Lamb in white wine with green olives.

Ingredients

  • 750g Lamb leg or loin cubes
  • 3 large carrots cut into small cubes
  • 1 large brown onion diced
  • 1 cup green, pitted olives
  • 500 ml lamb stock
  • 500ml dry white wine
  • 3 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 heaped tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 300ml cream
  • Salt/pepper
  • Olive oil

Method

  • Heat a good splash of olive oil in a heavy based pan and a high
    heat
  • Season the raw meat well with salt and pepper
  • When oil is hot, brown the meat in batches being careful not to
    overcrowd the pan
  • Remove the meat and set aside
  • Turn the heat down to medium and add onions and carrots to
    the pan. Sautee until starting to soften – about 7 minutes
  • Stir through the garlic and herbs and gently fry for about 1 minute
  • Add the wine and stock, cover the pot and gently simmer until the
    meat is very tender – +/- 2 hours – check seasoning half way
    through
  • When the meat is ready, add the olives and simmer for a further
    5 minutes
  • Remove pan from the heat and stir through the cream
  • Serve in a bowl with steamed rice

 Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Laughter is the best Medicine

My brother Bernard died in early March 2016, and his philosophy was to keep on laughing as a way to cope with the pain he endured for several years due to his aggressive cancer. It must have been such a difficult time for him to have endured, but I can say that he did seem to have managed to keep on laughing almost to the end.  He was extremely intelligent and unbelievably well read but had a very wicked and totally sacrilegious sense of humour and had no hesitation in taking the mickey out of all and sundry. I do believe though that a certain level of intelligence is linked to a good sense of humour – real humour, that is, and not the Laurel and Hardy slapstick type.

It has been documented by psychologists that there are noticeable changes which take place in the brain when one is laughing and there is no doubt that time spent having a good belly laugh changes one’s perspective, even if it is short lived. Laughter decreases stress hormones and improves one’s immune response as well as increasing antibodies to help fight infection and illness.  There is always something which one can find to laugh about, it just takes regular practice. A happy baby just laughs because he can, and that in itself is enough to make those around him laugh as well.

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Laughter therapy as a holistic treatment to assist in mental as well as physical well-being appears to be on the increase and there are centres in America for the treatment of cancer patients where laughter therapy is being advocated.  There is also Laughter Yoga and both Laughter Therapy as well as Laughter Yoga can be investigated on the internet as there seem to be various options available and an abundance of information.  If these methods can help alleviate day to day stressful situations and aid in coping with diseases such as cancer, then they do deserve some serious (excuse the choice of words) consideration.

Those who readily smile and refrain from taking themselves too seriously are often people who are having to cope with the most difficult of situations. These same people are often very quick to laugh and often at themselves. However, there are many of the miserable ones out there in the big bad world who are just sad sacks who really have very little to complain about. Yes, maybe they are just depressive by nature, but sadly their tendency to see the glass half empty instead of half full, can be a turn-off as far as other people wanting to spend time with them is concerned.

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I live in a suburb where there are many upmarket retirement complexes in the vicinity. People buying into these complexes are most certainly not financially needy as the prices asked in most of them are too high for many citizens to afford.  The local shopping centre is frequented by many of these “pensioners” and there is rarely a smiling face among them. Sad to say they really could do with taking a look in the mirror at their miserable, down-turned mouths and start re-assessing their good fortune. They have the security of the complex, the comfort of a warm bed at night, and very often relatively good health to enjoy. A smile and more than that, a really good belly laugh, could improve their looks remarkably!

Don’t get me wrong – I am not attacking only the older generation regarding their lack of a smile or a sense of humour. There are many much younger people who seem to suffer from the same disease called “smilelessness” and many of them drive fancy cars and dress in expensive clothes and even have time for personal pampering sessions. It doesn’t seem to change the fact that they just don’t seem to take the time to look at their lives, be grateful for what they have and smile and laugh a bit along life’s way.

“A wonderful thing about true laughter is that it destroys any
kind of system of dividing people.” – John Cleese

Despite all the negativity which is so prevalent in South Africa currently, it isn’t hard to find a smiling face. Usually it is the less fortunate people who have very little to be thankful for who are the quickest to respond to a friendly greeting with a huge smile. It is an African custom to greet one another in passing, regardless of whether or not you know the person whom you greet. Having studied an African language as well as the culture of several of the African language groups, it has become second nature for me to wave or greet African people when I pass by. If the day is bleak for whatever reason, a friendly smile and a “how are you?” can go such a long way to improving one’s frame of mind. Taking a few minutes to make some or other silly remark to the people one meets during the course of the day often can result in laughter.  Therefore, how sad that in the case of so many privileged people,  a smile would most likely cause their dissatisfied faces to crack – and a laugh, now that is really stretching things a bit too far!

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Caramel and Salted Pretzel Mousse

Ingredients

  • 1 x 380g tin caramel / dulce de Leche
  • 400ml cream
  • 100g egg whites
  • 1 tblsp icing sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • Crushed salted pretzels
  • Cocoa nibs

Method

  • Whip the caramel/dulce de leche until smooth
  • Whip the cream with the icing sugar until soft peaks are formed
  • Whip the egg whites with a pinch of sugar until soft peaks have formed.
  • Fold the cream into the caramel and then fold in the egg whites
  • Pour into glasses to serve topping with crushed salted pretzels and cocoa nibs (optional)

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Pasta with Anchovies

Spaghetti with Anchovy, Capers, Chilli and Garlic

This is a really easy pasta dish which can literally be made in under 15minutes. An important note however – never, ever underestimate how under salted pasta can impact negatively on the final flavour of a dish. It is often said that the water you cook pasta in should be as salty as the Mediterranean Sea!! I cook my pasta in a pot with approximately 5 litres of water. I use 3 heaped tablespoons of table salt, and this produces pasta with the right amount of saltiness. Alternatively, if you live close enough to the beach, you can always pop across to the water’s edge and fill your pot with sea water!!

Ingredients

  • 1 small tin (or 50g) anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 medium brown onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 – 2 chillies finely chopped (you can use as hot, or as mild as you wish – I prefer hotter for this dish)
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons capers, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large handful Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • Zest of one lemon finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 1 packet spaghetti

Method

  • Heat a pot of well salted water until boiling and cook the spaghetti until done – “Al Dente”.
  • Whilst cooking the pasta you can make the sauce.
  • On a low – medium heat, gently sauté the onion in a good splash of olive oil until softened – about 6 -7 minutes.
  • Add the chillies and gently fry for about another minute or two.
  • Add the garlic and gently fry for about 1 minute.
  • Add the chopped anchovies and stir through.
  • Add the capers and stir through.
  • Gently cook for about another minute adding another splash of olive oil if the sauce seems a little dry.
  • Remove from the heat and stir through the parsley and lemon zest.
  • Drain the pasta.

Serve the sauce over the spaghetti adding some cracked black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

 

Attitude can make all the difference

Isn’t it amazing how, when you begin your day in a negative frame of mind, everything under the sun seems to be against you and there is just one disaster after another just waiting to happen! However, if you stop and consider the positives that the negative situation has created, things can be so very different!

“Keep your values positive because your values
become your destiny” – Mahatma Gandhi

It’s 6.30a.m. and you panic as you are already 30 minutes behind your usual schedule. Strange how dark and quiet everything seems to be and then the proverbial penny drops. There is no electricity and there was no warning either! So, you stumble to the kitchen to put on the kettle and then the realisation kicks in – you have no power and how can you boil the kettle?  Then you remember that you have a gas bottle in the back room which will allow you to make the coffee, and the donuts from yesterday are in the bread bin and will do very nicely for breakfast.

Next step is to have your morning shower. You turn on the water and wait for a few minutes, but it just doesn’t warm up! The geyser has been out of action due to the lack of electricity. Cold showers are meant to be excellent for your circulation and complexion, so you get on with it and the chilly water isn’t all that bad after all. There are so many people who do not have the advantage of having running water. Having to walk a long way in order to fill a bucket from a communal tap is a far cry from taking a cold shower in a comfortable bathroom.

Time to leave home and face the traffic that is going to be exacerbated by all the out of order traffic lights due to the power outage. Oh well, you try to be philosophical, at least the office will have electricity and, after all, there’s not much food in the fridge and freezer at present at home, so if it goes off it’s not the end of the world. Your householder’s insurance should cover any loss or damage to the appliances due to a power surge as well as loss of food once the fault has been repaired.  Now there’s a good excuse to try out the new fish and chip shop around the corner – they have a generator, so they will still be frying tonight! Your well stocked candle supply will add a peaceful ambiance whilst you listen to your favourite music on your ancient battery operated c.d. player.

You turn on your car radio and are feeling much more relaxed as you join the snaking line of vehicles all chugging along at a snail’s pace to get onto the motorway. Oh darn it, you have been so busy singing along to one of your favourite songs that you realise in dismay that you are in the wrong lane to turn onto the freeway! You desperately try to catch the eye of the person in the correct lane who is parallel with you and indicate with morse code –like hand signals your dilemma. Wonder of wonders, they smile and shepherd you in to the queue in front of them! Yes, today will be a good day after all and manners really do maketh man ….. and woman too!

Life is full of ups and downs for most people, with the occasional curved ball thrown in, just for good measure and it’s not always easy to stay positive in the face of challenges. However, there is some truth in the old adage that “every cloud has a silver lining”- it’s all about having the courage to look for the silver lining when those clouds are bearing down on you.  Trying to laugh when you really feel like crying, and counting your blessings instead of concentrating on your mountain of woes and worries – sound like easy solutions. For many people they are actually very difficult to achieve and it’s at times like this that you often need to ask for help, whether from a friend, a colleague or a professional . Attitude is very important to our being able to carry on in a world which is by no means perfect, and we are not superhuman. To ask for support in order to regain a positive attitude is a tough call for many of us, as we all like to appear to be confident and coping members of the human race. It is, once again, a case of our attitude to asking for help that can make all the difference when the road ahead seems to be very rocky. Fortunately, it is a fact that “this too will pass” and we can often look back at our difficult times and feel triumphant in the knowledge that we survived and are able to once again enjoy the many pleasant things which make us human.

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference” – Winston Churchill

Mushroom, Spinach and Gruyere Tart

This is a great vegetarian dish and incredibly tasty. You can use any wild                                mushrooms.

Ingredients

  •    800g mushrooms thinly sliced
  •    200g gruyere, grated
  •    2 bags baby spinach
  •    3 cloves garlic crushed
  •    2 small shallots finely diced
  •    2-3 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
  •    Puff pastry
  •    Olive oil
  •    Salt and pepper
  •    200 g wild mushrooms – enoki, shimeji, chanterelles, oyster

Method

  • Turn the oven on to 180.
  • Butter and line a tart tin.
  • Roll out your pastry and lay into the tart tin, gently pressing into the sides.
  • Prick the base of the pastry and bake blind for about 15 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven.

Filling

  • Blanch the spinach in boiling water until wilted.
  • Remove from the pot, drain and roughly chop.
  • In a pan, sauté the shallots in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil until softened – +/- 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and mushrooms and thyme, and gently cook until the mushrooms have softened +/- 5-8 minutes.
  • Add the spinach and stir through.
  • Remove from the heat and stir through the gruyere.
  • Taste and season as required.

Finishing

  • Transfer the filling to the cooked tart base and cook in the oven for 8-10 minutes.
  • Whilst the tart is cooking, sauté the wild mushroom on high heat in 1 tablespoon butter.
  • Remove the tart, scatter the wild mushrooms over the top.
  • Allow to stand for a few minutes, remove from the tart tin and serve.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

 

Materialism in the 21st Century

One only has to be in contact with children these days to see that quality time spent with parents seems, in many families, to be a very rare commodity. Both parents are usually working full time just to pay the bills and with the amount of time spent in traffic commuting to and from the workplace it stands to reason that juggling work and family time is a constant battle. At the end of the day it is much easier to give the children material gifts instead of trying to fit in reading a story to them, or chatting to them about the events of their day.  The majority of children from middle to upper income homes all seem to have access to the latest technology such as mobile phones, tablets and computers as well as having no shortage of up to the minute clothing – brands such as Nike or Adidas being firm favourites. Even very young children are demanding clothes with Disney or superhero logos on them, all of which are more expensive than the no-name items. So, materialism and the desire to have more and more belongings can begin very early in the home.

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Obviously the above observation is very general, but it is now accepted that children are communicating with each other via their mobile phones, and even youngsters barely out of nappies are allowed to play games on their parents’ devices.  Travelling with young children can be very challenging and it seems to be quite normal to settle them in the back of the car with headphones and a choice of entertainment on tablets or i-pads. What happened to talking to them and playing games such as spotting certain makes of car or animals in the fields or a game of I spy with my little eye something beginning with the letter ….?

Obviously sending youngsters to crèche or nursery school does alleviate a certain amount of the guilt feelings which parents may have due to their rushed lifestyles. However, even these institutions seem to foster the whole concept of materialism. I have seen that it is customary for children as young as 2 who are at crèches or nursery schools to be expected to come dressed in costumes for events such as Valentine’s Day, Halloween, or Superhero Day.  The poor overworked parents now have to conform otherwise their child is going to be the odd one out. The world really has gone stark raving mad! All these extra demands which are being made on the parents always result in purchasing things such as dress up items which really don’t have an awful lot to do with education when all is said and done. This whilst many millions of children worldwide are living in abject poverty. Somehow the more we are made aware of the desperate situation of millions of people all over the world, the more we are hammered with adverts to buy this, wear that and drive the other! Definitely, the first world as well as developing nations are constantly being succoured in to the ego-driven world of materialism. Sad, but true!

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If one looks at the way in which our parents or grandparents managed to survive without the trappings of modern day materialism and compare our lives today, we see just how things seem to be spiralling out of control at an alarming pace. In years gone by, life was tough for the majority of people and children had very few belonging. Clothes and footwear were often hand me downs  and the only toys may have been home-made playthings – a far cry from today where everything in the modern world is geared to spend, spend, spend and then more!

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Nowadays the leftover Christmas turkey has hardly been devoured when shops are advertising Valentine’s Day gifts. After that it is the Easter eggs which are on the shelves alongside appealing fluffy bunnies. Hardly time to take a breath then it’s (in certain countries) Mother’s Day, followed by Father’s Day and the last one to hit the money grabbing retail outlets – Halloween! Where is it all going to end? There is definitely a move towards once again creating instead of buying a mass produced product. Examples are young women learning to knit and crochet after years of such pastimes being scorned by many. Another avenue which has taken the world by storm is cooking and baking.  One only has to channel hop on television to come across yet another cooking competition and these have certainly inspired many people to attempt to cook or bake instead of buying ready-made food.

Maybe, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.  If there is a concerted worldwide effort to try to educate our children to appreciate the little things in life, which perhaps are far more important than material belongings, then things may change for the better. There are so many organisations involved in saving the planet, preserving endangered species, and caring for the less fortunate, which can be a means of making children aware of the importance of social responsibility. Education leads to knowledge and knowledge is power. Therefore educators as well as parents and family members can all help to improve this materialistic world before it implodes on itself due to mankind’s ignorance and selfishness. One can but hope and hope is what keeps us humans continuously carrying on regardless!!!

“It is the preoccupation with possessions,
more than anything else, 
that prevents us
from living freely and nobly
” – Bertrand Russell

The World in Chaos

Open any newspaper or magazine and be prepared to feel suicidal! Obviously only negative newsfeed sells! Death, destruction, new untreatable viruses, new research on which foods cause cancer, the mess being created by so many politicians all over the world – the list goes on and on. What does one do to try to remain positive when surrounded by all this negative hype?

Emigrate? Where to and who can afford to emigrate anyway? The super rich are probably not in the slightest bit affected by negative news stories. With enough money and time on one’s hands it is easy enough to jet off to a paradise island where one can be pampered and waited on hand and foot and to heck with the rest of the world! No need to relocate if you are in a position to flit all over the world as the whim takes you. However, that is not the situation for the average human being.

Most of us have to try to find ways to constantly look on the bright side of life. Getting rid of televisions, radios and cancelling newspaper deliveries may seem like a good idea for some, but that really is taking the ostrich approach. After all, an intelligent human being does need to keep relatively in tune with what is going on in the world especially when one is dealing with people on a daily basis in one’s line of business.  I know a very well qualified woman who practices alternative treatments  who has absolutely no idea of what is happening in the world outside her practice due to no television, no radio and no newspapers either.  Searching for Utopia is really a pipe dream!

“Learn from yesterday, Live for today, Hope for tomorrow.
The important thing is to not stop questioning” – Albert Einstein

Handling the negative articles is the trick.  Maybe one should limit the amount of news that one watches or reads and search for at least one feel good article to balance things out. The trouble is that often the graphics are so vivid relating to an horrendous world event, that it is virtually impossible to blot out the mental images which remain. Exercise has been proven to improve one’s mood positively due to the influx of endorphins which the brain produces during vigorous routines.  Then it makes good sense to try to fit in a regular exercise regime as often as is possible during one’s normally weekly schedule.

Owning a pet can be therapeutic – depending on the particular animal’s behaviour pattern. Making the time to just stroke the cat, or walk the dog or, if one is a fish fancier, to watch them glide by in the fish tank can calm one down and minimise or even dismiss negative thoughts. I don’t know how true it is, but I did hear that psychiatrists often have a fish tank in their rooms as an antidote to stress? Is it to de-stress themselves or their troubled patients?

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I know that when I was studying psychology, I did find that several of my lecturers who had their own private practices seemed to be more in need of therapy than some of their patients possibly did. One in particular couldn’t stop fidgeting with a string of some or other totem which to some extent reminded one of worry beads. He was possibly a chain smoker, but whilst giving his lecture was under great duress, having to forego his favourite brand. Thus the fidgeting, whilst disturbing his students, may have been his means of controlling his urge to light up.

Then there was another lecturer who had assisted in setting the final paper and he gave us what he called very important tips on what were the most important areas to study on when preparing for our final exam in abnormal psychology. We were told what to highlight and what could be ignored. Come exam time and none of the areas he had told us to concentrate on were even mentioned in the paper!  Surely he must have had psychotic tendencies or was he just a mean devil!

Unless you are in a position to hibernate and ignore everything that is going on around you, then finding your own personal form of coping with the world at large really is a lifetime occupation. The majority of us manage to get on with life despite the curved balls we receive on a regular basis. The well-known saying of “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone” probably goes a long way to helping us to think twice about jumping off that bridge and floating into oblivion. So, let’s turn off the media, grab the dog’s lead and, with a smile on our face, go for a well deserved run in the park!

Just before I post this article, it is extremely saddening to read of the extent of the damage caused to the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris and one can only hope that, with all the donations which have already flooded in for repair purposes, it will one day be restored to its original magnificence.

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Easter and the Bunny

Easter is a very important part of the Christian calendar whereby the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ is commemorated.  However, regardless of the religious connection, children the world over have learnt to associate Easter with that much loved chap, the Easter Bunny. He is often used, nowadays much like Santa Claus, as a blackmailing tool by parents to ensure that their offspring behave well in the days leading up to Easter in order to receive delicious chocolate eggs.

Much can be researched regarding the origin of the Easter Bunny and why he brings eggs as well as the significance of eggs at this time of year. For, after all, bunnies don’t lay eggs! It all has to do with eggs and rabbits being symbols of fertility, dating back to pagan times, although there is a connection with German Lutherans who believed in the ”Osterhase” or Easter hare. When these German Lutheran immigrants arrived in Pennsylvania, USA, in the 1700’s they took this tradition with them. Apparently, the Easter Hare was originally depicted as a kind of judge of children’s good or bad behaviour.  Only the well behaved children would receive Easter eggs. The tradition of the rabbit bringing eggs was then passed on to future generations and still prevails.

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It must be rather confusing for children to make sense of a bunny bringing eggs, but all things considered, the end result isn’t confusing at all! However, I have heard of several occasions where the bunny decided to hide the eggs all around the garden, and in the morning all that was left was shreds of shiny foil wrappers. The family dog had woken up after the bunny had fled in fright no doubt, and devoured the entire hoard of chocolate delights long before the children had woken up.  Apart from heartbroken children, it is to be hoped that the dogs in question survived the feast with no ill effects!

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Anyway, as we approach the Easter weekend (except for the Orthodox Greeks who celebrate Easter later than other churches) it is to be hoped that the bunny is up to the momentous task of delivering all those eggs and that the family dogs are kept safely out of his path.

May I take this opportunity of wishing those of you who are taking a break from your usual routine to enjoy this time with your families and to stay safe wherever you may be, especially if you are travelling. A very happy Easter to you all.

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Fragrant Prawn Curry

This prawn curry is really simple to make and takes no time at all., however care should be taken not to overcook the prawns.

Ingredients

  • 750g – 1Kg raw peeled prawns, tails left on
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 heaped Tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tsp castor sugar
  • 1 Tbsps. tomato paste
  • 300ml fish stock
  • 1 tin coconut milk 400ml
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Basmati rice to serve

Method

  • Add the turmeric and lime juice to the raw prawns. Gently mix to ensure all prawns are well coated and marinade for 20 minutes.
  • Heat a good splash of olive oil in a pan and when hot, fry the prawns in batches making sure not to crowd the pan, until coloured but not cooked all the way through
  • Remove prawns and set aside, covered with a dish towel whilst you make the sauce.
  • Heat 2 Tblsps. of olive oil in a heavy based pan and gently fry the cumin, fenugreek and mustard seeds until the mustard seeds start popping and spices are fragrant
  • Add the chilli and curry leaves and fry until curry leaves are wilted
  • Add ginger and garlic gently fry for about a minute or two, taking care not to burn the garlic
  • Add the tomato paste and fry for a minute
  • Add the fish stock, coconut milk and sugar to the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer and continue to simmer the sauce uncovered for about 15-20 minutes
  • Add the prawns back to the sauce and very gently simmer until the prawns are just cooked through – about 3-5 minutes
  • Season with salt and pepper according to taste
  • Serve in bowls with basmati rice

Nice! and Tasty – Chris