The Curious Cook

Curds and whey

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It is a complete rarity to find unpasteurised milk in this world. I was lucky to stumble across a small shop that sells local raw milk in the small Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet. The Karoo is a mythical place. Encompassing a vast area of semi-arid landscape dotted with ant-hills and thorn trees, is known for its cloudless skies, extreme temperatures and fossils, some of which have been recently discovered to be whole new species that have never been seen before. A primarily agrarian area, the Karoo is known for rearing sheep for mutton, goats for mohair and game. In prehistoric times it was a vast inland sea and, prior to colonialisation the 1700s, it was the home of indigenous peoples, the Nama and Khoi-San (formerly known as Bushmen). In fact, the last time I was there I read a fascinating article about how some of their almost extinct languages are being brought back to life through a series of workshops organised by the Pan South African Language Board (Pansalb). And thus, I digress!

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The Curious Cook

Hitting the right (sour) note

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Old fashioned vinegar pudding with roasted guava flavoured with cardamom.  Photo: Justus Wagener

With all the recent focus on fermented foods it is all too easy to ignore the oldest of these: vinegar. It is my favourite fermented foodstuff, which I naturally gravitate towards using to add a sour note to savoury dishes. It was only after giving it some thought that I realised the reason: all great dishes contain a balance between sweet, salty, fragrant and sour – with the added magical note of umami. The latter is of course enhanced when the right balance is struck.

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The Curious Cook

A welcome throwback to the 1980s

 

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Photo: BBC Food

The tradition of making pâté is as old as the hills. Throughout Europe, pâtés, terrines and potted meats are still widely eaten today. Potted shrimp is such an easy favourite, you gently fry and season the shrimp before sealing it in a delicate blanket of melted butter so that it can be kept in a cold larder or still room for a lot longer than if left untended.

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The Curious Cook

Witty and wise- celebrating Two Fat Ladies

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Photo: dailymail.co.uk

It was a bucolic time when The Two Fat Ladies burst onto our screens in a puff of cartoon smoke and bravado. And burst they certainly did, with Jennifer Paterson driving pell-mell through the British countryside in a glorious Triumph Thunderbird while Clarissa Dickson-Wright grinned benignly at us from the sidecar. In one fell swoop, they made the world realise that English food may have the reputation for being boring but it sure as hell doesn’t have to be. Echoing the devil-may-care eccentricity of Julia Child and the generous verbosity of Keith Floyed, these two friends made British TV cooks famous, paving the way for Jamie and Nigella to follow in their wake.

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The Curious Cook

Lucky dip

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Elgin free range chicken meatballs with roasted butternut, baby beetroot and mangetout. Green goddess dressing is the star of the show. Photo: Justus Wagener

As much I love a good salad, in winter it becomes a chore to eat. The quality of fresh ingredients declines, tomatoes don’t ripen and it feels like your hands may develop frostbite while you rinse lettuce in that icy water. I find I am inclined to turn my greens into a luscious dip which I slather over roasted vegetables hot out the oven.

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The Curious Cook

Succulent snoek – the king of fishes

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As acerbic journalist Lin Sampson once wrote, snoek is the most underrated fish in South Africa. And it certainly is the king of fishes, if you take a little trouble to track it down. A long, thin species of snake mackerel, snoek can be purchased fresh from the docks along all along the coast of the Western Cape of South Africa, as coloured people have been fishing and eating snoek for generations.

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The Curious Cook

Don’t be shellfish, this soup is for sharing

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Photo: Justus Wagener

It has been raining solidly for  days and after a difficult year of water restrictions here in the Western Cape of South Africa, we are reveling in an abundance of water.

The almost four year-long drought hasn’t broken yet, but as I write this our dams are just a hair’s breadth away from being filled to 50% capacity so we are whooping with joy and relief. This means that because we managed to adequately save water, and must keep doing so, the pall of Day Zero is no longer an impending reality.

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