Let’s Talk About Chicken Baby…

Sweet mother of Jemimah! Is there anything more amazing than chicken? I could eat chicken everyday. Not only is it cheaper than red meat, it’s also very versatile. Chicken can be poached, stuffed, grilled, curried, stewed, pulled, fried and with so many different flavour combinations.

As someone who’s passionate about food, a lot of people tend to think I have all the answers that are food related. I don’t, but when it comes to chicken, I do. I get asked “Why is my full chicken always bland?” or “Why is my chicken always dry?” Well, I’m here to help.

I’ll talk about the important things to take into consideration when cooking the problematic parts, which is usually chicken breasts and full chickens.

Let’s talk about chicken baby…

  1. SEASONING…PLEASE! – How much seasoning you ask? All the seasoning please. I kid, season your chicken generously. When seasoning a full chicken, please don’t neglect the cavity of the chicken, its very important. As the chicken is cooking, the inside steams and the seasoning in the cavity perfumes the chicken. Also season under the skin of the chicken, reach in there and rub that seasoning all over that breast. This leads me to my next point.
  2. SKIN & BONES – Before you tell me about how unhealthy chicken skin is, you don’t have to eat it, you can just peel it off and pass it on to me. Chicken skin keeps it moist and if you want flavour, keep it on the bone. If you’re cooking chicken breasts, especially and you choose to cook them whole with the skin and bone off, please don’t complain about a bland and dry breast – that’s your fault.
  3. STUFFING – If you’re making a whole  chicken roast, I’d strongly recommend stuffing it. Stuffing chicken not only helps season it , but retains moisture by locking it in. You can stuff it with vegetables and herbs but the basis of a good stuffing starts with bread. Cook your stuffing separately before putting it into the cavity of the chicken that’s also been seasoned.
  4. AROMATICS – If you don’t have the time to marinade your chicken well in advance, I’d recommend going for flavours that are aromatic so they can perfume the chicken as it cooks, this helps add flavour to the chicken. Things like garlic, ginger, rosemary and citrus are all great for perfuming chicken.
  5. BRINING – Brining is the process of soaking or preserving something in salty water. Chicken absorbs water and salt when left to brine which results in less moisture loss when cooking thus reducing the chances of dry meat. If you have the time I’d definitely recommend brining your chicken roast the night before. An easy brining ratio to remember is 1 tablespoon of salt for every cup of water. You need enough water to cover the entire chicken and to this solution you can add spices and herbs to give the water a flavour base (although I’d recommend seasoning the chicken further before or during cooking after its been removed from the brine because a great amount of the flavour doesn’t get absorbed during brining)
  6. COOK TIME – How long should I cook my chicken for? When you’ve been cooking for a long time you learn to be intuitive about cooking. You can feel the meat to gauge if its been cooked, if you aren’t there yet there is a basic cooking time tip to remember;
  • Whole Chicken – 60 Minutes for every 1kg  which works out to 6minutes per 100 grams. So if your chicken is 1.2kg you’d cook it for 72minutes (60 + 12 minutes for the additional 200grams) and if it were 800grams you’d cook it for 48 minutes (6 minutes by 8) – It’s important to note that every oven is different so these times may vary.
  • Chicken Portions– Chicken fillets cook in 15 to 20 minutes, drumsticks and thighs 30-35 minutes. Wings take 12-15 minutes.

I hope you found these hints and tips helpful. Chicken is life and we must do right by it.

Love,

V

 

 

Grains & Legumes

I never ever imagined a time in my life where i’d be an advocate for grains and legumes as must haves in ones pantry but i’m going through this thing called “adulting”. This involves eating balanced meals and worrying about being regular, it’s so much fun.

Grains and legumes are often neglected in a lot of our diets but that means we’re missing out on great sources of protein, fibre, magnesium, zinc and so much more. Worry not, i’m not saying you should go vegetarian (calm down carnivores), i’m simply advocating that you add these to your list of must haves when you do your grocery shopping. If you are already vegetarian, grains and legumes are great way to break away from the normal carbs.

Here are six grains and legumes i always have in my pantry;

  1. Bulgur Wheat
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Bulgur Wheat

What Is It? – A cracked wheat made from mostly durum wheat. It is high in fiber and thus good for the digestive system. Regular intake of bulgur wheat can help protect you against diseases like obesity and high blood pressure.

How to Cook It? – Bulgur wheat is used in a lot of North African cuisines. Tabbouleh salad is a favourite of mine (Find the recipe here), it also works well in soups and stews.

2. Pearl Barley

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Pearl Barley

What Is It? – Barley is part of the grass family and is a cereal grain. It is rich in Vitamin B and anti oxidants. It is also very low in fat and calories.

How to Cook It? – Barley works well in stews and soups. Barley risotto is something worth trying in substituting normal risotto rice for pearl barley. A favourite recipe of mine is Barley and Beef Stew.

3. Dehulled Millet 

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Millet

What Is It? – Millet is also part of the grass family. It is a cereal grain. It looks a lot like cous cous because there is cous cous made from cracked millet. It’s benefits include being high magnesium which is good for healthy bones. In terms of nutritional value, millet is low on this list.

How To Cook It? – Substitute millet for cous cous or add it your favourite salad for great texture.

4. Brown Lentils 

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Brown Lentils

What Is It? – Brown Lentils are quite popular. They are legumes, part of the pea and bean family. They are rich in protein, fibre and vitamins. Lentils have zero cholesterol.

How To Cook It? – Lentils are very versatile, they are great in chilies and curries. One of my favourite recipes is Spinach & Tomato Lentils and Bean and Lentil Falafel.

5. Split Red Lentils 

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Split Red Lentils

What is It? – Lentils come in different varieties and split red lentils are one of them. Just like brown lentils they are extremely nutritious.

How To Cook It? – Red Lentils cook faster than brown lentils, they become soft and mushy when cooked so they go great in curries and soups. Add red lentils to your chicken or lamb curry or make a lentil and sweet potato curry with them.

6. Beans 

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Red Kidney Beans

What Is It? – Beans like lentils are very popular and known and consumed in a lot of households. They are a great source of protein and fibre.

How To Cook It? – Beans are also very versatile in that they can be added to soups and stews, mashed and fried as falafels or made into a dip. Beans also work great in salads like a mango,bean and corn salsa. Another of my favourite recipes for beans is a  Bean & Lentil Chili 

I hope this has helped anyone reading this 🙂

Love,

V

 

Malawi – My Food Journey

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Those who know me personally know that not having grown up in Malawi is something that I’ve found to be bittersweet. I was exposed to amazing opportunities growing up in Botswana and South Africa but I still carry around a guilt when I think about it. It feels like I ran away from the hardships of my country while most of my family members had to live that reality daily.  So even when I visit, I often fail to enjoy the experience because I’ll be riddled and focused on this guilt. Thankfully, I’m slowly learning to let go of this and not blame myself for the fortunate circumstances I’ve found myself in.

I recently went back home for about four weeks and call It maturity, unlearning or this new path of forgiveness I’m on, but for the first time I was able to appreciate the outstanding beauty my country had to offer. I was home, surrounded by family and reconnecting and it felt amazing.

I’ve recently found myself very interested in learning more about African food and cuisine and transforming how it is viewed in terms of fine dining. While I was home I made it a point to immerse myself in the food culture and here are some of the few things I picked up on;

Fresh Produce – You wont get anything more organic than this. In Malawi, processed food is expensive, that and the culture of eating fresh produce has meant that Vegetable markets can thrive.  Markets like The Lizulu Market in Lilongwe exist throughout the country selling fresh produce daily. You can find anything from the fruits in seasons (Lots of Mangoes) to different varieties of Legumes to fresh tea leaves to a wide range of potatoes and herbs. This was a heaven for me.

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Beans & Peas

Commodities like Hibiscus or Bwemba (known as Tamarind) are so easily accessible in Malawi as they grow freely. These are often considered luxuries in places like Johannesburg and are mostly found at specialty shops. I stocked up on the Hibiscus leaves and have been enjoying them as an ice daily since.

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Hibiscus Leaves

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Bwemba ( Tamarind)

 

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Carrots, Green Peppers, Eggplant & Green Beans

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Stands selling variety of fruit

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Potatoes

Fish-Lake Malawi is one of Malawi’s greatest treasures. Not only is it beautiful wonder but it also inhabits over five hundred different species of fish.

We visited the lake for one weekend and I was amazed to see how the fishermen cycled across the beach and by residential areas selling their catch of their day. Fish so fresh you’d be doing it a disservice by adding anything more than salt and pepper. I ate fish at every chance I got prepared in all the ways you can think of.

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Fresh Catfish

 Eating Out – A lot of western fast food outlets have recently started popping up in Malawi but while I was there I had no interest in these as usual. I tagged along with my sister in law a lot and she asked to take me to Area 13 – vendors come together selling local food. The area is mostly filled with people on their lunch breaks coming to fetch a hot plate of food. The variety of food included different types of fish or chicken prepared in different ways. Beef shin is also a local favourite accompanied by vegetables and staples; rice and nsima.

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Bombe Fish

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Bombe Fish

When you move into the more urban parts of Lilongwe you’ll find places like The Four Seasons. A little hidden gem of fine dining and overpriced handcrafted and hand made clothes, jewelry and accessories.  I sat at The Garden Shop for lunch and as much as the scenery was beautiful, I found the food terribly overpriced but this is also because I’m very big on economizing with food. It was a beautiful experience none the less.

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Four Seasons – Lilongwe

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The Garden Shop – Four Seasons, Lilongwe

Sustainability – People grow their own food in their own backyards and for those who are lucky, keep their own livestock like chickens, goats and pigs. It’s something I’ve always loved about Malawi but have not been able to do in a place like Johannesburg because you’re even lucky to find an apartment with a backyard. People would rather buy a live chicken and slaughter it themselves than buy frozen chicken from a supermarket.

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I hope that I get to explore Malawi more and the rest of Africa unpacking food culture and flavour.

Love,

V

Africa On A Plate

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I was recently invited to a BET Africa event for the launch of their new show “Africa On A Plate” Africa on a plate is a cooking and lifestyle show that focuses on African cuisine and food culture. “The point of this show is to bring Africa to your living room for those who’ll never get a chance to travel this beautiful continent. I got tired of seeing everyone else tell our food story as Africans” – Chef Lentswe Bhengu.

Chef Bhengu and his co host Zama Mamela travel around Africa experiencing cusine from different countries. They go from exploring the street food culture of Nigeria to discovering and unpacking the robust spices and flavours of Zanzibar and back to Indulging at a  Chesa Nyama in South Africa.

The launch of the event included a cooking challenge. Individuals from the food and media industry would attempt replicating two of Chef Bhengu’s dishes that showcased African flavours and ingredients in teams of two.

The first dish was what is known as Moi Moi. A Nigerian pudding made from pureed black eyed beans and steamed with spinach leaves. This was accompanied by a South African favourite, spicy chakalaka.

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Moi Moi & Chakalaka

The second dish was a pan fried beef steak, plantain puree and mushroom sauce. Translating African ingredients into fine dining. Now, I like my plantains fried (and only fried) but I found the choice to make them into a puree very interesting. The consistency left a lot to be desired but that could have been from bad preparation on my behalf. I’ll definitely be experimenting with this further in future.

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Steak & Plantain Puree

Dessert was a crowd favourite, Malva Pudding & Amarula Crème Anglaise. There’s not much that can be said about Malava Pudding, it’s always a winner.

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Malva Pudding

 

In the midst of meeting new people, free drinks and food, the session also proved very inspiring for me. I found myself wanting to dig deeper on how to translate African flavours into my cooking and more so into what is considered fine dining. This is something I’ve been putting a lot of thought of into lately and this experience further pushed me into the right direction.

In addition to that, Chef Bhengu’s story hits a little close to home. He left a career in finance to pursue Culinary School and his advice to me when I asked how he felt he was ready to take the leap;

“You’ll never feel ready or prepared. In this moment right now, ask yourself if you’re happy with your life, whether its your job or your partner. If the answer is no, make plans to change it”

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Chef Lentswe Bhengu

Don’t forget to catch back to back episodes of Africa on a Plate every Saturday on BET (DStv Channel 129) at 17:15 CAT and 17:40 CAT.

Love,

V

“You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”

I’ve neglected this blog, life got busy and inspiration was nowhere to be found but I’m here now 🙂  Soooo, beginning of this week I had a very big opportunity; basically an audition to cater for an event. I hadn’t received an opportunity this big yet so obviously my nerves were through the roof. While trying to conjure up clever responses to questions like “Are you fully licensed and registered?” and ” do you cater for special diets” I completely neglected the most important part of the audition, the food.

So here’s something that becomes obvious once you get to know me, when I cook in any other state but when I am at peace, happy or feeling confident; you will eat crap! I can’t seem to find the exact reason for this but I think because I pour my heart and soul into my cooking, whatever energy I am radiating at that moment becomes what you eat. Cooking is a spiritual thing for me, that’s how and why its so instinctual.

I was told to show up with tasters, little samples for a brunch theme, and so I did. So here’s where things went south, I was riddled with anxiety, self doubt and fear. What was the result, well it was pretty obvious, I cooked crap. The food lacked flavour balance and It was too late to correct the mess I had made. So I left home and went to the meeting having already resigned to having lost this job before I could even showcase my talent. *Wipes lone tear* I arrived at the venue and it was a beautiful boutique hotel, I was led to the kitchen where I was allowed to prepare and set up. I was told I’d present my food in 30 minutes and I thought that’s great, it’s enough time. The meeting ran long and I waited for over an hour. I LOST MY MIND! I was pacing, over thinking and the food was getting cold. Someone send help…please. Eventually they called me in, I presented the food and myself. I gave a brief explanation as to what it is I do and left, very upset. I haven’t heard the verdict of the interview yet but I know for a fact that I wouldn’t hire myself off that food.

What’s the moral of the story? You’re only doing yourself a disservice by  playing into your fears. My fears are valid, trying to establish s catering business off nothing but passion is scary and that fear can be crippling  but I am learning to let them go slowly because as they only hold me back from realising my full potential. I tend to question how dare I have the gull to think I deserve to take up so much space? To be so proud and self assured? How dare I believe I am every bit as great as fantasize to be while in recluse? I’m still learning how to silence these questions, but here’s my favourite quote at the moment;

“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion” – Rumi

Love,

V

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking With V

When I started this blog, I did it purely out of love. Love for food; love for cooking; love for how food brings people together. I am not a chef, nor do I have any formal training. This is a machine running purely on passion, love and dedication (When I can muster it).

With that said, I think that people complicate cooking great food unnecessarily. I think that great food isn’t often found at restaurants but at dinner tables. Those meals cooked with very little and filled with so much love, passion and shared with the masses. If I can teach one person at every encounter how easy cooking can be then I’d be steadfast on fulfilling my destiny.

Great cooking, in my opinion has a few corner points; Understanding flavours, trusting your instincts, preparation and making the best of what you have. I may not be an expert but I do know quite a bit about the above mentioned. Long story short, I have started a series of hands-on cooking classes for everyday cooks. People looking to build their confidence in their cooking abilities, people looking to learn how to be more economical when it comes to food and those purely looking to learn new recipes.

The launch of Cooking With V has been exciting but also nerve wrecking. You often have to ask yourself if you’re creating a service that’s needed by people and if so, why should they trust your expertise in delivering this service. Your thought process goes from  “Who the hell do you think you are Vanessa?” and  “Who would come to a cooking class hosted by you anyway?” to “No matter what happens, you’re going to be fine…..IF YOU DON’T MAKE A FINANCIAL LOSS”

Even within all this fear, you have to push through and hope for the best. I trust that this series of classes will prove to be very informative for people whilst showing them how easy, quick and economical cooking great food can be. This is after all my ethos in cooking.

If you are in Johannesburg, South Africa, find out more information on Cooking With V  by visiting  the Vanilla Scented Kisses Facebook page.

Come meet new people, cook great food, sip a little and of course; eat!

I hope to see you there 🙂

Love,

V

Hosting On A Budget

When I say “budget” I mean time, money and skill wise. I enjoy entertaining, I often wish I had a bigger house to entertain more. Until then, I work with what I’ve got which is a small budget; no dining room area/table; a small apartment and lot’s of creativity 🙂 If you find yourself in such a position then these hints and tips will be very helpful to you.

  • Cheap Meats – I am the master of entertaining on a budget and one of the ways to accomplish this is to look into cheap cuts/types of meat. For one, chicken. You cannot go wrong with chicken, it’s cheap and a crowd pleaser. You can spatchcock it, stuff it or braise it in a casserole. If you’ve been to my house, you’ve probably eaten chicken and it was probably damn good too. If you’d prefer a roast instead and a leg of lamb or beef is not in your budget, try pork roast. Pork might not be a popular meat but it’s definitely worth a try. Stuffed pork belly loin or belly or braised thighs, if cooked properly, it can be a crowd pleaser.
  • Buffet Style Meals – I live in a 1 bedroom apartment, though it’s more than enough space for me, it can definitely feel cramped when I have a few people over. Seeing as I don’t have a dining area I serve my meals buffet style. People dish their plates and sit wherever they can find a chair. It’s very informal, laid back and allows people the comfortability to serve themselves and go back for seconds if they wish.. This is a great way to also host cocktail type dinner parties with canapés.
  • Get Creative – The best way to make up for budget deficits when entertaining, is to get creative. Try a new recipe, or present your dishes in a different way. Substitute recipe items with cheaper alternatives (e.g. using Tuna for fish cakes instead of a more expensive fish like salmon), anything that lessens the financial load.
  • Outsource –  If you’re having people over, don’t be shy to answer the question “should we bring anything” honestly. This is when I usually ask people to bring wine, desert or a side to lighten my load and gracious guests don’t come empty handed anyway right? You might as well capitalize on this to get what you really need.
  • Quick and Easy Food – If you’re pressed for time, be careful what you choose to make. You don’t want to spend all your time in the kitchen and not with your guests. You also don’t want to be left with a pile of dishes to clean up after. Preparation is key. Try marinade meat the night before. start cooking well in advance to make sure you can get some cleaning up out of the way.
  • Try Brunch – Hosting a brunch instead of the usual dinner can be cost and time effective. Eggs are cheap and can be made to feed the masses easily and quickly. Try baked eggs , scrambled egg Florentine or a frittata. Add your favourite breakfast sausages and a pastry and some fruits and you already have full spread. Try these quick and easy apple and cinnamon scones or phyllo pastry cups to impress your guests.

I hope these tips help you. Please visit my recipe page for plenty of recipes great for entertaining. Where there’s a will, there’s a way 🙂

Love,

V

DIY Vs Shop Bought

There’s a lot of talk about the importance of making your own food items and how we often shame buying off the shelf instead of making from scratch. While I endorse making your own food items -fresher is better- I am aware that we do face challenges that include time and money. Here’s my take on some of the most of talked about items in this discussion.

  • Muesli “Health” Bars – I like the idea of the so called health/muesli/breakfast bars. They are great to snack on during the day but what we often buy is often loaded with so much sugar there’s nothing healthy about them. Choosing to make your own will ensure you know exactly what you’re consuming and you can alter the ingredients to better suit your taste or diet. This is also one of those things that is cheaper to make yourself than to buy and won’t take up much time. Find a basic recipe for Oat bars here.  Add nuts or fruit pieces to this if preferred.
  • Muesli – Whilst you’re at making muesli bars, you might as well make your own Muesli. I will admit that buying the individual components that go into muesli can be quite pricey especially if you have a liking to exotic nuts in your muesli. Make it in small batches if it’s more affordable but to be quite honest, I see nothing wrong with shop bought muesli. You can choose a higher quality brand if it makes you feel better but if you do have the extra coins and time, homemade muesli will always taste better.
  • Cream Cheese & Cottage Cheese – I’ve recently learnt how to make my own cream and cottage cheese and it’s been such a blessing in my life. It’s so easy and requires 3 ingredients you’ll always have in your house; milk, vinegar and salt. It’s cheap and takes no time at all. This is worth a try, trust me, you will not regret it. Do a quick google search for homemade cottage or cream cheese if you’d like to give it a try -all the recipes are the same.
  • Buttermilk – I was trying to brine pork chops in buttermilk one day and didn’t have any and had no intention of getting out of my very comfortable pyjamas (heh banna, I thought this is how it’s spelt) to go to the supermarket. So I tried a buttermilk recipe I found online. Very handy. You’ll be surprised what milk and vinegar can produce.
  • Pesto – I vote shop bought here, only because I really cannot afford pine nuts to be putting them in pesto guys. You could always leave them out or try almonds instead.
  • Marinades and Sauces – Shop bought sauces, marinades and salad dressings are full of all the wrong things. Sugar, Oils and preservatives. Salad dressing is simply vinegar, olive oil, salt and flavour. Mayonnaise is egg yolks and olive oil. I prefer wet rubs over marinades anyway which is a spice blend with oil or liquid, usually lemon juice. Ketchup/Tomato sauce is concentrated tomatoes cooked down. You get the idea of how easy it can be to make any of these items. I’d never recommend shop bought here but if you must, try buy vinaigrettes instead of creamy salad dressings, higher quality brand tomato sauce and marinades.
  • Stock – If you’re trying to ration sodium intake in your diet (we all should) then definitely make as opposed to buy but they do make low sodium stock these days. I don’t use stock enough to make it at home so I often buy it.
  • Smoothies & Juices – Health smoothies and juicing are all the rage now. The only reason I’d recommend making your own is, it saves a lot of money cause they don’t come cheap especially if they have become part of your lifestyle. I make mine in my blender and although the Juice probably wont be classified as “cold press” *rolls eyes*  they taste just fine to me and I can experiment with flavours I like. I can also make large quantities of the juices especially and refrigerate.
  • Pastry – If baking is not your forte *raises hand* you live for shop bought pastry. Whether its pre made pizza dough, short cut pastry or puff pastry, I see nothing wrong with this shortcut. Bakeries and supermarket offer fresh pastries made on the day instead of the frozenveeiety. But this if it makes you feel better than buying the frozen variety. If you love kneading then I’d definitely say make your own pastry, it is always worth the effort.

I am a believer in making cooking as simple as it can be. I endorse shortcuts when necessary, my recipes show that but I do advise that where you can, do choose freshness. Please do checkout my recipe page 🙂

Love,

V

Kitchen Raid

People always ask me questions like “How do i know what to buy when i’m doing grocery shopping?” or “what are your kitchen staples?” So I’ve decided to do a kitchen raid. I’ll list the things that i consider a stable in my pantry or fridge. These items, i believe form the basis of good cooking for me.

Herbs & Spices

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  • Oregano & Thyme : If you’ve ever read any of my recipes you’ll find that i stick to very few herbs and spices. I have my obvious favourite which is Oregano/Origanum and next in line would be thyme. They work well with any meat and vegetable. I am not loyal to any brands but i usually buy Robertsons.
  • Robertsons Masterblends : I really love the new Robertsons Masterblends and in particular the zesty lemon & herb and Rosemary & garlic. They work so well with roasted vegetables. Try the rosemary & garlic with baked potatoes – You’ll thank me.
  • Woolworths Goodies : Woolworths Food seems to have a much wider range when it comes to spices and spice blends than most supermarkets. My favourites are the Za’ataar blend – which is a zesty spice blend that’s great with fish and chicken. The Harissa blend is spicy North African blend that’s great with lamb. The Spanish smoked paprika is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It adds smokiness to any food.

Canned Goods

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  • Italian Whole Peeled Tomatoes : I prefer to buy canned tomatoes because the fresh ones always go off so quickly. My personal favourite are the Italian whole peeled tomatoes in tomato juice.
  • Beans : I love beans but can never dedicate the time to making them from scratch so i always keep around a can of butter beans, black beans and kidney beans. They come in handy when i want to make chilli, stews or just want them on toast.

Sauces and Stuff

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  • Red & White Wine Vinegar : So cheap and so handy in marinades or salad dressings. I like the woolworths food brand.
  • Soy Sauce & Fish Sauce : I prefer the dark soy to the light one. I find it less salty and more sweet. I pick whatever brand is cheapest on the day. Fish sauce smells like foot but it’s so great for stir frys and curries. I’ve had that bottle for over 6 months. a little goes a long way.
  • Worcestershire Sauce : Maggi Lazene is my favourite brand. I use it in my stews and meat marinades.
  • Fresh Garlic & Garlic Paste : I absolutely love garlic and put it in every meal i have. I love the pungency of fresh garlic but always keep a tub of garlic paste in the fridge, usually either garlic and ginger/garlic and herb or garlic and chilli

Others

I also always have things like a bottle of lemon juice, mushrooms, bacon, chicken breasts and chicken livers in the fridge.

That’s pretty much what you’ll find in my kitchen. I hope this helped you 🙂

Love,

V

Budget Cuts #Januworry

Firstly, happy new year everyone. I hope 2016 brings you nothing less than joy, peace and prosperity.  The holidays are over and if you’re like me you’re probably back at work. The realisation that you may have spent a little too much is starting to kick in right about now. All those parties, dinners and holidays chipped into your budget and now you’re wondering how you’re going to get through January. Well, that makes two of us. In the spirit of solidarity i’ll share some of my cost cutting tricks when it comes to my groceries.

At this point in time i should add that ideally, if we were financially responsible people we wouldn’t blah blah blah, nywe nywe nywe….WHATEVER! The damage has been done now let’s find a solution.

  1. Packed Lunches : Pack lunch for work/school, this should be obvious. Those “budget meals” you buy at the downstairs cafe add up to way more than you’d expect. I usually cook a two portion meal for dinner, what’s leftover serves as my lunch the next day at work. If i fail to do this, a quick sandwich or salad will do.  Here’s a glimpse at what my lunchbox looks like on some days.

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    Snapchat : Butterfly_Dossi

  2. Reduced To Clear Section : Most stores have a reduced to clear section. These are items that are close to their sell by date and they’d like to get rid of  at a fraction of the price. I wouldn’t recommend getting dairy products but things like bread, vegetables and some meats are perfectly fine. Shops can’t sell items after their sell by date and thus most of their products in their reduced to clear section are in good condition and can last another 3-5 days in the fridge (In my experience)
  3. MIY (Make It Yourself)   : My friends call me the MIY queen and this is true but honestly, to be blunt, it’s simply because i’m a broke bitch 😦  I have champagne taste with beer pockets so i make a lot of my own things. Great things to make yourself that can save you some money include, Bread, Mayonnaise, Pesto, Sauces, stocks and if you love to snack then do yourself a favour and make your own treats. I love to snack on oat crunchies and scones during tea time.
  4. No Waste: We waste so much food on a daily basis. I am believer in using everything from bones to vegetable peels. Freeze milk when it’s about to reach it’s use by date and you don’t intend on finishing it before then. Fry vegetable peels until they are crispy for a great garnish and a snack. Use meat bones to make your own stock. These little things go a long way.
  5. Sacrifice Convenience : We often pay a little extra for convenience but get less. I buy my chicken breasts with the skin and bone on and untrimmed. I trim it myself and use the skin and bones for stock. I pay far less and get more because you’ll find those perfectly trimmed chicken breasts sold are one half of an actual breast. The same goes for fish, learn to scale and fillet your own fish and pay less. Another trick is getting your meat from the butcher as opposed to the pre packaged packs in the supermarket.
  6. Cheap Cuts: Cheap cuts are often overlooked because they take longer to cook but you’re missing out on a great deal. They make take longer to cook but have the most flavour, can feed the masses and will save you money. Check out my recipe here for braised pork shank. Two pork shanks cost me about R60 and can feed up to 4 people.
  7. Meatless Mondays: You might want to consider having a day off from meat. Meat is probably the most expensive item on your grocery list and so taking a day or two off it will make sure it goes a long way.  Here‘s an easy vegetarian pasta recipe to try. Eggs are another cheap product that can serve as a protein substitute. A simple egg can be transformed into something like a shakshuka which i love to make. (Carnivores calm down! Its just one day)

With these tips you should be in a better position to tackle the financially challenging nightmare that is January (Januworry). We can do this.

Love,

V