Tuesday 17 August 2010

Nigel Slater - Mr Nice Guy

( You have to read this book)

In a foodie world where the players are either hard-arsed and aggressive ( Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White), or at times, slightly too voluptuously sexual (Nigella Lawson, Sophie Dahl), or just plain weird ( Those Two Hairy Bikers and The Two Fat Ladies) it's wonderful to know that the soft-spoken, gentle, kind Nigel Slater still turns heads. Or at least he does mine.
Toast - The story of a boy's hunger is a book about his recollections of his childhood and his food memories of that time. It is heartbreakingly beautiful ('there are shouts from the boys up the road firing snowballs at one another. I am playing alone, about a hundred yards from them. My mother is watching me through the dining-room window. She looks worried. I am the proprietor of an imaginary cheese shop, carving slices of Cheddar from the rock of snow lit by the street lamp.') and wonderfully funny. ('For an eight-year-old boy there is only one true requisite of jelly. And that is that it makes a squelching sound when you dig the spoon deep into its orange depths. A sort of jelly fart. The louder the squelch the better the jelly.') It is without a doubt one of my favourite foodie books. Because of its searing honesty and emotional complexity. My friend and mentor Joan always say's that people who love food make the best writers.I think she has a point.Especially when it comes to Mr Slater. I wish he were a friend of mine. I think I could be quiet with him.
So here is my favourite Nigel Slater recipe: Sticky Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Honey from his TV Series Simple Suppers, this one is dead easy, but also surprisingly complex when it comes to taste.
The chicken thighs are marinated in a mixture of freshly squeezed lemon juice, lots of runny honey, a dollop or two of grainy mustard and some ( ok, I use lots) crushed garlic, pepper and sea salt. Then cooked in the oven till it's all nice and sticky and sweet with a tang of lemon. And then comes the best bit: a mixture of mashed green olives and bits of preserved lemon ( I use the fabulous ones from Oded's Kitchen, given to us by our lovely friend Joan). The saltiness of the green olives, and tanginess of the preserved lemon, is sublime when combined with the sweet honeyed garlicky taste of the chicken. In fact, at first taste, you're unsure as to whether or not you really like the combination. And then with your second bite you're absolutely hooked. This and a nice glass of chilled chenin blanc will keep you company. And if its a solo dinner, read the book Toast, or any one of his recipe books, especially The Kitchen Diaries. You'll almost fool yourself into thinking that you really, really do know him. And that he gave you the recipe, scribbled on a scrap of paper, late one rainy Sunday afternoon, after you'd gone for a long walk in the country with the dogs.

Friday 13 August 2010

Biting The Bullet

(The evidence - Exhibit A)
We were having a casual, lovely supper with friends on Monday night on their farm. Adi supplied the wine, Cornelia picked the salad from their vegetable patch. Nicky and Steve brought date sweets and halva from Abu Dhabi and Jacques and I brought the venison pies bought at a farmer's market. Sitting around the kitchen table surrounded by happy ( and yes, occasionally fighting) small boys and one gorgeous baby girl, it was exactly what happy suppers with friends should be. A table where a Louis Ghost chair sits elegantly next to worn white-paint-slightly-peeling-off-wooden one, where the glasses were expensive and the hastily grabbed kitchen cutlery not. A well-worn table with Syrian linen napkins piled high. An elegant glass salad bowl adjacent to the foil casing of the home-made pies. And suddenly amid the laughter and the conversation, Cornelia bit into the bullet that had killed the poor buck that was destined for our pie. Having ascertained that her teeth were still in good nick, and that lead poisoning was improbable, we continued eating the pie. And then a friend phoned from Europe wanting my opinion re her coming back and making a go of it in South Africa. I told her about the dinner and the pie and the bullet. I'm not sure why I did that? Or why I found it so significant? Why it pleased me as much as it did? But I want her to come home. And I don't think one finds bullets in one's pies in Antibes, or in the Caribbean island paradise that is St Barth's. And I think I'd miss that. I'm hoping she does too.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

The Art of Biscuits

(Bakers Iced Zoo Biscuits)

(Artist Stuart Bird's Zuma Biscuits)

Many years ago, while working as an au pair in Paris, I visited a museum where a teacher was explaining Matisse's La Danse to a group of schoolchildren. I remember being envious of these children, of what they were being exposed to. And yes, of course I was enamoured with all things French. Brioche was better than boere biskuit. And Matisse offered such an easy artistic pleasure...
Last week we visited the Iziko South African National Gallery with friends to see the wonderful '1910-2010 From Pierneef to Gugulective' exhibition. 100 Years worth of art depicting our South Africa's history, our present, our issues, our pride and our shame. The works by Jane Alexander, Willie Bester, Brett Murray, Mary Sibande captured my imagination, and moved me as they always do, as did the old Drum magazine images by photographers such as Jurgen Schadeberg. But the one that reminded me just how far we've come as a nation was the work Zuma Biscuits by Stuart Bird. Using as inspiration the Baker's Zoo biscuits which South Africans (admittedly not all) would remember eating as special treats during their childhood, he tackled the thorny issues regarding President Jacob Zuma. The innocent images of animals were replaced by the more emotionally-laden and politically-charged images of a Zulu shield, a shower head, a machine gun and a mini skirt. So what initially strikes you as a playful, colourful work, upon closer inspection poses some powerful, worrying questions. But what impressed me more than the actual work was its presence in SANG, and that there was a teacher leading some school children in healthy debate about the work and it's symbolism. In much the same way that I had seen the French teacher do in Paris, when I was hung up on all things French and perceived what we had back home as inferior in so many ways. Whether or not one agrees with the sentiments of the the work is, for me, less important than the fact that it exists; that it hangs in our National Gallery and and that our schoolchildren are exposed to it.
And of course, it got me thinking when last I'd eaten a Zoo Biscuit. We never ate them in our home, but Granny Dulcie used to buy them for us for when we went to visit her and Grandpa for tea. They were a very special treat. I loved the pastel colours, the pictures, the taste of the sweet grainy icing before the biscuit base balanced out the sweetness. I liked the crunch factor, and was never one of those children who licked off the white icing animal first. To be honest I was rather repulsed by the actions of those who did. I nibbled it starting at one corner and when I got halfway through, I took one large big bite, liking the way the sweet icing and biscuit filled my mouth.
So afterward the exhibition I bought a packet and ate Zoo Biscuits for the first time in 30 years. And it brought back happy memories of Gran and Grandpa and their nesting wooden tables, and the tiny table that had a key underneath it, and when you would it up, played a pretty tune. And drinking tea out of pretty cups and saucers, and chocolate squares that were kept in the fridge. And the memories were as sweet as the icing sugar that melted in my mouth. And yes, the pictures on the biscuits don't seem as clear as they did when I was a child. But then they seldom are. And while things may not always be clear or as pretty as you would like them to be, I found comfort in the fact that these biscuits were a South African thing. In the same way that Bird's work was. And being South African , for me anyway, is always both sweet and disconcerting.

'1910-2-10 Pierneef to Gugulective' is on until 3 October 2010

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Divulging The Secret of Domestic Sluttery

( Ta Dum! Opening the doors to Domestic Sluttery...)

I've agonized over this post. Some things are just so fabulous, you selfishly want to keep them to yourself. Like the time I bought a pair of black leather boots at Pollini in Sloane Street; they were the wrong size; even I knew that a Size 9 would be way to big, but it was the tail end of the January sales, and it was such a bargain, and I simply had own them; could not let anyone else have them. Not at that price. So there I was stuck with a pair of size 9 black boots that I really could not walk in, not even when triple-socking, and so I learned a valuable lesson. With some things The Universe requires us to be generous. Some things need to be passed on. Secrets are secrets, and when entrusted to you, should never be divulged. But happy World Wide Web discoveries, such as the most subversive recipe blog (What The Fuck Should I Make For Dinner), the funniest Youtube clips (Tim Michin) are meant to be shared.
Which is why, (and of course I also hope that cyber karma will be delighted by my generosity towards the world and will richly reward me for it) I have to tell you about my absolute favourite website. Wait for it.... Domestic Sluttery. It is beyond fabulous. It is described as 'The home and lifestyle blog for women who have better things to do.' And it will compel you to shop-till-you-drop, redecorate your home, bake and cook like goddess enable you to transform yourself, all the while sipping your martini, eating your cupcake, and being smugly self-congratulatory about being such a divinely clever-clever girl. With such divinely clever-clever cyber mates.

Thanks to Domestic Sluttery I now make the very best Slutty Pasta as it's become known in our home. It's a brocolli, anchovy, chilli and garlic number, which I have simplified even further, by buying those nifty Woolies chilli, garlic, ginger ready chopped quadrants. Even better for a quickie pasta.
Simply steam the broccoli then put aside. While your spaghetti is boiling, melt a jar of anchovies in some good olive oil on a low heat, before adding loads of chopped garlic and chilli and stirring together. When your spaghetti is done al dente, of course, add the anchovy, chilli and garlic mix to the pasta as well as the steamed broccoli. Serve with a chilled bottle of nice white.

This, by way of warning, is not a pasta for shy girls or retiring boys. But why would you be having them for dinner anyway?

Friday 6 August 2010

Olive Oil Beauty Stuff. Good Enough To Eat.

( The delicious Olive and Fig Jam)

( The non-greasy, moisturizing, slight-slight hint of vanilla body butter)

I do not subscribe to less is more. It's simple really. No, More is most definitely more. If I like something, its stands to reason that I'd want a lot of it. So that's why I've never been a La Mer fan. God forbid I should start liking the most expensive beauty product in the world, and then have to secretly take a second mortgage on our house to support my beauty addiction. But I do like lovely long baths, and even-longer non-evironmentally friendly showers. I like pretty smelly things, and beauty products in nice packaging. And no, I'd rather not smell of a magnolia thank you very much.
So, how fabulous, to discover that my favourite olive oil producer, Kloovenburg, (11 years' worth of dirty weekends in Riebeek-Kasteel) has now entered the beauty world. They first started making soap as a by-product to their olive harvest and olive oil production in the valley about 10 years ago, and we would stop off for a quick shop of olives and olive oil soap for my sensitive skinned mother and cousin. They swore by it. And I obliged by buying it for them, but tempted to forego my own imported smellies? No, not me. Not then. Now, however things have changed, my skin has become more sensitive and easily irritated, (yes, I am now talking about my skin and not my personality), and I am also making peace ( sort of ) with my inner Frugalista. Which is why I am absolutely thrilled with Kloovenburg's new range. Olive oil, as my mom's Greek friend, Zetta, assures me is Liquid Gold and she is loving proof that by using it, you can shave 15 years off your age and no one will be any the wiser. Which make me even happier when the lovely Annalene du Toit, tells me that each olive oil based product contains at least a 1/3 actual olive oil. These olive oil enriched beauty products are really amazing, offering intense moisturising properties, without leaving a greasy residue, they are gently fragranced with essential oils imported from Grasse, France, as well as from a local supplier who supplies them with an indigenous essential oil. To be frank, it's hard to believe that the products are as reasonable as they are. They might not cost a lot, but they certainly aren't a cheap product. But ranging from R19 to R71 per item , you'd be hard pressed to find anything else this good at these prices. And the elegant black and silver packaging looks expensive too. These are nice products to have if you're into aesthetics as well and you're trying to wean your man off the supermarket variety shower gel that he is so fond of and which really screws up your boudoir/bathroom style. But more importantly they work. They are the perfect antidote to itchy winter skin, and I'm sure come summer, my skin will be grateful for my new beauty regimen. I'll be buying it in huge quantities. I'll also be buying their olive and fig jam ( grown and made on the farm) in vast quantities. Eaten with a sharp cheddar, or even plain on a toasted slice of rye bread. Yum. Because beauty comes from inside. As well. So they say.

Just to give you an idea of the prices, here they are, unfortunately not (yet) widely stocked, it's best to email info@kloovenburg, to find out more about where to buy their products. Or do yourself a favour and take a drive out to the valley and stock up on their rather delicious Kloovenburg White from Red Brut, if it's not all sold out. This pale pink sparkling is is fabulous and while it may not be Laurent Perrier, it still goes down a treat.

Kloovenburg Body Products Price List ( prices direct from the estate, of course)

Lotions & Moisturisers
• Olive Oil Hand Cream 50g - R 54.00
• Olive Oil Heel Balm 50g - R 54.00
• Olive Oil Lip Balm 12ml - R 19.00
• Olive Oil Body Butter 250ml - R 59.00
• Olive Oil Body Lotion 250ml - R 50.00

• Olive Oil Foot Scrub 50g - R 54.00
• Olive Oil Body Exfoliator 250ml - R 45.00

Washes & Shower Gels
• Olive Oil Hand Wash 250ml - R 45.00
• Olive Oil Shower Gel 250ml - R 45.00

• Olive Oil Soap – Lavender - R 22.00
• Olive Oil Soap – Geranium - R 22.00
• Soap-on-a-Rope - R 23.00

Oils & Treatments
• Olive Oil Relaxing Massage Oil 100ml - R 71.00
• Olive Oil Nail Treatment 10ml - R 44.00
• Olive Oil Scalp Treatment 100ml - R 71.00
• Olive Oil Hypnotic Bath Oil 100ml - R 71.00
• Olive Oil Healing Bath Oil 100ml - R 71.00
• Olive Oil Body Treatment 100ml - R 71.00

Thursday 5 August 2010

When Life Hands You Lemons. Make Lemonade. Literally.

(My homemade lemonade. And decidedly homemade attempt at food styling)

No, I'm not going all greeting card on you. I really have been making lemonade. The nice men who came to spray our 3 lemon trees against The Enemies of the Lemon Trees, picked them all off the tree and left them at our front door. Which was kind of them. But what to do with all those lemons? I've made lemon chicken ( in various guises), I've elegantly placed some slices in water to make me take in more H2O, I've made fresh lemon juice salad dressing and squeezed some for pancakes. I have even used one to play fetch with Max, to less than an enthusiastic response.
And then I remembered my friend Lise's Boozy Vodka Lemonade. But did I phone her and ask for the recipe? No, instead I improvised. And have been left feeling slightly put out.
I used 1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of syrup and put it all on the stove. It felt decidedly unhealthy. I don't even take sugar in my tea or coffee, and here I was using a whole cup of sugar. Even I know that's not going to melt away my fat miraculously. But making lemonade from scratch made me feel wholesome. And I kind of liked that feeling.
So I persisted. And having left the mixture to bubble on the stove away happily, I returned to find that the juice and water had evaporated, which I take it, is the point, and left all the sugary syrup behind. Enough syrup to make perhaps one litre of lemonade. 1.2 if I count the vodka... So clearly not what one would consider a health drink. But surprisingly delicious. And so I drank it alone. In the early morning sun. And felt very Desperate Housewife-ish. But in a good way, you know.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Shoe Porn

(My Melissa's shoes as designed by Karim Rashid and stocked by Imagenius)

(The Imagenius Sale!)

I love shoes. They always fit. Even when ass is fat, my feet are a size 6 (ok, sometimes a 7). I have a vast shoe collection, some are particularly trashy and are never worn, only admired by my inner slut. There is one pair, however, that meets all my Shoe Porn criteria. They are beautiful. Sexy. Comfortable. And Designer (ish). They are my Melissa's designed by Karim Rashid ( the flamboyant designer with the very pink house interiors). How fabulous is the curved wedge heel? I loved the one's designed by Vivienne Westwood, but I lusted after these. And occasionally lust has the edge over love. So I bought them. And no they're not for walking in. These are purely for posing. On our our couch. On our bed.
My friend Jacqui stocks them in her wonderful shop, Imagenius. I hope she has some more in stock and I hope they're available on The Big August Imagenius Sale. Because I want more. Because, having not eaten the last of the koeksisters in the fridge, I think I deserve it. And if I don't buy shoes. Well then, a teeny-tiny piece of bling or an itsy-bitsy bit of art should console me and appease my appetite. Surely.

Monday 2 August 2010

Sugar Rush


(Arno Arpin -The Koeksister Man)

A koeksister, as traditionally made by the Afrikaners, is a made from a doughnut dough, plaited, fried, and then dipped into syrup. It is served cold, some argue very cold, so that when you bite into the hardish exterior of the koeksister all the cold sweet syrup fills your mouth, before you eat the slightly chewy dough. I doubt I'm doing it any justice, it's hard to describe. I'ts a (very) sweet something that is as typically South African as biltong and boerewors.
Now some people make their own. But I won't even begin to attempt that. Some things are best left to the experts. And the very best ones are to be found near N1 City Mall, where the ever-cheerful Arno Arpin has been selling koeksisters for almost 20 years along the side of the road. For a brief time, bureaucracy forced him to sell from a small stall inside the mall, but thankfully, he is now a free man again. You'll find him selling them at the informal trading spot at the traffic lights in front of the McDonalds. At R20 for 10 deliciously large syrupy, crunchy koeksisters, this huge sugar rush is an absolute bargain. Buy them, store them in the fridge, and when self-discipline fails you, eat them.

Arno Arpin can also be contacted on 083 7370538 or on 021 5921819 if you wish to place orders before the time, and don't want to risk driving up the N1 only to find that he's sold all sold out and gone home for the day. Because nothing will piss you off more than that.