Nosipho’s Fancy Samp and Beans

Nosipho Samela
Nosipho Samela

Samp and beans is something that would happen in my home on weekends in winter while rain lashed at the window-panes, the paraffin heater glowed in its corner of the lounge and my mom and dad would be sitting watching the rugby. The smell of it cooking always takes me back to those days. The way my mom made it was with separate grains, a bit like rice, and she served it like my granny Doris did, with a bit of vinegar and a dollop of butter. But one day my girls’ nanny, Nosipho, made it for us for supper and it was so creamy and rich and delicious with a texture like risotto, I made her show me how she did it, and since then I’ve never made it any other way. Sometimes we eat it as it is, but when I make it for supper I like to serve it with a hearty lamb stew. It’s healthier than rice and so much tastier. Here’s how Nosipho made it:

Ingredients:
A packet of samp and beans
A cube of chicken or veggie stock
An onion, a carrot and a clove of garlic
Fresh or dried herbs (I like basil, oreganum and thyme)
Olive and/or cooking oil

Method:
Boil the samp and beans according to the cooking instructions on the packet. When they’re about half-way done (they’ll be softer, but still chewy), add your stock cube plus a finely chopped onion, a finely chopped carrot, your herbs, a chopped clove of garlic and two tablespoons of oil. Using the right amount of water can be tricky – you don’t want it to dry out and burn, or to be too runny. Err on the side of too much liquid, you can always cook it away. But it’ll probably stick to the bottom of the pot a bit anyway. This is normal. Let it all boil up together and the flavours infuse. It’s cooked when the samp is no longer chewy and has the creamy texture of a risotto. Season generously with salt and pepper, and serve with a drizzle of olive oil. Nourishing and delicious.

A South African staple.
A South African staple. White people can eat it, too.

Rather Sexy Ratatouille

Good for empty fridge days.
Perfect for empty fridge days.

This is one of those oh-crap-there’s-nothing-in-the-house dishes that we make a couple of times a month using all the leftover veggies and a tin or two of tomatoes. It’s fresh, delish and, as you can tell by the beautiful colours, full of antioxidants. The thing about a ratatouille is that veggies, by themselves, don’t taste of a hell of a lot so you need to sexy them up. The best way of doing this is by adding things that have lots of flavour like garlic, olives, capers and herbs. Per and the girls like to eat theirs over pasta, but I prefer mine just as it comes or with a few shavings of parmesan cheese if we happen to have any lurking.

Ingredients:
Onion
Garlic
Aubergine
Red or green peppers
A tin of tomatoes (I only buy tinned cherry tomatoes lately. They just taste better)
Fresh tomatoes
Courgettes
Capers
Olives
Herbs like oreganum, basil and thyme (dried or fresh)
Olive oil
Red wine or balsamic vinegar

Method:
Fry your aubergine, onion and garlic in olive oil. Add the herbs – dried oreganum works really well on aubergine. When the aubergine is a little bit brown, add chopped courgettes, peppers, olives, fresh tomatoes, tinned tomatoes, half a cup of water and about two tablespoons of vinegar. Put the lid on and let it simmer for about twenty minutes. Give it a taste – if it’s acidic (tomatoes vary) add a tablespoon of sugar. Season with salt and pepper, and enjoy with pasta, ciabatta or just on its own. Yum, and seriously healthy.

Les Lentilles (yes, you guessed it – this dish is awfully very French)

Really, really good for wintry weather
Really, really good for wintry weather. Even if you only live in Cape Town.

Even though I don’t speak a word of the language (that’s not true, I know ‘les’) and I’ve only been to France once in my life for five minutes, I just know, deep down, that I’m French. Sometimes I’m also Italian, but mainly I’m more French. I get them, those people, with their fabulous dishes of cream and bone marrow and not caring when their husbands have affairs. Well, that part I don’t really get, but the rest I totally do.

My amazing friend Paul who owns Nomu came up with this recipe using fancy puy lentils and fish, but since I wouldn’t know a puy lentil if it had a tantrum on my head, I just use those brown ones you buy at Pick ‘n Pay. And because there wasn’t any fresh fish in my fridge that day or ever, I also substituted that for chorizo because I saw that someone once used that in another lentil dish. But the rest is totally, completely sort of Paul’s recipe.

When I make this dish it’s almost like I become Edith Piaf singing about having no regrets. You kind of want to put on a boa and swan about with a cigarette holder and say things that shock your children. But then you remember you’re actually just a mom cooking Thursday night supper, so you have to settle down and be content with a glass of red. And anyway, once I cooked in a boa and the feathers got in everything. This dish is easy, seriously tasty and quite stylish, actually. You wouldn’t be amiss serving it to guests with a nice ciabatta and a bottle of something dusky. Here’s how to access your inner grande dame:

Ingredients:

Brown lentils (they might be called green, but they are most definitely brown)
An onion (the red ones are bit sweeter, I find)
A clove of garlic (okay, three)
A carrot
Celery
Chorizo
Vegetable stock
Dried or fresh tarragon and whatever other herbs you have bumming around. Oreganum and thyme work nicely.
A bay leaf or two

Method:

Chop your onion, garlic, carrots and celery as finely as you can be bothered and fry them in a bit of olive oil. When the onion goes see-through, add your chopped chorizo and fry it up a bit. Add two cups of lentils, four cups of water, your veggie stock cube or powder, your bay leaf and your chopped up herbs. Put the lid on and let it simmer gently. Keep checking that you have enough water in your pot. If it gets too dry, add more. When the lentils are almost done (they should have a bit of a bite), take the lid off and let the rest of the water cook away. Season generously with salt and black pepper. Serve it in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil. SO very yum-ois.

Burning Love – Or, Curry-in-a-Hurry

Maybe I should have used an unchipped bowl and given it a wipe. But you get the idea.
Maybe I should have used an unchipped bowl. But you get the idea.

While my mom is an incredible cook whose chicken pie would beat Jamie’s hands down, she’s not what you’d call adventurous in the kitchen. When I was growing up, the most exotic things she added to her dishes were Bisto and a bit of white pepper. So, I never tasted a proper curry till I was about 27, and in all the years since I’ve had to make up for lost time (though, I have to assert, she has since perfected a lamb curry that would make Madhur Jaffrey hang up her apron).

I do like me a curry. Like my mom, I’m a gooier, which means I gravitate towards forgiving dishes – ones that won’t sulk and flop on you if you add three cloves of garlic instead of one (what’s the point of one?). There is something so wonderful about toasting spices, throwing hefty hunks of meat in the pot along with a tin or two of tomatoes and smelling it thicken and glorify while you mess around on Facebook. It’s a really hard dish to get wrong.

But sometimes my curry cravings come on arbitrary Tuesdays where I cannot (CANNOT) deal with anything that takes longer than 7 minutes. So, I came up with this dish which does all the good things a curry should do without being a nuisance and, what’s more, you will have every single one of these ingredients, I swear. You’ll need:

Ingredients:
1 onion
1 clove of garlic (okay, three)
1 tin of chickpeas
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped/a tin of tomatoes
Curry powder (whatever strength you prefer. I say, go for the hotness)
Cinnamon/turmeric/dried ghania/masala spice/dried ginger/ whatever you’ve got lurking. You don’t have to have them all.
Spinach or frozen peas
Chutney
Plain yoghurt and/or coconut milk (the latter is optional, and only if you were fancy at Pick n Pay)

Method:
Fry your chopped onion and garlic in a bit of oil, then and add your curry powder and whatever other spices you’re using. Be generous with the cinnamon. When they’re dark and your onion’s gone opaque, add the chickpeas. Shmoosh them around so that they’re covered in spices and then add your tomatoes. If using fresh tomatoes, add half a glass of water too or it’ll be too dry. Let this lot cook up a bit, maybe for five minutes. When it’s looking like a curry, add a tablespoon of chutney, a swirl of yoghurt or coconut milk and fresh spinach or frozen peas or both. Season, and stir them around until they’re heated through. Voila! Burning love. Without getting all Nigella, it’s spicy, warming and delicious, and when the world feels hostile – as it totally does some days – this just hits the spot. Curl up on the couch and eat it in a bowl with a spoon and some extra chutney. And don’t share it with your children. Some things need to be just for you.

Per’s Easy-peasy Paella

Doesn't that look like the real McCoy?
Doesn’t that look like the real McCoy?

This dish has always scared me a bit – the mussel shells and saffron rice looked so intimidating, but the other night Per found some frozen seafood we had leftover from a party, and rustled up a Paella which, I have to say, was better than the one we ate in Spain (and my friend Alison agreed, so it must be true). Actually, using frozen prawns worked just as well, and aside from the seafood, the stuff you need is really pretty basic. And even though you can pull this cheat version off in 20 minutes flat, it’s fancy enough to serve to guests and look like you’re pretty accomplished. And we like dishes like that. If you have a big wok, make it and serve it in that. Otherwise, a large frying pan or any shallow-ish pot will do.

You’ll need:

White rice
Frozen prawns and mussels
Two chicken breasts
A chorizo sausage (optional)
An onion
Two cloves of garlic
A tablespoon of dried paprika
A carrot
Saffron or turmeric
A red or green pepper or frozen peas or both
Chicken stock

Method:

Chop your onion, garlic, red or green pepper and carrot and fry it up in a bit of oil. If you have saffron, add a pinch, otherwise a teaspoon of turmeric works just as well. Sprinkle in your paprika. Add your chicken breasts chopped into bit-sized pieces and if you want to include Chorizo, chop it up and put that in now. Fry the meat up a bit so everything browns a little. Add a cup of rice, fry it up and bit, and then whack in two cups of chicken stock. Put the lid on, turn the heat down and leave it till nearly all the water’s been absorbed. Add your frozen seafood and peas, a sprinkle of salt and black pepper and put the lid back on for ten minutes or so, till the rest of the water disappears. And that’s it! Serve with lemon wedges, crusty bread and a bottle of bubbly. It’s a party in a pot.

Stine’s Incredible 20-Minute Crispbread

Delish with avo, fresh tomato, sea salt and black pepper
Delish with avo, fresh tomato, sea salt and black pepper

My sister-in-law, Stine (pronounced Steena) is one of those extraordinary women who’ll decide, at 2pm, that there’s nothing for afternoon coffee, disappear into the kitchen and emerge 45 minutes later with a three-tiered strawberry sponge cake. She also makes clothes, works full-time as a nutritionist, raises three teenage daughters and manages a farm. There are truly few things this girl cannot do. Oh, and she’s funny and gorgeous, to boot.

One afternoon, on a visit to them at their holiday house by the sea, a tupperware of these amazing crispbreads lay open, and it was all we could do not to polish off the lot. The thing about these is that they’re so nutty and crispy and delish that you don’t even need a topping. Though mashed avo and tomato is out of this world, as is any kind of cheese.

For me, who doesn’t do wheat well, they’re a lifesaver. They contain a small amount of flour which can easily be substituted for rye or almond flour if you’re gluten intolerant. They are packed with seeds, and your kids will eat them with no idea how healthy this tasty snack actually is. Plus, they really take no time at all which, for the laziest chef in the universe, is probably the biggest bonus of all.
You’ll need:

half a cup of oats
half a cup of sesame seeds
half a cup of linseeds
half a cup of sunflower seeds
half a cup of Pumpkin seeds
a cup of flour (wheat, rye or almond)
half a cup of water
half a cup of oil (choose one without flavour, like sunflower)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine salt

Method:

Mix everything together and separate into three portions. Between two sheets of baking paper, use a rolling pin to roll the mixture flat till it’s about 3mm thick. With a knife, slice it into whatever size cracker you want (I keep them pretty big. You can always break one in half. Though you won’t). Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until they’re golden and slightly darker along the edges. Store in an airtight container so that they stay nice and crispy. See how long they last in your house.