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This Valentine’s Day are you heart-eyed or forever-alone? Here’s what you should cook.

If you’re going to spend Valentine’s Day with a special someone – woohoo, I’m happy for you. May I suggest you consider eating a special meal at home rather that fighting your way into a terribly clichéd, overpriced and crowded restaurant? I have a menu and recipes for you down below.

If you’re going to spend Valentine’s Day alone with your own awesome self, you have three options: 1: Make the heart-eyed menu and eat it all yourself. You’ll probably hate yourself, but there are worse things than eating fantastic food alone. Just keep your tears out of the pavlova, else it will go soggy. 2: Make the heart-eyed menu and invite some platonic friends over. You could have a ro-tic evening (you know, romantic without the man) and watch chick flicks. Or (this is what I’ll be doing) 3: make the forever-alone menu below. It’s the perfect “I can eat whatever I feel like eating” meal. I recommend you pair it with either About Time if you want a great love story movie or The Martian if you want “I don’t need anyone because I’m awesome enough to survive anything”.

Heart-eyed Menu

Here are my criteria for a good Valentine’s Day recipe:

  • It should be prepared in advance.
  • It should be so delicious it makes you groan. You know, that “umhmh, so good” as you take mouthful after mouthful.
  • It should have that special something, either in terms of presentation or awesomeness of the dish, or both.

This is the menu I’d put together for a couple adventurous enough to try something slightly unusual:

Starter: Bacon-wrapped dates, stuffed with goats cheese (ahem, no pun intended)

Main: Lebanese-style stuffed eggplant

Dessert: “I’m in love with this chocolate pavlova”

 

Recipes

Bacon-wrapped dates, stuffed with goats cheese, from Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine (Zondervan, 2013).

Recipe online here. As Shauna writes “Bacon-wrapped dates? More like bacon-wrapped clouds of heaven!” They are the perfect combination of salty, sweet, gooey and crispy.

For 2 people maybe you should halve the recipe? But my cousin Paula and I once ate an entire batch, just saying…

Let me give you some South African translations:
– 8oz is 226g of pitted dates.
– 4oz is 113g of goats cheese. Get soft goats cheese like this. And don’t be shy, it just tastes like a smooth, soft, slightly crumbly cheese. Not goat-y at all.
– 16oz is 450g of bacon. I’d get streaky, because imo it’s the most like typical American bacon.
– Bake at 205°C.

 

Lebanese-style stuffed eggplant, from Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen

Here’s the recipe. I suggest you halve the recipe for two hungry people (i.e. 3 eggplants and 1/4 cup rice etc.)

Some South African translations:
– You’re looking for the small eggplants / aubergines / brinjals we often get – about 13 to 15 cm long.
– In place of the 1 cup of chicken stock I’d use 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of chicken stock powder (or equivalent. Be careful of chicken stock cubes, they are super salty, so use about ¼).
– The tin of chopped/diced tomatoes the recipe tells you to use is the standard 410g one we get. So use half if you are halving the recipe
– Full quantity “ground beef chuck” is 340g of beef mince. Remember to use 170g if half quantity.
– Ground allspice is possible to get. I got mine from Woolworths. It’s worth looking for, because it really gives the recipe the perfect flavour. But this recipe does use very little, so I’d understand if you pass on it. I suggest ground cumin as a replacement.
– Don’t have a melon-baller? A spoon will work, just be careful. Or make hollowed-out boats instead.
– Attaching the eggplant tops back on with a toothpick makes them look like they have little hats on.

 

“I’m in love with this chocolate pavlova” from Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen

Recipe here. Seriously, go read her writing. She’s awesome.

You should 1/3 this recipe for 2 people (so 2 egg whites). Even so, you’ll have a lot of dessert!

Never separated eggs before? Here’s the traditional way or the life-hack way. Just make sure there is no yolk in your whites, else they won’t fluff properly.  

Some South African translations:
– Granulated sugar is ordinary white sugar.
– Semi- or bittersweet-chocolate is dark chocolate or extra dark chocolate. I’d use Albany Dark.
– Heavy cream is cream for whipping. Don’t get pouring cream or the cream that foams out of a can.
– 350°F is 180°C. When the pavlova goes in drop it down to 150°C (that’s 300°F).
– Parchment paper is baking paper (find it with the tinfoil at the shops). It will make serving your pavlova happy rather than chipping-it-off-the-tray-sad. Don’t get wax paper, because wax on pavlova isn’t yummy.
– If you are one-thirding the recipe you should make a circle a bit smaller than 22cm (9in). It will spread, probably not quite as far as 30cm (12in) across.
– To serve, she means invert the pavlova to peel off the parchment, and then flip it right way up to serve, obviously.

 

Forever-alone Menu


My criteria for the perfect alone-meal:

  • Cook whatever I want
  • Eat it all
  • No one to judge me if it’s all carbs

Here’s the menu I’d suggest:

Starter: Why waste time with a starter? Spaghetti is waiting for you
Main: “Just me and a bowl of pasta” spaghetti with caramelised onions
Dessert: “I’m going to eat this all myself just because I can” pizookie

Recipes

“Just me and a bowl of pasta” spaghetti with caramelised onions. Adapted from Andy Ward from Dinner: A Love Story.

Follow the recipe for Cacio e Pepe here, but after melting the butter and olive oil you must caramelise some onions:

Slice 1 or 2 large onions thickly (they cook down a lot, so I’d go with 2, because caramelised onions are everything). Sauté them over medium heat until deep brown, softened and sweet.

It will take about 45 minutes, but you’ve got time – you aren’t going anywhere tonight.

Just keep stirring them every now and again, and sprinkle with salt half way through.

Then proceed with the Cacio e Pepe recipe.

 

“I’m going to eat this all myself just because I can” pizookie

A pizookie is a deep dish chocolate chip cookie, served slightly undercooked and gooey, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. We’re making a single-serving size, and you’re going to eat the whole thing. You’re welcome.

Recipe here.

Some South African translations:
– We usually get salted butter here, so use that and skip the pinch of salt.
– Granulated sugar is ordinary white sugar
– Baking soda is bicarbonate of soda
– Semi-sweet chocolate is dark chocolate. I’d use a slab of Albany Dark chocolate, chopped.
– 375°F is 190°C.
– 6 oz ramekin is a little, oven-safe, round dish about 9cm across. If you don’t have something similar, an oven-safe mug would work. Or use a mug and cook it in the microwave; it will probably work fine. I’d estimate about 1 min cooking time in the microwave, but keep an eye on it and go longer or shorter.

 

I hope that your Valentine’s Day contains some really good food, whether or not there is a significant other there with you!


If you cook one of these recipes, tag me in the photo on IG (@homemadecookza) or share it on The Homemade Cook Facebook page. I’ll give you a round of applause!!

If these recipes seem like gibberish to you or if you feel like you don’t have the skills to even attempt them, you should probably sign up for the online cooking course I’ve made. It’s for beginner cooks (read: non-cooks), zero previous knowledge required. Next courses start on Monday 13 Feb 2017 – just a few days!


MORE INFO: https://goo.gl/co3kmL
EMAIL me with questions: megan@thehomemadecook.co.za
SIGN UP NOW: https://goo.gl/Jp7w3a 

An introvert who loves people, Megan needs time alone to stay sane and time being hospitable to stay happy. She’s happiest when she has a group of people crammed into her little flat and is making food for them. She can’t live without pasta (and butter, and parmesan cheese), her journals (yes, plural), her sisters (they live nearby and are her closest friends) and trees.

 

WIN with Lovely Pretty and The Homemade Cook

You found the love of your life,
there was a beautiful wedding day,
and now you’re sharing everyday life together.

But between growing up and getting married
you somehow skipped
the “learning to cook” thing. 

You’re living your happily ever after,
but it doesn’t taste very good.


However you split the division of labour in your home, if you’re the one doing the cooking, it doesn’t feel very good to know that the best meal you can put on the table came in a package from Woolies.
It’s sad to know you can’t make your love’s favourite meal and you’ll never be able to whip up a lazy brunch, romantic dinner, or supper for the in-laws. 

If you’ve never learned how, cooking can feel like an impossible mountain to climb. It can seem too confusing
and time-consuming. Too many instructions you don’t understand, ingredients you don’t recognise and who is going to show you how to do it? The thought of attempting a new meal feels like just too high a risk
if you can’t be sure it will work out right, if you’ll get stressed and frazzled trying to figure it out alone,
and there’s the possibility of your spouse going to bed hangry.

So you end up reverting back to your default meals,
even if they are unsatisfying, boring and unhealthy.

Here’s the thing:
You CAN learn to cook.
You can learn in the comfort of your own home,
in your own time,
with all the support and coaching that you need
so you can go from zero cooking knowledge to feeling confident in the kitchen.

That’s why we’ve created THE HOMEMADE COOK, an online cooking course for non-cooks. 
This online course will coach you step by step, and give you all of the information you need to succeed in the kitchen. With carefully chosen recipes, easy to follow video tutorials,
and fundamental skills explained. We’ll even show you which ingredients to buy in our South African shops
and which basic equipment items you won’t survive without. Everything picked specifically for the South African context. Nothing will be too confusing or overwhelming for you to try.

Here’s what previous course members had to say:
“There were SO MANY things I didn’t know, that I didn’t think it was possible for me to learn to cook. This course made it feel like I could do it!”
“This course has helped me feel like it’s actually easy to follow a recipe.”
“I’ve been able to take the skills I learned in this course and apply them to other meals. It made them taste delicious!”
“Yet again you’ve given me another meal I feel comfortable making. My husband loved it and I’ll be happy to make it when my in-laws visit.”


Let your happily ever after taste a whole lot better.
Sign up for one of the The Homemade Cook courses now. 

There are three course options to choose from:
– BASIC INTRODUCTION TO COOKING– a complete beginner course with 8 easy weeknight meals | R1200 | 4 weeks | starts 13 February 2017
– PRIDEWORTHY MEALS – 4 classic meals to impress, made possible for beginners | R600 | 2 week course, access for a month | starts 20 March 2017
– PASTA, PASTA, PASTA – short course of three fabulous easy meals from the Basic Intro and Prideworthy Courses | R450 | 2 week course, access for a month | starts 13 February 2017
We will teach you how to vary the meals so your newfound skills will open up a whole lot of other possibilities.

More from previous course members:

“I’m so impressed with how the course is laid out. It’s really professionally done. The online learning environment works so well, even for a cooking course.”
“It changes everything, now that I know how to cook. I don’t have to buy expensive lunches at work anymore, and I can get out of the rut of convenience meals.”
“Now I actually have meals I can confidently make when my in-laws come to visit. I’ll just need to practice them a couple more times first 😉 ”

COMPETITION:

You could win one of The Homemade Cook’s online cooking courses for non-cooks, starting 13 February. The PASTA, PASTA, PASTA course has three straight-forward meals – a quick beef stir fry with noodles, a flexible pasta recipe (which has infinite variations), and the classic lasagne, made possible for complete beginner cooks. The 2 week course (with access for a month) includes easy to follow video tutorials, step by step recipes, and explanations of fundamental skills. It even shows you which ingredients to buy in our South African shops
and which basic equipment items you won’t survive without. The course is valued at R450.

Enter by filling in the form below:

For more info and details on our other courses for beginners starting 13 February see The Homemade Cook Facebook page or email hello@thehomemadecook.co.za.

Terms and conditions:

This competition is run by Lovely Pretty and The Homemade Cook. 
Employees of Lovely Pretty and The Homemade Cook or their family members or anyone else connected in any way with the competition or helping to set up the competition shall not be permitted to enter the competition. 
There is no entry fee for the competition and details of how to enter can be found on all of Lovely Pretty’s social media channels. 
Closing date for entry will be Wednesday 8 February 2017. After this date no further entries to the competition will be permitted. 
No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason. 
The rules of the competition and the prize for the winner are as follows:
– This competition is available to anyone residing in South Africa.
– The prize is the PASTA, PASTA, PASTA online cooking course, run by The Homemade Cook. 
Lovely Pretty and The Homemade Cook reserve the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice. 
Lovely Pretty and The Homemade Cook are not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition. 
No cash alternative to the prizes will be offered. The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice. 
The winner will be chosen at random and will be notified via email within 7 days of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or does not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner. 
Megan, from The Homemade Cook, will notify the winner of when and where the prize can be collected. 
All decisions related to this competition are made by Lovely Pretty and The Homemade Cook and no correspondence will be entered into. 
By entering this competition you will automatically be signed up for Lovely Pretty and The Homemade Cook emails. Your details will not be shared with others.

How to Survive Without a Dishwasher

I’ve heard people say: “Save your marriage. Buy a dishwasher”.

But what if we don’t have the space or the cash? Are we destined to a life of messy kitchens and strained relationships?

Today Megan from The Homemade Cook is sharing a few tips to help you keep your dishes under control and avoid gross smells and salmonella without hating your life.

 

  • Do the dishes together

 

Most unpleasant tasks are magically made less unpleasant and less tempting to avoid when someone else does them with you. Even if it means both of you are a little miserable, at least you have company! Use it as an opportunity to catch up on your day, or put on some great music and dance together.

 

  • Do the dishes before going to bed

 

Imagine padding through to your pretty clean kitchen on a Sunday morning and whipping up a batch of choc chip pancakes still in your pjs. Way better than waking up to last night’s dishes and scummy noodles in the sink!

I certainly don’t get the dishes done every night, but when I make the effort my mornings are way happier. Fresh start and all that.

 

  • Loosen with water

 

I’m certain that by splashing a little bit of water into the pasta sauce pot/mixing bowl/serving dish as soon as they are empty I cut my dishwashing time at least in half. That time between finishing prepping the meal and when I actually wash the dishes does the hard work for me, allowing the water to loosen up the dirt rather than that time allowing the gunk to dry hard onto the dish. Then all I have to do is wipe with a little soapy water rather than scrubbing and scrubbing.

The best is to do it as soon as I serve the meal (before we eat!), even while the pot is still hot. But be careful here! Immersing a hot pot into cold water or pouring a lot of cold water into a pot can cause the pot to warp from the sudden change in temperature. I get around that by using some warm water from the kettle or by using only a small amount of cold water. Just splash a little in and leave it on the cold stove.

 

  • Drip dry

 

I’m a big fan of leaving my dishes to drip dry. If I have the washing water hot and rinse off the particularly soapy dishes then I don’t have the problem of them drying with marks. And if they do, a quick wipe when I’m putting them away the next day is FAR more pleasant than standing there drying, drying, drying.

The only times I don’t drip dry are when I have company when I’m washing, or when I have a massive load to do and need the space (and even then I only cloth-dry the urgent ones!). Drip drying is the way to go.

 

  • Wipe the sink clean when you’re finished

 

Doing this makes it more likely that you’ll give your next dirty plate a quick rinse and place it on the drying rack, rather than letting it clutter up your lovely clean sink by lying there dirty.

 

  • Make it a dinner party tradition

 

Make it a tradition that dinner party guests help you do the dishes before they leave. This makes dinner parties a joy rather than a chore (see Sunday morning above).

Some of my happiest dinner party memories are of the laughing, chatting and singing that happens while washing the dishes afterwards. And it’s always more fun to wash a friend’s dishes than it is to wash your own!

Feeling awkward? Here’s how I do it:

I just happily say “In our house it’s a tradition that we wash the dishes together before you guys leave. So you can’t leave until they’re done” *cue bright, winning smile*. The important thing is to say this BEFORE guests are ready to leave. Otherwise you’ll have unhappy slave labour! But if you time it after coffee/dessert, in a lull in conversation, then it can feel like a pleasant, natural transition to a different phase of the evening. Quite often we end up sitting back down again for another cup of coffee (or, in my case, Rooibos Earl Grey) before the guests actually leave.

 

  • Hand-washer’s best friends

 

You don’t need any fancy kitchen equipment for dish washing. All I have is a scrubby sponge, a long handled brush (for scrubbing away the very icky stuff before I get in there with my sponge), and metal scourers (for when you burn a pot so badly that the loosening-with-water trick doesn’t cut it!). Just make sure to never use metal scourers (or anything metal) on non-stick pots or pans.

Sunlight liquid is my favourite. There are special cleaning products for very dirty pots; all I use is dishwasher powder (!) – sprinkled into the pot the grains somehow help with scrubbing.

If saving space is a concern, I suggest you use a dish drying mat (like this). I use it instead of a drying rack; it hangs away nicely when I’m finished.

If you have any hand-washing tools you love, please let me know in the comments below!

My Mom has a sign in her kitchen which reads: “Thank God for dirty dishes, they have a tale to tell – while others may be going hungry, we’re eating very well!” Wouldn’t it be nice if we could approach our dirty dishes with gratitude? (Hard as that may seem sometimes!) I really hope that these suggestions help you keep your kitchen a happy, clean space that you can enjoy!

You can’t cook? We can take you from takeaways and convenience meals to “I can do this!” Megan has created The Homemade Cook, online cooking courses for South African non-cooks. Visit the Facebook page for more details. Fill in the form below to request a free trial – valid only until Monday 30 January 2017.