Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A farewell and raspberry, mango and almond muffins

Today was a day of goodbyes and airport hugs.  The kind that is always accompanied by a few teary sobs and a few weeks of heart ache.  My sister and her kids went home to Canada today after spending six weeks here with us; never a happy event.

We spend the morning taking photographs and playing in the garden.  Her son adored the space and freedom of spending time in a country with abundant sunshine.  He wanted to be outside all-day, everyday, chasing the chickens, climbing trees, picking flowers and seeds and riding his bicycle.  So that was what we did this morning before going to the airport.  

My son, E was so sad to see his little cousin leave, heartbroken almost.  They became as close as brothers and spend hours together.  Distance is always harder for the little ones to grasp.  He has no concept of the size of the earth and always asks inquisitive questions about geography.  He wants to know if Canada is further than Johannesburg or Durban.  He wants to know if you can drive here or have to fly there.  He is trying to get to grips with the fact that his new best friend can suddenly disappear for years at a time.  Little does he know that we adults struggle with the idea too.

I thought that a day like today needs a bit of colour and cheer and therefor made little cheery raspberry muffins for breakfast.  The first batch was pretty standard with apple grated into the mixture.  But then the mango on the counter looked too appealing and I made another batch with mango.  

Muffins are the sort of thing that you can throw together on a busy morning in less than half an hour from start to finish.  And it always surprise me that something that requires so little effort can yield so much reward.  You have to try them, you know you want to.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pizza please

Don't we all love weekends?  I don't know about you, but come monday, I already look forward to friday.  It is what keeps most of us ticking through the week.  Something to look forward to.  If work becomes hectic or the schedule a mess, we all dream about a bit of free time and about kicking off our shoes.

And then come saturday, we all relax and meals just follow suit.  We take it easy and throw something together quickly.  

In my house saturday lunch often has the kids chanting:  'Pizza please'.  They love pizza.  Just plain with tomato and cheese and a bit of pesto.  Nothing fancy or elaborate.  

Do I mind making it?  Not in the least.  The process is so simple and the smell of yeast and flour so soothing.  It is really easy and really quick and much, much more satisfying than ordering the take-away version.

And it is even better the next day in a lunch box or eaten straight from the fridge a-la Nigella style.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Orchid outings, sweet potato-hazelnut cakes and plum compote

Our family often spend our weekends in summer somewhere in the mountains looking for orchids.  Not so much looking for anything specific these days as much as enjoying being out in the veld and the cooler mountain air.

Mention going to the mountains and the kids will grab their boots and hats and wait in the car.  They love it there.  We all do.

The escarpment around the Lowveld where we live hosts some of the most spectacular orchids in South Africa (well, maybe I am a little biased).  But there are some really beautiful ones that make wading through wetlands or hiking up steep slopes to see them absolutely worth it.  Want to see some photos?  You can go here and here.

Of course orchid hunting is hard work and eating something is always a must.  Our co-authors spoiled us rotten when we went on field trips while writing the book.  They were amazing and always brought the best eats and most amazing cakes, complete with cutlery and proper mugs.  These days when it is just us, plastic picnic style cutlery has to suffice, but we still like to take something special to eat.

These sweet potato cakes are a new favorite in our household.  The recipe is originally from Cannelle et Vanille, one of my all time favorite blogs.  Aran's pictures are just simply breathtaking and the recipes absolutely genius.  I often search her site for some inspiration.  These cakes happened because a friend handed me a bag of sweet potatoes from his farm one day at school and I wanted to try something different with them.  I found this recipe and now it is often on the tea table or in the lunch boxes.  That is the wonder of the web, it makes finding a special recipe and some inspiration so much easier.