Heaven is a South African Kitchen

***This is the third and final post from my trip to South Africa. The previous posts are here and here***

Heaven on a plate

Heaven on a plate

On our final morning at the whimsical Miner’s compound, something amazing happened – I met the Miner’s wife, Jackie, who had been in the city during our drunken escapades the day before. We bumped into her at the back door of her kitchen in our efforts to say goodbye to our host and friends. She was directing a platoon of housemaids, with a voice so sensational  it was like the Cheshire Cat or an Afrikaans Miranda Priestly were yelling orders from behind a buzzing fan.  She had fiery red hair in a coif that Marge Simpson’s sisters might request at the hair salon and gorgeous bright eyes that will keep her looking youthful even when she turns 100. Just amazing.

“Come, come, come. You must have something to eat!” She said in same breath as her introduction.

Instead of staging our departure,  Stingray and I let Jackie take us  hostage (rather willingly) onto the back porch to enjoy a decadent breakfast of fruit salad, fresh yogurt, charcuterie and her homemade preserves (umm…is this real?!). We ended up staying so late that it was already time to enjoy lunch which we did, at the very same table.

I was gorged, spoiled and feeling rather useless so Jackie was gracious enough to let me cook with her in her amazing kitchen. She and I whipped up a Tuscan-style tuna salad with cannellini beans, fried eggplant with cilantro, a simple salad with a vino cotto vinaigrette, and a caprese salad with olive oil so rich it looked like gasoline.

table 2

As I chopped, (she and I in matching aprons) she told me the story of her gorgeous Chinese linens, her fruit trees, herbs and spices from her travels to the Middle East, and the painting class she’ll take in France later in the Summer.   So intimated by her amazingness, I interrupted her a few times to ask,  “How do you want this chopped? What else should I add to this? Am I doing this right?” Dahling, everything you’re doing is just perfect, simply perfect.  Add whatever you’d like!” My only thought was: Eva, burn your passport so you can live with Jackie forever!…Do it, burn it now!

Once I finished shaking up my vinaigrette and the meal was almost ready, I started to chop a littler slower in attempts savor this moment with her.  When I go to Heaven, I know that the cafeteria will look just like Jackie’s gorgeous kitchen.

Tuscan-style Tuna Salad

tuna salad


  • 1 can of good  albacore
  • 1 can of canellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 shallot or small red onion, diced
  • 1-2  garlic cloves, grated
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • Olive oil
  • S and P to taste

Toss all ingredients together, in a beautiful bowl, except for tuna.  Add tuna and incorporate gently to try to keep it from breaking up too much.  Taste, adjust flavors accordingly.

Fried Eggplant with Cilantro

2 salads

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • Pepper to taste
  • maldon salt

Chop eggplant into 2 inch “pegs” and fry in olive oil until crispy and tender.  In the meantime, mix the lemon juice, grated garlic and pepper in a large bowl. Once the eggplant is done,  put directly in bowl with lemon juice mixture.  The olive oil absorbed in the eggplant will naturally balance out the acid.  Sprinkle maldon salt or another large-grained salt right before serving.

Caprese salad (everybody knows this one, right?)

Tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with high quality olive oil (lemon juice or balsamic were not added to the version pictured)

Green Salad with Vino Cotto Vinaigrette

green salad

  • 1/2 cup walnut oil
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1-2 T vino cotto (Italian sweet wine syrup)
  • 1 heaping T dijon mustard
  • 1/2 clove garlic, pressed or grated (optional)
  • S and P to taste

Shake all ingredients in a jar. Too sweet add more dijon, too thick add more oil. I served this with arugula and butter lettuce, some red onion left over from the other salads, a ripe avocado and some paprika for color.

Spiced, Wine-Poached Pears with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

In case I wasn’t already in food ecstasy at the end of our lunch, Jackie brought out some of her spiced, wine-poached pears and homemade vanilla ice cream and served it drizzled with grappa. It’s a miracle I didn’t implode into stardust after that.

Spiced, wine-poached pears with homemade ice cream

Spiced, wine-poached pears with homemade ice cream


A  diptych of her lemon tree…why not?

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