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.