Living in a foreign country far from your family and friends has its ups and downs. For me, the upsides of London have included the incredible travel opportunities, the opportunity to start a blog (which I doubt I would have done had I stayed home), the eclectic mix of people I have met, and the excitement of living in a truly world-class city. Of course, the downsides are that you miss things: the weather, your family, birthdays, weddings, your favourite beaches, your favourite childhood foods, and your friends.
To a large extent, you just have to take the rough with the smooth, remind yourself that you didn’t come to England for the weather (!!), and make a point of going home regularly with your own body weight in gifts for the family stowed in your suitcase. But there are some ways of making it seem that your friends aren’t that far away. For some, that may mean having photos of them dotted around the house, but for me it means regularly making a recipe that I associate with a specific friend. In this way, I can’t make warm avocado soup without thinking of my late friend Peter Roberts; Christmas mince pies without thinking of Andréa; Mexican chicken without thinking of Alison; butternut soup without thinking of Paul – or scones without thinking of Mamma. And I always relish the prospect of collecting a new recipe from a friend because I know that when homesickness bites I will be able to make the dish and think of the friend in question who suddenly does not feel that far away at all.
I have known Claudette for the better part of fourteen years, having first met her in Port Elizabeth when she was sharing a flat with Paola and Catherine. I remember later visiting her in Cape Town and having a fab dinner on the tiny balcony of her flat perched above Sea Point and was thrilled when both she and Catherine arrived in London. As Claudette is a chef, she and I always seem to have loads to talk about and I remember some very lively dinners at the flat in Blackheath discussing exotic ingredients and cooking techniques. But all good things must come to an end and she is now back in Johannesburg – which means that I always have an excuse to stop over on my way to Port Elizabeth and invariably food is involved. On my most recent stopover, we decided to let the boys do the work and braai, while she and I each made a salad. My contribution was carpaccio of courgettes, and Claudette’s was a potato salad originally born out of the inventive use of leftover roast new potatoes but now a firm favourite in its own right. It’s so delicious, though, that there is no way I could wait for leftovers to present themselves and I’m willing to bet you’ll feel the same way once you’ve tasted it!
I used baby potatoes cut in half for this, but you can also use larger potatoes cut into appropriately-sized chunks. The great news is that you don’t have to peel them, so all the vitamins stay put.
ROASTED POTATO SALAD (serves 2)
About 10 baby potatoes (or 2 large waxy potatoes)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 spring onions, chopped
a handful of fresh dill, chopped
2 generous Tbsp crème fraiche
2 generous Tpsb mayonnaise
Salt & black pepper to taste
If you have plenty of time: cut the baby potatoes in half (or if using larger potatoes, cut them into bite-sized chunks). Toss them in olive oil together with the garlic and arrange in a single layer in an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle with rosemary and roast at 200C until the edges of the potatoes are brown and crispy. Stir the potatoes up after about 15 minutes so that they brown evenly. Cooking time should be about half an hour, but use your judgement.
If you are pushed for time: cut the potatoes as described above. Place in a microwave-proof dish and cover. Cook on high for about 6 minutes until the potatoes have softened but are not yet done. Drain any water from the dish. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy fraying pan. Add the potatoes, garlic and rosemary and fry on medium heat until the potatoes have golden brown edges. Watch the pan and stir – you don’t want blackened potatoes!
Drain the potatoes on paper towels and allow to cool slightly, then transfer to a salad bowl. Add the chopped spring onions, crème fraiche and mayonnaise and mix well. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve slightly warm.
This post is my entry for this month’s edition of Waiter There’s Something in My… Our charming host is Andrew and he has selected salads as the theme. There are still a couple of days left to get your entry to him by the end of February so make a start on those seasonal salads!