We are becoming more aware of that deep-seated dread that fills your soul and being, that feeling, the one where you have load-shedding approaching. The time slot, 6pm to whatever time after that it doesn’t matter. It is so inopportune, so just inconsiderate, at the end of a day that has already been disrupted in so many ways by load-shedding.
Traffic lights out, lus taken away with each power interruption and just all round levels of mental warfare really. And the weather, it’s colder, so food — WARM food — is essential. But, well, the sheds do not plan to carry that load.
I, however, like to turn things into an Olympic sport sometimes. Like making a flight on time, I always sprint to the stairs before the cabin crew cross-checks and arms all doors. Like racing home this evening to to cook a meal before the power goes off at 6pm. This is not salad weather. I repeat, this is not salad weather.
My darling friend, Fritzy, said to me the other day as he sampled some butternut dish I’d made that I really should write a book just about sides. We chuckled and lost track of the point here, but tonight I was focused on mains. I needed a hearty main. Oh, and have you found that load-shedding has made us rather prayerful? I was calling on higher powers to give me a few minutes past the hour, so that I could at least make a plan with the leftover cooked spaghetti I had in the freezer.
ABP (always be prepared) is my motto, but I find it ever more useful now. Food prep is generally always done to facilitate easy weekday cooking. No-one wants to be knee-deep in chopped onions after a long work day. I’d rather use the time chatting to my sister on the phone, while I sauté something or guide nephews through last-minute geography studying and one day hopefully ask a dashing man, “how was your day?” as I plate up something delicious. Quick and simple is my motto for all my food. Flavour is paramount!
Today I took this to the next level. I was nearing my house at 5.54pm and by the time I was at my gate it was 5:57pm. Parked, ran up the stairs, fumbled with my front door key and I thought, I also want prawns in the mix. Coat still on, I switched on the stove, put the pan on and grabbed the frozen prawns out the freezer. I was too stressed to glance at the clock as I’d already seen it had struck 6pm. I was undeterred; I poured in the olive oil, and sprinkled sumac, cumin and turmeric in there too. Checked the clock on the oven — worried the lights were out — but still it flashed on. I missed my dear friends in Morocco a lot today, so I sprinkled some harissa into the pan and added a knob of butter as I threw in the frozen prawns, willing them to defrost swiftly. Covered them with salt and squeezed lemon as I tossed them in the buttery, olive oil, spicy goodness. Still side-eyeing the clock, I so roughly chopped the garlic — it was basically whole, but we move. I missed a call from Fritzy as I dashed to chop chilli and toss it into the mix.
I grew bold with the passing minutes and switched on the overhead extractor light over and above the camping light I already had on (I like to avoid disappointment at load-shedding and switch off all my real lights in anticipation of the sudden fall of darkness). Then I threw in the cold pasta as I grew anxious of the blackout approaching. My name may mean “hope”, but load-shedding really leaves me without it. I grew ever bolder still and switched on the extractor fan as I tossed the pasta in all that goodness that had been swiftly simmering in that pan. And as I reached for the basil, extractor off and overhead light off, load-shedding struck at 18:07pm.
All that remained was one more lavish sprinkle of roughly chopped basil, and I served myself this delight that I created in a time of need. Necessity, the mother of invention. As I sat there unsure of whether the lights will be on after 8pm or way beyond 10, I was fed and happy.
Note: I was cooking for one, please adjust accordingly)
- 1 cup cooked spaghetti — straight from the fridge (always refrigerate with a little bit of the pasta water)
- 1 cup of blanched, frozen prawns
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 knob unsalted butter
- 1 or 2 red chillies (can substitute with chilli flakes)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- ½ teaspoon Harissa powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 good pinch of maldon salt
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- ¼ lemon
- Handful fresh Italian parsley — chopped
- Handful fresh basil — chopped
- Heat a pan over medium heat
- Add olive oil, spices and the knob of butter, swish around to combine
- Add prawns and coat in the buttery, spicy goodness until thawed and cooking through
- Add chilli and half the parsley and combine, squeeze lemon and sprinkle with salt
- Add garlic, white pepper and stir
- Add pasta and toss through the prawns and aromatics until pasta is warm and all combined
- If Eskom has not already done so, turn off the heat and stir through the basil
- Serve in a bowl with an extra sprinkling of Italian parsley and chilli
Seven minutes! That’s all it takes. You’ll be so pleased when you sit down to enjoy and amazed what you did under pressure. We’re doing what we can with what we have, frankly.