Category Archives: cooking

currying flavour

The title of this post should really be, How to Make a Balls-Up of a Perfectly Good Recipe that Other People have been Following for Years with Total Success.


This recipe comes from the lovely book that Kathryn sent me from Colorado last year, when I acquired a slow cooker and tried to embrace a more domestic persona.


On the spice side, it calls for curry powder, paprika, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. Oh yay I already had all those ingredients! And more – I also found tumeric, a packet of curry leaves and some chili flakes. May as well use them up, too, right?

Mistake #1: Don’t think you know better than the person who wrote the recipe. If you start chucking in any old thing that you come across in your spice rack, you will destroy the delicate balance of North African flavours that the dish is supposed to be about.

Mistake #2: Take the quantities seriously. If the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of curry powder, do not simply open the jar and vigorously shake the powder all over the meat and onions. The same goes for the paprika and the cumin and the chili flakes. Once it’s in and cooking, it’s impossible to get it out later.

Mistake #3: When you buy your curry powder straight from Priscilla (the lovely Indian woman from Durban who makes her own and then travels round the country selling it directly from the back of her van because it’s so popular), you’d better know that it is The Real Thing, not some watered-down mild version from the supermarket. If you use too much and then eat the food, you will die. Okay, you won’t actually die but you will be wishing that death would come because the physical agony of consuming a massively over-curried mouthful of food is sheer torture.

I prepared this early on Friday. The aroma was so wonderful, I couldn’t wait to have a taste of my wonderful dish. By 7.00pm it was time. I spooned out some of the sauce and let it cool for a while in a cup before taking a hearty swig. By 7.06, my entire body had broken out in a very serious sweat and my mouth, nasal passages and throat had swollen up – I couldn’t even scream for help. I bounced off the walls for as long as it took for the nightmare to end (about 30 minutes!) and then managed to calm down enough to google How to Salvage your Fire Food.

One hack wasn’t enough. My food had to be rescued by using three of the remedies: 200ml of cream, 750ml plain yogurt, and a big slosh of balsamic vinegar. So, all was not lost in the end. But you know what they say – once burned, twice shy. I think I won’t try my hand at making curry again for a very long time…


eager vegan

I made another vegan dish, based loosely on this lovely recipe from Frugal Queen but without the halloumi, celery and quinoa. It’s the rebel in me. Instead, I used extra lentils and some little white beans with black dots in the middle, a whole pack of mushrooms and also added balsamic vinegar to the dressing.


I know — pic of homemade food + taken at night = looks like crap. But it’s actually quite tasty, and with some fresh flat-leafed parsley and the fried halloumi on top (LIKE THE RECIPE SAYS YOU IDIOT), it definitely deserves another try.

In the meantime, bon appetit.

a pinny and a pie

Dexterously combining two themes in one post here: (a) a further attempt at cooking in the oven, and (b) a Scrap Happy project for Kate’s collection.

Sean's pie

Last year, staying with Sean and Melinda in Grahamstown, Sean made this fabulous spinach and feta pie for our supper one evening. It’s not vegan because the recipe calls for eggs, ricotta and feta – which means Melinda couldn’t have any – but I guess she was used to that, Sean usually going big on the carnivore side of things! Anyway, he sent me the link and it’s been lurking on my bookmarks bar ever since. Last night = girls’ night at my house = chance to make pie and graciously accept amazed compliments on having made something both edible and attractive.

karen apron

Theme #2: Karen mentioned that she could use another pinny for her work at the Service Dining Rooms.  I made this for her last week, from leftovers of fabric from cushions and bedspreads, and a bit of lace and some orange bobbles at the bottom left over from who the hell knows what.  Here she is, trying to give a realistic impression of a happily domesticated woman about to dish up the pie, but looking more like someone who’s watched The Shining too many times. Perhaps she would have been happier with an axe.

There’s a vegan on my stoep *

A lovely friend is in Cape Town for six months on contract so I invited her to be my first real guinea pig – as in, to have dinner with me at my own house. Rob was also invited, but obviously has eaten here many times – the difference is, he was always the one doing the cooking!

So, as I chatted to Melinda during the week about how to find my house and the best route, etc, I remembered to ask if there was anything she didn’t eat. She reminded me that she is a vegan. Oh sweet cheeses – I’d forgotten that! What she didn’t realise is that it was brave enough of me to have offered to cook for her in the first place, let alone having to cater for someone who doesn’t even eat eggs. She also doesn’t eat mushrooms or tomatoes (whole) but that’s not the vegan side of her, those are just her personal dislikes.

I was desperate. I turned to the interwebs and googled my fingers sore, until – ta da – Jamie bloody Oliver! What a genius he is. With a few minor alterations, I served lentil tabbouleh and stuffed butternut, with french bread on the side. I couldn’t find puy lentils so used black ones (they were perfect) and substituted finely chopped spinach leaves from my own garden for the tomatoes. I also couldn’t find chestnuts for the butternut stuffing (chestnuts, seriously, wtf?) so used slivered almonds instead. A couple of bottles of Nederburg Baronne and, really, it was a lovely meal and a lovely evening.

I think I’m almost ready for a full table of people now (i.e. six) so I’ll be giving some thought to that this week….heaven knows there are enough friends I owe a return invitation to, in all my years of non-cooking :)

*Only South African readers will get this reference, sorry.

old crock

Someone gave Karen a crock pot back in the 70s and she’s just passed it on to me. So retro, with its funky font and distinctive orange!  She raves about how wonderful crock pot cooking is so I’m not clear why she’s lost interest. Maybe if I start using it with great success and happiness, she’ll rethink her kind gesture and ask for it back.

crock 1

My first attempt was beef mince with tomatoes, onions, chillies and sweetcorn, which my recipe book calls Mexican Mince. It doesn’t seem particularly Mexican to me, or at least no more than anything else that is spicy, so it was probably the alliteration that appealed to the editor. If I was Mexican and people kept doing that with the names of dishes, I’d get really annoyed.

Six and half hours later, the grub has turned out very well – tasty with a slight kick, crispily hugging the sides of the pot round the top edge but nice and moist in the middle, and the sweetcorn gives it a nice boost. In the disappointing way that afflicts all amateur food pics, however, it looks absolutely disgusting in my photo.

crock 2

If I make this one again, I’d add pinto beans and a bit more chilli, but I’m pretty satisfied that my first CP try was a good one.  And I guess now I’ll find out whether Karen really does read all my posts like she says….