Yoghurt & wholegrain mustard chicken sarmies

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Yoghurt & wholegrain mustard chicken sarmie_1

This is an alternative take on the good ol’ chicken mayo sarmie. Simmering the chicken in yoghurt keeps the meat tender and moist, so have no fear of dry breast meat. Rustic and hearty, these sarmies are a meal in themselves, not to mention dead easy to make. Makes 2 large sandwiches.

250 ml plain yoghurt
30 ml wholegrain mustard
15 ml Balsamic vinegar
10 ml honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 free-range chicken breast fillets, cut into small chunks
4 thick slices sourdough bread
olive oil to drizzle
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
2 handfuls fresh salad leaves of your choice

Preheat the oven grill.
Mix together the yoghurt, mustard, vinegar and honey and season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and mix thoroughly. In a large frying pan over medium heat, gently simmer the chicken until just cooked through (about 5 minutes). Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, letting the sauce thicken.
Meanwhile, place the slices of bread on a baking tray and drizzle them with a little bit of olive oil. Place the tray under the grill until the bread turns a lovely deep golden colour (take care not to burn it – a hot grill can ruin your meal in seconds!).
To assemble, divide the hot chicken between two of the slices of bread. Sprinkle over the sliced spring onion and top with salad leaves. Finish off the sarmies with the remaining two slices of bread. Serve immediately.

Yoghurt & wholegrain mustard chicken sarmie_2

Raw mushroom, spinach & green olive salad

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Raw mushroom, spinach & green olive salad

Fancy a fresh, classy but simple salad in which a few ingredients really come into their own? This is the one. The paper-thin slices of mushroom and young spinach leaves offer a crisp texture that’s complemented by the freshness of a lemon zest and parsley dressing. The ideal starter to a seemingly effortless summer supper – perfect with the mineral bite of a chilled coastal region Sauvignon Blanc. Serves 3 as a starter, 4 as a side salad.

For the salad
100 g baby spinach
125 g (half a punnet) mushrooms
1 spring onion
15 green olives (about 50 g drained)
1 handful pecorino shavings

For the dressing
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 handful fresh flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
60 ml avocado oil
salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper

Method
Place the baby spinach leaves in a salad bowl or on a large serving platter. Clean the mushrooms with a paper towel and slice them as thinly as possible. Finely slice the spring onion.
Scatter the mushrooms, spring onion, olives and pecorino shavings over the salad leaves.
Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together. Dress the salad immediately before serving.

Journey into Motherhood

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Karo loer oor ma se skouer

I’m a mom. What a crazy concept. It’s been five months and the novelty still hasn’t worn off. Our daughter, Karo, was born in September last year and this is my first time writing since she made her way into this big, unknown world. Suffice to say that my life as I used to know it has been sucked fully into the whirlpool of sleep deprivation, emotional extremes, milky burps, dirty diapers and adorable gurgles that is motherhood. It is scary. It is hellishly demanding. Some days, being at home with Karo is lonely, miserable even. But it’s also amazing and completely awe-inspiring. It is an experience unlike anything I could have imagined, anything I could have really prepared for. There’s a little person that is half me, half her daddy – a beautifully crafted little mini human with ten perfect little fingers and toes, a rose bud mouth and doll-like long lashes framing impossibly blue eyes. And she is completely and utterly dependent on us to survive. Mind-boggling really.

If there’s one thing I’m certain of it’s that life will never be the same again. During the first three months of Karo’s life when colic had us all frayed at the edges, this reality hit hard. No more sleeping through or lying in, quickly popping out to the shops, impromptu date nights or calm dinners together at home even. For months daddy duty consisted of trying to create a bedtime routine for Karo – a warm bath followed by a cuddle and a cell phone app’s soothing white noise in the background to set the scene for a good night’s sleep. Without fail this was met with hours of ceaseless crying, courtesy of colic. And when I say crying, I’m referring to the type of crying that borders on hysterical screaming. Not fun for anyone concerned. Meanwhile, I would stand alone in the kitchen listening to the drama, trying to conjure up something for dinner that can be reheated whenever we finally get Karo down for the night. Throw in the general lack of inspiration that results from too little sleep and you’ve got yourself a pretty boring meal. One that takes twice as long as it should to prepare due to multiple breastfeeding breaks, that is. (Karo is big on snacking in the early evening.) In terms of ingredients to work with, the pickings were most often quite slim too. Slogging up and down a grocery store’s aisles with a baby strapped to my chest not being my idea of fun, we started buying groceries online. It’s a great service, but the delivery costs keep us from making use of it more than once a fortnight; hence the survival-trip undertone to our dinners.

You know, in my early twenties, I used to wonder what it would be like to be a thirty-something-year-old adult. I thought I would have finally “found myself”, have a respectable income, live in a neat and stylish home, and react to life with a sense of calm wisdom – like grown-ups do. So things didn’t pan out quite that way. Yes, I’ve done the grown-up thing of getting married, buying a house and having a baby, but I still feel like a kid messing about in her mom’s oversized high heels. The house that we’re having built is now officially one year behind schedule, so we’ve basically been camping out in an interim home that’s overflowing with the already bought sanitary ware for our new house; surfboards, diving gear and spare tyres that have no garage to be stored in; and, of course, garishly coloured baby paraphernalia. Who knew that such a little person could need so much stuff? In order to be able to look after the new addition to our family myself, I’ve given up my office job and took the pay cut that comes with doing only a limited amount of work from home. Hence, our dining room has become an eat-cum-play-cum-work space complete with laptop, play mat, bouncy chair, squeeqee toys and lost-looking decorative porcelain items. “Working” means answering emails with one hand whilst bouncing a baby on the other hip, reaching both hands around the baby on your lap to try type out well formulated feedback on students’ assignments while at the same time keeping the baby from falling, or feverishly making use of the opportunity to use both hands in preparing Powerpoint presentations whilst she has a quick nap. Oh, and losing your train of thought time after time as you try to simultaneously engage with your cooing daughter and grasp the line of argumentation in an academic article. And in between all of this I have no idea whether I’m providing Karo with enough “age-appropriate stimulation” to develop optimally, enough undivided attention for her to feel loved and just the right amount of solids to compliment her diet of breast milk. Frazzled? Yes. I asked for this, but where’s the wisdom? Where’s the calm? Supposedly grown-up me is feeling pretty darn adolescent these days.

Surprisingly, though, I’m okay with living according to the adage “fake it until you make it”. I’ve given up reading books on baby care as they mostly leave me either freaked out about why my baby isn’t sticking to the textbook or feeling massively incompetent. Now I just check them for the big things like when to expect her to reach certain developmental milestones. The rest I’m simply winging. Millions of mothers have raised children without guidebooks in even less composed households than ours and the kids somehow turned out just fine. Right? Also, I know the chaos is just temporary and that at some point (maybe with number two or three?) we’ll take the whole parenthood thing in our stride and manage to balance it with an adult life. We just have to. Until then, we’ll simply have to make the best of the learning curve and enjoy the novelty of the experience ̶ an experience that we are so very fortunate to have because this little girl of ours is the best thing that could possibly have come to turn our lives upside down. Yes, I sometimes pray for her to take a nap so that I can have some me-time, but then when she does, I find myself missing her. Often I can’t wait to hand her to someone else to hold so I can have my hands free for a moment, but then I soon long for the warmth of her little body against mine. I can’t stand her crying right next to my ear, yet I want to be the one to hold her until she finally calms and to feel her sleepy, milky breath in my neck. Adolescent me has fallen in love and is clearly subject to all the irrationality that comes with it. What a gloriously crazy blessed state of being. Thank you, Motherhood.

Familiefoto

Lime & Coconut Madeleines

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Lime & Coconut Madeleines_1

To me, Madeleines are the epitome of sophisticated daintiness – they make me want to put on lace gloves and have a fancy high tea. These miniature French sponge cakes are traditionally baked in a special pan with scalloped holes, resulting in petite sea shell-shaped treats. To add to their girly appeal, I decided to dip them in white icing and fine dessicated coconut, making them appear dusted in soft snow. The limes add a fresh edge to these otherwise sweet cakes, but if you can’t get hold of them, simply use lemons. (In all honesty, I only had the season’s first green lemons at hand, which tasted more of limes than lemons; hence the name of this recipe.) My Madeleine pans, handed down to me by my grandmother, also aren’t perfectly traditional, yielding cakes that are rounder than the traditional Madeleine. But let’s not split hairs – they still leave the pretty shell impression on the back and for daintiness purposes, that’s enough. (Makes 30)

125 g butter, at room temperature
350 ml castor sugar
5 ml vanilla essence
3 large eggs
625 ml cake flour
20 ml baking powder
2.5 ml salt
200 ml milk
finely grated zest and rind of 3 limes or 2 lemons
500 ml icing sugar
250 ml dessicated coconut

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease the insides of three Madeleine pans with a knob of butter.
Using an electric beater, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the vanilla essence.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between every addition.
Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together. Fold into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk.
Scoop the batter into the prepared pans, filling each hole about two thirds of the way.
Bake until golden and a skewer comes out clean (about 25 minutes). Allow the Madeleines to cool in the pans for 5 minutes before turning them onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Mix the lime zest and juice with the icing sugar. Dip the top or bottom surface (depending on your preference) of each Madeleine into the icing, then into the coconut.
Allow the icing to set completely before storing the Madeleines in an airtight container.

Lime & Coconut Madeleines_2

Kos vir die pase – die stories agter die tradisies

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Paasbolletjies

Met Paasfees op ons drumpel ruik supermarkte na die kaneel van varsgebakte paasbolletjies en staan die rakke vol foelieblink sjokolade-paaseiers. Tydens die paar dae voor Goeie Vrydag word kerrievis ook in die kombuise van ’n groot deel van Suid-Afrika se bevolking voorberei. Al ooit gewonder waar die Suid-Afrikaanse tradisie van paasbolletjies en kerrievis saam bedien sy wortels het? ’n Bietjie navorsing op webwerwe, in boeke en in die volksmond het ’n paar teorieë onthul.

Die kombinasie van kerrievis en paasbolletjies hang vir baie feesvierders nou saam met die Bybelse verhaal oor Jesus se vermeerdering van die vis en die brood. Die Katolieke gebruik van vis eet op Vrydae is ’n moontlike verdere faktor in hierdie tradisie. Dat dit spesifiek kerrievis (oftewel pekelvis) is wat ons in die Paastyd voorberei, is dalk te danke aan ’n suiwer praktiese oorweging: die algemene oortuiging dat daar nie gewerk (insluitend gekook) mag word op Goeie Vrydag nie, kan potensieel ’n paar uiters onfeestelike hongeres tot gevolg hê. Hierdie probleem word egter maklik oorkom deur kerrievis te bedien, aangesien dit dae voor die tyd reeds berei word om sy kenmerkende geur ten volle te ontwikkel.

Sommiges meen dat kerrievisresepte na Suid-Afrika gebring is deur slawe vanaf die Hollandse kolonies in Oos-Indië, vandaar dalk ook die voorliefde vir hierdie dis onder Kaapse inwoners. Met gebrek aan verkoeling was pekeling destyds ’n algemene manier om op beide skepe en op land die rakleeftyd van vis en vleis te rek. Anna du Preez, oorspronklik van Laingsburg, maar nou van die Kaapse vlakte, vertel dat die mense in Laingsburg se geweste – “die onderwêreld” soos sy dit noem – gewoonlik kerrie-afval in plaas van -vis voorberei rondom Paasfees. “Onse mense van die Karoo ken mos nie juis vis nie”, sê sy. “As ’n kuiergas van die Kaap nie vis saambring nie, voed mens ’n gesin veel makliker op afval as op gevriesde winkelvis. Maar dan eet hulle hom met die hot cross buns, nie met rys soos gewoonlik nie”, verduidelik sy.

Die oorsprong van paasbolletjies blyk op sy beurt nóg verder in die verlede te lê, in ’n verwewing van heidense tradisie en Christelike rituele. In die pre-Christelike era in Brittanje was dit ’n algemene gebruik om gebak met ’n kruis te merk. Sommiges meen dit het begin met die vrugte-en-speserybolletjies wat ter ere van die lente- en dagbreek-godin Eostre gebak is. Die vier kwarte rondom die kruis op hierdie gebak was glo simbolies van die vier kwarte van die maan; vandag nog word Paassondag bereken og.v. die maankalender, nl. die eerste Sondag ná die eerste volmaan ná die Europese lente-dag-en-nag-ewening. April, die maand waarin Paasfees val, was destyds ook na die godin Eostre vernoem.

Mettertyd is die heidense gebruik van gebak met ’n kruis merk oorgeneem deur die Christenkultuur. Volgens een teorie het dít gebeur nadat ’n kruis skynbaar verskyn het op ’n ou brood wat deur Sint Clare van Assisi geseën is – vandaar toe ’n gewilde oortuiging dat die kruissimbool die bose geeste wat brood suur en muf maak, weghou. Teen 1592, tydens ’n Puriteinse era in Engeland, is die kruissimbool op gebak egter ervaar as ietwat té Katoliek van aard. Onder die heerskappy van Koningin Elisabet I is die verkoop van speserybolletjies met kruise op daarom in ’n edik verbied. Die enigste uitsonderings was op Goeie Vrydag, Kersfees en begrafnisse. Hierdie edik, tesame met die bekende simboliek van ’n kruis as voorstelling van Jesus se kruisiging op Goeie Vrydag, het dus gelei tot die sterk assosiasie wat vandag nog bestaan tussen Paasfees en gekruisde speserybolletjies.

Die oorspronlike Engelse naam vir paasbolletjies was “Good Friday buns” of “cross buns”. Die hedendaagse naam “hot cross buns” is die eerste keer in 1733 opgeteken en dui vermoedelik op wat bakkers in die strate geroep het wanneer hulle warm, varsgebakte bolletjies wou verkoop. ’n Ou Engelse rympie uit daardie dae lui as volg:
Good Friday comes this month—the old woman runs
With one or two a-penny hot cross buns,
Whose virtue is, if you believe what’s said,
They’ll not grow mouldy like the common bread.

RESEPTE
Magdalene Meyer van die Paarl maak elke jaar vir die Paastyd haar eie kerrievis en paasbolletjies. Sy het ingestem om haar resepte, oor 30 jaar heen beproef en aangepas, met ons lesers te deel. Uit haar informele verteltrant was dit duidelik dat sy ’n ou hand is met die maak van hierdie disse, en dat jy by tye sommer so op gevoel kan werk om dit te laat smaak soos jý dit wil hê. Met vier seuns in die huis hou haar gewone resep vir 35 paasbolletjies net so twee dae; die resepte hieronder is egter aangepas om ’n gesin van vier gemiddelde grootte mae te voed op Goeie Vrydag, met miskien ’n bietjie oorskiet vir die res van die naweek.

Kerrievis
Magdalene se oorspronklike resep maak minder sous as die aangepaste een hieronder. Indien jy ook ’n ietwat droeër dis verkies, verminder bloot die hoeveelheid asyn, water en suiker.

Kerrievis

1 kg vars visfillette, in groterige stukke gesny (stokvis, snoek, kabeljou en geelstert werk almal lekker)
genoeg koekmeelblom om die vis liggies te bedek
125 ml sonneblom-olie
3 groot uie, in ringe gesny
400 ml bruinasyn
300 ml water
ongeveer 60 ml suiker
5 ml borrie
10 ml matige kerriepoeier
5 ml rissiepoeier
5 lourierblare
’n groot knypie elk sout en “biryani mix”

Indien jy ’n sagter vis soos stokvis of snoek gebruik, rol eers die visstukke in die meel voordat jy dit oor matige hitte in die olie braai. Plaas die gaar vis in ’n diep bak. Prut die uie, asyn en suiker vir sowat 15 minute totdat die uie glanserig raak. Voeg nou die droë speserye by en prut die mengsel ’n verdere 15 minute (vir ekstra geur kan jy die speserye vooraf droogbraai tot aromaties). Proe die mengsel en voeg nog suiker of asyn by na smaak indien nodig. Giet die warm sous oor die vis, bedek en laat vir minstens 24 uur in die yskas staan sodat die kerriegeur behoorlik in die vis kan intrek. Bedien warm of koud saam met paasbolletjies.

Paasbolletjies
Na ál haar proefnemings sweer Magdalene by ’n outydse paasbolletjieresep met aktiewe gis wat vereis dat die deeg ’n uur lank geknie word voordat dit oornag rys. Sy berei eers suurdeeg voor deur 125 g van die meel in die resep hieronder te meng met ’n knippie sout, ½ pakkie aktiewe droë gis en genoeg louwarm water om ’n slap deeg te vorm. Ná sy die deeg op ’n warm plek laat rys het tot dubbeld sy grootte, meng sy dit met die geklopte eiers. Hierdie eierdeeg word dan by die mengsel bestaande uit die oorblywende 325 g meel, botter, suiker en sout gevoeg. Nadat sy genoeg louwarm water en/of melk bygevoeg het om ’n sagte deeg te vorm, span sy sommer haar kinders in om te help met die uur se knieëry. Indien jou kinders egter nie so maklik omkoopbaar is met die lekkerny-eindproduk nie, of jy dalk nie aktiewe gis in die hande kan kry nie, gebruik eerder die aangepaste resep met kitsgis hieronder. Magdalene gebruik gewoonlik nie gemengde speserye en lemoenskil nie, want nie almal is noodwendig gaande daaroor nie; indien jy dit ook so verkies, laat bloot die speserye en lemoenskil weg.

Paasbolletjie met heuningkoek

450 g (naastenby 3 ½ koppies) koekmeelblom
25 ml botter
1 pakkie (8 g) droë kitsgis
125 ml (½ koppie) suiker
’n knypie sout
15 ml gemengde speserye of fyn kaneel
10 ml gerasperde lemoenskil
2 eiers, geklop
louwarm melk en/of water
125 ml (½ koppie) rosyntjies

Sif die meel en vryf dan die botter met die vingerpunte in die meel in. Voeg die gis, suiker, sout en speserye by die meelmengsel en meng goed. Roer die geklopte eiers by die meelmengsel in. Voeg soveel louwarm melk en/of water by as nodig om ’n sagte deeg te vorm. Knie die deeg vir sowat 20 minute tot glad en elasties. Plaas in ’n bak, bedek met kleefplastiek en laat rys tot dubbeld sy volume op ’n sonplekkie of toegedraai in ’n kombers. Voeg die rosyntjies by die uitgerysde deeg en knie dit liggies af totdat die rosyntjies eweredig versprei is. Verdeel die deeg in 16 bolletjies en plaas dit op ’n gesmeerde bakplaat. Bedek die bakplaat met kleefplastiek, plaas dit weer op ’n warm plek en laat die bolletjies rys tot dubbeld hul grootte. Verf elke bolletjie liggies met melk en sprinkel ’n bietjie suiker oor. Magdalene sny sommer net ’n kruis bo-op elke bolletjie met ’n mes, maar jy kan ook ’n wit kruis opspuit. Meng bloot 30 ml meel en 30 ml water, sit dit in ’n plastieksakkie, knip die puntjie af en hanteer dit dan soos ’n miniatuur spuitsakkie. Bak die bolletjies in ’n voorverhitte oond teen 180C tot gaar (sowat 15 minute).

[‘n Weergawe van hierdie artikel het die eerste keer verskyn in Die Burger, Woensdag 27 Maart 2013 (bl. 3).]

Curried beef, sweet potato & coconut soup

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Curried beef, sweet potato & coconut soup_1

Perfect for an overcast autumn day like today, this hearty soup with its creamy texture and melt-in-the-mouth bits of beef will remind you that the impending winter isn’t all bad… as long as you get to spend it sipping a serious red wine and eating soup and thick slices of crusty, buttered bread in front of a roaring fire, that is. Serves six to eight.

20 ml olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, sliced into rings
2 celery stalks, sliced into half-moons
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
500 g beef shin, bone in
15 ml medium strength curry powder
10 ml turmeric
10 ml ground cumin
10 ml ground coriander
5 ml ground cinnamon
1.65 kg sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 small handful celery leaves
2 cubes beef stock
1.5 l boiling water
400 ml (1 tin) coconut milk
salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
15 ml lemon juice
curried Worcester sauce for serving

In a large soup pot, heat half of the olive oil over medium heat and fry the onion, carrots, celery, garlic and ginger until the onion becomes soft and translucent. Scoop out the vegetables and set aside.
Heat the remaining oil over high heat. Quickly brown the beef shin, making sure to only seal the outside rather than letting the meat cook through. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.
Turn the heat down to medium and briefly dry fry the spices until aromatic.
Add the sautéed vegetables and meat back to the pot, along with the sweet potato and celery leaves.
Dissolve the beef stock in the boiling water and add to the pot along with the coconut milk.
Stirring occasionally, allow the soup to simmer over medium heat for approximately two hours until the meat is completely soft.
Scoop out the meat and set aside. Puree two thirds of the soup in a blender and mix it back into the remaining third. Chop the cooked meat into bite-sized chunks and return it to the soup. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. (If the soup is too thick to your liking, add some boiling water and adjust the seasoning accordingly.)
Stir the lemon juice into the finished soup to give the flavour just a little lift before serving.
Serve piping hot with a drizzle of curried Worcester sauce or coconut cream. Enjoying a large bowlful with good quality bread straight from the oven is mandatory.

Courgette, Chickpea & Sesame Salad

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SONY DSC

This is quick and simple recipe, but delivers high on both flavour and texture. I prefer to serve it immediately in order to preserve the slight bite of the raw courgettes. If you need to make it in advance, however, it will benefit in terms of flavour, the tangy dressing acting as a marinade as it draws into the vegetables. Serve this dish as a fresh, spicy side salad or as a topping for lightly toasted bruschetta.

5 courgettes, rinsed and lightly scrubbed
200 g (half a tin, drained) cooked chickpeas
5 ml tahini (i.e. sesame seed paste)
30 ml lemon juice (about half a lemon’s worth)
15 ml honey
15 ml olive oil
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2.5 ml dried chilli flakes
one handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the courgettes into thin ribbons. Add the chickpeas.
Mix together the remaining ingredients and pour over the courgettes and chickpeas. Toss until the vegetables are evenly covered in the dressing.
Serve cold.

Banana, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Oaties

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Banana, Peanut Butter & Chocolate  Oaties_4

One of the many little things that make this earthly life worth living is the decadent-yet-somehow-also-healthy combination of banana, peanut butter and chocolate. Add some oats to the mix and your diet is, in my opinion, practically saintly. This quick recipe makes 20 chewy oaties that will fill your kitchen with a wonderful banana-nut aroma that leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. If you like the flavour combination but can’t be bothered with the baking process, simply mix peanut butter into your next bowl of creamy oats and top it with a grating of chocolate and some sliced banana – sensory bliss.

Ingredients
300 ml raw oats
1 cup dessicated coconut
80 ml cake flour
80 ml sugar
a pinch of salt
1 large banana
80 ml crunchy peanut butter
15 ml honey
3 ml bicarbonate of soda, diluted in 20 ml milk
150 g milk chocolate

Method
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Rub a knob of butter over a large baking sheet or line the baking sheet with baking paper.
Mix the dry ingredients together thoroughly.
Mash the peeled banana until completely fine before mixing it with the peanut butter and honey.
Mix the banana mush into the dry ingredients.
Add the bicarbonate of soda and milk mixture.
Once mixed thoroughly, use a teaspoon to scoop a bit of cookie dough onto your one hand and roll it between your palms until it forms a ball. Place on the baking sheet and flatten slightly with the back of a fork. Repeat this with the remainder of the mixture.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack. (The outside of the oaties will crisp up upon cooling.)
Meanwhile, chop the chocolate into fine shards and place it in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 15 seconds at a time, stirring well at each interval until the chocolate is completely smooth and runny.
Dip the top of each cooled cookie into the melted chocolate. Allow the chocolate to set completely before storing the cookies in an airtight container (that’s if you don’t eat them straight away!).

Tables of memories

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I am and always have been an intensely home-bound person – a real huishennetjie (“little house hen”). I am deeply attached to my own, familiar spaces and people and to the memories created in these spaces by these people. It’s not that I don’t like new places and people, I just really, really love the old ones. Sentimental? Yes, but I’m ok with that. I have been blessed with a handful of truly special spaces and people in my life and I like to affirm the pleasure they bring me by investing ever more time in them. They are my safe cocoon in a sometimes overwhelming world, a cocoon in which I never have to pretend and never have to work at being more likable, more agreeable, more fun and more witty. In these spaces, with these people, I can just be and know that I am loved.

One of these spaces is my childhood home where our immediate family still gets together as often as possible over weekends. The primary concern over such weekends is what our next meal should consist of (even though, almost without fail, this ends up being some form of braaied meat, fresh bread and a crisp green salad). The primary endeavour over such weekends is the preparing and enjoying of said meals, followed closely by napping. The old wooden stoeptafel ̶ pock-marked by years of entertaining enthusiastic eaters around its sturdy body – is the centre of the action. It is here that we have long lunches and dinners, sometimes simple, sometimes more gourmet. Here, on the stoep overlooking the lush garden with our four Labradors lying in quiet wait at the door (ready to sneak in the moment they hear the scrape of bones into plates). This table has witnessed so much love and laughter, listened to many pseudo-intellectual conversations, and withstood occasional bouts of crying. It’s seen emotional teenagers grow into somewhat more composed adults, and supported new additions to the family when more and more chairs had to be added around it. It also remembers the voices of those who can no longer join us for Sunday afternoon lunch. It is around this table that our family has shaped itself and forged ever-stronger bonds between us.

Another similar table serves as the heart of our family holidays in sleepy Keurboomstrand. On the stoep of our wooden log home, Die Boomhuis (“The Tree House”), with the damp, earthy smell of the milkwoods’ decaying leaves rising up from the ground and the salty breeze blowing in from the sea, this table is – to me – symbolic of long, lazy seaside days. In the mornings, this is where the first cup of coffee and handful of rusks are enjoyed (the annual baking of these rusks with my mother marking the start of the long-awaited summer holidays). Mostly this is done in still-sleepy solitude, the lot of us being slow risers. After a morning of sunning and swimming at the beach (books, Frisbees and dogs in tow), we gather around the stoeptafel for lunch. With sticky, salty bodies and the smell of coconut sunscreen heavy on our skins we dig into whatever leftovers the previous night’s braai provides us with, usually piled on thick slices of the chewy seed loaf baked daily by the ever popular farm stall down the road. Sometimes, in case of there being no leftovers, it’s this farm stall’s sweet curried lamb pies in their yellow flaky pastry cases that grace our table. Oh, and there’s always ice cold white wine, even if it needs to be decanted from a papsak because my dad feels his more expensive bottles are wasted on us plebs. At night, much later than the Gautengers in the homes around us, we repeat this noisy, happy ritual, this time with the soft crackling and smoky aroma of a fire added to it.

Finally, there is also a table in my own home that is speedily finding its own special place in my heart. My husband and I bought this table with the money we were fortunate enough to receive as wedding presents three years ago. When we selected it, it was with visions of our own little family one day feasting around it. It’s a sturdy oval-ish rectangle with a large burn mark from some long-past meal on its wooden surface. The eight chairs that surround it are of various shapes and sizes, but somehow feel just right. The dinners that we have had with close friends around this table have been contented gatherings of kindred souls – each of our friends complementing different parts of our beings. In our compact duplex apartment, we sit practically inside our kitchen, half the guests having a full view of the mess I managed to make whilst preparing their dinner. At this point I am still a somewhat nervous hostess. I trust, though, that with the years the need to impress will mellow as a sense of acceptance of our small, dog-hair covered home and unpredictable oven increases. On all those other nights when we aren’t entertaining (and don’t fall into the trap of eating whilst watching series on the laptop), my husband and I sit around our dinner table and talk about all the little things that only your significant other is ever truly interested in hearing. I cherish these dinners for their calm intimacy, knowing that they may become few once our little family starts to expand.

These spaces, with their special tables surrounded by special people, are an embodiment of all that is home to me. I’m not an adventurer and I’m probably missing out on some amazing things that the world out there has to offer, but my love for home has provided me with a deep-seated sense of belonging and contentment that I believe is a core human desire. I am thankful for the places and people that have evoked this feeling in me, because I am only too aware that it could have been very different. With this, all my gratitude to my tables of memories. (As I said: I’m sentimental, but I’m ok with that.)

Aside

Rosemary “stokbrood” (AKA glorious braai bread)

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Rosemary stokbrood

Effortless stokbrood (with just a touch of gourmet flair): knead some chopped fresh rosemary into store-bought white bread dough, shape dough sausages around the ends of some sturdy sticks and hand them around to your guests to braai slowly over medium coals, rotating the sticks every now and again. Once the breads are crisp on the outside and produce a hollow sound when knocked on, they’re ready. Serve straight off the braai with lashings of real butter and Maldon sea salt.