Bliss balls not-recipe (without a food processor)

I don’t know about you, but seeing thousands of the same recipes for the same thing all across the internet can be a bit boring. Especially if they feature a piece of equipment you don’t have (Nutribullet/food processor/mincer/whatever). It can feel a bit limiting, like you can’t achieve those things without the equipment. 

Anyway, last friday was my son’s daycare Christmas party, and I know that these things involve Flings, chips, sweets and other crap, so it was important to me to send something that was delicious and sweet, without being full of sugar and other refined rubbish. Something I had a reasonable certainty my son, at least, would enjoy.

He’s a fruit bat. If it’s fruit, he’ll eat it, pretty much. He loves his ‘bapoo’ (apple) and ‘narnar’ (banana), and all other na-noms!! (Food he likes but doesn’t know the name of), and dried fruit (as long as it’s soft, is also a great favourite, especially when we are driving. 

After a bit of searching, I eventually came across a Bliss Balls recipe that used heat and a stick or jug blender to process the fruit, and I thought BINGO! I actually bought a food processor (at last!!) on the weekend, but last week when I made these, I didn’t have it. Come to think of it, though, I think I’d still use this method. It’s quick and easy, and there are minimal things to wash, which appeals to my incredibly lazy side.

Anyway, see what you think. These went down well with my boy, and the leftovers are living in the freezer for a sweet, healthy snack when we need one.


Makes about 44 1/2 inch balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 2-4 pitted dried prunes
  • Water (just enough to cover the dates)
  • 1/2 cup mixed seeds (I had pumpkin, sesame and linseeds, I think)
  • 1 TBSP cocoa or cacao
  • 1 TBSP agave syrup (or honey, but I wanted to make this accessible for the little babies too)
  • Roughly 1 cup desiccated coconut (divided)

Method:

  1. Put the dates and prunes into a small pot, and just cover with water. Bring the pot to a boil, and turn down to a simmer. You want to soften the dried fruit so you can blend it more easily.
  2. Stir with a silicone spatula, and when the dried fruit starts to go mushy, turn off the heat.
  3. Add the seeds to the mixture in the pot and, using a stick blender, whizz it all up to an even consistency (you can do this in a jug blender too, but that means more washing up. Meh.)
  4. This mixture will be quite wet, thanks to the mushy dried fruit, so sprinkle in a little of the coconut and add in the cocoa and agave and stir to mix. 
  5. Keep adding coconut, mixing in beteeen additions, until the mixture seems dry enough to handle, while being sticky enough to roll into balls.
  6. Sprinkle the rest of the coconut onto a plate, and set aside.
  7. Using a levered ice cream scoop (I use the smallest size of these for everything), scoop out balls from the mixture and place onto a baking paper covered plate. You can leave them that size, they are great for adults, but I cut them in half, as I intended them for the babies.
  8. Once the whole mixture is in balls, refrigerate them for an hour or so to firm up.
  9. Then, roll each one in the desiccated coconut, and pop them into a container.

You’re done! I’m calling this a not-recipe, because I think it’s fairly forgiving. You need dried fruit that can be rehydrated, something like coconut or cocoa (or both) that will help to absorb some of the moisture, and some seeds for added nutrition. I’d like to try this with Turkish apricots and chia seeds, or apple slices and flax, just to try.

Also, the balls can be a bit of a faff, so you can also press the mixture into a baking paper lined cookie sheet or oven dish, and just sprinkle coconut over the top. Press the coconut in, and refrigerate to set, then slice into bars or blocks. Just as tasty, and probably easier to handle. Think I’ll try that next time #lazyAF.

Coronation chicken meatballs

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I was a food blogger. I was never particularly good, and definitely never famous. In the end it was my sincere dislike for food photography and a job that allowed me to write out all the things in my heart (and leave the photography to the professionals) that put paid to that.

I also found that, the more innovative and inventive I was with a dish, the fewer decent, free to use photos there were out there. Look, I haven’t found a solution for this (I am still a terrible, impatient photographer of food), but I want to post a few recipes, because they are worth having out there in the world, and at the very least, I would like to remember them (and the internet never forgets).

All that to say that these Coronation Chicken meatballs were, in the language of our time, EVERYTHING. I’ve made them a few times, a few different ways, and they are delicious. Coronation chicken, in case you’re unfamiliar, is generally a sort of cold chicken salad, with chutney, curry powder and mayonnaise. I like it, but it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea. This dish, however, is a little different. Using chicken mince, you mix in the flavours of Coronation chicken (curry powder and chutney) into the mince and form meatballs, then brown them in a pan. Use cream to deglaze, and add more of those flavours, and server over millet, cauliflower rice, or even pasta or rice, if that’s your thing. They are spicy, a little bit sweet, creamy and ever so moreish. Try it and see :)

Here are two terrible photos of just the meatballs that I set aside for my son, that are not quite as horrific as the ones I took when we ate this the other night. Those were so blurry, you could hardly see the food. If there are any budding food photographers and food stylists in the Southern Suburbs, I’m happy to cook if you want to practice making it look good!

Ingredients:
MEATBALLS:

  • 500g chicken mince
  • 1 medium to large baby marrow, finely grated
  • 1 medium to large carrot, finely grated
  • 1/2-2 TSP curry powder (I use Woolies Medium Curry Powder – use less or a milder version if you don’t like spice)
  • 2-3 TBSP chutney (I use a peach chutney from Zetler’s farm stall on the Spier road in Stellenbosch, but any will do)
  • 1 TSP salt (omit if making for babies under 1)
  • Generous grind of fresh black pepper 

SAUCE:

  • 250ml of cream
  • 1-2 TSP curry powder
  • 2-3 TBSP chutney
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Put all the meatball ingredients into a bowl, and mix using a butter knife. This will help to pull the ingredients through one another, without risking overmixing the meat and making the meatballs tough.
  2. Cover the mixture with cling film, pushed right down onto the surface of the mixture, and let is stand for a bit. 10 minutes is fine, or do it in the morning and put it into the fridge. This just helps the flavours to develop a bit more.
  3. Heat a non-stick pan and add a little oil or butter (I don’t believe there is a way to truly cook without fat, nor do I think it’s necessary).
  4. Put 1 tiny spoonful into the pan, and fry until golden on both sides. This is a taster, and is very important for ensuring the seasoning and flavours of your meatballs are good, and it doesn’t take long. Adjust your mixture as necessary, after tasting your taster.
  5. Using a small, levered ice cream scoop, or two spoons, drop balls of the meat mixture into hot oil, spacing them evenly without them touching in the pan. Stop when your pan is full – I usually have to do 2-3 batches.
  6. Let them cook on a medium heat, turning over when the bottom os golden brown, and cooking on all sides. Mine are quite small, probably just bigger than an inch in diameter, so they cook in just a few minutes. 
  7. Remove to a bowl as they cook, and fill up the space with more balls as you go.
  8. When all the meatballs are cooked, fry 1-2 TSP curry powder, depending on how hot you like it. I like it quite spicy, so I err on the side of hotter.
  9. When the curry is fragrant, which will only take a minute or so, pour in the cream and add the chutney, stirring it all together and heating through. 
  10. You can bring it to the boil, but there’s really no need. Just heat until hot, then add all the meatballs back to the pan, and heat them through, ensuring that they are all cooked right through.

Serve over rice, cauliflower rice, pasta or mashed potatoes with a fresh, green side and a glass of rose or Chardonnay to cut through all that spice and creaminess. Just delicious!

Varieties:

One thing I have loved about these meatballs is that they are so versatile. 

  • Making them for kids? Omit the curry powder, and use a bit of apricot jam instead to make fruity meatballs. My 1.5 year old loves them!
  • Sometimes I also just reduce the curry powder in the meat mixture, fry all the meatballs off (checking in the taster that they are ‘cool’ enough for my son) and remove some for him. Then I amp up the spice in the sauce to get the spicy flavours I’m after.
  • You can also add more or fewer veggies. Adding finely grated veg gets a few extra vitamins in, without really affecting the texture. You could add a bit more, but just check that the mixture still holds together in a ball before you add too much.
  • Chicken mince is also pretty sticky, which means I never have to use egg or breadcrumbs as a binder, which is great, because I don’t really eat bread. 
  • I’ve also chopped up a handful of dried apricots and mixed them in, for some added texture, which was delicious. 
  • Last night I added a cup of frozen peas to the sauce before adding the meatballs back in, and that was also yum.
  • If you can’t find chicken mince and have a food processor, you could easily do this with boneless chicken breasts – just add all the meatball ingredients to a food processor and pulse until the meat is minced and the other stuff is even;y mixed in.

‘Twas the month before Christmas…

Wow, what a whirlwind November was. I mentioned that the first week was kind of quiet, but things definitely picked up much more than I was expecting. If there’s one thing I can say about freelancing, is that when you’re starting out, it isn’t the kindness of strangers so much as the kindness of friends that gets you going. 

Do you remember when you were looking for your first job? I do. I remember reading ad after ad, every one of them for an entry level position ‘with experience’. And where, I asked, were you supposed to get experience when you had only recently finished studying?! Welcome to the working world, honey, where nothing is as you think it should be.

Anyway, starting out freelancing feels a little bit the same, as though I’m starting my career from scratch again and, I guess, in many ways I am. This time around, though, I’ve had years of work experience and strong relationships to fall back on, which has been invaluable. I’ve had work from an old colleague who now works elsewhere, and a referral from another ex-colleague, who started her own business a while ago. Aren’t friends just the best?! Guys, I’ve even been paid (more than once!), and taken on a retainer client, all in my first month! 

Is there any wonder that I’m feeling a bit exhausted? Because, truth be told, even though I’m not ramping things up for the busiest time of the year, as I’d have to be at my old job (still feels weird to say that…), I’m shattered. We are 24 days to Christmas, 31 days until 2017, and I’m tired. 2016 has been… real. In many ways, it was amazing, and in many other ways, it has been really, very, incredibly hard. 

I’m trying to look ahead now and see what next year might look like, and I’m a bit stumped. I’ve always mostly known what at least the next few months might look like (except when I fell pregnant and then had a baby, those were both curveballs I was not prepared for) and this next year looks like it might be the same. A hard grind, with some rewarding moments and possibly some tears (hey, my emotion control is pretty wrecked after pregnancy hormones).

I’m getting this same feeling from many people at the moment. 2016 was hard for a lot of people, and while we naturally want to look forward positively, it’s hard not to look at 2017 with a bit of trepidation. How are you feeling about the next year? Are you glad to be waving goodbye to a crap one? Or looking forward with a touch of anxiety? How can we work to make this one a good year, guys? I’m keen for a nice one, for a change…

Captain’s Log: we are one week down…

So, it’s been a quiet week. The last two months, since I resigned from the full time job I held for five years, were a frenetic whirlwind of trying to get everything done that I had promised to do, and trying to put in place all the things I needed to start my own business. Some of those things I managed to do, and others not. Overall, it was a positive few months.

It’s hard to leave a job that you were not unhappy at. Yes, every job has ups and downs, up weeks and down months (a certain year in social media is not one I look back on fondly). But overall, my experience of the past five years was extremely positive, and I left in a blur of tears (mine and others), hugs, and an outpouring of love from my now former colleagues and friends. Yes, it was hard to leave.

Leaving has left me open, vulnerable to the world. When I went on maternity leave last year, I realised for the first time how much of my personality and self-worth is derived from my work. I had always imagined, before that, that I worked to support my life, but it was at that point, when I was not working, except as a full time mother to a newborn (which is, it should be noted, a pretty hard job without much in the way of positive feedback), that I realised that I need to have something that I do every day and something that I do well in. I guess it was a good time to learn that.

Knowing that now, though, means that I am not happy to simply parent my son and clean the house. God knows, that isn’t something I’m good at, anyway. So I have spent the last week signing up to all the freelance sites I can find, trawling job postings, and generally trying to hunt down something to do. I sent out my first quote, which was then declined. I have even offered to do some pro bono charity work, just to have something to do, so you must know how desperate I feel.

The anxiety behind selling myself, selling my skills – it’s high and it’s real. But I know that I am good at what I do, and that is what spurs me on. Setting a price to my skills and my time? That’s a whole other ballgame, and one I’m afraid it may take me years to figure out.

So one week in, and I’m not much further than I was when I started. A little greyer, a little more anxious, and all the laundry is done (until the sun stopped shining, and laundry had to be put on hold). 

Have you got any advice for a budding freelancer? Anything I should do to keep myself busy? Any sites I should sign up to to find work? I’d appreciate all of that. Here’s hoping things pick up a bit next week. And now that I am unemployed (unemployed until I start earning money – then I will be self-employed), does anyone want to meet up for coffee?

on knowing when what you needed is no longer what you need

Over the years, my relationship with change changes. Sometimes I welcome it, others I run screaming from the room if you so much as mention it. I guess I could read something into that, like maybe when I run it’s because the change isn’t a good idea, and when I’m happy for it, it is. But I think it also has a lot to do with my current mental state. When I’m overwhelmed, I just need everything to stay the same, for things to be stable, or I fear collapse.

So it’s quite a thing for me to be excited about a big change that’s about to happen in my life. No, stop looking at me like that. I’m not bloody pregnant. I promise (I don’t get nearly enough sleep yet to be walking down that road).

No, I’m talking about work. Over the years, I’ve thought on and off about working for myself, and almost every time I have looked at the idea and laughed, while running screaming from the room. The idea of going out and working on my own, for myself has been daunting to say the least.

But (yes, this is the news) I think I’m finally ready. As I look at the next phase of my life, I know it features adventures, probably quite a lot of hardship, lots of growth and a ton of learning. I hope it features clients, people to collaborate with and fun projects. I look forward to reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, and figuring out what my work life will look like. I’m taking the plunge, guys. I have resigned from my day job, and I’m going to be a freelancer.

Once upon a time, not very long ago, I needed the stability of my 9-5. I needed to know I was going in every day, getting a salary every month, and I needed to know what was expected of me. The company I work for is awesome, it’s filled with incredible, hardworking, passionate people who also have a ton of fun together. I would never trade working there for working somewhere else. The only thing I would trade it for is working for myself, and getting to spend a lot of extra time with my little guy as he grows up.

So, this is my sign to the universe. Universe, if you’re listening, from the beginning of November, I’m all yours. I’m a helluva proofreader (I can spot a double spacing from across the room), I copy edited my friend’s doctoral thesis on a science subject I know nothing about (and she did super well because of it), and I love to write. Food, kitchen and hospitality are my main strengths, but I’ll take on parenting, babies and almost any other subject (not golf) because I also love to research. So, hit me up. I’ll put a website together with some examples of my work, so keep an eye out for that. And, if there are any of you out there reading this, hold thumbs for me? This is a big leap for this almost-32-year-old girl, and I really, really want it to work.