Asparagus Sesame Salad and Cold Leftover Napolitano Penne

We’re FINALLY on holiday in Plettenberg Bay. I’m so immensely excited to be here, I can’t even describe it in words so I’ll describe my general demeanour since we got off the plane. I’ve been driving Ryan slightly nuts with my squealing, wide eyes, huge toothy grin and excessive bouncing around. Perhaps that begins to elucidate my mood. I would live here if I could. Ryan leaves soon and I will stay on to focus and finish my thesis. I’m not leaving until I do. Hopefully that will be over within the next three weeks so that I can fly back before my birthday. In the mean time, I plan to document everything I cook and eat, as well as all my adventures that don’t involve food so that you can all see what I’m up to. It will be a welcome distraction from my work. But not too much distraction because I don’t have an internet connection at home where I will be writing, nor will I be leaving home too often.

I hope that, while I am here, I can adjust my diet to what I want it to be. Free of fried foods of any sort, free of processed foods, as much raw food as possible and as few carbs as possible - although I am NOT cutting out potatoes (stamps foot and pulls face).

I am so lucky to have somewhere like this to retreat to, to finish writing a thesis that I have been unsuccessfully pursuing full time for the past few months. I’m finished three quarters of my masters course and this is the last component. I need to punt it out, and there is no greater privilege than having the opportunity to further my education in such a beautiful, serene and creatively stimulating place. I have always been stimulated here and now I form some sort of plea, akin to prayer I would guess, to the writer’s block in me to bugger off. (Laughable!) I’m making excuses and creating personified ghost scapegoats. Really all I’m hoping for is the will power to sit and type because all the information is ready. I need to stop being distracted and stop being lazy! And I need to stop making excuses not to finish.

I’m a lucky girl. What a beautiful day it is! Read on for the delicious food I got to have for my lunch – I guess it’s the reason you’re reading this entry in the first place! Ryan loved the salad – silly, but a little triumph every time he enjoys a dish as much as I do. His taste buds are quite different to mine…


1tsp white balsamic
4tsp olive oil
zest ½ organic lemon
1/2tsp wholegrain dijon mustard
1tsp whole raw black & white sesame seeds
12 Pecan nuts (6 per person)
1tbs agave nectar syrup (or maple syrup/unrefined unbleached sugar – I’m a big believer in using whatever is on hand to replace elements in recipes. The agave is local however, and maple syrup is imported. The carbon footprint on the agave is much lower where I am.)
salt & pepper to taste
Add chopped fresh ginger or fresh chilli if you’re after some zing, although I didn’t.

Asparagus Salad:

I have a friend who is way more of a foodie than I am, and he’s very experimental with his cooking and eating. His obsession is reasonably recent however and he started off quite slowly. He’s an awesome cook now, but for the first 27 or so years of his life he had never tasted asparagus. His first taste was a canned variety and gosh, was he bitterly disappointed in the soggy piss flavoured vegetable that he encountered. That is NOT what asparagus should be like.

Asparagus Tips (pun not intended, but acknowledged):

Never buy canned asparagus! Yuck! Fresh only! And yes, I AM telling you what to do. The canned veg is totally soggy and has lost all of its beautiful colour. Disgusting. You want to put only the most delicious in your mouth and the best, freshest produce in your body. Please don’t compromise on asparagus, at least.

Remember to wash all your vegetables. Asparagus has some special prep if you want to make sure there isn’t any soil left in the head of the spear. Cut off a small slice from the ends (not the sharp spear head – the blunt end to be specific) as they’ve often hardened while waiting to be purchased and are unpleasant to eat. Place all the asparagus in a vase with water (like flowers) with the heads above water and the fresh cut stems soaking up all that goodness. This makes the heads open up so that when you wash them a couple of minutes later the soil and anything else trapped in there comes out really easily.

You want to be careful not to overcook the asparagus – you want it to be fresh, flavoursome and crunchy. I probably boiled it for three minutes. I also did this step first and transferred it directly to the plates after draining so to allow it to cool down before the salad was assembled.

I boiled the asparagus briefly in a shallow pan with some water, fresh organic lemon juice, salt and pepper. I’m trying not to fry stuff at the moment, but asparagus are delicious fried with some garlic, salt, pepper, lemon and a tablespoon of olive oil until a little golden (but still firm). Add the lemon when everything starts sticking to the pan. If you don’t mind how many kilojoules there are in your food add a little vegan margarine to it too for that nutty flavour that you get from frying stuff in vegan butter.


Cooled Asparagus
1 Carrot cut in whichever way you please
Butter lettuce

Pour the vinaigrette over the salad just before serving so that the lettuce doesn’t wilt.

Cold Leftover Napolitano Penne

We had just arrived at my family holiday home in Plettenberg Bay on the South African Garden Route, it was too late to eat at a restaurant in town so we scavenged from what my parents had left in the house, cooking that along with the asparagus I had brought on the plane from Jo’burg. Consequently there is no garlic in this and no fresh parsley. We ate the leftovers, however, with some fresh mint and fresh flat leaf Italian parsley cut in, as we had gone food shopping the following day.

Penne (Gluten Free or Durum Wheat – whatever strikes your fancy)

Boil the penne until still slightly al dente and add to the pan that has the sauce cooking for about 30 odd seconds. Serve dressed with Olive oil

Makeshift Napolitano

Tin of whole Italian tomatoes
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire Sauce (some have fish as an ingredient, but South African brands like Colman’s don’t seem to. There is also an imported brand called Life that I’ve written a blog post about. All available in big supermarket chains around the country.)
Salt and Pepper
1tsp French Herbs Mix
Salt & Pepper

Serve with some Arcade Fire’s album The Suburbs playing. Aural and Oral stimulation! Whoop!

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