Being 50 is interesting. Besides having an ever-expanding squishy tummy, very few muscles, miserable eyesight and much less energy, I also have nostalgia. Heaps of it.
Since I was a teenager, I have kept a recipe scrap book. My mum had one and I guess I just followed in her footsteps. Earlier this year I seemed to have mislaid my book and have been searching with much distress for months. Last week, much to my delight, I discovered it lurking beneath a pile of handmade paper and interesting pictures torn from magazines. This seemed to call for a celebratory read. Obviously, there were quite a few meaty recipes as I began compiling the book before I became mindful of cruel food, but there were also many delightful treasures. Here are some of the things I discovered:
Dad’s Munchero Sauce a la Peter – something I haven’t ever tried to reproduce. My Dad loved to conjure something out of nothing and this was obviously one of those creations. Written out carefully in my 10 year old handwriting. Everything was called ‘a la’ something or other in those days.
Mom’s Mock Crayfish – oh, how 60’s can you get?! This involved fish fingers, tomato sauce, seafood mayonaise, worcester sauce and tabasco sauce – all muddled up with an onion! I vividly remember party guests saying how “you would never tell the difference”! oh my word, I wonder if they had ever eaten a freshly caught crayfish simply cooked? Perhaps the vast quantities of alcohol consumed in the 60’s helped? I don’t think I have ever actually made this although it is faithfully copied from my mother’s recipe book.
Spanish Chicken – Megan de Beyer – my ballet teacher and a big influence in my life. This involved chickens, onions, green peppers (we hadn’t heard of red peppers yet) with tomato sauce, worstershire sauce, vinegar, sugar and tomatoes. I remember it being utterly delicious and the first thing I cooked for my siblings when I came back from Europe.
Flo Bateman’s 3 bean salad – this was regularly served up for Christmas lunch (and other days too) and we loved it. A tin each of green beans, butter beans and kidney beans all mixed together. The miracle of canning!
My sister, Mel, had written out a cake recipe from our school housecraft lessons – called GHS Chocolate Cake. I am most amused to see that the only thing vaguely chocolatey in it is 3 teaspoons of Nesquik! I also found her Fudge recipe, which she is delighted to hear about.
Kath Clothier’s Elderflower cordial – I have very happy memories of summer days in Dorset picking Elderflowers off their stems to soak with sugar and boiling water. Kath also made Elderflower Wine, but I don’t have that recipe.
Aunty Syl’s Hungry Boy’s tart – after my mum died, my Aunt obviously thought I should learn some staples. This tart involved making a simple pastry crust, spreading it with jam and baking. It was quick and yummy and the hungry boys loved it.
Spagetti del Verde – Max. When I was visiting the Longhin family in Torino Italy, I was enthralled by the long lunch breaks. At least two hours. Claudia would walk home from her office and Max would prepare a leisurely lunch, usually buying the ingredients just that morning! I also remember a trip into the hills one Sunday with the family, where we were served a whole roasted chicken for lunch and a pile of yellow polenta (the first time I tasted it).
In Europe I also learnt Tsatsiki from Gisela Wassmann who still lives on the Greek Island of Poros. It’s a classic and probably it was during that summer holiday with Bill and Gisela that I tasted really good, simple, fresh food for the first time – overlooking the Meditteranean sea and tiny islands – fresh green beans, just picked fruit, local olives. I’d certainly never heard of tsatsiki before, so copied the recipe down carefully.
Louise Scott’s lemon potatoes – Lou did the dinner party twirl with us when Paul and I lived in Pietermaritzburg, and this was one of her staples. Sliced potatoes, dotted with butter, bits of beef stock cube and lemon juice and baked. She could also do it with marmite and we loved it!
Green peppercorn Chicken – Paul and I cooked this regularly for dinner parties in the 90’s. It was fabulous and we served it with little steamed potatoes and mange tout usually. What fun (huh?!) all those dinner parties were. We would prepare for days before hand. Does anyone do that now? This recipe came from the Australian House and Garden magazine which I used to subscribe to.
Wendy’s mango dessert – for years I always celebrated birthdays with my friends Jane and Wendy. This clever dessert tasted fantastic, but was easy as pie: slices of fresh mango in a bowl, top with mixture of cream and yoghurt and then a thick layer of soft brown sugar on top. leave overnight for the sugar to sink through the yoghurt. Delish. Jane lives in Zululand now (I wonder if she ever makes this for her guests at Malala Lodge?) and Wendy died recently. Everything changes.
Chrys Goote’s Soya Burgers – Chrys was my cool vegetarian friend before I ventured down that path. She taught me to make soya burgers which we called Green Burgers to get the kids to eat them! There were quite nice, but not as nice as the homemade pork and beef burgers we made to braai in between….
Granny’s lemon meringue pie – we just adored Paul’s mum’s lemon meringue pie which she made for us on our monthly trips to Joburg. I don’t think I have ever attempted to make one myself. Her’s is impossible to beat.
Fiona’s beetroot or carrot cake – when I moved to the Midlands countryside, I met more alternate folk, Fiona was among them. I remember being startled at the bright pink cake she made using beetroot. Of course, I am completely used to that now and expect beetroot or zucchini or polenta cake at birthday parties!
Call-Up Quiche – this used to be known as Savoury Slice. I spent time in iMfolozi Reserve with my friends Kerrin and Lawrence and cooked it for a late night picnic which involved doing a ‘Lion Call Up’. Lawrence is a game ranger guy and had to check out how the lion’s who lived around them were doing. The call up involves a dead Impala, recordings of a buffalo in distress to entice the lion’s to the feast. They are darted with tranquilizers and tissue samples and things are taken. Honestly, the most surreal surroundings for a picnic, but here is the picture to prove it – me and two immobile lionesses – with hungry hyenas lurking nearby! Certainly, a delicious courgette, potato, egg and cheese nibble should be named in honour of this event. Ask me for the recipe if you are interested.