WONDERBAG!

 Jackie Cameron
This column is intended to excite readers about the diversity and wonders of the WONDERBAG. You should all be using this cooking method. It is a logical alternative in these times when power failures are common and money is tight; as well as the fact that there’s no need to be continuously checking on what’s bubbling. Bring your ingredients to the boil, add thickening and go out for the day. You’ll return to a wholesome home-cooked dish.
— Jackie Cameron

A few years back I returned from a trip to the Cape and asked myself what I could do differently.

Following the crowds has never been my thing. It has always made sense to me to work with local suppliers. Not just for the sake of it, but because they are producing some of the finest, quality ingredients in the country, and they need to be exposed. Everyone should be familiar with quality products and have the ability to judge against this standard of excellence. Sourcing foie gras, cheese, charcuterie and truffles from France and Italy is totally unnecessary when we can get these products right here - and fine quality too. I, therefore, decided to take my appreciation of 'local' to another level.

I have, over the years, spent as much time as possible with many of KwaZulu-Natal's crafters, drawing inspiration from the different cultures; always with the restaurant scene in mind. It is remarkable to see traditional combinations being created with heart and soul once flavour profile is understood, in a new-age way.

Having decided on local and a cultural understanding, the third leg of the pot was memories - my childhood memories. Serving only in-season fruit and vegetables, SASSI (South African Sustainable Seafood initiative) green-listed seafood, and knowing your supplier form the foundation of culinary creativity. They are the cornerstones of my cooking. Questions I ask myself are: "Is this dish going to inspire, teach and/or remind a person of something uniquely KZN? If it doesn't then what is the point?"

All this was the reason I made contact with WONDERBAG in KZN. My grandmother had a Wonderbox in years gone by. It was a cardboard box filled with bright orange cushions. She would bring a pot of interesting ingredients to the boil and then place it in the Wonderbox over night. This resulted in a delicious, slow-cooked meal. From an early age this concept fascinated me so, a little while ago, I asked my mother whether she still had my grandmother's Wonderbox. Imagine my disappointment when she told me she had only recently given it away. I was, therefore, thankful to learn about the WONDERBAG and made quick work buying one.

I was developing a new menu and I knew the WONDERBAG would make all the difference to the dish. It did, and the Wild Boar and Bone Marrow with crispy Esposito Parma Ham, Gourmet Greek Yoghurt, Guinea Fowl Puree and Breast was a great success among the restaurant patrons.

I paired the meal with Grand Vin de Glenelly 2007.

By the way I have started water pairing with my dishes. We all know that wine can take a dish from being good to great but, interestingly, water can do the same.

This column is intended to excite readers about the diversity and wonders of the WONDERBAG.  You should all be using this cooking method. It is a logical alternative in these times when power failures are common and money is tight; as well as the fact that there's no need to be continuously checking on what's bubbling. Bring your ingredients to the boil, add thickening and go out for the day. You'll return to a wholesome home-cooked dish.

I suggest chunky vegetable soup with meaty bones; just as grandma use to make it. I could eat soup - only the homemade variety - every meal of the day. It is my very favourite dish, but it must with only the best ingredients. It's probably one of the most economical meals available with all the vitamins and nutrients in one bowl. - WONDERBAG Chunky Vegetable Soup Recipe

I'm enjoying being back in the Hilton-Pietermaritzburg area. Friends and acquaintances have welcomed me with overwhelming enthusiasm. It was particularly heart warming when I walked into the local pharmacy and everyone in the shop welcomed me 'home'. It is gestures like this that make me realise what a special place we live in - and I am truly excited about all that we can achieve here. Last week I discovered The Knoll - a venue where musicians get together and showcase their talent; talent with a capital 'T'. It's just past the Hilton Police Station going in the direction of Sweetwaters. This chilled, laid-back environment is unique and anyone who appreciates music should find out more. Something that would have gone down perfectly for a chilly Hilton evening would have been a glass or two of gluweine. Bring this aromatic liquid to the boil and then place it in the Wonderbag where the intensity required will develop. - WONDERBAG Gluwhein Recipe

Ricotta... if you make it once you'll never buy it again. Remember that the WONDERBAG can be used as a 'holding cell'. In this instance bring the milk to the boil, add lemon juice. This, left in the WONDERBAG, results in the creamiest-of-creamy ricottas. The WONDERBAG can be used as a warming oven or even as an effective cool bag. - WONDERBAG Ricotta Recipe

When I think WONDERBAG I think stewing - a long-and-slow cooking process. Curries, stews, oxtails, tongue - and a dish I haven't had in a while is a Coq Au Vin; leaving the cooking process to take place overnight results in a lip-smacking tender chicken. - WONDERBAG Coq Au Vin Blanc (Chicken in White Wine) Recipe

Vegetable hotpot is for the vegetarians among us and for those wanting a lighter dish or a side option. Use any in-season fresh vegetables. - WONDERBAG Vegetable Hotpot Recipe

Now for dessert... I suggest a traditional steamed pudding oozing chocolate and gooeyness.  This is a must for the entire family. - WONDERBAG Chocolate Steamed Pudding Recipe

For details on the WONDERBAG email Trevor on trevor.langley@icloud.com or phone him on 083 555 0178. You'll find him very helpful. Here's to adding a new technique to your table. It will give you more time to spend with your family and friends - out of the kitchen. Enjoy experimenting!

Send comments and food-related questions to jackie@jackiecameron.co.za. I always look forward to hearing from you.

Explore my website and find out more about my women's and kids' chef ranges, my book JACKIE CAMERON COOKS AT HOME and follow all my foodie adventures on my Blog. I always look forward to hearing from you. For the latest on local foodie news add me as a friend on FACEBOOK. Find me on Twitter - @jackie_cameron.

Photography courtesy of :
Karen Edward's Photography / 082 441 7429 / karene@bundunet.com
www.karenephotographysa.com / www.midlandsphotographers.wordpress.com