have called it “29-minute Meals”? Or, “Dinner In A Jiffy”? Or, “Pukka Nosh in Half a Tick”? Really. Anything but “I’m Just Going To Take Someone Else’s Idea And Hope That No One Notices”.

Then again, maybe it’s all the same anyway. As Michael Ruhlman put it not long ago,

‘Part of the problem is the magazine editors and television producers drumming us over the head with fast and easy meal solutions at home. It’s the wrong message to send. These editors and producers and publishers are backing the processed food industry, propelling their message. What I say to you magazine editors and producers, to you Rachael Ray and you Jamie Oliver and your 20 minutes meals: God bless you, but you are advertising and marketing on behalf of the processed food industry.’

Well, I don’t know about the God bless you part. And hey, I’m all for knocking things up in a hurry, and if the Ray and the Oliver can make that happen, then good for them. But when it panders to a public that (apparently) hasn’t got the attention span to realise that what Sir O. says is nothing new, then I’m off that bus.

Those people they create would probably even say my blondies were delicious.

PS. To clarify, when I first heard about the 30-minute meal venture, I tweeted the man himself to ask if RR hadn’t been doing the same thing for years. His response:

I guess we don’t all interpret “potential problem?” equally.

If I were a TV cook…

(or a cookbook author for that matter), I could imagine myself delivering all number of clever little tips and tricks – as they do – to give people the idea that I sit around and think hard and long about what works and what doesn’t.

For my (to die for) “caramelized brussel sprouts with pecan nuts and blue cheese”, for instance, I would tell you that the secret is to add the garlic at the last minute of pan-time. That way you get a kick of fresh garlic to temper the sweetness of the sugar and nuts, but without the harshness of actual fresh garlic. (Because don’t you also find that if you add garlic too early, it loses its oomph?) You want garlic. But you want it just right. This is how, trust me.

(Excuse the photograph. My stylist is away watching Argentina getting thrashed by Germany).

If I were Jamie Oliver, I would tell you that this goes fantastically with small, crumbed pork cutlets (and a nice dollop of horseradish on the side), and then tell you how easy crumbed pork is to throw together. (Like this: bish bash bosh).

If I were Rachael Ray, I would tell you not to bother with the bish bash bosh, because I don’t have the time, and you don’t have the time or money to hop on your scooter, head down to your friendly (organic) butcher, have a chat about the missus, get some beautiful hand-reared, grass-fed, acupuncture-tenderised local pork, and neither do you have half a loaf of day-old sourdough lying around waiting to be whizzed into crumbs in the KitchenAid (which you don’t have either).

Continue reading “If I were a TV cook…”

‘ʁøðgʁøːˀð mɛð ‘fløːðɛ

So last night I had my Nigella moment. Some friends are exhibiting at an upcoming art event in Roskilde (that’s in Denmark, where the big annual rock festival happens), and the theme is “Localities”. Being the charming Doing it for Daddy girls, they decided to subvert the expected take on South Africa and instead make a film about me. How clever is that!

OK, it is a film about a Dane living outside of Denmark perhaps. (An extra-Dane?). Or about a “Dane” cooking a “Danish” meal in a kitchen in Cape Town. Whatever. We’ll let them do the analysis. But it did give me a chance to devise a funky menu, spend most of a day cooking (if we start counting at 9am when I put a 5kg leg of pork in the oven), and to be on camera.

Continue reading “‘ʁøðgʁøːˀð mɛð ‘fløːðɛ”

Enough with the footie

Really, no one wants to hear any more about Inglan’s miserable performance, or about how self-satisfied the Danes must be with themselves this morning (like we they really need another reason to be self-satisfied, but fair enough: we they are red, we they are white, we they are Danish dynamite). Nor is it anyone’s business that I have done approximately half a stitch of work since this whole debacle began, because if I’m not sitting in a stadium with 64 099 other people, I am glued to the telly watching a game which I don’t understand and which I really don’t care about. And I certainly wouldn’t share with you my private prediction that I may even continue to watch the occasional match after the WC. It’s a ridiculous waste of time and quite frankly I think the game should be banned. Maybe then those stupid plastic horns would finally rest in peace.

No, let’s rather talk pork. Continue reading “Enough with the footie”

Foodball

So yesterday the cork popped on the much anticipated goose-fest. It was a long, hard day which required careful planning and execution, all moving backward from the final, and BIG event, which was us in the stadium for the Cape Town kick-off at 8.30pm.

Resigned to the fact that there would be little parking, we carefully selected a good halfway house where we could rest on our long walk to the stadium. So we set off at 12.30pm, and a few moments later we were establishing ourselves at Caveau, getting ready for the big haul. Two bloody marys, a few beers (plus obligatory shots of gees tequila), a burger, skinny fries, a crispy spring roll (with sweet chilli sauce), plenty of biltong, and mild deafness from the fucken vuvus, we were ready to go. Continue reading “Foodball”

Don’t touch me on my gees

Yesterday I tweeted that ‘Cape Town looks like a bumper car track. Roads full of little cars with little flags. Beep Beep. Madness begins. I will survive.’ The darling (football-mad) Philosophe thought that wasn’t a very nice thing to say. Not in the gees.

Along with vuvuzela, gees is one of the words of the moment down here in the south, where players, fans, hooligans et al converge for the big football party (yawn). I haven’t been able to find a phonetic spelling for it, but just imagine the opening consonant like the gg in “dagga”: more of a soft, epiglottal hiss than a hard g. Gees means spirit, and the idea is that we should all be in its possession by now. Continue reading “Don’t touch me on my gees”

The Little Mermaid

In Peru, there is a little girl who was born with a mermaid’s tail. To you and I, that means she was born with a rare condition called sirenomelia (siren apparently being Latin for mermaid). When you have sirenomelia, you are born with your legs fused together. Like a mermaid. But also with the problem of having no external sex organs, and your entire urological system in your anus. (Then again, maybe mermaids have that too). Continue reading “The Little Mermaid”