When I moved to Somerset West in 2009, I was 25. I have been living with my parents before then, so except for being brilliant at making salads and baking anything with sugar in it, I wasn’t really experienced in the art of cooking. I could chop vegetables beautifully (unlike one of my previous flatmates who, when he moved in with me, had to be taught how to chop a tomato), and if there was a recipe to follow, I could cook it. But making something from scratch based on cooking-experience was something I still had to learn. So, in order to feed myself in those first few months, I just made veggies and steamed fish or chicken for dinner, because that was all I knew how to cook. I lost a lot of weight during that period, but then I moved into a new home with a nice kitchen.
By Cape Town standards that is. It had black marble counter-tops, lots of cupboard space, a washing basin AND rinsing basin and enough space to move around in when you have guests. So I started cooking and experimenting. Now, sometimes when you experiment with cooking you can create something you will be proud to present on MasterChef, but sometimes you should have just rather followed the recipe.
how to kill your brother’s love for omelettes
Like when I made an omelette for my brother with cheese, avocado and a few other ingredients that I can’t remember now. It might have been the few ingredients that I can’t remember, but after that day he couldn’t eat omelettes for YEARS. But even though I might have killed my brother’s love for omelettes, I still think something good came out of that day. I learnt the art of experimenting with food and dealing with the consequences.
Fast forward a few years later and my art of experimenting also included trying out a new recipe for the first time when I’m cooking for family or friends or throwing a dinner party. Like the time I made this quite easy sweet chili coconut chicken recipe where you bake the chicken in the oven until cooked and then bake it in a sauce for a few minutes more. After baking it for three hours, having tested whether the chicken is cooked a few times, I decided that it MUST be ready now, so I dished for everyone. Somehow I was the first one to cut open my chicken and was horrified when a bloody sauce oozed out. I immediately gathered everyone’s plates so that I can cook the chicken again, but our one guest was so hungry that he just helped himself to three plates of rice and veggies. That night we never ate the chicken.
sugarless rusks that even coffee couldn’t cure
So my experimentation with foods went through difference phases. First, it was just basic food, but then I started to buy the Pick ‘n Pay Fresh Living magazine for inspiration for new recipes. Then I upgraded to Sarie Kos. Then I started focusing on baked goods like macarons and muffins again. I also started to bring my baked goodies to my office so that my colleagues could give me some feedback. And then I started to want to “healthify” the muffins, because I tended to eat too much of what I was baking and reckoned if it is a bit healthier, then it is okay if I eat four muffins a day. So I made beetroot muffins. They were sort of healthy, but I was still using flour and butter, so I started researching and trying to replace these with other ingredients. And sometimes it even worked! I started to incorporate the ingredient switching into other baked goods like rusks. This was also when I was going through a no sugar phase and decided to replace the two cups of sugar in the recipe with “nothing” and substitute the sugary All Bran flakes in the recipe for wheat bran. Not only did my coffee not soften those rusks, they were also inedible. Wheat bran is not the perfect substitute for All Bran flakes. And I realised that I like things that are at least a little bit sweet.
healthy sprouted protein treats
I then bought myself a 1000-watt food processor/juicer/smoothie maker. It was the best R1 800 I’ve ever spent. I have been using it every day for almost two years and it is still going strong. I started juicing the beets instead of putting them in muffins, making lots of green smoothies and making my healthy protein treats. A lot of internet articles later I combined the art of sprouting with these treats. (For those of you who don’t know what sprouting is, it is when you plant the seeds of wheat grass/alfalfa/chickpeas or any other vegetable or grain and then, when it starts to sprout, add it to your salads or juiced into smoothies. Sprouting your foods first before eating assists your body with the digestion as the protective layer surrounding the food disappears when it sprouts. This also kick-started my interest in JERF.
Just eat real food (JERF) makes your life so much easier. Instead of trying to supplement with store bought vitamins and other expensive measures, I just made sure that I eat my food in the most-unprocessed state possible. So instead of buying beef stock in the shops, I started making my own. You can buy beef bones at any Pick ‘n Pay for R9.99 per kilogram and make the most deliciously flavourful and healthy stock at home. When I feel that my body needs a little help with digesting my food, I don’t turn to manufactured medicine, but use papaya instead. Papaya is amazing as a digestive tool for your body. And instead of buying anti-inflammatories at the pharmacy, I started drinking turmeric.
I like to call turmeric and other spices “rainbow vitamins” as they are so colourful and is a great natural way to supplement. Turmeric is my favourite rainbow vitamin. It is a great natural way to heal any inflammation in your body. It has a very long history of medicinal use and is being recognised more and more in mainstream media. Ginger is a wonderful immunity booster when you feel a bit rundown. And it is so cheap and easy to find in stores. Cilantro has many wonderful properties, but what I like most about it is that it helps your body to detox from harmful heavy metals such as lead and mercury. Every single herb and spice that can be found in nature has some health boosting property that makes it beneficial for human consumption. And that is when I started to manufacture my own Rainbow Vitamins. Keep an eye out for my future blog posts where I will be discussing each of the vitamins from nature in more detail.