Just like living with other people, living alone is something every adult should experience for themselves. Living with other people teaches you about compromise and consideration for others; living alone teaches you about self-reliance and liking your own company. The 18 month period shortly after we were married when Nick lived in the UK and I lived in South Africa was the first time that I had lived alone, with neither my parents nor Nick around, all alone in my cosy apartment. I worried that I would get lonely; that I would be frightened of the silence as I lay alone in bed each night; that I would end up eating nothing but beans on toast for dinner; or spend weekends in my pyjamas with no make-up on. None of these things came to pass. In fact, my mom used to say that it was unseemly for a married woman living so far away from her husband to be quite so happy, and that perhaps I should put on a little show of misery every now and again! But the truth is that I truly loved living alone for those 18 months.
Living alone means total control of the TV remote. It means that if you are not hungry, you can have a bowl of popcorn, or ice cream, or a milkshake for dinner and nobody will complain. It means that everything stays exactly where you put it and never gets “tidied away” or “put in a safe place” where you cannot find it. It means 100% access to all four corners of the double bed and no theft of the covers. It means you can read until 4a.m. or go to bed at 8 p.m. without any raised eyebrows. It means you can do yoga in front of the TV while watching Love Actually for the 10th time – and nobody complains. (Of course, it also means that if there is a spider on your bedroom wall you have to deal with it all by yourself. Shudder.) In the kitchen it means that you drink from the milk bottle or eat ice-cream straight from the tub, or spoon things straight from the jar into your mouth without wondering what people will think (oops, have I said too much?!). In my case, this direct jar-to-mouth consumption method would probably involve peanut butter jar; the mayonnaise jar; the pesto jar; and the golden syrup tin. Mea culpa. Nick, on the other hand, takes a fork to the pickle jar and the olive jar – and pours himself spoonfuls of neat Tabasco. What would YOU eat straight from the jar if nobody were watching?
When we opened our Plate to Page Tuscany goodie bags and found a jar of South African Peppadew peppers, I was surprised at: a) how many of the participants already knew the product already and b) how many of the Plate to Page participants said they love eating them straight out of the jar as opposed to using them as an ingredient in other dishes. Given the intimate details I have shared about my jar-snacking activities, I certainly see where they are coming from. These little bright red peppers, about the size and shape of a cherry tomato, originated in South Africa. The official company line has it that Johan Steenkamp, from the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, came across a chest-high bush of unidentified small round peppers in the garden of his holiday house. These fruits turned out to be the piquanté peppers for which the Peppadew company developed (and patented) a pickling process and voila – a star was born. The peppers are often touted as the first new fruit to be introduced on the world market since the kiwi fruit but scientific tests have shown that these little peppers are probably unregistered members of the habanero family rather than a new species. What is unique, though, is the patented pickling process. The fruit are kept whole but completely deseeded, then pickled with sugar, vinegar, salt and spices as well Vitamin C and calcium chloride (which keeps pickled products crisp). The finished product retains its very vivid red colour, has no annoying seeds to be removed, and remains crisp and firm. It’s gluten-free, vegan and low in calories – apart from being sweet, spicy and delicious!
I had previously made loads of Peppadew recipes, including Peppadew, feta and thyme quiche; zucchini, feta and Peppadew bread; Peppadew and Parmesan muffins; and even added them to a potjiekos stew with chicken and chorizo. But this time I was after something small and tasty that I could whip up quickly if friends drop by for drinks in the run-up to Christmas. The recipe was provided by Peppadew and will shortly be appearing on their “Peppalog” on Facebook. These little puffs are not only delicious but also really easy and can literally be put together in 30 mins once the pastry is defrosted. Use the hot Peppadew peppers if you prefer your snacks spicy and use the strongest Cheddar you can find!
For more finger food and canapés from my blogging friends, try:
- Sarah’s chorizo canapés with mozarella and rocket
- Margot’s Polish pea puffs (groszek ptysiowy)
- Michelle’s ham and cheese puff pastry tartlets
DISCLOSURE: I received a jar of Peppadew peppers as a free sample in my Plate to Page goodie bag.
If you love Peppadews, why not enter their fantastic “12 Days of Christmas” event with a great selection of daily prizes to be won.
PEPPADEW CHEESE PUFFS (makes about 24)
500g puff pastry, thawed
12 Peppadew mild or hot sweet piquanté peppers, finely chopped
50g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
180ml double cream
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp finely chopped spring onions
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200C and lightly grease a mini-muffin tin. Roll out the pastry and using am 8cm round cookie cutter, cut out 24 rounds. about 8cm x 8cm rounds.
Press the rounds of pastry gently into the muffin tin cups. Divide the peppers and the cheese equally between the pastry cases. Beat the remaining ingredients together in a jug and pour over the peppers and cheese so the pastry cases are three quarters full.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the filling is puffed up and golden. Serve warm with a glass of fruity red wine.
And in other news…
- New 2012 Cooksister Calendars are now available to purchase, containing 12 high-quality prints each. Why not treat yourself?
- My essay on drinking vinho verde on a hot summer’s day in Lisbon has just been published in “Every Wine Tells a Story”, a collection of wine essays from around the world curated by Tara Devon O’Leary. It makes the perfect stocking filler!
- I am one of the 4 contestants in the Morrisons British Beef recipe Challenge – please click the “like” button under my perfect steak with peppercorn sauce recipe to vote for me!
- I am the featured guest chef on the Good Fork website this month with my artichoke, caper and lemon risotto recipe.
- And as you may already know, registrations are now open for Plate to Page Spring 2012, a hands-on intensive food writing and photography workshop in Somerset, UK where I will once again be one of the presenters, leading workshops on food writing. Register now if you want to spend a weekend with us supercharging your creativity!