Archives for category: Shopping and eating

The word revictual is one  that was drummed into me and many other South African schoolchildren year after year in the endlessly repetitive history classes that culminated each year with the Great Trek.

Our history ‘began’ in 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in search of a revictualling station for the Dutch East India Company. Well, to be honest, I do remember a brief mention of the Portuguese sailors that predated him and some passing reference to the existing Khoi pastoralists and the San hunter-gatherers of the Cape.

It was those early Dutch settlers who started the much-feted Company’s Gardens in the infant Cape Town. We learned of the fruit trees that were planted: apples, pears and quinces. We learned of the grapes that were grown, the vegetables and herbs cultivated to revictual passing East India Company ships.To this day some of those original plants still survive: there’s a pear tree, and part of the wild almond hedge used to keep the local inhabitants at bay.

1750_Bellin_Map_of_Cape_Town,_South_Africa_-_Geographicus_-_Gundriss-bellin-1750Even before the Dutch arrived with their culinary traditions, there was the natural bounty of Africa: from the abundant oyster beds of the Cape, to the apparently inexhaustible herds of game, not to mention a wide array of indigenous plants. But the culinary influence of the settlers is indisputable.

Recently I’ve not been revictualling in the Cape of Good Hope, I’ve been revictualling in Braunston, the heart of the UK canal system, a village that must surely have been a revictualling station since the day that the first canal boat passed though in the late 1770s.

Today you could easily cruise through Braunston, marvelling at its proud history, admiring the historic boats moored in and around the marina and possibly stopping for water, fuel or a pump out not realizing that it is a perfect place to revictual. Don’t rush through, I urge you to stop, for at least a day or two, and check out the revictualling opportunities. Braunston canal If it’s just a few basic provisions you’re after, you could do very well by stopping at The Boat Shop at the bottom lock. You’ll get milk, cheese, sugar, tea, various tinned foods, ice-cream and many other basics. What you’ll also find are all sorts of painted canal ware for your kitchen, from mugs and teapots to biscuit tins.

Sticking to the tow path,  you’ll find Gongoozler’s Rest. Gongoozler* or not, it’s a haven for those who are in need of a slap-up breakfast the likes of which it’s impossible to find anywhere else in the vicinity of Braunston. There’s the Gongoozler’s Breakfast, the Individual Breakfast, omlettes and a vegetarian option too. And the vegetarian option isn’t just a nod to vegetarians either. It’s a proper breakfast that will certainly not leave you feeling short-changed. If one of their giant breakfasts is not what you’re after I’m quite sure you could be easily tempted by a slice of cake or a bacon roll.

But a canal would not be a canal without a decent pub looking out over its waters and Braunston is well served by the Admiral Nelson. It lies at the end of the ominous-sounding Dark Lane but the approach by water is of course more fitting.Admiral Nelson

Here you’ll find something for both boaters and gongoozlers alike. You can have an elegant and fine meal in the restaurant section or a beer on the grass overlooking the lock. And the staff are kind and obliging and will even fill your own beer mug with a pint of Nelson’s Nectar as you dash from boat to pub and back while filling and emptying the lock.

Nelson's Nectar

All are well catered to along this stretch of canal, thirsty dogs provided for, too, by a kind boater.

*  According to wikipedia “Gongoozler” may have been canal workers’ slang for an observer standing apparently idle on the towpath. Though it was used derisively in the past, today the term is regularly used, perhaps with a little irony, by gongoozlers to describe themselves and their hobby.

The word may have arisen from words in Lincolnshire dialect: gawn and gooze, both meaning to stare or gape. It might be presumed that such an expression would date from the nineteenth century, when canals were at their peak, but the word is only recorded from the end of that century or the early twentieth. It was given wider use by the late L. T. C. Rolt, who used it in his book about canal life, Narrow Boat, in 1944.

“Gongoozler” as a term may also be used in any circumstance in which people are spectating without contributing to either the content or interest of an event.

I am guilty of getting obsessed with some things culinary – recipes by a certain chef, for example Nigel Slater, a favourite dish like posset or fruit curds, a place to shop like the Oxford Covered Market, an ingredient along the lines of lamb shoulder, rhubarb, lemons or star anise…

Today I got to satisfy a couple of my current obsessions in one fell swoop and in so doing created a simple supper for a group of friends.

It all started at the Oxford Covered Market a few days ago. I was dawdling though the market marveling at the array of food shops – fishmonger to cheese shop,

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butcher to coffee shop,

Italian delicatessen to green grocer

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– when my eye settled on a couple of boxes of rhubarb.

There was no way I’d be going home without a bag of rhubarb. The question was which of the two types would it be? The one lot were elegant thin prettily pink sticks from the Wye Valley at £6.95 and the others were from Yorkshire – heftier, darker, more sculptural stems adorned with lovely leafy fronds. Price £4.95 per kilo. Impossible to choose.

‘They’ll be sweeter, won’t they?’ said the greengrocer of the delicate pink ones, and I suspected he was right.  But what if the less beautiful, cheaper ones actually had a better flavour? I mean it’s not all about sweetness with rhubarb, is it?

After spending an agonizing few minutes weighing my options,I decided I had better have some of each. I’d do a taste test.

As I was paying for the rhubarb the greengrocer asked rather tentatively ‘Have you bought rhubarb before, then?’

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but not from you.’

‘It’s quite old fashioned isn’t it? Generally, it’s older people who buy it.’  Hmmm, well what exactly did he mean, I thought indignantly.

But all I said was, ‘Really?’ And then he came out with a real shocker.

‘To be honest, I’ve never cooked it myself… What are you going to do with it?’ He sold the stuff — how was it possible that he’d never cooked it? Somehow, though, his ignorance gave me all the assurance he lacked. This is what I told him:

‘I’m going to slow-roast a shoulder of lamb on a bed of rhubarb and then make a rhubarb posset for dessert.’ The thought of making two batches of the same thing merely to test which of the varieties of rhubarb was the better seemed like a very shoddy one indeed and I jettisoned it without a qualm.

The greengrocer was suitably impressed, and I marched out of the Covered Market with my double pack of rhubarb, and a steely determination to prove that it’s not something that the old, but rather the adventurous, use to create a memorable dish.

Back at our temporary residence in Cumnor, just west of Oxford, I dug out (on the internet) a couple of old favourites: Nigel Slater’s recipe for lamb cutlets cooked with rhubarb  and his rhubarb posset.  Then I dashed down the road to Michael Cain & Family Butchers to buy a free range lamb shoulder.

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Rhubarb Posset

I changed Nigel’s recipe slightly and oven roasted the rhubarb with a stick of cinnamon, three fresh bay leaves, the rind of a lemon, 10 black peppercorns and a cup of water.  Then once the rhubarb was cooked I reduced the reserved liquid by boiling it with the the bay leaves, cinnamon, peppercorns and lemon rind for ten minutes.

Slow cooked lamb shoulder

I rubbed the lamb with seven spice power, chili flakes, salt and pepper and placed it on the bed of chopped onion, rhubarb, celery and a small handful of star anise in the base of a heavy ovenproof dish. I roasted it covered for about five hours at 140 C.  Serve with a gravy made from the vegetables.All you need to go with this is a simple green salad and maybe potatoes.  Or celeriac purée à la Nigel Slater.

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I do love a challenge. Specially if it involves food as you’ll know if you follow Scarlet Bennett’s creative challenge. This week a challenge popped up on my twitter feed courtesy of Sam Linsell. This particular challenge,  #FoodBankRecipe, involved not only food but a cause dear to my heart, and there was a prize of two business class tickets to London involved. The challenge went like this: buy a recipe from FoodBank SA for R40, cook the dish, tweet a picture of the dish to #FoodBankRecipe.

Ever since I first read A Girl Called Jack’s blog and googled ‘food bank south africa’ I have wanted to do some sort of fund raising project with FoodBank South Africa as a recipient. I haven’t got round to it. How terrible to be ‘too busy’ to make the effort.

What I had in mind and what I still plan to do one of these days is a store cupboard supper.  I thought I’d invite a whole lot of people, say ten to twelve, to supper asking them to bring two items languishing on their more-likely-than-not overfilled pantry shelves. I would cook a supper then and there using all their contributions as well as a couple of judiciously chosen items from my pantry. Every participant would donate R40 to FoodBank South Africa. We’d have a lovely dinner party without spending obscene amounts of money AND we’d feed someone for a year. Maybe we’d do it once a month. Who’s available next week?

Anyway, feeling a little bad that I hadn’t actually pulled off my store cupboard supper, I immediately bought the four recipes from FoodBank SA. Trouble was, I only had three days in which to cook the dishes – but I thought, what the hell, let me give it a bash. I dashed out and bought the ingredients – or should I say, some of the ingredients. I decided that where possible I’d use what I had on hand in the garden, and in my pantry.

So, first up was Dominic Pain’s very easy non-stirred seafood risotto. I didn’t use her suggested kingklip, prawn, mussel and calamari but just hake and prawns. I doubled the quantities and we had eight servings from it, some for supper the day I made it and the rest reheated today for lunch. I’d definitely make this again – and in a hurry, too.

seafood risotto

Yesterday I made Ishay Govender-Ypma‘s tamarind chutney which was part of her Chicken Breasts in Ginger Tamarind Chutney
with Cauliflower Tabbouleh recipe. I made double the recipe (again) simply because I wanted to use up the carrots and tamarind we had. I made a few other changes and used preserved ginger and picked garlic instead of fresh since we had them.

Today I made the rest of Ishay’s recipe – the chicken breasts and tabbouleh. I used some of the excess tamarind chutney in a mint and tamarind chutney raita. Fabulous. The tamarind chutney and the cauliflower tabbouleh will be staples in our household now.

Although certain people in this household claim not to be following the Banting diet, they were very pleased with this recipe.  We will, however, be undoing all the Banting benefits by serving the left-over chicken and tamarind chutney with J’Something’s potato, pea and onion curry tomorrow. I have no doubt it will be a delicious combination.

P.S. Peter Goffe-Wood, I’ve roasted your garlic and will be making your Angelfish with Grilled Asparagus and Roasted Garlic and Parsley Dressing too.

Click here to make a donation to FoodBank SA.