Thursday

Stellar Winery - Organic and Vegan Vino



Organic Wine has a very special place in my heart - not only because of the ladybugs and ducks that look after the grapes by eating the goggos, but because one of my father's dearest friends tried to start an organic wine farm that caused him great financial trouble, and eventually led to great struggle for him. He was so passionate about it, and I remember how nobody believed that an organic winery had any place in the industry. He was about ten years too early with his organic endeavour and lacked the finances. He was a pioneer and one of the most wonderful men I ever met! Yay for organic wine and their farming methods!

This little organic wine farm, Stellar Winery, produces a whole range of wonderful Vegan wines, and their boxes are labelled as Vegan. AMAZING! The wine also tastes pretty delicious. They're also fair trade. I'm a little bit in love with them!

Woolworths stocks a bunch of their wines, the 'insert verb' 'insert animal' wines that have ORGANIC written all over them. They also make a lovely sparkling wine AND they deliver! Don't you love them too?

For more info go to their site - but in case you're too lazy to do that right now, here's something about them nicked from their site.

"Stellar Winery, South Africa's largest producer of fine organic wines, processes organically-grown grapes for the South African and export markets. The grapes are drawn from farms in the Lower Olifants River Valley, part of the Namaqualand area of the Western Cape. This is an area famous for its spring flowers and is also the only semi-arid Biosphere hotspot in the world.
Situated in the Namaqualand hamlet of Trawal, Stellar Winery is privately owned, with the workers having a 26% shareholding in the cellar. 
Well-known for its innovative approach, Stellar has achieved a number of "firsts" in the wine industry. It was the first organic winemaking operation in the world to gain FLO Fairtrade certification and the first cellar in Africa to produce commercially viable no-sulphur-added wines. Stellar has subsequently become the largest producer of these wines in the world and is the number one organic wine brand in the UK.
The organic vineyards and winemaking process are fully certified by the internationally recognised Control Union Certifications, based in the Netherlands.
Stellar's fair trade certification has delivered positive, measurable changes in working and living conditions to the Stellar workforce through the the global sales of fairly-traded wine. The surrounding Trawal community has also benefited from fair trade through the company's support of local institutions such as the pre-school, primary school and football club."

Zoo Lake Lunch & Roast Potato Dinner

Rosebank Kauai has been without Hummus for absolute weeks now, to my partner's increasing aggravation. All he wants is a Hummus Hummer! Well he got a vegan Mexican Burrito today and they forgot to cut it in half! Poor love! I had the delicious Thai Chicken Salad without the Chicken - Fry's veg strips as the replacement. I think I should have had a veg patty instead though, I think I'm quite over Fry's. Except for the sausages and the occasional polony, the stuff all tastes the same to me! And its not particularly wholesome! Although, I have just noticed that one of my mom's employees has put two of my Fry's burgers in the oven instead of meat! Good for her!



Lunch on a park bench hands down wins as my favourite hour of the day! There are more goslings every time we go! They're too cute, and so clumsy! We love them! We sit there crooning baby talk on a park bench.

So my dearest feels like roast potatoes and I have a craving for bread and bitter salad, so I've made something of everything for dinner!

Green Herb Salad

Rocket
Wild Rocket
Mix of lettuce
Watercress
Squeeze of lemon
Dash of extra virgin olive oil (splash out on the good stuff! South Africa has some amazing and affordable olive oils! Try the Willow Creek at Woolies or their Organic olive oil.)

Oven Mielies and Roasted Potatoes

I boil the potatoes a little first, softening them up so that it doesn't take quite so long in the oven! As they're boiling, peeled or not (whichever you prefer, but I've done them the way my granny does - peeled). I halved the little organic baby potatoes I bought, but you may want to chop bigger potatoes into smaller pieces for more surface area and less cooking time.

(As I'm typing this I'm definitely getting olive oil all over my keyboard. Heehee!)

While the potatoes are boiling, I prepare the pan I'm going to put in the oven. I want to make a delicious onion gravy when the potatoes and mielies are done so I quarter and onion and douse the bottom of the pan with salt and olive oil. I tossed in some fresh lemon thyme and rosemary tonight as well for some of the best flavour you can imagine all over your dish. I put the mielies in as well, four of them because I'm sick of meat substitutes and now I'm compensating with traditional South African braai veggies for our lack of participation on national braai day... (for obvious reasons - I have an encyclopaedia of gripes when it comes to cultural celebration or manifestations).

Now you should have a wonderful oven pan with gorgeous colourful vegetables and a little personality. Be certain everything is well oiled, that there's a thin layer of oil covering the pan, and that it's got enough space for your potatoes to go in. Talking about cultural manifestations, this seems to be a traditionally South African method of preparation. I won't argue, the women in my family make some of the best potatoes I've ever tasted!

To make roast potatoes with some real personality, you drain them and toss them into a bowl. Pour a generous amount of olive oil over to coat them, a generous amount of salt, a small portion of any flour of your choice - I just used normal cake flour - a sprig of rosemary and lemon thyme to get the flavours in there from the get-go and toss it all about in the bowl. Try not to use utensils or your hands, you're going to get more mixture on yourself or the utensil than the potatoes. Pour them into the pan, separate them as well as you can and put it in the oven somewhere between 180 and 200 C. They're probably going to want to be in there for a good 45 minutes, or until golden brown!

While I wait for my love to get home, I've already started eating some delicious bread dipped in herbed olive oil and drinking a glass of Stellar Winery Organic Sauvignon Blanc. Amazing stuff - and affordable! Yay for Woolies!

Brown Onion Pan Gravy

Once everything is nicely golden, transfer to another dish and keep warm in the warming tray. I have an oven pan that I just put straight onto the gas stove, as all the flavours are encrusted after cooking. I mix some maizena (cornflour thickening agent) into a cup of cold water and chicken flavour stock, then add it to my pan. Reduce until you have a wonderful brown onion gravy! Yum! (Alternatively, refer to my Brown Onion Gravy Recipe in another post about MasterChef Australia's Vegan English Dinner).


Tuesday

Ami - Not a Friend!

I'm going to keep this as short as I can, because I don't like to write negative things on a happy blog, but we had such a bad experience at this restaurant that I'd sooner go anywhere else.

Ami was very accommodating the first time I went there. All the items on their vegan menu were available and most of the dishes were lovely - with some exceptions. The roast vegetable platter is very very expensive for a few raw food items, a roasted veggie or two, some not great chips and soggy noodles. The Paella is also terrible, with tasteless vegetables on a bed of watery rice.

The second and last time I will ever set foot in that place there were four vegans at the table. Only three items from their ten item menu were available for order, they had no physical menus to give us, the waiter didn't have a clue what a vegan was and the part that really upset us was that our aubergine stack, although delicious, wasn't big enough to be a starter in a molecular gastronomy restaurant.

Three of us ordered the same aubergine dish, which is considered a main course according to the online menu that is available. It's called the Leaning Tower of Aubergine listed to contain 'Roast aubergine layered with a pomodoro base, crisped baby spinach and savoury tofu, topped by a salty cranberry sauce'. There was no tofu, cranberry sauce or spinach in what we ate.

When we complained as to how utterly tiny the dish was, they told us it was because it wasn't a meat main, so it would obviously be small. Which is total nonsense. They tried every argument against us that they possibly could instead of offering to bring us a more substantial meal, and would not admit to us that it had been a very small portion for a dish that costs close to a hundred bucks.

Aubergines aren't expensive. Nor are tomatoes, or basil. Especially when you're buying bulk for a restaurant. I know. I buy fresh produce.

They treated us like idiots, and they offered no compensation for how unhappy we were. None of us lost our tempers but they were immediately defensive and raised their voices. They constantly spoke over us, would not listen to what we had to say and would walk away mid discussion. We spoke to three different managers that all gave us the same arguments - pointing out that three of us whom all had the same experience couldn't be right, regardless of our still rumbling stomachs. And they had the audacity to point out that it was because we hadn't ordered a meat dish.

Don't waste your time or your money on this restaurant. You will leave as unhappy and unsatisfied as we did. The quality went from great to completely inexcusably terrible very quickly, not to mention that half the restaurant still looked like a building site. I can watch TCM at home and buy my own bottle of champagne, thank you.

Monday

Coriander Pesto a la Sarah B

So I nicked most of this recipe from My New Roots blogger Sarah Britton but as my partner laments, I never really follow any recipes. I do what I want to with an idea a recipe gives me. My mom had a bunch of cilantro in the fridge that had seen better days, so instead of it being wasted, lying there for another week as so many herbs do when you pick too much of it, I was inspired to make a pesto from it. Do go read all the wonderful nutritional facts about coriander on My New Roots!

Coriander Pesto

bushel of coriander
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp coconut shavings
1/2 cup raw almonds
2 garlic cloves crushed and pan fried
a handful of pine nuts pan roasted (they're so expensive in South Africa, I always just put a few in for taste and fill the rest of the nut quota with something else - almonds and cashews are always winners in a pesto!)
1 tsp cayenne pepper powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
a teaspoon of sugar (I was too lazy to find my agave that is sitting in a bag somewhere since our move)
a generous amount of sunflower oil

Pasta:

I've recently discovered a new Sasko brand Maize pasta at Pick 'n Pay called Puccini. It's in a dark green packet and under 10 bucks.

Enjoy! This pesto is wonderful, and I can't wait to put it on the vegan rye bagels I bought from Fresh Earth today!

This recipe used to contain raw onion, but I don't make it with that anymore. It just makes it too tangy for my liking. If you do use the 1/4 onion you should probably eat this pesto as you make it because the raw onions become more potent the longer you keep it for. It becomes a little too acidic after a couple of hours. I've also toned down the garlic from 4 to 2 cloves, but add as many as you wish!

Sandwich Assortment - Zoo Lake Picnic

Lunch at the park today was absolutely amazing. There were goslings everywhere, so fluffy and yellow, with all their parents hissing at us as we walked past. It was a beautiful day, so sunny and warm! I'm indescribably excited we're heading into summer, and few things make me happier than a picnic on a park bench on a lovely day.

My partner loves sandwiches more than I do, consequently he always makes delicious out-of-this-world peanut butter (or any other) sandwiches while I make very normal ones. We use the same ingredients, so who knows what his magic touch is?

Thus, today when he suggested sandwiches for lunch, I decided I'd skip my PB&J attempts and go straight for some soya meat replacement burgers. Not the healthiest mix, but sandwiches on white bread aren't particularly healthy anyway.

I bought a long Pick 'n Pay French loaf which is very little like a traditional one. They are crunchy at the ends, soft throughout the rest of the crust, and deliciously soft and fluffy in the centre! There are some dubious ingredients in Pick 'n Pay bread, so although it may be vegan, it's not necessarily something you want to be putting in your body if you're trying to be more health conscious. I buttered the loaf with some vegan margarine (we use Ole - not on my healthy list either but it is nice at times) and chopped it into 8 segments with which I made 3 different burgers.

Burger # 1

1 Fry's Traditional Vegetarian Burger Patty halved
Some fried onions and garlic (burger fried in the same pan simultaneously)
Dijon Mustard
Pickles
A slice of tomato
Lettuce

Burger # 2

1 Fry's Vegetarian Schnitzel halved
Cucumber
Vegan Mayonnaise
Spinach leaves
Salt and Pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon
Parsley

Burger # 3

In a pan:

Yuh-der Imitation Chicken Julienne Strips (Soya based) defrosted (they have their own oil to fry in)
A teaspoon of Ina Paarman Chicken Flavour stock powder
A little water to help it all along

In a bowl:

Mix the strips with a tablespoon of mayo (or more if you want to, but its a very rich filling already)
A teaspoon of Dijon mustard
Chopped parsley
Squeeze of lemon
Any desired spices - I like a little Cayenne pepper powder, salt and a generous amount of pepper

They were all delicious, but both of us liked Burger # 1 the most!

If you ever crave chicken mayonnaise toasted sandwiches, yuh-der julienne is the stuff that is closest to chicken in texture. They'll be super but very rich so one is probably enough. Balance it out with a tomato and vegan cheese toasted sandwich. the imitation chicken strips might weird you out though as they seem quite realistic, the wonderfully strange things that Chinese people can do with soya! I'm in love with their ancient culture that brings us these recipes, amongst other things! Hong Kong vegetarian restaurants have the best vegan options because of all the different soya products and interesting flavours that we just don't manage to get here. There's one vegetarian restaurant in Wan-Chai area that has been open for a hundred years! Imagine how long the tradition of making soya meat replacements has been going on for?!

Saturday

Tender-stem Broccoli and Roasted Walnut Salad

My partner and I work within a two minutes' walk of one another, so I love to have lunch together. He'll usually walk to the art gallery I work at, and I will cook us something delicious, as it helps enormously to avoid extra costs and the temptation of eating unhealthy fast food for lunch every day. When I'm not working at the gallery, as I don't have a permanent post, I make food at home and we eat lunch at the Johannesburg Zoo Lake on a bench. It's the most wonderful endeavour, and I love getting to a park for lunch!

Today I just grabbed a few things that were in the fridge. I really try to buy organic food as far as is possible, and local produce would be ideal, but some of the produce from around the world is often tempting. Today's meal consisted mostly of organic food, but also some spices and sauces that were in the kitchen at work. But definitely healthy and delicious!

My vegetables have been freezing in the new fridge we’ve kept them in of late, including my beautiful lettuce, which highly upsets me. I’ve resolved to just use the food as quickly as is possible. I managed to use a whole lot of my greens today, and even though they had frozen, everything was still crisp and delicious.

Sweet Cinnamon Shiitake Mushrooms

Sweet Indonesian Soya Sauce to taste
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Punnet of Shiitake Mushrooms

Heat the oil in a pan, toss in the mushrooms, pour over your desired amount of sweet soya dressing, I recommend about a tablespoon to 12 mushrooms. Toss them around in the pan, adding your salt and cinnamon, then cover the pan with a lid, stirring every so often. You don’t want to overcook the mushrooms though, because Shiitake mushrooms easily become quite mushy or sloppy. You want them to retain some spring. Keep the dirty pan aside for roasting the walnuts in later.

Tender-stem Broccoli and Roasted Walnut Salad

I don’t often measure the ingredients I cook with, so please bear with me on the portions of vegetable stock, or balsamic vinegar. Everybody has different tastes and requirements when it comes to cooking, so please follow it according to your own desires. My recipes are portioned for two, including a portion of leftovers for later pickings, unless stated otherwise.
10 stalks of tenderstem broccoli
A handful of raw walnuts
Mixed lettuce
Wild rocket
Sweet Indonesian soya dressing from mushroom pan
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A splash of Balsamic Vinegar
Vegan Nature's Choice Mock Parmesan
Vegetable stock power (tsp probably)
Avocado

You need a shallow frying pan with a lid, bring about 2 cm of water to the boil and add the veggie stock. Add the broccoli to the pan and place the lid on top, steaming for a few minutes so they just cook a little bit, absorbing the flavour of the stock. I add a little salt and a generous amount of pepper too. Once blanched, remove from the pan and toss into your salad bowl to cool. Don’t throw the water out of the pan, because you’re going to use it for the asparagus on the side.
To roast the walnuts, toss them in the still hot pan you used for the Shiitake mushrooms. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper to the pan and roast until the nuts are fragrant. It’s quite clear when they’re done, and it only takes about two minutes, if that long.
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and feast!

Olive oil and Lemon Pan-fried Asparagus

8 stalks of fresh asparagus (never canned!)
Juice of one lemon (fresh – always!)
Leftover stock from broccoli
Splash of olive oil.
Using the pan you blanched the broccoli in, bring to a boil, do not add any extra water, add the juice of one lemon and a splash of olive oil. Add the asparagus and cover to steam. The liquid will reduce to a tart lemon dressing to pour over your asparagus once it has been steamed. As with the broccoli and mushrooms, you want to cook for a very short period of time so the asparagus is still crunchy and fresh.
I made everything separately, intending to eat everything separately, but it all went so well together that I put it all in the salad and licked my plate clean.
Delicious!

For dessert I finished off with a grapefruit and some fresh cranberry juice!

My New Roots

I have stumbled across the most wonderful blog called My New Roots. It's written by a Canadian born woman living in Denmark. She is a chef at two raw food restaurants in Copenhagen as well as blogging some of the healthiest, most delicious looking food I've come across since Tal Ronnen's cookbook. Her name is Sarah Britton and she is definitely worth a thorough read. Her vegan and raw sections contain a vast amount of exciting recipes and her entries contain extensive nutritional information about the ingredients. It's absolutely fantastic and like Jamie Oliver would say, such brave dishes!

My favourite recipe so far, although I haven't had time to try make it yet, is her Raw Cashew Dreamcake. I'm absolutely dying to give this a try! As soon as we're done with the craziness of Art Fair here in Jo'burg I'm onto it!