Lunch; the meal taken in the middle of the day, and with countless variations. To many it is a packed lunch, eaten in the playground, or over the work desk; perhaps left overs hurriedly tucked in a box, or a gourmet sandwich delivered.
A few weeks ago the invitation was extended to me by The Lunchbox Fund to blog about lunch for a very good cause; feeding impoverished and orphaned school children in South Africa. This project has very special meaning to me, I grew up on a farm in rural South Africa and although I now live in the USA, my heart belongs in Africa.
Bloggers Unite=Feeding South Africa
It is unfortunate that currently almost 65% of children in South Africa live in poverty and nearly 20% of all children in South Africa are orphans, many as a result of H.I.V and Aids. Without proper nutrition children struggle to focus and flourish, compounded by the trauma of losing loved ones, school attendance is severely jeopardized.
A Farm in Africa….
Fortunately growing up on the farm such poverty was unknown, happy children with huge smiles where our childhood companions, lunch for them would typically have been a sandwich on a school day or a home cooked meal of ‘samp’ a type of maize, with beans, rice, meat stew and ‘merogo’ a wild spinach.
My childhood lunch conjures up many memories; the elementary school years were spent at the local school, Mom packed our lunches and they were the typical fare, whole wheat sandwiches with fruit and perhaps some ‘biltong’ a type of beef jerky.
Due to the rather rural location and lack of higher education, my brothers and I were sent off to boarding school when we reached Middle school age, and lunch took on a whole new meaning.
School lunches at the strict English girls’ boarding school bring to mind scenes from a ‘Harry Potter’ movie, which still makes me shudder….Lunch was the main meal of the day, and consisted of ‘meat, starch and veg’, gluey stews served with lumpy mashed potatoes, overcooked green beans or mushy Brussels sprouts….supervised and mandatory to consume.
Needless to say weekends and school vacations home where a welcome reprise from the boarding school fare, and my brothers and I could not wait to get home to Mom’s delicious cooking!
The Rainbow Nation
South Africa is a cultural smelting pot of many influences of those who colonized the continent, as is reflected on the national menu and in our home. One of my favorite winter comfort food recipes to come home to is “Bobotie’ best described as a type of spicy meatloaf, topped with an egg custard.
This dish is of Cape Malay origin dating back to 1652 when the Cape became a trading post ‘halfway house’ stop for ships navigating the Europe-East Indies route. The trading post was established by Dutch officials who brought their slaves with them, known collectively as the ‘Cape Malay’ even though they were from diverse regions such as Malaysia to East Africa.
Prized as valuable slaves due to their great cooking skills, the slaves from Malaysia and Indonesia brought a strong influence of curried dishes, the origin of ‘Bobotie’ is thought to be of Indonesian influence and know in the Cape of Good Hope since the 17th century.
Comfort Food, South African Style
From our ‘Rainbow Nation’ as we are now know, I would like to share my family recipe for this simple dish, wonderful lunch time comfort food enjoyed with traditional yellow rice, a chopped salad or steamed vegetables.
Wonderful scents are wafting through my house today, as I prepared this meal to photograph for this post, and as I enjoyed a serving a reminder of those who may not be so fortunate.
Pay it Forward!
For the price of a sandwich you can make a contribution towards this cause; please would you join me in donating $10, $25 or whatever amount you elect; you can help feed school children possibly their only meal of the day.
A trip to a South African grocery store will reveal the condiment aisle dominated by chutneys in a variety of flavors and spiciness. My craving for chutney was met in the USA by ordering online from specialty stores, until Mom shared this recipe, a much better homemade version of the favorite national brand ‘Mrs Ball’s Chutney’
Traditionally made with Malt vinegar (which although made from barley grain is apparently gluten free due to the fermentation process), I have adapted the recipe to include Apple Cider Vinegar and cut down on the sugar, and created an ‘express’ preparation method using a food processor.
12 oz unsulphered dried Apricots (about 3 cups)
4 oz pitted Dates (about 1 cup)
2 oz Sultanas (about ½ cup)
large Yellow Onion.
4 cloves Garlic, minced
tsp. fresh Ginger, zested
tsp. Cayenne Pepper (or more for the brave)
tsp. ground Coriander
tsp. Mustard powder
1 cup Malt Vinegar
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 cups Raw Brown Sugar such as Sucanat or Rapadura
Place the apricots in a food processor and process on pulse mode until rough chopped (or chop by hand)
Transfer to a heavy 5 quart saucepan.
Process the dates and sultanas and transfer to the pot (check for stones in the dates)
Pour two cups of hot water over the fruit.
Pulse chop the onion into small dice, add to the pot.
Add the minced garlic, spices, vinegar and sugar.
Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Lower to a simmer, and cook for two hours, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
Allow to cool, transfer to a covered container, keep in the fridge, may be frozen.
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