Guys, I don’t only blog, I cook.
Since I’ve been at home, I’ve had the opportunity to explore my creative side when it comes to food. When I was younger I used to be quite the foodie. I remember specifically making a dish for my parents on a warm Saturday: grilled pork chops, on a plate that was decorated with cucumber slices and a sauce drizzled over, amateurish but from-the-heart-cooking. I loved that it was a form of art. The flavours that linger from that day were lemony, buttery, rosemary and thyme (from Robertson’s jars). Although I’ve grown since then in terms of size and life experience, I still maintain that cooking should be from the heart. My cooking explorations were encouraged by my parents- even to a point where my mother suggested I go to cooking school. The idea seemed romantic, but not tempting enough. I read some stats at the time, stating that about half of restaurants that open, close their doors in less than a year. I didn’t believe in myself, and I also believe other peoples’ wallets were going to keep my restaurant’s doors open. I did however think that one day I would open a coffee shop (Seems like less pressure), and call it Delene’s, after my step grandma. Since being a great grandma, we have opted to call her G.G, so maybe I’ll call my place Gigi. Anyway, my cooking influences are definitely from 3 distinct sources: my mother (duh) who cooks traditional coloured, cape malay food, my dad, who learnt to cook from his days in boy scouts and lastly everything FOOD on TV. I wouldn’t say that I adopt any cooking styles from other chefs, I love that they all are unique. I do however love the flavours they play with and I so adopt their taste sensations and fiddle with that until I’m happy. I love flavours dancing on my tongue, dance until finally settling down- buzzing from exhaustion. My cooking style is loud, neo-traditional (whatever that means), rich and sometimes echoes traces of simplicity.
More recently I realized that cooking is a way for me to relax, it calms my mood, so why not cook!
My favourite chefs growing up were Jamie Oliver (he was cute too, but then he got married and it was ruined)- I had the honour of going to one of his restaurants in Cambridge, England- LOVED IT, Rachel Ray (She made everything look so easy- more for working moms who had no time to cook), and that potjiekos making guy from Maak ‘n’ Las (Only South Africans can relate to this old TV show).
These days I don’t have time for cooking channels, but I do watch Masterchef (it’s a family evening tradition). I think it’s wonderful that homecooks are given the platform to become even better and more badass with flavours. More recently, chefs like Reuben Riffel and Jenny Morris make my heart skip a beat. They’re just the nicest people, and they live for cooking for their family, without that often intimidating title, ‘Chef’. They both extremely successfully South African chefs who cook honest, great food.
Below I’ve showcased some of the works of art I’ve prepared. I believe that love is in the detail and so all my attempts at decor or dishes, i’ve tried to think of small ways to put extra care into making it look good for the eye too!
For Christmas I decided to use red and white as the theme. I have these vine creeps in the garden and thought the touch of green would be a good break from too much of the main colours. I also made a layered jelly over 2 days to be my centre piece. The red Lindt chocolate and vines in the glass bowls were my mistletoe. Lastly, each table setting had a white card with either a baby foot print or hand or Cayden’s hearts painted in red. i personalized it so that each person could take theirs home.
I also made turkey and gammon for the first time, ever. And blowing my own horn, I’ll say that everyone enjoyed it. It was so succulent. I got a recipe from my mother, which I modified to my liking. The only time I ever follow a recipe exactly is when baking something for the first time. And even then I would probably sneak in an extra somethin’-somethin;
The turkey was stuffed with a sage and thyme stuffing (Ina Paarman’s range). The secret to succulent turkey lemon… LEMON…lemon. I ended up with some beautiful juices which I turned into a gravy. For the gammon, I glazed with freshly grated ginger, chutney, uhm… I can’t remember what else. I should write this stuff down. I did the cherry and pineapple thing as you can see with the pics. I love ginger- it lights up any meal and even desserts!
Then the other evening I defrosted some labl chops and saw the off bits of stuff in my fridge so I decided to make a dish of it. Rosemary and mild masala (warm curry spices) infused lamb chops, lemon buttered and rushed black peppercorns greenbeans and grilled tomato enveloped by smoked mozzarella! All on a bed of rocket! YUM! I was impressed. My husband put his on a bread roll and I almost got a heart attack. “Dude, this was supposed to be fine dining.”
I threw my sister a surprise birthday party on Saturday night- it was a Jamaican theme. This is what I did for the hangover breakfast:
Scrambled eggs, leg of lamb with red wine jus, BACON, grilled tomato with that beauty of a mozzarella AND basil, cucumber and lemon butter chicken breasts with thyme.
I made the signs below with toothpicks for all the food for the table.
I had tons of cardboard, paint and loose ends I could use to make all the decor (Recycled!). My sister in law helped me finish it all off and put it all together for the evening. Paper chain backdrop and the detail on the front of the table were small but elegant touches. I also had a few gel candles from last year’s market day that added a nice touch too! I made another layered jelly for the evening, this time with cherries in the top layer. I’m still working on my craft, getting to know what works best for the jelly centre pieces. I draped some fairy lights around the jelly and voila! The camera didn’t capture it nicely, but the lights were dimmed, adding to that late night island mood. I need to work on my photography skills too. But eh, maybe in November.
Menu for the night
Served on platters:
- Roast leg of lamb with red wine jus
- Sweet rice with fresh herbs and mixed spice
- Corned meat and corned tongue (my first attempt)
- Lasagna – also cooked with red wine (hehehe)
- Citrus chicken kebabs and smoked hickory chicken pieces (braaied/ barbecued)
Nachos – layers of authentic nachos chips, cottage cheese, feta, cheddar (baked) then chopped tomato, onion and coriander (cilantro), stir fried durban curry infused beef strips, and finally guacamole! IT WAS GONE IN LESS THAN 5 MINUTES. Two of the memorable comments I got for the food were:
“YOU CAN SELL THIS”, Amon, Blaine 2015, referring to the nacho’s. I think he’s working on the business model.
“Ek wietie wat die issie, maar dit dowwel!” the DJ. I have no idea what that meant, but apparently it’s really good. “i don’t know what this is, but it’s really good.” Loosely translated from Coloured Afrikaans.
When I cook, I do it with my whole heart. And I get it from my momma. I probably won’t end up being a famous chef but that’s okay.
Bold flavours, bold life! That’s me!
Thank you to everyone who eats my food.