Food – Seasonal sense

2010-10-02 11:11

Seasonal eating is top of the foodie pops, as is growing your own or buying local if you absolutely can’t plant seeds.

According to local author Jane Griffiths, growing food is easy once you get started and you’ll soon end up with an abundance.

Her latest book, Jane’s Delicious Kitchen, explains how to harvest, store and use seasonal food.

Griffiths’ first book, Jane’s ­Delicious Garden, is a step-by-step guide to growing your own veggies, herbs and fruits according to South African seasons. I am a fan.

So when I was invited to cook with her at the recent Good Food and Wine Show in Johannesburg, I leapt at the chance.

Not only would I get my hands on an ­advance copy of Jane’s Delicious Kitchen, but I would get to have a go at the recipes.

At the event each of us was given a cooking station, three of Griffiths’ recipes and – most luxurious of all – all the ingredients ready chopped and portioned by the ­students of a local cooking school.

I was nervous at the prospect of cooking in front of all sorts of foodie types, but Griffiths’ recipes are simple and I was soon caught up in getting it right.

The audience faded away (apart from the heckler in the front row who egged us on to increasing stir-frying prowess).

The dishes were herb salt, Som Tam cabbage salad, and Chengdu chicken and cashew nut stir fry.

In 45 minutes we had finished ­preparing all the dishes and were ready to sample our freshly cooked lunch.

Not only that, two of the dishes required no cooking at all and the third was a 10-minute stir fry. Talk about reducing your ­carbon footprint.

The value of this book in our ­increasingly environmentally ­conscious world is that it promotes a waste not, want not attitude.

This delicious Som Tam cabbage salad can be served with anything

you like from chicken to ­tofu.

When there’s an abundance of one vegetable – be it home-grown or on sale at the supermarket – the book shows you how to make the most of it and store some for leaner times.

500g marjoram

500g oregano

500g rosemary

500g thyme

5 cups coarse sea salt

7.5ml of lemon zest

Wash and dry the herbs well.

There must be no moisture left on them or you end up with mush. Strip the leaves off all the woody stalks and chop finely in a food processor.

For each cup of herbs, add two cups of sea salt and blend with some lemon zest.

Put into a container and keep it in the fridge. It’s delicious to cook with.

I put a dollop into whatever I am cooking.

This is a clever making-do version of a Thai street classic – green papaya salad.

It’s incredibly hard to get green papayas here so this version with cabbage works just as well.

It’s best with plenty of bite, which is offset by the sweetness of the palm sugar, the saltiness of the fish sauce and the tartness of the lime.

2 egg noodle portions

2 fresh red chillies

1 clove garlic

¼ cup unsalted roast peanuts

1 cup carrots (thinly sliced)

1½ tablespoons palm sugar

1½ tablespoons fish sauce

1½ tablespoons lime juice

2 cups red and green cabbage
(finely sliced)

Cook the noodles until soft, rinse in cold water, toss in a little oil and set aside.

Using a large pestle and mortar (or a big bowl and a wooden spoon), grind the garlic and chilli until they form a chunky paste.

Add the peanuts and pound around. Add the carrots, palm sugar, fish sauce and lime juice, and mix well.

Add the cabbage and pound lightly so that the cabbage is just bruised and absorbs the flavour of the sauce.

Serve with the cold noodles. Add fresh coriander to garnish.

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