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  • Caitlin Booker

Happy St Patrick’s Day everybody!

This day has special importance to anyone with Irish heritage (I get mine from my momma). As it is the day we celebrate the Patron Saint of Ireland, St Patrick. There are many legends about St Patrick, which I won’t go into here. But a nugget for any potential pub quiz you might find yourself in, his birth name is believed to be Maewyn Succat.

Me & my Mum when I was a youngen

Globally the day has become synonymous with boozy celebrations. But it is also a day to celebrate all aspects of Irish culture. The most important (in my opinion) being the food.

Irish cuisine is known for being flavorful, no fuss, and comforting. The dishes really are perfect for feeding families, or for when you feel like you need a hug.

The stereotype is that Irish people love potatoes. It isn’t far from the truth, as a lot of traditional dishes do contain potatoes. But, who doesn’t love a potatoe? Fresh, fried or fermented they are the VIP of vegetables.

Speaking of their versatility, today I’m going to share with you a potato bread recipe (also known as potato farl, or potato cake). This is the same recipe that my Grandfather made for my Mom when she was a tiny tot.

So, without further a due, here it is...

  • Caitlin Booker

Well cheers February! *sips wine*

Speaking of February, it‘s a leap year! Ladies you can propose to your man. If you’re born on the 29th Happy Real Birthday! I know a thirty-one year old turning 8.

(Did you have to think about that a bit? So did I *sips wine*)

Now if you are buttering up your man to say yes, or getting to celebrate a birthday for the first time in four years. There’s a sure fire way to make it delicious. I’m talking about my go to chill out, big group, small group, family or client favourite - a potjie.

I feel as if it’s time for a story detour! clears throat, sips wine*.

The first time I made this, it wasn’t a taste test with the family. But, for clients on my first ever catering gig in the bush. A group of super hungry men. Now, the South African guys in the group were very skeptical of my ability to produce a potjie of standard. Afterall, a potjie can go incredibly well, or come out a tasteless mushy mess. Thus, I was bombarded with a lot of unsolicited advice.

Being a stubborn little ass, I ignored all of it. Went with my gut, and produced this the potjie of potjies. This recipe led to one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever received, not just a request to have it again; but the following comment: “I feel like I‘m a little child again, eating with my Grandmother.” I cannot express how happy that comment made me, and I will cherish it forever.

On to the potjie!

The basics. What size pot?

Potjie pots (cooking ones, not the decorative table ones) range from size 1/4 which can feed one person with side dishes, to a size 25 which has th capacity of 70,5 liters and can feed over 100 people with side dishes. The standard potjie I use is a size 4, which feeds up to 16 people with side dishes and about 8 people without.

How much meat?

This depends on your crowd. If they are big eaters up to 400 grams per person - think oh big burly men here. If they are is smaller eaters you can get away with 250 grams per person. If you are using meat with a lot of bones, go for a larger amount to be on the safe side.

What kind of meat?

Stewing meat is perfect, after all a potjie is a form of stew. However, be sure to add pieces with bone, from the neck, tail, or skenkel as the marrow from the bones adds incredible flavour. Most butchers in South Africa have packets of potjie kos these have a mix of bone in, and stewing chunks.

As is well documented I love cooking with venison. No surprise here, but this recipe was developed using venison. Because venison is incredibly lean I add fat in, in the form of cubed pork, or bacon, I have even used pork chops and pork sausages before. This enhances the flavour of the potjie. Using butter, or lard instead of cooking oil is also a nifty trick.

What about sides?

This is super easy, you want something that will absorb some of the sauce. Pap, or mashed potatoes are the best options in my opinion. But if you’d prefer rice, or small pasta shells you won’t be struck down by the culinary gods.

A fresh salad makes a great contrast to the homey comfort of the potjie, but don’t be offended if no one eats it because the potjie is too delicious.

Don’t forget a good bread such as a ciabatta or sourdough to mop up your plate with.

How long does it take?

As with all stews, and most curries the longer it cooks for, the more the flavours develope and the better it tastes. I start mine as early as possible, and aim for a cooking time not shorter than 4 hours.

Basics covered lets get cooking.

With love,

The Gourmet Hippo

  • Caitlin Booker

It is almost the end of Januworry! Now is when we look into our pantries, and use our budget constraints as a reason to “spring clean” its contents. Thinking of it as spring cleaning helps put a positive spin on it - I promise.

Now, in my experience there are two types of pantries/ food cupboards in the world. The first is the bare the one. Usually the owner of this cupboard buys as they need, or the lucky bugger eats out a lot. The contents of it, is usually one rather skeptical tin of tuna, maybe some beans, an assortment of used once spices, and a form of noodle - normally a two minute wanna be ramen, or a half used packet of spaghetti.

The second kind is on the verge of hoarding. It has things in there that the owner can’t really remember if they bought, or if it came with the house. These generally belong to coupon enthusiasts, preppers, or those who love bulk buying for the “savings”. The unfortunate truth is that buying in bulk isn’t always the best option, especially if it’s just going to sit there gathering dust, or there is only two of you in the house. But, moving on...

No matter which pantry you have. It often seems that the food options on offer don’t seem to fit into a palatable meal. Or maybe you are worried that you might have kept something for a little too long. Here’s a few tips on how to tell if it’s time to let go, and what do to with what’s usable.

Now, non-perishable foods aren't called that because they will never, ever go bad. If they aren't stored correctly they can spoil. Make sure that you are storing them in a cool, dark space, out of direct sunlight. All flours, dry beans and things that came in packets should be moved into glass, metal or plastic (airtight) containers as soon as possible.

It’s time to let go if:

- The tin is bulging;

- The tin is damaged;

- The tin is rusted (yes, I have seen this before);

- Mold is growing;

- Weevils (or any other insect) have moved in;

- It used to be liquid and now it's dry;

- It used to be solid and now it's liquid or gooey;

- It smells bad.

Now what can you do with what is left? The obvious things come to mind: beans into bean salad; tuna into a sandwich. Noodles, made with the mildly boring flavour sachet. Do I hear snoring?

Let's give is a bit of a shake up.

Instead of bean salad, why not make a bean mash to serve with a protein of your choice. Simply, drain the beans and then boil for a bit in some stock, and your favourite spices. Then mash with a bit of butter.

For get the sandwiches. Make some delicious fish cakes out from the tins of tuna. Serve with spicy mayo, and some greens. Or be crazy, pop them into a roll, top with all sorts of goodies, and have a fish burger.

Up your noodle game. Ignore the flavour sachet. Make a pot of stock (the cubes work for this); throw in some spices - star anise, cloves, cardamon, chilli, garlic and ginger. Add in lime or lemon juice. Add in soy sauce. fish sauce, rice vinegar. And boom, you got a good base for a bowl of short-cut pho. For the protein you can use that odd can of tinned chicken, or cubed bully beef (corned beef). Nom nom nom.

Tuna Fish Cakes

Another option for that bully beef is pasta sauces! Add it into an arrabiata sauce as a replacement for bacon. Or if you are super adventurous in the kitchen, I have made ravioli stuffed with bully beef before - it was scrumptious, and no one guessed that it was bully beef stuffing.

Dessert is easy from pantry stocks. Add a quarter cup of peanut butter to the chocolate cake box mix, bake in a brownie tin, and you have yourself peanut butter brownies. Use caramel treat as muffin filling, or mix into simple cookie dough for caramel cookies.

Well, well, the end of Januworry is starting to sound rather delicious. Let me know what your favourite pantry hack is.

With Love,

The Gourmet Hippo