How big is your baby?

Spring time is a time of rebirth and renewal and much focus is given to cute bouncing bundles of joy like this one

 

and in our area, babies like these…

(picture of a local postcard)

 

Yesterday I was out looking at other babies.  Subtropical fruit babies.

This is an avocado pear

 

and some baby mangoes

 a litchi

and some oranges (not on the farm we live on)

So here is what I am pondering…………

All of the above fruit trees blossom and start bearing fruit around the same time (spring)

We will be eating the mangoes and litchis by the end of this year  (3-4 months to mature ripe fruit depending on cultivar) yet the avocados and oranges will only be ripe and ready in 6-11 months time (winter fruit for us).

Why would some fruit be able to ripen and mature so fast and others take so long?

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Farm news, pickled eggs and vinegar

As South Africa goes through the throws of a bitterly cold patch with a first-time-ever of snow in all nine provinces, I continue to harvest from my garden in sunshine. Incredible.

The girls however have decided that they want babies and all but Ethel have stopped laying. Ethel, my midget chicken, lays one tiny egg a day and the other three pile onto it to try to hatch it. So all three end up on top of each other on top of the tiny egg.

I wonder how long being broody lasts?

Despite the go-slow on egg production I have ended up having a few too many eggs as I have not been eating them, so I needed to make something.  I am currently reading about, and learning, how to preserve foods, I decided to try pickling them.  I had never eaten a pickled egg until last year when I gave it a try and I was surprisingly pleased with the taste.  On investigation the recipes around are diverse and it seems anything goes as long as you include eggs and vinegar – so one can experiment with your own flavours.

Because my farm eggs are tiny I was able to fit twelve eggs into a large-ish size canning jar.

Hard boil the eggs and while they are boiling, boil up a cup or two of vinegar with some pickling spices and add whatever flavours you like. (Don’t forget some salt)

I used curry powder and turmeric (for  yellow eggs) and a teaspoon or two of sugar just for that slightly sweet taste.  I used my homemade pineapple vinegar which I think will be complimented by the curry flavour.

Chop up an onion (if you like) and put it in the bottom of your clean bottle and then pack in the peeled hard-boiled eggs.  Cool your vinegar mix and pour this over your eggs. You can dilute your vinegar down with some water if you don’t like very vinegary pickles.

Store in the fridge for a week before you start eating them.  They can be stored in your refrigerator in this way for months. My next batch I will make red by adding a beetroot to the mix.  Delicious!

During the process of pickling the eggs I used up all my homemade pineapple vinegar so I quickly started a new batch of vinegar – apple this time.

You will need an apple (or just apple peels and core), some non-chlorinated water, a clean bottle and a bit of sugar. (For pineapple vinegar just use your scraps and peels)

Chop up the apple into chunks,

Place them in the bottle and cover with a tablespoon of sugar.

Fill to the top with water and cover with a piece of cloth and an elastic band (or string)

Leave to ferment outside of the fridge for a few weeks. (Don’t let it get too cold or else your living culture will die)

You will be able to smell when it first turns to wine and then to vinegar. Once the vinegar reaches the acidity and taste you enjoy strain it and bottle.

And finally, I eventually got a good photo showing you how Cleo ignores the giraffes around here.  It never ceases to amaze me how she pretends they do not exist.

Sunrise

Slowly I am getting into my routine of getting up before the sun to feed the chickens and water the vegetables before I head off to work at 6.30 am every morning.

If you told me 5 years ago that I would be doing this I would have laughed in your face. I was a corporate girl who hired people to do the dirty work and I stayed in bed till the last minute as it was one of my favorite places.

Now I find that I really enjoy this time as I watch the sun rise over my growing greens, listen to the birds sing and the water spraying gently.  Who would have known 🙂  I surprise myself daily.

 

It’s all about food…..

Everything I have been doing lately is all about food and it has been so much fun.  My first batch of vegetables are finally planted. This has been two years in the planning so it’s a big thing for me.  They are all safe and sound, away from browsing animals and the baking sun in their little cool cloth house.  I made raised beds using recycled broken vegetable crates with shade cloth liners.

Functional but not very pretty. I will be cutting off all the excess cloth to neaten things up a bit.

My whole food healthy eating plan is continuing well and I am feeling a difference already.  yesterday we had this super fritata for breakfast

and made some homemade cold drink using rosella flowers and lemon grass.  It turns bright red once it has been in the fridge for an hour or two, sweetened with a touch of honey and absolutely delicious.

so much food on my mind, I even painted a cabbage 🙂

This painting is one of six macro paintings I am doing to hang as a group in my kitchen. They are on stretched canvas so will not need to be framed.  I have also completed one of a slice of lemon but I am not happy with it.

I wonder how many other people have ever painted a cabbage 🙂

A little about health

Image

I have gently been making a few changes in my life. Taking a few steps towards living a little healthier. I gave up smoking on the 3rd of January, and have started cutting down on red wine consumption as my body really just doesn’t like it. I am now getting ready to go all the way when my food garden is producing.  Ideally I eventually want to be producing at least 75% of my own food in a natural and healthy way.  This will take some time and I am also not going to be an extreme purist about this.  There will be times when I will just feel like having a pizza in town and I will then do so.

Towards this goal I have been given a little gift. A friend of mine here in Hoedspruit was caught between homes while she is building her home and over this same time, I have had to keep Jackal’s Den closed due to our ongoing water problem, so she and her husband and young daughter have moved onto my farm to stay with me.  Karen is a whole food cook book author and a trained chef, so in exchange for accommodation, she has taken over my kitchen and provides and prepares all my meals for me. What a blessing!

This week we started on a detox, with the menu provided to us by her co-author Heidi who is a nutritionist. I am currently on day three of my 5-7 day detox (depends what I can cope with) and am eating only fresh fruit, veg and brown rice.

So far, everything is going really well and I enjoy the foods I eat.  I  have never been one for eating much fruit, but love my veggies.  I have to push my boundaries a bit because I usually add butter to most of my vegetables and that is not allowed this week and I have had to increase my consumption of fruit (I battle a bit with fruit texture).

Tonight will be quite a test of my endurance because it’s art group and I must forgo all the wine and snacks.

Wish me luck!

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.

Homemade ginger beer

Growing up, my mother made a lot of ginger beer in summer just before Christmas.  She had the most amazing bottles that she used, glass covered in wicker and I remember lying in bed at night hearing a cork pop every now and then.

As spring has begun here, and the weather is toasty hot again, I thought there would be nothing better than having some ice-cold homemade ginger beer to sip on while lying next the pool, watching the giraffes meander past.

Recipe

  • +/- two 5cm bits of fresh ginger (my mother used powdered ginger as fresh ginger was hard to find)
  • a lemon
  • 4,5 cups of sugar
  • a few raisins
  • 2 litres of boiling water
  • 4 litres of room temperature water
  • One 10g pack of instant dried yeast
You will also need a 6 litre container or bucket to make your beer in.
Method
  • Grate the ginger into the bucket (unpeeled is fine)
  • Grate the rind of the lemon into the bucket and squeeze the lemon juice into the bucket
  • Add the sugar
  • Add raisins
  • Pour the 2 litres of boiling water over the sugar/ginger and lemon and stir till the sugar dissolves.
  • Top up to 6 liters with cool water
  • When the temp of the mixture is about body temperature (this is important – it must not be too hot) sprinkle the yeast onto the ginger beer and stir gently with a wooden spoon.
  • Cover the bucket and leave overnight. I sometimes leave it for 24 hours so timing here is not essential as long as it has had a good few hours to brew.
  • Sieve the ginger beer through a clean dish towel.
  • Bottle the beer in plastic or glass bottles with tight sealing lids. (I use plastic recycled fizzy cold drink bottles)
  • Leave in a cool place for two to three days. Release the pressure in the bottles twice a day. Leave for longer if you want a more alcoholic beer. If it tastes too sweet leave it for another day before refrigerating.
  • Once the ginger beer tastes just like you want it, put the bottles into the fridge.
Serve with ice.

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

 

 

A new(ish) spot in town for really good food.

A few months ago a new restaurant opened in Hoedspruit.  It has taken us a few weeks to get there to try their food. Last week the Bean and I stopped in for a bite and we were very impressed. After chatting to quite a few people from Hoedspruit I discovered that not everyone knows about the restaurant as it is tucked away – off the main road.

Ollies Restaurant and Delicatessen



Ollie’s is tucked away in Safari Junction just outside Raptors View and next to The African Summer Spa. Not to be confused with The Safari Club which is just across the way.

With a small but varied menu, the dishes served here are of outstanding quality. Time and care is taken with the food presentation and garnishing, resulting in a fine dining experience at affordable prices.

Although I did not get a chance to speak to the owner I gather that they are still waiting for their liquor license, so remember to take along a bottle if you would like an alcoholic beverage.

Ollies Restaurant & Delicatessen
No 2 Safari Junction
Raptors View
Main Road
Hoedspruit
Tel: 083 381 1402

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.