Greek Mountains and Flowering Rocks

If you're familiar with this blog, you know that I love witchy things. Not actual witchcraft per say, but the idea of synergy and 'magic' that can occur when 'potions' of  whole, natural ingredients are consumed. I've always been drawn to mythical ideas like the 'elixir of life' or the potions that heal characters in video games. I also love the idea that there are secret things that come from the sea have 'magic' beyond our current understandings of nutritional science. However, my most favourite way to think about the 'magic' of food is how it can serve as medicine and heal our bodies when we select ingredients that nourish us.

In my dealings of food-magic and witchery, one of the most profound (and most obscure) discoveries I've ever made has been an herb that grows on the sides of Greek mountains called, sideritis. I've written previously about the great benefits of drinking this herb as a tea.

Upon discovering that DAVIDsTEA no longer carries the herb as a tea option, I was, quite frankly, heartbroken. But the Universe has a strange and magical way of righting these scenarios and I was contacted by the kind people at a new Boston-based tea company called, Flowering Rock.

Flowering Rock's new collection of herbal teas are inspired by the landscape and history of Greece, featuring sideritis leaves, blossoms and stems from the finest organic grower on Mt.Othrys, Greece that are blended with other aromatic botanicals.

This word, sideritis, is translated to "he who is or has the iron," and, fittingly for Sift, Dust & Toss, its origins are very ancient. I do favour food items that have a long history as the healthiest things are, no doubt, the things that nourished our ancient ancestors. 

Tests on sideritis have demonstrated that brewing the herb as a tea helps in the prevention of osteoporosis while its anti-oxidant properties aid in the prevention of cancer. Overall, the herb has been demonstrated to have a positive effect on almost anything that ails the human body, with its anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant properties. The folks at Flowering Rock have created three different blends that each strengthen bones, memory and heart.

TITAN (To strengthen bones)
Giant of Strength and Stamina
Organic Sideritis and Sage.
MELETE (To strengthen memory)
Muse of Thought and Meditation
Organic Sideritis with Spearmint, 
Rose Hips and Hibiscus.
ANTHEIA (To strengthen heart.)
Goddess of Flowers
Organic Sideritis with Chamomile, 
Lemon Verbena and Spearmint.

Flowering Rock also carries additional sideritis blends that target sleeplessness and other ailments. Stay tuned for new varieties in the works.

Purchases can be made at the company's online store:

Most teas priced at $18 U.S.

For further reading about sideritis, please see: 
Sideritis, Sift, Dust & Toss

Wonderful Aunts and Bobotie

For how many times I've thought about Bobotie, I certainly can't spell it. (For the record, it can also be spelt Bobotjie.)

When I write a blog post about a historical or culturally-significant meal, I try to research a variety of sources. In the very best circumstances, I find a source who has grown up with the dish and made it many times. In the case of Bobotie, I was lucky enough to be staying with my friend Nell's family in Johannesburg, South Africa, and I had the pleasure of acquiring a 30-year old Cape Malay recipe from her aunt, Yvonne Crichton. 

There is no greater joy in this world than a treasured and historic family recipe.

As the post gets constructed, there are pieces of information floating around: scraps of paper with notes scribbled on them, hyperlinks to news articles, poetic emails with verbiage I appreciate sent to myself. I need to vett through all these fragments when I pull it all together. In the most recent instance, I found a variety of Bobotie misspellings in my inbox, and eventually uncovered a deja-vu in all the variable syntax.

There was an email chain featuring my aunt Pam from last Christmas where she said she would be making a South African dish. My brother responds to the chain with a newspaper article about Bobotie, 

I've eaten this dish before. Enjoyed it (very much.) Forgotten about it. Planned a trip to South Africa. Enjoyed the dish in its natural environment (very much.) Decided to write about it.

It's funny because my primary descriptor for Bobotie is that it's a wonderful comfort food, that tastes like something you've had before. Now I question whether I can fairly use that descriptor if the curry and apricot flavours were, in fact, lingering in my subconscious this whole time.

No, I'll still defend my gut feelings. Bobotie is reminiscent of the warming and compassion that one enjoys in meat loaf, Moussaka, or Sheppard's pie. You've never had it before, but it's familiar.

I'm told that Bobotok was originally an Indonesian dish containing meat with a custard topping cooked in a water bath. Colonists from Dutch East India colonies in Batavia likely introduced this dish to South Africa, with first recipe appearing in a Dutch cookbook in 1609.

Whatever the variation on the recipe, it consists of gently seasoned and spiced ground beef mixed with jams or chutneys and dried fruit. The top layer consists of an egg custard, and the dish is baked as a casserole in the oven. The final result transcends the sum of its parts and takes on a wonderful and warming flavour of its own. 

As a final contingency based on my own personal experience, it would also seem that Bobotie is best enjoyed when made by someone's wonderful aunt.

Bobotie "A true Cape Malay recipe"
Les Palmer (Kindly courtesy of Yvonne Crichton, Johannesburg, SA)

2 large onions
2 lbs mince (meat)
1 level tablespoon curry powder
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons chutney
2 tablespoons apricot jam
2 tablespoons dried apricots
Bay leaves

Add mixture of vinegar, curry powder + sugar + stir, frying it with onions. Add meat and salt. Stir till meat is cooked. Add dried apricots (cut up) then add apricot jam and chutney. Remove from heat.

In the meantime, soak 2 slices of whole wheat bread in milk. Squeeze out the milk and add to bread one egg then put into meat mixture. Add another egg to milk mixture and beat. Set aside.

Put meat into Pyrex dish. Pour milk + egg mixture over to form a custard. Place Bay leaves into the meat with points sticking out.

Bake in a moderate oven at 350F until nicely browned (about 1 hour.) The meat ought to rise and be firm.

Serve with creamed spinach, mashed butternut squash and basmati rice.