Cooking smart, eating healthy

2014-10-19 15:00

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The kitchen in the Groenewald home is a happy place. It is a creative space, a room of laughter and conversations. It is a place to recharge and find nourishment – and food is always at the centre.

It starts with the three-year-old helping out in the kitchen and the six-year-old meticulously setting the antique wooden table, an heirloom.

When researching the subject of hidden hunger in South Africa, I felt sad that something that brings my family so much joy is a daily struggle for so many.

My sons have never gone to bed on empty stomachs – except for the night my three-year-old flatly refused to eat a lovely stir-fry because there were too many green things in it.

It was a lesson I did not need to repeat: the power of hunger can convince even the most obstinate three-year-old that “yucky green things” are wonderful.

While lunch is mostly leftovers and a quick bite on the run, and breakfasts are a hurried egg in a pan, I plan dinner with military precision, selecting the dish and the recipe at the crack of dawn.

It must be fresh, tasty, nutritious and interesting. I try to buy ethical, environmentally friendly products, and as much unprocessed grub as possible.

We eat well, but our monthly food bill is not exorbitant.

The quickest way to whittle away cash is to spend it on junk food and ready-made meals. Restaurants are fun, but should deliver something special that I can’t make better at home.

Muses like Jamie Oliver and Reuben Riffel have taught me how to be a smart cook, to stock up in the pantry so that even after a crazy day I can always find something fantastic and nutritious in my cupboard to feed the family.

There are always frozen chicken thighs and mince in the freezer, as well as the kids’ guilty indulgence – fish fingers.

Lovely stews present a way to use cheap meat cuts in interesting ways, and to hide those green things that the three-year-old still can’t get his head around.

But it takes time to prepare. Enter the slow cooker, that miracle appliance that turns a few hastily added ingredients in the morning into a scrumptious dinner.

I love to experiment. No week’s menu is ever the same. Curry in all its glorious forms is a regular.

Every now and then, we will create our own pizzas from scratch, even making the dough for the base ourselves. It has become a fun food ritual on its own. On Friday nights, we have started the food of the world night where we prepare strange but tasty dishes from across the world.

We are privileged to find such pleasure in food, to never question whether there will be a meal tonight. Families surviving on bread and sugar water is a foreign concept – but it is happening in South Africa today, all day, every day.

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