“Food for thought: culinary cultures and food blogging – an opinion piece”

 by  Adeela Kasoojee-Gathoo

 

Food for thought“What should I make for dinner/supper?” is a daily refrain for most women. Faced with thousands of possibilities in tried and trusted cookbooks, recipes handed down from generation to generation and of course, the easy availability of fast food meals (Quick Foodie fact: there are 60 McDonald’s outlets in Gauteng alone!)  – it is astounding that a person should be able to ask such a question with the wealth of available resources, but I (and many other working and stay-at-home women) are living testimony to this oft-asked question.

 

When I was younger, I paged through that veritable bible of South African Indian cookery, the “Indian Delights” and found the little anecdotes that author, Zuleikha Mayat (an accomplished South African Indian cook) included in the text of her famous cookbook, both interesting and insightful. Her recipes are still considered an excellent go-to resource for both beginners and experts but they’re limited to the preparation of South African Indian cuisine.

 

I decided some time ago that I do not wish to limit my culinary adventures to any particular type or style of cooking. My reasoning is that the advent of the internet has literally created a “global village” of sorts making everything far more accessible and do-able. My belief is that we should experiment and try out the new and exotic in order to come to terms with the different communities that surround us and their cultural and culinary differences. From Chinese egg rolls to Turkish doner kebabs, Greek dolmathes, Italian gnocche, French brioche, Japanese sushi and Moroccan tagines – the world is literally your oyster splashed with a squeeze of fresh lemon, Tabasco sauce and milled black pepper, ready to be savoured in all its briny, foamy goodness.  Venture out of the safety of your own culture and live a little. Prepare a meal that will have your guests wondering what else you have up your sleeve. Add some magic to the ordinary, some spice to the mundane and explore other cultures and their gastronomical delights. The simple addition of guacamole or pesto as a dip may be all that it takes to add some pizazz to your dinner table.

 

When I was faced with this dilemma of what to prepare for the enjoyment of my family and in order to avoid preparing the same dishes over and over again – I often found myself resorting to online search engines like Google and the online forums and pages dedicated to cooking and the culinary arts on Facebook. I would find a recipe that piqued my interest and read about it and discover the origins of the meal and regional variations in preparation as well as the interesting history and legends that surround a particular dish. An interesting example of this is something as simple as Haleem (a spicy lentil, wheat, barley and meat based broth) which we consume regularly in the month of Ramadhaan and which has a rich and interesting history dating back to the Moghul invasion of India. The best Indian Haleem is said to originate in Hyderabad, India and the government in the region has even considered trademarking the name “Hyderabadi Haleem”.

Titbits such as these are gems to any food aficionado and in my personal opinion, the use of the internet simply broadened my scope and allowed me to be far more adventurous in terms of my cooking and food choices. My scepticism ensures that I am not wholly sold on all the information available on internet websites and forums dedicated to the preparation of food. I also make a point of researching food (somewhat informally) by speaking to people and looking at popular cookbooks and searching for authentic recipes.

 

Through (much) trial and error, I developed my own repertoire from what I learnt and I continue to make new additions to our weekly menu.  My better half’s most recent complaint is that I rarely repeat dishes but I am glad to have found a solution to the very important question of what to prepare each day.

 

After discussing my approach with a close friend, she suggested blogging my foodie adventures. I started my blog in 2011 with the intention of preserving well-loved family favourites and my own efforts and inspirations for our daughter. I am not able to post as often as I would like but rest assured, the experimentation continues.  Each recipe that I post is accompanied by a short story detailing my inspiration or a little history behind a particular dish. I also take pictures of my creations (granted that my food styling is very amateur but it makes the blog more interesting).  Whilst my blog isn’t as unique, professional or unusual as some of the offerings online – I often have requests for recipes from people who have read some of my posts and enjoyed making some of the dishes I wrote about.

 

Blogging has proved to be relaxing and productive and blogging about something that I am genuinely interested in has me exploring food markets (with my family) over weekends and incorporating new ingredients as well trying out new methods of preparation. My family and I have come to appreciate food in all its forms and I have learnt much from other blogs, whole food markets, discussions with people and forums.

 

I have also noticed that an increasing number of Muslim people are joining online communities, creating websites and fan pages dedicated to food and the preparation thereof.  It came as no surprise when MasterChef Australia had a Muslimah in hijaab, Amina Elshafei as a contestant in 2012. Amina proved her mettle as worthy contender for the title by almost making it to the top 10 but what was really surprising was the support from the general Australian public for this proudly Muslim woman of South Korean and Egyptian ethnicity (www.masterchef.com.au). Amazing and encouraging to say the least! I had hoped for something similar in MasterChef’s South African debut but was a tad disappointed. Perhaps it will take some time but we may yet have non-Muslim South Africans understanding the basic rules of Halaal and Haraam when it comes to food consumption and preparation. Until then, I’m content that I have managed to surpass my own culinary expectations and try some new and unusual foods like the recipes that follow :

 

{Summer Lovin’} Biltong and Nectarine salad

 

One plate full of fresh rocket, cress and butter lettuce

Thin slices of moist biltong (very important for the biltong to be soft and moist so rather buy a full piece and slice it yourself instead of buying sliced biltong- Billatong in Fordsburg or their other shop in Harrismith (Biltong and Bits has the perfect biltong for this)

Biltong dust

Slice up six soft juicy nectarines or peaches and scatter over the salad

1 red pepper finely julienned

1 green pepper finely juliennedFinish with crumbled danish feta.

Add in a handful of chopped pecan nuts

Toss well

And a grinding of black pepper

 

Top this with a drizzle of salad dressing:

 

2 tsps Dijon or wholegrain mustard, 1/4 cup of peach juice,  some black pepper, a generous dash of honey, olive oil and balsamic reduction.

 

Shake this all together and pour over the salad just before serving.

 

 

(Somethin’ Fish) Grilled Kingklip with feta and grilled cherry tomatoes

 

STEP 1

1 kg kingklip fillet

Juice of one lemon

Zest of a thin-skinned lemon

Salt

Black pepper

Garlic – 3 cloves minced

Handful of parsley chopped finely

3 peppadews finely chopped

2 teaspoons of garlic butter

Fair trade chilli and garlic grind from Woolworths

Mix all ingredients well and pour over kingklip. Marinate for 20 minutes.

STEP 2

Half a punnet Cherry tomatoes

1 tsp Soy sauce

2tbsps Worcester sauce

1 tsp Syrup from fig preserve

2 tbsps Balsamic vinegar

2 tbsps Mrs Balls chutney

Fair trade chilli and garlic grind from Woolworths

Mix all ingredients together and pour over tomatoes in an oven-proof pan. Grill for 10 minutes until tomatoes pop. Set aside.

STEP 3

  • Heat 100 g butter and some good quality sunflower oil.
  • Pan fry the kingklip on either side for 2 minutes. Reserve the sauce and left over marinade.
  • Remove the  kingklip from the stove, put it into an oven-proof pan.
  • Crumble 2 handfuls of Danish feta over the fish and grill for 10 minutes.
  • Cook the reserved marinade for 2-3 minutes on low heat.
  • Add roasted tomatoes and balsamic reduction.

Once the fish is done, spoon over tomato and marinade mixture and serve with pan-fried haloumi  cheese and finely chopped peppadews, alongside potato wedges and a leafy green salad.

 

 

Citrus flapjacks (with an orange, demerara and coconut jus)

 

My flapjack recipe is quick and easy –

1 cup of self-rising flour

1 cup of milk

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

4 tablespoons of demerara sugar

Orange zest – finely grated and stirred into the batter is the new addition to a tried and trusted favourite.

 

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Combine the egg, milk, vanilla essence, orange zest and demerara sugar in another bowl and beat well. Add the milk mixture to the flour and mix well. Spray a non-stick pan with “spray and cook” liberally. Heat the pan to medium heat. Cook three flapjacks at a time on a pan until you see bubbles and then turn until they are cooked through.

 

Orange, demerara and coconut jus

5 tablespoons of coconut

The zest of a single orange, finely grated.

5 heaped tablespoons of demerara sugar

The juice and pulp of one orange

A pinch of cinnamon

 

Combine the sugar and juice and heat lightly. Add coconut, orange juice, pulp and cinnamon. Smear each flapjack with some of the jus and stack. Serve with fresh fruit, thickened fresh cream and orange segments.

 

Bon Appetit! Enjoy 🙂

 

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