“The World’s Most Delicious Spice” – by Dr Heinz M. Kabutz

I promised that I would write about recipes that have turned out to be a disaster.  I will get to those, I promise.  But first let me describe to you a spice that is so delicious, that you will probably think it contains something that simply has to be bad for you.

To start, I will tell you about what does not work.  In my great efforts to use the Sedona dehydrator, I tried drying garlic.  It went like this:  I bought about a dozen bunches of fresh garlic.  I then peeled it and put the cloves into my dryer.  Of course to avoid cooking it, I put the dryer on 38ºC and left it for 24 hours.  After a whole day of drying, the cloves looked exactly the same as when I had put them in.  In the same ways that every cell in our bodies tries to resist us losing fat, vegetables and fruit resist being dried out.  To speed things up a bit, I then cut the cloves into pieces and continued drying it.  After about three days of waiting, the cloves seemed to be relatively dry.  I decided it was time to pulverize them.

When I purchased my very expensive Vitamix blender, I got the extended version with two different mixing containers.  The one we use every day is for blending liquids.  So if you want to make a fruit juice blend or puree some baby food, it is ideal.  The other is used for dry blending, thus if you want to make icing sugar, just add sugar, blend and everything becomes a super fine powder.  The liquid mixing container pulls the ingredients down; the dry mixing container pushes them up.  Or so they say.  The most important is that the dry one is smaller, otherwise I would not be able to keep them apart.

I tried to pulverize the dried garlic, but something strange happened.  Even though it initially seemed to do its job of blending, when I stopped the machine, I had one large blob of garlic inside my mixing bowl.  Something I didn’t realize is that garlic is basically glue.  You can notice this when you cut it up.  Besides making your fingers smelly, you can also feel the stickiness.  I kept this blob of garlic, occasionally blending it with some other ingredients like salt, oregano and chillies.  Eventually my wife discovered the leftover garlic blob inside the tupperware where I was hiding it, and threw it out together with the container.  The smell was rather pungent.

Knowing that it was quite difficult to dry and blend garlic, but really wanting to do so, I set out on a slightly different path, which helped me discover the most delicious spice that I have ever eaten.  Watch and learn how to make it yourself.

I bought a dozen bunches of garlic again and peeled it, drafting in some helpers to do the job.  No point doing all the physical labour myself.  I then squeezed about another dozen lemons.  I can’t give you exact amounts of lemon to garlic, but there should be enough juice to cover all the garlic in your blender.  Our aim here is to dissolve the glue or at least to make it all less sticky.  Also, in this version 2.0 of my garlic powder, I decided to first blend all the ingredients in the wet blender, then dry the paste and lastly turn it into powder.  Besides the lemon juice (enough to cover the garlic), I also added about two tablespoons of Cretan Sea Salt.  This gives it more flavour and also acts as a preservative.  Everything was blended until smooth.  If the mixture is not liquid enough (remember that the garlic is a glue) you can add water.  This does not affect the final taste in any way, since we will evaporate that away in the dehydrator.

Once the blended liquid was nice and smooth, I poured it onto teflon sheets for my Sedona dehydrator.  The thinner, the better, since it will dry more quickly.  I let it dry for 24 hours, then turned the semi-dried garlic-lemon over and let it dry some more.  After another 24 hours, I took away the teflon sheets and just had the garlic-lemon on a plastic grid.  I also broke up the garlic mix into smaller pieces, which helped it to dry faster.  I think in total it dried for about 4 days solid, always at 38ºC.  Having established that we don’t care about enzymes, since the body creates those anyway, I still maintain to do it at this temperature as the taste is best preserved.

The last step is to now put the solidly dried pieces into the dry blender and pulverize them.  You know it is ready when the pieces snap when you try and bend them.  I did a few iterations of blending and then sieving the result into a large bowl.  Put the resulting fine yellow powder into a spice shaker and apply to your food after serving.  The taste is glorious.  It is hard to describe.  Garlic-lemon-salt, in a healthy combination.  Not just I like it, but my son and wife both think it is the most amazing spice ever made.

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“Why Heinz’s Worst Recipes?” – by Dr Heinz M. Kabutz

Find out how my writing is going to save you money, by showing you recipes that you would probably think could not possibly work, and which don’t.  You can avoid the same costly mistakes by not cooking what I have tried.  It does not work.  It is horrible.  Don’t make it.  In contrast, some of my recipes did work surprisingly well, and those will be listed too.

Seeing that my cousins are starting to sign up to my blog, I thought it might be prudent to give a bit of insight how I came to the name of “Heinz’s Worst Recipes”.  If you look at me, you will immediately recognize that I like eating.  I have always liked eating.  For my birthdays as a child, when my mother asked me what I wanted, I asked for, amongst other things, a block of gouda cheese and a tin of smoked mussels.  How many other 10 year olds do you know that ask for something like that for their birthday?  As a youngster, I built my own little restaurant in the garden.  My family were treated to delicious meals.  They played along nicely.  I would make big fires underneath the palm tree and then cook up a storm.  The food was always pretty disgusting, I have to admit so myself.  But they pretended it was nice and complimented me on how fantastic everything was.  Fortunately I was not fooled myself, which led to me pursuing a career in computer science rather than as a chef.

Since I have a lot of kids, my work in the household is to cook.  I never follow recipes.  They frustrate me a lot.  I live on an island, which means that special ingredients like Tibetan Sea Salt or coconut oil will be hard to find.  Every recipe book follows the same principles.  Glorious photos of picture-perfect food, expertly prepared with ingredients that are not available here.  Ingredients are always measured precisely: 375ml of sunflower oil, 15g salt, etc.  Whenever I try to follow these recipes, my food is a disaster.  To me cooking is art.  I want to create food that is absolutely delicious and which I won’t mind eating the next day if we have left overs.  I don’t want to follow an exact recipe that won’t work anyway with ingredients I cannot source.  You will thus notice that in all my recipes, I have some ingredient that you won’t find either.

I have spent a lot of money on fine ingredients.  A few months ago, my friend Nikos called me and asked if I had my butcher’s phone number.  “What a question is that, Nick?” I replied.  “Obviously, I do.  But the real question is – does he have MY phone number?”  You know that you have a good relationship with your butcher when he phones you to inform you of some special cuts of meat that he knows you will appreciate.  Your butcher is your friend.  Treasure him.  Support him.  Don’t buy meat at your local supermarket.  Buy only from someone that you trust.  Support the small shop with meat that might be more expensive, but which you know is of top quality.  It is easy to make great tasting food with excellent fresh ingredients.

Occasionally, the food I have made has been inedible.  I will write about my famous super-fast potato smash, that even the dogs refused to eat.  And the special vegetable soup that sent my child to hospital.  You can save yourselves the cost of wasting ingredients on something that does not work.

I was brought up in a household where we never threw food away.  We didn’t have a dog that we could feed our creations to if they didn’t work.  It was simple: Whatever was on your plate had to be eaten.  There was no option of “Oh, I don’t like that”.  Sorry pal, the polony is on your plate, and it’s going down!  This has put me into a bit of a quandary.  My wife does not share my same enthusiasm for the sacredness of food.  Thus if I cook something that is disgusting, and in large quantities to boot, guess who will have to eat it?  Since I cook for the whole family for two days usually, one bad batch of food could easily stay with me for four days as I worm my way through it.  I don’t like eating food that is not delicious and this has taught me some good lessons.

The more you practice, the luckier you get.  Same is true for cooking.  Eventually, something edible simply has to appear.

“The most delicious chicken wings in the world” – by Dr Heinz M. Kabutz

We live on an island in the Mediterranean called Crete.  It is a marvelous place, with delicious fresh vegetables, healthy spices and olive oil.  A lot of villagers live much longer than 100 years.  Well, at least, if you believe the information provided by the pension funds, which obviously need to keep track of who is still alive in order to know who to pay.  In Greece, it often happens that when someone dies, relatives “forget” to inform the pension fund of this little fact.  Since the pension is paid into a shared bank account, children and grandchildren can be excused for this lapse in memory.  A few years ago, our social funds were pressured into cleaning up their pension book.  They required the old people to make an annual pilgrimage to wherever they were receiving their payout to give “proof of life”.  Of course you can imagine what happened – Giagia was too weak to come this month.  After all, how can you expect a 125 year old to walk from her mountain village to the bank where her pension is being paid out?  Thus I would warn anyone from emulating the “Cretan Diet” too closely.  In our experience, the locals are not the most clued up when it comes to nutrition.  Same goes for exercise.  Even though I am 43 and weigh 112 kilograms, I am probably fitter than most of the kids in my son’s grade 10 class.  To get a more accurate picture, walk around a Cretan cemetery and you will see that the ages on the tombstones tell a vastly different story to the myth of the eternal diet.

Food is quite expensive on Crete.  Local vegetables are more expensive than imported, but Cretans still prefer buying local produce.  It must be better.  After all, we live to 125.  But there are some things that Cretans generally do not eat.  For example, chicken wings.  In South Africa, where I grew up, we used to love eating buffalo wings.  They were considered a specialty and were not that cheap either.  Here, on the other hand, they were basically thrown away.  Sometimes when we go to the butchery at the supermarket, we would ask for offcuts for our dogs.  I remember getting about 30 chicken wings that had been thrown out.  Our dogs had a feast.  Since hardly anybody buys chicken wings, we can get them for a very good price.

Usually when I buy them, I go big.  I don’t just waste my time with a kilo of chicken wings.  I purchase at least 5 kilos and it is not unusual for me to come home with ten kilograms of wings.  After all, they are cheap and fresh, so why not?  So how do I turn them into something that is so delicious that you will want to eat your fingers?

There are several tricks that I use.  Before I start, I must warn you that most of my cooking is not very efficient.  I want to make awesome food, rather than quickly prepared food.  My chicken wings are completely amazing, but they do require a fair amount of preparation.

The first step is to cut off the tips and cut through the joint to get two nice pieces.  The one looks a bit like a drumstick and the other is a flatter piece, with two thin bones inside.  The next step is to cut off the skin and all the fat.  This is really important and a reason why other chicken wings are not as good as mine.  You can probably imagine that this will take a while to do.  You are right.  You need a sharp knife.  Lay the piece down on a cutting board and pull the skin tight.  Now cut the skin carefully whilst turning the piece around to take all the skin off.  If you have pets, they will love the skin and the tips of the wings.  You will lose about 20% of the weight of your wings with this, but you shouldn’t eat the skin anyway and the tip hardly has any meat.

So why do I remove the skin?  There are very good reasons besides health.  You see, the wings contain their own fat and even if you cut the skin off, there is still enough left behind to make the wing delicious.  Also, when you marinade wings that have skin on them, the marinade does not really penetrate the skin.  It gets repelled by the fattiness.  Thus you cannot get the meat to taste awesome if you leave the skin on.  Skin is not your friend.  Get rid of it and your wings will be more delicious and you’ll be able to eat more of them too.

Cutting off the skin from 10 kilograms of wings will take you about two hours.  I usually set up my iPad with a nice movie and watch that whilst trimming.  That way I don’t get too bored.  As I said, this is a lot of effort, but is worth it.

Next we get to the marinade.  For this, I squeeze lots of fresh lemons.  You want the wings to be completely covered by lemon juice.  Put the skinned wing pieces into tupperware containers and fill those up with the freshly squeezed lemons.  Yes, it needs to be fresh.  Again, it will take some time doing this, but it’s worth it.  Once the wings are covered, I add Cretan Sea Salt (if it’s not Cretan, it won’t taste nice ;-)) and some pure virgin Cretan Olive Oil from the Akrotiri in Chania (yeah, needs to be from here).  The wings stay in this marinade for at least an hour, but you can also leave them in the fridge overnight.  Just make sure that you store them in the lowest shelf to keep them the coldest possible.  The juice needs to completely surround the wings, so mix things up a bit.

Next comes the cooking.  I have used various approaches.  I have cooked them in the oven, on a gas barbecue and on wood coals.  Nothing beats the coals.  I would thus strongly recommend that you go to the effort of firing up your coal braai (barbecue) for this occasion.  Wood would of course also work and would have the benefit of additional taste from the smokiness.  But wood coal is definitely better than oven or gas.

You cannot turn 10 kilograms of chicken wings with barbecue tongs.  In fact, you don’t want to turn even 1 kilogram of chicken wings.  First off, it is a lot of work.  Secondly, you will not get the wings to be stuck close together, something which is rather important.  To get the good results, you thus need to use a barbecue grid that you can close and where you can put the wing pieces in between.  Stack them very closely together.  The thin pieces you would pack tightly next to each other with the thin edge on the bottom, thus making them approximately the same thickness as the thicker pieces.

Before you put them on the braai, make sure that the coals are very hot.  Now put them on and leave them for about 5 minutes.  Then turn them over.  You don’t want them to burn, but you want them to end up brown eventually.  I find that it is important to turn them wings quite often.  Once the wings have browned a bit, take the marinade in which they were and pour it onto the wings.  This is one of the reasons why we want the wings to be very compactly arranged on the grid that you can flip over without flipping each wing piece individually.  Pour the marinade immediately after flipping and then leave it for 5 minutes before flipping it again.  The salt, olive oil and lemon juice in the marinade will make it completely delicious.  I usually braai the wings until the wings are completely cooked through.  If you take out a sample and test it, we call this “braaier’s privilege”, there should not be any blood near the bones.

The wings will be really nice, even without any additional sauce.  Of course you could make peri-peri spices or sweet and sour sauces to dip your wings in.

The work is worth it – enjoy!

“How to make great tasting raw vegan crackers” – by Dr Heinz Kabutz

I am a doctor, so you should listen to me.  Spoken with such authority, who can doubt what I am about to write?  Certainly, the fact that I am a doctor of computer science makes me an authority on just about everything under the sun, including nutrition?

Of course, you shouldn’t.  I have no clue about how to keep in shape, at least not in the practical sense.  I might have some ideas, but unless they get me into a form that can wear a speedo with pride (I do, but without pride), I am not in any authority to give you advice on what to eat and how.

From when I was a youngster, I’ve always loved making food.  Most of the food that I was cooking would end up being sampled.  It started with baking cookies with my mother, an activity that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I can still taste the raw gingerbread dough that we used.  Taste and smell are very powerful memories, far stronger than sight and hearing.  At least that is how it was for me.  If school had been about making a great tasting meal, rather than passing some arbitrary test, I would have done incredibly well.

A few years ago, I had a friend who was obsessed with raw vegan food.  Nothing she ever ate had been heated beyond 38ºC.  She gave me lots of tips on how I could become a hunk of a guy, all by changing my diet.  I have no idea whether her tips would have worked or not, because I simply cannot say goodbye to cooked food.  I tried some of the ideas.  For example, green smoothies.  Now apparently kale is a superfood and put into a blender will taste delicious.  Since I could not source kale here, I used wild Cretan mountain greens, which you usually cook for quite a while before they become almost edible.  I had purchased a Vitamix machine, on suggestion by my dear friend.  It is an incredible mixer and will blend almost anything for you.  Trick is to have enough liquid in the container.  Eager to try my “green smoothie” that everyone was raving about, I took some ingredients, such as banana, apple, and some other fruits and then added my mountain greens.  After blending, I had this rather foul smelling green sludge that I poured into a glass and added two ice blocks.  Since everyone was raving about how delicious this would be, I ignored the smell that reminded me of a diarrhetic cow and took a sip.  Forcing it down, I thought that perhaps once I get used to it, I would begin to like it.  Nope.  Didn’t happen.  It was revolting.  I tried a number of different approaches to making these “delicious” green smoothies.  Perhaps the people who liked them were blessed with a genetic taste bud deficiency?

We do use our Vitamix blender every single day and I’m very glad that I bought it.  It cost as much as 10 normal blenders, but is very very good.  The blades are very sharp and we can make very smooth blends indeed.  I can highly recommend you buy one, if you don’t have one already.

Another thing my friend would do is show me pictures of delicious looking foods she had prepared in her dehydrator.  After much contemplation, I thought I should also get myself one.  Despite the price (question – why are all these health things so incredibly expensive???), I bought the Sedona Dehydrator, with 9 trays that can hold things to be dried.  My initial thought was to dry watermelons, of which we have an abundance in Crete.  That didn’t work out too well.  Watermelon ends up being just too sweet.  Plus all the sugar isn’t going to do well for a diet.  I tried a bunch of different things, including sprouted lentils that had then been blended and made into crackers.  Now those were completely disgusting.  I had read on “the internet” about how nice they were.  Again.  Genetically deformed taste buds must have lied to their owners!

Which brings me to the purpose of this writing: “Great Tasting Raw Vegan Crackers.”  As you can see, I do not like bad tasting food.  I have nothing against vegetarian or even vegan food, as long as it is delicious.  These crackers I made are unbelievably “more-ish”.  Once I start munching on them, I just cannot stop.  That’s the type of food that I like making.  If it is healthy to boot (supposedly) then that’s a bonus too.  Last week I made my third batch, so I think that I can now share with you some tricks to make it.  You will need:

1. Sedona dehydrator or equivalent, that can dry the mixture at 38ºC, not hotter.  Some BS about enzymes dying when we cook food.  No idea if that is true or not.  The believers swear it is.  Rational people don’t.
2. Vitamix blender or equivalent, which is able to pulverize your ingredients into subatomic particles.  Something about breaking it up into small pieces to make it more digestible.
3. Large mixing bowl.
4. Assortment of nuts and seeds: cashews, pistachios, almonds, cashews, sesame, cashews and lots of linseed.  Nuts should all be raw.
5. Several onions, garlic, tomatoes, chillies, and whatever other vegetables you’ve got lying around your fridge.
6. Cretan sea salt.  Yeah, it has to be Cretan, otherwise your crackers will taste terrible.  So if your recipe is a disaster, that’s the reason.

Start by soaking the seeds and nuts in water for 24 hours.  Change the water every few hours.  Again, some magic happens when you soak seeds and nuts.  The enzymes get activated, which means that the nut becomes alive.  If you leave it long enough, it will sprout wings and start flying away.  Or something like that.  I don’t believe it really makes such a big difference, but what do you have to lose except a bit of water and effort?  The seeds and nuts will obviously expand in size, so you need a large enough mixing bowl.  Once you have soaked them, throw away the water.  I once used the water in the blend when making a drink, and the heartburn was terrible.

The blending is the most difficult.  Linseed is quite oily and sesame is also sticky.  I fill the Vitamix blender about 50% with my sees and nuts and then about another 30% with water.  This is then liquid enough to blend without causing strain on the motor.   All the blended seeds and nuts go into a large mixing bowl.  However, I don’t blend all of them – about 63.562%.  The rest of the nuts and seeds go into the mix whole.  This adds a bit of roughage and bulk to the crackers and makes them more delicious.

Now the vegetables.  In my last batch, I added 5 raw onions, an entire bunch of garlic, 5 chillies from my garden (yeah, again, if they are from anywhere else than my garden and your crackers are tasteless – that’s the reason) and also four large tomatoes.  Mixed of course with water to make the blending easier.  You could use as much water as you need, since it will be evaporated away in the dehydration process.

All of that is mixed together in a large mixing bowl.  Once you are ready, get the trays ready and put teflon sheets down.  Pour the mixture onto the trays and put them into the deydrator.  Put it on at 38ºC and wait.  After a day or so of drying, turn the sheets over and remove the sheets.  This will speed up the drying process.  Once they are almost dry (might take 2-3 days), take them out and cut them into snack sizes.  Put them back in and let them dry until they are completely crunchy.

Ohhh, so delicious.  Really.  Also nutritious.  If they ever do a mission to Mars, this is what they will take along to keep them alive.  And no enzymes were destroyed, which means that your gut gets all the natural health benefits of … oh who am I kidding.  I don’t really believe that stuff myself, but the crackers are truly scrumptious 🙂