Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bliksem Biltong Muffins!

Let's face it – the savoury muffin would be no where without cheese. Mature cheddar, Gruyere, Danish blue, Parmesan... whatever your poison, you can't go wrong with the texture and taste of crumbled salty, feta.

Inspired by the Rugby World Cup (and the fact that she was entertaining guests at 8 in the morning for the games, when chips 'n dip didn't seem appropriate), my good friend Narina (of The Crazy Aunt Co) experimented with biltong muffins – a sure-fire, proudly South Africa party pleaser!

  • 1 egg
  • Approx 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1ml cayenne papper
  • 1/2 cup biltong powder (available from a biltong shop, alternatively finely chop the biltong)
  • 1 cups mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup feta, crumbled
  • Onion sprinkles and chopped chives (optional)
How to make:
Beat the egg lightly in a measuring jug, topping up with milk to the 250ml measure. Sift the dry ingredients together, stir in grated cheese, reserving some to sprinkle on top of the muffins, and the biltong. Mix in the liquid ingredients to create a thick batter. Mix lightly and quickly, and finally stir in the crumbled feta so it doesn't totally disintegrate. Spoon into well-greased muffin tins and sprinkle with onion/chives as desired. Bake at 220C for 10-15 minutes until golden. Game on!

Hi, I'm back

So much time has passed. A lot and nothing has happened in that time, but I'm excited for what's to come. I'm also excited to be blogging again, and be able to purge the blog drafts that have been piling up in my brain for months!

This beautiful print is by photographer Sharon Montrose. Her site, The Animal Print Shop, showcases, and sells, her exquisite images of animals. I can't find a favourite, but I think the raccoon rates high up!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Barcelona Beauty

It's a rare and beautiful thing to find a man who can shop for you. I am proud and humbled to say I have found one such anomaly. On a recent business trip to Barcelona, The Boyfriend returned with a bounty of brownie points. (Bearing in mind, that aside from sizes, I didn't give him any guidance.) Whether you're interested in fashion or not, I think you will appreciate the never ceasing wonders of the modern man!

Zara is one of my favourite stores to visit overseas. Above, a soft cream tee with repetitive butterfly
print & a longer-length, black knit vest, great for layering in winter. 

These delightful lingerie sets are from a store called Intimissimi, an Italian brand that offers
beautiful & feminine underwear, basics, pyjamas and more.

Turquoise & cerise pink (short) tunic dress from Zara.

And The Shoes: a pair of authentic, hand-made wedge espadrilles from the renowned
La Manual Alpargatera shop, near the Las Ramblas in Spain, that put espadrilles on the international
fashion map. They're such a beautiful stone/dove grey – feminine and really versatile.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes

Images by Baby_Birdie
Recipe courtesy of www.foodnetwork.com

  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Preheat oven to 180C. In a small bowl, combine and sieve the flours and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, stir in the ingredients until incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into a muffin tray filled with cupcake cases, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Vanilla Butter Icing
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 to 8 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add four cups of sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about three to five minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about two minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. (I didn't, so my icing was a little smoother on top of the cupcakes when it had hardened.) If desired, add a few drops of food colouring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days (though I haven't tried!).

Cooking For Kylie: Volume 2

[Alternate header: Why I'm Not Cut Out For Catering]

Last week was a blur of shopping, prepping, chopping, washing, drying, stirring, baking, washing, chopping, packaging, selling, baking, tasting, shopping, prepping, washing... and repeat! Monday's menu involved macaroni & cheese, mildly-curried butternut soup, bran muffins and chocolate brownies. Tuesday night I shopped and prepped, preparing spaghetti and meatballs, minestrone soup, bran & cappuccino muffins and brownies. This was by far the toughest night with every pot we own bubbling on the stove, the meatballs in the oven, the brownies and muffins lined up to be baked and the sink piled to the rafters.

Thursday was a colleague's birthday and I'd agreed to make brownies, chocolate cake and a baked lemon cheesecake. Now my colleagues are like family, so I wasn't sure what to charge and we agreed upon the round figure of R150 – R50 an item. Turns out I severely undercharged – just three ingredients for the cheesecake cost R55. So we settled on vanilla cupcakes. I didn't end up making money, but the birthday was a success and I have two more orders for birthday goodies for office mates. That evening, I made chicken curry and bacon and lentil soup for the following day. We had guests for dinner, and I made chicken pie and enjoyed the temporary respite from "the project".

Friday came & went, and I handed out the last of my meals and counted out my earnings. I most certainly didn't make millions, or recoup enough to cover my time, but I covered costs and made enough for a Kylie ticket. The brownies proved supremely popular and were the easiest to make and manufacture, so I'm going to keep those up. I learnt the cost of my time; became truly aware of the expense of ingredients and my unwavering decision not to cut corners with poor produce; basked in the pleasure of having a project outside of work and the joy I get from cooking; tested my boyfriend's patience (and washing up skills); and let go of a great project not because it failed, but because of the reality of its execution. Along the way, I got some feedback on a few of my recipes. I'll be sharing a few of the most successful ones (like the Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes!).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cooking For Kylie

I grew up moving to "The Loco-motion", singing "I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky...", thinking love was Jason & Kylie's "Especially for you", grooving to "Slow" and belting out "Aaalll the Loversss". Well, the pint-sized Princess of Pop responsible for this journey is coming to Cape Town! I'm a firm believer, that in order to get big acts to keep coming to our shores, we have to support them. I'm also a believer, that the likes of pop divas Madonna, Beyonce, Shakira and Gaga - Kylie included - provide the most dazzling, entertaining and fun concerts, even if you're not their biggest fans. 

But alas, the ticket prices for this tiny dynamo are not so petite... and it was with a sparkly tear, that I gave up on my dream of "Spinning Around". But a good friend and colleague of mine, known fondly as The Fashion Pixie, Azeez, suggested we try and make a plan to go together. I love a challenge, and we set about generating dazzling ideas of how we could get to the concert, from selling all the grooming products in our office's storeroom for "charity" obviously, to clearing out our wardrobes and having a garage sale. On the more rational, if a little old-school, suggestion of someone to have a "bake sale", the "Cooking For Kylie" idea was born. 

The premise: we offer soup, comfort food and baked goods to our colleagues. The execution: so as not to be exploiting work premises for our tuckshop, people can order two days in advance and the delicacies will be delivered to their desks. On Monday, I'm bringing in samples: roast butternut soup, macaroni cheese, muffins and chocolate brownies and we'll go from there. (We all know that people like to test the wares before committing to anything.) We already have our first order - a colleague's birthday on Thursday. So you can tell what I'll be doing this weekend! Wish us luck!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bloggers Get Together

It's been a little while since I've been able to blog, and where better to get inspiration, joy and support than from fellow bloggers. For the Cape blog community, the lovely Betty Blake has organised a bloggers meet-up at El Burro on Thursday the 30th of June. Find out more and RSVP on Facebook here.

See you there!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Comfort-food Cornbread

I'm taking a cooking course. I go weekly, at least, or whenever I possibly can. I experiment, learn as I go and let food – and cravings – be my guide. The curriculum involves inspiration from fellow bloggers and challenges from cookbooks and food magazines, one in particular being Taste Magazine. The visuals in Taste are always beautiful, the products seasonal and luxurious. And, while I regularly feel intimidated by the sheer craftsmanship of the recipes, the results are consistently delicious. And the more I test and challenge myself, the more accomplished I become.

Mariana Esterhuizen, owner of her self-titled restaurant in Stanford, is one of my teachers. Her columns offer reliable, South African comfort food with a story. Her cornbread in a skillet (Jan/Feb issue 2011) went superbly with a spicy tomato soup – great for the upcoming chilly winter. But I can imagine it will be just as good a side with a summer braai.

  • Butter for greasing
  • 1 cup maize meal/polenta
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper (I used yellow)
  • 4 Tsbp chopped coriander (I couldn't find any fresh, so used fresh parsley)
  • 3 large, free-range eggs
  • 1 cup yoghurt/buttermilk (I used yoghurt)
  • 3 Tsbp olive oil
How to make:
Preheat the oven to 180'C. Grease a (large) cast-iron skillet, with an ovenproof handle, very well with the butter. Sift the maize meal/polenta, cake flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the vegetables and coriander and stir into the dry ingredients. Beat the eggs lightly in a jug, then stir in the yoghurt and olive oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the mixing bowl and stir until combined. Pour into the greased skillet and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the top has browned and it feels firm. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing straight from the skillet.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why I Can't Follow You on Twitter

  1. Your picture is the Twitter egg. If you can't even be bothered (or are so technically inept) that you haven't posted a picture, I can't be bother to follow you. 
  2. You are almost or are actually naked in your avatar.
  3. You have not posted anything. This is a give & take relationship.
  4. You have less than 10 followers. I know this is not a popularity poll (okay, it is for some people), so I will make the exception if you are a) new to Twitter, b) my friend or c) or my mother.
  5. Your avatar is a cartoon character. Grow up.
  6. Your tweets are angry/use mostly predictive text or SMS-language/don't make sense/all of the aforementioned.
  7. You swear a lot, unnecessarily in your feed/profile. It's just not smart.
  8. Your picture has not been downscaled so it's warped. (See point 1. Once again, I will make an exception if you are my mother.)
  9. Your picture has been so professionally shot you look like an ad for yourself and this is just one big PR mission.
  10. You have nothing to say. See point 3. Oh, and while I'm into food & post about food I think is worth sharing with fellow foodies, I do not find "I am hungry" or "Eating lunch" valid posts.
  11. You overuse exclamation marks. Okay, I get it, you're a funny guy!!!!!
  12. Your entire page is filled with the same, repeated personal marketing spam.
  13. You don't have a bio. 
  14. Your bio is so full you haven't use punctuation or spaces.because.you.are.so.interesting <3
  15. Your bio is unoriginal and there are spelling mistakes. For example, "Lover of caffiene,chocolat and life !!!"
  16. Your feed is one long chat with your friends. For the love of Jack Dorsey (creator of Twitter), pick up the phone.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

100 Day Challenge!

Inspired by a colleague, I've set myself a challenge: I have to do something active every day for 100 days. If all goes on track, August 10 will be day 100!

Today, with the sun out, it looks like it will be a run on the promenade with my new trainers. But the challenge will come when I'm blindsided by late nights at work, cold dark mornings, rainy evenings... and maybe too much red wine to combat the cold, rainy evenings! So I'm using this as my official contract. Wish me luck!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Day in the Wineland's Hidden Valley

 An autumnal lunch at the Long Table restaurant in Stellenbosch.

One of my most favourite things to do in Cape Town, is to escape to the winelands. Depending which way you're headed, you'll be surrounded by vineyards and mountains in an hour. The area is especially exquisite at this time of year, with the trees and vines turning russet-coloured and the warm, if a little shy, autumn sun catching the mountains. We headed on a strategic mission to taste some wines off the Annandale Road in Stellenbosch.

We began the journey with a tasting at the Ernie Els wine estate, with its robust if a little tight reds and celebrated signature red blends. The beautiful weather highlighted the green terraced gardens and the golden vineyards that the tasting room and restaurant overlooks. While only offering red at the moment, the estate plans to launch a white wine range. The hot Stellenbosch region isn't optimal for white varietals, so white grapes will be purchased for the task. 

Next was Rust en Vrede, conveniently down the road! With the lush overhanging trees, deep shadows, hills of vineyards, established cellar and lazy farm dogs, you immediately relax sitting on the terrace. The estate produces renowned delicious, full-bodied red wine exclusively, which is naturally why we made a stop there for a tasting on our way to lunch.

We ended at Long Table for a late, bistro-style lunch. Sold on the lunch specials, the standard menu offers something for everyone with hearty portions. Very full (and rather lazy!) after a full lunch and wine, we skipped dessert and decided to use the drive home to digest our lunch and have some rhubarb and apple crumble when we got home instead.

The roast tomato soup starter, with it's impressive
spider web of cream. (Unfortunately it turned out to be a decorative distraction:
the temperature of the cream actually cooled the soup a little too much.)

A delicious seasonal salad: greens, pomegranates, figs, Gorgonzola and
Parma ham with a bright, fresh dressing.

The terrace of the restaurant is in the shadow of huge trees and
looks onto the vineyard and beautiful mountains.

The pork belly main course served on polenta with seasonal veg.
As can so often happen with pork belly, it was under-seasoned, so the gravy
was an important component of the dish.

Yip, the portions are not small! The oxtail served on risotto with veg.
The risotto was a creamy, subtle base that worked well with
the rich meat and the (slightly too) salty gravy.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The City Bowl Market

Hope for the City Bowl's foodies: a weekly food market for city dwellers in Hope Street. Saturday April 16th saw the launch of The City Bowl Market at number 14 Hope Street – the beautiful unmistakable red-and-white building. The impressive facade opens onto a large, well-lit hall with old, arched windows letting in the Saturday sunlight.

At the entrance, you're greeted by a vibrant fresh produce stand, a bright array of flowers and a plant table selling lavender, herbs and succulents. Stalls offering bread & cheese; olives & pâtés; curries & samoosas; fish cakes & smoked snoek; cupcakes & brownies; and yes, of course, coffee, surround the hall's perimeter and the hay bales and trestle tables in the centre. Musicians perform on the stage upfront, while the upstairs level, overlooking the hall, holds the bar – and the attention of most of the boyfriends/husbands dragged to the market!

The beautiful Easter flowers available at Saturday's market.
This last Saturday, I decided to walk to the market in the week autumn sunshine. I picked up cheese, 60% rye bread, hand-made chorizo, very reasonable fresh veg, flowers, springbok biltong and the most delicious double-chocolate wheat-free brownie I have ever tasted! But most refreshingly, I didn't break the bank and I came away with fresh ingredients to inspire me to whip up some delicious meals and to challenge myself to cook with things I wouldn't normally have come across – exactly what you want from your local market.

Some of the amazingly inexpensive produce from the green grocer stall.
These are the shallots that inspired the onion tartlet recipe!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Winter Roast Tomato & Spicy Chorizo soup

I have a passion for tomato soup. Roasted (see my simple roast tomato soup recipe), creamed, spicy, as a base to another ingredient, you name it, tomatoes are an incredibly versatile soup complement. I find spicy chourizo, with it's rich, fatty exotic flavour is the perfect partner to a warm tomato soup on a cold winter's day, with a robust glass of red wine.

I'm also very partial to layered textures and flavours. The humble bean is a wonderful carrier for the spiciness of the sausage and the richness of the roast tomato. I chose to add baked beans to this soup, as there's something childishly comforting about the soft, subtle flavour they impart. The sweetness of their sauce also compliments the tomato and spice. The butter beans on the other hand, provide respite in their large neutralness, balancing the more intense flavours. And, in my opinion, on a wintery evening, you want the satisfaction of a home-made soup simmering on the stove, but you also want to be able to reach into the store cupboard for your ingredients. 

  • 10 roma tomatoes, halved and deseeded
  • Olive oil
  • Pinch of salt & sugar, respectively 
  • Dried mixed herbs (if you have fresh, opt for a tspchopped origanum and a tsp chopped thyme)
  • 225g courizo sausage
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
  • 1 glass of red wine
  • 1 large garlic clove (or two small ones)
  • 3 small red chillies, for a medium heat (adjust to suit your palette)
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tin cream of tomato soup
  • 1 tin baked beans
  • 1 tin butter beans
  • Salt & pepper
Fresh chillies, garlic, an onion and the hero of the soup: the chorizo.
This is sausage-maker Rudi's Portugese Chorizo
that I picked up at the City Bowl Market.

How to make:
Heat the oven to 200˚C. Place the halved, deseeded tomatoes in a roasting pan/plate. Douse with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, the herbs and a little sugar to counter the tomatoes' acidity. Pop in the oven to roast for about half and hour till soft and oozing.
Ripe Roma tomatoes, halved with their seeds removed,
being prepared for roasting in the oven.

In the meantime, brown the chorizo. Lightly coat the base of a pot with olive oil (the chorizo will release its own fat) and fry the sausage on a medium heat.
Frying off the chorizo. When you're browning meat,
it's always best not to overcrowd the pan. 
Brown the chorizo gently and remove, setting aside on a paper towel. Use the oil that's left in the pot to saute the onions. When they begin to stick, deglaze with the red wine.

Onions sweating and reducing in red wine used for deglazing;
browned chorizo resting on a paper towel; and roast tomatoes out of the oven.
When the wine has reduced, add the chopped chilli and garlic. As they become fragrant, stir in the roasted tomatoes along with all their oven juices and the chorizo. Allow the flavours to meld before adding a cup of vegetable stock. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.

The roasted Roma tomatoes and chorizo simmering in the onion, red wine, 
chilli, garlic vegetable stock goodness!

Remove the tomatoes from the simmering stock mixture and place in a blender. Some will have disintegrated, which is fine, but try to get all the skins which can become stingy and chewy. Blend with half a tin of tomato soup to a rough texture, until all the skins are combined. Add this tomato "sauce" back to the pot, with the rest of the tomato soup and stock. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the tin of baked beans in its sauce, and the butter beans, rinsed and drained. Stir in the final cup of stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste, serve and enjoy!

Winter's best: a hearty, spicy, velvety tomato soup.

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Phyllo Onion Tartlets

    I find translucent onion bathing in a hot pan of butter immediately awakens my senses – and appetite! The smell is incredibly evocative for me. It was the basis of so many delicious comfort foods when I was growing up, from Bubble & Squeak* on the weekends, to a wholesome vegetable soup or savoury mince for bobotie**.

    On Saturday's City Bowl Market, I picked up an enormous bag of shallots. Inspired by a delicious-looking onion tart in the Eat-In magazine, I got to work caramelising the finely chopped shallots. When they were almost ready, I made a blue-cheese roux, which I poured over the softened onions in individual Le Creuset ramekins. Topped with a few layers of butter-kissed phyllo and baked until golden in the oven, the results are rich, layered flavours, and a combination of creamy cheese, sweet onion and crackling phyllo.

    Makes 4
    • 100g butter
    • 2 tsp sunflower oil
    • 15 - 20 shallots (depending on size), finely sliced
    • Half a glass of white wine
    • 1 tbsp thyme
    • 2 tbsp sugar
    • pinch of salt
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1 tbsp flour
    • 100g blue cheese
    • salt & pepper to taste
    • phyllo pastry

    How to make:
    On a medium heat, melt about a tablespoon of butter with the sunflower/canola oil in a pot on the stove. Once it's begun to smoke, add the onions and allow to sweat for about 10 minutes. When the onions begin to stick, pour in the white wine and deglaze, allowing them to simmer and soften in the wine for approximately another 10 to 15 minutes. Once the wine has evaporated, add the sugar, pinch of salt and thyme stirring well. Turn the heat to low, stirring occasionally. The longer the onions cook, the softer and sweeter they become. At this point, turn the oven on to 180ºC.

    After the onions have been cooking for about 45 minutes, begin the cheese sauce. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a small pan on medium heat. With a wooden spoon, vigorously stir in the flour to form a paste. Turning the heat down a little, add the milk, little by little, stirring well after each addition to avoid lumps. Crumble the blue cheese in and continue to stir until it's melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Grease the the top edges of the ramekins with butter/cooking spray so that the phyllo comes away easily when you're eating the tartlets. Fill the ramekins with the onion mixture and pour the cheese sauce over the top. Unroll two to three sheets of phyllo. Following the instructions on the packaging, keep the phyllo moist so it's manageable as you cut it in half and then quarters. Drape, fold and tuck one of the quarter sheets in each ramekin on top of the onion-sauce mixture. Melt the remaining butter and gently brush each crumpled sheet (it's more like a dabbing action so as not to tear the phyllo), before repeating on the remaining layer(s). Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until the phyllo is golden and crispy.

    Serve warm from the oven with a glass of buttery wooded Chardonnay or Pinot Noir to compliment the tartlets' richness.

      * Traditionally a British meal made of leftover vegetables, predominantly potatoes so it's a bit like one big rosti.
      ** A South African, traditionally Cape Malay, dish of curried mince meat baked with an egg-based topping.

      Thursday, April 7, 2011

      I Heart...

      I had to share this gorgeous Sagaform Heart Bowl with Ladle (R495 from YuppieChef). I'm mad about hearts and would love a kitchen with bright red signatures. A girl can dream!

      Monday, April 4, 2011

      Roast Tomato Soup

      Something magical happens to ingredients in the oven as you roast them. Take the fiery, overpowering, pungent raw garlic clove that becomes sweet and yielding and caramelised after half an hour at a high heat. I adore how a tart, taught tomato relaxes and oozes when roasted, yielding a rich, full flavour.

      This is a simple, rewarding soup that makes use of key flavours, gently roasted and blended, allowing the ingredients to do the work. It's a great basic: add chilli or bacon, lentils or onions.

      • 10-12 ripe tomatoes, halved with the seeds removed
      • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
      • 4 garlic cloves (more/less depending on your garlic preference)
      • 3 Tbsp thyme
      • 1 tsp sugar
      • Salt & pepper
      • 2 cups stock
      How to make:

      Preheat the oven to 200ºC while you prepare the ingredients. In a roasting dish or pan, place the halved tomatoes and garlic cloves. Coat liberally and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle the tomatoes with sugar, torn thyme and salt, setting a sprig or two of thyme aside for garnish. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes until soft. Blend briefly if you want some texture, or longer if you prefer a smooth consistency, with a half to a cup of stock to liquify. Heat through with remaining stock on the stove top, adjust the seasoning and serve.

      Thursday, March 24, 2011

      We Love Real Beer

      Long weekends are made for afternoon naps, brunch, catching up on reading and friendships, taking in a movie, drinking away the evenings and pretty much doing whatever if it is you feel like... which is exactly what I did this weekend. (Kind of appropriate since the long weekend incorporated a national holiday celebrating human rights.)

      On balmy Sunday afternoon, we headed over to The Biscuit Mill for the second annual We Love Real Beer festival. It was an amazing opportunity to try artisinal beers that you don't normally have mainstream access to. Among the list were Napier, Camelthorn, Paulaner, Jack Black, Boston, Brewers & Union, Darling Slow Brew, Mitchell's and Birkenhead, as well as some honey mead. I was not going to pass up savouring the delicious food on offer from Oded's Kitchen to Pete Goffe-Wood's Kitchen Cowboy sirloin sandwiches to the stuffed-pig-on-a-spit Porchetta ciabatta from Jardine Bakery. I left having drained a couple of pints (and claimed a couple of pounds!) completely satisfied. We Love Real Beer is set to grow every year, so watch the blog for the next festival.

      And if you're really thirsty, and can't wait till next year, the bottle store Tops (located among some gorgeous shops in the Cape Quarter) stocks craft beers. They make for a cool gift idea. Pick up the We Love Real Beer glasses (for 20 bucks) from &Union. Great excuse to stop by for a beer!
      PS Check out photographer Andrew Brauteseth's blog for some images that really capture the atmosphere.

      Friday, March 18, 2011

      Rotisserie 360

      The smell of crispy-skinned roast chicken, thyme and fresh ingredients greets you at Rotisserie 360 – the hole in the wall lunch spot at 160 Bree St (one of my favourite streets in Cape Town). Open till 6pm, find the most tender chicken (and roast sirloin), delicious sandwiches and piadinis (toasted Italian flat bread), salads (see below) and fresh juices (I had watermelon today).

      I had the free-range roast lunch plate, which consists of a piece of chicken and four salads. On offer today were: chickpeas with sumac and spinach in a herb yoghurt dressing; crunchy broccoli with toasted garlic and sesame seeds in a lemon dressing; coconut and mango rice with mint, coridander and chilli; greek salad; beetroot, pear, feta and mint in lemon dressing; coleslaw with almonds in our homemade mayo dressing; baby potatoes with dill, lemon and capers. Needless to say, I couldn't fit in a coffee or pastry!

      And guess what?! They do a Take-home Dinner Menu! For more, visit the website.

      Wednesday, March 16, 2011

      Eat-In Night Market

      Looking forward to going to the Eat-In market tomorrow night (Thursday 17 March from 5pm) at the Biscuit Mill and consuming lots of local, tasty produce. See you there!

      Monday, March 14, 2011

      Baby Birdie's "Nesting" Bowls

      I won these gorgeous Joseph & Joseph mixing bowls (called "nesting" bowls) from Yuppiechef (who included a handwritten card – I love that!) in a Decorex competition. Aren't they gorgeous?! I can't wait to start baking with them. The set contains measuring cups, a measuring bowl with pouring spout, a sieve and mixing bowls – all you need.

      Thursday, March 10, 2011

      Easy Home-made Asparagus Soup

      I was a very obedient and unfussy eater as a child (which is probably why I fastidiously finish all the food on my plate now). There was nothing that I wouldn't try or wouldn't eat, and my meals were always well balanced. My Mum was great on colour and presentation – making sure there were different colours on the plate (literally choosing carrots instead of peas to offset the green marrows), and occasionally shaping everything into a pattern or face. Despite that, I don't think I had a very adventurous childhood menu.

      "Cold meats and salads" was a frequent weekend feature in musky Natal, and tinned asparagus was often on the menu. I loved their neutral, slightly salty taste and melt-in-your-mouth spongy texture, and used to count out the spears onto the plates so we all got a fair number. It wasn't until I was older that I tasted fresh, firm-but-yielding steamed asparagus.

      And I'm a big fan. They are, for me, quintessentially foodie produce. Like artichokes. Why? Because they're a meal on their own. Because of their gourmet appearance. Because of their earthy green colour which is begging to be painted. Because of their simple flavour which responds so well to simplicity. Because they're seasonal and look so beautiful in a market basket. Because, maybe, I thought for so long they grew, colourless cream, in tins of brine not in the ground until I tasted a fresh one and toyed with their potential.

      So here's an asparagus soup recipe I experimented with recently. (In South Africa, asparagus is officially out of season during our autumn, and back in June - the perfect, chilly time for soup!) I haven't used flour much in soups – I make a lot of tomato-based soups, fill the pot with veg, or purree the ingredients, so the thickness isn't a concern. But I wanted to make a creamy soup quickly and simply, with ingredients I had in my fridge and cupboard and, ideally for a "healthy" weeknight meal, without actual cream!

      • 1 tbsp canola/grape seed oil
      • 2 bunches/punnets of asparagus
      • 1 white onion, finally chopped
      • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
      • 4 cups stock
      • 2 tbsp flour
      • 2 tbsp butter
      • Approx half a cup of milk
      • 1 - 2 heaped tbsp smooth, plain cottage cheese
      • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

      How to make:
      Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus, chop them in half and set aside. Saute and soften the onions in the oil, then add the garlic and, as it gets fragrant, add the asparagus. Allow to sweat for about 10 minutes with the onion and garlic. Add the stock and allow to simmer until asparagus is cooked. Remove from heat.

      In the meantime, on a low heat, melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. It will go dryish, so add a few teaspoons of the stock from the simmering soup and stir vigorously till it becomes a gluey mixture. Pour some milk in slowly (about 2 tbsp) and continue to stir vigorously to keep the mixture smooth and elastic. Stir in the cottage cheese. Alternately add liquid – a little stock, then a little milk - to the roux (white sauce) until you have a creamy consistency. Melt the cheese into the sauce, reserving a little aside for garnish.

      Keeping aside a few spear tips for garnish, blend the asparagus and remaining stock in a blender and add to the roux. Stir to combine and allow to simmer together for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

      Serve with fresh ground black pepper, a sprinkle or Parmesan and an asparagus spear floating on top.

      Gardner's tip:
      Tomatoes and asparagus have amazing synergy - and not just on the plate! The asparagus roots exude a chemical that kills many of the nematodes (round worms) that either feed off tomato roots or carry disease to the plant. And tomatoes repel asparagus beetles, so the one is beneficial to the other.

      Tuesday, March 8, 2011

      Earth Fair Market

      My expectations of produce markets have been ruined – potentially – by the exquisite open-air market I went to in Paris: every imaginable fruit & vegetable in colourful pyramids so bright I had to keep my sunglasses on; French cheese so ripe you started to salivate; pastries so buttery they would have made Julia Child weep; quaint, aged, aproned stall owners so authentic you wanted to hug them. I walked hand-in-hand with mon amour, a fragrant freshly-baked baguette from Paul bakery poking out of my shopper, and picnicked in the Bois de Boulogne. *big sigh*

      I truly appreciate the authenticity, freshness, connection and artisanal quality one gets at a market, which is why I have wished there would be a well-stocked and well-supported inner-city market. I'm pleased to report, the Earth Fair Market, popular for their Wednesday Tokai gatherings, has started a market in St George's mall on Thursdays from 12pm to 6pm. City slickers working in the surrounding area flock to the mall for artisanal sausages and chourizo; freshly-baked breads and pies; fresh juices; olives; honey and organic dried fruit... and so much more. And there's dessert – crepes, cupcakes and fudge... I'll be hanging out there every Thursday!

      Friday, March 4, 2011

      This Season's Must-have Reversible Dress

      This extraordinarily delightful child is my niece, Olivia. In this photo, Olivia wears a reversible Valentine's day dress from The Crazy Aunt Company (that was sent to her in England by her Crazy Aunt, me!). See her modelling it on the blog or place your orders online here.

      Monday, February 28, 2011

      Design Indaba Finds 2011

      Yesterday I descended the rabbit hole to soak up the visceral Cape Town Design Route at the annual Design Indaba. I'd been lapping up tweets from the seminars during the week, so was eager to see what the expo had to offer. I'd thought that Sunday may be quieter, but despite the sunshine and blue skies, the crowds were out at the CTICC. As I wondered the maze of the floor plan, being jostled and nudged, I wished that this meeting of cool creatives happened more than once a year. Judging by the turnout, my sentiment was shared.

      Onto my finds - a mere taste of all that was available. I have a passion for Skermunkil jewellery, so I didn't need any prompting to add another piece to my collection - a tiny copper heart, fired in blue on one wide and a minty green on the other. Two unusual perfect colours that will blend in and stand out in their own way. Hearts predominate, but you will also be charmed by the birds, kites, flags, hot air balloons, rabbits... (Check out the Skermunkil blog or buy some gems from the Beatnik Bazaar online shop. In fact, you'll find a lot of beautiful, hand-made goodies that were available at the Indaba there.)

      The wooden heart earrings and beautiful bicycle-etched heart brooch are by the talented Durban designer Genevieve Motley. Overheard in her stand: "I wish this stall was bigger"! So to make way for her fans, I went with two classic pieces, but was seriously tempted by the bird pendants and earrings, rabbits, bird cages, foxes, flowers... I can't do it all justice. Check out Genevieve's designs on her site.

      I've been looking for a comfortable, leather bag in a neutral, versatile colour. Enter Klone - Urban African Design - and their unfussy, well-crafted designs. The style of the bag I chose is called Flying Springbok, in soft "dessert" leather. Klone has collaborated with the iconic visuals of Karin Miller to create bags using modern water-based, eco-friendly inks and recyclable fabric.

      Finally, after meandering around the show, getting inspired by the creativity and talent the Indaba attracts and enjoying some sushi from the Earth Fair Market. I ended up at Sarah Jane Webber's I Love Leroy stall and bought a soft, blue, elastic waisted, vest dress with side pockets. Then I left before the CTICC parking and my post-payday revelry bankrupted me...

      Until next year!

      PS I picked up a fun shirt for The Boyfriend from the creatives at On Top Of The World - putting Cape Town on the map! They've flipped the world - literally! - on its head with maps depicting Cape Town on top of the world!

      Saturday, February 26, 2011

      Food&Wine Bloggers Indaba 2011 Highlights

      A week later, and I finally have a chance to revisit last weekend's Food and Wine Bloggers Indaba. Sunday began with virgin fruity cocktails and the excited chatter of bloggers and foodie enthusiasts descending on Monkey Valley in Noordhoek. In its second year, the event is passionately driven, marketed and executed by the humble Colleen, from BrownieGirl Blog (with some help from her lovely husband Donald!).

      I couldn't begin to do justice to all the amazing sponsors Colleen got on board (you can check out the Indaba blog for more details), but everyone left with a hefty goodie bag packed with magazines (Eat In, Eat Out, Taste, Fresh Living), recipe books (Food Lover's Market's Love & Food, Bakers' Take a Biscuit, The People's Guide), samples (Primitiv Vodka, Pesto Princess, SAB beers, Verlaque jam & balsamic reduction, Griottines cherries, Lindt chocolate, Wedgewood Nougat), wine (Detleefs & Wine Lover's Collection), olive oil (Saint Sebastian Bay & Filippo Berio) and, generously, a Wusthof classic pairing knife and voucher from Yuppiechef. Impressive, ne?! (Fellow bloggers, please let me know if I've left anything out by mistake - it was obviously gobbled/greedily absorbed into my grocery cupboard before I recorded it!)

      An all-too brief summary of my day... Foodie and veteran food blogger Jean of CookSister! blog fame, was the MC of the day and kicked the proceedings off with a valuable talk on best blogging practices, with 10 practical tips. Food writer Jane-Anne Hobbs, of Scrumptious South Africa, followed, sharing her knowledge on recipe inspiration. She began by asking the important question: are your recipes excellent, inspiring and intelligent? And gave great advice from avoiding being a slave to food trends, to freezing herbs and making the most of seasonal fair. Next on our indaba menu, was the inspiring and talented duo of Abigail Donnelly (food editor at Taste) and Phillippa Cheifitz (cookbook author, food writer and consultant food editor at Taste) who discussed how to get published while projecting some beautiful Taste food photography in the background.

      Lisa Key from African Relish tempted us with an escape to their beautiful farm in Prince Albert, for a unique food bloggers weekend (I'm saving!), before Michael Olivier guided us to a greater wine vocab with a blind tasting. Lunch gave us a chance to mingle and chat, and I was able to meet gorgeous Ishay of Food and the Fab, dedicated dad, gardner and eco advocate Matt of ImNoJamieOliver, and fellow sub and avid foodie Robyn of Koek!.

      In the afternoon, we all got to attend workshops held by the likes of food stylist Sam Linsell (Drizzle & Dip) and food enthusiast Nina Timm (My Easy Cooking); successful food blogger JamieWho; wine editor for Food24 Cathy Marston (see her Cape Times review of her wine & food pairing talk on her blog); Jamie Schler of Life's a Feast who came from France especially, amongst others. I managed to sit in on her and CookSister! Jean's food writing talk and left inspired and encouraged to be pickier about my adjectives! I also enjoyed a delightful, champagne-fuelled workshop with Jane-Anne Hobbs (follow her on Twitter for an amusing, eloquent and humorous take on the world) and walked out feeling challenged to be a better blogger, wanting to explore second-hand bookshops in search of her recommended reading list, and just a little tipsy!

      Well, I better get back to the risotto on the stove. Thanks to everyone involved in making the Food & Wine Bloggers Indaba so interesting, interactive, inspiring, encouraging and fun! I feel blessed to have discovered such a warm community. See you next year!

      Saturday, February 19, 2011

      Food Blogger Indaba 2011

      Tomorrow is the Food & Wine blogger's indaba, held in Noordhoek, with workshops & talks from talented & inspiring bloggers. Being relatively new to this scene, I can't wait to meet and mingle with such interesting folk - just check out the details here. Look forward to updating on how it goes...