Friday, 31 October 2014


I was recently given a few bottles of Riesling to test and the first thing that came into my mind was curry. Nice, rounded spice and preferably of Indian persuasion. This is what I came up with:

Prawn and vegetable curry


1) 800g prawns, peeled and de-veined
2) 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
3) small packet of brussel sprouts, cleaned and cut in half
4) 3 courgettes, sliced into 2cm discs
5) 1 can peeled tomatoes
6) salt and pepper to taste
7) 2 tsp hot curry powder
8) 2 tsp garlic, finely chopped
9) 2 tsp ginger, grated
10) 1 tsp chilli paste
11) 1 tsp turmeric
12) 2 tsp coriander, heated in a dry pan until fragrant
13) 1 tsp cumin seeds
14) a few curry leaves
15) butter
16) a glug of olive oil


- using a pestle and mortar, bash coriander and cumin seeds
- in a pan, heat oil and butter and add garlic, ginger, coriander/cumin mix, turmeric, chilli paste, curry leaves and curry powder
- fry gently for 5 mins
- pre-cook the vegetables, around 80% cooked, you don't want mushy veg
- add tomato to the pan and allow to bubble away for 15 mins
- sieve this curry/tomato mix, getting rid of curry leaves and seeds
- add the sieved curry mix back into a pan, check seasoning, adding a little salt and pepper and a touch more curry powder if needed
- add vegetables to the pan and allow to simmer for 10 mins
- add prawns and serve with dhal as soon as these are done, should only be 5 mins or so


Fish and butternut coconut curry


1) 1 onion, sliced
2) 600g firm, white fish, cut into bite size bits
3) 1 butternut, peeled and cut into chunks
4) 2 cans of coconut milk 
5) 2 tsp turmeric
6) 2 tsp garlic, finely chopped
7) 2 tsp ginger, grated
8) 1 tsp hot curry powder
9) 2 tsp garum masala
10) a handful of fresh coriander, leaves and stems separated
11) salt and pepper 
12) butter 
13) glug of olive oil


- pop butternut into a 180 C oven until almost done
- heat oil and butter in a pan and add onion
- sweat down a little and then add turmeric, ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander stems (finely chopped), curry powder, garum masala, salt and pepper and fry gently for 5 mins
- add all the coconut milk and simmer for 10 mins
- add butternut and simmer for a further 5 mins
- add fish and cook until done, around 5 mins
- serve with fresh coriander and a dhal

Simple Dhal


1) a knob of butter
2) 1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
3) 2 tsp turmeric
4) 1 cup red lentils
5) 2 cups water
6) generous sprinkle of salt


- heat butter and add salt, garlic, turmeric
- when the mix is bubbling away add the lentils and stir well
- add the water and turn up the heat
- just as it starts to boil, turn the heat down and allow to simmer, stirring well, for around 20 mins
- add more water if needed, you should end up with a relatively soft, creamy paste, but not a soup
- just before serving, add a little butter and stir in

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Pressure cooking in Southern Chile

A number of years ago, I not only got the opportunity to cook for a group of people in Torres del Paine National Park, in Southern Chile, but was also given the keys to a professional kitchen and restaurant. It was attached to the campsite we were staying in and because it was winter and pretty chilly (in Chile), it was closed.

I had around 30 hungry mouths to feed, mostly tourists (that had been hiking all day) but there were also a few local farmers, the owners of the campsite and some of their family members. The pressure was on. After purchasing a large salmon, some locally grown vegetables and a whole little lamb (not Mary's, I don't think) I got down to the task at hand. The restaurant had the most fantastic setting on a lake looking out onto the towering surrounding peaks and while the visitors enjoyed sundowners I slaved away in the kitchen. Well that's a bit of a lie. I was in heaven. The kitchen, which was open plan and part of the dining room, had the most fantastic grill, about 2 meters long, with varying levels and gadgets. There I stood, with the owner of the campsite, the farmer I bought the lamb from and the local butcher, preparing a meal and taking part in what seemed to be a compulsory lesson in drinking whisky and being a man in that part of the world. The meal seemed to be a success and I would love to say that it was an experience I will never forget but it seems that being a man in that part of the world involves a little too much whisky. Sadly the later stages of the evening became somewhat of a blur, although I do remember waltzing with the farmer at one point. 

I learnt 3 important things that evening:

1) I love cooking
2) Lamb tastes good
3) The saying should go - 'Africa and Southern Chile are not for sissies'

Mo and Rose and all things nice

Mo and Rose, on the Klaasvoogds Road, outside Robertson, is a feast for the eye and an extravaganza for the palate. A Boutique Guest House with beautiful gardens and a restaurant that has seriously impressed me on each of my 3 visits. With dishes like goat's cheese parcels served with beetroot carpaccio, fresh strawberries and a gooseberry vinaigrette, you won't go hopelessly in the wrong direction. Their meat creations are extraordinarily good and I can honestly say that I had my top ranking Eisbein, of all time, at this establishment. They seem to be great all rounders, performing equally as well with their delicate vegetarian starters as they do with their blockbuster meat options.
Eisbein heaven

Normally I don't harp on too much about service. If it's poor I'll just carry on and concentrate on the food; but here that's not something you'll need to worry about. The whole team, especially Byran, have impeccable attention to detail and I can't remember ever being looked after better.

A little advice from me to you if you've never visited the Robertson Wine Valley - go now! Time your visit with one of the very well organised festivals or explore the area when it's a bit more serene. Make a reservation at Mo and Rose, or even better, stay the night. Have a drink, investigate the gardens and then sit down to what I am certain will be a very memorable eating experience. Trust me. 


A touch of Italian passion in a corner of Northcliff, Johannesburg. Unpretentious but refined food; with bold, slap across the chin, flavours. The focaccia we nibbled on while contemplating the menu was perfection; a sign of a well managed pizza oven and the very good probability of great pizzas. The moreish stuffed calamari starter smothered in a rich and herby lemon curd sauce was enough to rev up the taste buds and then it was on to some well executed pasta dishes and finally, the knockout blow, the Veal Marsala and Limone, taking tenderness to new heights.

Shaxi - old school China

On the road between Dali and Lijiang, in China's Yunnan Province, lies the little town of Shaxi. Not so easy to get to, well off the tourist trail and out of the guide books, with a fairly rural setting, a lot of character and an almost ancient feel. That said, it's most probably changed quite a bit since our visit 7 years ago, and now more than likely has more hotels and restaurants, and maybe even a few vineyards or a Disney-size theme park. Maybe not?

We had travelled from Dali and after being dropped off at the market, on the outskirts of town, we wandered in, looking for somewhere to stay. There were a few options and our guesthouse (very loosely speaking) of choice was run by a friendly family of 4. All meals were with them, at the table in their open courtyard, and I even witnessed a cooking demonstration that was undertaken by father and son, in their best suits.
My turn to make lunch

The surrounding countryside was postcard material, bright yellow Canola, with a scattering of livestock and the occasional hothouse. People going about their daily duties, living a simple life, isolated from the colossus that is their country and any rush to modernity. A wonderful place to be a fly on the wall for a couple of days.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get

Sometimes, even when you simultaneously take on a few of your favourite things, you're not guaranteed to have the experience you were expecting. This, for a sensitive soul like myself, can be terribly upsetting. Especially on a night like tonight.

Let me simplify what happened; in a fairly particular order:

1. An IPA (that usually hits the spot).
2. A steak (from a trusted supplier) cooked rare, covered in my BEST blue cheese and vodka sauce.
3. A big South African Malbec.

Surely, with this sort of arrangement, there should be happiness, smiles and a little hopscotch, or at least some sort of energetic dance, but no, this was not the case. Flat beer, more gristle than you should ever have to stab a knife at and a flat, diluted and only slightly fruity wine. Poor to say the least; but that's way too much negativity.

Life is exactly like a box of chocolates. When you get the good one, enjoy it for what is, because your next is not guaranteed.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Half ton testis but no Free Willy - whale watching around the world

I have been a fan of the whale for as long as I can remember; their immense but restrained power, their journey, their underwater symphony.  They truly are the most magical of creatures and I have been fortunate enough to witness this magic on a few occasions. 

It's that time of the year again when South Africa's coastal waters are visited by these gentle giants seeking our warmer climates that are more suited to mating, calving and looking after young.  One of our best spots for watching this whale activity is Hermanus, a town just east of Cape Town that is about to celebrate it's annual Whale Festival.  The beauty of Hermanus is that you're able to wander along it's coastal walkway, eating an ice-cream and looking down on these wonderful animals. 

Another South African whale-watching hotspot is the Garden Route town of Plettenberg Bay, with well organised boat trips and plenty of opportunity of sightings from land, along the Robberg Nature Reserve and from one of it's beautiful beaches. You can even relax and enjoy the magnificence of these animals from a restaurant like The Lookout Deck or Enrico's.

If you're keen to get out on a bit more of an adventure, with plenty of whales (if you're there at this, the right time of the year), you can take on the Whale Trail.  A 5 day hike, that takes you into the heart of the De Hoop Nature Reserve, a very special part of this country.

Spot the whale tail
A few years ago we travelled through Argentina and spent a bit of time (when I could tear myself away from the steak) exploring the Valdes Peninsula, South America's most famous whale-watching location.  Argentinians seem to enjoy dressing tourists up like idiots (if the sock fits....) but their boat excursions out into the calm waters are absolutely fantastic.  We spent hours in amongst whales and their young and I must be honest, I'm not sure who was watching who.  The areas shoreline drops away steeply, which also provides great land-based viewing, and if you ever get the chance I highly recommend camping on one of these beaches.  I will never forget lying in a tent, falling asleep to the sounds of whales passing by, just metres away.

In Argentina I also discovered some amazing things about these creatures.  To keep you interested I will let you in on just 1 fact and 1 sad truth.  Southern Right Whales have testicles that each weigh in the region of 500kg.  That's a ton of testicles, which is far more than any other animal or whale currently calling earth home.  Southern Right's are docile by nature and because of this have been heavily targeted by whalers, leading to the species endangered status.  If only they could use their testis in some sort of defence manouevre.

A trip to Iceland, a while back, provided us with the opportunity of another whale-watching adventure with a difference.  We (again) were dressed to kill (and I'm sure you'll agree - I looked amazing), it was snowing and it seriously seemed as if the sea had something against us.  Putting aside the freezing conditions and waves of nausea, we ended up having a great time, with our first ever Minke sighting.  
We should feel priveleged to share our world with such a beautiful being.    
'Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace'
                           - Albert Schweitzer