Thursday, January 08, 2015

Chef'Ease: How do you like your jam, ma'am?

* Chef'Ease products supplied for review purposes.

The blog heads to Wellington again this month, but this time, Wellington in South Africa - home of Chef'Ease products.

I agreed to taste test and (honestly) review the line of jams, so a day on which I baked bread (today) seemed like the perfect opportunity to do a bit of smearing (pun not intended).

Being the South African girl that I am, thick slices of bread straight out of the oven call mos for apricot jam.

Packaging: I'm a big fan of squeezy bag packaging when it comes to allergies and products that are usually easily cross contaminated. Let me set the scene: 

Daddy, mommy, boetie and sussie live in a house. One jar of jam. But sussie is allergic to wheat. Now boetie spreads strawberry jam on his wheaty toast, dipping the crumby knife into the jar of strawberry jam multiple times. Sussie unsuspectingly comes to breakfast and dips her clean knife into the cross-contaminated jar of jam, innocently spreading it (and all the wheaty toast crumbs) on her rice cake. Two minutes later: anaphylactic shock. 

What a way to start the day.

Solution? Squeezy bags of jam! 

(Someone please just teach boetie not to drag the plastic rim of the squeezy bag along his wheaty toast, for goodness sake!)

One point of contention: The lid. It is easy to open but those little twisty plastic bits on the lid are sharp and don't come off easily.

Deployment: I didn't think to shake the packet before opening it, so when I squeezed some jam onto my slice of bread, some sugary water spurted out before the really thick jam could be squeezed out.

Visual appeal: Good. Judging by the colour, it looks like apricots were involved in this jam's origin.

Spreadability: Excellent. Spreads easily and doesn't break my gluten-free bread (gluten does a sticky but important job when it comes to bread, so this was a big plus for me).

Texture: SUPER smooth! No lumpy or textured bits at all. 

Flavour: Excellent. Not overly sweet with a good hit of fruity tartness (just the way I love my apricot jam). No lingering aftertaste of anything other than apricots either. 

Since fresh, locally grown blackberries have (finally) made an appearance in Woolworths stores this December, I've been eating these pricey gems by the half punnet full (a girl has to share). May I just interject (in my own post) and say a hearty: "Thank you!" to whichever South African farmer decided to grow blackberries and not export them all! My taste buds and antioxidant levels are much obliged.

Anyway, the point of my verbal meander is to say that I was anxious to try the blackberry jam, since the only other blackberry jam I usually eat is St. Dalfour.

Deployment: I remembered to shake it before opening it. This jam is more runny than the apricot, so it shakes easier and you don't get "sugary water spurt" (now a technical term).

Visual appeal: Not great. It's true, blackberries are called BLACKberries, but when you view them up close in all their globular glory, they have hues of purple and reds. They are pretty berries. This jam has the visual appeal of primordial sludge.

Spreadability: Excellent. Spreads easily.

Texture: Very smooth.

Flavour: Really not my flavour at all. This was reminiscent of childhood pseudo-flavoured cough syrups with a distinct medicinal aftertaste. IMHO this doesn't do blackberries any justice. None of the fresh, sweet, tart flavours are imparted. I couldn't take more than one bite. To quote my friend Carolina's grandad: "Something is wrong here that should be right."

Third and final flavour: guava jam. Another South African staple (mos).

Deployment: Same as for the blackberry jam.

Visual appeal: Okay - a bit uneven but, again, it looks like it comes from guavas (or more like dried guava rolls, really).

Spreadability: Excellent. Spreads easily.

Texture: Very smooth. No teeth cracking on guava seeds in this jam.

Flavour: Tastes like guavas initially but then something ever so slightly bitter lingers in the aftertaste. Sweeter than the apricot jam with less tartness. I miss some tartness.

Winner, winner chicken dinner?

Apricot jam - hands down! In fact, I would actually now stop using other apricot jams and start using this as my first choice, that's how perfect the balance of sweetness to tartness is!

I can't comment on cost, since I don't now how much these products cost, but I'm guessing that it wont be anywhere in the region of imported Bonne Maman and St. Dalfour prices (i.e. pricey).

But you know, the thing about jam is that you use so little of it (comparatively speaking) and expect it to impart a big flavour punch in that small amount as well (I mean, I don't hear many people admitting to standing with a spoon in a jar of jam the way you would with, say, Nutella), so forking out money for the perfect tasting jam that is going to last you a while seems like money well spent.

So, what's your jam?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wellington Chocolate Factory

Tucked up an inconspicuous alley (the type you might otherwise try and avoid), in 5 Eva Street, is Wellington's answer to chocolate done right.

A veritable cornucopia of delights, this bean to bar chocolaterie in the centre of Wellington's CBD is a treat.

Beans are processed, magic is made, chocolate emerges.

What more could a chocoholic ask for?

The hot chocolate (NZ $5) can be made with either cow's milk or soya milk, and you have a choice between 70% Peruvian or Dominican chocolate.

If you like a fruity, sweet taste, Peruvian is your thing.
If you prefer rich and malty (which I recommend), try the Dominican.

Believe me when I say, this might be the best hot chocolate you might ever taste.

Each cup is filled half-way with chocolate, and then steamed/frothed milk is poured over that, bringing it up to the brim of the cup. Your chocolate of choice is then sprinkled on top.

It is outrageously good. So good, in fact, that we went back for both consecutive weekends of the two weekends we were in Wellington to seek it out.

Each slab (NZ $13.50) is hand wrapped in both foil and an artistic thick paper cover, and sealed with a sticker.

We tried both the 70% hazelnut and the coconut milk chocolate (52% cocoa solids + dairy free + made with coconut sugar). Both were excellent.

It is wonderful to see the craftsmanship behind this artisanal chocolate.

If you ever find yourself in Wellington, New Zealand - find yourself in the Wellington Chocolate Factory.


Address: 5 Eva Street, Te Aro, Wellington.

By Bus: Wellington's bus system is hard to beat in terms of cost and convenience. Safe, friendly and clean (especially in comparison to Melbourne's disgustingly dirty trams), buy yourself a Snapper card, load money on it and tag on/off wherever you feel like going. 

Catch any bus which runs past Courtenay Place. Alight at Manners Street, close to Arty Bees Books, Walk up Cuba Street, take a left at Dixon and a right into Eva Street. Look closely to find the sign for WCF. It's worth the trip.

Monday, October 13, 2014

HEALTH: The Good, The Bad, The Rather Unfortunate

You may ask yourself: "Why is this post on this blog?" (cue the cringe factor)

Because the hip bone is connected to the ankle bone, my friend.

Allergies come from somewhere, and gut health is crucial to fending off the ever impending somewhere, especially for immune compromised individuals (hey, you with coeliac - that's YOU!)

And down the rabbit hole we go...

For those of you who have never found yourselves smearing vaginal thrush cream on your eyelids, face and neck in your life (so far), consider yourself lucky.

How did I arrive at this rather unfortunate happening?

A round of amoxycillin for a respiratory tract infection (the downsides of air travel, jet lag, stress, and close quarters contact with sick and coughing children when you have an autoimmune disorder).

The good: Antibiotics.
The bad: Antibiotics.

So good things sometimes go wrong.
This much we know.

This, however, was a first for me.
Cutaneous candidiasis.

Yes, that's right. Candida on your face, neck, eyelids that flares up in hair follicules, causing a terrible red rash that itches like crazy mad (charming, I know).

When the overgrowth ("Yay, we're winning now!") of fungi normally found in the body is caused by upsetting the (apparently) rather delicate balance of bacteria to fungi ratios.

You see, antibiotics kill bacterias.
The good along with the bad.

If you have never before thought of yourself as an ecosystem, now is the time to start.

From the bacterial colonies that thrive in the gut to the fungi which cruise around with them to the little mites which live on our eye lashes. They need us. We need them. For everything from conferring immunity to helping with digestion.

Now, what the hell do you do about cutaneous candidiasis if you should find yourself the bearer of this nasty arse red face rash?

Multi-pronged approach.

Internal? An anti-fungal like diflucan (fluconazole) (prescription necessary).

More internal? Balance that homeostasis as fast as possible!

Cut back the sugars and refined carbs. Load up on green leafy vegetables and proteins.

And get thee hence to a shop for:

PROBIOTICS - build up the healthy gut bacteria again

Watch out for allergens. Find a brand that is made without gluten, etc.
KEFIR - cultured dairy or coconut water which contains natural probiotics

YOGHURT - more edible probiotics, best eaten on prebiotics (the foods that the good bacteria love so that they make more of themselves)

External? Yup, you guessed it. Vaginal cream containing an antifungal like clotrimazole.

CREAM ARSENAL - turns out that fungi are adaptable bastards and you need to attack them from various directions. Also, vaginal cream isn't exactly a facial moisturiser now is it. So maintaining facial moisture levels while attacking a fungus which is attacking your skin is, how shall I put it, tricky. P.S. You may want to forego make-up during this process. Your vanity will scream NOOOO! Your skin, however, will thank you.

Thyme Heal Anti-Fungal Cream
Naturally by Trisha's Fungus Salve
So there you go. The fung-us among-us.

Corny, but oh so true.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

FOOD: Coconut Yoghurt + A Tasty Recipe

Yellow Split Peas with Coconut Yoghurt and Wile Rocket Leaves

Fierce Wellington Winds A Blowin'...
Wellington winds gust strong.
Damn strong.

All well and fine if you can stay in doors, and watch the view above from the safety and comfort of an insulated studio apartment with heating. 

Not so great if you have to head out to walk around, catch buses, etc.

This weather calls for a hearty meal.
The kind that warms the cockles of your thawing bones and is healthy to boot.

Enter coconut yoghurt.
And may I say: GENIUS idea!

Dairy-free. Gluten-free. Lactose-free.
Probiotics = affirmative.
No added sugar.
Tastes? Excellent!

Picked up a tub of this beauty at Commonsense Organics in Wakefield Street, Wellington City.

Boy-oh-boy, is that a fun place to visit!

For those working at a rather extreme exchange rate disadvantage (*cough*), watch yourself in this place. You will burn through a whole lotta cash before you even blink!

Yellow Split Peas with Coconut Yoghurt and Wild Rocket

This is really more about assembly than a "recipe" per se.

Substitute a thick, creamy yoghurt for the coconut yoghurt if it isn't available in your location.  

The tangy tartness of yoghurt balances the richer flavours of the split peas, while the peppery textured crunch of wild rocket seals the deal on a hearty meal. 

Step 1: Rocket (arugula).
Step 2: Warm, soft, freshly cooked yellow split peas seasoned with salt.
Step 3: Dollop of creamy (coconut) yoghurt to finish off a delightful dish.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

TRAVEL: Epic Adventures - Te Anau and Doubtful Sound

Shores of Lake Te Anau at the start of the 67km Kepler Track on New Zealand's South Island.

I'm one of those people who used to cry as a child when holidays were over because I didn't want the fun to end.

I still don't.

And sometimes I still cry at the end of holidays.

When undertaking an epic nine week adventure, as I currently am, one has to shift one's perspective on leaving places slightly, because you are doing it (a lot).

Of course, leavings are juxtaposed with arrivings, so things even out.

But still, I found myself on the deck of a boat, cruising one of the most remote and inaccessible locations of New Zealand's South Island on the weekend - Doubtful Sound.

Accessed only by a boat ride across lake Manapouri, a bus ride along a private road (owned and maintained by Meridian Energy) through a treacherous (snow covered!!!) pass, down to the water's edge of Doubtful Sound.

Doubtful Sound was, apparently, shrouded in doubt when Captain Cook was't sure if his ship's sails would fit through the Sound.

This place is remote. And magical.

It is not often in one's life when one feels one is truly in a wild place, with a hint of OMG freedom attached to the thought of being at such a remote and southern location that the inevitable thought arises:
Is this the most remote and isolated place I will ever be in my life? Is this it in terms of experiences like this?

I am OCD that way. Way too much forward thinking.

Enter a case of the feels.

Boo hoo. I am having this amazing life experience that has a time frame attached. Call the Waaaambulance.

Ag, anyway. That's the way I roll.

It was epic. The moment(s) were epic. 

This trip is epic.

And hopefully, I will get to see some more cool and remote and wild and free shit still as long as I am riding this merry-go-round.

After all, if you're here, you already won the genetic lottery ticket.

May as well ride that horsey till it wears out (or you do).