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Mother of two, living life in small-town South Africa

Wonderbag recipes: links

So tomorrow I plan to cook rice in my brand-new Wonderbag, using Veggie.Buntch’s useful ‘I love the Wonderbag‘ posting as a guide.

Then there’s this interview with Margot Janse, on how to cook samp — or African risotto, as she calls it. I am super-excited to be attending her demonstration as part of the Cook Franschhoek festival in June.

And then there’s this recipe for a vegetarian curry, from a workshop run by Veggie.Buntch’s Laura Cooke and filtched off the latest newsletter from Natural Balance (which I hope they don’t mind me reposting here):

Green Vegetable Curry With Fried Haloumi

You need:

1 can coconut milk
1 can coconut cream
2-3 packets haloumi
2 medium tomatoes, diced for garnish.
1-2 onions
1 punnet baby corn
1 punnet mange tout
1 punnet mushrooms
1/2 head cauliflower
1/2 punnet baby marrows
2-3 garlic cloves
1 tbs fresh ginger
Olive oil

Green curry paste:

6 spring onions, chopped
4 – 6 green chillies, seeded and finely chopped
2-3 limes, zested and juiced
2 cups fresh basil
2 cups fresh coriander
2 lemon grass stalks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbs olive oil
1 tbs coconut milk
1 tbs fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbs coriander seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Curry paste: Mix all ingredients together in a blender until a fine paste. It will taste very strongly of lime but will soften in the sauce.

Haloumi: Cut haloumi into 2 cm x 2 cm pieces. Fry in a non-stick pan on either side, no oil is needed. You may have to do this in a few batches.

Curry: Fry the onion, ginger and 2 tbs curry paste in a small amount of oil until translucent.
Add coconut milk, veggies and coconut cream. Bring to a boil and keep at a high heat for about 5-10 minutes. Pop in the Wonderbag for an hour. The curry will be hot enough to serve, but you can bring to the boil again if veggies are not soft enough for your taste. Add additional curry paste to taste. Stir in the fried haloumi. Serve with rice and fresh tomato sprinkled on top.

Filed under: Food, Recipes, Wonderbag

Becoming Capetonian

Today, I bought a Wonderbag on my way to the Recycling Depot. It all felt very Capetonian.

My best intentions usually come to naught. But I do plan to make my own bread (according to Rob O’Donoghue’s recipe sourced from rural Eastern Cape women), my own yoghurt (inspired by my ex-neighbour, Harold Gess, the beautiful thermometer I bought from the Rhodes’ Chem Lab for R27 and a glorious posting on Salon.com) and to cook samp just like Margot Janse.

Filed under: Cape Town, Food, Wonderbag

How to make a South African ‘quiche’

It was Hikaru and Suretha’s birthday party last weekend and they asked me to bring a quiche. Quiche? Erk. Never made a quiche. So I was a bit nervous (and it’s always a little intimidating cooking for those girls, who are both superb, experienced cooks). So I pulled out a recipe that I’d torn out of Home magazine a while back for butternut cheesecake. (Disclosure: I am an obsessive collector of magazine recipes.) Boy oh boy. It was dead easy and delicious. And a big hit with the vegetarians at the birthday party. (Even my children ate it.) I can’t seem to find the recipe online, so I’ll just sketch it for you here:

BUTTERNUT CHEESECAKE

To do first: Preheat oven to 180 deg C.
Butter a medium-sized, deep springform pan.
For the crust: Crush half a packet of ProVita (or digestive biscuits) and mix in some melted butter. Press into the base of the springform pan. I used the back of a spoon to do this. Put in the fridge.
For the filling: Chop up some butternut (or open a packet) and two onions and a clove or two of garlic. About half a large roasting pan’s worth should do it. Add some fresh sage leaves and drizzle over olive oil. Roast at 180 for about 30 minutes or until soft. Once cooked, set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, mix 1 tub of creme fraiche and 1 tub of cream cheese. In a separate bowl, beat four eggs. Add to cream mixture and mix well.
Put it all together: Now put a layer of cooled butternut mixture into the pan. Then top with about 1 round of crumbled feta cheese and add egg/cream mixture.
Place in centre of oven and cook for about an hour, or until quite golden and set.
To serve: Garnish with some fresh sage leaves and allow to cool a little before slicing. It is also good at room temperature. I wish I’d taken a photo.

Filed under: Food, Personal, , , , ,

Mbeki gone: an act of newspaper heroism

Peter Bruce, the editor of Business Day (and a former sub-editor, which means he understands the trenches only too well), wrote a great column in Monday’s newspaper about how a “reporter with a great news story” managed to get The Weekender a world exclusive, breaking news of the ANC’s decision to recall President Thabo Mbeki.

Although they had already put the paper to bed on Saturday night with an inconclusive, ho hum Mbeki story, political editor Karima Brown responded to an SMS sent at 1am carrying news of the NEC’s decision. This was the biggest South African news story since the fall of apartheid. Hell, how could she let her paper miss it?

Describing it as an act of “newspaper heroism”, Bruce explains how Brown and other key Business Day/Weekender staffers remade the paper in the early hours of the morning. By 3.55am, Executive Editor Rehana Rossouw was able to send Bruce an update: Mbeki gone. New headline. Paper changed. We got it right.”

Just brilliant, writes Bruce. And I have to agree: this is the kind of thing that could only happen at a newspaper. Just brilliant.

By the way, if anyone out there cares to do a search to find out when this news hit the web, let me know who got it first. This may just turn out to be a case of “print got it first” and that would delight an old codger like me who is nostalgic for the adrenaline of a newsroom. A very cursory browse of online archives shows that IOL’s first confirmation story ANC officially asks Mbeki to go was posted at 9am on Saturday. News24 had a tentative Mbeki asked to resign? at 11am, while the M&G had ANC dumps Mbeki, moves to ‘heal rift’ at 1.30pm.

Update, 11.20pm – 22 September: Rehana Roussouw, executive editor of the Weekender, explains in Business Day about what happened in their newsroom (and at the NEC) on Friday. Headlined, “The little paper that can”, she writes:

The Times website had been reporting from about 5pm that the NEC had already decided Mbeki must be axed. They were quoting Sunday Times staff. It looked to us like an inspired guess. Despite our best efforts, we hadn’t been able to confirm that fact ourselves.

I’ve been digging around the Times website (impossible to navigate or is it just me?), trying to find these references, but the closest I can get to a “confirmed story” is the Breaking News blog’s Mbeki recalled from office, which was published at 6.46pm on Saturday 20 November. (Incidentally, Ray Hartley carried the news on his blog at 12.13pm.)

Once again, I’m reminded that the Weekender’s scoop was only possible because there were experienced hands at the helm who had the right contacts, who could trust the information being sent through and who had enough experience to change an “inspired guess” into an on-the-record, confirmed story.

Filed under: Blogging, General, Newspapers, , , , , , , ,

Journ students start blogging

When someone asked me recently how one could possibly teach sub-editing, I got all sweaty and nervous. But then I reminded myself it is a skill. There’s a lot you can learn about grammar, headline writing, the editing process. But in many ways it is much more abstract than the simple nuts and bolts. What subbing is, really, is engaging with the world in an entirely different way. It’s about developing a critical mind – and eye – and caring about the little things. As Jeff Baron wrote on washingtonpost.com recently:

Copy editors might be the only people who can discuss, cheerfully and seriously and on their own time, when to hyphenate a compound adjective. Normal people, I have found, deeply do not care.

Sub-editors are not normal people.

So reading, writing (and thinking about writing) is a crucial component of the sub-editing course I am teaching to fourth-year Journalism and Media Studies students at Rhodes University. And, really, I’m discovering that the best way to encourage this is by blogging.

Last week, the students set up their blogs, which they will run for the duration of the course. I’ve aggregated them all under one banner (I heart WordPress!), including each of the student’s contributions as RSS feeds. Have a look at the classblog and let me know what you think.

Filed under: Blogging, Newspapers, ,

The 3 deadly sins of journalistic life

I have started teaching a six-week course on sub-editing to fourth year Journalism and Media Studies students at Rhodes. It’s a small group of women who have chosen to do the course for very different reasons. It’s exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. I know I have as much to learn from them as they do from me.

Sub-editors have always been my favourite people in a newsroom. Generally, they’re quirky, clever, curious and totally unhinged. In preparing for the first session, I spent some time thinking about the role of sub-editors and how that is changing as media consumption patterns and news change. There’s a lot happening out there that challenges my thinking that subs are essential parts of the editorial process. But that’s material for another posting. After working on and off as a sub-editor for 16 years, I like to think that there are some lessons I have learnt along the way.

Clive Lawrance (yes, that is how you spell his surname) co-taught this course with me a few years back. A crusty newsroom curmudgeon who commanded respect and excellence, he liked to warn of three things that stand between a writer and good writing: vanity, fear, laziness. Most of the lessons below fall into one of these categories.

  • There is always someone who knows more than you
    You may be able to fix or improve someone else’s writing, but that doesn’t mean you know more than them. Subs’ rooms and newsrooms are filled with interesting people who know a lot about a lot of things. Learn to listen. And look up whatever you don’t know. There will always be a reader who knows the subject better than you.
  • We all make mistakes
    Sub-editors may be the “unsung heroes of journalism”, but adversarial relationships between writers and sub-editors serve no purpose. While our job is to get it right and make writers look good, it’s worth remembering that subs can also mess up a story. A little humility goes a long way.
  • Read, read and read some more
    Clive used to quote Uys Krige as saying, “To be a great writer, you need to read the great masters. If you’re not reading, then you should be writing. And if you are not writing, you should be thinking about writing.” Make reading a habit. Read newspapers. Read magazines. Read whatever you can lay your hands on. Be curious. Be interested. Be interesting.
  • ‘In order to’ is two words too long
    Teach yourself the rules. You can teach yourself to spell. (And, yes, I still believe spelling is important despite Ken Smith’s call for a spelling amnesty.)
  • Punctuation can fix a lot of wrongs
    Simply punctuating correctly can restore sense to a sentence. It’s not rocket science. Teach yourself how to do it well.
  • Respect a writer’s voice
    Avoid changing anything without a good reason. Fix mistakes, but don’t beat a story into submission. There are many reporters whose first language is not English. Help craft the story, don’t destroy it. Not every story you touch needs to be reworked into your style.
  • If you don’t know, look it up
    “Thou shalt not sub what thou don’t understand,” one of my favourite chief-subs once admonished me. We should always be asking questions because we don’t have all the answers. Use the internet. Don’t leave home without your dictionary. Find out how things work and how to do stuff that will make you a better journalist, like working with pictures and audio, basic HTML. Curiosity is a n essential characteristic for the job.
  • Presentation is (almost) everything
    Know what it’s called. Know the keyboard shortcuts. Work fast. Work neatly. Look like you know what you are doing.
  • Respect your job
    If you don’t like it, leave it. Like what you do. Hell, love what you do. Otherwise no job is worth it. Especially on the nightshift.

Vanity, fear, laziness. Beware the three deadly sins of journalistic life.

Filed under: Newspapers, Personal, , , , , , ,

The rise and fall of ZA citizen journalism

I’ve sat through some interesting (and some deathly) presentations over the past few days at the Digital Citizen Indaba and Highway Africa, new media conferences held annually in Grahamstown. Rather belatedly themed “Citizen Journalism, Journalism for Citizens”, the focus was on, well, citizen journalism. (As Roland Stanbridge, one of the original founders of HA, pointed out to me yesterday, the speaker line-up has been predominately South African and a little predictable, which seems a pity given the expertise and range of opinions on this that exist elsewhere on the continent. There were more than 500 delegates here for the event.)

A highlight for me was listening to Dan Gillmor, the author of We the Media, which is available online). I find his views on citizen journalism appropriately anarchic and much more radical than they first appear. (Let me confess that I haven’t read his book, although I did pick up a copy from the stand at HA today.) I hope to blog about all of this soon, but need to think about it a little more and find the time…

This evening, I picked up on Twitter (via @ricegirl2Sarah Rice) that Reporter.co.za is closing, on the last day of Highway Africa 2008. I could be wrong, but I think reporter.co.za was the first and only standalone citizen journalism attempt by mainstream media (Avusa). Terribly ironic timing, if you ask me. I believed Gillmor, Buckland and others at the conference when they said that journalism as we know it has been forever altered by the rise of citizen journalism or participatory media; that there has never been a better opportunity than now for “journalistic entrepreneurs”.

But reporter.co.za is closing after more than two years of publishing. According to the closing note on the site, more than 6 000 contributors have posted to the site. They say the site “has to be transformed to adapt to new technology”. No surprises there, I guess, as there is no scope for multimedia files and the site does have a very old fashioned feel to it. Perhaps Avusa is trying to align its online products and create a little synergy between the different platforms and titles (which seem fiercely and needlessly competitive from where I sit). It would be incredibly useful and interesting if there was some public discussion around the strategy that went beyond the middle-of-the-road “farewell, thanks for changing my life” stuff currently on reporter.co.za.

I can’t see reporter.co.za making any kind of comeback but, perhaps, its demise will create space and opportunities within the traditional titles for readers and citizen journalism that go beyond comments and “send us your photos” buttons. Let’s hope someone at Avusa has been paying attention and that the lessons from this social experiment have been learnt. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Filed under: General, , , , ,

Just add cook

I love English instructions as written by non-mother-tongue speakers. My deliciously eccentric mother-in-law recently returned from Italy and brought us back a packet of pasta sauce as a memento (Dehydrated vegetables. Have you ever?) The instructions on the back are hilarious:

Receipt: pour the content of the packets on a slau firefor about 15min. After the water ie evaporated add 5/6 oil tablespoons and fry for 2/3 min. The add cook for 20/30 min. More. Meanwhile, cook spagetthi al dente, drain and stir in the pan on a hot fire.

Talking of recipes, we had our dinner club this weekend, hosted by Olaf and Michelle. It was an amazing evening and I had a blast. With a Chinese theme, Olaf pulled out all the stops (four-dish main course) and we laughed and laughed and laughed. I made Wonton Soup, which was delicious. My fresh spring rolls were a little less spectacular (and, in truth, much too Thai to be passed off as Chinese…) There’s something very calming to folding little dumplings while listening to music from a past life, like Morcheeba. Apparently “wonton” is derived from the Cantonese word and translates to “swallowing clouds”.

Wonton Soup
From Chinese and Asian Confident Cooking
Serves 6*

  • 4 dried Chinese mushrooms
  • 250g pork mince
  • 125g raw prawn meat, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp finely sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 to 2 packets wonton wrappers
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 4 spring onions, finely sliced, for garnish

Soak mushrooms in hot water to cover for 30 mins. Darin, squeeze to remove excess liquid. Remove stems and chop the caps finely.
Thoroughly combine mushrooms, pork, prawn meat, salt, soy, sesame oil, spring onion, ginger and water chestnuts.
Fill wonton wrappers: put a teaspoon of filling into the centre, moisten two edges with beaten egg, fold in half diagonally and bring the two outer points together. (Not nearly as complicated as it sounds and the wonton wrappers are much more resilient than rice wrappers, for example.)
Cook wontons in rapidly boiling water for about 5 minutes. Bring stock to boil in separate pan.
Remove wontons from water with a slotted spoon and place in a serving bowl. Garnish with extra spring onion and pour the simmering stock over. Serve immediately.

* The 250g pack of wonton wrappers contained about 30 wrappers. I made one-and-a-half times the recipe, but used two packs of wonton wrappers – around 64 wontons.

I’ll be posting some more recipes and pictures to the BFM Dinner Club group on Facebook sometime this week.

Filed under: Food, Personal, , , , , , ,

Mealie bread: a taste of childhood

Now that I live in Grahamstown, I am learning to cook. I have to. I bake biscuits (gasp!) when friends come for tea. I make things to take along to other people’s parties. The other day I even made mayonnaise. From scratch. These are the lengths that deprivation has led me to. If I still lived in Joburg I would have just stopped off at Koljander, the world’s best tuisnywerheid in Melville, or at Woolies. Sigh.

One of my kids’ party standards these days is mealie bread. Taken from Gabi Steenkamp’s Sustained Energy for Kids, I’m gobsmacked at how many times I get asked for this recipe. I think there’s something about mealie bread that reminds people of their childhood. Anyway, it’s dead easy and worth sharing (even though it’s made in the microwave, which I usually avoid). It’s also eaten and enjoyed by everyone else’s kids except mine. The trickiest part is finding a microwaveable ring dish.

Microwave mealie bread
From Sustained Energy for Kids

  • 2Tbsp (30ml) cake flour
  • ¼ cup (60ml) sugar – or even less
  • 150ml mealie meal
  • 100ml oat bran
  • 7ml (1½ tsp) baking powder
  • ½tsp (2.5ml) salt
  • 1Tbsp (15ml) canola oil
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup (125ml) skimmed or low-fat milk
  • 1 tin (410g) creamstyle sweetcorn
  • 1 tsp (5ml) chopped parsley (I usually skip the green bits if making it for children.)
  • Paprika for sprinkling microwave dish

Grease microwave ring baking mould with a paper towel dipped in oil. And sprinkle a little paprika into the mould (I have never bothered to do this).
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix the oil, eggs and milk together well and add to the dry ingredients.
Add the sweetcorn and the parsley, if used, and mix well.
Spoon into the microwave ring and microwave at 70% power for 12 minutes. Then at 100% for 2 minutes.
Allow to stand for 10 minutes (to finish cooking).
Turn out, slice into about 20 slices.

Filed under: Food, Kids stuff, Motherhood, Personal, , , ,

Fizzy orangeade

I can pretend to be interested in things like newspapers, media, and other heavyweight issues but, really, all I care about is food. Since moving to Grahamstown three years ago, I have become seriously obsessed – especially as there is no Woolies food (gasp!), and a seriously inconsistent supply of even the most basic ingredients. Last week, there was not a single packet of frozen peas to be had. And I wasn’t even looking for petit pois.
Frozen peas. It has come to this.
Anyway, seeing as though I spend a large part of my day thinking of, reading about and preparing food, I thought I’d start including it on my blog. (Also, my deadline for my latest freelance job is looming large so I need some distraction.)
My children have been off from school since their teacher fell ill in June (yikes!), so we’ve been spending quite a lot of time playing with friends, eating and drinking. Today, Nina made some lemonade (her own recipe with a found “squishy” lemon from the garden) and then we all made fizzy orange using Tessa Kiross’s recipe. It was seriously delicious and the children – all five of them, age three to eight – loved it. We dubbed it orangeade.

Tessa Kiros’s Fizzy Orange
Makes 5 small cups

  • 4 Tablespoons castor sugar
  • One long strip of orange rind (peel of one orange)
  • 4 Tablespoons tap water
  • Juice of 4 oranges (just over a cup)
  • 2 cups ice-cold sparkling water

Put sugar, orange rind and water into a small pan. Bring to boil, stirring so that the sugar dissolves completely. Boil for a few minutes so that the rind flavours the syrup.
Add freshly squeezed orange juice and let that bubble for about 5 mins, or until it looks slightly denser. Pour into a jug and let it cool completely.
When you’re ready to serve, pour in sparkling water and mix well. Add ice if you like.
Tessa recommends that you add spices, such as a vanilla bean or a small stick of cinnamon, if making it for adults.
PS: By the way, stumbled across another great foodie blog today: David Leibovitz’s ‘Living the sweet life in Paris‘. His latest posting features Joanne Weir’s Cucumber and Feta Salad. Definitely on my “make next” list – depending, of course, if I can source feta/cucumber/fresh dill…

Filed under: Food, Kids stuff, Motherhood, Personal, , , , , ,

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