You want to eat a samp & bean bake

July 1st, 2021 § 0 comments § permalink

Samp & beans – umngqusho – is a staple of the Eastern Cape, heartland of the isiXhosa tribe and where I grew up. My mom used to make it in a pressure cooker, adding lamb fat or a stock cube for flavour. It’s wonderful on its own or as a carrier for gravy and stew. I’m petrified of pressure cookers and cook my samp & beans in a regular pot on the stove top, which takes a good three hours. Plus, there’s the overnight soaking that requires a bit of planning.

When lockdown loosened its grip in 2020 I took my son Ben on a road trip to the Great Karoo. I wanted him to see where his grandmother Nell Weyer-Henderson was born and also where I had the time of my life as a kid. I was thrilled to spot a bowl of cooked samp & beans in the kitchen on my cousin’s farm outside Somerset East.

I assumed it would be served in the traditional way, but no. Davy’s wife, Sunene, fried onions, garlic, herbs, chopped bacon, sliced mushrooms and mixed it through cooked samp & beans to make a samp and bean BAKE. A whaaaaaat? According to Sunene there isn’t a specific recipe, every housewife in the Noorsveld makes her own version of a samp & bean bake. Sunene stirs a well-seasoned cheese sauce through, tops with grated cheese and bakes at 180 degrees until the cheese is melted. It has the savoury moreishness of a souttert plus the comforting mouthfeel of samp.

It is what you want to eat on a cold and rainy day.

A Brick of Happiness

I made my own version recently. A cheese sauce is easy but soooo tedious and given half a chance, I use whipped eggs and cream or sour cream as a substitute. To a fried onion, garlic, herbs, one packet of bacon and a punnet of mushroom I added a mixture of one cup cream, one cup sour cream, two eggs and grated cheese before stirring through one packet of cooked samp & beans (seasoning all components as I go along). Top with grated cheese and bake.

Ben ate with gusto but admitted that Sunene’s was “more savourier”. Anton, a native of the Western Cape who didn’t grow up eating samp and beans, said it was very nice. “It’s definitely better than chicken!” he added. He really resents chicken.

I love that samp & beans are used in a new way. Is this a Noorsveld* thing? Or do you know of other ways that samp & beans are being used? Samp & bean arancini, anyone?

Please tell me your samp secrets.

*The Noorsveld is an area in the Great Karoo that runs from Somerset East to Jansenville, where the Noors plant thrives despite severe drought

Freekeh Pilaf

January 8th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Of all the freekeh dishes I’ve tried, Yotam Ottolenghi’s Freekeh Pilaf is my favourite. Simple, fast and generous. Play around with the herb and spice mix to suit the occasion. Add garlic and smoked paprika to create a Spanish-style freekeh served with lightly fried chorizo. Or use cumin and coriander topped with guacamole and sour cream to accompany hot Mexican beef strips. Although Ottolenghi uses allspice and cinnamon in the original recipe, I ultimately prefer the taste of cumin to allspice. Tailor it to your own taste.

Cracked grain freekeh pilaf



2 medium onions, thinly sliced

25g butter

1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish

1 cup cracked grain freekeh

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground allspice

500ml good-quality veg or chicken stock

100g Greek yoghurt

1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 garlic clove, crushed

10g parsley, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish

10g mint, finely chopped

10g coriander, finely chopped

2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted and roughly broken (or toasted almond slivers as a cheaper alternative)

salt and black pepper

Garnish with angel hair chili (pictured above) or pomegranate pips.

Place the onions, butter and olive oil in a large heavy-based pot and sauté on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15–20 minutes. or until the onion is soft and brown.

Add the freekeh and spices to the onions, followed by the stock and some salt and pepper. Stir well. Bring to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat to a minimum and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave it covered for 5 minutes. Finally, remove the lid and leave the pilaf to cool down a little, about another 5 minutes.

While you wait, mix the yoghurt with the lemon juice, garlic and some salt.

Stir the herbs into the warm (not hot) pilaf. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon onto serving dishes and top each portion with a generous dollop of yoghurt. Sprinkle with pine nuts and parsley and finish with a trickle of olive oil.

Enjoy as a light meal or serve with sliced, spicy chicken, a roast or braai.

Tune into The Expresso Show, Monday 9 January,  from 7.30 – 8.30am. I will be talking to Zola Nene about Greenwheat Freekeh and will make this delicious pilaf and more. 

Wholegrain freekeh tabbouleh

January 8th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Traditionally made with bulgur wheat, tabbouleh with fibre-rich freekeh is a nourishing, PH balanced blessing in a bowl. Packed with parsley and lemon juice, your sluggish post silly season digestive system will rejuvenate with every bite.

Pictured here with frilly lettuce from the garden.


  • 1 cup cooked wholegrain freekeh
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
  • Juice of 2 large lemons, to taste
  • 3 cups very finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (from 3 large bunches)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 punnet small roma tomatoes
  • 1 bunch salad onions, finely chopped
  • Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cos lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried



Cook the freekeh according to the packet instructions, drain and allow to cool. In a large bowl, blend the minced garlic, lemon juice, parsley, mint, salad onions, tomatoes and salt. Mix the freekeh through and allow to rest for the freekeh to absorb the dressing. Add the olive oil, toss together, taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with cos lettuce leaves.

Enjoy as a refreshing salad on its own or to provide zingy yin to your roast yang.

Tune into The Expresso Show, Monday 9 January,  from 7.30 – 8.30am. I will be talking to Zola Nene about Greenwheat Freekeh and will make this delicious salad and more. 



Classic croquetas de jamón

October 12th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Croquetas are a staple of bar counters around Spain. Fantastic as a tummy liner on a night out, equally adored by children for their melt-in-the-mouth moreishness. A basic béchamel sauce infused with ham, cheese, chicken, boiled egg or seafood… Then cooled, rolled into oblong blobs,  coated in crumbs, and fried. Classic peasant food. The best kind.

Savoury flavour bombs

» Read the rest of this entry «

Hit that perfect beet with this spring salad

August 25th, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

And strawberries – they’re very cheap at the moment – just R18.99 per 250g punnet at my local. Beetroot is always cheap at just over R10 a bushel of raw beets. Bless its high carb content* for saving it from going the cauliflower route. Everyone claims to love beetroot but it seldom features as a side or main dish when eating at friends’ homes. Beets are dense so perhaps the cooking or roasting time is a deterrent in our quick-fix society? Or the red-stained fingers from peeling and slicing? It just can’t seem to shake its working class aura, which is fine by me.**

This salad is the perfect embodiment of spring’s current hide-and-seek show. Strawberries and basil bounce off the earthy gravitas of no-nonsense beet.

Jewel-toned beets & berries

Beetroot and strawberry salad with berry and basil vinaigrette

» Read the rest of this entry «

A Few Of My Flavourite Things

July 26th, 2016 § 4 comments § permalink

We all have our meals, ingredients, cuts and condiments that we gravitate to on a regular basis. But when I cook myself into a lacklustre corner it’s time to shake up the shopping trolley, so to speak, because you’re only as good as the contents of your pantry and fridge. These are the ingredients that keep my meal wheels turning. Most of them are good flavour mates to each other and although some are pricey, they’re good value given their potency and shelf life. I’ve not listed great olive oil, salt, pepper and butter as they’re non-negotiable. So, before the yodeling kicks in, here are A Few Of My Flavourite Things:


O Captain! My Captain Beefheart!

O Captain! My Captain Beefheart!

TOMATOES – My great love. Sadly, all tomatoes are picked before they’re properly ripe. Never ever ever refrigerate a tomato unless it’s been really mean to you. Give them at least a few days on the shelf to ripen and for some reason, they last longer if placed bottom up. If you have a really beautiful ripe tomato (like a beefheart, which is scarce in SA), peel it with a sharp knife before slicing and serving with a generous amount of excellent olive oil, Maldon salt and a few drops of vinegar. If you’ve bought a really decent mozzarella or burrata, take the time to peel smaller tomatoes by first immersing in hot water, then cold, and removing the peel with the help of a sharp blade. It does taste better. The Italians and Spanish do it, and they are world leaders in Tomatoism. » Read the rest of this entry «

You can’t have your cake preservative-free and eat it next month

May 9th, 2016 § 6 comments § permalink

I thought of Lunchbox Lies as a title for this post because I’m a sucker for sensationalist alliteration. Also because it started out as a mother’s earnest quest to analise the content of her son’s lunchbox – an exploration of the toxic-sounding components of modern food, if you will – that devolved into a whole lot of bitching about how small ‘small print’ has become. Almost like it’s not meant to be read.

Before I take you down the preservative-lined rabbit hole, let me say that I am not a health food fanatic. My life has been characterised by pervasive hunger and what I like to think of as discerning taste buds (my mom called it ‘being full of shit’). I’ve always punched above my financial weight when it comes to food shopping. I’ve eaten little organic fruit and veg (limited availability and just too expensive) but I buy the cleanest meat, eggs and dairy on the shelf. I stay away from artificial sweeteners, fruit “juice”, pre-cooked sauces, long-life anything and carbonated cold drinks, unless heavily diluted with hard tack. In short, I think I’m quite balanced.

Sometimes I play with Ben's food

Sometimes I play with my son’s food

But the food industry is full of horror stories. Good old MSG was the first scary blip on my radar, then tartrazine, followed by growth hormones causing young boys to grow breasts and girls to menstruate at 9, carbon dioxide-ripened tunnel tomatoes, pesticides, a plethora of preservatives, carcinogenic colourants, mad cow’s disease, BPA-seepage from plastic packaging, the alluminium free radicals in tinned food and let’s not forget those GMO-peddling mofos over at Monsanto. I can’t even begin with the cruelty at the heart of the meat industry. There is a certain poetic justice in humanity being eradicated by a cloud of cow fart. » Read the rest of this entry «

Hoe gemaak met ‘n groot tros

April 6th, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

Danksy Herman Lensing weet ek ook nou. Ten spyte van die erge droogte, hang die laaste trosse van die oes swaarder as ooit tevore. Wyndruiwe is klein met dik doppe en ouskool pitte, maar word soeter gepluk as tafeldruiwe. So toe ek vandag verby die laaste kratte van hierdie oesjaar stap, gryp ek ‘n paar trosse Cabernet Sauvignon* om Herman se plat druifbrood van ‘n onlangse Inspirasiekos met Sarie-program na te maak.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 21.44.46

Makliker kan dit nie. ‘n Sakkie klaargemaakte deeg by jou plaaslike supermark se bakkery en die res is at your own discretion. Herman se weergawe het bloukaas, heuning, sout, peper en uitvoergehalte pitlose druiwe bevat. Ek het sy raad gevolg en ‘n bakplaat vrot van die olyfolie gegooi, die deeg dun uitgerek en toe met vingerpunte vol dimpels gedruk. My topping het bestaan uit: » Read the rest of this entry «

Fear of banting. There, I said it.

March 15th, 2016 § 10 comments § permalink

Is it a dwarf nut cup or a polyp spliced with a humongous kidney stone? NO, it’s a banting bokdrol!

After a lifetime of never having to diet – sure, I’ve cut DOWN but never cut stuff OUT, completely – I took a daylight, panic attack-inducing look at my waist, calcualted the cost of upsizing my wardrobe and promptly messaged a friend: “Hey, could you send me the recipe for those banting cocoa things, please?”

Because if I were to really start dieting, I need to know there is a good eat-as-much-as-you-can snack in the mix.

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 14.47.04



A friend lost an impressive amount of weight by banting and feasting on these nibbles whenever temptation reared its ugly potato head. » Read the rest of this entry «

Edible Ode To The Vine

February 18th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m back in the Helshoogte mountains, surrounded by an undulating carpet of vine leaves. Just before Christmas, I was moved to express my gratitude for once again living in this verdant valley that produces such outstanding gossip wines. In a way that required a little more effort than simply raising a glass to the lights of Paarl twinkling across the valley at sunset.

Stuff them, I figured. With rice or pork, Greek or Middle-Eastern style. Undeterred by the fact that spring was a good few months past and the leaves were somewhat mature (thick and inflexible) for this exercise, I set off into the vineyard with a plastic shopping bag, clippers and a large hat. I was a straw hamper and wavy blonde hair short of a bucolic cliché. Or a shampoo ad.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 16.11.30

Pick shiraz leaves, the winemaker yelled as he drove past. » Read the rest of this entry «