Tag Archives: ingredients

My Weekend Inspiration….

21 May

A lot of people ask where I get my inspiration and ideas from. It’s usually the first thing they ask me if they know about my blog. Apart from being influenced by all the amazing restaurants we visited in Cape Town recently, I get inspiration every day when I go out running with Rufus (the dog) and occasionally The Washer Up comes too.

It’s when I get time to think about ideas and things come together somehow. I’ll try to explain: on Saturday I saw this apricot on the ground as I was running past a field that normally has a Shetland pony in it. The pony is not there anymore but we always look to see if he’s come back.  I noticed that there were two apricot trees laden with fruit that were just about ripe. One had fallen on the ground so I took some pictures of it. I wanted to take some more close up pictures of the tree with the fruit on it but I am a bit short and would have to climb on a fence to get the shots. A job for The Washer Up definitely.  He was coming running with us on Sunday, I would have to wait.

Further on I saw these roses and had to stop to photograph them. The coral one is so beautiful I can still smell it now when I look at the picture, can you?

These apricot roses caught my eye aswell. It must be an apricot thing. So now we have apricots and roses, in my head I mean, not physically. I didn’t steal them, honest.

Next I noticed that the almond trees have started to bear fruit (or nut) and you can see little furry green pods all over the branches. These protect the young green almond inside. So almonds join the apricots and roses in my head. What does apricot, rose and almond say to you? To me it says, Moroccan, Middle Eastern exotic, floral, sweet pastries. Or even slow-cooked fragrant tagines sweetened with dried fruits and topped with crisp, toasted almonds. Or lightly aromatic Tabbouleh or couscous salads studded with jewel coloured fruits and crunchy nuts and flecked with bright green fresh herbs. So that is where my mind is going on that one. Watch this space, I am getting apricots in my organic veg box this week.

Oh and he got the apricot tree shots by the way….

Sunday was all about photographing baby fruits and getting excited about future summer recipes. The creative process begins now. There are baby persimmons to think about.

Watching pomegranate flowers turning into fruit before your eyes.

Baby quince with their furry skin just beginning to show.

And tiny little bunches of grapes peeking out from under the vine leaves. Lots to think about.

We also saw a farmer harvesting his red potato crop on the way round.

Very exciting, we had been watching them grow for a while but had no idea that they were red until now. Aren’t they lovely? He also had some enormous spring onions growing next to the potatoes. So I’ve now opened a new file in my head that contains red potatoes and spring onions.

There are also some beautifully vibrant green lettuces that are desperate to be included somewhere too.

On the way back home we went to a new organic farmers market that is held every Sunday morning in Coin. My friend Judi had told me about it, so we went to have a look. It’s a local initiative to encourage people to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from their neighbours rather than supermarkets. All the stallholders live in Coin and have private small holdings. Some are organic and some are not but it is all clearly marked.

And guess what the first organic stall we came across was selling?

Oh yes, red new potatoes. It’s the little things that make you happy isn’t it. We bought a kilo, I have no idea what I am going to do with a kilo of new potatoes but they were 50 cents, so I couldn’t ask for half could I?

They also had some young garlic at the back there. So this file now contains, baby new red potatoes, spring onions and spring garlic. It has got to be a potato salad with those ingredients. But not a rich mayonnaise heavy potato salad, I’m thinking more of a light wine and stock cooked potato salad with olive oil, herbs, spring onions and garlic. It’s a French thing, I’ve seen it on Barefoot Contessa. I may have to try roasting some too as I have bought so many….

It’s only a small market but there was a local potter doing his thing and we also bought some of these deliciously sweet little organic strawberries.

They have a special destiny in a separate mental folder that I will share with you tomorrow…….

Natural Beauty and The Beauty of Nature

1 May

These are our white roses that have just come into flower on the roof terrace. Pretty aren’t they? And they smell beautiful too.

When I was in Cape Town, a friend of ours, Paul who supplies health products and supplements, asked to look in my make up bag while I was reapplying my lip gloss one evening. Any woman will appreciate my absolute horror at this request. It’s like asking a woman’s age, totally off limits.

But before I had the time to think up an excuse he had already snatched it out of my hands. I sat with my head facing the other way while he rifled through the contents, tutting and huffing as he did. Now I’m not the tidiest of girls when it comes to things like this but I didn’t think it was that bad.

I dared to look at him and was met by a look of disappointment and disgust. He’s good at that look.

His disdain was not based on my cleanliness (or lack of) but the utter disbelief that I could be so careful about what I put in my body, only buying organic vegetables and avoiding all processed foods, and then having a complete disregard for what I put on my skin. He started to explain that everything that you put on your skin, from deodorants, make-up and moisturisers to perfumes and hair products, are all full of nasty chemicals called Parabens, among other things. All of these get absorbed into the body and are floating around in there causing all sorts of problems, including cancer.

That’s when he told me to chuck it all in the bin. “What all of it?” I said “Even the expensive Clinique stuff?”

“Especially that!” he said. That’s when I started to panic obviously.

You have no idea how attached you are to certain things until someone threatens to take them away. Luckily, he’s a lovely man and he introduced me to a natural, plant-based cosmetics range called Dr Hauschka so I could replace the stuff that I had reluctantly binned.

Dr Hauschka products are 100% natural. They are free from synthetic preservatives, fragrances, colours and dyes and they get as many of their ingredients as possible from certified biodynamic and organic sources.

They also smell and feel fantastic, and they work. My skin has never felt better, honestly. I absolutely love the Rose Day Cream and the Quince Body Lotion. Even the bronzing powder smells like cinnamon.

I always used to check the labels on food before buying it, now I do the same with cosmetic products. Paul would be proud of me.

If you would like to find out more about Parabens and harmful chemicals in cosmetics you could read this report here

Next time you are buying a new face cream, toner, body lotion or blusher, please check the ingredients label, you’ll be shocked at how much rubbish they put in there.

For more information about Dr Hauschka products you can visit their website here

Jerk Roasted Squash with Fruit and Nut Rice Pilaf

21 Sep

I made some of this Jerk marinade/sauce to use up some of the hundreds of scotch bonnet chilli peppers I have at the moment. The plant/bush has actually flowered again and is now producing even more.

I also made another batch of my Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce …..

The first thing I made with the jerk marinade was Jerk Baked Feta. I don’t have any pictures of it because I made it at night and we ate it all, sorry (not sorry really), but I will definitely do it again, it tasted amazing.

All you do is put the 200 gr block of Feta onto a large rectangle of foil, spoon over 3 or 4 tbsp of the jerk marinade and coat it well. Wrap up the feta in a foil packet and bake it for 10-15 minutes at 180 C. Unwrap your fragrant cheesy parcel and dive in with some  good pita or roti bread.

A customer at the restaurant, Norman, gave us a bag full of these beautiful squash. In my new guise as “Jerk Addict” I knew I was going to give it the jerk treatment. The sweet butteryness of the squash is enhanced by the spicy, zingy jerk marinade, they are made for each other, seriously.

I served this with a Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf I found in my new Caribbean cookbook. Spice It Up by Levi Roots and drizzled it with some of my Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce mixed with some Greek yoghurt to tone it down slightly.

Jerk Roasted Squash with Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf

serves 3, vegan, gluten-free

For the jerk roasted squash:

  • 1 bunch/handful fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, then crushed
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns, then crushed
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 tsp allspice berries, then crushed
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 6 scotch bonnet chillies (mine are small) use 4 large deseeded
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 limes, zest of 1, juice of 2
  • 140 ml olive oil
  • 1 medium squash

Put all the ingredients for the jerk marinade (not the squash) in a processor and blend to a smooth paste. Transfer to a sterilised jar and seal. Refrigerate until needed. This makes about 200 ml.

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Wash the squash and slice off  a little of the top and bottom. Leave the skin on. Slice the narrow end into 1-2cm discs (see picture above). Then cut the fatter end in half lengthways, scrape out the seeds and slice each half into 1-2 cm half moons.

Line 2 baking sheets with foil and place the squash circles on one tray and the half moons on the other. Drop about a teaspoon of the jerk marinade onto each disc and swirl it around to coat the top. Turn the disc over and do the same on the other side. Do the same with the half moons. Drizzle both sets of squash with a little olive oil and put both trays in the oven. The discs on the top shelf and the half moons on the middle shelf.

Cook for 30 -40 minutes depending on the thickness of your slices. The half moons will be ready before the discs. You want them to be really soft when you test them with a knife.

Serve hot or at room temperature with the Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf.

For the Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf:

Serves 3, vegan, gluten free. Adapted from Spice it Up by Levi Roots

  • 150 gr long grain rice, I used a wild rice mix
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 50 gr sultanas (or dried tropical fruit mix)
  • 25 gr almonds, roughly chopped
  • 350 ml veg stock
  • the juice of 1/2 lime or orange
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt & black pepper

Rinse the rice in a sieve until the water runs clear and leave to drain. Heat the olive oil in a large pan with a lid over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until softened then add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring for another 2 minutes.

Next add the rice to the pan, stir to coat in the oil and spices then add the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Season well with salt & black pepper and boil hard for a minute. Then reduce the heat to very low and cover with a lid. Leave to cook for about 15 minutes until tender, try not to stir but make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Check seasoning and serve immediately garnished with some fresh thyme.

Serve the dish drizzled with some Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce if you like it fiery. Or mix it with some greek yoghurt for a more manageable heat.

This jerk marinade is amazing. You can use it for chicken, fish or pork but try the foil baked feta and squash too. You may surprise even the most stubborn carnivores with this recipe.

I also used it as a salad dressing with some more olive oil and lime juice. I used some of the leftover roasted squash, chopped up with some chickpeas and mixed it into a salad with the jerk dressing and a splash of hot pepper sauce. Really good lunch dish..

Things That Made Me Smile Today……..

 The Eucalyptus trees are starting to shed their bark, covering the ground with cinnamon- like curls….

It reminds me of a programme I saw about the cinnamon producers in Sri Lanka. Strips of  bark from the cinnamon tree are layered together, one curl inside another and then it is expertly rolled into the cinnamon sticks we buy and use for cooking. Amazing to watch….

It is one of the few signs of autumn we get here, and the first nod towards the changing season…..

Hello Autumn!

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