Jam or Fruit Filled Doughnuts and “a day of no internet”

We woke up this Sunday to no internet or television connection in our apartment.

Imagine our dismay–a young, married couple–having to communicate–without a laptop propped nearby, or a loud television program distracting us in the background.

This may have been an opportunity, we thought, to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors; perhaps occupy our time with a variety of primitive early-human recreational activities such as “talking to one another” and “going outside to admire the scenery.”

But then we laughed, and called the repair man.

He never showed up. We stared at each other, and then at the blank television screen; even poked our lifeless laptop monitors.

“It no work!”, we said, pointing; banging on the internet modem, shaking it. “Work, magical rock. Work!”

Nothing.

After some time spent in silent contemplation, a light-bulb thought bubble grew over my husband’s head, and he remembered that we owned a pair of badminton rackets–which we had brought over from South Africa with noble, naive intentions to “get exercise”.

On searching the bedroom, we found them, along with the birdie–sitting forgotten and unused in the bedroom closet.

What happened next was our only logical choice.

We called it: “Apartment Badminton”, and began to set up the court. The couch and chairs became the net. Ladies got the side with the AC unit; Gents had to maneuver around the dinner table. I wasn’t one to argue with the rules.

The volley began. There were many misses; many close saves. The birdie bounced back and forth across the couch-net; sometimes bouncing off of it; sometimes hitting a ceiling light and landing on a chair. The tension mounted as we kept score–in the hopes of winning the coveted Five-Liter-Empty-Water- Bottle Trophy and waving it victoriously over our heads in the face of the defeated opponent. The first game I won, 21-7 (or 21-6, or 21-2, or whatever his abysmally low score was); and the second he won, 17-21.

I was insultingly, though correctly accused of cheating. I denied these accusations vehemently.

We decided, while playing, that to mimic the effect of “conversation”, we should play our own version of “Would I Lie To You”, inspired by the BBC game show.

Here, one person had to rack their brain to come up with random stories about themselves which may have been too irrelevant to share over the course of a seven year relationship, and the other person had to ask questions about the story to guess whether it was the truth or a lie. And of course, they had to be asked in the best impression of David Mitchell’s voice as was possible.

We were surprised–and perhaps a little alarmed–at the information we discovered.

Entertaining though it may have been, I must caution any interested couples with a disclaimer: You may think you know your spouse, or long-term partner, but through playing this game, one might discover strange things: like for example, how your husband once knowingly sampled “chocolate-flavored” dog biscuits (a detail that was never mentioned before the wedding)…or that your wife’s first business venture was to pluck a wheat-like weed that commonly grew in everyone’s garden, and travel door-to-door with a friend selling them as “brooms” for five cents each, eventually making a grand total of fifteen cents.

And then, when you truly start to question the secret, shadowy past life that has been kept from you for all these years by the dangerous eccentric you appear to have married, you can end the game and make jam doughnuts.

*

Recipe adapted from: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/4505/jam-doughnuts.aspx and http://emilycooksvegan.com/2013/12/28/jam-doughnuts/

Ingredients:IMG-20140304-03407

1 cup milk

5 tbsp water

1 egg, beaten

3 tbsp melted butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp instant yeast

2.5 cups cake wheat flour (and about 1 cup more for kneading)

Oil, for frying

Method

Mix all the ingredients except for flour, in a large bowl with a fork. Slowly add the flour and keep mixing with the fork until you get a sticky dough. Switch to kneading with your hand. Lift up the dough with your hand, spread some extra flour onto the bowl, and continue to knead until it forms some kind of ball shape and doesn’t feel so sticky. (Although it will still be sticky).

Cover with damp cloth and let rise for an hour.

After an hour, roll out the dough (which should have doubled) on a lightly- floured surface, kneading a little, and shape into a log. Cut 8-10 pieces, form them into balls; and place on covered baking tray. The dough should be much less sticky.

Let rise for about another hour.

Create piping bag: Ziploc bag + jam.

Put about 1-2 cups of oil in a deep pan, and heat to 180 degrees C. Roll the doughnuts, which would have expanded again, into a neat ball with some flour on your hands. You can put some mashed bananas (or apples) with sugar in the center before rolling if you like.

Place them carefully into the oil with a spatula. They should brown nicely on each side for 2-5 minutes.

Drain on paper towel, and sprinkle sugar on top, then patiently wait for it to completely cool before piping in jam. EAT THE FIRST FEW AS SOON AS YOU CAN AND JUST SPREAD JAM ON THEM OMG THEY ARE SO DELICIOUS.

If there any are left, stick them with a butter knife and pipe in the jam.

Then, maybe have dinner; if you insist on the formality.

*

IMG-20140304-03402

This guy didn’t make it to the “piping jam” phase.

These are delicious. I couldn’t stop eating them, and completely ignored the healthy dinner that was cooking away on the stove top. The dough, at times, is difficult to work with because it is so sticky, but you just have to keep adding more flour to the surface where you’re kneading, until it becomes easy to handle.

My husband, too, said that they were really good. But after what I learned, I might have to take his culinary verdicts with a pinch of salt.

Banana Bread and Cream Cheese Frosting (optional)

This is the story of ten small, ripe bananas.

They sat on the dinner table in the fruit bowl, next to four gigantic mangoes the size of my head. It’s summer here in the southern hemisphere, and it’s hot and humid–the perfect season for mangoes and summery fruit.

Though we bought them at the same time, and around the same level of ripeness, the mangoes are still hard, and will probably take another week to ripen. But the bananas, which were green when we got them, started to get yellow almost instantly, and within just two days of the mangoes’ company, boasted several brown spots, teetering precariously on the edge of ‘ripe’ and ‘overripe’.

I kept twitching every time I looked over at the dinner table.There were ten of them. And only two of us. We cannot eat ten bananas in one day.

Finally, this morning, I stood in front of them, deciding their fate.

“We are bananas.” They seemed to say.

“No,” I imagined answering them, in the wizened voice of Mr. Miyagi,  “No, you have all ripened much too quickly. Some of you will stay behind. But for most of you, the path forward is clear. We all think we are one thing. But we are actually waiting to be transformed into something else. You are not bananas. You are banana bread.”

“Ah” they seemed to respond. “Now it all makes sense. Please, sensai. Help us to fulfill our destiny.”

And so I looked online, and helped seven of the ripe bananas fulfill their destiny. They became banana bread, and lived happily ever after in my belly.

*

The following recipe was adapted from: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/05/29/best-ever-banana-bread-with-cream-cheese-frosting/

banana bread

Banana Bread

Set oven at 175C (350F). Mix the wet ingredients in a large bowl with a fork:

  • 1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup yogurt
  • A little over 2 cups of ripe, mashed bananas (I used 7 small ones)
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

Mix the dry ingredients in a smaller bowl.

  • 2 cups AP flour (or cake wheat flour)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of ground allspice

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and keep stirring with the fork until the batter comes together.

Butter a loaf pan, and pour the batter into the loaf pan. Stick in oven for 65 minutes (but keep checking it by inserting a knife inside). I didn’t need to add aluminum foil at the halfway point. I don’t think this needs cream cheese frosting, because it’s really good on it’s own, but it will certainly enhance the flavor; though it might tip this from being ‘possible to call it breakfast’ to ‘most definitely dessert’.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Put half a tub (4oz) of cream cheese in a bowl.
  • Add about 4-5 heaped teaspoonfuls of powdered sugar.
  • Mix together with a fork and taste for sweetness. (If too sweet, add more cream cheese.)
  • Add a dash of vanilla extract.
  • Add food coloring if you want it to be fun. I sometimes draw pictures on the set frosting with melted chocolate and a ziploc bag doubled as a piping bag.
  • Spread onto this, (or literally any baked good you wish to make even better.)

*

The smell of this banana bread wafting through the apartment was so enticing, I shamelessly didn’t wait for my husband to get home before trying a slice. I shamelessly didn’t even wait to “let it cool” or finish this post to try a slice. I did, however, take a grainy cellphone picture.

The banana bread hit the spot–It was moist, sweet, light, and yet oddly filling. In the future, I would reduce the sugar by just a tiny bit. But most banana bread recipes call for a full 1 cup of sugar to 2 cups of flour, so this is just my personal taste; and maybe the fact that I added a few more mashed bananas than needed, and there were no pecans to contrast the sweetness.

I would definitely make this recipe again. The bananas are happy. I am happy.

Now I have to figure out the destiny of the other three.

bananas on mangoes

Vegetarian Beet Burgers

Attempt 1 (February, 2014) — Success!!

I wish I had taken a photo, because it was the most aesthetically appealing thing I’ve ever cooked. I froze the extra patties, so we might be able to capture the burger next time we eat, before they get gobbled down by ravenous beasts. To create this, I looked up several recipes online, and then just used the combination of ingredients I happened to have, and what I thought would taste the best.

Recipe

Ingredients for Patty:
  • 3 Beets
  • 3/4 cup cooked rice
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 Can Chickpeas
  • 1.5 Red Onion (should have used only 1)
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 tsp Dried Basil
  • 3-4 tsp Cumin Powder
  • 1-2 tsp Coriander Powder
  • 0.5 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1-1.5 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • Oil or butter, for frying.

Ingredients for Burger:

  • Portuguese Bread (Fluffy and thick slices)
  • Feta Cheese
  • Avocado Slices
  • Mayonnaise
  • Butter, for toasting bread
Instructions:
  1. Pressure cook the beets (1-2 whistles)
  2. Cook 1/2 cup rice by boiling in double water. Rice will double in size and should be soft.
  3. Drain the chickpeas, and lay them out on a paper towel. Run another paper towel over them to dry, and then transfer them to a new paper towel–just for good measure.
  4. Put rolled oats in a mixer, until they are the fine consistency of bread crumbs.
  5. Chop or grate the onion and garlic.
  6. Add the onion, garlic, chickpeas, and cooked rice into a large bowl.
  7. When beets are cooked (they are cooked when you can cut them through with a butter knife easily), peel and shred them. I squeezed the water out of them by hand, but it would be easier probably if you have a strainer.
  8. Add spices
  9. Form into balls. They should hold together–if they don’t, stick them in the fridge underneath saran wrap for some time.
  10. Fry the patties.
  11. Add some butter to a pan and toast the bread. Once toasted, put a thin layer of mayonnaise on each toasted side, add patty, avocado slices, and feta cheese.
Serve with mashed potatoes (5 potatoes–microwaved, add: butter, milk, salt, pepper).
*
Beet burgers are normally made with black beans as well as chickpeas, but I didn’t have any black beans on me that day. The patty was nice and crisp on the outside, had the warm consistency of softened potatoes on the inside, and went really well with the cool avocado and creamy feta cheese. It also looks great–bright red patty contrasted with green avocados and crumbly white feta. I will definitely make these again.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom– The Movie

Image

Sometimes, reading about things like ‘Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison’, and his wife ‘spent 16 months in solitary confinement’ just doesn’t quite paint the picture, until you see it represented visually.

In the film, you see Mandela aging in prison, and getting to see his daughter only when she turns 13–when the last time he saw her was as a 2 year old. They show how he isn’t allowed to touch his own family; how he is only allowed to send his daughters TWO letters a YEAR; how letters coming from his wife are cut out in places where they think it is too political, and how he isn’t allowed to bury his son.

The movie shows how each of the young ANC members who are charged with “conspiracy” and “attempted sabotage” refuse an appeal, knowing that if they are found guilty, it would likely end in a death sentence.This is where Mandela gave his famous speech, looking at the judge straight in the eye:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” –Nelson Mandela, 1964

In many ways, whatever fruits their lives were able to bear afterward, the sentence that the men were given was worse than immediate death. The film shows how brutally they were all treated in jail, and how slowly, as racial attitudes changed in South Africa, the new jailers were progressively more civil to them, and gave them more amenities as the decades wore on.

But the point that was driven home for me while watching this movie was a visual image of how much they all really suffered; and how despite all this suffering, they still did what they thought was right for South Africa–which was to not act on their anger, and forgive.

It’s amazing, when you are lucky to grow up around peace; around peaceful people, in peaceful settings–to see what the people before us had to sacrifice in order to give us this gift.

I don’t think I’ll say ‘the movie is better than the book’, but I’m surprised, for the first time, to say that the movie shows this story in a way that a book is inherently limited. I know the history, for the most part, but it is one thing to know facts, and another thing to see them played out in front of you. The whole time I was watching it, I kept thinking: “I can’t believe this actually happened. I can’t believe these are real people.”

You should see it at least once.

Cheesecake

Cheesecake

Recipe Attempt 1 (November 2012)–Success! Recipe for cheesecake adapted from: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/perfect_cheesecake/ And recipe for graham crackers: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/honey-graham-crackers/?scale=12&ismetric=0 Adjustments For crust: Used 1.5 cups crushed graham crackers, 1.5 tablespoons sugar, 3.5 tablespoons melted butter. Baked for 5 minutes (didn’t need full … Continue reading