Good Morning to a decidedly cooler Jozi, I hope you’re all finding it a relief from the sticky dense heat as much as I am.
This week’s news really will just cover the store news without too much wading into the philosophy of our broader food context issues. There is so much planning and working on getting ready for the events launches as well as just focusing back on this store and supply, there aren’t enough hours in the day at the moment.
Yet, this remains a heart-felt, happy place despite our challenges and a journey I trust. I write this with a mouth full of a dreamy cacao, macadamia and honey mix which is probably adding to my pleasure at being here, I keep forgetting to mention that we have that range in from The HoneyBear. You will not find a dreamier or healthier ‘Nutella’ substitute than these. Not that I think anybody who has subscribed to this list is likely to still have Nutella in their cupboards but anyhow – these mixes fill that gap. It comes in 3 types – cacao, honey and almond, cacao, honey and macademia and cacao, honey and almonds. When you feel like something sweet and chocolatey these are great used as a spread on flax crackers, on a slice of sourdough toast with butter or whipped through The Gourmet Greek yoghurt. I no longer can imagine what life was like before Gourmet Greek yoghurt, you see how it just features every time I cook or do recipes. Life had to have been bleak prior to Dimitri’s dairy. Or you can just put a teaspoon of it in your mouth and go to heaven like I currently am.
One of the new initiatives that has kept me spinning about and preoccupied blue is getting our Jozi Real Food (R)evolution ready made meals and test kitchen up and running. The range will build as we get further into this. We are testing recipes for the launch of our cooking and events series launching in May as much as for ready-made meals and obviously these will always vary depending on what is seasonal and in-store for the moment from the farms we trust and support.
As much as I am pretty much crazy about the need to get you all back into a joyful relationship with cooking in your kitchens, I too have to acknowledge that there is still a very real need for convenience, it doesn’t have to always be one or the other, we can tackle two birds with one stone. If you need a quick meal to bang in the oven after a day of rushed-ness – it isn’t easy to find convenience without having to compromise on the quality of nourishment or ingredients.
So when it comes to our range, it only features ingredients from the farms I support, know and trust. The meals are not outsourced to somebody else – I am supervising these with my trusted Joyce who has literally been cooking with me for years, to ensure that every ingredient only comes from this store and that they are made to my standard.
I didn’t actually realise how easy a venture this was going to be. I can be as stubborn as an ox when it comes to relaxing principles and I’ve never been keen on doing convenience meals because I’m hell bent on people taking back ownership of their pantries and learning how to cook with whole ingredients from our best farms and ready made meals just never appealed in that regard.
Until the test kitchen series came along and I just came alive again with creativity and the joy of cooking and realised that I can actually provide you with a delicious ready made meal that you can trust makes no compromise that I would endorse and is convenient without any lowering of standards on the ingredients. As I have started playing around with recipe ideas and taking them to the test kitchen, we’ve come up with some really rewarding one dish oven bakes that make great quick meals when you need them.
Our first batches last week were of the mock ‘lasagne’ using the Brennaissance Boran Wholly Veldt Reared Beef, organic brinjals, Gourmet Greek Yoghurt and Cheddar. When I had a day on Monday that actually meant it was going to be impossible to throw a meal together after a late extra mural of my daughter’s and I felt the flood of relief that we had one left in the fridge that I brought myself that was really going to help us out of what otherwise would have been a late night, I thought, ok this has a place.
These meals will remain a staple in the range as we build it up and we will just adapt the base recipes according to organic vegetables we have in season. Brinjal season will end shortly for example and then we’ll change the recipe to suit and just keep playing. I’m in a very rich comfort zone playing with recipes and finding this very rewarding.
Please can you leave requests of convenience meals you would like us to try and adapt for you using our ingredients. If you leave the suggestion with Cassandra or Sam on the tills, we’ll take them on board and try them out. Building this up according to what you like and need is going to be a joy.
Next week we’ll extend the range to the 3rd which will the CTOrganics chicken bakes. That recipe has also proved itself over and over for taste and consistency so by next week we’ll have 3 in range – one using Brennaissance Beef, another featuring CTOrganics pastured chicken and the other Aldersyde Lamb Farm. Because they are bakes, these first all contain Gourmet Greek yoghurt as that is the cook in sauce and then our next in line will be ready-made bolognaise sauce made to my favourite recipe slow cooked with the Brennaissance beef mince.
Then once we launch the cooking series, I’ll be sharing all those recipes with you at the events.
We have decided to stop doing the tasting tables outside as it’s just not working out and getting pesky. In that, we have as many lurkers, and Checkers customers coming past and eating whole bowls and plate of the tasters – we have Mum’s actually stand there and unabashedly dish up plates for their children after school who are never going to come into the store and who aren’t interested in the recipes. People go strange around free food. We’ve had people taking recipes and then going to buy the ingredients from Checkers – we’re finding it hard to manage actually. We’ve got labourers hustling Joyce for food and it’s just getting a touch stressful, nutty and not the best use of our time and resources or sustainable so I think we’ll best put the time into the kitchen and doing the meals for our customers.
The beef, brinjal and yoghurt mock lasagnes are back in the fridges and from tomorrow we’ll have the second in the range ready. This is a recipe I’ve been playing with that works so beautifully and like the mock lasagne cooks quickly and easily in 30 minutes in the oven. It is cubed Aldersyde Farm leg of lamb cooked in a bake that mixes Mooberry eggs, Gourmet Greek yoghurt, rosemary and organic roast butternut. We pre roast the butternut in rosemary and olive oil and then blend it up with the yoghurt and eggs, we were hoping it baked as sort of frittata. It did that perfectly and it is silly delicious. I’m looking forward to introducing those to you tomorrow.
All the meals are being done in a family size dish, 2 portion and single or kiddies.
The containers we are using are oven proof up until 220 degrees and freezer proof. They’re also microwavable but I’d prefer not to make a big deal out of that as I hate microwaves and cringe at the idea of all that nutrition and flavour being nuked,
Other in-store news that is note worthy is that new stock of the Brennaissance Boran Indigenous wholly veldt reared beef is in tomorrow afternoon. We still have beef stewing cuts like Osso Bucco and the mince, stock bones and fat for tallow in and the biltong and dry wors. For those of you who specifically come in for the steaks, boerewors and patties those will all be back in Thursday afternoon. For those of you that went moggy for our Osso Bucco recipe – if the weather remains like this especially and as we head into Winter, we will have these as ready-made meals in-store too.
The CTOrganics chicken pieces will be back in tomorrow or Friday. We had a delay with the transport and still battling to get a firm ETA out of them other than it’s supposed to arrive tomorrow, best to just call in if you are doing a trip especially for those.
Our debate around frozen versus fresh meat and how to make it possible to get the produce you most love from these farms fresh is on-going. We are working on finding a middle-road so that both options are available but as outlined in the previous mail, we have limits when we are non-negotiable on the farm we are supporting, strict with our standards and not moving volumes so trying to do in a way that best works for the farmer and doesn’t load further transport costs which will push the cost too high to be feasible. We are in talks with all the farmers to try and find ways around this, trust that the moment I can give you fresh options without compromising on the farms I use and where it doesn’t affect the cost, I will. The irony is that to make the numbers work, we need to be doing larger amounts so that the farmer can regularly transport weekly, to do that we need to support the farm, the more we do the more feasible it will become to do regular cuts of fresh chicken. So it needs your support of the farmer, to make his logistics easier. This whole journey is a collaboration, in concert that requires us all to make adjustments to create momentum which makes the logistics and availability easier.
We know that in the long run we need to start out own butchery so that I can buy whole carcasses from our farmers and then it would work to be able to cut for you as you need it, but I’m not quite ready for that this month – 🙂 – we’ll get there in time. This is one step and advancement at a time.
For now I just need you to continue to trust that I have to do this forward march with very tight parameters around ethics and without cutting corners. I won’t want to wake up in the morning if I start selling from farms that I do not believe are meaningful or truly sustainable in order to do things more efficiently and keep a larger group of people happy. It’s a very fine tightrope I walk between my standards and ethics and needing this business to be sustainable so that I can stay in this with you and with these farmers. But it’s a tightrope worth walking for me.
I had a very passionate customer thrashing out our limitations with me in-store yesterday and I found it a very stimulating debate and left with my head reeling with his thoughts on how to get past our obstacles and very taken with how much crazy passionate he was really about wanting this journey to work.
It made me think that I’m going to be involving our farmers and you more in helping us find solutions for how to make food from South Africa’s most sustainable farms – which is the farms I stand for – more readily and easily accessible and available here. I have a gold gilded framed memory actually already of this exchange which got very heated – the customer and I passionately debating the challenges and I’ll never forget him exclaiming ‘I want you to be successful, we want to buy from you because we trust you and I want to help you find solutions so we don’t have to ever go anywhere else and be stuck with having to buy from people we know aren’t genuine.
It was one of those beautiful arguments that stimulate the hell out of you where you realise that both of you are on the same team and fighting for the same thing. This man is frustrated with the limitations of the store for now because he is as passionate about it working as I am. Passionate enough to spend time challenging me on my limitations and I found that deeply moving. He left saying ‘I am going to go away and think about your challenges, there must be solutions and I need this to work.’ You know that feeling you get sometimes when somebody is cross with you and then you realise that it’s coming from them wanting the best for you, that there frustration is coming from care. It was kind of like that feeling.
Who is lucky enough to have customers that care that much? I am. We’re a very special community here.
We have many obstacles to overcome and yet have the greatest thing on our side – that money and efficiency cannot buy – values and passion centred around meaning, connection and heart.
I am surrounded by the most passionate farmers and customers who are all like hearted and like minded. We’re all on the same team here and fighting for the same vision and collaboration between this incredible passion is the answer to a breakthrough in this food revolution. I’ve never been more certain of anything.
So that’s why the focus on the events and creating spaces between myself, you and our suppliers and farmers, why the focus this year on connecting us meaningfully into the kick ass, heart warriors we all are in different ways. Choosing nourishment on all levels.
Any obstacle I face in this business affects you and you are the best people to debate our challenges with and help find solutions, together and in concert with the farmers that you support.
Every single farmer I stand for and behind in our catalogue of farmers is passionate beyond belief and as uncompromising as I am and you are in the things that matter.
Never mind a food revolution, the more this journey winds, the more I understand that this is as much a (r)evolution in connection and heart as anything else.
Other things to chat about – the whole range of Nicola’s fermented vegetables from Kraut and Krunch are in, you’re getting into such a lovely rhythm now of these and so we know what to keep stocked now. A box of beautiful beetroot bunches from Chartwell arrived here for Nicola yesterday – trust that she uses the best organic ingredients she can find.
The thai lime beet kvass is being re-stocked tomorrow.
On the fresh produce front – things have been tough as it’s been so hot. I’m looking at the rain today and thinking of the relief that Chartwell Veggie Patch will be enjoying from it, hoping that this means their carrots might thrive again, they just didn’t enjoy the heat much and that the celery flourishes ready for next week.
We’ve got lovely greens in though, kale, baby spinach and the micro greens. Luscious green beans from Chartwell, beautiful large organic salad tomatoes from Aloe Dale, plenty of butternut – while I’m thinking about it – what I discovered in the test kitchen this week was that if you roast the butternut – as normal – with olive oil and rosemary which works so well with butternut, and you then blend it up with yoghurt and eggs – you get the most incredible frittata textured bake that you can add anything to. You’ll see it in the leg of lamb and butternut bakes in tomorrow. I’m learning that Gourmet Greek yoghurt bakes well, can replace cream and floury sauces easily – it’s so versatile, I’m not going to stop working with it.
My next experiment is going to be a cheese-cake made with it and the Jozi Dark Chocolate Macadamia butter and buffalo thorn honey – I have a hunch it’s going to be insane.
We also have new ranges in of gluten free flours to bake with as you are asking for these so much, almond flour, brown and white rice flour in and tapioca.
What else topical – the hardcore green pressed juices are in today from The Pressed Juice Co – those are the lowest sugar ones as they don’t include apple – just kale, spinach, cucumber, mint, romaine, celery, lime and ginger.
The other flavours are in the freezer, red, orange and yellow.
The Free Range Food company whole very large chickens remain a firm favourite in this store. I still spend time encouraging people to roast them once a week and benefit from the 4 meals and more you can get from one. If you plan it well and have one roast dinner, left-overs used in a bake for another day, stock made from the carcass and other left-overs made into a light dish with veggies, you’ve stretched the bird into 4 meals that will end up saving you cooking time in the week and that’s how it was with your grandmothers.
Actually, there’s an idea – if you roast one – remember the standard recipe – defrost – I leave it in a sink over night so that it’s warm to the bone, you don’t want the bones cold before you roast it – stuff it with a quartered onion, quartered lemon, 5 cloves of garlic, as many fresh herbs as you can get into it – a knob of Mooberry butter and a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper – pour a cup of organic white wine in the base of your roasting tray – rub the outside of the bird with olive oil and more butter and herbs – salt and pepper – slow roast it on 150 degrees for 2 and a half hours, leave it to rest for half an hour. Then all you need to do is reduce those pan juices into the most ridiculously delicious gravy that requires nothing other than adding more wine as you reduce it.
Carve up the roast and serve that with veg of choice, that’s one meal. There will undoubtedly be a lot left over if there are 4 of you. Strip the remainder afterwards into cubes and strips and you’ll still have enough left for another 2 meals, you can roast veg for another meal and then just add the left-over strips or throw some into a raw vegetable salad with the best of what you have or try this for a filing bake that’ll make another full meal out of it.
Roast the chunks of one organic butternut with olive oil and rosemary or thyme. Allow to cool – put the cubes in a blender with 3 of Mandy’s eggs and 1 litre of the Gourmet Greek yoghurt and the juice of a lemon. Blend that up, stir through the left over chicken and pour this mixture into a baking dish. Bake at 180 for 30 minutes. It works a charm and it’s fluffy and delicious.
When we do the Jozi Real Food (R)evolution series, one of them will be focused on getting 4 meals out of one of these chickens. The carcass you want to put in your slow cooker to make a rich stock for a soup.
Alright, I’d best head off now.
Enjoy the rain and the respite from the heat and perhaps the lead into Autumn this just might be.