Gooseberry Jam

The first time I remember eating gooseberries I was about five years old and they were growing wild at the side of the road in Port Elizabeth in the Cape. I love their quaint little “sweet wrappers” and the burst of tart sweetness as one bites into them.

I brought some gooseberry seeds from Boksburg and planted them here and they do quite well, I just don’t have a lot of space for them beside all the other vegetables and things I’m growing. Thus I only harvest about a handful at a time, but then I came up with the idea of freezing them in a container until I have enough to make some jam. So to make this jam I had about 500g of gooseberries which I put in a medium pot with 200g of sugar. My gran’s rule of thumb was to use the same weight of sugar as fruit, but I really don’t like to have it that insipidly sweet – it just means a touch more cooking time.

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There’s no need to add liquid if your gooseberries are at room temperature, but since mine were still frozen I put in about two tablespoons of water just to steam up and get things going. My gran would scoop all the foam off the top, I just leave it in. Basically I let it bubble away for roughly half an hour once the sugar has dissolved. Spoon a drop of it onto a cool plate and if it looks to be a slow running syrup consistency, take the pot off the heat.

The jam will still thicken quite a lot when it cools. It’s better to err on the side of less cooking time as you can always put it back on the stove and do another ten or fifteen minutes if it’s too runny. Conversely, if you’ve made it just a wee bit too thick and tacky, put it back on the stove and add more water.

Making jam is a bit of a trial and error to get it exactly the way you like it, but so worth the effort!

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Furbabies – Dingo

It was at the request of the chairman of KAWS (Kitwe Animal Welfare Society) that I went to go look at doggies at the end of 2013. “We have so many dogs we’re going to have to put some down,” he informed me gravely.

“I’m just going to go look by myself,” I informed Graeme. “I don’t think you should come with because you won’t be able to help yourself and I’d rather think about it very carefully.” Famous last words.

At the kennels I didn’t spot anything super cute – the average Kitwean stray is a rather unattractive and large cross-bred mutt. “I want to look at smaller dogs,” I asked one of the assistants. “I have cats and a big dog would be an issue.”

“We have one that will be small – her mother had very short legs.” He enthusiastically led me to cages at the back which were shared by up to ten dogs and brought out a pale cream puppy that looked like… a space alien’s drawing of a dog if someone radioed them the approximate specs. “Wow. Um.” I patted the timid little girl, taking in her enormous ears and head, the long and yet very solid trunk and her short, stocky little legs. Her proportions were just weird. “I have to think about it,” I said. The assistant picked her up and carried her back into the pen. No sooner than he had put her down and turned around than three bigger dogs fell on her, her pitiful cries were more than I could stand. “Argh! Okay, bring her here – I’ll take her.”

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The drive home was not what I had expected either; never having been in a car, it seemed, she didn’t want to sit on the passenger seat but insisted on crawling into my lap. On our arrival at the house Mia came out and sniffed the new family member with more casualness than most cats would. Maverick didn’t take the news anything so well – he sat on the sofa on the patio crying bitterly in the rain as if to say, “Whyyyy? Why did they get a dog? Aren’t I enough?” It took a few weeks for them to get along, but now Mav and Dingo are great mates and TV bedfellows in the evenings.

I’ve never known a dog to hate bathing so much. We compromise by giving her a nice rub down and a bone treat afterwards.

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Snuggled in her Snoopy house with a comforter from Jet, her chewy hoof attached to the rope on the left so she doesn’t sneakily bury it in the garden.  

Spring and Pink Flowers

I always put a small bowl of flowers beneath my massage table for clients so they can have something pretty to look at while having their back massaged, before they close their eyes and (in the perfect situation) nod off to sleep. I also put them on the dining table on the patio or in our entrance hall on occasion, although Murdoch the hydrophiliac maniac cat finds these bowls and drinks all the water out of them so I need to keep topping them up. The Madagascar periwinkle (5 petalled pink flower in both bowls) is extremely common in Kitwe and very few gardens don’t have them as they flourish like weeds in any soil.

For our second anniversary my husband had two of these arches made at my request for the garden so that the trailing roses could be put to good use (instead of climbing up the walls and growing into the windows). Now they’re blooming beautifully and the bees couldn’t be happier.

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Below on the left are my wee little chrysanthemums which I’ve had some success with in propagating from cuttings, and spreading their cheery pinkness across more of the garden. The begonias on the right did a great job last season of seeding themselves so I’m enjoying their pink and white blooms and wondering what colour the babies will be, before I pot them up for friends.

Chocolate Caramel Peanut Butter Cheesecake

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The title pretty much says it all. There I was craving all of the above in one and conveniently had some shortcrust pastry cases to spare in the fridge which I blitzed and squidged into the bottom of a 15cm dish to make a base. For the filling I emptied out a tub of medium fat cream cheese, added about 2 heaped tablespoons each of peanut butter and caramel treat and mixed well. One 80g slab of dark chocolate gently melted in a bain marie was stirred in, resulting in a thick, sticky mixture. To lighten it up, I beat in a cup of double cream yogurt and then spread it over the base.

Melt a few more blocks of chocolate with a dash of milk, cream or Amarula and allow the resulting ganache to cool a little before swirling it on top and finish off with fresh strawberries or whatever you heart desires 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Furbabies – Mia & Maverick

No one can be a Disney princess without a cute animal sidekick, and a house is not a home without a cat. Or two…or three… I had been in Zambia only about two months and was desperately missing Lucy (who lives with my folks in South Africa). “At least it would be some company for me when you’re away on site or playing golf,” I sighed wistfully at Husband.

Mia and Maverick were about three months old when we took them off the hands of a crazy cat lady whose house was overrun with over a dozen cats. Seeing her pretty colouring I picked out Mia. “Oh no,” said Jane, ” you can’t just take one, you have to take two.” A little ginger came running past. “That’s the shy one,” Jane said. So I added Maverick. Shy, se moer! He’s extremely vocal, at eating times obviously and just totally randomly as well.

Maverick has a voracious appetite, as evidenced by his increase in size and girth, and Mia has never grown out of her kitten habit of sucking fabric – whether it’s your blanket, duvet or favourite yoga pants. Be it cotton, fleece or wool, she salivates at the mere thought of it. As kittens they were inseparable and oh so loving. A few years on they row like real siblings and only cuddle in secret (I’ve caught them together on their beanbag in the wee hours).

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Herbal Bath Salts

Eight times out of ten I choose a shower over a bath – it uses less water, it’s more invigorating, and I won’t wallow in it until the water gets cold and end up adding even more hot water. But when I do bath, it has to be quite epic. There will be bubbles, candlelight, a facemask, either a glass of wine or a herbal infusion, and a magazine of course.

Since reading through a book on making your own natural beauty products at home that I borrowed from a mate, I’ve been trying out various little recipes and things and been extremely impressed with the results. Having recently been on a detox I thought why not complement the clean eating with a detoxifying and pampering bath powder? I mixed together equal parts of Epsom salts and baking soda. Then came the fun bit – I put fresh rosemary and melissa (lemon balm) into the milling attachment of my beloved Nutribullet, along with a handful of dried camomile flowers. Would it work, I wondered? Ten seconds later I was rewarded with an amazing wafting, aromatic green powder. You could also probably do the whole mixture in a regular food processor – it just wouldn’t break down as much. After I was done getting high on the fumes, I added it to the salt mix and put in a few drops of essential oil: lavender, patchouli, juniper and bergamot. Sooo divine you’ll have a hard time getting your nose out of the jar!

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Strawberry Tarts

What looks more lovely than an inviting little fruit tart? But too often the tarts purchased in supermarkets and even some bakeries have thick, stodgy pastry cases and are waaay too skint on filling!

Keen on a small, light dessert I whipped up four delightful little strawberry tarts. It doesn’t take ages and you won’t have to worry about leftovers. I like my pastry super thin so I combine about 60 grams flour with 30 grams icing sugar and 30 grams of butter or baking margarine. Add a dash of cold water to form a dough and press thinly into a silicon muffin tray – you should get about four. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 10 – 12 minutes.

Then I whisk up a creme patisserie of sorts with half a cup of cream, an egg, a teaspoon of vanilla essence, a tablespoon of castor sugar and thicken it up over gentle heat with some cornstarch. Let it cool.

Lastly I slice up a few strawberries in a pot, add about the same weight in sugar and cook it to a runny jam consistency – about 15 minutes when working with tiny quantities.

Fill the tart cases with the creme patisserie and top with the runny strawberry sauce. Yum!