• Caitlin Booker

It is almost the end of Januworry! Now is when we look into our pantries, and use our budget constraints as a reason to “spring clean” its contents. Thinking of it as spring cleaning helps put a positive spin on it - I promise.


Now, in my experience there are two types of pantries/ food cupboards in the world. The first is the bare the one. Usually the owner of this cupboard buys as they need, or the lucky bugger eats out a lot. The contents of it, is usually one rather skeptical tin of tuna, maybe some beans, an assortment of used once spices, and a form of noodle - normally a two minute wanna be ramen, or a half used packet of spaghetti.


The second kind is on the verge of hoarding. It has things in there that the owner can’t really remember if they bought, or if it came with the house. These generally belong to coupon enthusiasts, preppers, or those who love bulk buying for the “savings”. The unfortunate truth is that buying in bulk isn’t always the best option, especially if it’s just going to sit there gathering dust, or there is only two of you in the house. But, moving on...

No matter which pantry you have. It often seems that the food options on offer don’t seem to fit into a palatable meal. Or maybe you are worried that you might have kept something for a little too long. Here’s a few tips on how to tell if it’s time to let go, and what do to with what’s usable.


Now, non-perishable foods aren't called that because they will never, ever go bad. If they aren't stored correctly they can spoil. Make sure that you are storing them in a cool, dark space, out of direct sunlight. All flours, dry beans and things that came in packets should be moved into glass, metal or plastic (airtight) containers as soon as possible.


It’s time to let go if:

- The tin is bulging;

- The tin is damaged;

- The tin is rusted (yes, I have seen this before);

- Mold is growing;

- Weevils (or any other insect) have moved in;

- It used to be liquid and now it's dry;

- It used to be solid and now it's liquid or gooey;

- It smells bad.



Now what can you do with what is left? The obvious things come to mind: beans into bean salad; tuna into a sandwich. Noodles, made with the mildly boring flavour sachet. Do I hear snoring?


Let's give is a bit of a shake up.


Instead of bean salad, why not make a bean mash to serve with a protein of your choice. Simply, drain the beans and then boil for a bit in some stock, and your favourite spices. Then mash with a bit of butter.


For get the sandwiches. Make some delicious fish cakes out from the tins of tuna. Serve with spicy mayo, and some greens. Or be crazy, pop them into a roll, top with all sorts of goodies, and have a fish burger.


Up your noodle game. Ignore the flavour sachet. Make a pot of stock (the cubes work for this); throw in some spices - star anise, cloves, cardamon, chilli, garlic and ginger. Add in lime or lemon juice. Add in soy sauce. fish sauce, rice vinegar. And boom, you got a good base for a bowl of short-cut pho. For the protein you can use that odd can of tinned chicken, or cubed bully beef (corned beef). Nom nom nom.


Tuna Fish Cakes

Another option for that bully beef is pasta sauces! Add it into an arrabiata sauce as a replacement for bacon. Or if you are super adventurous in the kitchen, I have made ravioli stuffed with bully beef before - it was scrumptious, and no one guessed that it was bully beef stuffing.


Dessert is easy from pantry stocks. Add a quarter cup of peanut butter to the chocolate cake box mix, bake in a brownie tin, and you have yourself peanut butter brownies. Use caramel treat as muffin filling, or mix into simple cookie dough for caramel cookies.


Well, well, the end of Januworry is starting to sound rather delicious. Let me know what your favourite pantry hack is.


With Love,

The Gourmet Hippo




  • Caitlin Booker

Happy New Year, and new decade. I hope that your Twenties are off to a roaring start!

(Get it? Oh, I crack me up)


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So the one thing Janu-worry comes with, new decade or not, is a tight as a tiger budget. Unless you’re a finance superhero, with the self control of a Saint able to frugally pass through December splurge free. If you are, drop your tips in the comments! There is a lot of us that need your guidance. But if your guidance involves celery sticks and bad wine; maybe no then.


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Now back to the point! (I feel that all my blogs have this moment, hmmm)


Tight budgets can spoil your food fun in the kitchen. But, they don’t have to. Having worked in very remote locations, where supplies are scanty; as well as not so remote locations where the budget is scanty. I have picked up a few handy hacks that make fitting yummy food into whichever scanty situation you find yourself in possible. Today is all about the veggies. Why? Because I hear a lot of people complaining that they are expensive and don’t last.


My best piece of advice would be to look at where you shop, and what you buy. The where, and the what of your shopping can help, or hinder your budget. So, keep in mind that (in most cases) convenience costs.


Mass market style shops where you can get anything from your soap to your sauce tend to have higher prices than your local grocer that only stocks food. Again, this is not always the case, but is definitely true for a certain company, who, for a period, had avocados costing more than their shares. So do check your prices. You may realize that the little trip to the local grocer in your area makes your scanty situation seem a little less scanty.


As for the what of your shopping. Please don’t buy pre-cut veggies. Not only do they cost more, they also go off faster. The time it takes to cut your own veggies is not that much. A further benefit of not buying pre-cut veg, is that uncut veg often has less packaging. I hardly ever see a whole butternut in plastic bags, but I always see pre-cut butternut in plastic bags.


Another thing, you might want you sit down for this one, but certain veggies lasts longer than others. I know, I was speechless when I found this out. Your budget besties in the veggies are:


Cauliflower - this bestie can also be frozen at home, or bought for cheap already frozen. Another bonus it can basically replace any carb for those with weight loss resolutions.


Broccoli - from my experience the plain Jane normal broccoli lasts longer than its sexy long stemmed cousin.


Cabbage - do you realize just how much this BFF veggie is underrated? Firstly, it lasts! Secondly, it is very versatile, and can take on many flavours.


Purple cabbage, slow-braised with apple & gin. Pictured with venison olives, & roasted cauliflower.

Squashes - from gems to pumpkin they last, they are budget friendly, they are super filling.


Carrots - most root veggies actually.


Beans and peas are also fabulous.


When it comes to other veg. The budget is saved in the storage. Tip one: get it out of that plastic and into a brown paper bag. The bag helps absorb condensation, prolonging the life of the veg. If you are a container fan, which I am, I have found putting a piece of paper towel into the container keeps the soggy and mold at bay.


Tip two: buy them as ‘whole’ as possible. A head of lettuce lasts longer, and is often cheaper than a packet of lose mixed salad leaves.


Tip three: a lot of fresh cut herbs last longer when placed in a vase of water like flowers. Parsley, and coriander last particularly well like this. Bonus, they look cheerful on your counter.


Tip four: make sure you dry your veggies properly after washing them. A lot of moisture can shorten their lifespan.


Tip five: the frozen section. Budget friendly, lasts, There is a surprising variety. Also thanks to the way they are frozen, most are still very nutritious.


That’s my veggie tips. I hope they help stretch that budget to the end of Janu-worry. Let me know what your food tricks are.


Love,

The Gourmet Hippo




  • Caitlin Booker

It may come as a surprise, but until my last trip to Limpopo I had never stayed alone in the bush before. There are few reasons for this.

Firstly, whilst I work in the bush I very sadly, don't live there permanently. So when I come in to take over the kitchen I am normally surrounded by the people I am there to cook for. Even though I usually arrive the day before the clients come in, there is usually a camp manager or outfitter in camp as well.


Coming in a day early lets me prep things such as this Homemade Ricotta.

Secondly, whilst I was raised to be a strong, independent woman who can do anything. My parents literally used to say "if a man can do it, you can probably do it better." And, bless the hearts of my school teachers who repeated feminist slogans such as this one coined by Irina Dunn, "a woman needs a man like a fish bicycle." That being said, I was still raised with a sense of fear surrounding being alone.


Paradoxical as this may seem. I'm sure a lot of ladies out there can understand this. We were raised to believe that we must be independent, but that there is danger in being alone. So whilst we don't need no man. We do however need a group for safety. Hence, until I began my bush chef life I never really traveled alone.


Now that I have been traveling alone, I have found incredible freedom in it. I have also realized that if you are smart about life, you have nothing to fear when traveling alone. Nothing proved this more to me than the nights I got alone in bush.


The week building up to the first night was filled with my folks expressing how unhappy they were about me being alone, even though it was for one night. My siblings offering to change their plans, take days off work, drive three hours (one way) to be there with me. Saying I should phone friends on a nearby farm, and go stay there. The idea of me being alone in the bush for one night, even though the farm manager and his wife are less than 10 kilometers from the lodge; was a point of mass concern. Now, I love how much my family care, and were worried about me. But their reaction caused me to have a lot of anxiety. Which kind of pee'd all over my parade the first night I was alone.


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I watched the sun go down then proceeded to lock myself in the lodge - as I was worried about people not the animals. This lasted for about an hour than I felt ridiculous. I was letting fear rule me. F**K that.


So I opened the door, ate dinner outside with a view. Listened to the sounds of the bush while reading my book on the veranda. In short had a stunning relaxing time. The next morning I got up, went for a run (alone in the BUSH! Alert the village elders). After which I was able to welcome the clients, and start their safari in a relaxed, happy state of being.


The Hippo's and I shared a running route.

With the first alone night in the bush being so successful. When my second night alone came up (there was a night off between groups - I know, I'm super lucky) I was actually excited for it. Once I had finished all my prep for the incoming group. I did a workout, had a swim - I never get to do that ever, and even bigger treat! I took myself on a game drive. After I proceeded to cook myself dinner, while singing loudly and dancing badly. Ate by the fire. And again read my book in the blissful silence of the bush.


In a nutshell I was perfectly fine. Tips to stay safe though:

  1. Don't go running or walking in the bush if the area has the big five. You might be eaten, or trampled.

  2. Do lock your doors at night, or when out/ using the shower.

  3. If driving through the bush get an area map if available - most big reserves have them. Or you can use a route tracking app. I use: GPS Kit available in iOS, and Android.

  4. Be vigilant.

  5. Take self-defense classes if you can. Here's a link to a great gym that offers classes: https://www.primalgym.info/

Go forth my lovelies and be free.


With Love,

The Gourmet Hippo