Food Glorious Food

Kiera and James are saving up to buy a house. Alex is an articled clerk with limited income. And Peter and I are both retired and living on a fixed income. We all need to economise (that dreaded word). In times of plenty I’m not averse to spending money impulsively but when belts have to be tightened I can also be quite frugal.

Eating less meat is one way to save money. For many years now I have preferred free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic-free, organic, you name it, meat. Our pork comes from the Dargle Valley; chickens from the Shed in Richmond; lamb from the Karoo; and beef from Woolies on the rare occasions that they have grass-fed / free-range beef in the Howick branch. When the children were younger, I became interested in nutrition and I made up my mind then that organic was the more healthy choice for my family. Over the years, I’ve also become increasingly uncomfortable with the thought that I’m eating something that has been treated inhumanely.

Since free-range / grass-fed is generally more expensive, it stands to reason that we should cut down on our meat consumption in order to save money. The problem is that I’m so used to eating veggies as a side dish, with meat as the hero, that I don’t have a ready, go-to repertoire of vegetarian meals. The trick is to prepare tasty, economical meals, with less / no meat, and without spending ages in the kitchen doing it.

Kiera rustled up a Donna Hay version this potato, kale and chorizo soup for us recently and while it isn’t vegetarian, it doesn’t cast meat in the leading role. It is such a simple recipe but is absolutely delicious.

Nigel Slater’s Classic Caldo Verde recipe

THE RECIPE

Cook a finely chopped onion and clove of garlic in a little olive oil for 2 minutes. Add 3 or 4 large potatoes, peeled and diced, cook them for a minute or two, then pour in a litre of water or stock. Simmer for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft (if they break up then all to the good). Thickly slice 150g of spicy sausage then fry briefly in a non-stick pan. Remove the sausage, leaving the fat behind, and drop it into the soup. Finely shred 2 generous handfuls of kale and stir it into the hot soup. Serve with a small pool of olive oil floating on the surface. Serves 4.

THE TRICK

Traditionalists will make this with water, but vegetable or chicken stock deepens the flavour immeasurably. The trick is knowing when to stop tinkering. Caldo verde was a soup born to cope with an empty store cupboard, and gussying it up too much will lose its rustic soul.

THE TWIST

Complete as it stands, this warming greens-based broth could be embellished with a few ingredients of your choice. Hide a round of garlic toast in the bottom before you ladle in the broth; introduce some cooked pasta – perhaps the diminutive rice-shaped orzo – or stir in some rinsed canned cannellini beans. Kale is standard, but any of the brassica family will work – the tougher and more fibrous the better.

Note:

  1. Kiera used a stick blender to purée the soup (à la Donna Hay) before adding chorizo and kale.
  2. I’ve made it with Swiss chard instead of kale and added some chopped chilli for extra voema (depending on how spicy the sausage is). This requires a bit more cooking after the chard and chilli have been added.     

I’m a fan of sausages. We get ours from the Dargle and this dish is comfort food par        excellence.

Sausage & Gnocchi One Pan

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 large pork sausages
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 fat garlic clove, chopped
  • 150g gnocchi
  • 1 x 410g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • Salt & pepper
  • Large handful of baby spinach
  1. Heat oil in pan and fry the sausages and onion until golden.
  2. Stir in the garlic, gnocchi, cannellini beans, stock and plenty of seasoning. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until the sausages are cooked through.
  3. Lift the sausages out of the mixture and slice diagonally into 1cm thick slices. Return the slices to the pan and fold through the spinach. Check the seasoning and serve with some crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Pesto and Tomato Tart

(from Super Foods for Children by Michael van Straten & Barbara Griggs – the blurb reads: Boost your child’s HEALTH and BRAIN POWER with over 120 nutrient-packed superfoods – Kiera and Alex you have a lot to thank me for!)

This is one vegetarian dish that I have done on many occasions and it never fails.

  • 375 g frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 300 ml passata
  • 180g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 100g pesto sauce
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Fresh basil to garnish

Preheat oven to 200ºC. Roll out the pastry onto a floured baking tray. Crimp the edges with a knife and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 5 minutes or until lightly golden. Take the baking tray out of the oven and allow the pastry to cool.

Spread the passata over the cooled pastry. Toss the cherry tomatoes in a drizzle of olive oil and lay them, flat side down, on the passata. Season with salt and pepper and dot generously with pesto. Return the baking tray to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes. Serve the tart garnished with basil leaves.

Note: The last time I made this, I added sliced mozzarella cheese which made it a bit more filling as a meal.

This next recipe may sound like a bit of a palaver but it is well worth it; sweet, sour, salty and vinegary not to mention fresh, crispy and delicious.

Kylie Kwong’s recipe for Celery, Carrot and Cabbage Salad

  • 1 small cucumber
  • 3 small carrot, peeled
  • 1 t white sugar
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 2 sticks celery, sliced on the diagonal
  • ½ cup (125 ml) malt vinegar
  • 2 Tsp white sugar, extra
  • Finely shredded cabbage (preferably Savoy)
  • Julienned spring onion
  • Beans sprouts
  • Mint leaves
  • 2 Tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 Tsp lemon juice
  • Pinch Sichuan pepper and salt
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Using a vegetable peeler, finely slice the cucumber and carrots lengthways into ribbons. Set aside cucumber and cut carrot into a fine julienne.

Combine the carrot with salt and sugar in a medium bowl, mix well and leave to stand for 15 minutes.

Blanch celery in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain and refresh under cold water. Drain and set aside.

Combine vinegar and extra sugar in a small saucepan and stir over heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer uncovered for about 1 minute or until slightly reduced. Set aside to cool before stirring through the pickled carrot.

In a large serving bowl, combine the pickled carrot mixture, celery, cabbage, onion, bean sprouts and most of the mint. Pour over combined soy sauce and lemon juice. Mix well and season to taste. Top with the reserved cucumber, remaining mint and sprinkle with seeds.

And for now something a little bit sweet:

Brûléed Fruit with Liqueur and Mascarpone / Greek Yoghurt

  • 125g dark brown soft sugar
  • 2 – 3 Tbs fruit liqueur (I use crème de cassis)
  • 4 peaches or nectarines, stoned and cut into wedges
  • 3 fresh, ripe figs, quartered
  • 250 g mascarpone (or full cream, Greek yoghurt)

Place half the sugar and the liqueur in a saucepan over a moderate heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the peaches or nectarines and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat, stir in the figs and transfer the fruit and juices to a heatproof serving dish. Allow to cool. Spread the mascarpone (or yoghurt) over the fruit and sprinkle over the remaining sugar.

Now you can either place it under a preheated grill for 2-3 minutes until the sugar has melted and caramelised or simply put it in the fridge for a couple of hours until the sugar melts.

Note:

  • I’ve made this with nectarines, peaches, Cape gooseberries, raspberries – whatever fruit is on hand really, especially if it is starting to get a bit past it.
  • I usually make it in individual ramekins.
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6 Responses to Food Glorious Food

  1. Adam Rice says:

    We are trying to reduce the amount of meat we eat, mainly because we see so many reports of too much meat being unhealthy and that it is a very high carbon route of nutrition.
    One of my standard weeknight specialties is a casserole with 200 g or so of diced beef/ pork/chicken padded out with lots of veggies etc and a tin of beans. I start with a decent sized onion in a little oil then brown the meat and then add lots of mushrooms/ carrots/ a tin of canneloni (or whatever) beans/ pasta…you get the idea. I flavour with lots of herbs, Marigold Bouillon, soy sauce, chilli and after an hour or so serve on rice/ mashed butternut or celeriac. We often get 3 nights meals out of it so the meat goes a good long way.
    I am a fan of chinese style cooking, Ken Hom gives me lots of ideas though I often just pick the bits I like and don’t closely follow recipes.

    • Cathy says:

      It seems like a good idea all round to cut down on meat, but not so easy when one is used to eating so much of it (us South Africans are notorious nyama eaters). Your casserole by the way sounds yummy as well as good value.
      I also love Chinese food but have never mastered the art of cooking it. Which is a pity because we have no Chinese restaurants in the Midlands. Peter and I celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary in January at an excellent Chinese restaurant in DC – outside of China, the best Chinese food I’ve ever had.

  2. Paul and Christine Williams says:

    Some nice recipes there, Cathy. We also love veggie soup, with a variable recipe depending on what’s happening in my little allotment.
    I’m always revising what is meant by “a generous amount of kale” though. No matter how much I stick in the pan to steam with a bit of oil or butter it reduces down to two edible portions.
    We love oven baked onion, garlic, pepper and butternut chunks with olive oil, liquidised and eaten as a sauce with spaghetti or penne. As the kids say, nomnomnom.

    • Cathy says:

      Kale seems to be the latest wonder veg – very popular in America but not so easy to get here. I need to get some going now for a winter crop. I sorely neglected my allotment this summer but growing in the field we have wonderful potatoes and lots of squash and pumpkin starting to ripen. I love roasted butternut, but have never made a sauce out of it – will be giving that a bash when we start harvesting. Thanks.
      Happy travels in New Zealand; it looks like you are having a great time there.

  3. Adam Rice says:

    HI Cathy,

    Trust you are all well and had a good time with Chris.

    With regards to your latest Food Glorious Food blog, I must say when we came to South Africa in 2014 we had quite forgotten how much meat is still eaten there. When we first arrived in England we found the meat especially beef rather tasteless and thus did not eat very much. Since living in Wellington we have been able to source direct from farms and as it is all free range it is much nicer. However, as you say the cost is rather scary. Adam and I tend to make casseroles which can nearly last a week with all the extras we add, mushrooms, peppers, vegetables and tinned beans of one sort or another and this has certainly cut done on both our consumption and the costs.

    Are you still having such hot weather, when we were in Cape Town in December, it went up to 37C which was rather a shock after the UK. We have had rather a strange winter from 12C down to below 0C a few times and loads of rain. Our honeysuckle came into bloom before we went to SA and is still in flower, I hope it does not disappoint us in the summer, if we have one.

    Keep well and love to you both.

    Jenny

    • Cathy says:

      Hi Jenny, lovely to hear from you. The weather since we returned home has been a bit more moderate and thank goodness we have also had some rain. Not enough to fill the dams though and our springs on the farm are still trickles but the garden has benefited. I was amazed to see cherry blossom in DC in December – all to do with El Niño (and global warming) I believe! Hope you had a lovely holiday in Cape Town, keep well.

      Love, Cathy

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