Courgetti and beetballs

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Comfort food gets a guilt-free makeover with this dinner that resembles meat and refined starch but is packed with vegetables.

Fresh Living Magazine ran a recipe in their September 2016 issue for beetroot and lentil balls. The texture and flavour were great, but I’ve improved on their method to streamline the cooking process. The preparation (listed below) can be done hours or even a day or two in advance, taking pressure off you just before you want to cook the balls and serve them piping, crispy hot.

Fresh Living served the balls with rice and a minty yoghurt dip (yum), but I can’t resist the etymologically cheeky take of courgetti and beetballs. Use my recipe for courgetti here and simply slice it thinner if you prefer, but I rather like it chunky. Toss with a Napolitano sauce (home made or bottled – no one’s judging) and top with the beetballs.

Bon appetite.

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked brown lentils

1 cup breadcrumbs

3 medium beetroots

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 Tbs curry powder

1 tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

  • Boil lentils in water; drain.
  • While food processor is still clean and dry, blitz breadcrumbs (leftover challah or baguette is perfect for this; otherwise use 2 slices of regular bread – white or whole wheat)
  • Install a fine grater blade and grate the beetroot. Place the grated beetroot in a colander with a bowl below (to catch the liquid) and another bowl above (to weigh down with cook books or a heavy utensils canister). Drain as much juice as you can (drink this).

Method:

  • Return the blending blade to the food processor and pulse all the ingredients together (lentils, breadcrumbs, beetroot, garlic, curry powder, salt and pepper).
  • Roll the mixture into balls, squeezing out any excess liquid if necessary.
  • Bake on a greased baking tray for 20 minutes at 190°C.

Note: For a completely gluten-free version, try replacing the breadcrumbs with almond- or chickpea flour.

Kids have rights AND responsibilities. Yep, even the little ones.

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We do all we can to give our children the best, most comfortable lives we can – but the danger is that they take such life for granted. It becomes a problem when they develop an unearned sense of entitlement. When they start becoming stroppy and shirking age-appropriate responsibilities, or carelessly wasting resources, we parents draw our hair in desperation. What have we done wrong? we berate ourselves. How could they have turned out as these ungrateful, irresponsible little brats?

The answer may be surprisingly simple. We’re not doing anything wrong by providing our kids with food, shelter, clothing, good schooling, love and care. We’re performing our parental responsibilities, and just because not all children have access to these basic rights doesn’t mean ours shouldn’t. What we also need to provide for our kids are responsibilities to go with these rights.

Responsibilities go hand in hand with awareness. There’s a drought going on in our country. There are people starving within a ten-minute drive from most of our homes. Many children don’t have access to good schools. People treat each other with apathy and cruelty.

Young kids may not be able to solve many of these problems, but they need to be aware of them. Mindful citizens are bred from mindful children. They need to learn not to waste resources and to show appreciation for the opportunities that they have available to them.

Mindful citizens are bred from mindful children

After a particularly hair-pulling week with my ungrateful brats – er, I mean darling children – I decided to take action. I screamed them to bed without a story, slammed the door on them, and locked myself in my office to try to calm down. Then I opened my computer and began typing. I typed lists. Lots of them. I itemized the things my kids had a right to expect, and then wrote the responsibilities that go with them. Without standing up to their (age-appropriate) responsibilities, I decided, they lost their rights.

I stuck the lists in the form of posters all over the house: one about food in the kitchen; one about hygiene in the bathroom; one about education above the school bag hooks; etc. When the kids woke up in the morning, they were wide-eyed. The two literate ones read them out to their little sister, and they began discussing the ideas in hushed voices.

Things have changed somewhat in the Veggietot household. The posters are now looking a little dog-eared, but the principles have made their points. I now say things like, “If you don’t take care of your clothes and put them away nicely you will lose the right to have them” – and I get a perceptive response! At first I actually confiscated the items in question, including their beds when they started treating them as trampoline-rocket-launches at 10 pm one evening. The boys spent a night on the cold passage floor, but they got the point. Fast.

People have reacted to my approach variously with appall and applause. For the latter, here are the signs to print and plaster around your home:

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Garden salad. Seriously.

p1010465Two types of lettuce, spring onions, cherry tomatoes and various herbs. Hard to believe this salad came utterly and completely from my garden. There is no more satisfying feeling in the entire world ever!

The best part is that these are all really easy things to grow. The other best part is that it’s virtually free (once you’ve paid off the trays of seedlings, which you usually do with your first salad). But the real, bestest best part is that it’s totally organic and literally cannot get any fresher. Goodness in a basket. Amen.

Happy Birthday Granny. Let’s spa-lebrate!

unspecifiedOh, yes. I think I am going to enjoy this!

girls-at-the-spaFrom left: Olivia Chetty from the Maritzburg Sun; Jade Le Roux from Public eye; Veggietot Mom; Hazel Whitehead from Beauty Shout Box; Carmen Barends from meanderings.co.za; and Sabrina Maingard from Fashion Nanny.

Granny Mouse Spa hosted a spa day this week in honour of their tenth birthday. What makes the spa unique is its homely feel – an extension of the Country House so famous in the Natal midlands. Unlike many spas’ clinical aesthetic, Granny’s feels just like that: as warm and comforting as a trip to your granny’s house. The rugs, the raw wood finishes, the opulent armchairs and cottage furniture like kists and wicker side-tables create the perfect cozy environment in which you can relax and enjoy the world-class spa treatments.

20160922_130607The entrance to the spa blends seamlessly in with the rest of the homely, peaceful grounds

img_3778The waiting area

unspecifiedWelcoming foot ritual – part of every guest’s experience

It’s little touches that add up to a great spa experience, like heated massage beds, scented eye masks, and having your slippers put back on your feet before your therapist leaves the room, so you can float straight off afterwards without keruffling under the bed for them.

We were treated to a basic facial, an Indian head and neck massage, and a hand and foot massage (it’s not often that a hand massage goes all the way up to your shoulders, but they do things the right way up here). The facial used products from CSpa, a delightfully fragrant range made locally from plant-based ingredients. The staff are happy to custom-make treatments and packages to suit guests’ needs, and they offer kiddies’ treats on request.

unspecifiedYours Truly being pampered (Thanks to my friend K for the pic!)

20160922_111623The spa’s Jacuzzi

20160922_111328Delicious spread laid on by culinary artist Kirstie du Toit from Granny Mouse. The freshly juiced carrot and ginger drink was particularly delicious, and the brownies, well, yum!

The spa – managed by Camelot – keeps up to date with health and beauty trends and regional operational manager for KZN Iska Bharath says the signature treatment – so special it’s even been patented – has really taken off. Called The Infinity of Beauty and Indulgence, it includes a full body scrub with fresh lavender, rosemary and salt; a detoxifying seaweed back wrap; a CSpa facial; and an aromatherapy massage along the back of the body. I’ll have to go back for this one! Want to try it yourself? Email spa@grannymouse.co.za or drop them a line on 033 234 4071

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Tree is growing

I love ‘my’ yoga studio, Tree Natural Concept in Umhlanga. It opened in 2015, followed shortly by its health cafe with the motto ‘if it’s delicious, it makes you happy’. (Most of their meals are veggie, too, with an option to add animal protein if you choose. So it gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from Veggie Tots!)

Their new retail outlet takes the brand to the next level. ‘Tree is now a one-stop shop for all things wellness: yoga is a natural way to exercise, our café offers a natural way to eat healthily, and with the opening of our  store you can take the experience home with you,’ says Dominique Howard, co-founder with Brett Roux.

Here are some snaps to entice you into the newly revamped space – as if you needed enticing!

20160918_100802The kitchen now uses – and sells – fresh organic veggies from Dave Bartlett of eatyourhome.co.za. Deliveries are on Tuesdays and Thursdays so make sure you pop in. Ask about their veggie box scheme. 

20160918_100913 Proprietress Dom stocking the shelves. In addition to their boutique line of dried goods, super foods and supplements, they also sell free range eggs, fresh fare from their kitchen (mmm… bread… mmmmmm…. granola….) and a range of organic skin care including Africa Organics, Bare Naturals, and Esse.  

20160918_100822The new, hand-crafted (and eponymous) tree which greets you as you walk in. (That’s Dom in the background packing the shelves.)

20160918_100950  The studio maintains its aura of peace, calm and playfulness. Mats and yoga gear are available in the new store, too. 

20160918_101651The cafe is still one of my favourite places to avoid deadlines (I mean get some time out) or schedule meetings.

20160918_101621The tree manifesto

See you on the mat. Or at the cafe. Or in the store. Anyway, I hope it’s soon.

If you haven’t yet visited Tree (and you seriously don’t know what you’ve been missing) pop in under the Protea Hotel on the corner of Lighthouse and Ridge Roads in Umhlanga Village, Durban. Call 031 561 1169 for more info.

A day in the Cape

It’s nice, once in a while, to feature places outside of my native KZN, and I recently found myself – sans tots – in my sister’s stomping ground in the Mother City.

Cape Town is trendy, progressive, and in many ways more overtly environmentally savvy than Durban. Could be they just have better publicists. Still, it’s always nice to see how they do things on the other side. The grass may be as green, but they might use a different brand of organic, unrefined, GMO-free fertilizer.

20160903_132623Here we are at the Oranjezicht City Farm organic produce market at the V&A Waterfront, where my trendy, eco-aware sister does her weekly veggie shop. Turmeric latte, anyone?

The Oranjezicht City Farm is a citizen-led project that turned a derelict bowling green into a thriving vegetable farm showcasing heirloom and indigenous culinary species. I love this sort of grassroots stuff (pun intended). I wrote a story on the venture for Living Space Magazine back in 2014, which I’ve included at the bottom of this post for those who are interested. Aside from the market venue move to the Waterfront, it’s still pretty up-to-date. It also includes some tips on starting your own organic veggie garden.

We lunched at a wine farm – as one does in the Cape – making our way to Signal Gun in Durbanville. I’m always one to notice environmentally friendly touches, but no one could miss the fact that the entire grounds of the sizable tasting area and outdoor restaurant were covered with dried out fruit stones instead of gravel.

“Where on earth would they find SO MANY?” pondered my sister’s fiancé.

“Koo,” mused my sister.

The fiancé, a huge fan of canned peaches, looked at once satisfied with the answer and hungry for dessert. And we hadn’t even eaten lunch yet.

The pits do the same job as pebbles but utilized what must have been a few tons of material that would otherwise have been considered rubbish. Yes, fruit pits are biodegradable, but this quantity would take quite some time, so they’re not clogging prime land while they do so. I have much respect for ingenious ideas like these. Upcycling at its best!

20160903_143737Something different: My sis’s fiancé and I enjoying wine pairings with chocolates and Turkish Delights. Lunch was pizza (cheese and wine, of course!)

In the evening we took in a show at the Fugard. With three small kids (my eldest is now seven), I’ve kind of resigned myself to the fact that this stage of my life is about playgrounds and places that serve hot chips, and the most culture I’ve experienced recently is in the organic yoghurt in my fridge, so it was a welcome change to go out on the town with people who consider it normal and don’t squeal with delight at the tickets, the foyer, programme, the usher, the stage curtains… They forced me to calm down and not embarrass myself.

I haven’t been to the theatre in years (unless you count the children’s panto’s at The Sneddon – which are very good) so Clybourne Park was a real treat. Although set in Chicago, it raises issues of history, race, class, and the trending fashion of gentrification of decaying neighbourhoods – all issues relevant to SA, and all best discussed over a very large glass of beer (craft, naturally).

20160903_224659Late supper at Lefty’s. I ordered “The Return of the Beetroot Falafel” (I hadn’t known it was Here in the first place, so I was mildly surprised by its Return). It wasn’t like any falafel I’ve ever eaten, but it was tasty in its own right.

Story on Oranjezicht City Farm, Living Space, September 2014:

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How to get kids to eat cauliflower

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Some kids don’t like the texture of certain veggies; others don’t like the theoretical idea of eating specific things (like cauliflower. I’m just saying.) This approach solves both problems. When I pitched the idea of cauliflower in cheese sauce to my five-year-old (emphasis on the cheese sauce: “It’s cheese sauce. It’s awesome. It’s cheese, and it’s sauce! What could be better than that? Did I mention the cheese?”), he reacted with predictable skeptism. When he saw the actual cauliflower, I swear he turned a little green. But here’s the genius, see: it’s the CHEESE SAUCE.

Nothing scary going in there.

Flour – cool (it makes cake, right?)

Butter – great (he loves it on sarmies)

Milk – it goes well with chocolate so it must be safe.

Cheese – nuff said.

Plus he enjoyed being grown up enough to pour in the milk a little at a time while I stirred.

The next token of brilliance is to chop the cauliflower so small, it virtually blends into the sauce (you could use a knife, a grater, or cauliflower rice for this).

RECIPE

CAULIFLOWER:

Finely chop a head of cauliflower and steam until it is soft enough not to alert your child to its status as a vegetable.

Don’t bin the cauliflower leaves! Adult supper just got fancy. Click here to see how.

SAUCE:

Melt 50 g butter in a pan.

Stir in 50 g flour.

Add 500 ml milk a little at a time to form a sauce.

Season with salt or a herbal alternative and cook for 5 minutes.

Add 1-cups grated cheese (Tussers. Mmm.)

Coat the bejeezuz out of the cauliflower.

Smile extremely broadly and make positive comments about the cheese sauce as you serve. Praise your child wildly with every mouthful.

For a vegan version: replace butter with olive oil and milk with soy milk. Omit the cheese. (You might want to add a little extra flour to thicken it up, and a flavour your kid likes.)

Quick, easy and impressive mushroom frittata

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Unexpected dinner guests – eek!!!

But not such a big deal when you have a few quick tricks up your sleeve. Here’s what I rustled up with a 20-minute round trip to the shops and a little pot-stirring in the background while I oversaw my kids’ evening routine:

Sauté 1 kg mushrooms in oil, thyme and ground pepper (add a little milk if they begin to stick to the pan).

Beat 3 eggs with 1 cup of yoghurt (I used full cream, but have successfully used lower fat versions in the past). Season well with salt and pepper.

Transfer mushrooms into a greased pie dish and cover with the egg mixture. Bake at 180°C for 30-35 minutes until the egg has set.

(It went down very well, by the way!)

Why you shouldn’t tell your daughter to clean her room

This was absolutely too good not to share.

Australian journalist Annabel Crabb put us straight in Woman’s Weekly this month: “Why you shouldn’t clean your house”. She says she grew up in a cluttered house where her mother placed more emphasis on creative crafts and time spent with family than on dusting and tidying, and she’s employing the same joyful approach in her own home with her three kids (two of whom are daughters). She

She says in more eloquent words what I have been trying to say for years. There is seriously WAY too much pressure – especially on women – to maintain a clean and tidy environment. And she suggests that we not put this pressure on our own children.

I moan at my kids almost constantly about the state of their rooms (and don’t even get me started on the play room), but then I look at my own office and it would duplicitous of me not to blush. Perhaps, I reckon humbly, there is a middle ground.

Meanwhile, just in case Woman’s Weekly tidy (horror!!) their archives and this story is one day lost, I’m copying it right here. Please enjoy it and share it:

Annabel Crabb: ‘Why you shouldn’t clean your house’

Wife Drought author and Journalist Annabel Crabb writes why a bit of mess never hurt anyone, and reveals the hidden benefits in a cluttered home.

If as a mother, there’s one little tip you can pass on to your daughter that might help her enjoy a productive, happy and neurosis-free life, I reckon it’s this: don’t tidy your room.

I mean it. And here’s why. Amid all the extraordinary changes that have befallen Australian women over the past half-century (the surge into the workplace, reproductive freedom, no-fault divorce, military combat roles, Botox, the periodic arrival and departure of high-waistedness as a fashion trend), there is one significant feature of life that hasn’t changed very much at all; women still do about twice as much housework as men.

Now, there are two ways you can approach this disparity, as a gender.

You can whine and moan about men doing more. Or you can take the radical option and just do less yourself.

The Canadian writer Stephen Marche recently observed that, “housework is the only political problem in which doing less and not caring are the solution, where apathy is the most sensible and progressive attitude”.

And that’s the approach I have taken to heart. My house, where my partner and I and our three children live, is a glorious tribute to all the things that are more important than housework. Mine is one of those homes which would – should we ever feel like selling – need about two weeks of concerted scrubbing and sorting, and dusting-of-high-ledges and a vicious targeted eradication of old craft projects.

Mine is the sort of home where guests for lunch present – apart from menu planning – the added unspoken question as to whose job it will be to clear the dining room table of its drifts of paper, unopened letters and things that people dumped there on the way in from school.

Deposits of useful items (sticky tape, the rare and invaluable Pens That Work, the keys to my son’s toy handcuffs, spare batteries) cluster together on vulnerable surface areas like mice in a haystack.

My partner, Jeremy, is an intrepid housework-sharer, talented launderer and instinctively much tidier than I am. Yet we both work full-time and the numbers don’t lie; the hours in the day just aren’t sufficient to accommodate two working lives plus all the time we need to spend with our children.

And if it comes down to a choice between tidying the living room and making gingerbread with the children, then in my view there is no contest. Consequently, my house is what it is.

When The Weekly’s Editor-In-Chief Helen McCabe (in her matchlessly charming way) suggested a chat and possible family photograph after I published my book The Wife Drought, my policy was clear: sure, you can come and take pictures in our house, but I’m not tidying up.

Posing in an artificially tidied home, pretending we’re a relentlessly ordered family, would be a fib. Our house is messy. Messy is what it is.

In the end, we ended up in a studio, romping about self-consciously for photographs in an artfully disordered but controlled environment.

However, I like the way my house is. It’s like my parents’ house, on the Adelaide Plains farm where I grew up and where friendly disorder always reigned; Lego citadels, intricate costumes made out of paper shopping bags and the serial projects of my crafty, kitchen-innovator of a mother. She made her own soap. She wove her own baskets.

In a fabulous burst of activity, she once knitted a blanket from wool she had carded, spun and dyed herself, with wool shorn from our own sheep.

That blanket is – in any future will and testament – the only thing on which I really will insist.

My room was always a mess and it still is, and sometimes I think not minding about that is the greatest gift my mother has given me.Genuinely not minding that the kitchen cupboards are dusty – or that my desk is still cluttered with notes, splayed reference texts and illegible little Post-It notes from a book I finished writing nearly a year ago – is like a season ticket to the happiness that comes from doing other things.

One of the reasons the housework debate is so diabolical – and why, in countless households across Australia, the dishes and the recycling, and the timeless dispute about whose job it really is to clean the toilet carry such potential for discord – is that men and women often have asymmetric standards about what constitutes an acceptable level of clean.

It’s one thing to agree that housekeeping will be split equally, but it’s another thing entirely to reach agreement upon the absolute minimum that must be done and this is where the frustration often erupts.

One party might think that a kitchen bench is clean if it’s been given an optimistic swipe with a dingy Chux. The other, meanwhile, might be incapable of sleep until it’s been fully cleared and disinfected.

Why do women, on average, have higher standards? Well, it’s not the case in my household, so I’m an unreliable witness, but my best guess is that it’s because women have more skin in the game than men.

An untidy house belonging to the Brown family is far more likely, in local gossip, to be “Mrs Brown’s filthy house” than “Mr Brown’s filthy house”.

And, you know, every now and again, when I’m rampaging through the house looking for nail scissors or that birthday present I bought two days ago for the kids’ party to which we are, right at that minute, already 20 minutes late, I do feel the siren call of orderliness and wish I had one of those houses in which minimalist furniture sprawls languidly across vast empty planes of dust-free space, interrupted only by the odd witty vase or coffee-table book about wallpaper.

Yet then I remember. Skiving off housework is my international ticket to more fun things, like hanging out with my slightly dishevelled children. A bit of mess never hurt anyone, after all.

Annabel Crabb is the author of The Wife Drought, published by Random House.

This story was originally published in the March issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly.

Who won Waldorf?

I’m sure you’ve all been holding your breath to know whether or not “The Seven Species” won the competition! Well, here’s the update.

The second annual Taste of Waldorf competition (organized by the Waldorf Astoria group in partnership with James Beard Foundation) wrapped up this week in New York as chefs from Amsterdam, Beijing, Jerusalem, New Orleans and Orlando competed for the honour of adding to the hotel chain’s signature dishes.

A few weeks ago I offered my take on Jerusalem chef Itzik Barak’s dish, which spun on the seven sacred plant species of the bible. In the end, the competition went to Beijing chef Benoit Chargy and his partner JBF Rising Star Semi-Finalist Chef Erik Bruner-Yang for their dish entitled “Jing roll”. The plate presented comprised Wagyu beef wrapped in Chinese cabbage and served with a fried black mushroom, hoisin sauce and salted duck eggs.

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 23: A view of food during Taste of Waldorf Astoria at Waldorf Astoria Hotel on February 23, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts)
NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 23: A view of food during Taste of Waldorf Astoria at Waldorf Astoria Hotel on February 23, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts)

Funnily enough, I made cabbage wraps this week as well, though it was before I knew about the competition winner. Watch this spot for my take on cabbage wraps (no mushrooms or salted duck eggs, though).

Jing roll dish will soon be featured on menus at 25 Waldorf Astoria hotels around the globe. For more information about the competition, contestants and winner, click here.