Friday, 12 October 2012

Oudemuragie and a classic South African recipe

Oudemuragie is a working farm just outside De Rust (in South Africa's Klein Karoo); set against the backdrop of the impressive Swartberg Mountains.  The farm has a variety of self-catering houses, each fully equipped, and with wonderful views.  There's plenty to do with well marked walking trails across hilltops and along a shaded river.  If you're looking for a more laid back experience you're in luck.  The animals and normal farm activities provide plenty of entertainment and can be enjoyed from the comfort of your covered patio.

Maggie, the hostess and hardworking farmer, was kind enough to give me a Frikkadelle(meatball) recipe that she learnt from her Gran (who grew up in De Rust). 

  1. 500g lean beef mince
  2. 1 beefstock cube, mixed in half a cup of boiling water
  3. black pepper to taste
  4. 2 slices of white bread, soaked in milk
  5. 2 finely chopped carrots
  6. 1 finely chopped onion
  7. 1 egg
  8. 2 Tbsp chutney
  9. 1 Tbsp vinegar
  10. 1 tsp mustard powder
  11. 1 tsp paprika
  12. 1 tsp dried parsley
  13. cake flour
  14. 1 cup cream
  • mix everything together and form balls with the mix
  • roll meatballs in flour
  • arrange on a baking dish and pour cream over
  • cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 mins at 180 C
  • take the foil off and bake for another 15 mins
  • enjoy  

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Marilyn's 60's Diner - Storms River Village

A new little restaurant has arrived in the Tsitsikamma (on South Africa's Garden Route), in the quaint and rustic village of Storms River.  It's an American-styled roadside diner with Elvis and Marilyn pictures and music; and Cadillacs and Chevy's scattered around a retro interior that takes you back to a time of rock 'n' roll and bell-bottoms. 

There's quite a big menu with everything from salads to pastas and steaks to cakes.  The 'All American Burger', according to the owners, is the big hit, with a pure beef patty, cheddar cheese, bacon, mushrooms, onions and a special secret sauce, served with french fries. 

If you happen to be in their part of the world; stopping there is a must.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Spiced Calamari and Fish with a Kiwi and Carrot Salsa

  1. 300g firm fresh fish fillets, skin on
  2. 200g calamari steak
  3. 1 Tbsp chilli paste
  4. 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  5. 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  6. 1/2 tsp curry powder
  7. 1 tsp garam masala
  8. 1 cup fresh coriander
  9. oil
  10. 1/2 tin coconut milk
  11. 2 carrots, julienned
  12. 1 kiwi, chopped into thin, 1/2 moon wedges
  13. a little cucumber, cut into thin wedges
  14. salt and pepper
  15. juice of 1 lemon

Garam Masala Fish:
  • in a pan, heat a little oil, then add garlic, ginger and curry powder
  • fry for 2 mins, then add the coconut milk and reduce
  • add fish and allow to simmer gently, for 10 mins
  • just before serving, add garam masala and chopped coriander
Chilli Calamari Steaks:
  1. score diagonally and marinade the calamari in chilli paste for 1 hour
  2. heat oil in a pan, add the calamari and fry quickly each side, seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice
  • mix kiwi, cucumber, carrots and coriander
Serve together and enjoy!

The Cape Dune Molerat Trail

In the Wilderness National Park, between the towns of Sedgefield and Wilderness on South Africa's Garden Route, this 8km hike takes in the relatively unspoilt landscape of Swartvlei and Rondevlei.  The walk takes around 2 hours depending on what you do along the way and should be done early or late in the day, as it can get really hot.  It's name reflects the fact that there must be a few million of these creatures in the area; if their mounds and burrows are anything to go by.  We only came across one and he was completely harmless; think more cute guinea-pig than dirty rat.  The trail can be tricky, with the ground collapsing unexpectedly every now and then because of the extensive underground rodent excavation.  Hiking boots are therefore a good idea. 


Seeing this little critter reminded me of the Ecuadorian dish of 'Cuy', or spit-roasted guinea-pig.  I had a smallish taste in Banos (Southern Ecuador) but unfortunately the memory of my first pet tainted the whole experience.  I don't think that there's any risk of spit-roasted Cape Dune Molerat making inroads in the international culinary scene.      

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Retreat at Groenfontein

If you feel like getting away a bit but would prefer to be spoilt with someone else doing the cooking and cleaning, this is the place for you.  The Retreat is not far from Calitzdorp (East and inland of Cape Town) and is tucked away below beautiful mountains and lots of big blue Karoo sky.  There are a few types of accommodation options.  Our room had a fireplace, which in winter is a bit of a must, and we had great views of the landscape from our private patio.  Their rates are dinner, bed and breakfast and the traditional farm style meals are served at the main house.  All guests sit at one table, which can be a good or bad thing, but if you like that sort of communal atmosphere you'll be very happy.  Grant and Marie (owners/hosts) will make sure of exactly that.   

The place does a good job when it comes to comfort and hospitality but the real attraction for me are the easy but worthwhile trails that explore all corners of the property and offer a great window into the wonders of the surrounding area.  You can't help feeling that you're in the middle of nowhere but somewhere very special. 

The Retreat

Great, easy trails

Marie's Snoek Mousse

  1. 500g smoked snoek (or any smoked fish)
  2. 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  3. 1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
  4. 150ml thick cream
  5. 1/2 cup mayo
  6. 12 and a half ml gelatine dissolved in 1 cup hot water
  • make sure you carefully debone the fish
  • flake fish and mix with all above
  • put into a big mold or a couple of smaller ones
  • freeze if not needed immediately
  • serve with some bread or biscuits and a nice crisp salad


Monday, 16 July 2012

Summerhill Chenin

Chenin Blanc has come out of the shadows and assumed it's rightful place as one of the most respected and celebrated white varietals.  South African chenin's are some of the best in the world and with a diverse terroir and some innovative wine making practices we are starting to see a wide range of product on the shelves. 

The tiny 15 hectare estate of Summerhill, between Stellenbosch and Paarl, in South Africa's most well known wine region, is making some wonderful Chenin.  They only produce 800 cases a year and the resulting wine is easy drinking, good value and lovely with food.

Charles Hunting (Mr Summerhill) has given me a recipe that he feels will work well with his Chenin.

Braai Bread  

  1. Hot English mustard
  2. Wholegrain mustard
  3. 1 onion
  4. a pack of white mushrooms
  5. a pack of Mozzarella
  6. a pack of streaky bacon
  7. hard crust loaf of bread
  8. 3 rump steaks
  • fry up steaks, bacon, mushrooms and onions
  • hollow out the bread
  • allow the meat to cool
  • fill the bread with one a half steaks (eat the other half)
  • smear both mustards over the steak, then add bacon

  • layer Mozzarella on top, then the fried mushrooms and onions

  • add the other steak, squish some mustard on top and then a final layer of cheese before putting the cut out bread lid back on top
  • cover with baking paper and then close tightly in tinfoil
  • put a weight on top, like a heavy granite board

  • leave for about 4 hours
  • slice and enjoy with a glass of Chenin

Recipe and Photo's courtesy of Charles Hunting

The Harkerville Coastal Trail - not just a walk in the park

The Harkerville Coastal Trail is a tough 2 day walk that cuts through forest and then along a section of beautiful coastline, between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, on South Africa's famous Garden Route.  The trail is an adventure that should only be undertaken by those who aren't afraid of  negotiating sheer drops, slippery rock faces and the occasional ladder and chain.  If you're not good with heights - STAY AWAY.  The rewards for those who take on the challenge are plentiful with pristine forest, colourful clifftops and a wild and untamed coast.  Take a look at the SANPARKS Website for more details.       

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Cirali - a Turkish gem

The unfortunate truth about a coastline of turquoise waters, beautiful beaches, historical sites and great dining is that you're more than likely going to be scrumming for space with hoards of others.  Especially in a country like Turkey, with a great tourist network and friendly locals.  That said, Turkey's southern coast is still worth a look.  It's a bit more affordable than the rest of 'The Med' and there are a few places that have managed to weather the tourism storm and hold onto a bit of real character.

The pebble beach looking towards the ruins of Olympos
One such spot is Cirali, around and hour and a half west of Antalya.  If you've got a car it's easy enough to reach.  Using public transport, like I did, makes it a bit more challenging.  My wife and I had caught one of the many, very comfortable, overnight buses from Cappadocia, arriving in Antalya early in the morning.  We hopped straight onto a knee-bruising Dolmus (local minibus) and headed west for a while, before being dropped off roadside, at the Cirali sign.  The village, and all the accommodation, is about 8km down the mountain side.  Taxi's wait in anticipation like circling vultures but the fare for the short trip down is ridiculous, and not something I was going to endorse.  We started walking and the first car to get to us, a construction vehicle, responded and gave us a lift.  So, easy if you're driving, a bit trickier otherwise, but the good thing is that places that are a bit more difficult to get to are often something special.  Cirali is just that.  There are a huge variety of accommodation options, from down to earth wooden huts to well polished lodges.  There is a picturesque pebble beach peered down upon by a towering mountain landscape.  The ruins of Olympos are a short walk away and if you're more serious about your hiking there are plenty of options along the Lycian Way.  We spent a great day exploring the mountains, making our way up to the village of Ulupinar with it's waterfall trout restaurants - you really have to see them to appreciate what I mean.  After lunch we headed back along a different route that took us down passed the eternal flames of Chimera, a hillside of natural gas and flame.  There are full-day boat trips that are without doubt the best and most leisurely way to take in the coast.  Food options are largely focused around the fresh seafood but I had the best Gozleme (Turkish pancake) at a little place here as well.  The savoury options are super but the banana and chocolate pancake is heavenly.  One of our favourite things to do was to walk the 1 hour loop around town that takes you through the real heart of the village. Kids playing in gardens, fruit and vegetable plantations and fisherman along the water.         
The ruins of Olympos

The outskirts of Ulupinar
One of the many beautiful coves of the coast
The local mosque

Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Ultimate Adana Kebab

I had these little beauties all over Turkey.  My favourite was prepared by the chef at Hotel Villa Monte, in Cirali, on the South Coast.

  1. 400g lamb neck/steak with a little fat
  2. 300g veal
  3. a bit of olive oil
  4. 2 Tbsp butter
  5. 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  6. 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
  7. 1/2 Tbsp dried chilli flakes
  8. 1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
  9. 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  10. 1 tsp lemon juice
  11. salt and pepper
  • cut both lamb and veal nice and fine to form a mince and add butter
  • add onion and all spices and mix well
  • cover and leave in the fridge overnight
  • take some skewers and mould the mince along, so that you have a thickness of around 5cm
  • grill them over a fire or on a griddle pan
  • serve with rice, yoghurt, some grilled tomato and green chillies

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Walking in Cappadoccia

One of Turkey's absolute must see attractions is the volcanic landscape of Cappadocia; a magnificent chunk of earth carved over time by wind and water into folds, chimneys, caves and clefts.  The most popular way to see this geological wonder is to pay for a fairly pricey spot on one of the many hot air balloons that fill the sky each morning.  This birds-eye view is certainly great, but to really embrace and understand the place one should don a pair of hiking boots and explore on foot. 

There are plenty of valleys and a great deal to discover if you're keen for an adventure and have the time.  My 2 favourites walks are centred around the town of Goreme, which in my opinion is also the place to base yourself when in the area.

The first walk begins at the Zelve Open Air Museum (ZOAM) and ends on the road above the Goreme Open Air Museum.  I takes anything from a few hours, if you rush, to a whole day, if you smell the roses.  Catch a dolmus (minibus) or taxi to ZOAM and then head back towards Goreme, along a dirt track on the left of the road.  This takes you to Pasabagi, or Monk's Valley, where you should explore a bit and then make your way up the hill where most of the tour groups stand and look down over the valley.  Once on top, do an about turn, so that Pasabagi is behind you, and find a path that leads down the hill.  Walk for around half an hour and you'll end up in the new part of Cavusin.  Follow your nose, or ask a local, and make your way up to the old and really interesting part of town that was literally cut into a rocky mountainside and inhabited until not so long ago.  Ask someone to point out the way to the red and rose valleys and head out of town.  If you need to refuel, stop at the little restaurant on the left and have a bite to eat.  Walk along the dirt trail away from Cavusin and take the second turning left, hopefully signposted 'Rose Valley'.  This path takes you up into the beautiful valley, which is second from the left if you stand facing the mountains ahead.  Continue for quite some time along this trail, through a few archways and finally the path will start taking a right turn up the side of the valley.  Continue up this fairly steep path and at the top enjoy a really spectacular view.  Head down into the Red Valley, stopping at the Hacli (White) Church on the way.  You end up on the valley floor where you can follow the path out.  At a main junction, with a larger dirt road cutting across in front and a few little stalls selling souvenirs and drinks, take a left turn.  You are now in the Meskender Valley, quite long, leading you back towards Goreme.  Follow the dry river bed, under arches and then up to a campsite and road.  Turn right on the road and walk down the hill to the Goreme Open Air Museum.   


The second walk takes in the famous Love (or Honey) Valley.  Walk out of Goreme into and through the Pigeon Valley, towards Uchisar.  In no time at all, you'll find yourself looking up at a few stalls and a viewpoint above.  Take any one of a number of tracks up to the road above.  Cross over this road, turn left and walk a few minutes towards Uchisar until you see a track down to the right.  Follow this into the little valley and then up the other side.  You'll now be up on a ridge and ahead of you will be a path that leads away from Uchisar and down into the Love Valley.  Here you will normally have someone point you in the right direction.  This sandy track is a bit steep, so take care, but soon you'll find yourself at the floor of the valley, and the dry river bed.  Make your way along this, through the wonderful scenery and huge fairy chimneys until you reach a little stall and a dirt road.  This road will take you to a tarred one which you should turn right onto and after 50m or so, you'll be at the main road connecting Avanos and Goreme (to your right).  Flag down a passing bus or walk along the road into Goreme.  



Monday, 11 June 2012

Istanbul's best restaurants

Istanbul is a massive, hyperacitve metropolis; sprawling out across the ends of both Europe and Asia.  It's a social and cultural melting pot that in places holds on tightly to it's traditions but seems at the same time to be modernising before your eyes.  A great way, in my opinion, to appreciate the tussle between old, new, east and west is to get stuck into the abundance of markets and variety of food available.

I found it to be a truly inspiring culinary destination but only if you're able to ignore the aggressive and pushy vendors that almost engage in a tug of war with opposing restaurants to get customers seated at their tables.  Below is a list of my favourite Istanbul establishments.

Namli Gurme, in Karakoy, was tops in my books.  It's a delicatessen that looks after locals and tourists alike and was a breath of fresh air when it comes to genuine service.  They have a counter where you order what you want, whether it be a bubbling stew, some freshly cooked meatballs or a mix of their excellent salad and veggie dishes.  This along with great coffee's and excellent desserts makes this place something very special.

Ciya Sofrasi, in Kadikoy, on the Asian side, does everything really well.  It's definitely a little touristy, because of numerous international reviews and a good Trip Advisor following, but it has original and pretty good food.  The butternut (or pumpkin) dessert is reason enough to make the trip. 

Kurufasilyeci Erzincanli Ali Baba, just outside the Suleymaniye Mosque, has been making the same mildly spicy tomato bean dish since 1924 and why change when you're onto something good.  They seemed to be seriously popular and their famous dish was wholesome and big on flavour. 

An absolute must, for any visitor is to sit at one of the multitude of restaurants on the lower level of the Galata Bridge.  They all seemed to do the same thing, and the food was decent enough, but the sight of fishermen dangling rods from the road above and the occasional fish being raised up, is really something worth seeing. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Africa Cafe

Even though Cape Town has recently appeared on the world's most violent cities list it remains an incredibly popular tourist attraction. It's not surprising then, I suppose, that quite a few of its restaurants aim to pull in as many of the hoards of visitors as possible. Sadly a lot of these establishments fall short when it comes to great food and service; relying purely on the never-ending supply of passing feet and hungry mouths.

Africa Cafe, slap bang in the middle of Cape Town’s City Bowl, in Buitengracht Street, is an eatery that promises to promote the flavours of Africa. They certainly do this, with interesting and flavoursome dishes, but more than this they manage to turn an experience that could be horrendously cheesy into something that is fun, relaxed and full of the true soul of Africa.

They have an a’ la carte menu for the less adventurous but the way to really make the most of their fare is to order the communal feast, a selection of 13 delicious dishes. From the Grilled Mozambican Piri-Piri Sardines to the Ethiopian Springbok Sik Sik Wat, the food takes your tastebuds on a rollercoaster ride through the essence of African cuisine. If I wasn’t impressed enough at this stage, I found out that they even do a Raw Feast menu, again with 13 super dishes, for vegans and those with gluten or lactose intolerance. They currently have their summer menu with things like a Botswana Lamb Masala and an Algerian Sweet Potato and Apple Bake.

Certainly worth a stop for anyone visiting Cape Town.