RECIPE: Divine beetroot and butternut salad

Back when the world was green, I really loved a little joint in Greenside called Wild Olive. I discovered it doing a story and then tried to go back there as often as possible. Sadly it closed down because the owner moved and it was replaced by Dukes. Thankfully Dukes is kind to vegetarians (although the service comes and goes), but I miss Wild Olive.

Lunch at Wild Olive consisted of a harvest table groaning under fresh dishes, ranging from delectable savoury tarts with a crispy crust to organic, fresh veggies. The thing that always had me going back for more was the butternut and beetroot salad. It’s an amazing combination, with the crunchy earthiness of the beetroot and the gooey sweetness of the butternut, with salty, firm pieces of feta and peppery rocket to tie it all together.

Tonight I made my own version and I was so chuffed at how it worked out. Here’s what you need:

  • Half a butternut, cubed
  • Two beetroots, cubed – I used half a giant golden beet. The flavour is milder than normal beetroot, but either works
  • Feta cheese
  • Asian leaf salad, rocket, or any other peppery leaf you like
  • Spring onion
  • A quarter of an onion, finely chopped

What made mine even more amazing was the dressing. It came from a recipe book called The Cake the Buddha Ate. In the recipe book the dressing was for a couscous salad, but it worked amazingly well for this. You’ll need:

  • 100ml olive oil
  • 50ml apple cider vinegar
  • A quarter of a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Half a teaspoon or one clove of crushed garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the butternut cubes and the beetroot cubes and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pop in a 200 degree oven until the butternut is cooked. Once the butternut and beetroot are cooked, take it out of the oven and allow to cool slightly. Drizzle half the dressing over the slightly warm butternut and beetroot and put it in the fridge to cool down slightly. It doesn’t have to be cold at all, but it can’t be hot either or the salad will wilt. Next chop up the rest of the ingredients and combine with the cooled butternut and beetroot. Mix well and add the rest of the dressing. Now stop reading and gorge yourself!

Juice!

Of course there had to be kale. Always kale… This week I decided to hide the kale in juice. The unfortunate thing is that the weird greenness of it is tough to hide, but it is quite possible to hide the flavour. I also got golden beets in this week’s box. I used some of them in a very strange and somewhat depressing dinner that I ate by myself on Thursday night, while TBW was working late and just before a three hour power cut. Not exactly festive. I used two to make golden beet chips, which were so delicious that I ate all of it. The rest went into the juice.

I’ll tell you this: if you’re a vegetarian and don’t have a juicer, get one. It’s a great way to deal with veggies that are about to go off or, you know, kale. If, like me, you have a hard time appreciating fruit, a juicer is also a good way to make you feel like you’re making an effort in the fruit department. Juicers are also awesome because you don’t have to prepare anything. You just chuck everything in there, peels and stems and all, and watch the magic happen.

Aside from the sickly green kale colour, today’s juice was pretty good. I don’t care for sweet things, so I took it easy on the fruit. If you love fruit or sweets, go bananas. (See what I did there?) Make your own by juicing the following:

Three golden beets. Regular beets would be good too, but would change the colour. I love juicing beet. It’s so sweet and earthy.

Kale. As much as you can stomach.

One pineapple.

Two apples.

Ginger. I love ginger in juice. It makes it special, so I add a lot. You do whatever makes you happy.

Now juice, and drink! Cheers!

Timothy and Clover vegetable box

A vegetarian take on Sunday lunch

What is it about Sunday afternoons that makes us so eager to break bread with friends and family? We used to have Sunday lunch at TBW’s folks or mine, but things got a little complicated last year. Since then we’ve either gone out for Sunday lunch or done something low-key at home. For some reason today felt like a lazy Sunday lunch day. Our Timothy and Clover box arrived this Friday, filled with fresh, organic veggies. This week’s haul included more sweet potatoes (we never used last week’s), kale (ugh), fresh flat leaf parsley, brinjals (eggplant, for those who don’t know), gem squashes and onions. Friend A said that she’ll pop by before work today, so I decided to make my own vegetarian version of a Sunday lunch.

Growing up, Sunday lunches used to be one massive meal made up of smaller dishes. The meat used to be the main event. The type of veggies depended on the type of meat and whatever was in the house at the time. These lunches used to be heavy and very long and in later years included a fair amount of wine – something I’m always happy about. My vegetarianism threw a spanner in the works for my poor mom, who struggles to this day to think of things to prepare to replace the meat dish.

Timothy and Clover vegetable box

Red peppers, brinjals, brown onions, kale, gem squashes, cherry tomatoes and sweet potatoes in this week’s T&C box

I wanted to emulate the traditional Afrikaans Sunday lunch by preparing a number of smaller dishes – without the meat. To stick to my system of using the worst vegetables first, I made Spanish rice with kale again. This time, I chopped the raw kale in a food processor and sautéed it with onion and garlic. Then I added the rice, some chopped sundried tomatoes and a stock and tomato puree mixture. Even though I used much more kale this time, the fact that it was so finely chopped meant I could hardly taste it, which was exactly what I was after. I stirred in some fresh spring onions right at the end for a bit of freshness. It worked beautifully and I’ll add a little more next time.

I also made sweet and spicy sweet potatoes again. The post with that recipe seems to have disappeared into the abyss. You can view the original here.  This time I added flat leaf parsley instead of coriander, but it worked just as well. I oven-roasted brinjal disks with whole garlic cloves for a bit of flavour and oven-roasted red peppers.

Friend A can’t eat rice, so I cooked some macaroni for her. I used fresh basil from our recently acquired herb pot to make a quick basil pesto, with basil, peanuts and wonderful peppery olive oil. I copped up some roasted pepper and brinjal for her and mixed the whole lot together with some fresh basil and black pepper.

Sunday lunch

Lunch with love: TBW and friend A sitting down to an old school Sunday lunch

TBW set the table, Friend A brought the wine and we enjoyed a vegetarian version of the old school Sunday lunch. I was quite proud of my old fashioned spread and nobody missed the meat.

Rocomamas

Veggie review: Rocomamas

As vegetarians we are often immune to the siren call of fast food. Yes, you can grab a veggie burger here and there and pizza is, of course, the ultimate comfort grub, but on the whole we are slightly more conscientious when it comes to food. I generalise, so forgive me if you are the one vegetarian who lives for anything deep fried. No judgement here. Rock on!

I will admit, however, that from time to time I want nothing more than to shove a burger in my face. I don’t mean a fancy metre high goats cheese and beetroot burger that costs a fortune. I’m referring to the kind of burger that meat eaters can access 24 hours a day at McDonalds (ew).

Enter Rocomamas in Randburg. This funky little burger joint manages to be both a fast food restaurant and a fun place.  If there’s one thing I appreciate in restaurants, it’s keeping the menu simple. Do I really want six hundred different types of bread? No. I want a burger. I want to be able to add cheese to the burger, because the entire point of fast food is the cheese, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go.

Rocomama’s does what I think of as traditional American fast food – chicken wings, ribs, and burgers. TBW tells me the chicken wings are the best he’s had in a long time. I believe him, because I watched him eat 16 really hot ones in one day and regretting eating 16 really hot ones the next day.

There are six burgers on the menu, and the option to build your own. All of the burgers are available in vegetarian, which helps more with some than others. Personally I would steer clear of the Bacon Cheese and Bacon Cheese Guac burgers. We bumped into the owner one day, who told us that his mother was a vegetarian, which is why he offers vegetarian options. He uses Fry’s burger patties, which is admittedly not the most flavourful burger patties in the world, but when you slap on some fried onions and guac, it’ll do just fine.

Want to know the best part? The burgers cost between R35 and R49 each!

Rocomama’s might be a fast food-type joint, but there are worst things than spending the evening there. It’s funky and vibey, you’ll see all sorts of Randburgers stop in for a takeaway and they serve craft beer.

It’s great for what it is, so I’m giving it four carrots. I’m witholding one carrot until they start making their own patties.

Cabbage parcels

Recipe: Cabbage and red lentil parcels

Today was cabbage day and I was surprised at how well it worked out. Growing up, cabbage was the one vegetable that I simply couldn’t stand. Since becoming a vegetarian I’ve realised that cabbage can be great in stir fry, but that’s about as far as my interest in cabbage ever went. Friend A, when presented with my cabbage dilemma, told me about something her mom used to make when she was a kid. Essentially it’s minced meat wrapped in cabbage, but I adapted it to a vegetarian version.

I have to admit this dish looked grim from the get-go. Cabbage isn’t exactly a sexy vegetable. It’s very four-grandparents-to-a-single-bed, please-sir-can-I-have-some-more. To make matters worse, I wrapped the cabbage around cooked red lentils. If you’ve ever seen cooked red lentils you’ll know what I mean. They look like sadness in a pot.

Cabbage leaves

Cabbage: Not sexy

Aside from the depressing look of it, the dish was very simple to put together and suprisingly tasty – so much so that I look forward to the opportunity to try it again.

I shoot from the hip, so I can’t say exactly how many red lentils I cooked, but I can say I didn’t make much. The amount of filling you need very much depends on how big your cabbage is. I only had a little cabbage and I could imagine more or less how big the parcels would be. I worked it back in my head.

I fried some onions with the chilli, ginger and garlic paste I mentioned before, added the cooked red lentils and about half a sachet of tomato paste. I only added the paste to add a little colour to the affair. I couldn’t take the grimness.

I carefully pried the whole cabbage leaves away from the head and dunked them in hot water to soften them up. Once they were soft enough to fold, I put about half a teaspoon of the lentil mixture in the hollow part of the leaf, as I’ve demonstrated in this very blurry picture below. The trick is not to fill it too much, or it’ll burst open, leak, look terrible and ruin your day.

Filled cabbage leaf

The blurriness of doom

Then I wrapped them into little parcels, covered the dish with foil and popped them in a 200 degree Celcius oven for about 20 minutes (I think –  I didn’t actually check).  I didn’t have to butter or oil the dish they were in, and I didn’t add any nasty stuff to the dish. I let them steam in their own juices in the oven. Then I removed the foil and put them back for a while to give them a chance to brown.

Cabbage parcels

Cabbage parcels

That was that! The result was sweet, juicy parcels that I ended up eating like sushi – in indulgent, delightful, huge gulps. I couldn’t even wait for them to cool down. That was a mistake. Of course you can fill these leaves with flavoured rice, or cheese, or whatever tickles your fancy. I especially recommend this if you don’t like cabbage. You might just change your mind about it.

Serve as a starter or side dish. It’s not nearly filling enough to work as a main.

Patty pan fritters and baked bean stacks

Recipe: Patty pan fritters and baked bean stacks

Before TBW moved in a year and a month ago, I lived by myself. I got pretty good at it. I figured out how to cook for myself in a way that was easy and low effort. At some point I was so damn broke that I ate baked beans all the time. A typical evening for me would entail having a glass of something wonderful and mostly red, slapping together an incredibly gratifying dinner and spending the rest of the evening playing guitar or watching a show or having a stupidly long bath.

I don’t often miss the days of the baked bean, but if you’ve been living alone for eight years and suddenly you don’t, you get a little nostalgic. This week TBW went out to dinner with a friend and I got an opportunity to pretend I was a bachelor again. Of course I simply had to start the evening with a tipple. We’re almost out of wedding wine, so I decided on a pink gin and tonic instead. It’s pink because you add a dash of bitters. It’s so delicious.

Pink gin and tonic

Don’t you just want to dive in there?

Unfortunately I had a whole tray of patty pans to deal with. What does one do with patty pans? I asked around at the office and nobody knew. In fact, nobody really likes them. I figured I’d better make them while TBW was out because he hates them.

I Googled patty pan recipes and got diddly squat. Then I thought that patty pans are kind of like pumpkins and I really like pumpkin fritters. I mentioned this to the foodie colleague and it was settled. Patty pan fritters it would be!

I found the recipe I was going to use right away – a rarity – and I was ready for my evening of nostalgic loneliness.

The recipe I used was really easy to make. You basically grate the patty pans, mix in the rest of the ingredients and fry in a bit of oil. It’s such a beautiful batter, with the greens and yellows from the patty pans.

Grated patty pan fritter batter

Pretty green and yellow grated patty pan

Grated patty pan fritter batter

The batter before adding the flour, salt and baking powder

Grated patty pan fritter batter

The final patty pan fritter batter

Laziness and a vague sense of healthy living made me decide to make the fritters in the toaster again. It took a little longer, but I could make more fritters at a time and I didn’t have to use any oil. As my colleague predicted the patty pans weren’t as crunchy as they ought to have been, but I didn’t mind it much.

Patty pan fritters

Happily cooking away on the toaster while I tended to the business of beans

Seeing as this was an homage to my single days, I simply had to include beans. I wanted to keep it super simple so that the beans would be done by the time the fritters were cooked. I turned, once again, to the fiery chilli, garlic and ginger paste friend Jay’s mom so kindly sent us. I swear, it can save any dish from mediocrity. I will ask for the recipe at some point, attempt it myself and let you know how it went.

I chucked in half an onion and a whole tin of ordinary baked beans and let it simmer for a while. That was that! The patty pan fritters tasted a lot like pancakes I wasn’t really expecting that, but it worked!

For the purposes of presentation to the masses (or, you know, you), I made patty pan fritter and baked bean stacks. No bachelor evening would ever be complete without cheese, of course, so I grated some creamy gouda onto the whole lot. After I took the picture, I added some more on top. I wouldn’t want you to think I’m a pig.

Patty pan fritter and baked bean stacks

Patty pan fritter and baked bean stacks

While admittedly unusual, it was such a good combination. The fritters added a bit of substance, the beans added a little bite and the cheese took care of the comfort element.

I realised, staring at the patty pans, that the vegetable box I got this week was a really tough one. Most of the vegetables I received I wouldn’t ordinarily buy – kale, sweet potatoes, patty pans… TBW used the carrots, the only vegetables we got that I feel fairly comfortable with, and I have the great delight of using the cabbage tomorrow. Friend A gave me an idea which I’ll attempt, but I’m not saying much more in case it bombs. Having said that, I’m really chuffed that I forced myself to use the vegetables I don’t like or know very little of first. I’ve made great new discoveries this week. To the cabbage, then.

Toasted ciabatta with a side of spicy sweet potato

Recipe: Sweet mercy!

I am on a cooking power trip. I am bloody wild. So, remember how I got kale and then I knocked it out of the park? I’m still freaking out about that. The next vegetable in order of lame was sweet potatoes. TBW made pasta on his turn – with an epic sailor-style marinara sauce and spicy aubergine. It was so good, but I realised he obviously wasn’t going to bail me out with the whole vegetable thing. And so, with a heavy heart and not much enthusiasm at all I set about sweet potato-ing.

There was this recipe for a spicy sweet potato salad with this week’s veggie box. It’s great and very simple. I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I used the recipe as a guideline to do my own thing. This seems to be a theme with me.

I started by thoroughly scrubbing the sweet potatoes. They spend their knobbly little lives underground and aren’t nearly as smooth as ordinary potatoes, so you need to de-dirt them if you’re not fond of eating soil.

Sweet potatoes

Above: Sweet potatoes, ready for action!

I cut them into round disks (without peeling), covered them in olive oil and put them in a 200 degree Celicius oven for 40 minutes. The last ten minutes weren’t necessary, so feel free to go with 30 when you try.

This, I assume, is how you would ordinarily cook sweet potatoes. What made this recipe special is the sauce with which you eventually cover the hot sweet potato.

The recipe says you should start by roasting fennel seeds, but we’re out so I roasted coriander instead. Then I crushed a clove of garlic and some salt in our awesome mortar and pestle that we bought on our honeymoon in Inhambane.

I mixed the crushed garlic with a tablespoon of honey, six tablespoons of Chilean red wine vinegar, two tablespoons of olive oil and a quarter teaspoon of chilli seeds and oil – also from Moz. Later I crushed the roasted coriander and added some to the sauce. The original recipe called for one and a half teaspoons of fennel, but I didn’t want to add that much coriander, so I opted for about half a teaspoon.

My original plan was to serve the sweet potatoes with a fresh salad, but unbeknownst to me TBW had used all our salad ingredients the night before, so I had to make another plan.

We had a three-day-old rather stale ciabatta in the bread bin, and this was to be my salvation. I fried some halloumi cheese, also from Timothy and Clover, on the bread toaster. It’s a good little hack, especially if your non-stick pans are shot.

Above: Cooking cheese in the non-stick toaster is awesome if your non-stick frying pans are shot.

Above: Cooking cheese in the non-stick toaster is awesome if your non-stick frying pans are shot.

I crushed a clove of roasted garlic I still had in the fridge with a bit of salt to turn it into a paste. I spread this paste on the roll, instead of butter. Next I fried half an onion with some balsamic vinegar to give it a nice tang. I assembled the whole lot, added a bit of mayonnaise (naughty, I know) and toasted.

At this point the sweet potatoes had cooked and were looking delicious. As per the recipe, I drizzled my spicy dressing over the warm sweet potatoes and let it all soak in. I let them cool for a while and then mixed in some fresh coriander leaves.

Above: The delicious end result

Above: The delicious end result

I don’t want to oversell this, but it’s tough not to. I consider myself a sweet potato convert after this. My word! I served the sweet potatoes with the ciabatta, which I shared between TBW and myself. Luckily sweet potato is quite filling, so it was enough to keep us happy.

Toasted ciabatta with a side of spicy sweet potato

Above: Dinner is served! I went a little overboard with the dressing when I dished mine, but I liked it.

At the symphony

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Opening night of the first season of the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2014 year. At the Linder Auditorium as a birthday surprise for TBW. Kicked off the evening at The Ant. Sad that Jozi’s best pizza was a letdown tonight.

Thinking of an old friend who wanted an orchestra warming up to be the music at his funeral. Good friends we had, good friends we lost along the way.

Recipe: Conquering kale

Kale is lame. It tastes weird, the texture is strange, it’s so… green. As I said in my previous post, I got some kale in this week’s veggie box. Because I tend to avoid cooking veggies I don’t like, waiting too long and then throwing them away, I’ve resolved to cook the veggies I don’t like (or don’t know) first. It’s bold, I know, but I’m basically fearless.

This week kale was my nemesis. If you’ve ever tried to find a nice kale recipe, you’ll know that it’s virtually impossible. I don’t like the taste, so having just kale is a terrible option. Kale chips seems to be the only tasty thing you can do with kale, but that doesn’t help me with dinner.

I managed to find a recipe for pasta salad with kale that had an acceptable kale-to-other-ingredients ratio. You can view the original recipe on http://ingredientsinc.net.

Sadly I didn’t have all the ingredients. For example, the recipe requires orzo. I don’t think I’ve ever owned orzo. So I improvised.

At this point I have to fess up that I made Spanish rice again, for the second time in less than a week. I can’t help it. It’s so delicious. This time I used spring onions and a garlic, chilli and a ginger paste, and added some roasted garlic cloves. I used the same method I did last time for the rice. Refer back to that blog. It came out beautifully.

I cut up kale, blanched it on the stove for five minutes and let it cool. I cut it up pretty fine so that I wouldn’t be able to taste it too much when the time came.

Once the rice was cooked, I added the blanched kale and let it cool in the fridge. In the process I managed to break the glass bowl it was supposed to cool in and had a tough time keeping shards of glass out if our food.

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Next I chopped half a cup of cucumber, half a cup of spring onion and about half a cup fresh coriander (cilantro to my foreign friends). You’ll notice the original recipe calls for basil. I decided coriander would be a better bet with the spicy Spanish rice, especially since the dressing is so lemony.

I popped that in the fridge also and set about making the dressing, which was very easy indeed. I squeezed the juice from one lemon, added two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, one teaspoon of hot English mustard and a dash of olive oil.

Later I mixed the whole lot together (still doing all the mixing with a fork to keep the rice ricey).

You’ll notice I didn’t add any cheese and ended up using half the olive oil the original recipe called for. I’ve noticed a little oil can go a very long way. I also only recently found out that a tablespoon of oil contains about 100 calories.

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The combination was incredible! Not even the kale could spoil it. Later TBW made some very, very salty kale chips with the leftovers and that was all she wrote for this week’s bum vegetable.

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