By Louise Liebenberg
TODAY’S post on The Global Table blog is a little different from our usual approach in that we’re not sharing a recipe… rather, we’re doing a round-up of interesting and/or unusual ingredients and products Salvelio and I have come across in recent months and have been putting to creative use in our home kitchen. Also on the list are a few time-saving products relatively new on the market that’ll fool even the most finnicky of dinner guests!
After watching Britain’s luscious Nigella Lawson sprinkle these crushed, jewel-like bits over her avocado ritz (no one does retro dining better than Nigella) on the telly, I went on my own little mission to track down pink peppercorns.
It took a while as they always seemed to be mixed in with white and black peppercorns for a rainbow effect that looks great in a grinder, but tends to overwhelm the taste buds.
But finally, success! I found pink peppercorns at the tiny spice shop at the Sixth Avenue Shopping Centre in Walmer, Port Elizabeth and was soon adding these to my strawberry and Greek yoghurt dessert (above) and other dishes for a more subtle and aromatic spice sensation.
The same shop also sells basmati rice in huge cloth sacks. The quality is excellent and the rice is delightfully fragrant – you’ll save yourself a packet by buying in bulk.
Another of my all-time favourite foodie finds is Spanish smoked paprika (left), a long-time store cupboard staple in the Liebenberg-Meyer household given Salvelio’s Latin roots. Family and friends visiting from Spain are always instructed to bring along a few tins of El Colorin smoked paprika, or “pimenton”, as it is known there.
Smoked paprika is markedly different from the regular stuff we know here in South Africa. One of the key ingredients in chorizo sausage, it has a very gentle bite and of course a delicious smokiness and vivid colour that make it a winner when preparing anything from succulent steaks to peasant-style pork stews.
I confess I fly through my beautiful little tins, which thankfully you can now also find in the spice section at Woolworths, although theirs come in a darling, bright red tin you’ll want to keep long after the good stuff has run out.
I recently did an article for Weekend Post’s MyWeekend on The 2 Fat Butchers, a new deli-butchery run by Andrew and Craig Broughton (left), of Leicester in the UK. This Port Elizabeth shop is at the traffic circle in Sixth Avenue, Walmer, and the two amiable brothers sell dry-cured, smoked bacon that is quite honestly fantastic. It’s so good it’s now being stocked by the likes of Shamwari Townhouse and other Mantis properties for their fancy breakfast menus. Andrew tells me a lot of butcheries and shops cheat with smoked goods by using liquid smoke flavour, but not these guys. They meticulously do the smoking by hand using proper wood chips. The result? Brilliant bacon that has been made using a completely natural process – and you won’t be left with horrid water in the pan when frying up these strips either.
Did I say “faggots”? Yes, my current favourite “meal in a minute” is a tray of oddly-named traditional British meatballs in thick, rich gravy. I also buy them at The 2 Fat Butchers at R25 per tray of four. If it sounds a little pricey rest assured these good, old-fashioned meatballs, which originated in the English Midlands in the 1850s, are so hefty you’d battle to finish even two. I take them to work and eat them over two days, or haul them out when a ready-made meal is all I have time for. And considering Salvelio and I don’t generally do ready-made, they really must be good – and without any of the additives usually associated with ready-made supermarket meals.
Bokomo now make “premium” double chocolate rusks that get a definite thumbs up from us. I’ve no idea how long they’ve been selling these as I tend to avoid the “Ouma rusks” aisle, mainly because shop rusks (especially those rectangular cut ones) all taste the same to me – like the cardboard they’ve been packaged in! The Premium range has similar packaging to the yucky ones but taste much better, although they obviously are a little more pricey (about R25). I didn’t think I’d like the sound of chocolate rusks, but they really are yummy, especially with piping hot cocoa. We’ve tried the chewy cherry and sunflower seed ones and enjoyed them, while Bokomo also make their Premium rusks in other enticing flavours like hazelnut and French vanilla, which I haven’t tried yet but imagine will somehow taste better with coffee than with tea.
Our friend Glenn always spoke fondly of his Aunty Ina, especially when using his “Aunty Ina’s secret recipe” when baking muffins. Later we uncovered his deception by finding a packet of Ina Paarman instant muffin mix hidden right at the back of the grocery cupboard. It does prove the point that no matter what the occasion you can always rely on Ina! Salvelio and I always have her tomato pesto in stock as it makes a great tomato base for home-made pizzas. My newest Ina Paarman favourite is her sachets of concentrated liquid stock. I’ve tried both the chicken and the fish stock and both tasted home-made – where else can you buy fish stock anyway, unless you make it yourself and stink up your whole house in the process? I abhor stock cubes or powder and prefer to make most of my stocks from scratch. These concentrated “real” stocks are a good compromise and the bonus is they aren’t loaded with additives.
My friend Lorraine who lives in Jo’burg and is married to an American came for dinner the other day and the two of them loved this stuff so much they nearly licked out my butter dish! I buy the square, 250g tubs produced by Alric Dairy in Humansdorp. I used to stock up on these whenever I was in Jeffreys Bay or Humansdorp for work, then just pop them in the freezer and use as needed. You can also get them from Checkers Sixth Avenue and some of the Fruit and Veg City outlets in Port Elizabeth. Farm butter is different from regular supermarket butter in that it is much more rustic looking and a rich yellow colour, and has tiny salty droplets that spring up when you scrape your knife along it. To die for!!!
Every foodie knows Maldon sea salt, not least thanks to British TV chefs like Jamie and Nigella, who swear by this famous, traditionally harvested condiment that is still produced by a small family-run business in Essex. The soft, white, flaky crystals have been available in South Africa for some years now from the likes of Pick n Pay and Woolworths and I recently came across their newest offering – salt flakes which have been delicately smoked using oak shavings.
Incidentally, I see there is now also a somewhat more local version of Maldon imported by Cerebos from Namibia, of all places. It comes in easy-to-spot black packaging but, disappointingly, does not appear to be much cheaper than Maldon even though it’s been harvested in southern Africa.
8. Solid cacao
I was so excited to find 100% pure cacao from Willie’s World-Class Cocoa at my nearest Woolworths, which they are now selling at half price as no one seems remotely interested in trying the product (or, I suspect, has any idea how to use it). I probably would not have given it a try either if it was still priced at R70-something instead of the now far more affordable “reduced to clear” R30-something. There are still a few packets left at the Walmer Park branch of Woolies, to the left of where you enter the queue section, so I’m hoping to stock up on a few more for future use (even though I now see by the date stamp the cacao has already expired, ugh!!! Wonder if you can freeze them?)
Anyway, this innovative product was the brainchild of Willie Harcourt-Cooze, a Briton who has inspired foodies the world over to change the way they think of and enjoy cacao. His offering is basically a big cylinder of solid cacao which you grate for baking or to make hot cocoa. It sounds like a bother but I promise you it isn’t… and the texture is like proper chocolate, only there’s no sugar in it at all. I absolutely love this stuff – it makes a cup of steamy cocoa infinitely more rich and chocolatey than Bourneville!