Magnolia Flower Pickle

magnolia flower pickle

I’m on a bit of a Magnolia Flower binge at the moment – it’s understandable, they’re only buds for a short time and our weather is so changeable right now, you’ve got to ‘gather your rosebuds magnolias while you may’! Today’s foodie choice is magnolia flower pickle, which means we can enjoy them well into the year.

There are many different types of magnolia trees, and while all magnolias are considered edible, not all of them have been tested, so people can be a bit weary of trying newer species.  The most common edible magnolias are Magnolia coco, grandiflora, enudata, mhypoleuca,  kobus,  liliflora, mexicana, pterocarpa, and oulangeana. Continue reading “Magnolia Flower Pickle”

Brilliant Beetroot Biriyani

Beetroot Biriyani

Despite being someone who has never been a huge fan of Indian food, I’m a total convert to this biriyani. Just sitting here writing up this recipe, my mouth is watering and I’m wondering where I could pick up more fresh beetroot on my travels today. I’m sure the family won’t mind eating the same thing again either!Beetroot Biriyani

Cook time is quite long because the beetroot needs to be roasted first, and then rice has to boil, but the hands’ on time is pretty quick, so  you have time to be doing other things in between too. Like prepare the sautéed beet greens to have on the side.Beetroot Biriyani

It’s a great ‘everyone tuck in meal’ and it turned out to be one of those where the pots were scraped clean!

This is a brilliant recipe – quite possibly my favourite beetroot or biriyani recipe – but if you need more beetroot recipes, click here!

Brilliant Beetroot Biriyani
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Recipe type: Dinner, Mains
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 5
  • 500g raw beetroot, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • seeds from 4 cardamom pods
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp garam masala
  • 250g basmati rice
  • 500ml veg stock
  • 100ml plain or Greek yogurt
  • small bunch of coriander or parsley
  • Mango chutney (to serve) (optional)
  • Sautéed beet greens (to serve)
  1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Drizzle oil over the beetroot and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat, then tip into a roasting dish and cook for 25-30 mins or until tender.
  2. While the beetroot is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a deep frying pan (or a wok) with a lid.
  3. Fry the onion over a medium heat until golden.
  4. Add the ginger and half the garlic, and cook for 1 min.
  5. Stir through the bay, cardamom seeds, turmeric and garam masala, then cook for 2 mins.
  6. Stir in the rice and beetroot.
  7. Pour in the stock and place a fitting lid on the pot
  8. Boil for 20-25 minutes, keeping an eye on to make sure it doesn't dry out or burn to the bottom of the pan.
  9. Put the remaining garlic in a food processor and whizz, then add the yoghurt till it's well blended. Set aside.
  10. Remove rice from heat and stir through.
  11. Season to taste and serve.


Green Fig Preserve

I’m always really excited when I find a fig tree – like something in me forgets that I live in England now, and I’ve yet to pick a ripe fig from a tree – even here in the very South of England.Fig on Cheese

Fortunately a South African friend of mine invited me round to her house last year, and out of her cupboard she brought a jar of green fig preserve, reminding me how, back home, we used to deal with the figs before the birds could get to them.

Fig PreserveThis is one of many recipes – in reading up on it, I realise that it’s also something the Turkish do, so who knows how it made it’s way into the South African diet – to me it’s definitely a South African staple, so here’s the recipe, should you too have access to a big fig tree that never bears fruit. You’ll never look back.

Fig Boiling

Two things: it’s a bit fiddly to get the figs to the point of ready, but well worth the effort. Also, I don’t tend to add the spices in the boil. I add them to jars when they’re ready to be bottled up – this means I might have a fig and cardamom, a fig and cinnamon or a fig and clove, slightly different flavours, which keeps it fun and exciting.

Sometimes the figs we find are really big – too big to fit into gifting or ‘single portion’ (aka, enough for one meal) jars. If that’s the case, halve or quarter the figs before adding them to the sugar syrup. It doesn’t look as pretty in the jar, but in reality, when you pull them out to eat on your crackers you would  rarely eat a whole one on a single cracker anyway.

Green Fig Preserve
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Recipe type: South African
Cuisine: Preserves
Serves: 1kg
  • 1kg unripe figs
  • 1kg sugar
  • 1.250 ml (also 1.25kg!) water
  • Spices (cloves, cinnamon stick or cardamom all work well)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil - just enough to cover the figs. Add the figs and boil for ten minutes. Empty out and refill the pot, bringing the figs to boil and boiling for another ten minutes. This is important, as it's what makes them lose the bitter/unripe taste.
  2. Drain and leave to cool.
  3. Once cool enough to touch, squeeze the figs - there may may be some white liquid that drains out. If there's still a lot of white juice, boil again for ten more minutes, then squeeze again. It seems fiddly, but is well worth it!
  4. In a clean pot, bring the 1.250ml water to boil and add sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the squeezed figs. They will resume their original shape during this process, unless of course, you've cut them.
  5. Add the spices of choice* and boil figs in the sugar syrup for about 25 minutes. Add the lemon juice and boil 5 minutes more.
  6. Pour into sterilised jars, making sure the syrup covers the figs. *I tend to leave out the spices in the previous step and add different spices into the jars at this point so that I have different spice varieties. Close while hot to create a vacuum seal.
  7. Keep in a cool dark place, and transfer to the fridge once opened as it's actually best cold, served with goats cheese and parma ham - or just goats cheese if you're veggie.


Calamari, Tomato & Basil Pasta Recipe

Calamari Tomato & Basil

I’ve been enjoying the summer weather lately, and been loving the entertainment opportunities that presents too. When I have guests though, I like having pre-prepared, or quick to prepare meals as I don’t like spending ages in the kitchen! That’s just one of the reasons I really enjoy this Calamari, Tomato & Basil Pasta: it’s easy to prepare before hand, leaving just 10 minutes cooking time required.Calamari Tomato & Basil

I prefer to use fresh pasta when pasta is the main part of the meal, so I’ve used fresh pasta in this recipe. Dry pasta works, but needs to be cooked for longer. It can also be served in a salad, or with quinoa or other starch of your choice.

Use a good quality squid for this recipe too – nothing worse than leathery calamari!

Now, if you want to prepare this meal for later cooking, chop the garlic cloves, wash and dry the cherry tomatoes – halve them if they are the larger variety – wash the squid, clean it and cut it into rings, and chop the basil leaves roughly. Store all the items in the fridge till about 20 minutes before you’re going to cook them, leaving it to warm to room temperature a little.

If your calamari loses a lot of liquid in the cooking, you can pour it out about before adding the cherry tomatoes.

Serve immediately – and if you’re having wine, Calamari, Tomato & Basil Pasta pairs really well with a dry white wine, like a Pinot Grigio – a wine I don’t normally like, but it works fantastically with this. Another alternative is Riesling.

Calamari, Tomato & Basil Pasta
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There's a lot of flexibility in this recipe, with room for adaptations to make it your favourite. You may not like anchovies, but don't miss them out as they really add to the flavour of this dish.
Serves: 4
  • Pasta for four people
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, washed and dried
  • 450g squid, cleaned and cut into rings
  • bunch cut basil leaves
  • salt and pepper
  1. Prepare the pasta as per brand instructions. Set aside. (I bring 1000g water to boil in the Thermomix® - Varoma/8 mins/ speed 4 - then add the pasta in the internal steamer for 3 - 4 minutes / Varoma/speed 4)
  2. To a heated pan, add the oil, garlic and anchovy to a frying pan and heat till the anchovy sort of 'melts'.
  3. Add the squid and fry for 1 - 2 minutes, tossing them as you do.
  4. Next, add the cherry tomatoes and fry them for 3 - 4 minutes, till they begin to soften and leak juice - I prefer the cherry tomatoes to still have some bite to them, but it's personal choice, really!
  5. Test the squid to make sure it's nice and tender, then add the basil, salt and pepper.
  6. Serve with the pasta, or as a salad with green leaves.


Portuguese Rolls Recipe

If you want to truly torture a South African expat* ask them about Prego Rolls.

For a moment you’ll see a memory pass across their eyes. And if you were so inclined you could measure their spit production, because for most of us, there’ll be an immediate saliva release – drooling – in anticipation of something good. It’s practically Pavlovian .

The memory will most likely include Saturday mornings heading down to Pick n Pay to buy groceries, and stopping outside to pick up a Prego Roll from someone making them (and possibly pancakes) for a school, church or youth group fund raiser. Or just a family side business. Or if you weren’t a Saturday shopper, you’d find someone at the local fete selling them. Even our local Tuis Neiwerheid (popular home industries shops) used to  specially make them on a Saturday.

Portuguese Rolls

I’ve tried to make my own Prego Rolls over the many, many years I’ve been in the UK, but it’s never quite the same. I think you need that dry sand smell, baking sun on your back and maybe a Savannah to wash it all down with to completely complete the experience. Well. You do the best you can with what you have.

A lot of people don’t know this, but South Africa has quite a strong Portuguese influence. In school we were taught that Jan van Riebeeck ‘founded’ South Africa in 1652 – which I always took to mean he discovered it. It was only later that I realised that actually the first ‘discoverer’ of South Africa was Bartolomeu Dias – a Portuguese explorer, all the way back in 1488.

Remember this: “In 1652, het die wind gewaai, toe kom ek met my skippie in by Tafelbaai. Die wind het so gewaai, ons was almal op ‘n klomp. En so kry hy die naam die Kaap van Storms.”

So why the history lesson? Well, most people have eaten or at least seen a Nando’s restaurant at some point. Did you know that it was a chain started in South Africa? By a Portuguese South African. It is to South African food what curry is to British food! People should know this! **

Prego Rolls are Portuguese Rolls – Carcaças Rápidas – dusted in flour, filled with red wine and garlic marinated flash fried steaks, topped with piri piri sauce – or not, and aragula (rocket) – or not. It all depends on who is making and who is eating.  Hmmm.. drooling, yep, drooling here.

A few years ago I was living temporarily in Australia, and trying to convince a friend that she needed a Thermomix®. Her husband, Jimmy, was very against it, and highly disbelieving when I told him he could even make Portuguese Rolls in it. (Jimmy is from Mozambique. His mother lives with them, and speaks only Portuguese). Jimmy didn’t believe I could make the rolls in the Thermomix®, so when we had a New Year’s picnic a few weeks later, I took along a basket of fresh Portuguese Rolls (those in the picture). Jimmy couldn’t believe I’d made them in the Thermomix®. I did see him have two! (Jenny and Jimmy now own a Thermomix®!) JimmySo, how do you make these delicious, soft, crusty, light and fluffy Portuguese Rolls?

Here’s the recipe I use!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Portuguese Rolls
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Recipe type: European, Portuguese, Bread
Serves: 12
  • 200g warm water
  • 120g milk
  • 20g butter (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 (5ml) teaspoons dried yeast
  • 5g sugar
  • 500g baker's flour (strong white bread flour)
  • 1.5 tsp salt (5ml teaspoon)
  1. Add the water, milk, butter (or oil), yeast and sugar to the Thermomix® bowl
  2. Bloom for 2 mins/37C/Speed 2. (NO MC)
  3. Add the flour and the salt.
  4. Mix for 3 mins on the dough setting.
  5. In the meantime prepare a glass bowl or Thermoserver by sprinkling flour into it and swirling it around. Add the kneaded dough and set aside until it doubles in size - around 30 - 40 mins.
  6. Divide the dough into 12 parts and form a ball from each. Place on a flour dusted oven tray and flour each breadroll too.
  7. Cut a slash into each breadroll from one side to the other, and leave it for another 30 minutes or until it's looking nice and puffy again. Heat the oven to 180C
  8. Bake for 10 mins until it looks lightly browned, and allow to cool slightly.
  9. Save for later, or eat straight away with melted butter.
Regular Instructions
  1. Add the water, milk, butter (or oil) and yeast and sugar to a bowl and set aside for up to 10 mins.
  2. Add the flour and salt and mix to combine.
  3. Knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes, until the dough is no longer sticky and pliable.
  4. Set aside for 30 minutes till doubled in size.
  5. Split the dough into 12, form balls and slice slashes into each ball. Place on a floured surface and sprinkle flour on top.
  6. Set aside for another 30 minutes.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 180C and bake for 10 minutes
  8. Leave to cool slightly before serving


*most of us. obviously we’re not all exactly the same.

** I’m really touch on this point. I have no idea why.