Monday, May 23, 2011

Home made tortillas

I am sad today.  We lost an orchid friend last night and death inevitably forces me to contemplate life.  It just does.  

As I sit here pondering his life, the times we laughed, I also think of the people dearest to me.  The things I want to do still.  The people I want to phone and meet for coffee...  The list goes on.

Life is such a gift.  Probably the biggest we'll ever receive.  And yet we all tend to forget it sometimes.  The tangled mess that is stress, work, worries tend to derail my best intentions sometimes (all too often) to not sweat the small stuff.  

Mike Schalit commented in an interview here that his idea of perfect happiness is to wake up.  Such a simple statement, but with a naked truth that cuts to the bone.  It is essentially what we should all feel when we wake up - elation.  

Be happy when you wake up, because you woke up. 

I post a recipe in stark contrast to the mood here.  It is a happy recipe.  One for get-togethers and quick family suppers.  It is the kind of food you can get together in no time what so-ever and have more time to spend with who-ever is coming to dinner.

The tortillas take no time to prepare, but are worlds apart from the supermarket variety.  Really worth a try.  I got the recipe here.

The filling is really easy.  Just fry some chicken strips in a bit of oil and garlic until juicy.  Season with some lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Add some tomato salsa and gaucamole.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Orange and almond flapjacks

It is the season of orange here.  I looked at the garden this morning and saw so many orange flowers and leaves turning to ochers and orange-browns.  The aloes are also starting to bloom and in a month or so one whole section of the garden will just be a haze of orange.  I think I like autumn more than summer these days.  Not sure, but I think so:  beautiful, mild days and a gorgeous garden.  The only down side is the shortness of the days.  I like to sit outside and look at the sunset, but now it seems to set almost before we have time to breath after work.  

It is also the start of the citrus season.   Orchards and orchards full of juicy oranges, naartjies and lemons.  We drove to a farm stall nearby on sunday and bought huge quantities.  We eat them, juice them, eat some more.  They form the basis of our salads.  

We'll need to go again over the weekend, to buy more that is.

To me there are few scents as intoxicating as citrus zest.  I'll often squeeze an orange or lemon just to get a whiff.  It smells like winter holiday and dewy, wintery grass.  And I'll often grate a bit into food.

That's what happened over the weekend when we baked some flapjacks.  All the ingredients were lined up on the counter and I saw the oranges.  A little squeeze and my brain started thinking of ways to put the orange zest into the mix.  It worked beautifully and the orange syrup makes it even better.  Almost more grown-up.  

After the pancakes it was off to the orchid show.  You can see some pictures here.

I really had trouble putting this recipe down into measurements.  I do these so often and I always wing it.  I guess what I am trying to say is, try them, they are really easy.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vetkoek and more soup

I am not a fan of fried food.  A while back though I was craving soup and decided to make a batch of vetkoek (for the first time in ten years I might add) for the not-so-into soup bunch in my family.  It worked.  They suddenly decided that if soup meant vetkoek, they'll gladly eat the soup.  

For the uninformed, Vetkoek is as traditional in South Africa as boerewors and biltong.  We used to eat it a lot growing up.  We loved it with syrup and cheese or jam.  Or dunked it into a hot mug of soup or coffee.  It is a bit like dougnuts, but more doughy (in Afrikaans we say 'toegeslaan')

I have drifted far from my roots in the kitchen for a long time.  I started exploring the culinary wonders of other countries and found myself almost bored with the food I grew up with.  The fact that I don't eat meat probably helped.  The average, traditional meal around here definitely always centres around a meat of some kind.  

I am not the sentimental type either.  But I do find myself now wanting to instill some kind of history and tradition in my children.  Teach them just a few recipes that is part of our bones.  Things that my mother and grandmother use to serve us.  I still mostly eat very cosmopolitan food, but occasionally we crave a bit of home-grown comfort.

Last night was such a night and I obliged and cooked a big batch of Vetkoek and some hearty chicken soup and everybody dipped and slurped happily.  

I sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on the few left overs this morning and indulged in the almost dougnuty taste.  Most of them went to the workers here on the farm.  Got big smiles in return; always a happy feeling.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Autumn food - roasted butternut and caramalised onion tart and some soup

It became autumn quite suddenly here.  Actually more winter.  Freezing weather down south and really chilly in our neck of the woods for this time of the year.  We've had to pull the fluffy blankets and winter pajamas from the cupboards. Summer just disappeared too early I think.  But then I love summer and always think that it was too short I suppose.

We started eating hearty meals too.  Meals that are warmer and a little richer.  Stews and roasts and curries.  Warm meals in general are not a staple during summer in our family.  It is just simply too hot and we often eat salads and fruit platters.  All that changes when the weather starts to turn chilly.  Suddenly we crave a bit of warmth and some substance.  Hence roasted butternut.  

Roast a few at once.  Just rub their skins with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and a teaspoon or two of cumin or coriander and into the oven at 170°C for about an hour.   The possibilities of things to do with these roasted gems are endless.  They are perfect with just a sprinkle of sugar.  Even better as a soup and absolutely delicious in this tart.

On a different note:  We took over a lettuce business a couple of months ago.  Our greenhouse is now operational and we are so proud.  My dad takes care of the day to day running of it all and delivers to the local restaurants.  You may just see more salad recipes here in future.

Also, I just like to mention that the red teatowel in the background is from Skinny laMinx.  I bought it for myself as a little gift and felt so spoiled when it arrived in the post.  Heather Moore wrapped it and attached a little papercut tag with a bird.  The whole package just had 'made with love and care' written all over it.  I was simply smitten with the contents too.