Almost everything I own has a story. Part of that is because when I travel, I love to shop. And I don’t just shop for clothing and shoes… I usually bring home an extra bag of local (kosher) food that I can’t find at home so that I can extend the experience of my trip and share it with those back home. I hope to share some of these finds with you in the future, as the spirit moves me.
I spent a few weeks in South Africa in 2003, mainly in Cape Town, working on a health care project with some classmates for the city of Cape Town under the direction of the late Ivan Toms. We worked hard in city health clinics every day (my team was charged with uncovering the cause of an 8 million Rand increase in drug costs) and had the opportunity to explore different aspects of Cape Town live in the evenings and on the weekend.
After my first weekend spent in Seapoint, I was fortunate enough to befriend a local, Tali, who showed me around much of the local scene beyond tourist spots. We ate out, went to bars off the beaten track, shopped beyond the V&A Waterfront, and I met people whom I imagine I would have been friends with had I lived there. We even went to grocery stores and this is where my habit of seriously bringing home local ingredients began. Besides sweeties (mmmm….Sally Williams nougat), one of the most interesting things that Michal introduced me to were uniquely flavored salts. I bought one such salt mixture that Tali recommended called “Darling Buds” made by The Cape Herb Company that contains coarse sea salt and various dried flowers – rose petals and buds, lavender, cornflowers, chamomile, and calendula. The smell is heavenly and I often use it in place of regular salt. There are many other varieties with interesting ingredients and most, if not all, are kosher. The bottles are refillable and you can easily adjust the grind size.
Luckily, these salts and many of the spice mixtures made by The Cape Herb Company have made it stateside, and I have seen (and purchased them) in Fairway (see Resources for further info). They can also be ordered online at Chelsea Market Basket.
Floral Roasted Potatoes
This recipe actually has nothing to do with South Africa; it just uses the “Darling Buds” salt to accentuate the herbes de Provence spice mix with lavender to give regular roasted potatoes a delicate floral scent and flavor. I love lavender and use it as often as I can!
This is just a good guideline for roasted potatoes. Here I used all-purpose russet potatoes that I purchased for potato peels. The crunch comes from the high heat. You can cut the potatoes into larger chunks, but I chose more of a home fries-size; bigger chunks = roast for longer. You can obviously use any spice mixture you want — good traditional alternatives include garlic, rosemary, dill, or some heat from red pepper flakes or cayenne.
1-2 t Olive oil
Herbes de Provence (with lavender)
Preheat oven to 450°F
Cut potatoes (can peel for a more delicate look) into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes. Soak in water for at least 30 minutes (or longer) to draw some of the starch out, keep crisp, and to make sure the potatoes don’t turn turn color from air exposure.
Drain water and lightly pat the potatoes dry. Spread potato chunks out onto a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil. Drizzle with a few splashes of extra virgin olive oil (~1-2 T) and toss with herbes de Provence (~1.5 T), 5-6 grinds of Darlings Buds floral salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Bake for about 30 minute or until edges are golden brown and crisp, shaking the sheet occasionally to free up any potatoes that are sticking. The smell of the lavender and other flowers is divine as the potatoes are crisping up in the oven.
Allow to cool a few minutes before eating (if you can…I always burn my tongue and the roof of my mouth). These are great anytime.