Wow, are we grateful for our cold room! In the intense heat Joburg has been experiencing, our farmers battle to save their crops, suburbia battles to keep their lawns green and we do all we can to keep your produce as fresh as possible. But maybe you’ve felt it too – despite the heat, the whisper is in the air. I leave the girls’ curtains open at bedtime to allow as much cooler air into their room at night before I draw them at my bedtime and every night the darkness descends a little more promptly and deliberately. The itchy ball trees on the pavement outside are starting to discard their ageing leaves and I feel a far travelled chill breeze catch me unawares after refreshing swims. Summer is with us in her ripe glory but the change has somehow started. Hey, it may very well just be me, I love the dynamism of the seasons in change. While it is here, let us enjoy the bounty, savour the wonderful evenings outdoors, and embrace the spirit if Summer, which for me is abandon!
When I was a little girl, I lived with my Dad – just the two of us. Along with my memories of listening to The Goons on the radio and reading in the lounge when I should have been doing homework, one of the things we often did together was go for drives. When my Dad was not working, his wanderer’s heart would get a restrained nod as the two of us went for afternoon drives. Drives to nowhere in particular, drives just in the spirit of exploration or to look at something beautiful. Up Northcliff koppie to go sit under the water tower and look out over the Magaliesberg, or up Monroe Drive to admire the shades of purple in Jacaranda season, or night drives through Parktown with shining church spires – it was always a time of magic for me. It was on one of these drives, past the Blackheath dam that I first saw an intriguing assembly of nannies on the verges picking something and filling plastic bags. My Dad assured me there was nothing exciting going on – they were just picking morogo. Morogo?… Well, let’s just say my Dad’s description was not overly enthusiastic. But what I saw held a romanticism, regardless of the fact that this foraging became part of the fabric of my growing up, I was always envious of them. Why could they go pick wild spinach when we had ‘normal’ spinach in our gardens and the shops? I am ever drawn to the simple wonder of foraging. For me it is pure, simple and still Magic, that one can go walk in in forest and come out with glorious, musty mushrooms, or walk through the English hedgerows and help oneself to berries aplenty or pick apples and pears on French verges. Free food for everyone. Beautiful. And I wish my Dad’s adventurous wanderer’s heart had led us to those ladies, I wish I could have learnt from them about this indigenous wild spinach, because to this day I have not eaten morogo. This will be my first time. So, I hope you want to join me on this journey of discovery and let’s smile when we taste the delicious food knowing that our parents, however well-intentioned, did not always have the right answers and nor do we.
My Dad said it was similar to spinach and because I remember my friends’ nannies always cooking it in their rooms with onion and potatoes, I am going to fry some chopped onion in a pot until tender and then wilt the well-washed and still wet morogo in the same pot with the lid on. Then I think I’ll add some nutmeg, a good pinch of salt & pepper and a glug of cream and let that gently reduce. My Dad didn’t like the saltiness of it, but it is traditionally served with unseasoned pap, hence the over seasoning.
This week we have some butternut (Autumn calling), so I am referencing a recipe that cooks these two together, you can find it in its original form at internationalrecipes.net, I’m changing a few things:
Peel your butternut and chop into nice chunks. Season with salt & pepper, a little cinnamon and some ground cumin, then drizzle with olive oil, toss well and put in a roasting tray into the oven at 200° for about 30mins until tender and caramelised. While it is roasting, chop onion and sauté until translucent, add a small handful of chopped raw nuts of your choice – I’m using cashews- and toast them gently, now add your washed and wet morogo, give it a stir, put on the lid and let it wilt in that liquid. Add some cream or coconut cream for me this time, let it thicken and make sure the morogo is tender. Add the roasted butternut, give it a good but gentle stir, keeping your amber jewels intact. Taste and adjust seasoning. I will serve this as a casual main, maybe even with a gentle dash of curry spice – this is Africa and our flavours can be exotic. It would also be lovely as an accompaniment to a lamb or chicken curry or even a casserole.
When I eat it I want to remember that seasons change and eating wild spinach can be my pleasure too. Enjoy!