A refreshing drink – Sekanjebin

We have been having a serious heat wave.  The air is hot and humid and each time you move you perspire and your clothes stick to your skin.  My remedy has been to swim about ten times a day – I jump in every time I walk past the pool which lies between my bedroom cottage and the main cottage.  I also have been drinking vast amounts of liquids to avoid dehydration.

I have always struggled to drink plain water, and although I am getting better at it, I do not drink my eight glasses a day.  It’s a lot easier if I add a little flavour.

This week I made this unusual cordial which is incredibly refreshing and delightful.  Don’t get put off by the ingredients – I know it sounds strange but you will see how wonderful it tastes.

Sekanjebin is a Persian drink, and can be traced back to the 13th century.  It is pretty simple to make.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups sugar or 3 cups of raw honey
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup vinegar (white or red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar – each gives a slightly different result but are equally delicious)
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
Place sugar, water and vinegar in a pot and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Add mint leaves and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes to reduce to a syrup.  Strain and bottle in glass bottles. You can store the syrup at room temperature for several months.
To serve, dilute with ice-cold water to taste – you will not need much syrup, add a sprig of mint and some ice cubes and enjoy. I sometimes add an additional dash of vinegar for some sourness.
In Iran, they often use the neat syrup as a dip for lettuce – just dip and eat.  They also add grated cucumber to the drink when serving.
I hope you enjoy this refreshing drink as much as I do.

 

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National Braai Day

As tomorrow is national braai day, I thought I would repost this post from last year. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Yes, that’s correct, South Africa has a public holiday tomorrow – and its National Braai Day. Tomorrow we celebrate one of South Africa’s proudest traditions – the braai.

A braai is a South African barbecue – unique in its preparation and celebration – obviously, as I think we may be the only country in the world that has a public holiday in honour of a barbecue.  Many in this country see the braai as a sacred ritual, performed only by those to ‘whom the tongs have been passed’.  Dare anyone without the gifted touch even go near the burning shrine.

Traditionally it is the male of the species who wield the tongs, although, as with many other processes in our world today, this is changing somewhat, much to the disgust of older professional braaiers.  It is very important for any visitor to get acquainted with the Rules Of The Braai in order not to upset the delicate balance of order that prevails.

 

The Braai Rules

Braaing, traditionally, has very specific rules of etiquette, firmly based on gender.

When a man volunteers to do the BRAAI the following chain of events are put into motion:

Routine…

  • The woman buys the food.
  • The woman makes the salad, prepares the vegetables, and makes dessert.
  • The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils and sauces, and takes it to the man who is lounging beside the grill – beer in hand.
  • The woman remains outside the compulsory three meter exclusion zone where the exuberance of testosterone and other manly bonding activities can take place without the interference of the woman.

Here comes the important part:

  • The man places the meat on the grill.

More routine….

  • The woman goes inside to organize the plates and cutlery.
  • The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is looking great. He thanks her and asks if she will bring another beer while he flips the meat

Important again:

  • The man takes the meat off the grill and hands it to the woman

More routine…

  • The woman prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces, and brings them to the table.
  • After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.

And most important of all:

  • Everyone praises the man and thanks him for his cooking efforts.
  • The man asks the woman how she enjoyed ‘her night off ‘.

When men stand around the braai – there is also a set of rules that are followed for those within the 3m testosterone zone.  Watch this.

Now that there are so many South Africans living all over the planet and intermarrying with other nationalities it has become important to add to the rules – incorporating our expat brethren to maintain the purity of the tradition.  These (slightly rude) rules follow:

Universal braai rules

  1. Men do the braaiing. But around the fire everyone’s equal, so women are more than welcome.
  2. If  you don’t know how to braai, then you’re an Aussie, Kiwi or a Pommie. Don’t braai. It’s best to leave it to the experts.
  3. You can only braai with wood. So cut down a tree, raid a skip or import a container of the real stuff. If desperate, a builder’s palette will do the trick with the aid of some briquettes added later to the burning wood.
  4. Please note that the donkey droppings you get from British supermarkets are not briquettes or charcoal. It needs to say “charka” on the outside of the bag to constitute anything remotely acceptable.
  5. Anything that claims it can be lit “instantly” without proper firelighters, petrol, paper or fine firewood should be placed under the Houses of Parliament.
  6. A fire can never be too big and coals can never be too hot. If you are someone who thinks that it can be, you are most probably an Aussie, Kiwi or a Pommie. Refer back to rule number 2.
  7. If you’re not the braaier, never comment on what the braaier is doing. It’s his braai. You are allowed to talk about the weather, the Springboks, why Kevin Pietersen should not play for the Proteas and fetch cold beer.  Leave religion, politics and your best friend’s mother out of it.
  8. A braai with more than one salad is not a braai. If you want to go for a picnic, pack a blanket and bugger off.
  9. Turn the meat regularly and spice it properly. If you want to leave it on the one side until it’s charcoal and then do the other side until it’s charcoal without spicing it, you’re an Aussie, Kiwi or Pommie. See rule number 2.
  10. If you want to have pap with your braai, prepare boerewors and make onion and tomato smoor to go with it. If you want to eat it with milk and sugar, book into the Holiday Inn in Uzbekistan and stay there.

Pap & Sous (Tamato & onion sauce/smoor) as mentioned above

UK braai rules

  1. Find proper meat. The thinly sliced bacon strips that look like Prince Charles’ ears available in UK supermarkets are just not braai meat. Go to a market or find a butcher. If your butcher doesn’t know how to cut meat properly, buy in bulk and cut it yourself. Anything thinner than the Oxford dictionary is not acceptable on the coals. If you are desperate and have to buy from a supermarket, find something with an expiry date long gone. The meat in this country is generally a month too fresh for a proper braai. Green is gold on the international braaiing stakes – just make sure you cook it properly.
  2. You can braai in summer and in winter. The fact that supermarkets stack away braai gear from October to May is ludicrous. Have they never heard of umbrellas and gazebos in this place?
  3. Create a bit of smoke at the beginning and make lots of flames to piss off the neighbours. Have some wet wood, newspaper or an old Christmas tree available just for that. If you don’t get a knock on your door from the local council within three weeks from moving in, you’re most probably an Aussie, Kiwi or Pommie. Revert back to rule number 2, as listed under the Universal Braai Rules.
  4. If you want to braai wors, braai boerewors. It’s dark red and made of real meat. If there is more than 10 per cent pig in it, it’s not wors: it’s a banger, and should be had with a hangover the next morning done in a pan with eggs.

Boerewors

You know the rules, now get out there and do it properly.

This second set of rules is courtesy of http://southafricantimes.co.uk/the-expats/community/archive/2009/08/24/how-to-braai-properly-get-the-braai-rules.aspx

I guess you can now understand why we need a national holiday to do this?

Tomorrow (24 Sept)  is in fact National Heritage Day in South Africa, (well that’s what the calendar says) although there are millions out there who would disagree if they were reading this and not out there cooking meat over hot coals.

An egg (ceptional) gift

I have been given an ostrich egg. It’s fresh and unfertilised.

Ostrich eggs are the largest of all eggs, On average they are 15 centimetres long, 13 centimetres wide, and weigh 1.4 kilograms, over 20 times the weight of a chicken egg. They are glossy cream-coloured, with thick shells marked by small pits.

I would like to attemp to make something different with it.  Most recipes on the internet talk about a savory type of egg scramble, or frittata’s.  Frying and boiling have been done too but that does not appeal to me. I would like to keep the shell so I will have to drain the egg and wont be able to keep the yolk whole.

Ostrich egg souffle anyone? Or quiche?

What other recipes use a lot of eggs?

images from daily mail and floeckscountry.com

 

 

Wild about spinach

Yesterday on our way home I saw three ladies foraging in the grass at the side of the road.  I am very interested in learning more about local foraging so I stopped to see what they were picking.  After a few stumbled attempts at finding what language (including sign language) to use in addressing them I found one lady who could speak a little english.  They were picking what they called Morogo ( the “g” sound being made as a scraping sound in the back of your throat – don’t choke).

Morogo

Description
Morogo, an African spinach, refers to a group of at least three different dark green leafy vegetables found throughout Southern Africa and harvested for human consumption. It is considered a traditional South African dish and forms an important part of the staple diet in rural communities. The Leaves have a protein content of up to 36% and high levels of vitamins A and C low levels of calcium, magnesium and iron, consumption may lower the risk of vascular-related chronic diseases and type 2 diabetes
Also known as: Wild spinach

Use
The leaves must be well washed in running water, then soaked in cold salted water. They are cooked as for spinach, wilted or steamed and seasoned, often with samp beans or potatoes and onions. Young morogo can be eaten raw in salads.

The plant they showed me however was definitely not of the amaranth variety that I know about. It was more like a creeper and they explained to me that it can climb up trees.  I managed to get a cutting which I planted at home.  Does anyone know which variety of plants are used as Morogo besides amaranth?

How to make your own feta cheese

Almost always associated with a fresh Greek salad,  salty and soft feta cheese provides a creamy texture to the crunchy veggies and olives. Because it’s cut into blocks and packaged in a salty whey brine, feta is referred to as a ‘pickled cheese’. One of the main components of the spinach and filo pie spanakopita, feta is also eaten as part of a mezze platter and is added to dishes with fish and meat as well. Although the cheese doesn’t melt, it can be used to add texture to baked pasta dishes and pizza, mixed with pesto to make a stuffing for chicken breasts or crumbled over a baked potato with a sprinkling of oregano.

We like to add it to quiches with spinach or butternut and when braaing we make a foil parcel containing feta, chopped tomatoes and garlic – heat it on the grill and serve it with warm homemade bread.

Ingredients and equipment

  • 2 liters fresh milk  (cow or goat)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh plain yogurt (with live cultures)
  • 1/2 tablet rennet, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large pot with lid (stainless steel with heavy bottom is best otherwise use an enamel pot. (No aluminium or cast iron pots)
  • Thermometer
  • Cheese cloth, muslin or dishtowel
  • Colander

Steps

  • Warm milk to 30°C (86°F), stirring it regularly so that it does not burn on the bottom. Remove it from the heat and set aside.

  • Mix 1 tablespoon of yogurt with an equal amount of milk to blend. Stir the blended yogurt and milk into the warmed milk and mix thoroughly. Cover and and allow the inoculated milk to sit for one hour at room temperature.
  • While the inoculated milk sits, dissolve 1/2 tablet of rennet in fresh, cool water. (I used powdered rennet – 1 capsule)

  • After the inoculated milk has sat for one hour, add the dissolved rennet and stir to mix thoroughly.
  • Let the inoculated, renneted milk sit covered overnight at room temperature. (I did this step in the day time and 5 hours was sufficient.)
  • Check for a clean break the next morning, by which time the milk should have gelled and some of the whey will have separated.

Close-up of clean break

Not so clean break

  • Cut the curd by starting at one side, and cut straight down to bottom. Make the next cut 1/2 inch from and parallel to the first, but sloping slightly (the sliced curd will be wider at bottom than top). Repeat increasing angle with each cut. Turn the pot 90° and repeat cuts. Repeat cuts and turning two more times. The curd pieces should be about ½ inch cubes or slices as you prefer.
  • With a very clean hand and arm, reach to the bottom and gently lift the curds to stir. Cut the large pieces that appear with a table knife so that they are ½ inch cubes.

  • Let the cut curds sit, with occasional stirring, for 10-15 minutes until curd is somewhat contracted.
  • Decant off the whey through the colander lined with the cheese cloth (folded double), pouring the curds into the cheese  cloth. Save the whey for a later step.

  • Let the cheese drain in the cloth until no more whey drains out (about 2-4 hours). It may be drained at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

  • Place the drained curds into a bowl. Mix in a 1/2 of a tspn of salt, breaking up the curd.
  • Press the cheese into a mold. Line the can withcheese cloth, place the curds inside, fold over the ends of the cloth, place the end on top, and place a weight on top of that. Let sit overnight.

  • Prepare pickling whey brine (12.5% salt): mix 350ml of whey (saved from before) with 5 tablespoons of salt. Stir to dissolve. The brine must be acidic or else the cheese will melt on the surface. The whey is made acidic by letting it sit out at room temperature, covered, for 12-24 hrs.

  • Cut the cheese into 1.5 inch cubes and place them in a wide-mouth jar. Pour brine over to cover.

  • Let the cheese pickle for several days in the refrigerator. The cheese will become drier and more easily crumbled with time.
  • Store in the refrigerator. Rinse before use to remove excess salt.

Great tasting feta cheese.  The process takes much longer than cottage cheese but much shorter than aged cheeses. If you work outside of your home I would recommend starting the whole process on a Friday evening – that way you should get your cheese into the fridge to pickle by Sunday morning. There are only a few steps to do each day so it’s not labour intensive.

My recipe is adapted from this one at WikiHow.

Cooking up a storm

This weekend I cooked up a storm.  I think my oven was on for about 8 hours!  It was a crazy time with all utensils in use.

All recipes were new experiments tested out on the Bean.  On Friday night I made a shrimp stir fry using glass noodles.  It was delicious.  Unfortunately I did not take note of quantities of everything I tossed in – the test was all about trying glass noodles for the first time. The ingredients were as follows:

We will definitely make similar dishes again.

I also mixed up some homemade lemonade using the seasons first lemons.

On Saturday and Sunday I worked on making some feta cheese – recipe and results to follow in a few days once we have sampled the result.

Then I had to restock our cookie jar as we are no longer buying any for our lunch boxes.  I baked a batch of buttermilk rusks and also made some coconut biscuits.  We should have enough for the next few weeks.  In between all this the Bean stirred up a delicious egg bacon and mushroom breakfast which we ate for lunch on Saturday.

I feel like I was washing dishes all weekend and my kitchen still looks like this!

Image by ~rumaiisa

Light, fresh and absolutely yummy – Green Pea Hummus

Two days ago I stumbled across this recipe while browsing the internet and thought I would give it a whirl.  It is probably the best recipe I have ever tried (I’m not exaggerating).  This fresh, light and luminous green paste is sublime!

Green Pea Hummus

The problem with peas is that the moment they’re picked from the pod, their natural sugars start combining and converting into starches. Peas eaten one day out of the pod taste significantly less sweet and more starchy than fresh-picked peas. Frozen peas, on the other hand, are rapidly chilled right after shucking, locking their sugars in place, so for this recipe you must use freshly picked peas or frozen peas.

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen peas (defrost frozen peas by pouring boiling water over them and leaving for a few minutes – drain.
  • 1 clove fresh garlic – crushed or finely chopped
  • a pinch of salt
  • a generous glug of olive oil

Blend all ingredients (I used a wand blender).  Spoon into a serving dish and garnish with a few peas and some freshly ground black pepper. Serve with warm pita bread. (I didn’t have pita bread so I made some roti – it would even be good served as a dip or even on toast or fresh bread.)

Variations:

  1. Add the juice of one lemon or
  2. Add some fresh mint and feta cheese or
  3. Add 1 green chilli (improvised, tried and tested by my lil sister)

This recipe takes literally 5 minutes to prepare.  I would love to hear your reactions when you try it.

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I found the original recipe and here – I adapted it to my needs. The image is also from this site.

Marula Jelly

As promised here is the recipe for Marula Jelly that I made this weekend.

Marula jelly is routinely served with any type of venison, but can be used with all types of meat.  It is delicious with cheese and biscuits or just on a slice of toast for breakfast.  It has a subtle flavour slightly reminiscent of honey.

  • Collect your marula fruit, wash them and cut or pierce the skins. Place in a large pot and cover the fruit with water and boil for 15-20 minutes.  Tip: It’s good to include some green fruit as they contain more pectin.

  • Strain the contents of the pot through a cloth (muslin or cheesecloth are good but I guess any type of clean cloth would do) and retain the water/juice

At this stage the juice looks just like fresh orange juice.

  • Wash out your pot, measure your juice and pour it back into the clean pot.
  • Add white sugar – volume for volume ie: 1 cup juice – 1 cup sugar
  • Heat gently while stirring to melt the sugar

  • Add the juice of 1 lemon per liter of juice
  • Boil rapidly for about 20 minutes or until gelling temperature has been reached (check by placing a drop or two onto a cold saucer, allowing to cool and then pushing it with your finger to see if it wrinkles)  I found I needed to boil for another 20 mins as I had a large pot of juice.  Tip:  Make sure you have enough space in the pot as the jam bubbles up very easily and you need to keep it bubbling ( I lost at least 1 bottle to “overflow”)
  • Bottle the jelly in sterilised bottles ( I boil mine)
  • Water-bath your bottles if this is your routine when making jams ( I don’t)
  • Allow to cool, label and store in a cool place until opening
  • Store open bottles in the refrigerator

I used about 5kg of fruit and this made 8 small bottles of jelly.

Eating Animals… or Not (via Barnyard Bookworm)

In green/eco/slow living circles there is a constant debate over being vegan/vegetarian or not. This blog from my friend Barnyard Bookworm covers the issue really nicely. I hope you enjoy her post.

Eating Animals... or Not I promise not to spend so much time talking about my personal eating habits in the future, but I just listened to this wonderful conversation between Anthony Bourdain, who is the host of my very favorite Travel Channel show, and Jonathan Safran Foer on whether or not we should eat meat. You can listen to the discussion here, which I HIGHLY recommend. Basically, Bourdain is about as meat-hungry as you can get- he has stated that it’s his reason fo … Read More

via Barnyard Bookworm

Time for a little sourness?

After all the sweetness of  Christmas and new year, I think it’s time for a little sour….

The sour plum trees on our farm are now fruiting.  When I say sour, it’s probably the  sourest thing I have ever tasted (and that includes all the crazy sour sweets available these days).  These fruit are chock-full of vitamin C and are enjoyed by birds and animals alike – how the heck they don’t have a sour attack each time they bite one I will never understand.  I have heard that it makes a divine jam or jelly.  I think that may be the only way I would be able to eat this fruit – with a ton of sugar in jam or jelly.  I am always looking for ways to use the natural plants around us on the farm.

The large sour plum (ximenia caffra) is a small tree or shrub with many traditional uses and colourful fruit which attract baboons, fruit-eating birds and various butterflies. The thinly fleshy, oval, attractive fruit are a glossy deep red with white-ish speckles. The larvae of various butterflies including the Natal bar, Silvery bar, Bowker’s sapphire, Saffron sapphire, Brown playboy and Bush scarlet butterfly feed on the leaves of this tree.

Ripe fruit has a vitamin C content of 27%, is high in potassium and contains protein. The seed has a 65% oil content. Fruits have a refreshing (ha right…) sour taste, best eaten when slightly overripe, but can also be used for making jam, dessert and jelly. They can be added to porridge. Oil from the seed is used to soften human skins and for softening animal hides. It is also used for lamps. The nuts are also eaten.

A decoction from the leaves is used as a wash to soothe inflamed eyes. Infusions of the roots are used as a remedy for dysentery and diarrhoea and together with the leaves are taken for abdominal pain and bilharziasis. Powdered roots are applied to sores to speed up healing; used in soup, and in beer as an aphrodisiac. Powdered dried leaves are taken orally for fever and infertility, and extracts of the leaves are used as a gargle for tonsillitis, and as a vermifuge. Porridge is made using a decoction of the roots, and eaten once a day for nausea in pregnancy; the root decoction is also taken for infertility.

I think, from all these uses, I may be able to cope with making the fruit into jam and maybe eating the seed (nut) – I will have to give it a try.