We needed to defrost our bones, so headed for the seaside. We relaxed so much, we even got our dogs some bones of indeterminate origin (likely unhappy) from the local butcher.
Although I accept that finding the kind of food I’d like to on holiday is unlikely, I still try. We stopped at a roadside stall. There were plenty of avocados and we got a bag of crinkly granadillas.
We love the charming, simple cottage tucked beneath the coastal trees in Fig Tree Lane, Pennington. Doris Ngcobo presented us with a bunch of green bananas when we arrived, so our food store was growing. The bananas start to ripen as soon as they are picked, so within a couple of days we were eating fruit grown right in the front garden!
We headed to Pennington Superette in search of anything local. Amongst the buckets and spades, sinkers and swivels we found organic free range eggs from Ifafa – Bingo!
There were the usual market-sourced produce of potatoes, cauliflowers (see pic!), tomatoes, onions, mielies, and shelves crammed with curry spices, nuts, lentils, rice.
We also found quite a lot of locally grown, albeit hydroponically, veggies. Cucumbers, spring onions, chillies, celery, peppers, dhania, green beans. We snapped them all up – we were in for a feast!
I really do love creating dishes from what we can find, but this looked like it was going to be exceptionally easy. Breakfasts started with fruit – usually bananas and sweet granadilla, but I also grilled some oranges and served them in a banana flower petal – gloriously colourful.
Then we had eggs various ways. In honour of the eggs’ origin, I made soft eggs with fried brinjals – something that reminds me of childhood holidays at Ifafa Beach. Our favourite was scrambled with plenty of spring onions, cilantro and chilli – appropriately New World to celebrate the World Cup happening in Brazil.
Lunches were salads of various sorts. The avocados were wonderfully creamy and fresh coriander is the perfect accompaniment. We had brought lemons from home, which got squeezed onto everything.
Our favourite creation was the roasted peppers with sweet corn – the colours are exhuberant and it tastes great too. Try it. We also made an avo and corn salad, equally yummy.
A little shop called Flavours in Ironwood Road had a great selection of locally made tea time treats (and very little else edible). We bought scrummy date things and chocolate and nut squares.
How wonderful to be able to eat suppers out of doors – especially on the Winter Solstice! Paul is scheming about spending every winter in Pennington. Our most interesting meal was green banana curry, which I had heard of, but never made before. In the banana capital of the country, it seemed essential to turn the abundant green ones into something edible too. It was really good. The bananas behaved like potatoes in the curry and I will certainly make it again. Served on a banana leaf for fun!
The indigenous Zulu Basil, Ocium gratissimum, grows in the cottage garden and although it wouldn’t do for Italian style cooking (as for common sweet basil), the spicy clove and lemon flavour is great for curries. I made a potato and coconut milk curry using it. It’s Zulu name is umnandi, which means good/tasty so I guess it must be used in traditional cooking too.
My real delight of the holiday was discovering that Pennington has a micro-brewery. I met Andy the charming brewmaster – how can you not love someone who uses a drawing of their precious Basset hound in the labels?
There were three varieties to try. I liked Umdoni Gold most of all. It is really European tasting – crisp and dry with a bitter finish. The Befreckled Red “an amber ale brewed in the Irish style to tickle your tastebuds” has loads of layers of flavour including caramel. I’m not usually a great fan of darker beer but the Pennington Porter is delicious (and Andy’s favourite). It has a smokey flavour with hints of coffee and chocolate and is not at all heavy.
Best thing of all is that you are encouraged to return the empty bottles for re-use. When I did, Andy gave me an unlabelled bottle of his new brew – a super spicy and fruity beer which he reckons will taste like fruit cake, especially when drunk beside a roaring fire. This will no doubt cheer me up when I am back in the chilly midlands dreaming of sand between my toes!
We seldom bother to eat out but couldn’t resist cappuccino and toasted sarmies at the uMphiti Tearoom on the edge of the dune. Pennington Conservancy rescued this retro treasure from ruin and run it to raise funds for their conservation projects.
So there you have it – there is plenty of local food about, even in unlikely places, if you ask. I did hear about a vegetable growing project called Kumnandi a bit further down the coast, so look forward to finding that next time too.