Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Feeding More Than Just Bellies....

Can you believe its been almost a year since our last blog? The last 12 months have been full of changes and activity for the Two Peas. We may have been quiet on the blog but there was a lot happening in the background while we worked to put in place our dream of a simpler life - one that focuses on sustainability and where we support ourselves though food. 

I have always loved feeding people. It was always the drive behind my cooking and nothing gives me more joy than making a meal for my loved ones. Kyle and I knew we wanted to change our life in such a way that food was at the core of how we supported ourselves. Over the past few years we have toyed with starting a deli or a brewery in a small town and then later with having a small farm to support our deli. 

In December 2016 Kyle and I discovered the book "The Third Plate" by Dan Barber. This book literally changed the way we thought about eating, farming and food. It changed my mind about what I thought sustainable eating and farming was. The book did not prescribe how to eat or take a moral stance on anything; it just neatly and concisely explains how our food is made and how a new generation of farmers are thinking about sustainability and the future of food. 

Suddenly Kyle and I knew exactly what it was we wanted. We did not just want to feed peoples bellies; we wanted to feed their souls. When we take food production and remove it so completely from nature, the way modern foods do, we remove nutrition, we destroy the soils and we impact the very ecosystem that feeds us. 

We wanted to be a part of the solution. Opting out of the conventional food system was the first step . That can be hard as you have to source suppliers you trust and not just listen to the green washing people put on labels. Our Johannesburg go-to's where our friends at Bannatynes Farm for all our meats (top tip - sign up for the emails and read the blog. They are glorious!) and Freshly Grown for our fruit and vegetables. 

Happy Pigs at Bannatynes Little Farm
Picture Credit: Bannatynes

But opting out was not enough for me. I want to be a bigger part of the solution and ultimately raise my family on a farm, close to nature and doing things the old fashioned way but with modern insights. Now, without getting into the politics of it, we didn't feel that farming in South Africa, with the associated security concerns, was a risk we wanted to take with our family. With heavy hearts, Kyle and I made the choice to move to Canada and persue our food dreams there.

Honestly, I can say it is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. We have been in Canada now for just over two months and its hard every single day. I miss South Africa fiercely. I miss its people, its natural beauty and its soul. The land has a spirit that is unbelievably powerful and it will always be home. Luckily nature, in its infinite wisdom, gave us a gift just before leaving that has helped us focus on why we are doing this and why we want to make the world better. Come April 2018 we are expecting a Third Pea... 

Third Pea - Coming April 2018

And so we are hoping you will follow us as we progress on this journey and as we pick up new followers in our new town of Windsor, Ontario. I have big plans for the spring and I cannot wait to start sharing them with all of you. 

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Chocolate Brownie Mince Pies (with homemade fruit mince)

I believe if you are going to indulge in sugar it should at least be worth it. Nothing upsets me more than biting into a piece of confectionery only to be disappointed or underwhelmed. All that sugar, (basically crack for your body) and those empty calories for what? 

A local supermarket chain is selling chocolate brownie mince pies this year and they sounded like they were going to be well worth the sugar hit. They were for the most part good. Most people would be perfectly happy with them but I figured if you going to promise me a brownie and a mince pie, I want to be able to actually taste the chocolate, to feel the gooey brownie centre and then have the tartness of fruit mince soften the richness. So I set out to see if I could create a homemade version that lived up to the promise and I think I have it. I call them "one-and-you're-done" mince pies. 

I made my own fruit mince (it is super easy I promise and it means you can have more control of the amount of sugar  and other additives in the final product) but if you in a rush or just don't want to you can always skip this step buy it pre-made from the supermarket.

Fruit Mince


1 cup raisins
1 cup dried fruit of your choice - fruit with a bit of natural tartness works best (Apricots, plums etc)
Zest from 1 lemon
100 g butter
100 ml water
A good splash of brandy/sherry/rum (pick you poison or leave out if you wish)
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves


Fruit Mince Ingredients
Step 1: Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and place on a medium heat. 

 Combined Ingredients

Step Two:
Once bubbling reduce heat and simmer on a low heat stirring occasionally for about 40 minutes or until the liquid is reduced. Bare in mind it will thicken up further on cooling, as the sugars from the fruit crystallise, so you don't need to push it too far.  

Finished Fruit Mince
Chocolate Brownie Mince Pies 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade


For the pastry
250 g plain flour
125 g unsalted butter, in pieces
1 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the filling
100 g dark chocolate lightly chopped (I used one with almonds in to add nuts to the recipe)
100 g soft butter
175 g light muscovado sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
2 large eggs
100 g plain flour
250 g fruit mince


Step 1:  Mix the plain flour, cocoa, butter and icing sugar until it resembles breadcrumbs. You can use an electric mixer but I like to do this step with my hands,

Step 2: Mix the egg. When the pastry comes together into a soft dough bring it together in a ball. Flatten the ball into a disk (this makes rolling easier later) wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge. 

Step 3: In a Separate bowl mix the butter and sugar with an an electric mixer to combine. Gradually add the lightly beaten eggs, still mixing. Add the plain flour and cocoa. Mix until combined. Fold in the lightly chopped chocolate. 

Step 4: Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out  to about 2 mm on a floured surface. Use a fluted cookie cutter to stamp out rounds. I used a 9 cm one but it will depend on the size of your muffin tray. Carefully place the rounds into a greased and floured muffin tray.

Rolling Out the Pastry
Step 5: Put a spoonful of the brownie filling into each pastry case and top with a spoon of fruit mince.
Mince Pie in Progress
Step 6: You can either cover the brownies with another round of pastry at this point (remembering) to prick holes in the top with a fork or cut strips of pastry into pasterns and place them on top of the pie.

Step 7: Bake for 20-25 minutes at 180 deg C. Cool on a drying rack before serving. 

Monday, 12 December 2016

Homemade Merlot, Rosemary and Black Pepper Salt

Its that time of year when fridges are groaning, homes are full and cooking is taking place almost 24/7. Everyone seems to be running around looking for the perfect gift for Aunty Mavis, tracking down that free range turkey or stressing about what to get your husband's third-cousin-twice-removed.

This year I decided to make Merlot-infused cooking salts for my family, friends and those people I don't know well enough to shop for. It is super easy and frankly wine infused anything is normally a hit. A few cracks of this is good on lamb roasts or chops, steaks, stews, pasta sauces, potatoes or even on salads. 

What you will need (makes 10):

1 kg course salt
200 g whole pepper corns
1 bunch of fresh rosemary - I just picked about 6 large branches out my garden
1 bottle of Red Wine - I used an organic Merlot
10 salt grinder bottles - you can either buy them empty or alternatively you can buy them filled with course salt at your supermarket and use the salt inside in this recipe
1 packet printable labels


Step 1: Place the bottle of wine in a sauce pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow the wine to reduce down until you have about 50ml left (it should be thicker but not syrupy). 

Step 2: Take off the heat and add the salt and the peppercorns to the reduced wine mixing thoroughly. 

Step 3: Spread the salt into a large roasting or baking tray (one with deep sides will work best) and place in the oven. Place the fresh rosemary in the oven on a rack above the salt (so any pieces that fall off as it dries are caught). 

Step 4: Turn the oven on to the lowest temperature possible. I let the the oven warm up to its lowest setting and then switch the oven off and leave the salt to dry overnight. 

Step 5: Check the salt is dry it might be little bit tacky but as long as its not damp its ready. If necessary place back in the oven and repeat step 4. 

Step 6: Crumble the rosemary leaves into the salt and mix thoughtfully. Discard the rosemary branches. 

Step 7: Fill your salt grinders up with the mix (you will probably find you have extra).

Step 8: Most printable labels will come with instructions on how to import a template into word so you can create and print you custom labels at home. I wanted to use Microsoft Publisher for mine so I added the template in word and then imported it into publisher to create my labels. If this all seems too much effort you can always buy blank labels and hand write them for a personal touch. 

Let me know how you went and if you have any trouble with this recipe or ideas to improve it in the comments below. Happy creating!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Urbanologi - New Kid on the Fine Dining Block

 Birthdays are for celebrating and what better way to do that than to treat your family to a fine dining experience. Having heard whispers about Urbanologi, the new kid on  1 Fox block, we were dead keen to try it. 

Having your birthday fall on a Monday is always hard because so few good restaurants are open Mondays. But Urbanologi is open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday and for lunch on Sundays. Making a booking is also super easy using the online booking system. Kyle got a quick response, as well as an sms and email reminder to confirm the booking the day before. 

Urbanologi is located at the 1 Fox Precinct in Ferreirasdorp. Although historically run down, the area has been regenerated through the return of the banks and other big corporates, gentrification schemes, and increased security. 1Fox has also undergone some renovations since we were last there and is looking great. 

Apple-Jalapeno Cured Octopus and Tuna Tataki
Raw Turnip with Spicy Coriander-Lime Dressing
I love that Urbanologi has chosen to base itself inside the Mad Giant Brewery. The brewing tanks add a modern, gritty, urban feel in a way that I feel epitomises the dining scene in Joburg. It also makes a welcome change from the traditional wine estate/fine dining combination although, it is must be said that Urbanologi has a small but good wine selection which includes some well priced options.

We tried the budget friendly Peacock Wild Ferment Merlot. The Peacock Wild Ferment Range by False Bay Vineyards all advocate the use of ambient yeasts to bring out the natural terroir characteristics in each wine. It was extremely drinkable and definitely something I would add to my shelf for lazy home drinking.  As part of the partnership with Mad Giant you can also order 100ml tasters of the beers and 400ml drafts. 

Doenjang glazed Beef Cheek Kushiyaki
Truffled Cauliflower Puree and Sherry
Braised Onions
The menu is split into the different food techniques Fried, Kushiyaki (skewered and grilled), Steamed, Cured and Frozen and is well suited to tapas-like sharing. since there were five of us we ordered a large portion of the menu items. They were all beautifully plated and packed full of interesting flavours yet well balanced. Our stand out favourite was the  Apple-Jalapeno Cured Octopus and Tuna Tataki. We also loved the the Steamed Brioche Truffle Cream and Potato Salt. If you just stopping by for a beer (it is in a brewery after all) you should not leave without trying the Deep Fried Potato with Seaweed Emulsion which takes the idea of a bar snack to a whole new level. 

Bannana-Barley Mal Ice-Cream, Dark Beer Gateau,
Dark Beer Caramel,Mad Giants True Grit Beer
Formage Blanc and Oat Crisp

According to the website "Urbanologi works side by side with the brewery team brainstorming and testing new ideas in search of new flavours, ingredients, processes and techniques.". A perfect example of this is the Bannana-Barley Mal Ice-Cream, Dark Beer Gateau, Dark Beer Caramel, Mad Giants True Grit Beer Formage Blanc and Oat Crisp dessert, which pairs perfectly with the True Grit Amber Ale.

The bill for five adults sharing with dessert, beers and wine came to around R1100 and was worth every cent (in fact for fine dining its a steal). This restaurant definitely gets the Two Peas thumbs up and we will be back.

Blackcurrant Sorbet, Poached Plum, Semi-Dried Plum,
Blanc Mange, Blackcurrant and Licorice Powder
(plus a birthday wish)

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Food Trucks and other disasters

So as many of you know Kyle and I recently got married. From the get-go we were set on having a fairly informal wedding reception and doing it in a way we would enjoy rather than just doing all those things that you are meant to do at a wedding. Having decided to use my mothers beautiful garden as a venue the next mission was lock down the food. 

Its official we got hitched

I was really keen on the idea of a food truck and because we opted against formal table seating the food truck signature style of food, that which you can eat on your lap or in your hands, made sense. Now there are a lot of food trucks operating in Gauteng so you would think finding one to cater the wedding would be easy enough. It wasn't. First we had to wade through all those only offering one dish like burgers, paella or ice-cream. 

Finally we found what seemed to be the perfect truck. "The Bedford Food Truck" owned by the same guys who brought you The Griffen, Steamworks and Perron. This seemed great as these were some of our favourite places to eat. They also had a good looking truck, a wide menu and since the chef owner, Thom Hughes, ran the truck they could make pretty much anything we wanted at prices that made sense to our limited budget. We started talking to Thom in December via email. He assured us that we were pencilled in for June 16th and that it was a done deal. I had wanted to pay a deposit just to make sure but I was assured we would sort it out once the final menu was nailed down.

I should have known it was not going to be smooth sailing cause it took about 3 months to nail him down for a meeting on the menu. However, once we eventually met, both Kyle and I were super happy. We even came up with this plan to turn Krispy Kreme doughnuts into an epic doughnut croque-en-bouche wedding cake. Following the meeting he promised to mail us some menu options the next day and prices so we could finalise everything. About two weeks later and after multiple requests for feedback we finally got a mail back saying they had sold the truck and could no longer cater our wedding. Yep just like that. No recommendations or introductions to people who could take over, just sorry but we can't do it anymore. I must at this point say that he did mention they were fairly busy setting up the new Peron branch and who knows maybe they needed the capital from selling it for a cash flow emergency. Whatever the reason, we were pretty disappointed. In fact, I have to admit, when I stopped to shop at the Hobart Spar a week or two later for groceries and I saw him standing on the steps of his shiny, new Peron branch it took all my willpower not to go full bridezilla and throw my shoes at him. Also despite being pretty excited about the new Peron branch and being regulars at Steamworks, I just cant bring myself to eat at any of his restaurants again. It is a pity because despite the terrible service at Steamworks, the food was really good. 

Once again I trawled the internet looking for food trucks we may have missed the first time around. I must have mailed about 10, even trying those who did single dishes to see if they could work with us. About 3 trucks replied and mostly with no we only do x-dish and cant help you. Finally in an act of desperation we posted on the popular Joburg Facebook page "I Know a Guy" asking for recommendations or suggestions. The one that people kept mentioning was the new kid on the food truck block "Zombie Chefs". A bit of light googling showed they would be at a music festival we were attending over Easter weekend; so we decided to try the food and chat to them then. To cut a long story short after chatting to them and finding out that Edward Clegg, the Chef behind the truck, had been an SA team member at the Culinary Olympics we were sold. We met with them, nailed down a menu complete with Heston style molecular gastronomy elements and our doughnut croque-en-bouche. 

A few weeks before the wedding we trecked out to the warehouse they work out of near the airport for a tasting. I was tired and had been stuck in traffic for nearly two hours (from Sandton! -how anybody does that commute is beyond me) so I was fairly grumpy to start. Soon though I was eating my way through the section of hors d'oevers  including the most delicious butter poached prawns with Tabasco pearls citrus gel and micro herbs. It was honestly one of the nicest things I had ever eaten. The confit duck terrine was also delicious. Mains were also really good. We were treated to fish and chips served in a rolled newspaper cone, coated in a corn-flake crumb and served with a vinegar spritzer for you to smell and use on the food. The lamb burger was good and the vegan Tofu so tasty, even I, ate a whole piece of Tofu which is saying something. 

Kyle and his best man Alick enjoying a brew
 before the ceremony 

We were super excited about having this food at our wedding. People know us as foodies so the expectations were high. I wish I could say that they didn't disappoint but they did. They where scheduled to arrive at 1pm to start prep so that starters could go out at 6ish, but arrived at around 3.30pm, just as the first guests arrived. Disappointingly instead of having the chef  Edward in the truck as promised we got an apprentice and the business partner who is not a chef. This and the late start really showed in the food. The prawns were tiny, overcooked and chewy, the citrus gel all wrong and it was served on soggy toast. The confit tuck terrine was not a terrine but served all mushed up on a spoon, without the cherry sauce and I found a large piece of cartilage in mine. The fish was not on a stick, not in newspaper and didn't have the cornflake crumb. I cant comment on the rest since that was all I tasted on the night. Worst of all our precious doughnut croque-en-bouche somehow became plates of hastily piled doughnuts bought from Fruit and Veg city. Not what we ordered at all. 

I was not going to let anything ruin my wedding day so despite all the problems I let it all go on the day... None of the guests noticed, since they had no idea what we had planned, and everyone was fed. Making a fuss would have served no-one especially not us who just wanted to enjoy our day. After the wedding we did, however, send a long email explaining what went wrong and how disappointed we were. To their credit we did get an apology although no explanation of why it was all such a mess was given. It was just such a pity because these guys can cook and the potential is all there but for whatever reason, no doubt mainly due to the chef being MIA, they were a mess and it really impacted on the food we served our guests. 

The bottom line in that food trucks may seem like an easy, budget friendly option for your wedding catering but from our experience you should think carefully about this option. There may be a reason traditional wedding caters charge so much for their services. People expect more from a wedding caterer than your average event caterer because its once in a life-time event. If you can't respect that and take the job seriously I really think you shouldn't take weddings on.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Two Peas - AfrikaBurn Edition

Truth be told its been crickets on here for a while. The fact of the matter is Kyle and I have been swamped for the last few months. We got engaged, then we got involved in planning and running a theme camp at AfrikaBurn and finally we got married last week. Don't be fooled by pinterest boards and TV specials planning a wedding is downright stressful and one of the hardest things we have ever had to do. That said it was utterly worth it and in the end I now get to call my best friend my husband. What a pleasure. Plus I suddenly have all this free time on my hands where I am not planning a wedding so I get to write and we get to cook again.

Luckily this adventure has given us plenty to blog about, albeit in retrospect, starting with AfrikaBurn. If you don't know what AfrikaBurn is, it wont be possible to explain it within the confines of this blog post, other than to say its the SA regional Burning Man event and to go watch the delightful video below (created by what has to be our new favourite Israeli - Elisha Goshen). If you look closely at around 5:54-5:55 you can see both Kyle and I (I am the one in the green crocodile onsie).

AfrikaBurn 2016 (credit Elisha Goshen)

AfrikaBurn is about gifting, there are no shops, no money and nowhere to buy wors rolls. We joined a theme camp called X-Communication which was the temporary home of 90 odd people including an art team from Russia, many Israelis and a few Americans, some Dutch guys, and a small group of South Afrikaans. All these people needed to be fed and watered for a week in the middle of the Tankwa Karoo. 

Among other things, Kyle and I volunteered to organise the food and kitchen. Planning 3 meals a day for 90 people for 7 days is no small task at the best of times but when you need to organise, buy, keep fresh and transport hundreds of kg's of produce from Jhb to Tankwa (1350 km including 100 km of the worst dirt roads in SA), all without fridges it becomes almost mindbogglingly difficult. 

Dry Ice, PnP online shopping, Makro and Westpack lifestyle were all our friends (not to mention our actual friends Manon, Jacques and the rest of the X-Communication crew). We packed each days dry goods into a large black containers with menus and the corresponding perishables into cooler boxes with dry ice. Everything was labelled by day with the idea being that whichever team was cooking that day would have detailed menus and all the ingredients at hand. 

Food Prep

One of Kyle's finest moments in this this had to be the design and manufacture of the fantastically simple but ridiculously effective combination braai-oven. Thanks to this we manged to bake many enormous loaves of fresh bread for lunch daily. No mean feat in the middle of the Tankwa! The Russians loved it so much they asked for the designs so as to create their own. 

Kyle's Oven and the delicious Burn Bread

Would we do it this way again? Definitely not. Dry-ice is brutal on fresh produce and doesn't last a full weak. Cooking for 90 people on gas and open flame can test even the most skilled cooks espeically in gale force winds and dust storms.  Next year it will be smaller kitchen groups with each one preparing a meal for 6-8 people once in the week in the communal kitchen.

Despite the lessons I would say  I would say we ate pretty well with everything from borscht courtesy of the Russians, falafels and tahini from the Israelis, Kyle's famous lamb curry potjie, burgers, wors rolls, tons of fruit and fresh bread with lashings of peanut butter and jam. Pretty good for desert cooking I'd say. 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

A Pork Revolution - Bannatyne's

As a lover of food, who also happens to be an ecologist and animal lover, sourcing sustainable food that is ethically produced is important to me. One of my biggest struggles is finding pork which is ethically reared. Ironically, it is the pork that I am most fussy about since pigs are highly intelligent and factory farming of pork can be an extremely unpalatable business. Enter Bannatyne's - Hand Reared Pig, producers of artisan pork and charcuterie. 

The Bannatyne Husband and Wife team
We came across this husband and wife team doing a demo at the Good Food and Wine Show and were immediately taken with their passion and energy.The story of Trevor Bannatyne and his wife is point on point with our own dream in terms of the life Kyle and I are working towards. The description on the website sums it up pretty well "From Business Analyst to rural kwaZulu-Natal pig and livestock farmer. My pregnant wife, our baby boy and I packed up the creature comforts of city life to follow our dream of farming & running our own online deli. Our goal is to rear animals ethically and produce the best artisan pork products available".

Learning About Artisan Pork
They started off having bought a small intensive piggery and have been converting to an outdoor piggery (having spoken to a friend of mine who audits pig farms this is by no means a small or easy task). Trevor also explained how for them the traditional roles are reversed, he spends most of his time in the kitchen, while his wife spends her time in the piggery. And, after my brief encounter with them I say this is one women I would trust to love her pigs. They also produce free range lamb, beef and chicken which is an integral part of the piggery as it allows livestock rotation, which in turn allows the land to recover sufficiently from the destructive actions of free range pigs. This is of course, not without its own challenges, as Tevor explained. They once lost 180 chickens to Rooicat!

Dry Cured Bacon

Dry Cured Bacon:
The cooking demonstration was like an artisan pork 101 for us. Trevor explained how to dry cure your own bacon using pork belly in about 10 days. You start by curing the meat in a 3% salt cure by weight. ie. if you have a 1.5kg piece of belly you will use 40g salt and 10g sugar plus if you want a bit of pepper, clove and thyme for flavour. The pork should be placed in a zip lock bag and covered in this mixture making sure to rub it in at the ends. This is placed in the fridge and turned daily for about 2 - 2.5 days before the bacon is hung in a cool, dark place. They have converted an old rondavel on the property, for this purpose, which averages around 14 degrees centigrade throughout the year. You can also smoke it at this point if you wish. Because in this method you are using a dry curie as opposed to the quicker brining process, used by most commercial producers, you not only don't get the wet liquid coming off in the pan (only the fat which renders out) but you also get a lovely cracking from the skin as opposed to the chewy rind typical of bacon in years gone by. 

Just look at that crackling! Bacon + Crackling = Love

Trevor also demonstrated a slow cooked pork belly which had the most amazing texture and pure pork flavour and an usual fennel spiced chorizo sausage, which we both loved!

Fennel Chorizo - Yum!
You can be assured that soon as we have made space in our freezer we will be placing our on-line order for these remarkable Pork products! (visit for details on their range and how to order).

Trevor Bannatyne in Action