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

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.

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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, , , , , ,

Cashing in on news as social currency

Jack Shafer weighs in on Slate on the terminal state of newspapers by arguing that newspapers are dying because they are no longer the best providers of social currency.
Social currency, he explains, is the phrase used to “describe the information we acquire and then trade—or give away—to start, maintain, and nurture relationships with our fellow humans”.
Newspapers have traditionally been a source of social currency, an excellent source of “socially lubricating conversation”.
But, as Shafer points out, newspapers are being upstaged and usurped by other media in the social currency game. “What is Facebook but the Federal Reserve Bank of social currency?”
It’s an interesting take and another reminder that “the decline of newspapers has nothing to do with journalism and everything to do with the changing world”.

PS: And while you’re there, don’t miss Shafer’s response to a rant against bloggers. This spat happened way back in 2005… Has anything changed since then?

Filed under: General, , , , , , ,

A parent would never write this

The children abscond...

Have just read the story** about the couple who forgot their four-year-old at the airport — and only discovered it 40 minutes later when they were told by airline staff. Crumbs. Look, they have five children so it’s almost understandable. (Well, the forgetting part. Not convinced about the 40 minute delay though. Or the 18 suitcases.)
Nevertheless, this story resonates with me, especially just having travelled with my two young children. I’m terrified of losing track of my children in public places — particularly as they are real small-town hicks who believe the world is a benign and lovely playground. So much for never talking to strangers…
We all know it could happen to any of us. That’s what makes it such a brilliant story: it taps into our deepest fears as parents (as well as giving us a reason to gasp in amused disbelief at someone else’s stupidity). But there are ways of writing it and AP’s version as posted on MNSBC is nothing short of schlock:

JERUSALEM – An Israeli couple going on a European vacation remembered to take their duty-free purchases and their 18 suitcases, but forgot their 3-year-old daughter at the airport, police said Monday.

That’s nothing except cruel and judgmental. I’m almost willing to bet that the person who wrote it doesn’t have children of their own…

PS: **Got to love the Times of London headline: ‘To the family in row 3: you left your daughter behind at the airport’.

Filed under: Motherhood, Personal, , , , ,

‘It’s watching them commit suicide that pisses me off’

Tap tap tap

Followed a link off Twitter to Steve Smith’s eulogy to the archetypal “newspaperman”. Sigh. Here we go again. Yes, I started off in journalism in the “glory days”. I learnt to type on a typewriter. I know what “spike” and “slug” mean. I hanker after grumpy, know-it-all sub-editors from whom I first learnt that everything is miscellaneous. I too fell in love with newsroom drunkards who called themselves journalists, er, newspapermen. Blah blah blah.
But, echoing Jess Walter’s comment, I am moved to quote US columnist Molly Ivins, who once said: “I don’t so much mind that newspapers are dying, it’s watching them commit suicide that pisses me off.”
Seriously. Get over it. These days there are women in newsrooms. There are even female editors. There are bright young things doing things we only dreamed of. What we think is irrelevant anyway. What is coming next, Steve, is a world for adapters and adopters. Play the new game or find another job. Just ask all those legions of old newspapermen now doing PR…

Added 6 August: In the same vein, but less of a whine and a little closer to my heart really, is Lawrence Downes’s Elegy for Copy Editors. Brian Cubbison responded with five possible exhibits for a copy editors’ wing. I love his suggestion of the ‘Headless body in topless bar’ front page of the New York Post.
I nominate the Sun’s headline, ‘Super Caley go Ballistic, Celtic are Atrocious’, which appeared after a famous upset in the Scottish Cup in 2000. The modern argument goes, of course, that the days of clever, punny headlines are over as we’re all writing for search engines. As the Guardian’s Peter Preston reminded us way back in 2006, computers don’t do jokes.

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

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