Monday, April 24, 2017

ROUSHANNA; THE FORAGING PIXIE


Roushanna Gray, a foraging inspiration                                                                                                                                  UHG
Near the sharp pointy bit at the bottom of Africa are some pretty amazing people doing some pretty amazing things when it comes to foraging and sustainable food.
                                                                                                                                               
Loubie Rusch knows stuff… lots of stuff. (https://www.facebook.com/making.kos) Amongst other projects, she is doing a great job educating folk about indigenous plants and is encouraging people to grow indigenous edible gardens that don’t need much attention. They are water-wise, pest resistant and there is no need for added soil nutrients.

Keeping this in mind, it is interesting to consider that in our Western culture we have developed a pretty generic palate.  For example, when we think of herbs, we usually think of things like rosemary, chives, sage, etc.  Which are jolly nice and all, but growing right here are our very own delicious indigenous versions of these herbs.  Sadly our traditions and preconditioned tastes are not familiar with them, so we just carry on chomping their good old European counterparts, just like we have done for centuries. Perhaps if our African versions of these herbs came from Europe, the Western World would be eating our wild rosemary (Eriocephalus Africanus), chives (Tulbughia) and sage (Salvia) instead?

Our local culinary rock-star, Kobus Van der Merwe is turning this mindset on its head. He is creating world-class food using ‘unfamiliar’ local flavors. I don’t really know him, but on the odd occasion when I have eaten his amazing creations it has left me in awe and wanting more. I hear that his recently opened restaurant ‘Wolfgat’ in Paternoster is exceptional. (www.wolfgat.co.za)

Kelp, sea salt and sesame chocolate eyes                                                        UHG
Living on the very tip of that pointy bit of the continent is Roushanna and the Gray family. She is leading the way when it comes to coastal foraging and is no slouch when it comes to indigenous edibles. It stands to reason, as she is involved in the family business, The Good Hope Nursery (www.goodhopegardensnursery.co.za), which specializes in indigenous plants.
Kind, beautiful and fun loving, Roushanna has always been happy to share; no matter if is it information, her homegrown family veggies, foraged bounty, or a bottle of wine. For her to put a day aside for me to do this blog was both a privilege and a delight… and of course, deliciously educational too.

I knew we were in for a fun time when Roushanna asked me to bring my wetsuit and surfboard so that we could paddle out to collect the ‘best’ seaweed.  Actually we both knew that on such a flat day we could have wobbled around knee deep on the submerged boulders to get the seaweeds we needed.  But where is the fun in that???

This Suhria vitiate (Agar agar) will go onto the drying rack for a jelly, sometime in the future                                   UHG
First morsel up was Sea Urchin.  This Italian favorite is also a Japanese delicacy, which they call Uni.  I have eaten it off the rocks many times, but Roushanna’s preparation was primal yet delicate. It was by far the best way I have eaten Urchin.

Roushanna gently prepares a seaside snack of sea urchin                                                                                                   UHG
A gentle rinse, so only the deliciousness remains                                                                                                                 UHG
Roushanna presents to you, Uni                                                                                                                                             UHG
Roushanna reminded me about the Acid Weed. To some the name suggests it could be a bit of psychedelic fun to ingest a little.  But consume it at your peril, for it is the only toxic seaweed, with a dangerously high concentration of sulphuric acid. As a rule, never eat any seaweed that is not attached to a rock, shell or other seaweeds, because it might just be the evil Acid Weed.

Roushanna reminds us what not to eat; the evil Acid Weed                                                                                               UHG
Evidence of where sulphuric acid has eaten the bio-matter off the rock     UHG
After collecting a variety of edibles we headed for Roushanna’s rustic and charming home. On the way to the front garden we nipped through the kitchen sampling a couple of rounds of Roushanna’s delectable kelp, sea salt and sesame seed chocolate. We grabbed a few handfuls of ingredients, a bottle of wine and headed outside. Waiting for us was a higgledy-piggledy and inviting space, where a fire was already on the go. I was in for a treat.  Unfussy cooking on a wood fire is by far my favorite. It got better still… we raided the veggie garden while waiting for the fire to be just the right heat for Roushanna’s paella-style seaweed dish along with mussels steamed in a kelp bulb.

What a pleasant space to pass time                                                                     UHG
A quick detour into the veggie garden. These things make me happy                                                                            UHG

Sea vegetables for Roushanna's 'paella'                                                                                                                                      UHG
Once Roushanna had sautéed the usual suspects (garlic, onion, chili etc), in went the rice for a coating of olive oil, followed by a variety of chopped seaweeds and handfuls of mussels.  After generously covering the ingredients with water she popped on the pièce de résistance, an edible lid of Slippery Orbit, my new favorite seaweed. The dish was a triumph. The mussels steamed in white wine in the kelp bulb were also bloody delicious. And let me not forget the simple grilled garden leeks. YUM, YUM and YUM.

Slippery Orbit…  my new favourite seaweed                                                                                                                           UHG
'Paelle',  Roushanna style in the making                                                                                                                                   UHG
A delicious lid of Slippery Orbit. 'More please?'                                                                                                                 UHG
Thank you so much Roushanna for a brilliant foraging day, for teaching me stuff and for the take away butternuts and pink pop corn from your garden.

Roushanna leads coastal foraging outings in summer and indigenous (Fynbos) ones in winter. Please see her website for bookings.

Follow Roushanna on instagram @goodhopegardens

Thursday, February 02, 2017

'STRAIGHTMOPS'

And so it was that the Straightmop was  born                                                                                                                           UHG

Rollmops are traditionally pickled herring fillets rolled around a savory nugget, usually gherkins or green olives.

Glenn, a friend and fellow forager is a wealth of information with truckloads of enthusiasm for anything primal. Recently he kindly gave me some rollmops that he had made from a local fish called ‘Streepies’. He had rolled their little fillets around gherkins. They were amazingly excellent. I simply had to get some and some more…

Glenn casts his net far and wide... wish I could do that                                                                                                     UHG

If I were a little fish, I would be afraid. Not of Stef though                                                                                                UHG
When it comes to a little adventure, Glenn is a pushover, so it wasn’t long before we headed for the coast with throw-nets and our friend Stef in tow. It turned out that I was rubbish with the throw-net, so I left that part to others; in turn Stef proved to be only slightly less useless than me. Finally it was up to Glenn to sneak up to fling a net around the darting shoals of little fish.

A time consuming process, but well worth it                                                                                                                       UHG

An overnight salting sucks out the extra moisture that you don't want, not to mention adding seasoning           UHG
There weren’t any signs of ‘Streepies’, but we (or should I say Glenn) managed to net some small ‘Harders' (another local fish). They were too small to fillet, so I kept them whole and with a toothpick secured an agave pickle in their gut cavity… and so it came to pass that the fully foraged ‘straightmop’ was born.


Agave buds, the perfect straightmop pickle, if you going fully foraged ?                                                                      UHG

Stef  harvesting fennel fronds… an obvious pickling spice                                                                                                 UHG

RECIPE

INGREDIENTS
Fish
Vinegar
Salt
Onion
Pickles / green olives (in this case agave bud)
Pickling spices (I went for foraged fennel flowers, lemon leaves and Peruvian pepper)

MOTHOD
If you have small fish - scale, gut and take off the heads, or if they are  big enough - scale and fillet them.
Layer the fish with course salt in between and leave in fridge overnight.
Rinse off the salt.
If you only have small fishies and are going for the new and exciting ‘Staightmop’, stab a half toothpick through each one to secure your pickle in their gut cavity. If you have bigger fish and are making good common old Rollmops, roll the fillets around pickles and zap them with toothpicks.
Pop em into a jar with your pickling spices, a few onion slices and top up with white vinegar… and there you have it.


 They will last in the fridge for weeks.



Monday, November 28, 2016

A FEW DELIGHTFUL FOOD ILLUSTRATIONS

Good old favourite nasturtiums, always at the ready to brighten a winters day     Illustrations by Esther Cooper- Wood
Recently I was lucky enough to be contacted by Esther Cooper-Wood, a visiting food illustrator from England. She was interested in doing a little foraging during her stay in Cape Town. We agreed that she would join us during a few routine foraging missions and in return she would represent her experience with some drawings for our use. All in all it turned out to be a rather happy arrangement for both parties.

 Nasurtium-mania                           Illustrations by Esther Cooper-Wood
While Esther was here we managed a couple of outings. The first was a costal mission and the second a brief neighborhood exploration.

Scattered about this blog are a few representations of our food adventures, quickly knocked up by Esther.
Enjoy…. I did.

All these 'yummies' are ready and waiting right on our doorstep                              Illustrations by Esther Cooper-Wood
Our spontaneous West Coast Mussel lunch                                                             Illustrations by Esther Cooper-Wood
Esther 'smashing a pesto into existence'                                                  Pic. UHG
Esther, the illustrator herself collecting the last of the season nasturtiums                                                              Pic. UHG
A huge thanks to Esther for the fun times, fine bread baking, pesto making and of course for the beautiful illustrations.

If you want to see some of Esthers' beautiful work please check out her site below. http://esthercooperwood.com/




Thursday, October 13, 2016

'ZOO PESTO'

Sweet Peas pesto coming up…                                                                                                                                         UHG
I remember as a young boy feeling a panicky surge, as I imagined toppling into the lions’ den at the local zoo. That zoo has long since been closed, the decaying structures are reminders of a bygone era, yet live evidence of it still exists. Himalayan Mountain Tahrs roam our city’s majestic mountain. The story goes that some of these goats escaped from the zoo and headed for the hills. They now thrive on Table Mountain. In fact they are so prolific that culling programs have been established to eradicate them, but with little success. The expression, ‘horny as a Billy Goat,’ jumps to mind.

It's no coincidence that Stone Pines have that Italian vibe about them                                                                             UHG
Sweet pea shoots climbing a Pine           UHG
Does that not scream, 'Zoo Pesto', or what?   UHG
At about the same time that my imagination was running wild wrestling lions, I also discovered that inside certain pinecones were delicious little nuts (in the late seventies few South Africans knew about such ‘Italian delights’), but getting to them was epic. Trying to crush the cones by heaving rocks onto them, or violently throwing the cones onto the pavement, proved not only dangerous, but ineffective too. Should you try either technique, I suggest wearing a helmet and a gum guard, or you can simply leave them out in the sun or next to a few winter fires and patiently wait for them to naturally open, but when you are 12 years old, patience is not an option.

Sweet Pea shoots against the backdrop of decaying lion cages and Pine trees                                                            UHG 
Mid to late summer is flower and pod time                                                                                                   Lauren Biermann
Yum                                                                                                                                                                    Lauren Biermann
A few years ago a friend pointed out that the rambling purple flowers clinging to the neglected zoo fence looked like sweet peas. Lo and behold… it was so. What a discovery they have turned out to be. From early spring they develop delicious tender shoots, mid summer brings with it their yummy purple flowers together with little pods similar to mange tout, these finally turn into actual peas, which when scorched by late summer, dries and twist the pods into little springs that fling their seeds about; ready to shoot up the next spring. All their forms are great for salads, garnishes and pestos.

There they are... a pair of nuts, nestled beneath each scale (It's not what I mean, you dirty buggers)                        UHG
Just the right weight behind each blow is the trick; too soft, they don't crack -  too hard, you crush the kernel      UHG
The old zoo grounds are also peppered with Stone Pine Trees, the very trees that produce those elusive pine nuts, which are made even more scarce by the competitive Grey Squirrel, who don’t suffer our incompetence when it comes to getting them out.

Surely, Zoo Peas + Zoo Nuts = Zoo Pesto… I gathered the ingredients for such a dish, so I could document it for this blog. As luck would have it my friend and one of my foraging partners Jocelyn just so happened to call me on that same random work day suggesting beer and a lazy afternoon. So it came to pass… that I had the privilege of photographing the executive chef of one of Cape Town’s most prestigious hotels (The Table Bay) make ‘zoo pesto’ while sipping beer and nibbling a lunch of foraged goodies... all in my little garden.

Ready, set… grind                                                                                                                                                                 UHG
ZOO PESTO RECIPE

       Ingredients (in more or less the correct amounts)

-                     Sweet pea shoots (the tender tips); x 2 handfuls
-                     Pine nuts; x 1 ‘vertical grab’ (thumb and four fingers)
-                     Indigenous mint ; x 3 sprigs
-                     Lemon; x 1 little squeeze or better still Cape Sorrel leaves and stems; x 1 generous pinch
                       Indigenous garlic chives (Tulbaghia); x a few strands
           Cheese (a hard one. In this case a mature local cheddar); x a grating of        
                      Olive oil; x a glug or two
-                    Seasoning salt and pepper (preferably foraged Brazilian Pepper)

Method

Chuck in all the ingredients into a mortar or pestle (I never know which is which) and get grinding. You’ll probably need to add a little at a time to make space. Oh, add the olive oil and seasoning last.

Joce goes the nuts                                                                                                                                                                    UHG
Joce doing what she loves and does best                                                  UHG
Lunch                                                                                                                                                                                   UHG
So it came to pass… and  'Zoo Pesto' was created                                                                                                              UHG

Disclaimer – There is some debate as to the toxicity of wild sweet peas. I have done a fair bit of research on the subject and feel there is little evidence to substantiate these beliefs. I’m alive, kicking and gagging for more zoo pesto, I trust Jocelyn is too… no news is good news. 
Don’t just take my word for it though. Check it out yourself and make your own educated choice.

Thanks to Jocelyn Meyers-Adams for her skills and the beer. Also, thanks to Lauren Biermann for her great pics.





Monday, August 29, 2016

A LITTLE FLOWER BLOG

A rare moment of  cheffiness                                                                                                                                                       UHG 
Springtime in Cape Town is when the wild sorrel is at it’s cheerful best, it’s also when the loquats are yellowing.

“Why not make a little something,” said Pooh and we all agreed.

Oxalis pes-capnea (Sour Suck)                     UHG
Oxalis something-or-other                        UHG
At this time of year if you put on your foraging goggles, you’ll notice little yellow flowers everywhere. You’ll find ‘sour sucks’ (‘suurings’ in Afrikaans) along the verges of the roads, in open fields and even between the cracks in the pavement. They behave just like weeds, which is exactly what the much-loved rascals are. If you know Cape Town, you’ll know the flowers I’m talking about; the sour ones that made your eyes water and face crinkle when you chomped one as a kid. These mouth-puckering delights will have you eying your next victim even before you finish chewing the one you’ve got.  

  Another one… purple ones too. Oxalis something-or-other                                                                                          UHG
Pop the stems in water and place in sunlight; they'll open out for a lunchtime display (not a nighttime dish)     Illona

Cape Sorrel, as the flowers are commonly known, are not the only indigenous members of the Oxalis family. If you venture from the city limits you might find some of their colorful cousins, all who pack a similar sour punch; a punch that fits perfectly with Cape Town’s favorite sustainable fish, Snoek.

"Hmm… we need something sweet”, pondered Pooh.

Everyone knows that apricots together with smoked snoek is a thing of great deliciousness. Sadly the apricots are not ‘cotting’ at the moment, but the loquats are indeed ‘quatting’. Loquats, also known as ‘Japanese/Chinese Plumbs’ somehow made the epic journey from the East to the pointy part at the bottom of Africa, yet the delicate fruit itself can’t even survive the trip to our local markets without being damaged, so take care not to bruise them when you harvest your own.

Much underrated Loquats                                                                                                                                                       UHG
When foraging equip yourself with a top South African climber... Illona doing what she does best                           UHG
The dish is now starting to take shape…

Let's use those chickpeas in the fridge that have been patiently waiting for such an occasion as this. We will make a ‘Cape Malay’ style dressing with that spicy loquat chutney, some crème fraiche and wild garlic chives.


“Oh goodie!” exclaimed Pooh, “ I’m going to put it all together just like a poncey chef would…the way I like it best”. We all agreed.

Don't forget to include some fresh loquats (a squeeze of lemon will stop them browning)                                        UHG                                                                                               



Saturday, July 16, 2016

A RATHER SILLY FORAGING VIDEO

What a morning, what a pic.                                                                                                                                           Martin
This year I decided to take some time off to do the things in life that I love most. To be able too afford this lifestyle I’ve had to tighten my belt, also after much pondering I decided to rent out my spare room to a lodger.

Martin in all his delightful silliness                                                                                                                                  Martin
Enter Martin Milner, a Pommy dancer on contract with The Cape Town City Ballet Company. From the moment I met him I knew he was a ‘bit of alright’. So into the front room he moved and in turn white bread, Coke-Cola, Cheerios, Twinkies etc moved into my once wholesome kitchen.  He now buys brown bread and willingly joins me on foraging adventures; woefully the Coke-Cola remains.


Apart from performing soloist roles on Cape Town's most glamorous stage Martin creates delightfully silly videos (all shot on an i-phone). On one of our little foraging missions when searching for Pine Ring Mushrooms (also known as Saffron Milk Caps) he knocked up this little video gem. Check it out; I love it… then again I supposed I would.

Martin has been a little tonic in my life, so if you too want a little pick-me-up from time to time I suggest hitting subscribe at the end of the video.