Sunday, May 30, 2010


Friends of mine at Fanakalo have been working on a restaurant project in Kayamandi. When it opens, Amazink will mix in truly South African cuisine with a brilliant view of Stellenbosch's surrounding mountains; hopefully hand-in-hand with the 2010 Soccer World Cup's opening weekend. Join the Facebook group here for updates on the grand opening!

Eric ended his second successful Stellenbosch Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) season today. The next one will start mid-July. If you are keen to sign up or want more information, contact Elke at

Monday, May 10, 2010

Daily Bread

Katrin and I have grown very depressed about the state of supermarket bread. The loaves are always too damp, prone to mould and require heavy-duty toasting. Unpleasant! Googling “easy brown bread loaf” yielded this excellent recipe—one of the simplest breads I’ve ever made, with a good crust and sturdy yet springy crumb. Perfect for sandwiches, ideally the open-faced variety: try sharp cheddar with quince chutney, or cream cheese, sliced tomatoes and caramelised onions.

(I also recently tried Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread, but this one was far and away the winner—mostly because you don’t need to futz around with preheating dutch ovens or wait 12 hours for the dough to rise.)

Very easy brown loaf
Adapted from Lindsey Bareham in The Times

1 tbsp mild vegetable oil
1 tsp honey (or brown sugar, or molasses)
10g dried yeast
425ml warm water
225g whole-wheat flour (Josephine Mill)
225g white bread flour (Eureka Mills)
1 tsp salt (Khoisan Trading Co.)
13 x 20 cm loaf tin

Generously oil the loaf tin. Stir honey into 150ml of the water, then add the yeast. Leave several minutes to grow foamy. In a big bowl, mix together flours and salt. Create a well in the middle, add the yeast water and the plain water, and quickly stir to make a sticky, wet dough. Do not knead; simply scrape into the prepared loaf tin. Allow to rise for 1 ½ - 2 hours, or until the dough has risen almost to the top of the tin. Half an hour before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 220C. Place inside the oven and bake for 50 – 60 minutes, until the top is dark brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack. Make sandwiches galore.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Market diary, and a cake

Decisions, decisions: a supermarket egg and one from Jess' flock.

Developing a regional diet involves planning and adjusting to new rhythms—or so I hear. As Anri pointed out, real life has a bad habit of getting in the way of our goals and I didn't make many changes last week. Never mind: this project is about taking responsibility, not feeling guilty (a useful distinction made by Alisa Smith and James Mackinnon in their book Plenty).

Let's try instead for small changes in routine that might lead to big changes in diet. Rather than stopping by the supermarket after school on a weekday, my new plan is to buy as much as possible at the Stellenbosch Fresh Goods market, plan a weekly menu around those purchases, and then fill in the gaps at the supermarket on Monday.

My best market tip: arrive early if you intend to do a proper shop. Vendors are more likely to indulge cotton-brained interrogations (Where's this from? Wellington? Is that, like, within 250 kilometres of Stellenbosch? What do you mean by free-range?) and you’ll avoid the well-heeled masses.

The extremely helpful gentleman at the By Nature stand (083 658 3998; told me exactly where all his dried fruits, nuts and grains were from. Shame I’m geographically incompetent—next time, I’ll pack a map (or a South African roommate). In any case, the peaches, figs, raisins and almonds (60 rand for 500g) are all grown and processed nearby; he also said that clients wanting bulk packaging could call ahead of time.

Two wedges of Anura Farms Forest Hill Brie and Camembert were a steal at 30 rand—the vendor told me that they were produced about 20 km away, and said the cows are free-range (I'm not sure if there are set standards or certification for "free-range" here; this may involve a little extra legwork on our part).

I haven't quite adjusted to the season reversal—autumn in May keeps tricking me into thinking that Halloween is just around the corner—so the gleaming stalks of pinkish green rhubarb from Talbough were a fantastic surprise. Done and done.

Another friendly vendor at Oded's Kitchen (based in Mowbray; had little trouble talking me into buying some quince chutney—not 100% regional, but the quinces were from Franshoek, and he said Oded's felt very strongly about using organic local products wherever possible. He was also something of a quince historian, so those of you wanting to know more about this mysterious (to me, at least) fruit should feel free to ask.

The real highlight was finding free-range butter; the kind lady from Klipfontein also sells eggs and butter from her neighbour's farm. Truly, there are few things lovelier than pale butter wrapped in thin parchment and bound with a single knot of string. I don't know if your food ever talks to you, but this beauty was singing Orange Almond Gâteau de Mamy to me all morning.

So this is what it's all about: meeting people, feeling closer to your food and making cake.

Almond Cake with Roasted Rhubarb
Gâteau de Mamy adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini; roasted rhubarb from Orangette.

Everything in the cake except for the sugar was regional. I could have used lime zest instead (try the brand new Jem & Jess organic lime stall, or call 083 677 9007) but I wanted something to complement the tart rhubarb. If you plan cleverly and prepare the rhubarb first, you can bake both at the same time and save a little power.

For the cake:
25g finely ground almonds
55g cake flour (Eureka)
7g baking powder
Pinch of salt
150g sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 tsp orange zest (or lemon; optional)
125g butter, melted

1 20 or 25cm round cake tin, buttered and lined with parchment

Set oven rack to the lowest third, and preheat to 180C. Beat together the eggs and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the ground almonds, flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour to the egg mixture and stir until combined; add the butter and stir until combined (don't worry if it looks like an oily mess at first: it will come together). Pour into the cake tin and bake for 25 - 35 minutes (depending on the size of your tin - a skewer or knife inserted in the middle should come out quite clean). If the top looks as though it is browning too much while baking, cover it with aluminum foil. Cool completely on a rack.

For the rhubarb:
900g rhubarb
100g sugar
125ml white wine
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or 1 vanilla pod, split)

Set oven rack to the lowest third, and preheat to 180C. Clean and trim the rhubarb, then cut it into pieces about 5cm long. Place in a dutch oven or other heavy ovenproof dish and add sugar, white wine and vanilla paste/pod. Stir. Bake for 30 minutes or so, stirring it halfway to ensure even baking. Serve warm or cool, dolloped over the cake. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Regionalizing on the move

In an ideal world, I would have been able to dedicate all my time towards converting my diet to a regional one. However, this week and the next I'm on a course where I get to spend eight hours of my day in a classroom, learning about system dynamics. I'm hoping that the course is going to improve my understanding of the food economy as a system, so that I can suggest more useful interventions and adjustments for making it more sustainable. I leave our little home at 7h30 in the morning and arrive home anywhere between 17h30 and 19h00. Welcome to the real world. And I guess this is the way it is for most people. This got me thinking that the challenges of sourcing food regionally are perhaps not limited to only identifying regional suppliers, there is also our daily must-do lists to deal with before we can focus on anything else.

Perhaps the best solution would then be to work with what we have and seeing that this week is dedicated to making regional food happen on the move, I will focus on the places were we have lunch during the week. The supply chains of "lunch providers" could be tweaked to source food regionally. Initiatives dedicated to this concept are often referred to as "farm-to-fork" programs. Institutions like schools and hospitals, office parks and restaurants commit to sourcing food regionally. Their menus are therefore adapted to the seasons and to whatever food is grown regionally.

I'm lucky enough to have such a program in place at the Sustainability Institute. Our farm-to-fork initiative, managed by Kate Shrire of Slow Food Cape Town and headed by cook Colleen Leith, aspires to source as many regional and agro-ecological produce as possible. It is based at the Guest House at the Sustainability Institute and serves daily lunches made from these ingredients. In doing so it supports the principles mentioned in our FAQ. Kate promised to dedicate one of next week's lunches to The Regional Buffet's mission and to share the recipe and sources with us. Thanks Kate!

To encourage your daily lunch hang-out to source their ingredients regionally, whether it be your school's cafeteria or the take-out place on the corner, start asking them questions about where they source their ingredients from. We can do a lot for making our food systems more sustainable by asking the right questions.

And then for another on-the-move regional tactic, I leave you with the recipe of the soup that welcomes me home every night this week. I prepared a lot of it over the weekend. Team it up with Michelle's regional bread and any of the massive variety of local cheeses we have available to us (my cheese-loving roommates are going to help me out with this one; watch this space). Except for the paprika, garlic, black pepper and brown sugar, we've managed to source all of the other ingredients locally. Katrin knew of a regional salt supplier and Michelle found our much loved balsamic vinegar! Thanks ladies.

The welcome home soup
I'm usually not a fan of broth-type soups, but this is going to become one of my 2010 winter favourites! The preparation fits perfectly into a Sunday afternoon and the taste improves as the weekdays fly by.

tomatoes to slow roast

10 tomatoes (from Eric's farm)
1/2 tsp paprika
salt to taste (Khoisan Natural Unrefined Sea Salt from St. Helena Bay)
balsamic vinegar (Balsamic Style Cabernet Sauvignon Vinegar from the Nuy Valley)

8 cups vegetable stock
6 large onions, thinly sliced (from Vredendal)
1 to 2 garlic bulbs, minced
2 tsp salt (Khoisan Natural Unrefined Sea Salt from St. Helena Bay)
2 tbsp rosemary (from our own pot of herbs)
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
1/2 tsp red chile flakes (sponsored by the Sustainability Institute's herb garden)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup red wine (it was local, but could also have been organic if from Avondale or any of the other organic regional wine producers on Urban Sprout)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (Balsamic Style Cabernet Sauvignon Vinegar from the Nuy Valley)

You need to prepare the tomatoes at least 3 hours before you start the soup. Simply half them, drizzle them with a bit of balsamic vinegar, salt and paprika and then slow-roast them for about 3 hours on 140 degrees Celsius.

Heat up the stock while preparing the rest of the soup and keep it hot on one of the back stove plates.

To prepare the onions, cook them in half a cup of stock with the salt. Keep stirring the onions and adding stock as it reduces. Don't let the onions stick to the bottom of the pot. When the onions are soft and lightly golden, add the garlic, rosemary, chile flakes, pepper and sugar and continue to cook until the onions have broken down. Add the red wine and let it reduce to a syrup.

Chop up the tomatoes coarsely and add it to the onions together with the balsamic vinegar and stock. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer, partially covered to allow all the flavours to get acuinted. Taste the soup and season it with more salt, pepper and/or balsamic vinegar.