Monday, January 31, 2011

Bits and pieces

It's been radio silence for the last few months, but not for lack of delicious regional adventures! Here are some bits and pieces…

Anri, Katrin and I had one of our last roommate lunches at Birds Boutique Café (127 Bree St., Cape Town) back in November. They offer an organic box scheme and emphasise fresh, seasonal, ethical eating.

I've been getting my fruit and vegetable boxes from the Ethical Co-op, which delivers to a supermarket near my house. The Co-op also offers pretty competitively priced dried goods and home products. Even though you're still getting your food from a middleman, it's a time-pressed regional eater's dream: it lists where every product comes from and lets you order everything together once a week. The online experience can't compare to chatting with producers at a farmer's market, but it still beats supermarket strip lighting.

An epicurious friend of mine came down to visit from the U.K.—we visited Eight, of course, where she was extremely impressed by the zucchini soufflé, chicken and leek pot pie (below right) and especially by Spier's Organic 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (I'll admit that I bought the first bottle only for its pleasingly graphic label and well-written copy). Forgive the following point-and-shoot pictures, but I was relatively lax with my camera...

We also visited Solms Delta's Fyndraai restaurant; I was a little disappointed to find that only one of the dishes on the menu appeared to use ingredients from its culinary Fynbos garden, Dik Delta (a vegetable bake that was tasty, but not particularly special). We did love their wine tasting (below left) and the extensive displays dedicated to educating visitors about the history and perspectives of slaves and workers on the farm.

We both liked the food and coffee at Loading Bay, one of those far-too-cool clothing cafés, and the menu claimed that they bought directly from producers.

Last but not least we stopped by the Fresh Goods and Neighbourgoods markets; the second was an absolute zoo! Arrive early and you might be able to nab some produce from the Drift Farm stall. They're growing some beautiful heirloom vegetables (golden zucchini, purple beans) which you can also order directly from them.

A few other things I'm loving:

- Foxenburg Estate goat's milk yogurt. The grenadilla flavour (ingredients: goat's milk, grenadilla) is like eating cheesecake filling. You can buy it from certain Spars and at the Wellness Warehouse (the one at the Cavendish Centre carries 1L buckets for R64. More expensive than cow's milk, but believe me, it's worth it).

- Wild-caught honey available at the Sustainability Institute's A Green Café (R25). It has a very rich, complex flavour.

- Mint lemonade (above, sweetened with stevia). I didn't follow exact quantities, but if you've got a few fistfuls of mint, five lemons and a few drops of stevia you're in business. I know a lot of people dislike the flavour of stevia and it's not regional, besides... but it pairs really well with the mint. Rooibos iced tea with honey is perhaps the better regional choice, and is even easier to make.

- The prospect of a visit to Joburg/Pretoria this weekend! I'm counting on Anri to introduce me to Gauteng's very own regional buffet.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Seasonal Food Guide

A good friend of mine is always wondering which South African fruit and vegetables are in season. As a Canadian I can barely grasp the idea of summer in December, so I'm probably not the best person to ask—but after finding this very exhaustive guide [via The Aspirant Locavore], I made her a little seasonal/month-by-month calendar. You can download the .pdf version here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Bokashi! Pronounced BOO-KA-SHI. Is what exactly? Let me tell you.

One thing we realised with going regional, is that it means dealing with greater amounts of unprocessed food and its consequent organic waste. More leaves, more peels, more inedible bits. This is because usually a processing plant, whether it is the factory that makes your tomato sauce or the supermarket that cuts and peels your carrots for you, deals with the processing phase of your food. You never see the amounts of organic waste that is produced to supply you with your already prepared stir-fry mix, and I'm sure it also does not get composted and sent back to the farmer to rework into the soil.

So, once you start buying more unprocessed foods directly from producers, this means dealing with the organic waste yourself. Ideally turning it into something that the farmer who produced your food can work back into the soil. Why? Well, because the nutrients in our food come from the soil and have to somehow be replenished. We're in actual fact borrowing nutrients from the soil and if we want the soil to sustain us, then we have to return nutrients to it. So guess what allows us to do this? BOO-KA-SHI! :)

If you are familiar with vermiculture or earthworm warming, bokashi bins will make more sense. If not, here is a short explanation. When you recycle your waste, the first step is to separate the organic stuff (leaves, peels, egg shells, left-overs) and the non-organic stuff (glass, plastic, paper, tins). Recycling the non-organic stuff is pretty easy and straightforward, and you could give Mr. Recycle a call to pick it up from you each week for a small fee. The organic stuff is a bit more of a challenge. If you have a big garden and a wormery and/or compost heap, stop reading here. If, however, like us, you live on the second floor of an apartment building, with your herb pots having to substitute a garden, all that organic material becomes a hassle. Well, that is until you buy your first bokashi bin!

A bokashi bin works on the same principle as a wormery. It consists of two buckets, one inside the other, and a small tap at the bottom of the outside-bin. The inside-bin has is a bit shorter than the outside-bin and has holes in the bottom. Every day you add a layer of organic waste to the inside-bin. Layers of organic waste are sprinkled with bokashi, which is a bran housing effective micro-organisms (commonly known as EM) that break down the organic waste for you. AND NO, IT DOESN'T SMELL. If you do it right, it actually smells like freshly baked bread. A little bit. :) Once a week you drain the juices by opening the small tap at the bottom of the outside-bin. The juice can be diluted 1:10 and sprayed on your plants or poured down drains to keep them clean. Works like a charm!

It takes about a month to fill up one bin, which then needs to sit around for a week or so before you can take it to the organic farmer that produced your food! S/he and the soil will LOVE you for it. Because you won't be able to use it during the fermentation week, you'll need another one. You'll also need about 3 packs of bokashi to fill up a bin. So, you need 2 x bokashi bins and 3 bokashi packets per bin.

The bins come with instructions and your first tub of bokashi. You can buy the bins and the bokashi either from A Green Cafe at the Sustainability Institute, or from Die Boord Spar. Students receive a discounted price from A Green Cafe.

Let's close this loop. Happy bokashifying.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Mulberries are ripening on the tree outside the Fresh Goods Market. Keep your eyes peeled!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Oatmeal Cookies

A friend (hi Jess!) recently asked me for this recipe; she's already planning her Christmas presents. I wasn't going to post it here, but realised that aside from the sugar (I haven't yet been brave enough to try replacing it with honey, but a molasses-honey combination might work?) it's a relatively regional recipe. I made them today as a going-away present for another friend, stacked in a coffee tin with the recipe written out on the side.

If you wanted to make them a little more holiday-like, you could try replacing the raisins with cranberries and white chocolate, or peppermint bark. I'd love to hear what kind of edible holiday gifts you like to make—especially from South Africans, as I imagine the usual gingerbread-pumpkin-autumn-spice flavours are less appealing in summertime...?

Michelle's Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 26 7-centimetre cookies
For more details on the regional suppliers mentioned below, click here.

115 g butter, room temperature (visit the Klipfontein stall at Fresh Goods Market)
100 g brown sugar (I used organic rapadura sugar from Divine Foods, which has a slightly stronger flavour and colouring—a lighter brown sugar also works)
125 g white sugar (preferably unbleached; available from Divine Foods)
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla (Nomu's vanilla paste is great)
1 tbsp. (soy) milk
185 g Eureka cake flour (or all-purpose unbleached flour)
1/2 tsp. salt (Khoisan)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
120 g rolled oats, or 60g if using coconut
50 g unsweetened shredded coconut
85 g raisins (By Nature is available at both Saturday Stellenbosch markets) or chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars.
3. Beat in the egg, vanilla and milk.
4. In another bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.
5. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Stir to combine.
6. Add the rolled oats and coconut, if using. Stir. Add the raisins. (It should look like the first picture below.)
7. Roll the dough into 1 tbsp. balls and place at least 4 cm apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet (picture 2). Flatten them slightly with your fingers; they should be at least one-and-some centimetres thick (picture 3).
8. Bake on the oven's middle rack for 10 - 12 minutes, until the edges are just golden. The tops should still look soft, even a little uncooked (picture 4).
9. Leave them on the sheet for about 30 seconds, then carefully slide them onto a cooling rack. Cool fully.

I've never managed to keep these around for longer than a few days, but they'd probably last at least a week in an airtight container, possibly more.