Hubble bubble. Toil – and so much trouble.
It’s been a while since I penned a post.
Titles sit alphabetically festering in my file. Symbols, waiting to lead into eloquent cries of woe. Painful shrieks of angst. Or even, you never know, stuttering odes to joy.
Too much turmoil, anyway, to stuff into a fewer-than-a-thousand-words-long post.
Which is why I’m resorting to … food.
Don’t we all? Sometimes? When the going gets tough and the lure of toast, cake, cheese or chocolate – or sausages – becomes overwheming?
That’s right. Sausages.
I’ve been inspired by a silly picture going around Facebook which, yesterday, made me snort out loud.
Then, last night, I cooked one of our favourite one-pot meals.
And in my head I was back there: Swaziland.
Yes, no matter how far time removes me from those turbulent times, still, a sausage, takes me back.
And if you’re sniggering, please stop. It’s not a euphemism.
I occasionally think about doing a campfire cookbook. Recipes for those days when you’re stuck in the African bush, remote from anywhere, with limited food, cast iron cauldrons and an open fire.
But the market for that, let’s face it, is likely to be small.
And then there’s the other equipment you’d need.
Okay, so at Kalambo Falls, Zambia, I had none.
No, I lie. I had a kitchen.
Aka, vehicle with tailgate. Great kitchen… not.
(And, yes, that diversion was just so I could use this old picture, again)
And before we move on:
But going back to Swaziland…
It helps if you have caravan to hand with a battery-operated fridge. And if it’s working.
Then, if you have water, you can whip up iced coffee, with Coffee Mate. Which I did.
But that was a once-for-all-time occasion. And, let’s be honest, designed to impress You-Know-Who.
Mostly, I had an old Coca Cola fridge. It didn’t work, except when engineer Al came to stay for two weeks.
Elderly Al from the US of A was a quadruple-bypassed star.
The thing ran on paraffin – which we had – and his magic touch got the temperamental beast going.
Sadly, his magic wasn’t infectious – and soon it was back to being an insect-rodent-baboon-proof metal storage space, perfect for fresh fruit and veg.
Most evenings out in the bush, in our camp at the foot of the Lebombo mountains, under the shooting-star skies, we ate meat.
Day one, fresh meat in the cool box was still safe to eat.
Maybe chicken, as curry with tinned peaches.
Or chunks of culled wildebeest, with potato chunks and tinned waterblommetjes. South African waterblommetjebredie.
Day two and ‘one I made earlier’ would defrost in time for dinner. Impala goulash, or Wildebeest bourguignon. Cooked in a proper kitchen, many bad-road miles -and a lifestyle – away.
More boxes of pre-cooked wild animal concoctions would be stashed in a freezer on the Wildlife Reserve. We’d pick up one on our way homeward from digging.
Each evening, while Dudu, my Swazi helper and I prepared the meal, a certain tall Texan was in charge of snacks.
Tinned sardines on Provita biscuits, with a dash of hot pepper sauce. Or the best guacamole, ever.
Great nets of avocadoes sat waiting to be mashed and mixed with chopped fresh tomatoes from our safe metal store.
Tex and a helper would chop onions finely and create – yum – a new taste sensation.
Guacamole hadn’t reached England yet, then.
Day three, if we’d brought Russian sausages, might be Cassoulet day.
And that’s the recipe I’m sharing today.
Not Cassoulet as you may know it, but to me, always the best.
(Pssst! there’s quite a nice picture at the end, if you want to skip the food)
2 small/medium or one very large onion, peeled, halved and sliced
Oil or other fat for frying
1 small white cabbage (any cabbage really, but these work best), quartered, core removed and sliced
1 or 2 tins of cannellini, haricots or butterbeans (depending how much you like them/ whether this is your entire meal)
Sausages – depends what kind they are and how much you like them as to how many. I use whatever comes in the pack in the UK for 2 of us, usually three each or, in the case of the low fat ones, four. If you had four Russian sausages or boerewors you might burst
Apple juice/cider/white wine ½ pint
Stock (veggie/chicken) or water ½ pint
(Possibly cornflour to thicken)
Fry the onions slowly in the oil or fat in the cauldron, till soft, over a pile of embers and ash at the edge of the fire. Add the sausages and move to hotter coals so the sausages brown a little.
(You can move coals and embers around into little depressions to create different temperature cooking areas but do be careful, use a spade/shovel with a long handle. By now if using a cauldron you will understand why African wooden spoons tend to be long…)
Add the cabbage and stir for a minute or so, then add the stock and wine/juice/cider.
Add caraway seeds to taste (I use about 2 teaspoons for us). Add the bay leaf.
Drain the beans (and rinse if you can but don’t fuss if you can’t) and add to the pot. Stir carefully. Put on the lid and move the cauldron to low heat.
Leave for 10 minutes then check the liquid. Add more if it’s evaporating too quickly. Check now and again.
After 35-40 minutes it should be done. If the cabbage looks tender and the sauce looks well combined it’s probably there, but as long as there is liquid in it you can leave it longer if you like.
If you’ve used fatty sausages then the sauce should by now be quite thick. If it’s not – or if you’ve used low fat sausages – you may need to thicken it. I use a little cornflour – 2 or 3 teaspoons, mixed with a little water. Stir into the pot over the heat until it thickens.
Now add mustard to taste – I use two teaspoons. Stir, serve and enjoy!
And be grateful for that hob, that kitchen, that sink and that running water. No matter how humble, believe me, it’s a blessing.