Athena Lamberis

Posts Tagged ‘alchemy’

How to make South African beer – uMqombhothi from Maize Meal

In Friend's Kitchens, Recipe on February 3, 2015 at 19:34

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Sip Sip sippin on uMqombhothi: A nutritious beer made from maize meal which can transform into a sweet or savoury porridge when cooked known as Idokwe. how to make south african beer maize umqombhothi

 The thing is, a recipe is a map – but your destination is your own alchemy.  With naturally fermented foods, it’s an all element creation.  Whether you are in the tropical swamps, humid concrete jungle or a dry desert land, your fermented food/drink will react and grow in different ways (just like my hair does when it rains 🙂
 I’ve got bottles of experiments, from pineapple wine to apple cider scobys growing by the day.  However, uMqombhoti is a recipe to inspire you to learn various food traditions from all over the world while bringing your own kitchen alchemy and culinary linguistics to the table.
South African beer-maize meal umqombhoti idokwe recipe -
 Alongside pineapple and ginger beer, uMqombhoti has an enhanced pungent taste, high in Vitamin B and most often shared communally from a ceramic bowl, gourd or pot used for the fermentation process.  It’s tradition and magic has been celebrated in South African homes for years – so when I asked my friend, @noksangoma to share her method for making one of the famous fermented drinks, she went on to say:
I dont have a ‘recipe’ for umqombhothi, I just follow an intuitive process in preparing it, because nobody actually told me how to make it. My ‘recipe’ is a mix of how my maternal grandmother makes umqombothi and how the eldest wives in my dad’s family make it.

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maize meal
sorghum – king korn umthombo (green packet)
brown sugar (optional)
 How to make South African Maize Beer-Umqombhoti - via The Culinary Linguist
mix equal quantities of imithombo with maize meal.
make a paste using boiling water.
place in a container (a bucket or big jar or jug. preferably use ukhamba, if you dont have a clay one, a plastic one will suffice)
store the mixture on in a dark corner or on the floor. overnight, or for 2 or 3 days – depending on how hot it is.
when the mixture smells a little fermented, boil water in a pot and add the paste slowly while stirring continuously (like how you make custard)
lower the stove’s heat as the mixture thickens. let it simmer for about an hour. once this is cooked, it’s called idokwe and is delicious as a porridge with lots of sugar.
cool idokwe – this may take a few hours.
once cooled down, mix the idokwe with cold water and mush it up with your hand til it’s drinking consistency
the potency of the umqombhothi depends on the magic of your mixing hand. my left hand is my mqombhothi mixing hand. my left side is my grancestor/feminine side – they are with me when I make umqombhothi.
How to make South African Maize Beer-Umqombhoti - via The Culinary Linguist
once youve mixed idokwe with cold water, add more imithombo to the mixture and mix with your hand, and if you wish, some brown sugar to help the fermentation process along 🙂
again, place in a dark corner for about 3 days while it ferments.
once the umqombhothi is fermented, it smells a little pungent, and little bubbles will be popping on the surface
strain the fermented mixture. the solid sorghum bits are called izinsipho. you may freeze a handful of izinsipho to use in a new batch of umqombhothi (izinsipho help to ferment a batch quicker, since theyve already fermented before)
 Food-Recipes-How to make South African Maize Beer-Umqombhoti - via The Culinary Linguist
pour a cupful of umqombhothi as an offering, place in a sacred space in the home. this is for amaDlozi (spirit elders/ancestors/spirit guides)
enjoy the rest!
rules for umqombhothi:
it is considered rude to drink umqombhothi while standing.
umqombhothi is best enjoyed with others. preferably while sitting in a circle, before a meal or after
umqombhothi is used as an offering in ceremonies and rituals. it is an integral part of cultural and spiritual ceremonies.
 Thanks Noks!  xx  Love, The Culinary Linguist

Pickling Green Bean Recipe for St. Patrick’s Day

In Recipe on March 17, 2013 at 22:13

How to Pickle Green Beans on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe
There’s not much that happens on St. Patricks day in Cape Town.  You could go down to The Dubliner Pub on Long Street or wonder if wearing your “Kiss Me I’m Irish Tshirt” from college could get you a smooch.  Growing up in Chicago, I remember the river turned green (or was it always? :0), Irish Soda Bread filled our stomachs and fraternity parties thought green beer kegs would bring all the girls to the yard.

Pickle Green Beans on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipeThe greenest thing I’m consuming this year are the efforts of my pickled green beans.  Every year in college, my cousin Chrissy would share her  spicy stock of  homemade ‘Dilly Beans” with me.  I would bring them back to my dorm room at Michigan State University and enjoy every tart spicy crunch I’d pull out from the juice of the jar .  As a student, it was the perfect snack in between classes or to keep you spiced up for studying.  Salt and vinegar dilly beans with a cayenne twist lived happily in my cupboard to replace my Funyun and Flaming Hot Cheeto days.

  Now, years later the pickled cravings for that long green bean treat has finally been recreated in my kitchen-thanks to her shared recipe in Share. Cook. Love.  Six bottles of white wine vinegar and eight sterlised jars later . . . I had myself a pickling kitchen station ready to spice up anything green for winter food storage.  Eventhough my St. Patty’s day isn’t filled with shamrocks and parades, I am celebrating my freckles, my family and a green recipe with you.

Chrissy’s dilly bean recipe goes a little something like this:

Ingredients to Pickle Green Beans on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe 2 lbs Green Beans ( in separate jars I also used celery, kale, and broccolli)

  1 tsp. cayenne pepper (I also added tumeric, pickling spice, paprika, whole dried chillies and bay leaves to some jars- getcreative)

Spices on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe 4 cloves of garlic

Cayenne on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe
  4 heads of fresh dill (I couldn’t find fresh dill so I settled for sprinkling dry dill into the jars)

  2 1/2 cups water

 2 1/2 cups white wine vinegar

1/4 cup salt (I used Khoisan’s hand harvested  sea salt but any of your preferred quality salt can be used)

How to Pickle Broccoli on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe


  1. Wash and trim the beans.  Pack lengthwise into clean sterlised jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.

 2. Add 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper powder to each jar, one clove garlic and one head dill.

3.  Combine water, vinegar, and salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Pour this hot mixture over the beans packed in the jars.  Leave 1/4 head space.

4. Adjust lids and process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.  Let is stand for at least two weeks for the flavour to develop.

 Makes about 4 pints.

How to Pickle Vegetables on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe

Check out the pickling variety: Kale, Broccoli, and celery

My Recipe Book on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe

Scream for Ice Cream at Breakfast: Banana. Strawberry & Pecan Recipe-Egg and Dairy-free

In Recipe on September 13, 2012 at 19:17

Raw-Vegan Dairy-Free Ice Cream on The Culinary Linguists blog #recipeWho said you can’t eat ice cream for breakfast?  I don’t have a Vitamix. I don’t have an Oscar.  But I can still make easy raw food creations with what I have.  I’m using the trusty MegaMix Juicer.  During the days tofu was all the hype, Mom would add frozen bananas to our morning tofu smoothies. I steer clear of soy products as much as I can now, but I ALWAYS wait until bananas go brown and sweet and keep them frozen in the freezer for when the time is right.

For this recipe, I “juiced” two frozen bananas and added 6 fresh strawberries with a handful of pecans in between.  I know it may not be the best for the blade, but the soft pecans gave a creamy consistency, making it more of an ‘ice cream’ than a sorbet. The constitution of strawberries and frozen bananas creates a thick slushy texture once it passes through the juicer blade.  Slush instead of juice may pass through the juice spout, but all the frozen ‘cream’ is left inside the juicer’s filter where normally all the fiber of juicing fruits are left.

The fun part: scooping out all the ‘ice cream’ from the walls of the filter. I easily could have eaten from the juicer’s filter, but then I wouldn’t have been able to take the tantalizing photo of this simple nutritious ice cream.

Whether you are interested in raw food creations, vegan-ital cuisine, lactose intolerant recipes or just love ice cream for breakfast-this easy recipe in any juicer will make anyone a morning person screaming for ice cream!

Pink Pancake Recipe with Strawberry and Beetroot

In Recipe on November 17, 2011 at 12:21

Healthy Pancakes on The Culinary Linguist Blog #beetroot

Mickey Mouse pancakes were cool growing up.  I  got to eat dessert for breakfast; sugar-gooey syrupy pancakes with chocolate chip eyes, a cherry nose and whip cream smiles.  These days, I discovered eating pink pancakes are just as fun for breakfast and have a natural sweetness thanks to the sugarbeet and strawberries added in the batter.  By transforming your juiced fiber from your juicer into a delicious batter you can get a nutritious colorful pancake fry-up for breakfast that tastes like dessert but provides you with a wholesome breakfast.  It looks like you are cooking playdough, but I promise it’s tastes much than your days at preschool.

Here is this fun-blushing recipe:

Juice in your juicer:

1 beetroot

6 strawberries

Remove the fiber of the beetroot and strawberries from inside your juicer and place in a separate bowl.Strawberry and Beet Pancakes on The Culinary Linguist Blog #breakfast

Mix dry ingredients first:

1/2 cup flour

2 TB sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup oat milk powder

Then add:

1 egg

Beetroot & Strawberry fiber

Slowly pour 1/3 cup water (or the beetroot/strawberry juice) into the bowl until batter is at a  thick but smooth consistency.

Heat a dab of butter/oil on your griddle and spoon the batter on the surface, spreading it out in the shape you desire. Spread it out to about a centimeter deep and let it cook on one side on high heat for 3 minutes. If it’s easy to slide on the pan, then flip it. This batter is super easy to flip but can burn fast so keep an eye on it.

Frying Note:  Since there is beetroot and strawberries mixed into the batter, the inside layer between the cooked sides will remain soft.  Don’t mistaken it as it being undercooked . . . It won’t become cooked dough because the heated beetroot and strawberry give it the soft gooey consistency on the inside.  When it gets to a golden colour on both sides, consider it cooked.

Here’s the fun part.  When you take it off the heat, spread tahini on top or mascarpone cheese.  Serve with fresh strawberries and your favorite syrup.  I drizzled the famous Prickly Pear for added sweetness. Garnish as you like using fresh fruit.

Strawberry and Beet Pancakes on The Culinary Linguist Blog #breakfast #africa

Sweet Note: The sweetness of the strawberries and beetroot are already in the batter, so add more of less sugar into the batter to your taste.  I like things sweet so adding just 2 TB is enough since I load up the pancakes with syrup afterwards.  Plus if you substitute water for beet-strawberry juice, than the sweet content will be even higher, leaving no need for sugar.

TIP:  These pancakes can easily become savoury, just leave out the sugar.  Enjoy pink pancakes for lunch and add stir-fried vegetables or a lentil curry inside. Yum!

To Cook or Dehydrate: Raw Food Recipes and Creativity

In Friend's Kitchens, Recipe on November 8, 2011 at 11:54

Rawlicious on The Culinary Linguist Blog #rawrecipes

I just learned how to harvest Aloe Ferox from the ‘cook’ book Rawlicious-Recipes for Radiant Health.  It’s a recipe book that encourages you to make colourful and vibrant food by encouraging you to put aloe in your smoothies, have sprouts as a kitchen staple,  and make edible flower salads that look like birthday confetti.  Who wouldn’t want to pick flowers and eat them too? 

I’ve enjoyed some great raw food dishes from this book made by friends who have created delicious versions of the Mango-gooseberry cheesecake and savoury snacks. The Rawlicious team, Lexi, Beryn and Peter, have put together a beautiful book that makes it fun and intriguing to incorporate raw dishes into your daily graze.  I don’t think I’ll ever substitute pancakes on the griddle for dehydrated ones but I most definitely will enjoy the creativity that goes into making other raw food dishes.  It’s a proudly South African Raw Recipe book that even attempts biltong in the form of aubergine. Props to that! I most definitely am going to try it out and attempt the beetroot ravioli too. I love having a recipe book that experiments with all the possibilities that food in it’s natural element has to offer.  Stay tuned for some posts on making these raw recipes come alive in true culinary linguistic style.

Raw Food on The Culinary Linguist Blog #rawrecipes

Do you have any great raw recipes to share?  I’d love to hear your tips, post your links, methods, and pics right here. The food pictures posted are from home gardens in my paternal grandmother’s village, Alepohori, Greece in the Peloponnese.  A place where radiant health is determined by the food you grow and the food you eat.

Raw Food on The Culinary Linguist Blog #rawrecipes

Guacamole on Toast

In Recipe on December 19, 2010 at 14:11

Easy guacamole snack in 2 minutes!

Fresh vital goodness on toast, for breakfast, for a snack, appetizer, or just because it’s avocado season-Guacamole toast has been born.  Or is it the lazy way of getting all the pungent delicious flavours into one bite without cleaning a food processor or pestle and mortar?  Well if you have a cutting board and a knife, then you are ready to create this fresh rainbow plate.

The How-to:

1 medium avocado

half a yellow pepper

half a ripe tomato

a pinch of fresh cilantro

a quarter of a red onion

pinch of salt and pepper

sprinkle of chipolte pepper

sprinkle of cumin

a squeeze of fresh lemon

Toast your favorite type of bread loaf. Click here for the Bread recipe.

Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Spoon out on half and spread it on your toast as if it were peanut butter.  Sprinkle the cumin, salt, pepper, and chipolte pepper.  Cut the tomato, yellow pepper and onion into thin slices.  Place the slices onto your seasoned avocado toast as an open faced-sandwich style.  Top the toast with cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Tip 1: Season your avocado with any spice that is sitting lonely in your spice rack or cupboard.  This is your chance to discover how deliciously seasoned your avocado on toast can be and how many flavours it can speak with spices you already have. Slice any fresh vegetable you have in your fridge: a layer of red cabbage on your open-faced toast sandwich (sarmie)?  Maybe cucumbers and carrots will go well with your yellow curry powder sprinkle.  You’ve got the bread and avocado is your butter, so pair it with some fresh produce and spices and you got a balanced plate of produce deliciousness.

Ready for a bite . . .

Rooibos Rice with Smoked Paprika Mussels (Quick Paella-wanna-be)

In Recipe on December 1, 2010 at 12:03

Rooibos Rice with Paella-inspired flavours

I thought to myself, ‘How can I make a rice dish a little more interesting?’ So I started with the idea of color and decided to use all ‘red’ coloured ingredients in my kitchen. So first off, I made rooibos (redbush) tea-flavoured water to steam my brown rice.  I also took flavours commonly found in paella and used deliciously red: smoked paprika, cayenne, tomato paste, and red peppers, to add to the dish. The recipe goes a lil something like this:

2 cups of brown rice

4 cups water

4 rooibos teabags

1 medium onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 green pepper

1 medium carrot

half a red pepper

1 cup of rooibos tea

120 g tomato paste

170 g smoked mussels

Olive Oil

2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 TB smoked paprika

4 artichoke hearts

parsley for garnish



Boil 4 cups water and add 4 bags of Rooibos tea. Add rice and reduce heat to a simmer.

In a deep large frying pan, cover the bottom of the pan with olive oil and let it heat on medium for 1 minute.  Add slices of onion and grated garlic and let them cook until soft and brown.  Add smoked paprika, cayenne pepper with salt and pepper to taste.  I accidentally added cayenne as if it were paprika and the flavour and spiciness was awesome, so don’t be afraid to add more heat if you can handle it.  Add the mussels and slices of carrot, green and red pepper to the oil and let them sit in the oil for minute.

Make a cup of roobis tea and mix the hot tea and tomato paste together in a bowl.  Add this mixture to the pan and stir.  When the rice is fully cooked, add the cooked rice to the frying pan mixture and stir in all the flavours together on a low heat.  Add the artichoke hearts and the fresh parsley for garnish and serve hot.  If there are left-overs be prepared for delicious marinated flavours dancing on your tongue-so much yummier than cold pizza…

Tip 1: If you can’t find little cans of smoked mussels, subsitute with smoked oysters, smoked sausage or smoked tofu.

Always consider flavouring your water when making rice.  Try jasmine tea or cinnamon sticks, anise or fennel!

Bread with Gluten-free Flours

In Recipe on October 29, 2010 at 13:19


the goodness


I love bread and anything to do with starch-carbs. This recipe doesn’t exclude Celiac-disease tummies out there because there is still hope if you can get your hands on stone-ground wheat flour and mix bread recipes with other gluten-free grains. I’v experimented with gluten-free grains for awhile but, for me, nothing compares to just whole grain wheat bread. This recipe contains a mix of grain goodness baked into a loaf of crusty outside and a soft spongey bed on the inside.

The recipe:

400 ml stone-ground wheat flour

300 ml digestive bran

100 ml quinoa flour

200 ml kasha (buckwheat groats) flour

10g/1 sachet of instant yeast

1 TB ml sugar

1 TB ml salt

luke warm water (300ml)


Mixing the water into the dry ingredients

Mix the instant yeast and sugar with 100 ml of lukewarm water. Mix them and watch it froth up.  Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and make a well in the middle.  Pour the sugar, water, yeast mix in the well and start merging the dry ingredients into the well of wet ingredients.  Gradually add more lukewarm water and mix.  Mix in the water and gradually mix the ingredients together until you have an elastic dough. Knead for 5 minutes.  Allow to rise in a warm draft-free place covering the bowl with a towel or dish cloth. Whole-wheat or mixed flour breads take longer to rise so be patient. Once the dough has doubled in size, knead it again briefly.  Sprinkle the pan with oats or poppy seeds and a light coat of oil and put the dough in medium sized bread pan.


Bake at 200 C for 15 minutes and then 180 for 45 minutes.


Tip 1: Use a coffee grinder to make grain flours.  I rarely use my coffee grinder for coffee beans but if you do then it may be worth getting a second-hand grinder for cooking/baking purposes so your ingredients don’t take on the flavor of cafe. The grinder makes a fine flour to anything and motivates creativity when experimenting with ingredients!


fresh bread out of the oven


Coconut Milk Borscht with Drunken Rice Noodles

In Recipe on October 15, 2010 at 20:04

Quite possibly the most delicious comfort soup on the planet.  If soup is as old as the history of cooking, then this one surely makes history.  Why?  Cause we’re marrying Thai and Eastern European flavors into one incredibly colorful noodle dish, this ain’t your everyday ramen, folks.  Rice noodles and beets get dunked and drunk and wake up in a broth of spiced coconut milk. This was created on a rainy spring day in Cape Town with the craving for noodles, coconut milk and something colorful.  Anything with coconut milk will taste good, and sorry if you are one of the those kids who can’t stand coconut, but you are missing out.  This one is easy and fast and impressively gorgeous and delicious.

How to hook up Borscht with Drunken Noodle:


1000ml/1 litre water

400ml of coconut milk

3 medium-sized carrots

50 ml of fresh or dried lemongrass

half of a medium-sized red onion

1 large beet root

1 cup of diced butternut

2 cups of sliced baby cabbage

2 small cloves of fresh garlic

1 TB sesame oil

1 TB fish sauce

1 TB rice vinegar

1.5 TB tamarind paste

1 tsp salt

1 TB Thai red curry powder or paste

1 TB fresh grated ginger

1 cup of fennel stalks

120 grams of rice noodles

First, dice/chop/slice the beet, carrots, cabbage, onion and butternut to your heart’s desire.  Add them to boiling water and reduce after 5 minutes to a simmer.  Use a hand blender after 10 minutes to make a thicker broth or let the vegetables stay in bite size pieces.  Toss the fennel stalks to flavor the broth and remove them after 10 minutes.  Cut the two cloves of garlic in half and toss them into the broth.  Stir in the can of coconut milk, rinsing the can with water to add the excess coconut milk left in the can to the broth.  Stir in the salt, tamarind paste, rice vinegar, fish sauce, curry, sesame oil, ginger, and lemongrass.  Let it simmer while you soak the rice noodles in tap water for 5-8 minutes.  Drain the noodles and add them to the simmering pink coconut broth.  The noodles will naturally thicken the soup into a drunken mess of flavor so good you want to slurp and lick the chopsticks clean.

Garnish with fennel or coriander and fresh cucumber slices.

Food Language Speaks Up!

In Recipe, Stories, Travel on September 8, 2010 at 12:36

Food and communication is a necessity for all of us and this blog is a celebration of variety, sharing of ideas, cultures and the language of food which ultimately connects us all.

The food that will be and has been created in my kitchen and friend’s kitchens will be spoken about in this blog, as a testament to the way we each have our own food language.  It communicates history, culture, experience and motivates us to create and share, diversifying our palette.

So this is a journey and journal through the languages of food, mixing and experimenting with tastes from many different spice racks, gardens, cultures and regions.

Please feel free to share this space as a forum of recipe ideas, flavor and food language gossip.  I love to hear the stories about food, questions, ingredient combination discoveries, and the rituals of food sharing, etc. Otherwise, I hope the recipes shared here speak to you and can be recreated in your own unique way.

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