Saturday, October 31, 2009

Breakfast pancakes

Right. So I do realise that a pancake recipe is nothing like the high-class gourmet cooking that gets a blog noticed. I will keep this in mind, and, one day, if I do find a recipe for something fancy that's actually achievable, I will let you know. But there's a key word there - achievable. Let's get things straight from the start - I'm a novice cook - as I write this, I am cooking a curry which involves browning the meat, adding the cook in sauce, and letting simmer. I check on my curry and its stuck to the bottom of the pot. This is the kind of cook I am. It's also the point of the blog as a whole - I like cooking, and slowly I'm getting better at it, and I'd like to take you on that adventure, and hopefully get you to cook better while you're reading it.

Perhaps I should explain a little - I'm 29. When I met my fantastic wife to be, I was deep inside being an architecture student, which I did for 7 years. That amount of time being a student prepares one for a life of cooking 2-minute noodles, and toast, and otherwise eating every kind of fast food available. Then, one day, I fell in love with this girl. Now, a couple of years later, I find that one of the two of us has to cook dinner every night, and to be fair, that makes it my turn once every 2 days. There's only so much toast you can eat, before you figure out how to cook sausage and mash.

Then I slowly figure out that its actually nice and relaxing to come home from a hard days work and dance around the kitchen for an hour. And that it's not too tough to make food that actually tastes like I know what I'm doing. And it's nice to try new stuff and learn to be good at something new.

Anyway, I digress. The point above is that this blog is for people who are just moving on from toast. And to show those folk, that the jump from toast to a "roast chicken with roast pumkin and baby spinach salad with slivered almonds and a honey and balsamic dressing", isn't actually such a big jump. And if I can do it, then pretty much anyone can.


I don't do baking. I know making pancakes isn't really baking - but to me, it involves sifting flour and fairly precise measurements, which makes it baking. Also I've never tried making pancakes before, and they seem to me like some exotic, hard-work, kind of breakfast food. But this morning I give it a try.

Firstly, I found a recipe for wholewheat pancakes with blueberry and maple syrup. But then I went shopping and obviously blueberries and maple syrup have never come anywhere near Mauritius. Same goes for wholewheat flour (OK, I lie, I didn't look for wholewheat flour). And I've been putting off making it since about Tuesday.

So this morning Vicki was pestering me about when the pancakes were going to cooked and I gave in. But I went for simplicity. I did a quick search and found a recipe at as follows:

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour

  • 3.5 tspn baking powder

  • 1 tspn salt

  • 1 tbspn sugar

  • 1.25 cups milk

  • 1 egg

  • 3 tbspn butter, melted (How the hell do you measure out butter tablespoons?!?!)

In a bowl (duh?) sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix together the milk, egg and melted butter. Make a well in the dry mixture, and pour in the wet mixture. Mix until smooth.

"Heat a lightly oiled pan over medium-high heat. Pour the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot."

I ended up making bigger pancakes (closer to 1/2 a cup of batter each), but otherwise they were great. Best topping we came up with in the moment was brown sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon, but you know you can top it with whatever the hell you like.

Quick, easy, cheap and tasty - all the criteria to remember a meal and use it again and again. And everybody (even the 3-year-old) thought they were great. Definitely one for the cookbook.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Things that aren't recipes - and steak for dinner

I'm starting writing this entry with a few topics to write about, but none of them fleshed out in my mind. To summarise, I might end up writing about:

  • A healthy diet. What exactly does this mean and how do I plan to implement it in my daily life?

  • The Art and Science of the Braai Vleis. Its not actually that complicated, but there are quite a few techniques that make life easier.

  • I fell in love with a 700g, inch-thick, slab of Angus rump steak the other day. So tonight that is going to be braai'd, encrusted in pepper with a creamy mushroom sauce(no recipe yet), with grilled aurbergines (also no recipe yet) and baby potatoes in garlic butter and herbs (no recipe, but can probably be ad-libbed).

So what to write about?

[KingMuzza wanders off to the fridge and contemplates a beer]

OK, forget eating healthy. Lets talk about cooking meat.
Ah fuck it - I'll write something later.
[about 4 hours later]
Right, the braaivleis. So I got a hunch that the aubergine was going to be a disaster, so instead we're getting the same pumkin salad from the other night, and garlic and herb potatoes, plus the steak.

Tonight probably isn't a good night to talk about my health food plans for my family when I've got 700g of saturated fat and LDL cholesterol sitting next to me, waiting to be charred black for extra flavour.

Instead lets talk about fires. A chimney starter is a wonderful little gadget. It looks like a 5 litre paint tin, open on both ends, with a conical wire grill on the inside. You put a piece of firelighter (or scrunched up newspaper) under the cone, fill the top with charcoal, and apply flame.  The design gets flames and oxygen to the coals much quicker than if they were in a little stack in the braai, and so they light far quicker. 10 minutes later (once its flaming nicely, if you leave it too long you'll find you've got no charcoal left) you tip it into the braai, spread the coals out into the desired shape, and top up with fresh coals if there's not enough. The new coals now light pretty quickly, mostly due to peer pressure.

Tonight the plan is to sear the steak by placing it directly over very hot coals for a few minutes, and then transfer it to indirect heat where its insides can cook slowly (Wifey doesn't understand why dripping juices from the middle of a steak is a good thing). At the same time, there's a tray of pumkin and potatoes, roasting on the indirect heat, they should be cooked by the time the steak moves to the indirect heat. The veggies need a lot longer to cook than the steak does, so they're already on, but hang on, I'm getting ahead of myself.

To implement the above cooking plan, I've put a coal divider in the centre of the braai. I poured coals into one side, and have left the other side empty. You generally want a bed of coal 1 - 1.5 coals deep. Brickettes these days will burn evenly for a long time (as opposed to the natural type charcoal of my father's days, which burnt out really quickly). These days you can still cook something an hour or two after the braai is ready, although probably not perfectly.

[Kingmuzza jumps up to check the coal temperature]

Right, so conventional wisdom says that you should be able to hold you hand about 10cm above the coals for about 4 - 5 seconds, then the thing is ready for steak, or that the coals should be coated in a thin layer of grey ash. Now this is pretty relative - I have weenie hands (I work in an office, not on a farm), and it obviously depends on what you actually want to cook. Steak is easy because you want it to go onto a high heat and cook quickly (char the outside but leave the inside nice and juicy. I'm afraid it just comes down to experience.

On a sanitary note (assuming you're a beer-swilling male like myself) - once you've had raw meat sitting on a plate, that plate goes into the washing. Its really gross (and you'll catch a funky disease) if you put the cooked food back onto the same plate. Even if it does mean double the dirty dishes later.

Now - earlier I  brushed the steak with a little oil, then coated it in a lot of salt and pepper. Everything takes on a braai flavour when it's cooked on a braai (who would have thought), so if you want any other flavour to shine through, then you need to make it strong. The oil helps to stop the steak sticking to the grill. Also, take the meat out of the fridge and let it get to room temperature before you chuck it on the fire, this means that it doesn't need to cook for as long to get the inside cooked to your liking (which means that the outside is nicely crisp and brown, and not the colour and taste of charcoal).

That said, the steak starts off sticking to the grill, and if you don't want to tear your meat apart you should leave it without moving it until its charred enough to no longer be stuck. You need to respect the steak, let it cook without your constant interference.  I have a theory that when you see pink juices oozing through the top of the piece of meat, then its time to flip it (assuming medium-rare). I've yet to see any scientific studies to verify this though.

[Muzza checks his steak, flips it even though its still stuck to the grill]

Next you need to realise that direct heat cooking requires constant attention (Indirect cooking is pretty much fire-and-forget). So at some point you figure that the bit I wrote above about the meat not sticking to the grill might not work in every circumstance. In fact, I managed to turn it at just the right time - edges of a little blackness, and blackness on the grill marks, but otherwise a rich dark browny-red colour, and it wasn't torn to pieces at all by scraping it off the grill.

Personally, I recommend Seether, My Chemical Romance, Audioslave and Breaking Benjamin as perfect braai music, but each to their own.

I also lied about giving the steak any indirect heat time. I reckon after the second side has browned nicely then the meat is done. When you take a piece of meat off the braai you then need to let it sit somewhere warm and pleasant for 10 minutes. The meat relaxes, and the moisture which has been heading towards the centre of the meat during cooking, now edges back toward the crust. The meat also carries on cooking during this time (so avoid slicing it open to show the lady that its ready - she'll freak and make you cook it longer).

While the steak is resting and recovering from its ordeal, I made a mushroom sauce.
  • A big blob of butter
  • Half a tin of mushrooms, sliced. (We don't get fresh mushrooms in Mauritius)
  • Two cloves of garlic (roasted whole with the veggies, then crushed into the pan for the sauce)
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme.
  • About a double shot of red wine
  • About 100ml of cream.
In a small pot, softly fry the butter, mushrooms, garlic and thyme.
Once the mushrooms are soft, butter has melted, and thyme smells delectable, add the wine.
Simmer slowly, reducing until the wine is almost gone.
Add the cream and again simmer slowly to reduce until you get the desired consistency.
Add some salt and pepper for good luck.

Serve over the steak, on a bed of garlic and herb potatoes, with a roasted pumkin and spinach salad as a side.

Mmmm, happy tummy once again.
Just a bit of a pity that I was so busy writing the bloody blog post that the steak was a bit overdone. Concentrate next time Muzza!

And I took photos so the blog starts to look like a real blog.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Potato and Chorizo Omelette

Next on my fantastic two week cooking adventure was a Potato and Chorizo Omelette for breakfast. This is a Jamie Oliver recipe from Mine didn't turn out looking quite like Jamie Oliver's did, but it did taste pretty good - in an unusual sort of way. Will definitely eat it again, but probably not that often, and there may need to be some adjustments to the recipe.

  • 3 small potatoes - cut into chunks
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 large eggs
  • Olive oil
  • 120g Chorizo sausage, cut into 1cm thick slices
  • 2 sprigs of Rosemary, leaves picked (I didn't ahve any, used fresh Thyme instead)
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely sliced (I used small onions, don't know what a shallot is)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (I used lemon juice because I'm lazy, this could have been one of my mistakes.)
  • More olive oil
  • Some flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped (I just shredded some leaves, didn't chop them.)
Boil the potatoes until just tender.
Preheat the grill or oven to super hot.
Drain the potatoes, and let air dry for a little bit (while you slice the chorizo.)
Whisk the eggs.
Fry potatoes and chorizo in an oven-proof frying pan for a few minutes, until chorizo is sizzling and losing its fat, and the potatoes are taking on the chorizo colour. Remove all from the frying pan.
Drop the Rosemary leaves into frying pan, they sizzle and release aroma straight away.
Pour in the egg over.
Add the cooked chorizo and potatoes.
Place the frying pan under the grill or in the oven till the egg is cooked to your liking.

Meanwhile, mix the shallots with a dollop of olive oil and the lemon juice in a bowl, then mix in the parsely. Place in little piles on top of the completed omelette.

Serve and enjoy.

Not sure how much I love the recipe. It definitely wasn't bad, but had a bunch of really strong flavours (chorizos, onions, lemon juice). Also, the picture on the website shows the egg all fluffed up and souffle like, which mine wasn't. Maybe this could be resolved by whisking the eggs better, or maybe adding something to them to make them go frothy (I'm thinking baking powder, but at the same there's a voice inside me going, Murray, don't be an idoit).

In any case, it was a hearty breakfast, which completely hit the spot. One day I'll try again with some minor adjustments.

Okay, bye.

Paternity leave - Roasted Pumpkin Salad

So 2 weeks paternity leave means I get 2 weeks to focus on my family's healthy eating for a bit. Of course I'm not getting nearly as much time off as I was expecting - a newborn baby and a three year old on school holidays, and a lovely lady who is in a fair bit of pain. But I am now in charge of the shopping and the cooking, so this blog might get a bit of attention as well.

We got home Monday afternoon, so Monday evening was nothing healthy at all. Fried fish cakes, fried sweetcorn fritters, and fried chips. Vicki was keen for fishcakes though, and after not eating proper food all weekend, I figured she could have what she liked. Just a pity that Jasmine poured her juice over the sweetcorn fritters as soon as I put them on the table, but orange juice flavoured fritters weren't actually that bad - just a little soggy.

Last night I got to try something nice though. I've also figured that, seeing as every time I look for a recipe and can never find it, I'm going to use this blog as my own personal recipe book for new things I try that taste good.

So last night - Roast Chicken with Roasted pumkin and baby spinach salad:
(and no, I still haven't started taking photos of the stuff I cook, maybe next time)

Pumkin Salad first:
Recipe came from
  • 1.2 kg of pumkin, cut into 18mm thick slices
  • 1 tbspn oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
  • 40ml balsamic vineger
  • 40ml olive oil
  • 20ml honey
  • 100g baby spinach leaves
  • 75g toasted slivered almonds
  • 100g feta
The recipe I was following said to roast the pumpkin in the oven, but first, my oven is broken, and second, I always roast chickens on the Weber, so I roasted the pumkin there too. I may have mentioned already that my life would not be the same without my Weber (kettle barbeque). I've got a fairly large charcoal one (because charcoal is clearly more authentic than a gas braai). As a normal (direct cooking) braai, it works fine, but its when you use it for roasting (indirect cooking) that it really comes into its own. I will do my best to write an in-depth analysis on the fine art of braai'ing on the weber sometime soon. For now let me just say - prepare the fire for indirect cooking.

Place slices of pumkin into a roasting pan, drizzle oil over and toss to coat.
Cut the tops of the garlic cloves and add to the roasting pan.
Roast (covered) for 20 minutes.
(Start preparing the chicken)
Take out the cloves of garlic and let cool.
Turn over the pumkin, and return to the fire for another 20 minutes.
I put the chicken in to cook now.

Once the pumkin is tender, remove from the fire and allow to cool.

Make the salad dressing as follows:
Squeeze the garlic out of its peel into a bowl and squash with a fork.
In a clean jam jar - add garlic, balsamic, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper.
Screw lid on tightly and shake well until combined.

Lay a bed of spinach onto the serving platter.
Top with roasted pumkin.
Sprinkle almond slivers over.

Just before serving - pour over the dressing and arrange blocks of feta on top.

I made way too much dressing, so its in the fridge, and I hope it'll still be good the next time I use it. This salad was absolutely delicious. I am definitely going to be making it again, probably the next time I have guests around for a braai. I also only used half the quantities shown above - because there were only 3 of us eating, but we polished the plate because it was so tasty.

Roast chicken is far simpler:
  • 1 large roast chicken (so I can make chicken mayo panini's for lunch the next day)
  • 1 large lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for drizzling
  • Robertson's chicken spice (undoubtedly cheating, but they do make it well.)
Wash the chicken, especially the cavity.
Place lemon in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, just to soften it and get the juices flowing.
While this is going on, coat the chicken with a bit of oil (got to get your hands dirty for this)
Then salt and pepper it.
Liberally shake chicken spice over the whole lot, getting the chicken completely coated.
Remove the lemon from it boiling pot, poke with a sharp knife a few times so that the lemon is leaking. Shove lemon up chicken's bum.

Place chicken on Weber, away from the coals. Cover, and cook for about an hour. The only way I know how to check if the chicken is cooked is to slice it open - try to do this deep into the chicken - where you would carve off the thigh works well. Juices should be clear. See my in-depth braai'ing guide for coal temperature and arranging the fire.

A Masterpiece.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mango smoothies

I like to keep Sunday mornings are as lazy as possible. Fried breakfast at about lunchtime; trying to get the bloody pool to stop being green before summer hits us hard; dancing to hard rock tunes from my hayday with a 3 year old (if you haven't listened to Seether, you must search them out.)

So Vicki was making scrambled eggs and toast, and I got to work on something to complement it. Mango's are pretty expensive, but there was whole shelf of nice ripe ones at the supermarket yesterday, so I dug in. Also I meant to make smoothies last weekend, but couldn't find any decent fruit, so I had a tub of yoghurt sitting in the fridge waiting to go sour.

So ...
  • 5 small mangos, skinned and chopped into little bits (the messy and unpleasant part)
  • 1 ice tray of ice, crushed
  • About 400ml of plain yoghurt
  • A table spoon of honey.
  • Blend until smooth.
  • Enjoy, with scrambled eggs and toast.
Smoothies are a great addition to my recipe box. They can be ad-libbed from whatever fruit you can find, and only take a stock of plain yoghurt in the fridge and some honey. You vary the amount of honey depending on how much of a sweet tooth you've got. Don't use sugar as a subsitute because it doesn't blend properly, so you get little granuales of sugar in you drink. Make a judgement call on how sweet the fruit is before you add the honey - mangoes and bananas are nice and sweet and don't need too much honey, strawberries are pretty tart and so need a little help.

You can also combine fruits (strawberries and bananas for example) to sort out the sweetness issue. This also bulks it up a bit, as strawberries are expensive for a little punnet of the things, and bananas are stupidly cheap for as much as you can eat.

Still haven't figured out what to do about with that steak tonight.

Ok, enough sitting in front of the computer. To the beach!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happy Tummy

Last week I was particularly experimental with my cooking. I think I tried a new recipe every time I cooked. It all started off pretty well - I got a nice bell pepper and beef stir-fry; an absolute winner of a veggie soup; and something else that I can't remember. But then on Tuesday I found a recipe for a veggie stew, which I made a great big batch of, and it turned out to be completely tasteless and inedible. My confidence was shattered; we had baked beans on toast for supper; and I didn't cook for another 3 days. The wife was really supportive about the whole thing - shoulder to cry on, etc. - and kept telling me how tasty the other experiments had been recently. But that was when I was distraught, then this morning we were working out what we would eat for the week, and she was a little too quick in coming up with old favourites for me to cook - thereby not letting me tying my hands in terms of coming up with something fantastic and new.

Nevertheless, I managed to sneak one in. Its not really new, but last time I had a recipe to follow. Tonight the munchkin was camped in front of her Fairytopia DVD, and so daddy had no chance to search the internet for a recipe. So I freehanded it:

Saturday nights are typically braai night in our house (that's a barbeque with South African heritage and culture attached). On the menu tonight was Honey and Mustard chicken skewers. I rock.

  • Chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp mayonaise
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • Salt and Pepper
  • A little cream to make the sauce a bit runnier.
Mix together everything and pour over the chicken breasts.
Marinate for about 2 hours.
Slice up chicken into bit sized pieces and thread them onto skewers.
Barbeque, turning occassionally.
Ahhh, perfection.

Wifey made a salad to go with it. And now we're both chillin' in front of our computers with very happy tummy's (the Munchkin has so far slept through the whole thing.) Brett Dennan and Joe Purdy sing sweetly over This is what Saturday nights are all about.

Simple food to get my confidence back. Using lots of sauce made it really tasteful. Also used big metal skewers, so that each of us had 2 skewers and a big mound of salad, and I have absolutely had elegant sufficiency. The art of the braai is also really relaxing when done properly. If you're trying to do too much it can be quite a source of stress, but only 5 chicken skewers leaves more than enough time to concentrate on getting the food right. The secret is generally to not rush it - wait until the coals are the right temperature (properly covered in grey ash, with no flames anywhere); allow the meat a chance to sit on the grill before turning it (if its caramelised / crispy then it doesn't stick to the grill and have bits torn off); and seeing as the coals are cool enough, the chicken can have a chance to cook through properly without getting charred on the outside.

Tomorrow we're going to a friends house for another braai, and relaxing afternoon on the beach. So I need to find a nice steak recipe. Man, I love the weekend.

Note to self: If I'm going to write a cooking blog, I need to start taking photos of the food before it's all eaten.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Architecture of Mauritius

So this morning I outlined a number of goals that this blog could be working towards. Tonight, I'd like to take one of those goals and flesh it out a bit more.
Nearly a year ago, my family and I moved to Mauritius. Not long after arriving the seed of an idea started germinating in my head that went something like the following:
The architecture of Mauritius can be broken down into many (many, many) sub-categories. By examining, analysing, and reporting on these categories, we can gain an understanding of various themes that lie both within and outside the field of architecture.
For example:
  • Colonial Architecture. Mauritius has been both a French and an English colony. Much of the countryside is made up of sugar plantations, and most of these plantations still have colonial houses as their centrepiece. The act of researching these plantation houses will necessarily involve a chronology of 18th and 19th century history of the island - its significant actors; french colonists and their continuing political and cultural influence on the island; imported technology and style from Europe and how (if?) this was translated into the regional context. A discussion on Mauritian colonial architecture can also undoubtedly be linked to other colonial architecture of the time - especially that around the Indian Ocean Rim (South and East Africa; India / Sri Lanka; Singapore/Malaysia; Australia). A comparison between the colonial architecture of these places(and perhaps more in-depth, the colonial heritage of these places) is where the key pieces of understanding are to be found.
  • Construction Technology. The dominant construction technology in Mauritius is one of reinforced concrete framed structures, with concrete block in-fill panels. Even the pitched roofs tend to be concrete cast in-situ. A discussion on this leads directly into the practicalities of constructing buildings in cyclone-prone areas. Are there other forms of construction that would stand up to the same conditions? What exactly is required for a building to stand up to cyclone force winds? What of those building elements which are not built of concrete (cyclone shutters are the norm on almost every building)? How do other parts of the world deal with the same problem?
  • Tourist Architecture. Aside from sugar and tea, Mauritius earns a large portion of its GDP from international tourism. Tourists come here for 5-star hotels with idyllic private beaches and apparently world class service excellence. The first two issues which need discussion on this topic are (1) the importing of architectural "styles" to fit with the branding / marketing direction of the hotels, and (2) how the hotels and resorts affect those of us who aren't actually tourists (dude, where's my beach?). A discussion on the first issue will always be an argument between corporate marketing departments, who necessarily have to make money, and academic regionalists, who believe that the architecture should speak to the cultural heritage of the specific place. Mauritius is not Bali, but Bali is what many visitors to the island will experience. To talk about the second issue needs a new chapter:
  • Spatial Planning. I've read before that Mauritius has one of the highest population densities in the world. This is clearly evident in the urban centres such as Port Louis, and the Quatre Borne/ Vacoas/ Rose Hill conurbation. These towns are packed full of people, with each building covering as much of its site as practical, and then quickly spreading upwards. Academics (as well as people who live in these cities) will tell you of the advantages of being within walking distance of the amenities that urban areas have to offer; of the advantages of reduced infrastructure cost due to concentrating more development into each unit area of infrastructure; and other stuff which I can't think of right now. However, outside these urban areas are vast rural lands - sugarcane farming in the central and northern regions, and tea farming in the south. These rural areas are dotted with fairly closely spaced villages and towns, reminiscent of English country villages. The villages are built up as islands in the sugarcane, typically with a congested high street with residential streets radiating off from them. Clearly most of these villages came into being before motorised transport was available on the island.

Anyway, the above is a brief introduction to the book I'd love to write on the Architecture of Mauritius. There is much more to be fleshed out, but more importantly, I think, is that there is much research to be done. The idea is that, if I do find time to get into the research, then I will blog the book portions at a time, as it gets written - both for critical comment, and to drum up interest in the subject.

We'll see if life's hectic schedule will allow me to put in the required time.

The experiment

Okay, so maybe writing a cookery lesson as my initial blog was not the sure-fire way to fame and fortune that I thought it might be - but it did at least get me writing. But for anything to come of this exercise, it needs a purpose.
So ... Goals:

Many people use blogs for personal branding. To sell myself as something. But what something?

I am a young architect, interested in sustainable design, but also with the practicalities of the the construction project, and the business of property development.

I enjoy cooking, and have been steadily increasing my repetoire and skill level recently. I reckon my experience would be helpful for other beginner cooks to get into the swing of things. I also have a relatively new family, and so I'm slowly trying to change our eating habits from the fast food of our student days to something healthier.

I garden a bit, but only a bit, and maybe if I were to write about gardening it would fit better into a discussion either on architecture (landscape design, and important finishing touches to a project), or on cooking (so far I only actually grow some herbs and vegetables, specifically so that I have these things on hand when I need them in a recipe).

To just blog about life in general seems like the lamest option. KingMuzza the renaissance man - cooking and gardening and looking after the family, while designing high-class hotels on a tropical island in the Indian Ocean. Might be interesting, but with all the information streaming over the web, why would anybody want to read that? After all, I do have Facebook for communicating with friends and family.

The advantage to writing a personal journal of life is that it is writing practice. It could be the first steps / experiments / exercises in book writing. Being a novelist one day in the distance future is a romantic option, but its like I have any ideas for novels. I do have at least 2 books festering in the back of mind which are architecture related -

  • An in-depth study into the architectural history of Mauritius - and a reading into the culture and history of the country through its architecture.
  • A discussion / best-practice guide on the everyday life of getting a quality building produced.

Further, a blog is a practice exercise / first step towards producing fully-fledged web-pages. Vicki (the future wife) is busy opening a scrapbooking shop, and with it wants to set up a web page - for marketing / a community of scrapbookers to exchange ideas and be integral to the running of the physical space shop / and a future mail-order shop. The idea is that getting this blog online and functional is a test case (content management, marketing of a blog, i'm not sure what else) - so that one day when I do set up Vicki's page, I can effectively market it straight away, without the expected teething problems.

Perhaps all these ideas will require more than one blog, but more likely the ideas can now be filtered down to their essentials and get this blog producing something of value.

As an aside - I haven't figured out yet how to make the blog visible. I tried searching Google and Delicious after writing my first post, but I couldn't find any sign of it. This might take some research / experiments.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Veggie Soup

My sneaky plan to get my family to eat healthier culminated tonight in a vegetable soup. I've never tried making soup before, but my cooking skills have been getting better. I stumbled on this recipe at - for Italian Bean & Grain soup. Shopping in Mauritius can be tough - there's really not that much variety in the shops, and I thought I'd be able to find everything in the recipe, so tonight I gave it a try.

  • Olive oil for frying
  • Some carrots - finely chopped
  • Some onions - finely chopped
  • Some celery - finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • a handful of fresh basil - finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic - minced.
  • 1 can of tomatoes (undrained)
  • 4 cups of chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup of Farro or pearl barley
  • 1 can of cannellini beans, rinsed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Some grated Parmesan
  • Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, garlic, herbs. Cook for a little bit (3 - 4 minutes) until things start to soften.
  • Add tomatoes and stock.
  • Increase heat and bring to a boil.
  • Add barley and beans, and season with pepper.
  • Once it returns to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes - until the barley is soft.
  • Sprinkle each serving with cheese and serve with a bread roll.

I'm impressed. My mother used to make veggie soup when I was a kid, and this tasted exactly like that. Of course, I am a very amateur chef, and so I forgot to put the garlic in until I added the beans. Also I couldn't find pearl barley - so I tried it with durum wheat (which I've also never eaten) - but that turned out to work perfectly. I think durum wheat (or perhaps pearl barley) is the secret ingredient to make vegetable soup taste like its supposed to. It also helps bulk up the meal enough that one helping of soup and I was done. Oh, and I don't know what Cannellini beans are - so I bought a tin that said "Haricots Blanc" (white beans).

The plan is to get us to eat vegetable full vegetarian meal about once a week. I say vegetable full, because mac'n'cheese hardly counts towards boosting our nutrition. The problem is the perception that vegetarian food isn't going to fill the tummy, or taste good. I proved both counts wrong last week with a potato and chickpea curry, and tonight with this veggie soup.


And I wrote my first blog post - 2 gold stars for KingMuzza. Now, on to the weekend...