A sensory symphony

Sound,taste,sight and smell are, for me, a constant reminder of times gone past. Memories are instantly triggered – some good, some bad but all with their accompanying emotional ties.

My DH and I have been together for more than two decades but I can remember our first “date” like it was yesterday. There is an annual House & Garden show in our area previewing all that is new and innovative on the domestic front and that’s where we went – unusual I suppose, but every time I see those billboards go up I remember the butterflies in my stomach & the immense fun that we had. I had a flat in the city when we met and he used to write me little notes and slip them under my door if he was passing by – I still have them in my purse,the paper is flimsy after all this time and the writing is faded but they still make me smile.

Vanilla has always been my favorite fragrance, whether in candles, body products or the utterly delectable room sprays which give you an instant lift with just one spritz. I think my vanilla love affair started when I was a little girl making fudge with my mum. Back in the day we used to make it the old fashioned way, hours and hours of stirring on the stove top while the vanilla scent permeated the house. The rhythm of the process was quite enchanting and we would laugh and share stories and end up with the best sugary treats. My mum also taught me about banana on toast. You may laugh, but toast up a piece of nutty wholewheat and cover it with sweet fruity banana slices and you will know deliciousness on your plate.

My dad would probably want to claim ownership for my love of music. He comes from a musical family and when they were young and living in a small railway town out in the bundus you made your own entertainment. Saturday night was an eclectic mish mash of music (provided by my dad & his siblings), a barn dance of sorts with the rest of the district and a mountain of food courtesy off the moms. The radio was always on at home when I was young & it used to be housed in a really ugly box contraption along with the record player. To be allowed to go through my parents record collection & put something on the turntable was quite the thing and I suspect this was where I learnt to sing along to the Beatles, Elvis and Trini Lopez. I have zero music skills but a lifetime of musical memories.

“The fragrance of white tea is the feeling of existing in the mists that float over waters; the scent of peony is the scent of the absence of negativity: a lack of confusion, doubt, and darkness; to smell a rose is to teach your soul to skip; a nut and a wood together is a walk over fallen Autumn leaves; the touch of jasmine is a night’s dream under the nomad’s moon.” – C. JoyBell C.

Thursdays with me

So I’ve taken myself to lunch – a sad and sorry state of affairs when there’s no suitable blushing swain available to squire a lady to an elegant soiree but my “blushing swain” is otherwise occupied with a host of tasks that are too many and too tiresome for such abominably hot conditions.

My rising irritability is the driving force behind this sudden left turn (luncheon is normally take behind my computer with the telephone in my other hand). The apparition whose name is stridently emblazoned on our letterheads sadly doesn’t live up to its upright and steadfast font and is delicately disassembling my last synapse today.

In an attempt to avoid a serious attack of motor mouth and a probable spot in the unemployed queue, I have abandoned my climatically chilly salt mine for a spot under an umbrella at a local eatery. The air is thick with moisture and the wind lazy in its musings but the waitron approaches with that which will make it all better. A steaming mug of aromatic chai latte and two slices of nutty bread heaped lusciously with freshly sliced avocado pear. I imagine the thought of a hot drink seems slightly left of centre but the heady infusion of ginger and cinnamon is just what ticks my box today (besides it’s too early for a glass of champagne and probably wouldn’t do my reputation any good by arriving back at the office with a slight swagger and a glint in my eye).

Bon Appétit

“Everything I eat has been proved by some doctor or other to be a deadly poison, and everything I don’t eat has been proved to be indispensable for life. But I go marching on.” ~George Bernard Shaw

Because anyone can “bake “, promise

Being somewhat culinary disenchanted of late, the likelihood of a recipe appearing on my blog is about as rare as the lions roaring in Trafalgar Square

When DH and I first got involved more than two decades ago, cooking and baking rated highly on my list of “what every new bride should be doing” list. These days we eat to live as opposed to live to eat. I suspect life poked its sticky beak in creativity – depressing thought. My first port of call, when called upon these days to provide baked goods, is usually our local “Tuis Nywerheid” (translated as Home Industry) where people who are really good and dedicated produce a wealth of home-made deliciousness.

That was until a few weeks ago, when my work-colleague arrived at the office one day clutching a small bit of paper and the first words out of her mouth were “I’ve found it, something you will want to make”. She is a culinary afficionado (much like my friend Cindy) and is frequently astounded by my lack of enthusiasm. Months of nagging eventually won the day and I decided to navigate the over-grown path of the baking aisle at our local grocer and give it a whirl. Armed with  a list for “Fruit Squares” I filled my basket with fresh goodies (the minimal supplies in my pantry having being relegated to the bin suffering from the syndrome known as “severely past the sell-by date”) and strode much later into my kitchen brimming with bravado.

With my hand on my heart, I can happily report that yes they are easy, really delish, last well and on a not so good note will culminate in you having to bake multiple batches ad infinitum (my task for tonight). It goes as such:-

“Rose’s Fruit Squares”

2 cups white flour (plain flour/cake flour – not self raising)

2 cups oats (i used jungle oats – plain, unflavoured)

2 cups coconut (dessicated on the package)

375ml sugar

1 cup seedless raisins (i couldn’t find any so used golden sultannas – so juicily glorious)

3ml salt

250g margarine (i assume you can use unsalted butter but no promises)

30ml syrup

1 egg (extra large – i used free range)

5ml bicarb dissolved in a little milk (i used about 2 tablespoons of milk but I guess whatever)

5ml vanilla essence (not the good stuff ie. vanilla extract, common essence in a bottle is perfect)

– Mix first six ingredients in a bowl and make a well in the middle (i mixed by hand – wooden spoon – no need for the blender)

– Melt marg and syrup (did mine in the microwave – quicker than stovetop) and add to dry ingredients together with beaten egg, bicarb and vanilla essence (while the marg/syrup where doing their blending thing, I beat my egg with a fork in a plastic jug and then added the dissolved bicarb/milk and vanilla essence to the egg.)

– Mix well (again by hand) and place in a greased baking tray (i used “spray and cook” for mine and interpreted “place” to mean spread the mixture evenly over the baking tray with the wooden spoon to about a 1cm thickness).

– Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees c for +/-20 minutes until golden on top. Leave to cool and cut into squares.

I packed the results in plastic containers, layers separated with carlton roll/kitchen paper and they last like a dream – especially suitable for the mid afternoon schlumph.

On a completely old-fashioned and thoroughly non pc note, the best part of the tiresome process ……… seeing DH reach for a fruit square through choice 🙂

A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch.  ~James Beard

Baking for Dummies 101

Given my recent drought in the “sweet” department I decided to restrain myself last night and not venture into the bread world with anything too exotic – so, I “cheated” or you could say took a culinary short cut.

Snowflake EasyMix Farm Style Bread – i’ve seen the packets on the shelves and always turned my nose up thinking that it would taste as artificial as it looks. Not so and after a healthy slice of humble pie I can confidently say it’s really good. One packet of mix, 2 extra large eggs and 500ml of buttermilk/plain yog gives you a medium sized fabulous loaf full of yumminess. I chose not too add any extras for an initial try and at most would throw some extra seeds on top next time – the finished product has a great crust and a beautifully textured inside. I actually remembered to take some phone pics and then also remembered too not bring my cable to work hence my verbosity and lack of immediate photographic evidence.

After an enforced cooling period while DH lurked (a lover of bread is himself) we tried a bit with ham and cheese, another bit with delish Simonsberg cream cheese, a third bit with mulberry jam (courtesy of our local home industries store) and a final bit with a swish of butter.

Step 1 on the road to being Nigella , I think not but it was great fun.

“[Breadbaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells…there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”

M. F. K. Fisher, ‘The Art of Eating’

Eating when it’s hotter out than in the kitchen

So on Tuesday it was hotter than lunchtime in Hotazel,

http://www.google.co.za/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CBQQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.northerncape.org.za%2Fgetting_around%2Ftowns%2FHotazel%2F&ei=RieSTMCxHMasOIvAkf4G&usg=AFQjCNHNGiKM7O6c4VTrSI8Z-w9y_kLl3w

The prospect of feeding moi and himself loomed large and the thought of cooking was depressing so …… compromise. Skyped him to say “darling, we will be dining alfresco” and ventured to the deli. Somewhile later my shopping bags (material please note, no plastic ;-)) bulged decadently with crispy rolls, cold meats, exotic salads, cheeses of every hue and aroma, glorious fruits brightly clad in their summer coats and a selection of petit fours for pud.

The wine proved a tad more perplexing (I know we like it but what exactly is acceptable is always a bit of a mystery) – eventually settled on a half bottle of breath-takingly cold rose’ from the fridge (no white as we have a long running dispute as to the merits of chardonnay versus sauvignon blanc and it was too warm for exercise of any description, even if it was verbal).

Anyway, anything with an electrical link bit the dust and the garden was lit by bamboo torches and tea lights on the table (useful and ever so pretty). I was leaning toward a little Bocelli but good old chit-chat and catching up was the order of the day.

It was, in a nutshell, kind of fun.

“Spontaneity is the quality of being able to do something just because you feel like it at the moment, of trusting your instincts, of taking yourself by surprise and snatching from the clutches of your well-organized routine a bit of unscheduled pleasure.”

Cooking with passion

I truly am the most appalling cook – for most things I have to have a recipe otherwise “shoe leather” is the watered-down description of the end product.

EXCEPT

when it comes to pasta, there is something about noodles and tomatoes and cheese and mushrooms and garlic and red wine and prosciutto that lends itself to sexy and decadent and indulgent and luscious. With pasta even I can do gourmet and “a little bit of this and a little bit of that” is all too easy and the results, well, not too shabby.

What is it about italian that inspires even a culinary neanderthal like myself to rise to new heights?

Whatever ………………

“evviva per l’Italia