Those plastic containers I fill with leftovers or prepared sauces or meals and pop into the fridge or freezer often come in handy – and not just for healthy meals in the office (when I go to one…). That basic tomato / chilli / chourizo pasta sauce I made and froze just 2 days ago served as the basis for dinner tonight – a little sooner than I had originally planned.
We woke this morning to find the power off (before 8am), so I spent most of the day out. It was a busy Sunday, running around the shops and doing DIY at Kitty’s house. I eventually got home just before dark to find that there was still no electricity. There were, however, the siren calls from that pasta sauce in the freezer, along with the remainder of a box of tagliatelle. I pulled the plastic container out of the freezer and popped it into a sink of water (just up to the lid), which speeds up the defrosting. I also found a handful of frozen prawn tails taking up far too much room in the freezer, so lobbed those into a ziplock bag and put them into the same sink of water to defrost.
The City of Jo’burg likes to bill itself as a “World Class African City”. When it comes to potholes, malfunctioning traffic lights (or “robots” as we Saffers call them), corrupt traffic police and regular water and power failures, however, Joburg is almost as bad as many other African and developing world cities. I’ve not yet sprung for a generator, but I am thankful B and I installed a gas hob and gas fireplace some years back. I also keep several torches and fluorescent lanterns handy, along with 6 or 7 5-litre bottles of drinking water. During sustained water outages, the swimming pool can be used to flush toilets and, worst case, provide water to be boiled for washing.
Tonight I was thankful for that gas hob, along with the lanterns and, most useful of all, my son’s Petzl headlamp torch. It left my hands free to cook and work, whilst providing great lighting just where I needed it. I’ve been wanting one of those torches for myself for a long time now, and tonight persuaded me that it was definitely past time that I bought one! A present from me to me…
I started with a salad, which I cobbled together from the veggies in the fridge (which, thankfully, was still cold). The ice cubes were also still frozen, so my Scotch was the right temperature, too. I ate the salad before I even started warming the pasta sauce, so that I would have a reasonable idea of my appetite.
The gas hob soon had the pasta water heating nicely. Once the pasta sauce had defrosted a little, I popped it into that awesome T-Fal / Jamie Oliver frying pan to warm. I cut the prawn tails in half, as they were quite long, and grated some cheese. Apart from my usual Grano Padano, I also grated some 5-year-old Cheddar that Kitty and I had bought at the Farmers’ Market in Pretoria on Saturday morning (more on that below). The Cheddar was hard and crumbly, like mature Parmesan, but with a delightful “twang” on the tongue.
When the pasta water was boiling, I popped the tagliatelle into the salted water, and the prawn tails into the sauce. The pasta needed only 5 minutes to get to the al dente stage, then I added it to the sauce along with several spoonful’s of the pasta water. That’s another trick B brought back from her cooking course in Tuscany – finishing the pasta in the sauce, with the cooking water helping to make a beautifully silky pasta.
The power came on at last during the cooking process – then went off – came on – went off – came on – went off – and, eventually, came on and stayed on (so far). I got tired of taking that headlamp torch off and on, so simply left it on and just turned it on and off as the lights did their slow-motion disco dance. The pasta, thanks to the gas hob, was hot and yummy. There was even enough left over for a second meal – so it went into another of those trusty plastic containers and into the fridge, along with the leftover grated cheese.
I mentioned the Farmers’ Market earlier. About a week or so back, Kitty put an intriguing appointment into my online calendar: called “An early morning Autumn adventure”, it booked out my Saturday morning from the frightful hour of 5am to a slightly more pleasant 8am. The alarm dragged us from sleep just after 4h30 and we were on the road just after 5am. Our destination, as I eventually discovered, was the Boeremark (Afrikaans for Farmers’ Market), at the Pioneer Park in the East of Pretoria, a city about 50km north of Johannesburg. I knew that we had crossed the “boerewors curtain” (another “Seffricanism” – boerewors is our local sausage, literally translated it means “farmers’ sausage”) when we were directed in the pitch dark parking area by a young man clad in a t-shirt and shorts, barefoot and sporting impressive facial hair for his tender age – with the outside temperature just above 6 degrees (C not F). For such an ungodly early hour of the morning, the market was buzzing with people – most of the stallholders had probably slept there overnight, or been going since about 4am. Lots of fresh produce from farms in the surrounding areas: vegetables, fruit, eggs, honey, meat, preserves; also crafts, hot coffee (thank you!), cheeses and many other interesting and yummy things. Kitty came away with some vegetables and we both bought some lovely cheese. We were on the road back to Johannesburg when the sun peeked over the horizon.
Lunch today was sushi at Tsuyu (https://www.facebook.com/tsuyu.za?ref=stream&hc_location=stream), rated by many as the best Japanese restaurant in Johannesburg. Located in the Pineslopes shopping centre, just across the road from the Monte Casino complex, Sandi and Roger run a bustling little restaurant that has been a favourite of ours for a number of years. Highly, highly recommended. We had their new Salmon Tataki dish alongside our regular selection of salmon nigiri (for me) / salmon roses (for Kitty), dumplings and Ika calamari, all washed down with some saki.