Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A few more Old South African Wines

Some more old stuff, all of which had been well cellared and were in relatively good condition.
  1. 1970 (something) KWV Cinsaut
  2. 1980 Landskroon Pinot Noir
  3. 1973 Alto Rouge Estate
  4. 1975 KWV Roodeberg
  5. 1978 KWV Cabernet Sauvignon
  6. 1973 KWV Cabernet Sauvignon
  7. 1971 Vergenoegd Cabernet Sauvignon
  8. 1989 Kanonkop Paul Sauer
I particularly enjoyed the Landskroon, the Kanonkop, the '78 KWV Cab but the stand out on the night for me was the '71 Vergenoegd that was very much alive, with rich blackcurrant and a luscious lingering finish.

The Leopard

The Leopard, a relaxed bistro-style establishment in Melville (Johannesburg), channels it's energy into the exquisite and interesting dishes that leave a surprisingly chilled out kitchen.  It's pretty much exactly what I'm looking for when I go out for a meal.  A menu that is exciting and original, staff that are attentive but not unnecessarily formal and most importantly food that is generous, packed with flavour and well prepared.   

Mozambican piri piri quail stuffed with macadamias and herbs

Mauritian seabass and Saldahna mussels in a chilli, ginger, cream and chardonnay sauce

A beautiful DIY Steak tartare
Taro-leaf masala roll-up that was served with tzatziki, apple-atchar, flatbread and smoked chicken

Andrea Burgener, the talented chef (and co-owner), has the ability of transforming ordinary into exceptional without overcomplicating.  It's all about the food at The Leopard and only the best seasonal and sustainable ingredients are good enough for this kitchen.  Make sure you visit them ASAP. 

Andrea has given us her NOT-GAZPACHO recipe, which she feels is more refreshing than the usual mushed up raw tomato classic.

Not-Gazpacho (serves 8 lucky people)

  1. 3 cucumbers, peeled and roughly chopped
  2. 4 avocados
  3. 2 green peppers, pips removed
  4. 1 and a half cups spring onion
  5. 4 tsp fresh ginger
  6. 3/4 cup lemon juice
  7. 6 tsp white sugar (or to taste)
  8. 1/2 cup chopped coriander
  9. 4 cups water (or enough to make a thick soup)
  10. 1 flat tsp salt (or to taste)
  11. 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  12. toasted sesame seeds
  13. full or double cream yoghurt
  • blend everything in batches until you have a smooth mix
  • adjust consistency with more water if needed and lastly adjust seasoning
  • unless ingredients are well chilled when blended chill for at least 2 hours  
  • serve some soup in a bowl, topped with a little yoghurt, a sprinkling of sesame seeds and a little black pepper

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Red Thai Curry with roast duck and litchi

  1. a good glug of vegetable oil
  2. 2 Tbsp red curry paste
  3. 1 tin of coconut milk
  4. 2 duck breasts, skin scored
  5. 1 tin of litchis, drained
  6. 4 small eggplants, chopped into quarters
  7. 2 tsp tamarind paste
  8. 5 lime leaves
  9. a little bit of palm sugar
  10. 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • rub a little salt onto duck skin, then place breasts skin side down in a dry pan
  • cook until the skin is golden and crisp, turn and seal the other side for a minute then pop in an oven at 200 C for 5 mins.
  • remove duck and set aside
  • in a pan heat oil then add curry paste and fry for 5 minutes
  • add the coconut milk, turn up the heat to bring to the boil, then allow to simmer for a few minutes
  • add fish sauce, tamarind paste and palm sugar
  • add eggplant and cook until done
  • add lime leaves, litchis and duck and turn heat down and leave for another 5 minutes just to allow everything to come together
  • serve with jasmine rice

Saturday, 26 October 2013

You can teach an old trout new tricks

My trout-skin bowls with fresh avo, grilled haloumi and pine nuts
Sorry, I'm having a bit of a thing with fish skins at the moment.
  • take 1 lightly-smoked trout fillet
  • fry for around 2 minutes, skin-side down in a pan with a little butter
  • pop under the grill after squeezing over a little lemon
  • keep fish warm after removing skin
  • sprinkle with a little salt both sides and pop skin back under the grill to crisp
  • take skin out and mould into a little ramekin
  • a great little side dish to trout and salad or whatever takes your fancy

Naughty cork

This little collection of relatively old South African wines provided a few surprises, some absolute (and probably expected) shockers and a huge amount of conversation.  The risk with cellaring wines is that by the time you surgically extricate pop the cork, the wine may have already crested it's particular 'hill', free-wheeled rapidly down the other side and settled into the harsh, but ultimately guaranteed, oblivion of vinegar and nothingness.

The wines tasted were:
  1. Nederburg Cabernet 1970
  2. Zonnebloem Cabernet 1970
  3. Backsberg Cabernet 1980
  4. Zonnebloem Merlot 1997
  5. Laborie Estate Blend 1980
  6. HC Collisen Cabernet 1983
  7. Backsberg Pinotage 1987
  8. Rustenberg Pinot Noir 1982
  9. Fairview Shiraz 1980
  10. Rust en Vrede Tinta Barocca 1987
  11. Glen Carlou Le Trois 1997
  12. Drostdy Hof Merlot 1998
  13. Fairview Cabernet 1979
  14. Bertrams Zinfandel 1980 (?)
  15. Bertrams Shiraz 1980 (?)
  16. Alto Estate Blend 1994
The 1987 Backsberg Pinotage was deep purple, full of fruit, well balanced and quite a surprise to the 12 tasters.

The Bertrams Zinfandel (from the early 80's) was complex with a lovely lingering finish.

The 1983 HC Collisen was the most impressive Cabernet, with lively blackcurrant.

The 1998 Drostdy Hof Merlot was possibly the most enjoyable, easy-drinking, uncomplicated and still quite young.

The 1982 Rustenberg Pinot Noir was highly drinkable with a great earthy nose and elegant fruit on the palate.

Lessons learned:
  1. Wines, including Cab's, don't always get better with age.
  2. Corks can be stubborn.
  3. Too much wine = headache.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

A spicy but fresh prawn salad

  1. a packet of prawns, peeled and de-veined
  2. half a tub of creme fraiche
  3. a little hot peri-peri sauce
  4. a few celery stalks, chopped
  5. salt and pepper to taste
  6. a handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped into quarters
  7. a few basil leaves, chopped
  8. 2 tsp turmeric
  9. a knob of butter
  10. a dash of lemon juice
  • season prawns in a bowl with salt, pepper and turmeric, shake to mix well
  • fry prawns quickly in a hot pan with butter and a little squeeze of lemon juice
  • drain prawns, retaining the liquid
  • mix creme fraiche with peri-peri, a bit at a time until you have the heat you're looking for
  • add celery, basil, prawns, tomatoes and a little of the retained prawn and turmeric liquid
  • mix well and serve

Monday, 30 September 2013

Kranskop Wine Estate - just a skip and hop from Robertson

I had a bottle of Kranskop a few years ago and remember it being a pleasant enough experience. More recently I attended a wine dinner at a Robertson restaurant (during the Slow Festival) and was treated once again to a taste of Kranskop.  Wine-maker Newald Marais has been in and around the industry for some time and after experiencing this dinner and also tasting a few of his other wines my ears perked up big time.  There's some special wines coming out of this cellar.
At the recent Michaelangelo awards they got gold for their 2012 Chardonnay and silver for their 2012 Viognier.  At the Terrior Wine Awards the 2012 Viognier and 2011 Noble Late Harvest bagged them 2 national awards and their Pinot Noir 2011 a regional award.  The 2012 Viognier also achieved a bronze at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show.  A great achievement!

The Noble Late Harvest is the one I've got my eye on - a sexy little number that is serious at the same time.           

Friday, 27 September 2013

Umhlanga's Oyster Box Hotel

The Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga, South Africa had a face lift (completed in 2009) that transformed it into a modern luxury property but managed to retain it's original character at the same time.

The Oyster Bar is one of my favourite places in Umhlanga for a peaceful drink and possibly a plate of oysters plucked from the Indian Ocean a few hundred metres away.  Quirky, modern and colonial, the combination of decor and design works extremely well.     

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Joita's - where chicken's go to achieve great things

The wonderful team at Joita's
Why did the chicken cross the road?  Ask this question around the world and there will be a number of different answers.  If it relates to Chartwell Drive in Umhlanga, on South Africa's East Coast, there is only one that fits.   

The chicken crossed Chartwell Drive hoping to reach Joita's, the 'Home of the authentic Portuguese chicken', the legendary eating house where chicken's can be the best they can be.  This small, family-run, out-of-the-way sort of place produces Portuguese meals that are consistent and seriously good.  My coriander mussel starter was heavenly with a hint of coriander and loads of flavour.  The chicken livers were great but it's really their Peri-Peri chicken that deserves the most praise.  In my humble and unbiased opinion it's about as good as Portuguese chicken can get.  Succulent, rich, crisp, with the perfect balance of heat and spice and the flavours you'd want from a worthy chicken. 

If you're in the area a visit to Joita's is an absolute must.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


Situated on the water in the Wilderness National Park area of South Africa's Garden Route, Serendipity Restaurant and Lodge provides 5 Star accommodation and food in a peaceful environment.  The word 'serendipity' is a tricky concept to translate.  Essentially it means a pleasant experience or incident that happens unexpectedly, like receiving a cheque from the taxman in the post.  The restaurant is relatively well known and chef Lizelle Stolze has a vast collection of awards and a wealth of knowledge on all things gastronomic, so stumbling upon this place accidentally would be seriously serendipitous.

To indulge in the 5 course menu is to embark on a culinary adventure through Lizelle's philosophy of creatively and elegantly showcasing South African food culture in a way that retains ingredient flavour and form.  Using both a refined technical ability and a powerful creative flair, she presents wonderful combinations and distinct flavours on the plate.  She seems to have a real knack for this and it shines brightest with her desserts.   

Beautiful oak-smoked Franshhoek trout

Kudu with luscious maize and mushroom risotto

Lizelle has given us 2 recipes that are well worth trying.
Pumpkin and maize risotto (serves 4)
  1. 400g Pumpkin, peeled & diced into 2cm cubes
  2. a dash of Balsamic & Olive Oil
  3. a sprinkling of cinnamon
  4. 1 onion, finely chopped
  5. 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  6. 50g butter
  7. 1 cup dry maize rice
  8. 100ml dry white wine
  9. 750ml vegetable stock (or chicken if not for vegetarians)
  10. salt & pepper
  11. 50g Parmesan, shaved with a peeler (keep some to sprinkle over when serving)
  12. 50ml Cream
  • prepare the vegetables & preheat the oven to 200º C
  • toss the pumpkin with a bit of Balsamic & olive oil
  • season with salt, pepper & Cinnamon
  • roast for 20 – 30 minutes, until cooked but not too soft (It must still hold its shape)
  • in a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter then add the onion & garlic and sauté until soft and starting to caramelise
  • add the maize rice & stir to mix the maize with the onions & butter
  • deglaze with the white wine, and when absorbed, add half the stock
  • stir, turn the heat to low & cover the pot
  • stir occasionally & when the stock is absorbed, add more, stir & cover again
  • when cooked (approximately 30 min), remove from the heat & stir in the cheese & cream
  • season to taste with salt & pepper and stir in the roasted pumpkin
  • serve as a Vegetarian main course on roasted large brown mushrooms, or as an accompaniment to roast chicken

Chocolate coffee mousse

  1. 250g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
  2. 150g mascarpone
  3. 80ml strong espresso coffee
  4. 1 tsp ground coffee
  5. 60g icing sugar
  6. 3 free-range eggs, whites only
  7. 4 Tbsp Whipped Cream, to serve
  8. ground coffee, to serve
  • melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, taking care that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water
  • remove from the heat and leave to cool for 2-3 minutes
  • beat the mascarpone with the coffee and icing sugar, until just combined. (If overbeaten, it will split)
  • in a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks
  • carefully, but quickly stir the mascarpone into the chocolate mixture then beat in a quarter of the whisked egg whites
  • fold in the remaining egg whites, being careful not to knock out all of the air, and spoon the mixture into cappuccino cups
  • place in the fridge for at least an hour to set
  • just before serving, top each cup with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of ground coffee

Monday, 9 September 2013

Perfect pea, garlic mushroom and feta frittata

  1. 4 eggs
  2. 1 onion, finely chopped
  3. 50g peas, thawed
  4. 100g mushrooms
  5. 2 tsp, chopped garlic
  6. knob of butter
  7. glug of oil
  8. 1 tsp origanum
  9. feta
  10. salt and pepper to taste
  • put mushrooms and garlic in a roasting dish, with the knob of butter and season with a bit of salt and pepper
  • gently fry the onion and origanum in a pan until soft, not browned
  • gently whisk 4 eggs in a bowl, then add the cooked onion mix, roasted mushrooms and garlic and peas
  • combine well
  • take a small, high sided frying pan, add oil and heat until smoking
  • add the egg mix and cook gently until it's almost set
  • pop under the grill for a few more minutes until browned and add a little feta on top for the last minute or 2

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Zinzi - a touch of class

I've visited Zinzi, situated between Plettenberg Bay and Knysna on South Africa's Garden Route, a few times over the last 5 years.  The interesting architecture and decor of the restaurant and the beautiful gardens and surrounding forest provide a unique and relaxed atmosphere that is elevated by great service and an imaginative menu.  I've always been impressed.  Last night I entered once again and had 2 courses that were exceptionally good.   

Duck liver with baked Parmesan marrow, brandy, pancetta and spinach sauce

Pork belly, honey-roast vegetables, apple and potato bake, creamy prune sauce

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Old things are more beautiful?

Old things are more beautiful
than many things brand new
because they bring fond memories
of things we used to do.
Old photographs in albums
love letters tied with lace
recapture those old feelings
that new ones can't replace.
Baby shoes, a teddy bear,
a ring that Grandma wore,
are treasures waiting there behind
a door marked "Nevermore".
Old things are more beautiful,
more precious day by day.
Because they are the flowers
we planted yesterday.
Author - Clay Harrison


Certainly old when it comes to South African wine, possibly dead, but definitely a gamble I'm willing to take. 

Friday, 16 August 2013

De Wetshof's way with Chardonnay

One of my many pre-booked activities for the recent Robertson Slow Festival was the Mystery Chardonnay tasting at De Wetshof.  This was my first visit to the estate and on driving up towards the beautifully impressive tasting room I wondered why.  These guys are one of the few 3rd generation operations in South Africa and have a reputation for producing exceptional Chard's.

Johann De Wet opened the huge solid doors for us and we entered a reception room that was warmed gingerly by a wood-fire and generously by a hospitality that you'd expect at a mates home.  We learnt about the variety of soils on the farm, from clay to rock, and how this is uniquely expressed through the wine.  We learnt about the importance of cellaring, enhancing the natural characteristics of the grapes but not being too pushy with wood.  Most of all we learnt about the families passion for their land and how it comes to life in each and every bottle.

I was blown away with the whole thing and that was before I encountered the 1993 Finesse. Eish!

Friday, 26 July 2013

The astonishing restaurant at Jordan Wine Estate

Jordan Restaurant, at the wine estate of the same name (just outside Stellenbosch) has raced to the top of my Western Cape dining experience list.  The relaxed, unpretentious vibe and busy open kitchen embraces you and very quickly you are part of what is a fantastic atmosphere.  A spectacular backdrop of big South African sky, vineyards and distant mountains provides added value but with the food and wine on offer, there's very little time for that sort of distraction.

The 4 course 'Menu du Jour' (which changes daily) sounded interesting but what arrived was sublime.  A demonstration of restrained and creative cooking with flavours and textures that all sang from the same song sheet.          

Jerusalem artichoke veloute and sage beurre noisette

(so good I didn't even have enough time to look at it, let alone take a photo)
Salt and sugar cured Springbok tartar, celeriac confit, hazelnuts, prune puree and smoked egg yolk

 Wood-fire roasted pork belly, white-bean cassoulet, charred onion salad and aromatic jus

   Honey and poppy-seed soufflé     


Um, yes please!

Food like this, matched with wines that have excelled at both the recent Decanter World Wine Awards and the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, is something that needs to be taken seriously.   

George Jardine, head/executive chef (aka the one who should be obeyed), was born into a family of chefs in Edinburgh.  His culinary talents led him to London where he worked under Jean Christophe Novelli.  A stint at the Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel in Cape Town and time at top restaurants in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and then Sydney have (in my opinion) given life to what is an imaginative cooking brain that is bursting at the seams.  George returned to Cape Town in 2006 and in 2009 the restaurant at Jordan opened with him and his brain standing in the kitchen. 

In an interview in 2011 George was asked what the most challenging part of his job was.  His reply was 'grumpy guests and people who, before they even sit down, have already made up their minds'.   

Well done Jordan, George and the whole team, my mind was made up 30 seconds after walking through your doors, you guys are superb.

George very kindly gave me the recipe for his luscious soufflé.

Honey and Poppy seed soufflé
  1. 500ml milk
  2. 6 egg yolks
  3. 200g sugar
  4. 80g flour
  5. 1 vanilla pod
  • in a sauce pan bring the milk and vanilla up to a boil
  • in a bowl combine the egg yolk, sugar and flour until well incorporated
  • pour over a 1/3 of the boiling milk, mix then combine all into the sauce pan and cook out for 10 minutes
  • the mix should thicken
  • once cooked pour onto a tray and allow to cool
To make the soufflé:

For each souffle you will measure:
  1. 50g of the base
  2. 100g egg white
  3. 50g sugar
  4. a tsp honey
  5. 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
  • whisk the egg whites with the sugar until firm peaks have been achieved
  • in a separate bowl combine the base, poppy-seeds and honey then fold in the egg whites
  • spoon this into well buttered soufflé dishes (we use 13cm diameter dishes), and bake at 180C for 10 minutes
  • serve immediately with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream

Banana Jam's 3 Day Beer Fest and NEW 30 Tap System

A press release from Craft Beer HQ (South Africa)

'The craft beer revolution is now in full force in Cape Town and to mark two years of pouring pints of local artisanal ales and lagers, Banana Jam Cafe – the headquarters of the revolution – is celebrating the only way they know how: by offering an even greater selection of beer!

For the past two years, the Harfield Village-based restaurant and bar has proudly poured the widest range of draught craft found anywhere in South Africa. This led to the decision of craft beer lover and owner of Banana Jam Café Greg Casey, two weeks ago, to up their output from 16 taps to 30 this July. The taps will feature more IPA, more stout, more local brews and more imports from world class breweries overseas.
Although the beer will continue to flow year-round, the new taps will open for the Massive Mini Beer Festival, a three-day event. The celebrations start on August 1st, International IPA (India Pale Ale) Day.  International Beer Day falls on August 2nd, when the festivities continue with a vast range of bottled beers from around the world. Beer lovers will find no less than 36 beers on tap on day three, thanks to a temporary six-line system set up on the restaurants popular outdoor deck.

Signed copies of African Brew, SA’s first dedicated beer book, will also be on sale. The book, published by Random House Struik, features 38 breweries and includes tasting notes, food pairing suggestions and troubleshooting tips.
Banana Jam has been at the forefront of the country’s craft beer scene since day one, with beer enthusiasts from across South Africa considering a trip to the Caribbean-themed restaurant a kind of pilgrimage. As well as local favourites like Devil’s Peak Brewing Company, Cape Brewing Company, Boston Breweries and Jack Black Beer, the taps regularly feature one-off beers from experimental brewers, ales from breweries around South Africa and unusual ales imported from overseas. Specialties to try on a winters evening are  a half-pint of Rogue Hazelnut Brown Ale – what Nutella would taste like if you turned it into a beer (available on tap exclusively at Banana Jam). There is also an extensive range of bottled beers from South Africa and beyond, including the extreme beers from Scotland’s renowned BrewDog brewery.

In the coming months expect more beers, more festivals, more beer-inspired cuisine and plenty of beer lovers on hand to convince the masses that craft is king at Head Quarters.'

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Altun Orda - something special if you happen to find yourself in Kashgar

Kashgar is an eye-opener of a city in China's North-west Xinjiang province.  With the vast majority of the population being Uigher and almost all of these strictly Muslim, it is poles apart from the rest of the country.  I was energised by the attitudes and ideals of the people, amazed at the way they manage to hold onto traditional life in a country that has become so passionately power hungry.  Don't get me wrong, I love China and found my 2 month journey to it's corners to be one of the most inspiring and exciting of my life.  China was absolutely fascinating for quite a few reasons but mainly because I could never predict what was going to happen next, even in pretty normal situations.  Whether it was the military-like early morning uniform inspection of the McDonald's staff outside it's Beijing airport branch, the elderly couple sitting next to you in the park all of a sudden jumping up and performing a 30 minute ballroom dance number or the woman at the back of the bus deciding it would be a good idea to shove orange peels up her nose to ward off motion sickness, entertainment was around every corner.

Kashgar and it's folk welcomed me with an honest smile and I felt that I really got to know the place.  The (weekly) Sunday or Livestock Market is a must see.  A short distance from the centre of town, people from all over the region arrive by car, truck, donkey-cart, bike and on foot and they bring with them every example of being that would fall into the livestock category.  Sheep lined up to show off their neatly trimmed backsides and an open area where you're able to take a donkey or camel for a test-drive, it's not your ordinary market.

The cuisine is also very different with an interesting mix of delicacies and cooking methods from the tribes of Central Asia.  I fell in love with the way they prepare their lamb and mutton, slow-cooked and tender with strong cumin and chilli flavours.  These great plates of food can be found on every corner but the highlight for me was a restaurant called Altun Orda, near the Seman Hotel.  Altun Orda or 'Golden Palace' lives up to it's name with an intensely ornate and golden interior.  The lamb kebabs were heavenly and for my wife the veggish spagesh gush siz (veg spaghetti without meat) was just as good, if you're into that sort of thing.  It's unbelievably reasonable with a menu that has a massive array of Uigher specialities and the traditional music from downstairs and the opulent surroundings provide a wonderful atmosphere for locals and tourists alike.        


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

IPA you beautiful thing

A little while ago I attended the Knysna Craft Beer project which showcased a few of the smaller, specialised, GREAT South African breweries and a huge range of styles of the wonderful liquid.  In my younger days I enjoyed a beer or 2, lured by pricing and the lifestyle and image promoted by certain gigantic beer companies.  These uncomplicated, weak and chemically enhanced beer examples were just what the doctor ordered for my pathetic teenage palate.  Something to fill a gap and to 'lighten the mood'.  With age and the wisdom (?) that followed I have been drawn to the grape and beer is something I now only occasionally indulge in.  When I do I want something with a bit of backbone; a strong brew that offers real and pure malt flavours.  The Indian Pale Ale (IPA) is an example of just this and has a style that has attracted me for quite a while.  Boston Breweries, in Cape Town, makes a great IPA, and this was the definite winner for me at the Knysna Festival.

IPA has a controversial and interesting history.  One train of thought is that it was originally created, with it's increased hop and alcohol content, to make sure it didn't spoil on it's journey to the British troops in India.  Another was that the increased hops was a vital component of beer to be consumed in the warmer climates.  Back in the day beers were dark and murky things.  With better understanding and control of the malting process brewers were able to produce a more pale variety and this was something different for the consumer.  Add higher hop levels, the notion that it was a beer that should be drunk in warmer conditions and give it a name like Indian Pale Ale and you've got a winner.  Whatever it's history, it's certainly a beer that has a future.             

Smoked salmon, courgette and basil risotto

Easy and delicious; with intensely rich but fresh flavours.  Lovely with a lightly wooded white.

  1. 1 onion, finely chopped
  2. same amount of finely chopped celery
  3. 2 tsp chopped garlic
  4. olive oil
  5. 500ml vegetable (or chicken) stock
  6. 300ml good white wine (the rest to hydrate the chef)
  7. 1 cup risotto rice
  8. 100g smoked salmon ribbons
  9. 2 medium sized courgettes, oven roasted until cooked but not soft
  10. a handful of basil, finely chopped
  11. a cup of grated Parmesan
  12. a squeeze of lemon
  13. a knob of butter
  • heat olive oil in a pan and add onion, celery and garlic, cooking slowly
  • when soft add rice and stir for around 3 mins until the rice starts to go a bit translucent
  • add the wine and stir
  • when the wine is no longer, add stock 1 ladel at a time, stirring well
  • continue for around 30 mins, until the rice is al dente
  • add 3/4 of the chopped courgette, 75g of chopped salmon, the butter, 3/4 of the Parmesan, the basil and a squeeze of lemon
  • stir well, pop the lid on and leave for 5 mins, off the heat
  • serve in bowls with a few pieces of courgette, a strip of salmon and a sprinkle of Parmesan over the top of each

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Beleza good

Cape Town has a huge variety of restaurants; catering to locals and tourists alike.  A number of the establishments are very good and well known, many necessitate meetings with financial advisors and then there are those you stumble upon by chance.  On the corner of Burnside and Kloof Nek Road (Tamboerskloof); Beleza falls into this 'hidden gem' category.

This little eatery has been in operation since 2006, producing simple and good food at reasonable prices.  The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed and there is service with a 'genuine' smile.  They have a large menu; with Italian and Portuguese seafood and meat specialities.  I eyed a couple of steaks leaving the kitchen and developed some serious food envy.  I had chosen the Mozambiquan Peri Peri Prawns and after tucking into a large portion of well cooked prawns in a sauce that had just the right amount of kick, I was more than happy.


The Vintage Clothing Store named 'Lembranças' (inside the restaurant) was something that even a shopaphobe like myself found interesting.  For those of you into that sort of thing and looking for beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces it's a great place to explore, have a coffee and maybe a bite to eat.  They kindly gave me their seafood curry recipe, a dish I had a little taste of and can also recommend.   

Madeiran seafood curry

  1. 2 Tbsp sunflower oil
  2. 1 medium onion, chopped
  3. 1 medium chilli, sliced
  4. 1 garlic clove, crushed
  5. 1 tsp ground cumin
  6. 1 tsp ground coriander
  7. 1 tsp turmeric
  8. 1 Tbsp garam masala
  9. 50ml cream
  10. 400g chopped tomatoes
  11. 5 medium raw prawns, deveined
  12. 5 mussels
  13. 1 medium calamari, sliced
  14. a small bunch of coriander, chopped
  • heat oil in a deep-sided frying pan and cook the onion until it starts to turn golden
  • add cumin, coriander, turmeric and garam masala and cook for a few mins
  • add the garlic and cook for a further minute, then add the tomatoes
  • season with salt and pepper and simmer for 5 mins, stirring until the sauce thickens
  • blitz this mix in a food processor, put back in the pan and add the prawns and mussels
  • as the prawns change colour, add the calamari and cook for another 5 mins
  • stir in the cream, add the fresh coriander and serve immediately

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Is wine good for you?

I recently stumbled upon a copy of a Wynboer (Wine Farming) magazine from 1979 which provided some fascinating reading. It was an issue specifically looking at Wine and Health, with numerous articles on the subject.

'Wine is the best medicine', a book published by a medical practitioner named Dr Maury, talks about the tremendously high success rates he's achieved through medicating his patients with high quality wine. 

Illness French Daily dosage
Allergies Medoc 1 glass
Diarrhoea Young Beaujolais 4 glasses
Fever Dry Champagne 1 bottle
Gout Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume 4 glasses
Menopause St. Emilion 4 glasses
Nervous depression Medoc Red 4 glasses
Weight loss Cote de Beaune 4 glasses
Weakness of the liver Dry Champagne 4 glasses

I find the Gout treatment regime of particular interest.

The work of an American researcher named Bogen, from 1933, equating levels of blood alcohol to behaviour is summarised in the table below:

Alcohol per 100ml blood Behaviour
0.03mg dull and dignified
0.05mg dashing and debonair
0.10mg dangerous and devilish
0.3mg disgusting and disorientated
0.4mg delirious and dishevelled
0.5mg drunk
0.6mg dead drunk
0.7mg dead 

Friday, 21 June 2013

Uniondale and the Kamanassie Mountains

Uniondale is a small Klein (Little) Karoo town that is certainly off the beaten track.  Most South Africans whizz by, possibly stopping for petrol, but most often paying little attention to a town and area that offers much more than just a quick glance in the rear-view mirror can offer.  For those of you from over our borders it's way off the tourist radar.

If you're a fan of the outdoors and enjoy a bit of piece and quiet this area is a must see.  The Kamanassie Road is around 10km's from town and there are plenty of comfortable places to spend the night.  I recently visited Lansrivier and stayed in one of their beautifully restored farm cottages.  There's plenty of adventure to be had during the day and at night the inside fireplace keeps the winter chill at bay.

We pretty much kept to ourselves during our time at Lansrivier, which is a relatively easy thing to do.  Our only visitors were a few inquisitive sheep.  To revisit humanity we decided to head into town on day 2 and stopped outside Cracklin Rosy, a little coffee-shop/restaurant that had an interesting look about it.  Their menu catered to all tastes, with burgers, toasted sandwiches, pizzas and freshly made cakes.  I decided to go for the Oxtail Potjie (stew) which delivered way more than I was expecting with great layers of flavour and tender meat.  A real win.  Susan, the owner, has given me a flop-proof chocolate sauce recipe.  Give it a go.

Chocolate Sauce

  1. 1 cup sugar
  2. 4 desert spoons cacao
  3. a half cup of boiling water
  4. 1 desert spoon butter
  5. a pinch of creme of tarter
  6. 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • boil sugar, cacao, water and creme of tarter together for 5 mins
  • make sure you keep stirring because this can boil over quickly
  • cool down and stir in vanilla
  • pour into a jar that seals tightly
  • this will keep for a few months in the fridge

The Knysna Oyster Festival

It's almost time again for the Garden Route and South Africa's premier Winter festival.  Ten days of outdoor pursuits and culinary adventures.  I will be participating in the Featherbed Trail Run, the Forest marathon, the road and mountain biking events attending the Wine Festival, the Taste of Knysna and the Craft Beer Project.  Stay tuned for highlights of the Oyster Festival. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Belfield wines - ding-dong

The little, family-operated wine estate of Belfield is located in the Elgin Valley, a beautiful area of the Western Cape, renowned for fruit farming and more recently great wine.  I first came across Belfield at the Hermanus Food and Wine Festival in 2012.  I had been getting up close and personal with the regions Sauvignon Blanc's and white blends and was dangerously close to becoming white wined out when I came across Mike Kreft, owner of Belfield.  We chatted for a while and I tasted his wines, expecting to be moderately impressed.  I was wrong.  Belfield has 4 red varietals planted on the estate – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz and from these they have created a Cab, a Shiraz and a blend, all of which are, in my opinion, fantastic.  A few nights ago I got my regular kitchen-itch and cooked up a rich green-bean, asparagus and pea risotto.  I needed something to help it down and decided the Belfield 2009 Syrah would be a good bet.  It was so good that I very nearly forgot all about my risotto. 

I got hold of Mike and asked him what exactly allows him to produce such wonderful red wine. 

"Regarding the terroir, I would say that the soil is a deep iron-stone gravel and is well drained.  The vineyards are on a gentle slope towards the north-east, which makes it a warm aspect.  The Merlot was sited on this same iron-stone, with a layer of clay at about a meter and a half, as Merlot likes to have it's roots in clay.  The Shiraz is in the rockiest area, which helps to reduce the vigour of this variety.  Of course there is the human element of terroir.  This covers the above ground care that we give the canopy in the growing season.  Here we focus on achieving a narrow, sun-friendly canopy.  The bunch-zone is cleaned of leaves at the end of December to enhance skin colour and fruitiness in the grapes.  This also has the effect of providing the vines with strong buds, which gives us a more even ripeness of the grapes at harvest.  Another huge plus when making premium wines."

Well let me tell you Mike and co. you are certainly doing something right.  The Shiraz is a wine that has finesse, a great balance of fruit and acidity that makes it a perfect partner to big flavoursome meals.  Instead of giving you my risotto recipe I chose rather to ask the powers that be at the farm and Mike's wife, Mel, was kind enough to give me one of the family favourites.

Smoked Paprika Beef Steaks
  1. 12 mini beef steaks
  2. 4 Tbsp flour for dusting the steaks
  3. 30 ml olive oil
  4. 10 twists of black pepper
  5. ¼ tsp fresh rosemary
  6. 2 bay leaves
  7. 5ml salt
  8. 1 beef stock cube dissolved in 250ml boiling water
  9. 125ml red or white wine
  10. 2 Tbsp smoked paprika
  11. 125ml sour cream
  12. 2 Tbsp capers
  13. Chopped parsley to garnish
  • dust the steaks with flour
  • heat oil in large pan and fry the steaks lightly
  • remove and pop in a casserole
  • peel and dice the onions and cook in the same pan until golden
  • add the pepper, rosemary, bay leaves and salt
  • add to the steak casserole, cover with the stock and wine and cook covered in a moderate oven for 1 ½ hours until meat is tender
  • remove the lid and add the paprika, cream, capers and parsley
  • serve with mashed potatoes or brown rice

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Smoked trout etc.

  1. 200g lightly smoked trout ribbons
  2. half a pineapple
  3. 1 ball of buffalo mozzarella
  4. a handful of fresh rocket
  5. extra-virgin olive oil
  6. 1 red chili
  7. black pepper
  • cut the pineapple into slices and pop under the grill for a few minutes each side, then allow to cool
  • discard the hard inner section of the pineapple and cut into small rectangles
  • cut the chili in half, remove the seeds and place in a small container covered with a good glug of olive oil
  • cut the trout into 10cm sections
  • to make the rolls, put a piece of trout on a board, then a bit of pineapple in the centre, then a little mozzarella and a rocket leaf across the top
  • pull each side of the trout over and overlap
  • drizzle a little chili oil over and sprinkle with pepper 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The easy Peri-Peri Prawn and Pineapple dish that packs a punch (serves 4)

  1. 800g large prawns
  2. half a pineapple
  3. a beer
  4. a handful of fresh basil
  5. 1 cup of jasmine rice
  6. half a cup of good Portuguese Peri-Peri marinade

  • prepare the prawns by removing the central 'vein', keeping the shells and heads on
  • do this by cutting through the upper shell, all the way down and into the tail and about half-way into the flesh of the prawn, then finding the vein and pulling it out
  • once all the prawns are prepared place onto a large baking tray and cover with the marinade
  • chop up the pineapple into bite-size chunks
  • rinse and chop the basil, leaving a quarter of the leaves intact
  • rinse and prepare the rice as instructed on the packet
  • pop the tray with prawns under a preheated grill, close to the bottom of the oven
  • watch carefully, making sure to turn prawns as they turn pink
  • when the prawns are done, put them in another dish at the bottom of the oven (to keep warm)
  • at the same time put the pineapple under the grill, close to the top of the oven, turning after a few minutes and removing when done
  • put the original prawn pan with left over marinade onto a hot plate on the oven
  • add to this most of a beer (taking into account the chef might need a little refreshment) and allow to reduce
  • after about 5 minutes, run the marinade/beer sauce through a sieve and into a warm bowl
  • once the rice is done, mix the basil in, and keep warm
  • put a little rice on each plate, then some prawns, a bit of grilled pineapple and a few fresh basil leaves

Edgebaston is no longer just the home of Warwickshire cricket

David Finlayson, winemaker of Edgebaston at the Finlayson Family Vineyards, is the latest of a bloodline of prominent movers and shakers in the SA wine industry.  A distinguished family heritage, formative training at Elsenburg and work experience in France, California and Australia have given him a unique and skilled approach to the art of making wine. 

The Chardonnay, for instance, a food wine with great fruit and subtle wood, is made up of fruit that is matured in New, 2nd fill and 3rd fill French oak, as well as a portion in concrete (Nomblot) eggs.  These are relatively new to the world of winemaking with the main benefit being the continuous flow of liquid, keeping fermentation temperatures constant and negating the need to fiddle with the wine.

Edgebaston's 'Rock Stars' are the Pepper Pot and the Berry Box red and white blends.  The Pepper Pot, my palate's particular favourite, is a complex and wonderfully balanced Rhone-style blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre, Grenache, Viognier, Cinsaut and Tannat.     

The Berry Box red, a Bordeaux style with a bit of Shiraz, seems incredibly popular, as is the Sauvignon Blanc dominated Berry Box white blend.  The Rock Stars are widely available and most importantly really good value for money. 

Something that David says will go well with his Chardonnay.

Tuna Carpaccio

  1. 400g sashimi-quality tuna (or yellowtail)
  2. 1 lemon
  3. freshly ground rainbow peppercorns
  4. a small handful of fresh coriander leaves
  5. a small handful of fresh red basil leaves
  6. 80 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • place the tuna in the freezer for 30 minutes until firm
  • using a very sharp knife, slice the tuna into paper-thin slices  
  • arrange the slices on a serving plate
  • squeeze the lemon over the fish and leave for 10-15 minutes (the fish will turn opaque)
  • sprinkle the fish with ground rainbow peppercorns to taste and garnish with coriander and basil leaves and drizzle with olive oil

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Apple, walnut and mature cheddar scones (makes 6)

  1. 1 cup flour
  2. 1 cup grated mature cheddar
  3. dash of cayenne
  4. 1 Tbsp baking powder
  5. a sprinkle of salt
  6. 1 egg
  7. milk
  8. 1 apple, skin removed and grated
  9. 10 walnuts, finely chopped
  • beat an egg in a 250ml cup and add milk to 3/4's full
  • mix all the ingredients until well combined
  • preheat the oven to 200 C
  • butter the baking dish (muffin pan) and divide the mixture into 6 hollows
  • cook for about 12 mins and eat immediately