I’ve had a lot of fun lately taking  part in the truly creative (I really am envious!), Scarlet Bennett’s thirty-day creative challenge. I started halfway through, have  barely managed to deliver something creative even every second day and some of my contributions have been extremely modest, but it has been a delight and a joy.  And motivating too. I’m addicted. I’ve loved seeing – and hearing – the results of the daily creative activities that have been produced 10 000 km away in Canberra. Every morning I’ve scrambled to do something, anything, even vaguely creative, before Scarlet’s blog posting deadline of 8 pm Canberra time/11 am Johannesburg time – and so breakfast has ended up being the creative time of the day for me. I have been inspired by the group and their wide ranging creative activities and although I won’t be composing any music or attempting a drawing I might just take a leaf from opera singer and strange bedfellow, Kanen Breen’s book and get out a needle and thread or a bottle of nail polish one of these days.

Here’s a round up of my kitchen fun and games, eats and drinks:

Day 14: Breakfast Puff – an old favourite, from a previous life, when I was the lucky recipient of a subscription to US Gourmet magazine from my then mother-in-law

Day 16:  Three potions – tarragon oil, black pepper syrup, lavender syrup

Day 18: Tropical fruit and black pepper ice cream breakfast. Also from a previous life and from US Gourmet magazine c. 1993

Day 20: Swiss chard muffins – Swiss chard and sage from the garden, spiked with black pepper syrup from day 16

Day 21: Passionfruit cordial and carrot, clementine, mint and ginger juice

(With thanks to Scarlet for making the pictures look so good!)

The most fun of the week was the morning I spent making the potions. I first came across  a recipe for tarragon oil on Heidi Swanson’s wonderful blog, 101 Cookbooks. I’ve never made it exactly as she does since we somehow seem to be incapable of growing parsley but our tarragon is a rewarding and reliable plant that comes up year after year. You can make the oil with the first leaves that appear in spring  or with the last leaves of the season. A great way to preserve tarragon – and you’ll never countenance using dried tarragon again.

Tarragon oil

Take equal quantities of tarragon and olive oil. Blanch the tarragon leaves in boiling salted water,  refresh in ice water and squeeze dry. Purée the tarragon with the olive oil using  an immersion blender. Allow to stand for an hour or so and then strain through a fine sieve. Store in the fridge but bring to room temperature  to serve.

Use the tarragon oil:

  • In simple salad dressings – combine with black pepper syrup and freshly squeezed lemon juice and toss with  simple salad greens.
  • Drizzled over roasted beetroot and goat’s cheese with black pepper syrup
  • Added to savoury muffins
  • In egg dishes
  • As a marinade for chicken  – with the black peppercorn syrup

Black pepper syrup

Combine 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of crushed black pepper. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about half an hour. Cool, strain and store in the fridge. Use the stained black pepper kernels in any dish that calls for crushed black pepper.

Has been known to:

  • Combine exceptionally well with tarragon oil
  • Invigorate the childhood favourite, macaroni cheese
  • Add a certain je ne sais quoi to a Swiss chard, sage and spring onion fritatta