The Year of the Veg

Here’s something that caught my eye:

“Move over, meat, this is the year of the veg. An interesting trend in a few small restaurants in California seems to have gained worldwide attention – they serve vegetables in various forms as the main dish and you’re able to order a small side portion of protein if you wish. With the cost of meat – both on the wallet and the earth – I predict this food trend gaining some serious traction in the future.”

Ra ra to the world for finally coming their senses 🙂 This trend-watch was featured in this month’s issue of  The Ridge Magazine. Other predictions included a focus on artisanal ice creams, eastern condiments and breads made with ancient grains like amaranth, millet, spelt and teff.

Let’s hope this sees the start of an upsurge of veggie-friendly options on South African restaurant menus.

And just for drawing attention to it, let’s give a shout out to food contributor Paul Sheppard (support him by celebrating the news with lunch at his bistro Marco Paulo in Mt Edgecombe).

 

Cauli greens

Do not throw away cauliflower leaves! They’re full of vitamins and flavour. Chop them up – including the thick spiny bits – and follow me to Yum Land with this easy application:

Sauté 1 chopped onion with 3 cloves of crushed garlic until soft. Add washed, chopped cauliflower leaves and cook for about 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Serve with anything (we had lemon-and-parsley butter beans and boiled baby potatoes)

Sautéed cauli greens

Seriously. You never knew this could taste so good. And to think you’ve been throwing out this wholesome, delicious packaging for years!

 * save money * add variety to your 5-a-day * reduce your garbage                * eat healthy * high yum factor *

The Key

In this frenetic world we seldom feel (or are) fully in control. We do what we can to try to stay on top of things, and leave the world a better place than we found it, but life sometimes gets the better of us.

Like this morning. Once again, I found myself looking for my keys. This   ALWAYS happens to me! It’s usually the last thing I do before I walk out the door, so I’m generally in a rush, shouldering a handbag, laptop bag and nappy bag, with a toddler on my hip and dragging one of her brothers in each hand. That is NOT the time to start having to run up and down stairs, scouring every cluttered surface for my keys.

So I made a decision. I may not be able to prevent deforestation of the Amazon today. I may not have time to found an organization to distribute food to all the starving orphans in Africa. I might not even get to the bottom of the festering mountain of laundry that’s waiting for me in the back room. But I can sort out one thing: my keys.

I went out and bought a hook. I returned home and put it up on the wall. And I hung my keys on it. From now on, the keys will go from my hand to the hook to my hand, so I’ll never have to waste time scratching around for them while my toddler unpacks the nappy bag and the boys are late for school.

There’s still a lot that needs my attention, but at least now I won’t be frazzled and late, so I may actually do a better job of it. The key, I think, is to take things one step at a time.

I bought this hook from Owen, a wire artist on Mackeurtan Avenue (outside Checkers). This business is his only income to support his family, so in doing some good for myself, at least I’ve helped do some good for others too. He has some really beautiful stuff, and he also makes to order. If you pay him a visit, tell him I say hi 🙂 

The Veggie Tots Seven Species Salad

At the end of this month, six chefs from the international hotel chain the Waldorf Astoria – famous for inventing the Waldorf salad, eggs benedict and red velvet cake – will compete in New York to create a new signature dish. Chef Itzik Barak of the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem is submitting a salad dish inspired by the seven sacred species of the bible: the wheat, barley, vines, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8.

Waldorf Astoria chef Itzik Barak’s The Seven Species

As a vegetarian, this idea tickled my taste buds, but it bothered me ever so slightly that Barak chose to make fish a centerpiece of the dish (view the recipe here). I felt it somewhat superfluous, and that it detracts from the spirit of the biblical verse. Plus, Barak’s dish features just three out of the seven species (four if you count olive oil as showcasing olives).

My (vegetarian) version includes all seven species: barley salad with dates and pomegranates, olive tapenade on crostini (wheat), and figs and grapes poached in red wine (repetition of the vine imagery there). The saltiness of the olives complements the sweetness of the figs and grapes, and the crunch of the crostini offsets the softness of the same.

Veggietot Mom’s Seven Species Salad

I kept Barak’s base of tahini (though I altered the quantities as I found his recipe didn’t “smear” as his instructions direct) and I added thyme to the tapenade in a nod to his flavour profiling.

This is untypically Veggie Tot-tish in that it really is quite complicated and time-consuming to make, but it was loads of fun and very very yummy, so I encourage you to give it a try! (If you’re Jewish, this is a great one to file away for the harvest festivals of Shavuot or Sukkot as it celebrates the produce of Eretz Yisrael in all its glory.)

The Veggie Tots Seven Species Salad

(6-8 servings)

INGREDIENTS

Tahini

  • 40 grams tahini
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Pinch of salt for taste
  • Pinch of pepper for taste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup ice water

Barley salad

  • 200 grams dried pearl barley
  • 1 pomegranate (or one small carton pomegranate rubies)
  • 4 dates (or 8 dried, which are smaller), finely chopped
  • 40 grams pumpkin, finely chopped
  • 4 pears, finely chopped
  • One thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 20 grams parsley, chopped
  • 20 grams mint, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lime
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 small red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Pinch of salt to taste
  • Pinch of pepper to taste
  • 1 cup olive oil

Poached fruit

  • 4-8 figs (depending on size, preferably fresh), quartered
  • Small bunch grapes
  • 2 cups red wine (I used sacramental Kiddush wine to underpin the scriptural roots of the dish)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Olive tapenade

  • 1 cup olives (black, green, or a mix), pitted
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)

Crostini

  • 8 slices artisanal bread (I used challah because I liked the spiritual connotation to sacred bread)
  • ½ cup olive oil for brushing

Garnish

  • 1 radish
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Drizzle lime juice
  • Pinch of salt to taste
  • Pinch of pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil 

RECIPE

Heads-up: This is fiddly dish, but all but one of the recipe steps can be done a day or two in advance, so pace yourself. Mix the salad (step 7) on the day you’ll be eating it, and plate immediately before serving.

1  Make tachina sauce by combining tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, olive oil and ice water in a medium size mixing bowl and whisking until smooth. Refrigerate.

2  Cook barley according to packet instructions (or bring to boil and seal in a Wonderbag for about 40 minutes). Drain, cool and refrigerate.

3  Make olive tapenade by combining all the ingredients with a handheld blender, small food processor or mortar and pestle. Refrigerate. (PS licking the tapenade bowl is to grownups what licking the cake batter bowl is to kids!)

4  Poach the figs and grapes by combining all the ingredients in an ovenproof dish, covered with a lid or tin foil, and cooking for approx. 20 minutes at 180°C. Cool, then refrigerate. Feed surplus figs to your Veggie Tot 🙂

5  While the oven is on, spank it up to “grill” and toast crostini by brushing the bread with olive oil and cooking for about 2 minutes (watch it – it burns fast!) Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

6  Use a veggie peeler to peel garnish vegetables lengthwise into long, thin slivers (rotate the radish as you peel). Marinate in the fridge in the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

7  To make the salad, sauté the pumpkin with thyme leaves, salt, pepper and oil for 3 minutes until golden brown. When cool, combine with the rest of the salad ingredients and toss well in a large mixing bowl.

PLATING

1  Smear tahini in a line on the plate.

2  Place barley salad directly on top.

3  Spread olive tapenade on the crostini (cut into elegant pieces if your bread slices are large) and place on top of the barley salad.

4  Dot with the poached figs and grapes.

5  Roll pieces of pickled garnish vegetable and place throughout the plate, on top of the croutons or in the barley salad. Add leaves (I used chives and baby rocket) and extra pomegranate rubies.

6  If you’re feeling fancy, you can reduce some of the poaching liquid in a small pan to create a red wine jus and use this to decorate the rim of the plate. It’s quite yummy too.

Thanks to Wendy, Peter and Warren for being my willing, patient (and, I might add, satisfied) guinea pigs!

 

Why you need to get your kids into the kitchen

It fosters their confidence to learn new, grownup things.

It helps them to feel like a contributing member of the family.

They learn maths through measuring.

If they’re old enough, they can practice reading.

They learn sequencing through following the steps of a recipe.

They build upper body strength through mixing, kneading or rolling.

They practice their fine motor skills by pinching, cutting and grating.

Getting their hands dirty teaches them about textures and encourages tactile development.

They learn about nutrition as you talk them through ingredients.

They learn about science (melting butter, dissolving sugar and making mayonnaise are hands-on chemistry experiments)

If there’s more than one of them, they learn to take turns.

They learn about consequences (lumpy brownie, anyone?)

They learn about responsibility (cleanup time, or no licking the spoon!)

Tasting new things encourages curiosity and creativity.

You can do it even on a rainy day.

You can get supper done while still spending quality time with them.

BEST JOBS FOR KIDS IN THE KITCHEN:

Cleaning fresh produce Set a race between siblings or let your child beat the clock. If you’re brave enough, let them have a water fight with the water that’s left in the sink afterwards!

Setting the table An important part of eating, and a measurable, manageable job even for smaller children.

Prepping Cordon Bleu chefs call this mise en plus, and it includes chopping, peeling, grating, etc. There’s no time pressure, and you can help fix any mistakes with ease.

Kneading Kids love this, and it’s great for their arm muscles. Next time your kid’s in a foul mood, whip up some dough and let him take out his frustrations on that!

Greasing Use a pastry brush to “paint” oil into a tin, or an empty butter wrapper to rub every last bit of butter.

Anything repetitive Rolling patties or falafel balls, layering lasagnas or potato bakes, cutting cookies.

Anything messy Tossing salads with their hands, stuffing veggies or cannelloni. Kids love to get their hands ‘dirty’!

Washing up Perennial favourite with the littlies; older kids may need the incentive of dessert…

Harvesting If you have a herb or veggie garden, let kids gather what you need for each recipe. It gets them out in the fresh air and reminds them where food really comes from.

Just a little note:

ALWAYS SUPERVISE CHILDREN WITH KNIVES,

NO MATTER HOW OLD THEY ARE. DUH.

 

How to discipline your child: take him to the beach

Seaside selfie

They say there’s nothing that can’t be cured with salt water: sea, sweat or tears.

When you want to rip your hair out over your children – and you will, no matter how many positive parenting books you read or zen meditations you listen to – you may both just need a change of scenery and some headspace. What better place to get this than at the beach? (Advance apologies to all landlocked readers. You can achieve very similar results at a lake or a nature reserve with a stream. But somehow the beach just trumps.)

After coming head-to-head with my seven-year-old about his homework one day, I was ready to hammer his head into his neck with his lunchbox. I’d asked nicely, encouraged, cajoled, explained the rational reasons why homework is necessary and to his benefit, warned, threated, begged, and yelled. No go. Eventually I stormed out of the room. Why couldn’t I get through to him? What was wrong with him? What was wrong with me as a parent?

It was too early to start drinking, so I had to get creative. This homework was NOT going to get done now. Ignoring the problem wouldn’t make it go away. There was a disconnect between us – how could we reconnect? I decided we needed some “special time”, so I strapped him in the car and drove down to the beach.

He was a little surprised at first that his misbehaviour had resulted in a treat, but he rolled with it, bless him. I let him loose on the sand and he went wild, letting out pent up energy and no doubt frustration. I climbed up onto a rock and let the waves hypnotize some calm into me.

He clambered up next to me and sat down. I put my arm around him. For a while, we didn’t need to speak.

When I did speak, he was ready to listen. We talked about the homework: he told me it was boring and “not fun” and he didn’t want to do it. I heard him and repeated all my logical arguments. He nodded. We brokered a deal. I told him I loved him. He told me he loved me too. Must be the sea air.

Yes we can-apé!

Move over, pigs in blankets and sausage rolls. The new, healthy vegetarian canapés are coming through!

Clockwise from top left: melon and feta kebabs, cucumber hors d’oeuvres with cream cheese and sprouts, tomato and halloumi polenta bites, falafel balls with tachina (crudité behind), healthy date balls, mini crustless quiches, caprese morsels, DIY papaya lettuce wraps with ginger dipping sauce.

I’ve listed the recipes in the order that you should prepare them so you can pace yourself (some keep well for a few days and others are best made fresh).

Note: If you’re going to grow your own sprouts (click here if you’re not sure how), start several days before.

 

FALAFEL BALLS WITH TACHINA

You can make these weeks in advance because they freeze well.

Soak 500 g dried chickpeas with 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda overnight (don’t use canned chickpeas for this – the falafel may fall apart). Rinse. Blitz in a food processor with 3 cloves garlic, 3 Tbs chopped fresh parsley, juice of 1 lemon, 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp cumin seeds (whole), 2 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, and 2 tsp baking powder (not traditional but makes them light and fluffy). It should be coarsely ground, not a fine paste. You can leave this mixture in the fridge for a day or two – in fact standing improves the flavours.

Use wet hands to shape small falafel balls and deep-fry in vegetable oil in batches, stirring periodically, until golden brown. Drain on paper towel or a clean dishcloth. Once cool, store falafel balls in the freezer; remove an hour or two before serving and they should be just right!

To make the tachina sauce, blend ½ cup tahini (ground sesame paste) with 3 cloves crushed garlic and ¼ tsp salt, then add the juice of half a lemon and 2-3 Tbs olive oil. Thin with warm water to desired consistency. Tachina also freezes well but allow a good few hours for thawing. Otherwise, store tachina in fridge for several days and decant up to an hour before serving.

TIP: Serve crudités for scooping up the extra tachina. The fresh crunch couples the soft falafel beautifully. (Cut crudités on the day of serving.)

 

DATE BALLS

It’s nice to offer a sweet option, and this one’s great as there’s no added sugar.

Melt 1 cup chopped dates in 2 Tbs coconut oil until soft and gooey (can take a while with dried dates). Remove from heat, then add ½ cup desiccated coconut and ½ cup chopped nuts (peanuts, almonds, pistachios or a mix work well). When cool enough to handle, mould into dainty balls and roll in extra desiccated coconut. Store in an airtight container for several days.

 

TOMATO AND HALLOUMI POLENTA BITES

This is great because you can prepare the various elements in advance at your leisure, and then look like a domestic goddess when you quickly “throw it all together” at the end!

Fill a roasting dish with roughly chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic cloves and oregano. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Roast at 200°C until liquids have reduced and the ends are starting to char.

Combine ½ cup polenta and 2 cups water. Bring to the boil and stir frequently for about 10 minutes. Pour into a greased baking tray. (If you’ve got the oven on at this point, drizzle the polenta with olive oil and bake for 10-15 minutes to add colour.) Allow to cool, then cut into canapé-sized squares or wedges.

Store tomato ragout, polenta squares and sliced halloumi in separate containers in fridge. Compile and garnish with fresh basil leaves up to an hour before serving.

TIP: Can’t find polenta? Use regular mieliemeal instead. A pinch of turmeric even gives it a yellow hue.

 

MINI CRUSTLESS QUICHES

Beat 3 eggs and 1 cup fat free yoghurt. Season with salt and pepper. Half-fill greased mini muffin pans with this mixture (pan sizes may vary; this quantity did 6 of mine, in a few batches). Top variously with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, grated cheddar or chunks of brie. Gently press the toppings into the mixture, so it oozes up the sides, forming a shell. Bake at 180°C for 20-30 minutes until set and golden brown.

Store in airtight container in fridge.

TIP: Remove half an hour before serving to bring to room temperature. Arrange on a pretty platter and garnish with chopped chives.

 

MELON AND FETA KEBABS

Spear cubes of melon (spanspek, sweet melon or watermelon work well), chunks of feta, mint leaves and pitted olives onto wooden skewers. Store in an airtight container in the fridge (you can make these several hours before serving).

TIP: Remember you can wash and reuse the kebab sticks!

CAPRESE MORSELS

Halve cherry tomatoes and top each with a sliver of mozzarella cheese. (At this point you can store them in the fridge for several hours.) Just before serving, spoon a dollop of basil pesto onto each morsel.

TIP: To avoid wonky canapés that wobble all over the plate as you carry it, use this trick: Place each cherry tomato down whole before you cut it. That will show you where it’s steady base is. Slice parallel to this point, and both halves should balance fairly well.

 

CUCUMBER HORS D’OEUVRES WITH CREAM CHEESE AND SPROUTS

Lay round slices of cucumber on a serving plate. Top each with a teaspoonful of cream cheese (fat free cottage cheese works fine too), a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce and a pile of sprouts. Just before serving, sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds.

TIP: Alfalfa sprouts are so pretty for this, but lentil sprouts works too. Bean and chickpea sprouts are a bit large and unwieldy.

 

DIY PAPAYA LETTUCE WRAPS WITH GINGER DIPPING SAUCE.

The crunch of tart cos lettuce and the sweet softness of pawpaw pair beautifully with this ginger sauce, and guests enjoy wrapping and dipping their own.

To make the dipping sauce, combine tamari (or soy sauce if you can’t find it) with grated fresh ginger, crushed garlic, ground cumin, finely chopped coriander and a little chopped chilli.

Arrange piles of cos lettuce leaves and slices of papaya or pawpaw on a platter with a ramekin of dipping sauce.

TIP: You can make the dipping sauce several days ahead, and use any leftovers to coat your next stir-fry.

Veggie braai

Who says vegetarians can’t braai?

Pictured here: braaied mielies, beetroot (skins on – my preference), brinjals, beetroot (skins off – hubby’s preference), peppers and broccoli.

We basted the veggies with seasoned olive oil. The mielies and brinjals need to be cooked until tender; the rest should still be slightly crunchy – they retain more of their flavour and texture.

Served with a yummy salad (recipe below), some crusty bread, and walnut brownies.

 

BOILED EGG, PARMESAN AND POTATO CROUTON SALAD

Ingredients:

1 head cos lettuce, washed

2 potatoes

2 Tbs olive oil

Rosemary (4 sprigs from the garden, a small punnet from the shop, or a good sprinkle from a bottle)

1 tsp sea salt

2 eggs

Parmesan shavings

Ingredients (dressing):

3 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs white wine vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Pinch of salt

Pinch of white pepper

Grinding of black pepper

Method:

Cut the potatoes into roughly 2cm cubes and boil until just tender; drain. Toss the cooked potatoes in olive oil, rosemary and salt, and roast at 180° C until crispy-edged. (These are irresistible, but try not to eat too many at this stage or there will be none left for the salad.)

Boil the eggs for 8 minutes. Rinse in cool water to prevent further cooking (and to make them cool enough to handle!). Peel and slice into wedges.

Make dressing by whisking ingredients together (this can be done many hours ahead and kept in a jar in the fridge. Simply shake and pour).

Toss the lettuce in the dressing, then arrange the rest of the ingredients on top as elegantly or haphazardly as you will.

Courgette tagliatelle with rosemary cheese sauce

Courgette ‘tagliatelle’ with rosemary cheese sauce

I’m not necessarily into Banting, but I’m all for upping the veggies and not overdoing refined carbohydrates.

This recipe came about because I had some courgettes lurking in the fridge and I wanted to use them up. I was feeling far too lazy to make ‘spaghetti’ (which you can do using a spiraliser, a julienne grater, a sharp knife and plenty of patience, or by buying ready-cut courgette spaghetti from a growing number of supermarkets like Woolies or Pick-n-Pay), so I simply sliced them. The result was a more satisfying spoonful, in my humble opinion.

For the kitchen-illiterate: courgette, zucchini and baby marrow are all different names for the same veggie.

RECIPE

Cut about 400g courgettes into 1 cm slices.

Place courgettes in a single layer on a greased baking tray and brush with up to 60 ml olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 10-15 minutes at 180° C until soft and going ever so slightly crispy on the edges. You could probably steam or microwave the ‘pasta’, but I love the flavour and texture of oven-roasted, olive-oily veggies.

Meanwhile, start on the sauce by melting 50 g butter in a pan and mixing in 50 g flour to form a roux (fancy word for paste in this context).

Add 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary (fresh or dried, whatever you’ve got on hand) and cook for 2 minutes.

GRADUALLY – and you need to be patient here – add up to 500 ml milk (I used full cream, you can try other varieties) in small pours, stirring well to incorporate all the milk into the roux before adding more. This GRADUAL mixing in of the milk is what will prevent lumps and give you a smooth, glossy sauce. (If you do get lumps, use a whisk to beat them out.) Cook the sauce for 5-10 minutes to thicken, then season with salt and pepper (a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or mustard powder wouldn’t go amiss here if you like a bite.)

Stir in 1 cup of grated cheese. (You can use any cheese you like – or have around – for this. Harder cheeses like parmesan will give a more pronounced flavour, while softer varieties like mozzarella will result in a gooier, unctuous texture)

Plate the ‘tagliatelle’ and nap with the cheese sauce (I’ve always wanted to say that! 🙂 )

MIX IT UP

This sauce would work just as well on steamed green beans or skinny sweet potato chips (baked not fried).

Strawberry fields (in your own back yard)

I have a recurrent argument with my kids each time we go out for milkshakes – they beg me for strawberry flavour and I say no because I don’t like the idea of synthetic red colouring and sweetener (and it seems to send my eldest a little hyper).

I’ve explained that there is nothing strawberry at all about most commercial “strawberry” milkshakes, and have been pressed to ask the waitstaff what goes into the shakes to prove my point. My point has been proven every time. Answers range from “I don’t know” (go and ask, dumbass. And you should know your menu better) to “syrup” to “it’s this powder thing” to “pre-prepared shake mix”.

So Mom wins and the kids can choose between vanilla (read “plain” or “white” as I’m pretty confident there’s no actual vanilla in there anyway) or chocolate (which at least is vaguely natural). Thank the lord they’ve never asked for “lime”.

But really, we all win, because I’m teaching my kids to KNOW about what goes into the things they eat. And that’s a life skill that will stay with them longer than the pleasure of a milkshake.

That said, I decided to make an actual strawberry milkshake (recipe below) and it was the easiest thing and passed the juvenile taste test panel. Smiles all round!

Veggietot Mom’s strawberry milkshake

OR

Strawberry milkshake as it should be

Ingredients:

Strawberries

Milk or yoghurt (the latter makes for a slightly thicker shake)

Ice, if the strawberries are fresh out the garden and you want the shake cold immediately

A little honey if you really want it super sweet

Method:

Blend.

Simple pleasures.