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Summer is served – salads galore!

November 30, 2010 in Salads

Yesterday was the first real summer’s day of the season here in Hermanus and Ya Ya Sister had every Rasta and Bergie she could hire off the streets to help complete the braai patio at the back next to the pool. At sunset we stood on the deck in front of the cottage watching the flamingos taking a long circular flight of fancy from the dam near the Onrus shopping centre to the mountain and back, splashing the mountain with their well-known salmon pink wings. Clearly, they were celebrating summer with us. And clearly, Sister has not made the connection yet with her ‘braai patio’ and red meat… but I will keep you posted as to the kind of food that the patio serves …


For now, she is off the fad diet. Completely. I even made green bean lamb bredie this weekend and she had two huge portions and the following day the left overs, over and over again! I also made a venison pie and ditto: several portions later she declared that meat is really more satisfying than nuts and dried fruit and bean sprouts. I smiled and had a long sip of my Bloody Mary … in fact, I had another whole one!


I am sure this will not last. Maybe through December’s high days… but watch this space, comes January and we’d be juicing bitter veggies and nibbling nuts again…!


Meanwhile, I whipped out every salad recipe I had ever written and today, I share a few with you. At times, I really do not feel like boring old leafy salads so I conjured up many ways with veggies to serve cold as salads. I find with a ‘solid’ salad made with loads of interesting ‘food’ ingredients, you can get away with a hearty salad and a protein such as grilled or roast fish, lamb, pork or beef and there – summer on a plate! These kinds of meals are always a hit and so, here goes.


Blue ‘n Green Herb Salad



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Julienne Salad dressed with Honey, Mint & Lime



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Tomato, pea & cheese salad



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Grilled Cauliflower & Onion Salad with Tomato-Garlic Vinaigrette



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Break out with Goulash!

November 26, 2010 in Meat


Now that Ya Ya Sister is back to eating like a normal human being again, I am in a Cook’s Heaven! Like I said before, if you want a woman to eat properly and healthily, tell her she looks dreadful on her existing diet and it will be the end of both a ‘fad’ or ‘fatty’ diet!


When I saw her looking really pale and powdery when I came back from my scouting mission to Stellenbosch yesterday, I felt now was the time to sit her down and share my concerns with her in a logical, calm manner. All through the conversation she seemed unimpressed, so in the end I had to play the ‘looks’ card – it always works! So I pointed out what an insufficient amount of protein does to our cells – meaning skin texture and muscle tone – and darlings, she bought it hook, line and sinker! From experience I know (she goes on these diets regularly) that the looks department is a powerful place to be if you want her to eat healthily.


Now that she’s broken out of her ‘diet’ (if you can call it that) I will bring on the protein. So, to keep it healthy (my style of healthy) there will be lean pork on the menu tonight. Pork is known as the ‘other white meat’ yet offers loads of taste even though the meat is not usually marbled with fat as it is in beef or lamb.


Goulash is hearty and warming so goulash it will be – because it seems that summer is nowhere near Hermanus at this stage! For extra fat and flavour, I usually add a little bacon to the recipe. And serve it with buttered noodles. However, if you like to eat low-fat, make something else to accompany the goulash. Like brown rice or boiled potatoes or something that is not as blah as plain, unbuttered noodles.


Somebody recently commented on my blog that clearly, Sister does not read it. The answer is no, but she may one day so this is for her, in case she reads today’s post: darling Ya Ya, it’s good to remember that the sensible approach to healthy eating lies in balance and portions. Like the French women who have got it taped. If they eat chocolate, it’s a smallish portion and they eat it with relish, but that’s about the only fat they will eat that day. If they eat meat on a particular day, they will limit other fatty foods for that day. But perhaps the best food ploy they have is to go for the absolute best in quality which ensures flavour and taste. I liken it to cheese: if you eat Gouda or mozzarella you will invariably have a large portion. But if you eat Parmesan or blue cheese or mature cheddar even, you’ll eat much less. The reason? Tasty, full-bodied food satisfies our senses much quicker and easier so we eat less of it in one sitting: simple – and not as difficult as French to understand.


But back to the goulash: here is the recipe and know that it is the “simple” version. You can add chilli, garlic, more peppers, more tomatoes, more paprika or even less of anything. You can have a lot of gravy or a little by adjusting the stock. You can even thicken the gravy (if you are a ‘sous tannie’) with a mixture of flour and butter.


And if you not eat pork, then use top quality rump steak instead. Just as nice and … if at times, not better. I just happen to love pork so I am grabbing this little window of opportunity between Sister’s diets to indulge! But if you use pork, remember that pork is a little like calamari or abalone (perlemoen). You either have to just cook it or simmer it forever until it is tender, so bear that in mind for your cooking time.




And finally, if you like to grill and remove the skin off the peppers, go ahead. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. It’s all a matter of how much time you have.


Have a great, happy and relaxed weekend. Be daring, let go of your control and ask somebody to cook for you for a change!


Pork Goulash




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Truce Bob!

November 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

It was bound to happen: Ya Ya Sister developed a rare headache and instantly, the diet was put on hold. I suspect its just for a day or so and then we’ll be at food-loggerheads again … Refusing my Panados and (instead) lying on the sofa with a cold ‘lappie’ on her forehead, she devoured a slice of toast covered with a heap of melted cheese. She muttered something about “Detoxing causes headaches” and for a change, I knew better than not to scream “Low blood sugar!” Unlike me, I kept quiet but later in the afternoon, I did (very) casually mention that self-cleaning ovens were modelled after the human body … My hint fell on deaf ears, obviously, and I merrily went ahead preparing our cheesy cottage pie (yesterday’s blog) and grilled some yummy sausages to go with it. She ate the lot and had seconds and even a third sausage smothered with creamy mustard sauce (will share the recipe one day).


So it just all goes to show that usually, extremes are short-lived. Even diet extremes. In fact, I happen to know that the deprivation of an extreme diet comes back to bite you really hard on the behind. Face it, we do not break out of an extreme diet with an innocent glass of milk… no, it is usually broken by falling into a mountain of food and somewhere in that first meal after a strict diet you will find deep-fried chicken or fried fish and for sure, some chocolate and of course, loads of fresh bread with lashings of real butter and tasty cheese…


So we have a truce – for now. It’s early morning and I’m off to Stellenbosch to visit the location for the shoot of the cookery videos for our website. And so, today there is no recipe from me. However, I know that I will return highly inspired to cook normal food again and will share something delectable with you tomorrow.


Have a happy cooking (and eating!) day! Arn’t you glad berries are appearing all over the place? Jay!


The war of the waistbands (continues …!)

November 24, 2010 in Meat, Soups, starters and light meals

As you know, I produce television shows and here I have a situation on hand where I so wish I had a camera crew following our lives here at home…! Just imagine two middle-aged cronies sharing a small cottage. One of them is a bohemian author stuck in the hippy age and traditions and the other is an information-age techno freak stuck on the future… and they’re both on a healthy-eating regime! So between Ya Ya Sister’s burning incense giving me hay fever and my stainless steel kitchenware giving her the creeps, we’re actually not doing very well on our healthy eating regime…


Day two of our regime started with her plonking a bowl of steamed oats porridge on my desk. Actually, no, it was not quite oats porridge. It was more like a stew made of pumpkinseeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and linseeds, bound with water and a few oats flakes. I ate it without daring to think of any consequence … but later in the morning I did saunter into the kitchen and spread one half of a whole-wheat roll with basil pesto and added some thin tomato and cheese slices. On my way back to my office I grabbed a small bunch of black grapes… I noticed Ya Ya Sister sneaking a huge bowl of mixed nuts and dried fruit to her desk…


For lunch Ya Ya Sister made a finely chopped salad (ugh!) using bland and uninteresting butter lettuce, quartered tomatoes, a few chunks of passable avocado and thank God! I had bought some good-quality cold meats and so, I could add some shavings of turkey, ham and beef on the side.


Mid afternoon I revisited the ‘crime scene’ (the kitchen) and spread the other half of the morning’s whole-wheat roll with some nut butter (check out Pick ‘n Pay – new sunflower seed butter), a good layer of smooth cottage cheese and dotted it with bright red puddles of my diabetic strawberry jam. Delish! I noticed Ya Ya Sister taking another bowl of mixed nuts and dried fruit to her office…


For dinner last night, she made a stir fry of cabbage, courgette, red pepper, purple onion and I forgot what else was in it. And the near-use-by-date piece of hake was grilled in the oven. When she turned her back before the fish went into the oven, I quickly spread the top of the fish fillet with lick of butter and some French mayo and dinner was lovely… and apparently, so was the three glasses of wine she had… while I was quite satisfied with none, knowing that wine can wreck any good healthy eating resolve…


As you can see, at this stage of the Derby it’s not going well with our diet and I cannot wait for the big weigh-in Monday morning and needless to say, you will know all about it. One thing’s for sure, I will cook tonight and I will make what any dieter craves: mushy, comfort food.


So here is my recipe for the nicest vegetarian cottage pie you’ll ever make. It’s homely and easy and contains no meat (or lentils, for that matter!) but if you love meat, add some grilled chops or sausages and you will have a large and happy family meal. I usually serve it simply with a peppery-bitter salad made of rocket, watercress, spring onion and cucumber shavings. And if you are also on a serious health kick, omit the packet sauces and water. Use 400 ml very thick, garlicky béchamel sauce instead and hope for the best!


Cheesy Cottage Pie


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Not a diet joke!

November 23, 2010 in Fish & shellfish, Soups, starters and light meals



This is not a joke, in fact, it’s a war. Yes, one day into our healthy eating regime and the war of the diets, a food fight of note, had begun! The day started with Ya Ya Sister placing a bowl of chopped apple mixed with cinnamon and ground almonds on my desk – it was as dry as a bowl of the dog’s food, but passable. That was followed an hour later with a hard-boiled egg: ditto, dry as the dog’s bowl of yesterday’s food, but still passable.


Then I went shopping. By the time I had returned home with the bags of fresh produce (the whole idea of the new regime), there was a platter on the kitchen counter with baby tomatoes (whole), lettuce leaves (whole) and a sliced avocado. It did not say “lunch”. It said “Suffer baby, suffer!”


Fortunately I had bought a tray of Woollies’ cooked peri peri prawns (some people call them shrimps: I do too), the first mango of the season and I had some tortillas left from the weekend’s feasts. The lunch at last? Delicious shrimp tacos with a creamy sweet chilli drizzle. Score 1 for me… because the meal was balanced, contained very little bad fats (shrimps do have some cholesterol in them) yet offered good fats because of the avo and provided energy for the afternoon ahead. Ya Ya Sister of course avoided the tortilla (it is flour, she said) and not oddly, by mid afternoon had to go and take a nap. I kept on working right through the afternoon … and at around 5.30 I had a wholewheat pita stuffed with peppered mackerel and lettuce, a vegetable juice freshly extracted from tomatoes, cucumber, carrots and yellow pepper and ended off with my first yellow peach of the season.


By late afternoon, Ya Ya Sister decided to wait with the cooking of the fresh hake fillet, asparagus and broccoli spears that I bought for dinner until later. (Remember, the deal was that she prepared all the meals.) But we started watching a movie just after 6 pm and by the time it ended at 8.30 pm, I was more in the mood for bed than dinner at that hour, thanks to my hearty ‘snack’ at 5.30 pm. However, Sister obviously skipped my menu suggestion for dinner because this morning I found all the ingredients still in the fridge. But the evidence of her dinner was in the kitchen sink: an empty bowl with the obvious scrapings of the weekend’s leftover veggie-curry and brown rice!


So fat lot of good her healthy eating regime does… Perhaps one day she will get the message: if it does not taste good, it’s no good because you’ll dump the diet between lunch and dinner on day two or three.


And that is me for today. Here is the healthy, delicious tacos recipe.


Prawn, Mango & Avo Tacos with Creamy Sweet Chilli Drizzle



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November 22, 2010 in Sauces & side dishes, Soups, starters and light meals, Vegetarian & vegetable dishes

No, really. How the people of Gauteng manage their stress levels is beyond and frankly, above me. In the last two weeks I went there twice and when I came back from the last trip, I took to bed for two days. The only movement when I was awake was to visit the fridge, bathroom and to change the television channels with my thumb on the remote…


When I finally surfaced and ventured into the lounge, I saw Ya Ya Sister’s worried face, went to the mirror and what did I see? A pale face with a swollen jaw…! Only then did I realize that the dull pain in my jaw was in fact not from clenching it from Gauteng-stress, but because there was an abscess! A course of antibiotics and a dental appointment sorted that little issue out nicely and soon life was back to normal again here in soft-and-tender Hermanus.


Stress aside, the business component of the JHB trips went exceedingly well and our website is good and properly on the road to being launched early next year. We will also produce another television food series and some television ads for a toy company in the new year. We may even end up producing a feature film … so watch this space…


… which means that Ya Ya Sister has to do more and more cooking. The good news is that she is now eating everything. Meat, starch, all vegetables and fruit – and all in one meal! The bad news is that last night she declared that as from today, “we” are back on “her” regime (I was of course included in her scheme because of the tooth abscess – her opinion being that my body has too many toxins!). Without going into the sticky details of the discussion, the outcome is that “we” will “follow “her” regime provided that it is a balanced, healthy and normal regime. No fads. No misguided claims of her dandruffy old food gurus to be followed. No weird supplements. No castor oil or Epsom Salts or liver cleanses. No. The final outcome is that actually, we will follow “my” regime and here is the best news ever – the deal is that I will shop for the food and she will prepare all of it because I have become far too busy to chop and chop and chop and steam and juice all those veggies that we will eat. This morning I already sneaked in a cuppa great coffee while she is still asleep and believe me, I will share the entire journey (perhaps a very short one) with you all!


So, in preparation of the new diet ahead, I cooked up a storm yesterday and the starter was Stuffed Peppers – a sort of healthy option of the deep-fried Jalapeno Slammers or deep fried chillies stuffed with cheese. It calls for something I never use, except for this recipe: processed cheddar cheese. This is not the bottled cheese spread or the little triangles of cheese, no. It is a hard block of cheese and you will find it in the cheese fridges of any large supermarket. Lately there is also a variety of cheddar available especially for grilling – just check the labels and you will find it. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to use real cheddar. It will melt too soon and cause a huge gemors in the baking sheet oozing with burnt cheese and a waste of our lovely time and money.


Usually, when I serve it as a light meal, I serve it on top of a bed of peppery rocket and some crisp ciabatta toasts, drizzled with olive oil and generously rubbed with a juicy, fat clove of garlic. If you want to serve it as a starter, you can omit both.  And of course, if you love chillies, you can use large green or red jalapeno chillies instead of the sweet peppers.


Peppers Stuffed with Cheese ’n Chillies




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