My Goodness: My take on Vegan bowls of goodness.

I never really used to like stepping too far outside my comfort zone, but since starting university I have found that I have very little choice in the matter.

Amongst meeting new people and trying different courses, one of the most exciting “new things” I have experienced is the food on the upper campus of the University of Cape Town. Most is disappointing, granted. But one particular food stand has become a constant favourite. It goes by the name of “Higher Taste Cuisine” and follows the same recipe book as the Hare Krishna Cafe right up my road. Seeing this as an opportunity not to be missed, I dropped in to the latter, Govinda’s Pure Vegetarian Cafe for a visit and a chat about their philosophy relating food.

Hare Krishna sign
Photo taken and owned by Jennifer Worthington-Smith

I sat down with Ragalekha Dasi, who kindly agreed to chat  to me about her journey to the Hare Krishna life style. She described it to me saying: “This food is all about love and goodness. It’s cooked and prepared with love … It’s soul food.”

She explained that this food is prepared completely as an embodiment of love and without suffering. If one were to picture a mother cooking for her child, that food is a manifestation of her love. It is almost as if “love” is an ingredient that goes into the food, a most vital ingredient required for every dish.

It is very easy to get completely distracted with the convoluted complications of our lives and our minds, and food tends to become a mere after-thought, or worse, a punishment. I’ve certainly spent many hours picking apart fat contents and carbohydrate contents, forgetting about the point of it all: nourishment. And even nourishment doesn’t really cut it when it comes to ticking the boxes for the Hare Krishna food. Ragalekha phrased it: “Food is not just gratification and nourishment, it brings peace to a person.” 

Eating a delicious and wholesome meal that has been cooked by somebody who loves you (bonus points if that person is yourself), brings comfort, warmth, and a certain feeling of being cared for. It’s a critical condition for human development, in my opinion, and I’m sure the opinion of many others. We are more productive when we are looked after and loved, and food is the perfect conduit.

I did have another motive in going up the road for a visit to Govinda’s. I wanted to try and rustle up a Hare Krishna meal for myself and wondered if there may be any tips I could yield from Ragalekha, anything that would allow me to be half-way successful in my venture. She explained to me the process that goes into cooking this food and I was surprised to find it rather specific.

The chef must bathe before preparing the meal so as to be completely clean. I would need to tie up my hair and would not be permitted to sneeze, or cough during the preparation of the meal – this would be spoiling it before sanctification. The last rule was the one I’m afraid I did not manage to adhere to in the making of my meal: one is not allowed to taste the food whilst cooking, as this, too, would spoil the meal. I am a taster and a tryer at heart, but this cooking requires more planning than I am known to do.

Ragalekha explained, “more than just the recipe, preparation before hand, a consciousness, it must be cooked peacefully. And it’s for pleasure.” 

I asked what parts of the flavour-spectrum Ragalekha would say feature in this cuisine. She replied that although it seems very influenced by Indian flavours, particularly South-West Indian, featuring cumin, tumeric and mustard seeds, it also involves Mediterranean flavours such as nutmeg and dill.  She admits to disliking the food on her first introduction to it, but now it is her staple.

With all this information in mind I skipped home, feeling well-equipped to try my hand. I decided on doing my take on my favourite campus lunch: a tub of goodness including: rice, mashed butternut and potatoes, lentils and (the creme de la creme) cabbage balls. I surprised myself in enjoying this dish the first time I tasted it, as I mentioned before, it was wildly outside my comfort zone. But I did enjoy it, and I do to this day.

I also enjoyed the meal I prepared, although it didn’t quite taste the same. Have a squiz at the video below to see how I managed in this escapade:

 

Food is the most useful resource we have in bringing people together. The creation of it is enriching if it goes well, and a learning-experience when it doesn’t (no matter how often it doesn’t). When we use care in the process of cooking and eating, we can taste it.

It’s wholesome and nurturing.

It’s an expression of love. Love for others, yes, but particularly love for ourselves.

Wraps with Veggie Filling

Cooking for friends is always a bit of a complication.

If you picked two university students at random, I am willing to place a bet that they won’t have the same eating habits. While a substantial proportion of the world’s population try to avoid gluten, there is another massive group who are vegetarian or vegan. And then there are those that are both. And then you have those who just don’t like tomatoes. I’m not complaining. I am more a criminal than a victim in this situation, as I am constantly trying to choose foods that are healthiest for me, while also being ethically and ecologically friendly, while ALSO being delicious and I’ll be honest – it is damn near impossible.

The best thing to do, when cooking for friends, is to provide a meal in parts. Burgers, shwarmas, pitas, or tacos all involve people picking and choosing whatever they would like on their plates. It’s ideal. For this particular meal I decided to provide wraps with a vegan filling comprised of things that mostly come from tins, so super easy.

I had a lot of fun with this meal and my friends seemed to enjoy it, so I would definitely recommend it if you’re unsure of what to make for a group of people.

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Ingredients

For the vegan filling

  1. 2 chopped onions
  2. 4 chopped cloves of garlic
  3. 1 squirt of olive oil
  4. salt and pepper
  5. 1 teaspoon of Chilli flakes
  6. I teaspoon of cumin
  7. 1 teaspoon of crushed coriander seeds
  8. 1 tin of chopped tomato
  9. 1 tin of sweetcorn
  10. 1 tin of butterbeans
  11. 1 cup boiling water
  12. A vegetable stock cube
  13. Some fresh coriander (optional)

And for other options of filling:

  1. chopped cherry tomatoes
  2. chopped lettuce
  3. sour cream
  4. cheddar cheese – grated
  5. And of course – wraps

Method

  1. In a big pot over high heat, mix together the chopped onion, garlic and olive oil until the onions start becoming slightly translucent.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients into the pot and turn down the heat, mixing occasionally and letting the liquid slowly evaporate as the filling thickens.
  3. Put all the other filling options in little bowls.
  4. Warm the wraps either in the microwave or in a large pan one at a time for about a minute.
  5. Put the vegan filling into a bowl and, if you’d like to, break some coriander over the top.
  6. And that’s it! Set the table and you’re ready to rock and roll.

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Warming Minestrone Soup

I think we can officially admit that it’s Winter. Cape Town took a while to get its act together this year, drawing out Summer for months after it should have ended. Winter made its entrance though, in the form in the “Storm of Cape Town”, which was hyped up so phenomenally, it had no choice but to be slightly disappointing. Nonetheless! A storm calls for soup and that is exactly what I made.

Minestrone soup is a perfect hearty meal that will warm the coldest cockles of your heart. It is the embodiment of comfort. Picture rain slashing against windows, casting the perfect contrast to the cozy indoors. You’re wearing thick, warm socks, an oversized jersey and sweat pants. Your hands are cupped around a warm bowl of soup.

Also this recipe will really refine your chopping skills. Give it a try on that reason alone?

I don’t know what more I need to say to convince you so I’m just going to dive right in.

 

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Photo taken by me, in a hurry, as I was so keen to get into this

Ingredients

  1. 2 carrots, chopped
  2. 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  3. 1 onion, chopped
  4. A glug of olive oil
  5. 3 zucchini, chopped (we had a surplus of zucchini in the fridge so I whacked it into the soup, another beautiful feature of soup)
  6. A tin of chopped tomatoes
  7. A litre of boiling water with a vegetable stock cube dissolved within it
  8. A cup of pasta of your choice! Checkers had a sale on pasta shaped like looney tunes characters so I cashed in on that as you’d expect.
  9. Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Put your biggest pot on the stove and whack the heat up to its highest option.
  2. Add the carrots, celery, onion and olive oil and mix it around in the bottom of the pot until the onion becomes slightly translucent and the other veggies are softened.
  3. Add the other chopped veg, ie the zucchini, but you could also add chopped potato, butternut, or peppers.
  4. Throw in your tin of chopped tomatoes, and your stock (boiling water + stock cube = stock), and turn down the heat to medium heat.
  5. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes
  6. Add the pasta, and leave it to simmer until the it is cooked through.
  7. It is ready to serve! My serving suggestion includes a slice of toasted bread, spread with butter.
  8. Enjoy, and keep warm!

Hack the Snack When Hunger Attacks

“If it takes longer to throw together than 2-minute-noodles, I don’t want to try it.”

 This is the response I received on asking a good friend with low kitchen-confidence, why she disliked cooking. I wanted to find out what stood between her and the world of food, besides the kitchen door.

We discovered three main obstacles standing in the way of her culinary success: a lack of time, a lack of skill, and a fear of “too many ingredients”. All of these obstacles, of course, have incredibly simply solutions. I set out with the sole ambition to come up with four recipes that do not require copious amounts of time, ingredients, or skill; for the starving student living on 2-minute-noodles and stale Oreos.

As exams come up for many students, I decided to focus on trying healthy and delicious study snacks. Anything would be an improvement on our faithful go-to: the student-favourite, 2-minute-noodles.

I have come up with four recipes, well used by me, that fit the requirements perfectly. Each is quick, simple, and has four core ingredients (at most). They are:

  1. Smashed Avocado on Toast
  2. Tuna Couscous
  3. Roasted Chickpeas
  4. Sliced Apples with Spread

Since we all seem to be short on time, I’ll launch into the recipes.

 Smashed Avocado on Toast

Ingredients:

For one slice of toast:

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Photograph owned by Jennifer Worthington-Smith
  • ¼ Avocado
  • 1 slice of bread
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Toast the bread. If you are unsure of how to use your toaster, your cooking skills may be beyond my help. Maybe read the instructions on the box.
  2. Scoop out your preferred amount of Avocado and put it on the toast. Smash it with a fork for maximum-effect toast-coverage.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon; and you’re winning.

Tuna Couscous

Ingredients

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Photograph owned by Jennifer Worthington-Smith

 

 

For one serving:

  • About ¼ cup of couscous
  • About ½ cup of water
  • 2 tbsp. sour cream
  • ½ tin tuna
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Coriander (optional)
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Put your couscous and water in your serving bowl and leave it. In 3-5 minutes it will be softened and cooked.
  2. While the couscous is softening, chop your cherry tomatoes.
  3. From here on, it is simply a matter of assembly. Salt, pepper and lemon juice go onto the couscous, sour cream next, followed by tuna, tomatoes, and then coriander. If you are not on the hatred-of-coriander train, you have a meal.
chickpeas
Photograph owned by Jennifer Worthington-Smith

Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning of your choice. I’ve used paprika, cumin and lemon (left) and honey, cinnamon and lemon (right). This last combination of flavours is also known (by myself only) as the pancake chickpeas.

Method

This recipe takes slightly longer to make if one counts the roasting period of the chickpeas (20 minutes), so I would suggest putting them in the oven before hopping into the shower or watching an episode of Parks and Recreation.

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. Rinse the chickpeas in a colander, before placing them in a baking tray with a swig of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.
  3. Put the chickpeas in the oven, even if its not yet fully preheated. We can’t all wait around for an oven to reach temperature.
  4. After about 20 minutes, or when they look golden brown, take the chickpeas out of the oven, place them in a bowl and add your desired flavour! If you’re unsure, think of your favourite popcorn flavour and try to emulate that. The two vital ingredients are lemon juice and salt.

 

The beauty of this recipe is that you can completely tailor it to your own palette. Whether you prefer sweet or savoury cuisine, this recipe is flexible enough to mould to your desires.

Sliced Apples with Spread

Ingredients

apple
Photograph owned by Jennifer Worthington-Smith
  • One apple
  • A spread of your choice. I recommend butters of the peanut and almond variety.
  • Any topping of your desire, if a topping at all. I’ve used cinnamon and mixed seeds for variety.

Method

  1. Slice the apple horizontally. I prefer this slicing method as it enables the apple to imitate a cracker, making it the perfect vehicle for your spread.
  2. Spread on your jam or butter. Almond butter is my most favourite topping, but as it costs the equivalent of three kidneys, it is not always available to me.
  3. Sprinkle on your topping. You could use raisins, chocolate chips or honey, if you are not feeling inclined towards the cinnamon/mixed seeds suggestion.

 

I can’t stress enough how simple these recipes are. The most advanced kitchen skill one needs is knowledge on how to use a tin opener, and even that skill becomes redundant if your tins have tabs to open them.

Whether you are able to whip up a three-course meal with an hour’s notice, or your kitchen antics have been known to strike fear in the hearts of men, these recipes are for you. They are quick, delicious, and healthy (for the most part).

As appealing and comforting as 2-minute-noodles may be, these snacks beat them by a country mile. Have a go; maybe you’ll surprise yourself.

Mushroom Risotto I love you a lotto

Risottos are great. And strangely enough, I was really only introduced to them when I was around 18, when I left to America on a gap year. Why it was never part of the meal rotation in my home I will never know, but rest assured, it is becoming a standard meal in my little flat in Rondebosch that I share with two roommates.

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Image by Jennifer Worthington-Smith

 

Why such an attachment to risottos? They are easy. They are delicious. And if you know the right cheats, they can be very cheap, too. What a win. Plus, you can play around with flavours. You don’t need to be limited by mushrooms and rosemary. Try leaks, carrots, bacon (although I’m not in the meat game right now), broccoli and basil, or whatever else you have lying around. Mushrooms are my standard go-to.

Now for the cheats. Proper Italian risotto uses special risotto rice, lashings of butter, and enough parmesan cheese to make Cape Town look like its snowing. Replace the fancy rice for normal rice (ringing in at R10 a kg at Pick ‘n Pay), replace the butter with a bit of olive oil, and instead of parmesan you can use any hard cheese (like pecorino) and a little bit really goes a long way. Or you could just not use any cheese at all and Voila, the recipe is vegan. Easy as that.

Another brilliant element of this dish is that you can make a massive pot and have leftovers to take to varsity for the rest of the week, and you can even eat it cold.

Right. Let’s crack on, then.

Ingredients

  1. 2 medium-sized white onions, chopped as tiny as you can manage.
  2. A drizzle of olive oil
  3. 3-5 cloves of garlic depending on how much you love the stuff. When it comes to garlic, I’m all in. Also chop these. If you have already-chopped garlic, a generous couple of teaspoons will do the trick.
  4. About a punnet and a half of button mushrooms. Any mushrooms will work, but these are the cheapest, and lowering the price is our main objective here. Also chop up these guys.
  5. About a tablespoon of dried mixed Italian herbs and dried rosemary. Obviously fresh herbs are the best, but unless you grow them yourself, they can get quite pricey. Dried herbs are great as you can buy them once and they last for ages. And they make such a difference to the meal.
  6. About a cup and a half of dried rice
  7. 4 cups of boiling water
  8. A vegetable stock cube
  9. Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  10. Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Turn your stove top onto a high heat and add the chopped onions, garlic, and mushrooms to a big pot along with the herbs and the drizzle of olive oil. You don’t need much, just enough to cover all the ingredients.
  2. Keep stirring these until the onions are a bit translucent, and the mushrooms have diminished in size and a lot less lily-white than they were when you put them in the pot.
  3. When you’re confident all the veg is cooked through and the kitchen is starting to smell down-right gorgeous, you can add the rice, the water, and the stock cube.
  4. Mix this all around in the pot until it seems the stock cube has dissolved, lower the heat down to a gentle simmer, put the lid on and leave the pot for about 20 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed in all the water. It should almost be creamy as you stir it.
  5. Add salt and pepper to your taste.
  6. Serve up with some parmesan/pecorino, any hard cheese, or just as is, if you would prefer it without the dairy.
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Image taken by Jennifer Worthington-Smith aka me, after cheekily adding some fried chicken for a roommate. I’m all for variations.

Protests on campuses sparked by stale food

South African universities are serving low-quality food to its students, adding fuel to the fire of the Fees Must Fall Protests.

Students across South Africa, particularly at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in Pretoria are in uproar over the substandard quality of food served in the cafeteria. Prices of the food have also increased, a change that the students deemed unfair for the quality of food they were receiving. This issue has given momentum to the Fees Must Fall protests that have been taking place on campuses across South Africa. Classes were suspended on Tuesday the 11th and Wednesday the 12th of April on the TUT campus as students had blocked the main entrance to the university.

The food on the TUT campus, provided by Desmondi Catering, is cooked days in advance of when it is to be served. During this time, it goes stale and many students find it inedible. This fact, coupled with the increase of the prices of the food, sent the students into uproar. Many students are now unable to afford food on campus. There has been no change in the catering of TUT campus even though complaints have been made about Desmondi in previous years. Students have taken ill from the campus food and have had enough.

Gift Mashinini, secretary of the South African Student’s Congress (Sasco) spoke up the issue taking place on the TUT campus. He claimed that he was unsure that the campus management had been into the cafeteria kitchens since the beginning of the year and pushes for the removal of Desmondi Catering.

The increase in food prices coupled with the decrease in quality of the food gave momentum to the Fees Must Fall protests that are taking place across the country. Students not only burned campus property, but also took to the offices of Blade Nzimande, Higher education and training minister, before security closed the main entrance to the building.

TUT is not the only campus under pressure surrounding food. The University of Venda campus closed after students were not paid their meal grants. Students have been forced to rent out parts of their accommodation to other students who have promised to pay them back in food.

Though this is not an issue in many of the dominant universities in South Africa, it has caused a great deal of unrest. Particularly considering the basic need of food in any environment, especially one that requires intense levels of concentration.

 

 

 

Broccoli Soup For The Soul

I honestly believe that soup not only warms our physical insides, but also our emotional well-being. It’s like a hug in a bowl and you don’t even have to deal with other human beings to get it. What a win.

I’m starting with this recipe for a couple of reasons.

  • The weather is starting to inch below the 20 degree Celsius line, flirting with the idea of Autumn. A season in which I tend to thrive. What is better on a blustery day than a bowl of soup?
  • Soup freezes very well, making it the perfect student meal. Make a massive pot of it and divide it into ziplock bags or containers and stick it in the deep freeze. Instant, healthy, warming meal for the next time you don’t have a moment to prepare supper. Just remember to take it out the deep freeze before you leave for varsity!
  • It really only takes about half an hour to prepare.
  • These were the ingredients we had in the fridge, so I improvised. And it was rather delicious if I may say so myself.

Let’s get started!

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Ingredients:

Note: These ingredients can be varied and swapped out for whatever is lying around. The broccoli could be replaced with sweetcorn or cauliflower or both!

  • About a head and a half of broccoli
  • ½ a teaspoon of crushed garlic
  • I swig of olive oil/coconut oil/butter/any source of fat lying around
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (I used a garlic and herb one, which was delicious)
  • I mug of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon (cereal spoon) Cornflower
  • ½ a cup of milk (or a milk substitute, I would recommend coconut milk)
  • A large handful of cheese, I would recommend cheddar or mozzarella (optional)

Method:

  •  Chop up the broccoli as finely as you can, keeping the stalk part from the floret part. Place the florets in a bowel/pot for steaming. Add a small amount of boiling water and steam until a knife can glide through the broc like butter.
  • In the soup pot, add the garlic, broccoli stalks and olive oil and let it sizzle on a high heat.
  • Put the stock cube and boiling water in a mug and let it dissolve.
  • When the garlic and broccoli stalks are softened and smelling great, add the cornflour and a little bit of stock. Mix it about until the flour dissolves and thickens the stock. Add the rest of the stock and the broccoli florets.
  • This is the stage for which a blender would be ideal, but a masher or fork do the trick. Take the soup off the heat and blend/mash it until it is as smooth as possible.
  • Put the soup back on the heat and mix in the milk and cheese.

Dish up and enjoy. Be sure to feel proud of yourself for this accomplishment.

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