I hate labels, but I guess if you had to pigeonhole me into a subset of people, you could probably call me a “minimalist”. I am constantly purging physical items that are not being used, have no idea what to tell people who ask me “what gifts I want” and value experiences and time spent with people who are important to me over receiving something which was bought for me.
“The greatest gift you can give someone is your time. Because when you give your time, you are giving a portion of your life you will never get back” – Unknown
It is this time of the year – Christmas, in case you forgot – that provides some challenges in both the gift giving and receiving categories for me. In addition to trying to come up with gift ideas for myself, I try to give gifts that are meaningful and useful and won’t end up thrown in the back of a cupboard by Boxing Day. I seem to stick to things like books, music and edible items (for both giving and receiving). I am particularly fond of giving homemade consumables, as the time, effort and love that’s put into making them are reflected when the gift is received (well, at least, I hope they are).
This year, I’ve decided to extend the edible items to the family get together and will be providing a food hamper of sorts for each household. In case you are stuck with what to get for your loved ones, here are a couple of the things I’m including in mine.
Soda Bread is basically “bread for the baking challenged”. I’ve published the recipe for this delicious, foolproof bread recipe before and it will go well with everything else that follows.
Home Churned Butter
I’m kidding – I’m really not that industrious… But don’t let that stop you.
Pineapple and Chili Chutney
(This recipe was published in the January 2017 edition of Home magazine)
A tangy, sweet-and-sour-with-a-bite delight. It’s super on salty meats like gammon and just as good smeared onto thick slices of homemade bread. By all accounts, it is too late for the flavours to develop properly before Christmas Day – but that never seems to bother my mother who is, if you’ll excuse the pun, like a kid on Christmas morning – opening things before they’re ready to be opened.
- 1.3kg fresh pineapple chunks (about 3 queen pineapples)
- 2 large white onions, sliced
- 3 large green apples, cut into chunks
- 300g light brown sugar
- 250ml vinegar (any will do, but perhaps avoid red wine vinegar and that strong stuff you put on “slap-chips”)
- 5ml salt
- 15ml mild curry powder
- 2 green chillies, chopped
- 1 knob fresh ginger, chopped finely / grated
- 15ml mustard seeds
- 10 peppercorns
- 3 bay leaves
- Put all the ingredients in a suitably sized saucepan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved
- Bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and stir regularly until it becomes thick and syrupy (about 30 – 60 minutes). Important note for this step – avoid sticking your face over the pot to check what’s happening. The boiling vinegar provides an experience which is similar, I imagine, to having hydrochloric acid poured into your sinuses.
- Bottle the chutney in sterilised jars and seal while still hot.
- Unless you are my mother, let it stand for about a week before opening.
I have recently emerged out of a fermented foods phase. Despite Mrs Megamalist complaining about the fact that every piece of countertop was covered in jars of “rotting stuff”, it was a fantastic 2 month learning curve filled with some delicious outcomes.
Sauerkraut has got to be one of the easiest things in the world to make – you need but 2, cheap ingredients.
- 1 head of cabbage
- 15ml salt
- A 1-litre glass jar, piece of cheesecloth (or dish towel) and elastic band
- Slice up the cabbage. It’s best to get it as thin as possible, but if you can only achieve “a bit chunky” like me, that’s ok.
- Place in a mixing bowl and add the salt
- Mix with your hands for about 10 minutes. The salt will cause the cabbage to produce a liquid – this is what you want.
- Place the cabbage in the jar (I find 1 cabbage fills a 1 litre jar). Compact the contents down as much as they’ll go and pour in the remaining liquid. (You want the liquid to cover the cabbage – I find that using a smaller glass jar to press down the cabbage into the larger jar works a well to achieve this).
- Secure the cloth over the jar, securing with an elastic band. Place in a warm place out of direct sunlight. Check it after a few days – I leave mine for between 5 and 8 days, after which I put it into the fridge.
I love beer (in moderation, of course) and the homemade craft variety is better than anything you’ll get from the big commercial brands, as well as being cheaper than anything you’ll get from the established craft beer market.
I’ve brewed up a lovely little Chocolate Oatmeal Stout that will accompany the hamper.
I don’t only love beers of the alcoholic variety. Ginger beer was another “win” from my fermentation experiments, and this one is delicious. This recipe is 100% “from scratch” and uses wild yeast to ferment the starter (i.e. no added packet yeasts). In the interest of brevity, you can find the recipe on the Mountain Feed website.
Although my first batch took 3 weeks to carbonate, with the current soaring temperatures in Johannesburg, my Christmas Hamper batch took less than a week from “Ginger Bug” to finished, drinkable product.
…and that’s Christmas – sorted!
Now that my family knows what they’re all getting for Christmas (surprise…), I am hoping these homemade food hampers prove to be a hit. If they are, perhaps it is the way forward for coming years, don’t you think?
I wish all my readers a wonderful festive week ahead. May your time with loved ones be peaceful and fulfilling!