Posts tagged januaryfeature
January | Conception

That Recipe on my Mind | The Cycle of Life Calendar 19

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The Beginning of a New Year | The Beginning of a New Life

 

Pour-over-pear-hazelnut and celeriac tapioca pearl soup with egg yolk

Ingredients for 2 persons

1 tablespoon butter

2 shallots, finely sliced

2 teaspoons finely chopped hazelnut

1 celeriac, peeled and roughly chopped

2 pears ripe, cored and roughly chopped

1/2 litre vegetable stock

1/2 cup pearl tapioca

2 egg yolks

How to prepare:

Pour the tapioca into boiling water (use 1 cup of boiling water for 1/2 cup tapioca), Stir in the tapioca pearls and cook, stirring occasionally. To check whether the tapioca pearls are cooked, look for a tiny white dot in the center of the pearl. Drain and set aside.

Heat butter in a saucepan, add the shallots and hazelnut, and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until softened but not coloured.

Add the celeriac, pears and stock, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the celeriac has softened enough to mash easily.

Liquidise the soup in a blender until silky smooth. Sieve to catch any bits.

Before serving add the pearl tapioca to the soup, season to taste and boil it again.

Plating: place the egg yolk in a soup plate and pour the hot soup. The egg yolk will be partially poached in the soup.

 
 
 
February | Pregnancy

That Recipe on my Mind | The Cycle of Life Calendar 19

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Mother Oyster and her Pearl

 
 

Caramelized Backerbse* in oyster jelly, lemon jelly with herbs, frozen crumbles of cream, sour cream and yoghurt , horseradish

Backerbsen(*)

Backerbsen - common in Germany and Austria - are deep fried little dumplings that are used like croutons in soups. In Germany and Austria you can find them in almost every supermarket ready-to-use, but here is the recipe for self-made Backerbsen:

Ingredients:

3 tbsp Flour

1 egg

1 tbsp milk

1 tsp muskat

water

vegetable oil, to deep fry

How to prepare:

Pour oil in a sauce pan and heat it.

Make a batter of the ingredients for the backerbsen and put into a Spätzlepresse (a colander, strainer or pastry tube will also work)

Squeeze out small drops about the size of a pea into the cooking oil/fat.

Fry to golden brown.

When done, pick them out with a sieve, drain, set aside to cool and place them on a paper towel to cool off.

You can continue until all the batter is used. You can use those bakerbsen as croutons for a soup even 2-3 weeks later.

Take one for caramelization.


Backerbsen caramelization

This step allows the backerbsen to remain crunchy for a longer period inside the Oyster Jelly - otherwise the backerbsen will absorve the liquid and will have a soft consistency.

Ingredients:

2-3 tsp sugar

1 dash of muskat

How to prepare:

Take a saucepan and add the sugar, add the muskat, heat over medium-high heat. Stir the pan to dissolve the sugar, but once the mixture comes to a boil, be careful not to overcook it. The caramelization of the sugar should produce a very deep, rich, brown-colored syrup.

Dip the Backerbse (deep fried little dumpling), drain well and set aside on a plate to cool off till dry


Oyster jelly

Ingredients:

1 tbsp fresh rock oyster juice

1 tbsp of unflavoured and disolved gelatine

How to prepare:

Drain the juice from the fresh oyster into a small bowl. You should get 1 tablespoon of oyster juice.

Follow the instructions for the gelatin.

Pour 1 tbsp of the hot disolved gelatin in the small bowl with the fresh oyster juice and stir. Reserve the rest of the gelatin mixture for the lemon jelly with herbs (recipe above)

Pour the mixture into a jelly mould (I used an egg cup)

Put a caramelized backerbse (see recipe above) into the mixture.

Leave the gelatin in the fridge until is completely set (it´s a small amount of jelly so it will take less than 30 minutes).


Lemmon jelly with herbs

Ingredients:

1 tbsp fresh lemmon juice

1 tbsp of unflavoured and disolved gelatine

1 tsp of chopped dill or fennel leaves

How to prepare:

Pour 1 tbsp of the hot disolved gelatin in the small bowl with the lemon juice juice, add the herbs and stir.

Pour the mixture into a jelly mould.

Leave the gelatin in the fridge until is completely set.

Cut it into small cubes.


Different types of „snow“ (frozen cream/sour cream/yoghurt) and arrangement

Ingredients:

1/2 cup cream

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup yoghurt

1 tsp horseradish

How to prepare:

In 3 different small bowls or tupperware put 1-2cm thick layers of cream /sour cream/yoghurt and freeze until solid.

After defrosting a bit, make crumbs out of the frozen contents with a spoon or knife. Freeze again keeping them apart from each other.

Arrange the frozen crumbled particles on a cold plate with the oyster jelly on top of the oystershell, the lemon jelly and a bit of horseradish.

 
 
 
 
March | Birth

That Recipe on my Mind | The Cycle of Life Calendar 19

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Another Kind of Oyakodon

Chicken-almond milk soup. Egg almond souffle on rice crackers, simmered chicken, brown rice and chives.

Chicken stock-almond milk soup

Ingredients:

1 cups raw almonds, soaked overnight

4 cups of water

1 cup of chicken stock

pinch of salt

How to prepare:

After the almonds have soaked overnight, drain and rinse them.

Place the almonds in a blender along with four cups of water.

Blend on high for 2 minutes.

Strain the almond milk through a nut-milk bag and drop the mixture into a bowl or large measuring cup. Pour the almond milk into an air-tight storage container and place in the fridge overnight. Before serving add the almond milk to the chicken stock and heat but not boil. Add salt to taste.

Sake jelly

Ingredients:

1 tbsp sake

1 tbsp of unflavoured and disolved gelatine

How to prepare:

Pour 1 tbsp of the hot disolved gelatin in the small bowl with the sake nd stir.

Pour the mixture into tupperware or flat food container.

Leave the gelatin in the fridge until is completely set.

Ultra-thin rice cracker

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked sushi rice (I also tried with basmati and worked well)

1 tsp salt

How to prepare:

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Place the cooked sushi rice in a bowl. Add salt.

Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Wet your hands and a tablespoon, use the wet spoon to form a golf ball sized rice ball.

Place the ball on the baking tray.

Top with another layer of baking paper, then squash the ball evenly. You could use your hands or a rolling pin till you a have a very thin rice layer (about 2mm). With 1 cup of rice you can prepare several golf ball sized rice balls.

Bake at 180 degrees for approximately 20-25 minutes.

Allow the rice crackers to cool and break them in different pieces before serving.

Simmered chicken and boiled brown rice with chives

Ingredients:

250g chicken (thighs or breasts)

1/2 onion

75ml dashi stock

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp mirin

pinch of sugar

250g Japanese brown rice

clump of chives.

How to prepare:

In a pot, cook the rice so that it is ready for when you finish cooking the dish.

Cut up the chicken into very small bite-size pieces.

Add the dashi stock to the frying pan and heat before adding the mirin and soy sauce plus a pinch of sugar.

Bring to the boil and then simmer on medium heat.

Once the soup has been simmering for a few minutes, chop up a whole onion into thin slices and add them to the pan.

Add the chicken pieces and cook about 10 more minutes until chicken is done. Drain the mixture with a colander and set aside. Cut the chives in different lengths and set also aside.

Egg-almond souffle

Ingredients:

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

pinch pepper

1/4 cup almond milk

1/2 cup milk

4 eggs yolks

2 egg whites

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

How to prepare:

Preheat oven to 190°.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter and carefully add flour, milk, salt and pepper, stirring constantly until the sauce boils.

Set aside.

Separate eggs. Beat egg yolks well and combine yolk mixture with remaining sauce.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in large bowl, until stiff but not dry.

Fold the sauce into the remaining egg whites.

Spray 4 ramekins with non-stick cooking spray (or spread them with butter). Pour sauce into ramekins and fill to top. Place ramekins on cookie sheet and bake at 180° C for 20 to 25 minutes or until the soufflé rises and the edge pieces start to turn brown. Serve immediately (see plating instructions).

Plating

Instructions:

Carefully place the egg souffle in the center of a bowl (This is a tricky part: I call it “the birthing”, and you will have to play the role of the “midwife”. Turn the ramekin 180 degrees and allow the soufflé to fall holding it softly with your hand. If it sticks to the ramekin you help with a spoon or two, or -worst-case scenario- cut the risen part of the soufflé with a palette knife and place it in the middle of the bowl).

Cautiously add 3 or 4 tbsp of the boiled brown rice around the soufflé and add the simmered and drained chicken on top of the rice. Now add the rice crackers around the soufflé and garnish with the sake jelly and the chives.

Pour over the chicken stock-almond milk soup.

 
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April | Infancy

That Recipe on my Mind | The Cycle of Life Calendar 19

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First steps into the world.


Watercress soup. Wild herbs and flowers salad with quail egg, baby carrot and radish cheese ball.

Servings: 4


Watercress soup


Ingredients

1 large onion, chopped

1 large bunch watercress, washed and roughly chopped

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup olive oil

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 1/2 cups milk


How to prepare:

In a large pan heat the olive oil. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add watercress. When watercress is wilted add flour and mix well.

Add chicken (or vegetable) stock. Add milk and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Turn off the heat and let it cool a little. Purée the soup with a blender.

Serve.


Wild herbs and flowers salad with quail egg, baby carrot and radish cheese ball

Ingredients:

1 handfull of wild herbs and flowers (dandelion, nettles, violets, wild garlic leaves, cowslip…)

2 tbsp. apple vinegar

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 baby carrots

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp. honey

4 quail eggs

2 radishes

2 tbsp cream cheese

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp sugar


How to prepare:

Salad:

Wash herbs and flowers and wrap in a dishtowel.

In the salad bowl, mix the vinegar, add salt and honey and mix until both have dissolved.

Add the wild herbs to the vinegar mix in the bowl and mix well with the olive oil.


Eggs:

Fill a small saucepan with water and bring it to the boil.

Carefully lower the eggs into the boiling water and cover the pan.

Simmer for a minute.

Remove from heat and leave to stand for a minute.

Drain in cold water until they are cool enough to carefully shell.


Carrot:

Place already trimmed baby carrots in a pan with butter, sugar, and salt. Bring water to a boil, cover pan, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook carrots 7 or 8 minutes or until tender.


Cheese balls:

Combine cream cheese and fine chopped radish in a bowl and form balls with a spoon.

 
 
 
June | Puberty
 
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Changes: From Sweet to Bitter, from Bitter to Sweet.

Kohlrabi Rose, garlic cream cheese, rose honey, licorice, lavender honey and angostura drops

For 1 person

Ingredients:

Kohlrabi fresh cheese salad

1 kohlrabi

4 teaspoons cream cheese

1 clove of garlic

salt

Maldon salt

For the lavender honey

1 teaspoon lavender

4 teaspoons honey

For the rose water

3 tablespoons dried roses

1 cup of water

1 teaspoon honey

For the liquorice drops

5g liquorice

1 tablespoon water

A few drops of Angostura bitter

Preparation

Lavender honey

Pour the honey into the pot and place over medium heat.

Pour the lavender into the pot and bring the honey to the boil.

Cook the honey for about 5 minutes so that the lavender can pass through, then remove from the heat.

Pour the honey through a sieve into a heat-resistant container. Let the honey cool to room temperature and put in the fridge.

Rose water honey

Pour a cup of water into a saucepan.

Put the dried rose petals in a pot.

Cover and bring to the boil.

Reduce the temperature so that the water can still simmer.

Allow to boil until the colour of the rose petals has faded.

Pour the rose water through a sieve into a container.

Boil some rose water with 1 teaspoon of honey into a pot until the water has evaporated. Store.

Liquorice syrup

Heat the liquorice in 1 tablespoon of water until it dissolves.

Kohlrabi - Cream cheese salad

Cut the kohlrabi into thin slices.

Mix the cream cheese with some garlic. Salt to taste.

Place a 5-6 cm mousse-ring in the middle of a plate.

Fill the mousse-ring with the cream (a 1 cm thick layer should suffice). Remove the cake ring.

Make a small dent in the middle of the cream. Pour about 1 teaspoon of rose water honey inside the dent.

Arrange thin slices of kohlrabi on the cream cheese and form into a half-closed rose. Sprinkle some Maldon salt over the rose.

Take a plastic syringe with the cold lavender honey (will be a little rubbery) and put a few drops on the plate.

Take another plastic syringe with the liquorice syrup and put a few drops on the plate.

Put a few drops of Angostura Bitter on the plate.

Garnish with a sprig of lavender.

 
 
 
June | Puberty: Recipe
 
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Changes: From Sweet to Bitter, from Bitter to Sweet.

Kohlrabi Rose, garlic cream cheese, rose honey, licorice, lavender honey and angostura drops

For 1 person

Ingredients:

Kohlrabi fresh cheese salad

1 kohlrabi

4 teaspoons cream cheese

1 clove of garlic

salt

Maldon salt

For the lavender honey

1 teaspoon lavender

4 teaspoons honey

For the rose water

3 tablespoons dried roses

1 cup of water

1 teaspoon honey

For the liquorice drops

5g liquorice

1 tablespoon water

A few drops of Angostura bitter

Preparation

Lavender honey

Pour the honey into the pot and place over medium heat.

Pour the lavender into the pot and bring the honey to the boil.

Cook the honey for about 5 minutes so that the lavender can pass through, then remove from the heat.

Pour the honey through a sieve into a heat-resistant container. Let the honey cool to room temperature and put in the fridge.

Rose water honey

Pour a cup of water into a saucepan.

Put the dried rose petals in a pot.

Cover and bring to the boil.

Reduce the temperature so that the water can still simmer.

Allow to boil until the colour of the rose petals has faded.

Pour the rose water through a sieve into a container.

Boil some rose water with 1 teaspoon of honey into a pot until the water has evaporated. Store.

Liquorice syrup

Heat the liquorice in 1 tablespoon of water until it dissolves.

Kohlrabi - Cream cheese salad

Cut the kohlrabi into thin slices.

Mix the cream cheese with some garlic. Salt to taste.

Place a 5-6 cm mousse-ring in the middle of a plate.

Fill the mousse-ring with the cream (a 1 cm thick layer should suffice). Remove the cake ring.

Make a small dent in the middle of the cream. Pour about 1 teaspoon of rose water honey inside the dent.

Arrange thin slices of kohlrabi on the cream cheese and form into a half-closed rose. Sprinkle some Maldon salt over the rose.

Take a plastic syringe with the cold lavender honey (will be a little rubbery) and put a few drops on the plate.

Take another plastic syringe with the liquorice syrup and put a few drops on the plate.

Put a few drops of Angostura Bitter on the plate.

Garnish with a sprig of lavender.

 
 
 
Assa Nigua! Real Men are made of Corn

Exploring | Chichicastenango, Guatemala

 

Guatemalan syncretism: The Santo Tomas (Saint Thomas) catholic church -one of the main attractions, was built atop of the platform of one of the Maya temples in the area, and the 18 steps -one for each month of the Maya calendar, are still venerated.

Guatemalan syncretism: The Santo Tomas (Saint Thomas) catholic church -one of the main attractions, was built atop of the platform of one of the Maya temples in the area, and the 18 steps -one for each month of the Maya calendar, are still venerated.

 

Lovingly called Chichi, the small village of Chichicastenango has been one of the largest trading centers in the mayan world since pre-hispanic times. There is lots to see, smell and taste. 500 years ago, one of the best kept secrets of the mayan civilization was hidden from the spanish conquerors in this tiny town. A mysterious book.

 

“Their flesh was made of white and yellow corn. The arms and legs of men were made of corn meal." So goes the story of creation of men from the Maya sacred book the “Popol Vuh”, the so called Mayan bible. Most of the Mayan codices were burnt by the Spanish conquerors, who feared the influence of the devil, but in 1558, a Mayan transcribed the Popol Vuh into the Quiche language.

The manuscript was treasured by the Mayans of Chichicastenango  village and it was hidden from the Spanish conquerors. Two centuries later, a Spanish priest named Francisco Ximénez gained the trust of the Mayan community. They allowed him to see the book and he translated it into Spanish.

The Popol Vuh deals with the Mayan creation myth. After many attempts with clay and wood, the Mayan gods finally made four men out of corn and they became “true people”.

 

The Popol Vuh deals with the Mayan creation myth. After many attempts with clay and wood, the Mayan gods finally made four men out of corn and they became “true people”.

Which makes a kind of metaphorical sense: it was the cultivation of corn that gave the early Maya culture the means to change from hunter- gatherers to their advanced civilization... 

 
 
Chicicastenango: The market place.

Chicicastenango: The market place.

 
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"Chichicastenango is still a mystical place where Guatemalans from all around the country come to trade and sell their goods every Thursday and Sunday in a big outdoor market that -in essence- has not changed very much in the last 500 years."

 
Flower vendors. Chichicastenango

Flower vendors. Chichicastenango

 

"There is lots to see, smell and taste. Food vendors sell local dishes with pre-Hispanic origins"

 
Pulique, a prehispanic chicken dish with "recado" (a Guatemalan word for a complex sauce)

Pulique, a prehispanic chicken dish with "recado" (a Guatemalan word for a complex sauce)

 
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Signs of catholicic and mayan syncretism

Signs of catholicic and mayan syncretism

 
The church of Santo Tomás in front of the Chichicastenango market, the church where centuries ago the priest Francisco Ximénez kept his transcription of the Popol Vuh.

The church of Santo Tomás in front of the Chichicastenango market, the church where centuries ago the priest Francisco Ximénez kept his transcription of the Popol Vuh.

 

Situated not too far away from Lake Atitlan, the village of Chichicastenango is still a mystical place where Guatemalans from all around the country come to trade and sell their goods every Thursday and Sunday in a big outdoor market that -in essence- has not changed very much in the last 500 years. There is lots to see, smell and taste. Food vendors sell local dishes with pre-Hispanic origins, such as Pulique, a chicken dish with recado (recado is the Guatemalan word for a complex sauce with a thick texture which is the result of adding corn flour at the end of the cooking process).It is served with -yes- corn tortillas. However, the unique flavour of this recado is provided by the Apazote plant. People believe that Apazote is great to help remove negative forces from the body. For positive forces you should drink Atol Blanco. Atol Blanco is a traditional corn-starch-based thick hot drink. So if you want to prove that you are a mero mero- a really true Guatemalan - and want hear them say "Assa Nigua!" - a Guatemalan expression of admiration- you have to drink lots of Atol. Don´t be surprised if at the end you really believe that you are made of corn.

 

So if you want to prove that you are a mero mero - a really true Guatemalan - and want hear them say "Assa Nigua!" - a Guatemalan expression of admiration- you have to drink lots of Atol. Don´t be surprised if at the end you really believe that you are made of corn.

But one of my favourite recipes from “Chichi” that I often prepare at home is totally corn free: a tasty radish salad with Chicharrones (fried pork rinds) called Cojin Chichicastengo* that I first tasted at a food stall in front of the church of Santo Tomás, the church where centuries ago the priest Francisco Ximénez kept his transcription of the Popol Vuh. 

(*) 
Without Chicharrones (fried pork rinds) the salad is known as Picado de Rabanos and it is a delicious side dish (very close to the mexican Pico de Gallo Salad) that goes well with any kind of grilled meat, adding Chicharrones turns into Cojin Chichicastengo.

 
A Mini Road Trip Movie with Topsi Venter

Exploring | Cape Winelands, South Africa 

 
 
 
 

Topsi Venter was the Grand Dame of South African cuisine. Topsi, whose real name was Pauline Venter, was a living legend among her chef colleagues. No matter who you asked, all roads in South African cuisine seem to lead to her.

 

I wasn't even aware of her when I met her for the first time in her restaurant. I had just visited Margot Janse in the award-winning Tasting Room in the Quartier Francais when she said that I just had to go to see Topsi since she only lived a few houses further down on the same street. Sometimes when you go through a door you have no idea that something important is about to happen. Awaiting me that afternoon was a high-speed journey into the past, the present and the future of South African cuisine.

A few days before, I found out that Topsi was an old woman who, due to an operation, could barely walk and talk... yet it turned out that this was only partly the truth. When I entered the house, Topsi was stood right in front of me on her crutches. Margot Janse had apparently just been on the phone to her and so she knew that I was on my way. "So, young man", she said "you’re interested in South African cuisine? Where are you from?" "Actually," I answered, "I’m half from Spain, half from Austria, and..." "Spain...?" She didn't let me finish my sentence " a famous Spanish chef spent a few weeks in South Africa. How was he called?... Oh yes, Ferran Adria, and I cooked something for him – he was quite nice and just as curious as any child. But follow me, let me show you something." She went limping into the kitchen. "Oh, my knee hurts! she said," I’ve just had an operation"

"...a famous Spanish chef spent a few weeks in South Africa. How was he called?... Oh yes, Ferran Adria, and I cooked something for him – he was quite nice and just as curious as any child...

We went briefly into the kitchen, greeted her daughter Danielle, who was just cooking a Bootie -a South African national dish with Malaysian origins - and then we went right on through into the next room. It was a library. The room was filled with shelves stacked high with cookbooks, cookbooks and even more cookbooks. As if she could read my mind, she knew that this was something quite extraordinary for me.  "This is my treasure trove!", said the trained architect and art historian, which is where her love for eating turned into a love for cooking.

She showed me the books, many of which were beautifully illustrated. I was fascinated and intrigued. She took yet another one from the shelf read it to me.  "This is by C. Louis Leipoldt, a South African poet... listen to this: and there is the art of cooking, which is one the greatest expressions of culture and civilisation, because it converts food from a mere necessity into a social delight and rejoicing in being alive, however cold the day and dark the night...." She took a long pause and looked at me and said: "What I thought now, is that we should go to Renata! Come on, get your things. I’ll fetch the car keys!" She limped quickly towards the desk. Somewhat shocked I thought, "Oh my, are we really taking the car? Seriously? If she can barely get around, how on earth can she drive?".

Approaching the desk with difficulty, she carefully opened a drawer and suddenly a parrot appeared, "Can I introduce you to Miss Oscar Wilde?" said Topsi "I think he's gay.

Approaching the desk with difficulty, she carefully opened a drawer and suddenly a parrot appeared, "Can I introduce you to Miss Oscar Wilde?" said Topsi "I think he's gay. Now where the hell are those car keys?" she cursed loudly.  We got in to an old, rusty brown Mercedes.  "You’ll have to keep hold of the door while we’re driving – it sometimes flies open", said Topsi. "Where are we going? And who is this Renata?" I asked.  "To the past and into the future!!!" Topsi replied. Renata Coetzee – as Topsi told me while driving at full throttle through the Winelands – was a food historian, also 80 years of age, who knew ten times as much about South African cuisine as any other person. Her area of research was the oldest cuisine in the world, the thousand-year-old cuisine of San and the Khoikhoin people. It had become her life mission. She had even documented the plants and herbs of this original cuisine - Fynbos vegetation. "Then we could drive down to see Shoeman", Topsi said. "Guys like him embody the culinary future of our country. He cooks with these completely unknown plants and herbs in the Fyndraai Restaurant. It will open up a completely new universe of tastes and smells. You'll see". "I hope so!" I think, as I regard the rickety door of the Mercedes with something approaching panic.

 
 
 
 
 
Topsi Venter in her old Mercedes Benz

Topsi Venter in her old Mercedes Benz

 
 

"Where are we going Topsi? And who is this Renata?" I asked.  "To the past and into the future!!!" Topsi replied. Renata Coetzee – as Topsi told me while driving at full throttle through the Winelands – was a food historian, also 80 years of age, who knew ten times as much about South African cuisine as any other person.

 
 
 
 
 
Indigenous herbs: Koekemakranka, or Kroekemakrank or also known as Gethyllis was a plant used in one of the most ancient kitchens of the world: the one of the Khoisan people, who live in the south-west coastal strips of Africa (actual Southafrica and Namibia). The may once have comprised the majority of living humans on the planet, for much of the past 150,000 years. Today, The ripe fruit is sometimes used to impart its special aroma to brandy.

Indigenous herbs: Koekemakranka, or Kroekemakrank or also known as Gethyllis was a plant used in one of the most ancient kitchens of the world: the one of the Khoisan people, who live in the south-west coastal strips of Africa (actual Southafrica and Namibia). The may once have comprised the majority of living humans on the planet, for much of the past 150,000 years. Today, The ripe fruit is sometimes used to impart its special aroma to brandy.

 

"...Guys like Shoeman embody the culinary future of our country. He cooks with these completely unknown plants and herbs..." 

Topsi Venter

 
 
 
 
 
In memorian: Topsi Venter passed 2016 away at the age of 85.

In memorian: Topsi Venter passed 2016 away at the age of 85.

 
 
 
How to convert to Buddhism in ten Seconds

+++Exploring | Bangkok, Thailand

eatnologist
 
 

 

 

The Chao Phraya River is the lifeline of Bangkok and quite the simplest way to cross it, is by taking one of the water buses that travel up and down the river. All you do is jump on and pay on board. 

The relatively short distance to the opposite side of the riverbank is deceptive. The assumption might be on the western side that you are delving further into chaos stricken Bangkok, but when you get off at That Phrammok station, you find yourself arriving in a true oasis of tranquillity. Within minutes, it is as if you have entered another world.

 
 

After a short walk, I discovered the Buddhist Temple of Wat Khrua Wan quite by chance, as I was actually looking for something totally different on the other side of the river. My intention had been to discover a beautiful view of the Grand Palace, preferably from the terrace of a nice restaurant. 

And then all of a sudden, this temple stood before me. Immediately after the entrance I came across two bald-shaven monks behind a table. They were selling transparent bags packed with colourful balls, probably made from puffed rice, which were then dipped in delicious exotic fruit juices to give them a glowing appearance. In any case, these balls went like hot cakes because everyone who went into the temple bought at least one bag. Of course, I couldn't restrain myself either and so I bought two packs, greedily ripped into one of them and then popped several of these mysterious balls straight into my mouth. I was very excited. Were they perhaps a new culinary discovery? Or perhaps they were unknown pioneers of molecular gastronomy?

 
 

The two priests were wide-eyed when they saw me chewing. The small balls, which had both the consistency of Styrofoam and tasted like it, suddenly transformed into foamy liquid and stuck to my teeth. Oh no! It was such a disappointment. I needed to spit them out and then I saw that the priests, who were doubled over laughing, were not male priests at all...  they were women! What's going on here, I thought to myself.  As far as I knew, there were no female Buddhist monks or novices in Thailand. Using sign language, the two ladies directed me to the river where I could then spit out the balls. 

The small balls, which had both the consistency of Styrofoam and tasted like it, suddenly transformed into foamy liquid and stuck to my teeth. Oh no! It was such a disappointment.

 
 

A very pale thai student who was passing by tapped me on the arm, instructing me to follow her. While we were on the way to the riverbank, she explained what was going on. The balls were not intended for people, but for fish –  because the balls were good for the fish, they would also therefore be good for my karma. Giving me a quick crash course in Buddhism, the student enlightened me and explained that donations were commonplace. Normally, the monks received these donations. A donation of candles comes with the expectation of enlightenment, a donation of money should lead to prosperity, whereas a donation of books would result in wisdom, etc. 

Arriving at the shore, it took me ten seconds to empty the packet into the river. Fish immediately began nibbling at the contents. How on earth did that happen so quickly? Should I wish for something now? Just to be on the safe side, that's exactly what I did. The second packet, however, I kept for myself. My companion, who also emptied out her packet, ended her prayer with a small gesture and I did the same.

 
 

Following my new friend, we left the temple and we had barely gone any distance before my wish came true. Grilled fish. They were being prepared by a street vendor. “That worked quickly! Whatever you give comes right back at you!" I said, feeling convinced of this fact. I ordered one for myself and then asked my friend, Nok, if she -or was she a he?- would like one as well. Nok ordered also a Tom Kha Gai (a coconut chicken soup) but I did not the same. "You don´t like?"  she said. "Tom Yum Goong is my favourite, I ate it the first time in Kho Phi Phi and I love it, but It's just too hot. I cannot eat a soup now. Anyway, you have given me an idea, thank you!, I said .

I was very grateful to her, because who knows, I might just have found not only a new recipe and also my new "spiritual" home. And so we sat with our two fish on the banks of the river. The fish was delicious, a tasty meaty flesh flavoured with a filling of lemon grass and Kaffir lime leaf, all finished off with a crispy, salty skin. There was also a small beaker containing a marinade of chilli, lime juice, fish sauce and coriander, perfect for dunking or pouring over the fish. I felt as if my next stop would be Nirvana.

In Thailand, women are not allowed to be official priests or monks. They are also not allowed to wear orange clothing as that is only permitted for male priests, monks and novices. In this way, even the youngest of male novices is more important in the scale of values than a female novice.

I asked Nok why the women wore white dresses at the temple. “They are novices. In Thailand, women are not allowed to be official priests or monks. They are also not allowed to wear orange clothing as that is only permitted for male priests, monks and novices. In this way, even the youngest of male novices is more important in the scale of values than a female novice. Far more than those who maintain their relationship with God for years through prayer and working in the temple.  The only female monk in Thailand is a former university professor for Buddhist philosophy but even she is not really recognised as such, although she does make a point of wearing orange. She has been ordained abroad and is called Dhammananda Bhikkhuni. She leads a monastery in northern Thailand and has already been nominated for the Nobel Prize. 

Quickly, Nok finished eating her fish, thanked me and then left, needing to return home. She had still to work tonight and wanted to rest a little bit before.  I remained a while. I wanted to take a little look around the area, observe the hustle and bustle of the people on the nearby canals, and make some notes. It seemed quite right to me that Bangkok is known as the Venice of the East. 

 
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Salt-roasted whole fish with herbs

Salt-roasted whole fish with herbs

Sweet, crispy and delicious: Flower Tempura

Sweet, crispy and delicious: Flower Tempura

Sweet Sticky Rice wrapped in Banana Leaves

Sweet Sticky Rice wrapped in Banana Leaves

 

I was still hungry and wanted more fish – should I throw my second packet into the river for this? But no, I wanted to keep my colourful balls a little while longer for myself. I went back towards the exit of the Temple in the hope that my street fish vendor was still there. Fortunately, he was still there and I bought a big juicy fish, which tasted just as good as the first. I bought also a delicious, sweet and crispy flower tempura

On the way back to my guest house in the Taewez quarter, I travelled up the river on the water bus. This time it was so full that I had to stand at the front. The boats are open at the front, and so what normally happens is that you end up really quite wet. The sun was setting, and it was a beautiful day. 

Feeling like the King of the World, at least for a short moment.

Feeling like the King of the World, at least for a short moment.

Standing there, I felt a Titanic moment coming on. When we passed the Royal Palace I had a daft grin on my face and shouted "I'm the King of the world". But it was at this very moment that a passing ship sprayed me and I almost choked.

I woke up in the middle of the night. I had severe abdominal pain and wondered, "Was it those colourful balls? Or maybe the flowers or the fish that I ate?

I woke up in the middle of the night. I had severe abdominal pain and wondered, "Was it those colourful balls? Or maybe the flowers or the fish that I ate? Yes, the fish, that must have been it", I said to myself. Buddha has surely punished me. I should have wished something else, something more profound when I threw those coloured balls in the river. After numerous trips to the toilet, I went to reception, thinking that perhaps the receptionist could give me some tablets. I told him what had happened.

Unusually bad-tempered for a Thai, I had just woken him up and he explained to me in broken English that first of all, Buddha would not punish anybody – maybe my God would, but not Buddha. Secondly, I didn't understand his religion, something that I had already suspected, and thirdly, I should never swallow water from the river. This is because it is so heavily contaminated it can really make you ill. "Just in case, take this pills" he said "With a bit of luck, it will be over tomorrow". I thanked him and ran once more in the direction of the toilet.

 
On the way back to my guest house

On the way back to my guest house

 
 
 
 
The Happy Meal

Exploring | Rasdu Atoll, Maldives

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Paradise (definition):

- a very beautiful, pleasant, or peaceful place that seems to be perfect

- a place that is perfect for a particular activity or for a person who enjoys that activity

- a state of complete happiness

 

"...what about Maldivians who live here? Are they always happy? What do they dream about? What is their idea of paradise on earth?..." 

 

 
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The water is crystal clear. I see my footprints fading in the sand. I look around. The breeze is blowing through the palm trees. The air is warm and humid and there is a delicious smell of fresh, charcoal-grilled fish. I want to try every single Maldivian seafood dish. It´s all just too perfect here. Am I dreaming? 

But what about Maldivians who live here? Are they always happy? What do they dream about? What is their idea of paradise on earth? 

 
 
Faraha and Anha

Faraha and Anha

 
 

Faraha, Anha and Ahusan.

Later on I met Faraha and Anha on a neighbouring island where locals live. The two little girls were going to see their older cousin Ahusam play soccer and they invited me to follow them.

Ahusan was wearing an old Real Madrid T-shirt. He came to greet us and I took the chance to introduce myself.

Ahusan, may I ask you something? If you imagined yourself in a paradise, what would it look like and what would you like to eat there?

- Chicken McNuggets.

Sorry?

 
 

"...Ahusan, may I ask you something? If you imagined yourself in a paradise, what would it look like and what would you like to eat there?

- Chicken McNuggets.

Sorry!?..."

 

- Chicken McNuggets, says Ahusan again.

Are you serious? Is this your idea of Paradise?

- Yes. My idea of Paradise is to eat a box of Chicken McNuggets while watching a game between Real Madrid and another team at the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid. That would be my dream.

- Yeeeeees, Chicken Mc Nuggets! - yelled the two cousins.

But why??

- We saw these Chicken McNuggets yesterday on tv!

:-/

 
 
 
 
Maldivians: Tuna in the Veins

Exploring | Rasdu Atoll, Maldives

 
 
 
 
Ajit

Ajit

 

The apprentice chef

Ajit, a friend of Ahusan, works as an apprentice chef in the Island’s Tourist Resort and looks younger than his age. He is originally from India, is his middle 30´s and –like so many other migrant workers­– not so long on the island, but long enough to visit in his spare time many of the small restaurants of Male –the capital of the Maldives–and get an overview of the authentic local food.

The traditional cuisine of the Maldives -says Ajit- was very simple and consisted mostly of all derivates of coconut and tuna. The Islands are quite close to South India and Sri Lanka coasts –about 350 km north from  here– so maldivians have had over the centuries rice, flour and many other spices. This is why we find here so many curry dishes, but they are milder as the indian ones because maldivians use much more coconut milk. We also find like in India Naan, Papadum, Roti and Chapati. Eastern flavors are also present due to the contact to Arab traders, who stopped here on the way through to Asia and brought with them religion – the Maldives used to be Hindu and Buddhist but they embraced Islam in 1153– so alcohol and pork meat is banned from the local cuisine. Vegetables and tubers are also not very present due to lack of farming land on the islands. Agriculture is simply not profitable, so all greens must be mostly imported. Typical dishes are Mas Huni, shredded smoked fish with grated coconuts and onions, which is the most common Maldivian breakfast, or Garudiya , a clear Tuna fish broth, or Mas Riha, a delicious Curry with Tuna, onions, chili, fennel, garlic, sometimes lime juice and –see the the arabian influence– cumin.

 
 
 

"Vegetables and tubers are also not very present due to lack of farming land on the islands. Agriculture is simply not profitable, so all greens must be mostly imported."

 
 

„Maldivians love Tuna –continues Ajit–. Their favourite is Skipjack  and Yellowfin Tuna"

 
 
A maldivian family

A maldivian family

 

Maldivians love tuna

Do they only eat Tuna? They are surrounded by the sea. What about other fish species? did I ask Ajit. „Maldivians love Tuna –continues Ajit–. Their favourite is Skipjack  and Yellowfin Tuna, either dried or fresh, raw, boiled, grilled or as soup. In ancient times Maldivians did not use to eat fish from the reef for some social reason –as far as I know because other would make fun of them, but that has changed nowadays as they are not that isolated and see how foreigners eat other fish species too.  What they still do not understand is why tourist pay such amounts of money for a Lobster that –in their opinion– does not have any taste at all. I have to say, that I agree, because warm water lobsters that are caught here do not have the same taste as the much more delicate cold water lobsters. If maldivians could choose tuna from the can or Lobster I´m sure they will go for canned tuna.

 

"There is also something quite curious also related to tuna: It´s called Rihaakuru"

 

There is also something quite curious also related to tuna: It´s called Rihaakuru, a tuna-based thick paste which is the result of hours of cooking tuna in water and salt. This extract, present in almost every household in the Maldives, is a seasoning that can be use used as a flavouring for many dishes. It is the so called "Bovril oft the Maldives". Traders exported Rihaakuru to countries as far as China over centuries, but the histamine concentration of Rihaakuru has been described as being at levels that are regarded as a risk to human health. Only Maldivians are mostly inmume. 

 
Easy, spicy, healthy and exotic, Mas Huni, the maldivian breakfast: freshly grated coconut, boiled fresh tuna, green chiles, curry leaves. Served with chapati

Easy, spicy, healthy and exotic, Mas Huni, the maldivian breakfast: freshly grated coconut, boiled fresh tuna, green chiles, curry leaves. Served with chapati