Dhanya chutneys

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When in crisis, make buckets of dhanya chutney. I made the following two variations:

Peanut-based dhanya chutney

Ingredients:

  • A very large bunch of dhanya
  • A clove of garlic
  • Half a cup of peanuts
  • 2 large tablespoons of sambal oelek
  • 1 red chilli
  • A handful of baby tomatoes or a whole tomato
  • A teaspoon of dhanya powder
  • Juice of half a lemon

Wash the dhanya, peel the garlic and chuck everything into a blender and blend until mostly smooth. Store in glass containers in the fridge. Serve with anything and everything.

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Cashew-based dhanya chutney

Ingredients:

  • A very large bunch of dhanya
  • 2 green chillies
  • A clove of garlic
  • A knuckle of ginger
  • A handful of baby tomatoes or a whole tomato
  • 1 teaspoon dhanya powder
  • 1 teaspoon jeera powder
  • Juice of half to three-quarters of a lemon

As before, blend into smithereens.

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Food for Thought

Although I have not been cooking and documenting as prolifically as in the past, my interest in food has not waned. One of the focuses of where I work is food, and I have two amazing food colleagues doing very interesting research into food systems, food security and hunger in South Africa and across the global South. At the end of last year, my other organisation, dala, collaborated with food security expert and we put together a public art / performance / game to explore food insecurity in Cape Town under the banner of Serious Fun. The encounter was one of an ongoing series of experiments called Food for Thought that dala is engaging.

The following text and images were taken out of the project report:

“Food for Thought developed out of a desire to explore creative ways of engaging food security in a context where the majority of people are food insecure. The purpose of the game was to engage different constituencies in a game that unpacks the food system in Cape Town. Players were expected to navigate a series of food security issues that are typical in South Africa.

According to Haysom, ‘In the lead up to the serious fun process and particularly to the food for thought, or “playing with your food” I found myself asking a number of questions. Some of these include asking that if food insecurity was such a serious issue, it is visceral and deeply personal – how can we create fun in such a space?’. These concerns underpinned the way the game was designed in order to tread carefully, and this was largely achieved through a sensitivity to the background research.

‘Research in cities in Southern Africa focusing specifically on poor communities found that 77% of poor residents in Southern African cities were food insecure. What this meant in practice is that they were unable to buy, produce or consume food in a manner that met their dietary nutritional or cultural needs.  In Cape Town, despite being seen as a relatively wealthy city when compared to other Southern African cities, 80% of poor households were found to be food insecure. A pervasive trend throughout the cities in the region was limited and declining diversity in diets. In real terms the food insecure were discounting meals, discarding more and more of the key food groups that aid health and nutrition. The default was to foods that are energy dense, generally high starch and high sugar food types. This background then informed the game design and how we approached these issues’ (Haysom).

The game involved the installation of a shopping trolley sculpture on the Grand Parade as ‘both a symbol of and a metaphor for the current modern urban food system’ (Haysom). Attached to the trolleys were a range of food cards. These were situated at different heights according to their cost. Players could hire a ladder to reach luxury items. Players were given a weekly budget according to the 5 broad income groups, and were asked to shop. ACC facilitator and food specialist performed as the cashier and directed a range of food insecurity-related discussions with participants and audiences.

‘The choices, as the research shows, do not follow assumed trends. Emotion, responsibility, roles, etc. all influenced the choices made. One player chose only chocolate and wine, not because this was a dietary need, he was in love and wanted to impress his new partner. The grandmother chose foods that were best for her grandchildren and not necessarily best for herself. Students chose food that didn’t spoil and could be prepared with minimal cooking. These choices reflected strategic thinking but also clear prioritisation, often not determined by nutritional need but by emotion and a number of other factors.

As a game, there was a concern that the players would select foods that they thought they should select – a wide variety of items with good nutritional value – some players did this but other were far more “honest”. In a few instances, the food selected as part of the game was not the food that the players had in their shopping bags – when this was discussed, some of the richest and most energise conversations emerged.

Despite being a game, players took an immense amount of time to design menus in their heads and select the variety of foodstuffs that their budget allowed. This time again reflected reality where as resources are reduced, greater strategic planning takes place around the distribution of these resources

with key trade-offs being made. One participant argued that this is what they do on a weekly basis when they receive their community paper – to identify the specials and plan their week’s food purchases in accordance with their budget.

All these insights and roles that were player out in the game are roles and responses identified in research into the Cape Town and southern African food system. What the game enabled was a mirror to reflect these nuances of the food system in a real and almost immediate way. It stimulated much debate and energy grew as the game progressed. Conceptual theories on the food system that are often locked up in detailed academic debate play out on the City of Cape Town Grand Parade for all to see. The dietary diversity discounting, the emotive choice, the preference for certain traditional foods, the inequality within the food system, the fact that the system was a great deal more than just the food on display, were there for all to see.

These processes emerged through the game, these were not staged. The structure and design of the game, although in some ways determined by a particular understanding of the food system challenges, did not prescribe responses. The playing of the game enabled real and in all cases, immensely honest, responses to emerge through the process.

What was of great interest was that despite the brevity of the food system challenges and the levels of food insecurity, it is argued that the participants had fun, enjoyed their time, were enthused by the process and yet still addressed real issues. This was serious stuff but fun was had by all. From an academic perspective, it is certainly felt that as a methodology to engage with food system issues and speak to a broad audience in a manner the facilitated honest and open feedback and mutual learning, this is an essential tool’.”

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Herby feta bougouri, with lemon chickpea baby marrow, and brussels sprouts

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Can you believe it? We still eat food! Usually boring easy peasy whatever is not rotting in the fridge food… But the other evening (it was a while back now because although I managed to document the cooking, it has taken about a month to actually do anything with the pictures), we decided to make something that involved more than one pot and three ingredients. We made three different things with different flavours! This is an ambitious endeavour these days with the parenting-working-staying-sane-and-not-becoming-an-alcoholic-to-cope juggle.

Ingredients for the bougouri:

  • 1 cup of bulgar wheat
  • a medium onion
  • 2 tomatoes from a tin of tomatoes
  • a handful of flat leaf parsley
  • a handful of dhanya
  • a t-spoon of veg stock
  • 2 cups water

Finely dice the onion. Cook on a slow heat until glassy. Add the tomatoes and fry in the onions for a short while. Then add the bulgar and fry more a short while before adding the water and the stock. Cook on a low heat until all the water is absorbed. Do not stir otherwise it will get soggy. When it is done, loosen with a fork and add the herbs and feta. The herbs and feta are optional. You can also make the bulgar to serve with something like this.

Vegan version: loose the feta

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Ingredients for the lemon chickpeas etc:

  • 1 packet of baby marrows
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 2 green chillies
  • lemon
  • olive oil
  • mature cheddar

Finely chop the chillies. Grate the baby marrow. Drain the chickpeas. Mix all together with the juice of a lemon and liberally dashed olive oil. Chuck in a hot pan and fry quickly so the baby marrow doesn’t get too soggy. Once it is done, grate on some sharp mature cheddar or parmesan.

Vegan version: Ditch the cheese

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Ingredients for brussels sprouts:

  • bag of brussels sprouts
  • a crap load of garlic and butter
  • salt and pepper

Brussels sprouts are weird animals. In my experience they are either revolting or delicious. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. This time they were delicious, but we have had some real failures… Hence the no other related posts… Steam the brussels sprouts. But not for too long either. It is nice when they are still fresh. Heat the garlic in the butter. Douse the brussels sprouts with the garlic butter and season with salt and pepper. Fart wildly for the next 24 hours.

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Roast tomato, chickpea, broccoli and feta pasta

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Many of our meals lately involve throwing things together before they rot in the fridge. Oh the glamour. Sometimes the dishes work out pretty well. Baby tomatoes were on special and we ended up with the fridge filled with starting to shrivel tomatoes. A dear neighbour had also given me a bouquet of basil from her garden. I was solo parenting the two smalls and the neighbours were popping over for supper so it had to be something quick and easy…

Ingredients:

  • Baby tomatoes
  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • head of broccoli
  • large handful of basil
  • 1 bag of penne
  • 2 rounds of feta
  • almonds
  • olive oil, balsamic, oreganum
  • (If I had olives I would have added them to roast with the tomatoes and chickpeas as well)

Halve the baby tomatoes and chuck into a roasting dish. Add the tin of chickpeas. And the head of broccoli. Add the olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. We have this incredible oreganum from Cyprus which I add to anything tomato based at the moment. Roast everything together in about 180 degrees.While the veggies are roasting boil the pasta. When the tomatoes have popped and everything is nicely roasted (+/- 20 mins), add the basil and the feta. I mixed the basil through and then crumbled the feta onto the top to grill. Mix through and add some toasted almonds.

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Thankfully I have started getting a bit more sleep so hopefully the recipe contributions here will improve going forward…

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Refried black beans, sweetcorn and dhanya salsa, avo and sour cream burritos

IMG_3121Why life are you so mad? It is at least 2 months since I first made this dish (as documented here). In the interim I have made it 3 or 4 more times, tweaking as I go along. I used to have a plethora of staple meals. Deciding what to cook was never a problem. It feels like throwing something together was effortless. I feel like past-me was way more efficient. Probably as fictitious a person as future-me who is very well-adjusted and lives a heartily balanced life. But present-me just can’t seem to remember anything I used to make… well anything really.

My sister mentioned refried beans one day, so I thought I would give it a go. I had no idea what I was doing so I pretty much guessed and improvised with what I had. It turned out surprisingly well but some day I will need to learn how to make proper tortillas because the shop ones feel a bit synthetic… like at first I wondered whether I had remembered to peel all the plastic off… But the more that is stuffed in, the less the leathery casing is noticeable.

Refried beans ingredients:

  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 birdseye chilli from the garden
  • 1 smoked chilli from the Swedes
  • 1 tsp jeera powder
  • 1tsp dhanya powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tin black / kidney beans

Fry the garlic and chillies in olive oil. Add the spices and cook shortly. Add the tin of beans with the juices. Let them cook together on a medium heat while getting the other bits and pieces together. Once you have everything else ready, mash the beans and cook a little longer. This is probably not at all how you are supposed to make refried beans, but it seems to work and tastes good enough.

Sweetcorn and dhanya salsa / sambals ingredients:

  • Sweetcorn from 2 mielies (or a tin if that’s what you have lying around
  • 1 bunch of fresh dhanya
  • 1 spring onion
  • A handful of baby tomatoes quartered or any diced tomato (I didn’t have any for this post but have used them subsequently)
  • Dress lightly with olive oil and apple cider vinegar or lemon

Chuck everything together in a bowl.

Additional / optional ingredients:

  • Sliced avo
  • Grated cheese
  • Sour cream or minted plain yoghurt
  • Grilled / fried baby marrow with a dash of lemon
  • Grilled brinjal

Heat the wraps/tortillas in a dry pan. Layer everything and fold together. In this picture the wrap doesn’t look all that full, but with practice I realised way more could be squeezed in. Roll up your sleeves and eat.

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Black bean, green bean, dhanya, sesame seed and chilli salad

20I know most people think I am insane but I miss the humidity of Durban. I miss swimming through the air. And I miss the summery salads on our stoep in Seaview. A salad on our stoep here would often be more airborne than bellyborne this time of year.  I have been making this salad for years but I am only now managing to post it for some reason. I seem to remember it is a revision of someone else’s salad but I can’t remember whose. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 tin black beans or 1 cup boiled black beans (in this case I boiled them from raw)
  • Green beans
  • 1 bunch dhanya
  • Roasted sesame seeds

Dressing:

  • 3 Tsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 clove of garlic crushed
  • 1 green chilli crushed
  • 1 finger of ginger grated

If you can’t get a tin of black beans (which is way easier), soak the black beans overnight and then boil them for what feels like forever until they are soft. Steam the green beans. Roast the sesame seeds in. Clean the dhanya. While the beans are steaming, make the dressing. Crush the chilli, garlic and grated ginger together and add to the olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce and honey.

After eating the salad at our house, our dear friend from Fleurmach added some rice noodles to turn the salad into a meal.

Vegan version: leave out the honey

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Pancake puffs

10I grew up with pancakes once a week. Often eaten in front of a tiny black and white TV in the 30mins we were allowed to watch a week. The Simpsons, He-Man or Thundercats. Pick one. I still love making pancakes but it does take a while to stand over the stove and make them individually, especially given that I can probably eat 6/7 to myself. 

This much quicker pancake type recipe was taught to me by my dear Swedish dad friend who has abandoned us and moved back to Swedelandia. I don’t know what the real name is, but basically it is pancake batter puffed in a muffin tray.

Ingredients (makes 12):

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of cake flour
  • 1 cup of milk
  • pinch of salt

Put the ingredients into a jar/jug and mix (I don’t even bother to sieve the flour). Share the batter out into a greased 12 cup muffin tray. Put the muffin tray into a cold oven. Switch the oven on to 240 degrees (thermofan if you have) and bake for 30 minutes. It is amazing how they puff up. Every time I make them I anxiously watch (without opening the oven of course) and they only seem to miraculously puff at the last second, just before I start preparing a new batch of batter. Seriously, the puffing baffles me. There is no baking powder or self-raising flour. They just puff as if by magic and are hollow inside. Perfect for stuffing.

To serve, break open the puffs while they are still warm, and fill with deliciousness such as strawberries and cream; nutella; sugar, cinnamon and lemon; syrup; homemade apricot jam; and all manner of tooth-achingly sweet toppings.

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