Sunday, January 20, 2019

Traveller's Joy

Late afternoon kitchen scene. From a local ramble in search of too-old chicken of the woods (whose fruiting was prompted by unseasonal and welcome summer rain), sprays of Clematis brachiata, an indigenous South African clematis I found scrambling prolifically over a rock wall in full sun. And a posy of fiddleheads - the hairy tentacles of an invasive tree fern, and the smooth crosiers of bracken.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Forage Cookery Class

I am thrilled to be teaching a class at beautiful Cook Space in Brooklyn on February 28th.

The class is called Foraged Fare Cocktail Party, and it will draw on winter's preserves and seasonal produce, as well as the wild things that are flavorful in freezing February. Think spicebush twigs, mugwort sticks, and field garlic greens. We will make and enjoy Seed Crackers (bonus: gluten free!), Sumac Carrots, Labneh Whipped with Field Garlic Greens, and Mugwort Lamb Skewers.

The class is two-and-a-half hours, starting at 7pm with a welcome drink and snack. We then go on to make (and enjoy) three canap├ęs, and a low octane forage cocktail. The tickets are $115. Please reserve your spot via Cook Space. Can't wait to see you!

I will be pairing this class with a late winter forage walk on February 24th, so save that date if you'd like to attend both. Details for the walk to follow soon.


Friday, January 4, 2019

Bottling it up

The road to vermouth does not always involve sorrow.

I had not stayed with my father the night he died. He was alone. I had not known he would be, but the night before, when Vince and I left the hospital, my body collapsed in grief. It knew, if I wasn't sure, that I would not see him alive, again. I never cried in the room with him - I never wanted him to see that sorrow, or to feel anyone else's stress. And so at unexpected times in those five days I would have to pull the car over, or risk accident.

When the call came to the house in the 4.30am dark,  I went to sit with him for the last time. The small dark nursing sister was there, and I was glad she had been on duty. Looking up into my eyes, she held my arm firmly and told me she was sorry. On a previous night, she had held my shoulder with that same firmness as I sat beside him, reading him childhood stories, from books whose pages were falling apart. The ward staff were kind. The previous day I was brought a tray of coffee, and asked if I would prefer hot or cold milk. And there was a cookie. I don't like cookies, but I ate that one, very carefully.

Immediately afterwards, that final morning, the shocking bureaucracy and decision making of death evicted any possibility of mourning. But in the blank days after my father's cremation, and when my husband's warmth had returned to New York, I began to gather wild flowers and fynbos herbs from the mountain, the surrounding green spaces, and my mother's garden. In small jars each plant began infusing in good vodka. Elderflowers and wild plums began to ferment.

On the last day of 2018 I blended and bottled the vermouth. That year is over. And from its end there is a local alchemy that tells the story of this Cape Town summer.

Vermouth captures time and place like nothing else I know. When I open it in Brooklyn, sometime in a new year whose days remain to be filled, I know I will cry.


(Yes, there is a vermouth recipe)

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Cape Town Elderflowers

My conservationist-friend Don (who is the new curator of the Stellenbosch Botanical Garden) heard I was foraging for elderflowers in Cape Town. So he WhatsApped me a map with a pin GPS'd onto a "motherlode" of the shrub. It is is (very) invasive locally. I headed there and struck summer gold. 

I love picking elderflowers - so  quick easy. The umbels are snappable and packed with little blossoms. 

I had already started a small batch of fermented elderflower cordial, and I boosted it with my fresh finds. (Don't be tempted to keep the green stems in the ferment or syrup. Pick-pick-pick. Apart from their potential toxicity I am more offended by the viscous quality that too many green stemmy bits will lend to the cordial.)

The kitchen table at No. 9 is a good place to work. 

It thrills me that I can find elderflowers in New York and in Cape Town, two hemispheres apart. It's a tough and adaptable plant. My friend Jacqueline kindly brought my mom a copy of Forage Harvest Feast from New York, back in September, so I could use my own recipes (made with Brooklyn flowers!). At the time it was not available in South Africa, but it is now being sold on Loot and it will be in local shops around late February. Ask your local bookshops (and please tell them that SG are the distributors, if they want to know; it will help them order!).

The elderflower cordial has been fermenting for four days now and is fizzing nicely. Last night I could not resist, and scooped some out and added it to a summer cocktail of white rum, fresh lemon juice, mint from the and fizzy water.

But there are lots of other uses for it, from incredible vinegar (a second and longer fermentation), to potted shrimp, pan juices and deliciously tender madeleines.


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