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Myrna Robins

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FIELD GUIDE TO WILD FLOWERS OF SOUTH AFRICA by John Manning, Struik Nature, 2019

FIELD GUIDE TO FYNBOS by John Manning, published by Struik Nature, 2018.

Invaluable and beautiful, these substantial paperbacks are both new editions, fully updated by author John Manning, an internationally respected botanist at the SA National Biodiversity Institute in Cape Town. He is also renowned for his botanical illustrations and flower photographs, many of which feature in both titles. Manning is a world authority on the Iris and Hyacinth families, has written and co-authored several other books on South African flora and is the recipient of several awards in recognition of his work.

He appears on the back cover of both books, against different floral backgrounds, along with his dachshunds adding a human and canine touch to the galleries of magnificent flowering species within the covers.

 

Field Guide to Wild Flowers of South Africa

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The title presents nearly 500 pages of more than 1,100 flower species, and focuses on the more common, conspicuous and showy plants found in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. The text opens with an introduction covering diversity patterns, floral regions and vegetation types. with a key to identifying plant groups.

The preface points out that around 20 000 wild flowers are indigenous to the region, along with grasses, sedges, reeds and rushes with insignificant flowers and no single book can attempt to cover even a small percentage of all these. Those that have been included are all carefully described, for easier identification, along with their scientific details.

Each entry is accompanied by its botanical name, common names, its family, genus and species a clear colour photograph, a distribution map and a key to the plant’s flowering season.

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Advice on how to use this guide to the best advantage makes important reading for any new enthusiast to the fascinating hobby of identifying what they find on hikes.  First find the right group, where plants have been divided into three categories, then consult the pictorial guide to wild flower families, then turn to the page where the relevant family is listed in the main body.

The entries for the 10 groups of flowering plants form the main body of the text, followed by a glossary of terms, further reading list and a detailed index of scientific names.

 

Field guide to Fynbos

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Another new edition, updating the original best-seller published in 2007, this one updated to reflect recent findings and taxonomy. More than 1 000 species are described,

The introduction identifies fynbos, offers a history of this unique and extraordinary African flora, defines it and describes its distribution. Its diversity, adaptations, reliance on fire, pollination and conservation.  There’ a guide to family groups, useful when accessing the entries which are arranged by these eight groups under which the entries are organised.

Each lists the scientific and common name, offers comparisons with  similar species, traditional uses, distribution map and key to flowering season, The captivating clear, colour photographs were taken by the author or by Colin Paterson-Jones, another renowned natural history photographer and writer. A detailed index of scientific names and glossary of terms completes the text.

 

To conclude, these two indispensable treasure chests of information for botanists and amateurs  are each packed into handy-sized formats where no square centimetre of paper is wasted!

Endpapers are used to illustrate flower parts and leaf shapes to complement the glossaries, while the edge of the back cover can be used as as a 20cm ruler to measure your floral finds.

 

Some fynbos beauties:

 

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Mimetes hottentoticus on Kogelberg peak

 

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Aspalathus costulata

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Muraltie spinosa

 

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THE WOMAN IN THE BLUE CLOAK by Deon Meyer, published by Hodder & Stoughton, UK, 2018.

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As usual, diverse strands of a necklace are  interwoven in Meyer’s impressive yet almost nonchalant way, as readers get caught up in a tale that strides across centuries and continents with consummate ease.

A woman’s body is discovered, naked and washed with bleach, on a rocky ledge at the top of Sir Lowry’s pass, on route to Elgin and the Overberg.

Detective Captain Benny Griessel is focussed on buying an engagement ring for his singing star friend Alexa, and wondering how he is going to pay for it.

In Holland a young man is fleeing from would-be captors as he runs through the night toward Rotterdam, then diverts to head to Delft....

Back in Cape Town the dead woman is identified, and Detectives Benny Griessel and his partner Cupido are on the case, wondering why a foreign visitor, who had been in the country just one day, was the murderer’s victim, and why she had wanted to go to Villiersdorp, a dorp near Elgin, that was not on the usual tourist trail.

Readers are taken to London to find out that the victim, Alicia Lewis,  was an expert in classical and antique art, who worked for an art loss register that searched for and recovered stolen art.

A painting now takes centre stage, a portrait of a woman, naked except for a blue cloak, attributed to Rembrandt ‘s star pupil Fabritius, and painted in Amsterdam in 1654. The woman was Rembrandt’s mistress and the painting had arrived at the Cape soon after where it ended up being sold to a member of the Van Reenen family who lived at that time in  Papenboom in Newlands. It was traced to a family descendant farming in the Villiersdorp district.

Of course Benny and Cupido get their man, an unlikely murderer, and it seems as if Alexa is going to receive a beautiful diamond ring from her lover, so all ends reasonably well, as things do in real life.

As always, the conversations between our much-loved detective Benny, and his partner Cupido, along with the action that moves across the city to the Cape winelands are realistic, accurate and convincing. 

Afrikaans fans got their dose of Griessel and co for Christmas, English addicts had to wait a little longer but both raced through this 140-page novella, finishing with appreciation and just one complaint. “It’s so short – hope the next one is back to normal. “

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THE LAST HURRAH by Graham Viney published by Jonathan Ball Publishers, Cape Town, 2018.

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A whopping 386-page softback that embraces not just three extraordinary months in 1947, but an overview of South African politics at that time. It is a very readable work of history, in which the reader can follow the progress of the White Train as the British Royal family travelled 11 172km across the country and also absorb enjoy the social life and febrile politics of the day, which Viney weaves skilfully into the royal stops.

Just how far, long and deep Viney travelled to dig into sources on three continents can be gleaned from the list on pages 364-372. Also worth reading are the pages of acknowledgements: it cheered me to see the list of libraries and archives in this country that have not fallen foul of any ‘must fall’ protests, and continue their precious roles of keeping safe our written and photographic records of the past centuries. And then there are all the senior citizens, from Cape Town to Pretoria who shared their memories of the royal visit with the author.

The black and white photographs add much to the reader’s enjoyment – many gleaned from libraries such as Transnet Heritage, others from newsreels and there’s an inset of colour shots in the book’s centre. Some have not been published before, others bring back memories of those seen in South African newspapers and cinemas.

Viney opens with an introduction on his tale “of long ago”, featuring a crowd of players that have mostly left the stage with the exception of Queen Elizabeth II. The South Africa in which the scene is set has also gone, but this book attempts, the author tells us, to place the royal tour in its post-war context of the history of South Africa and the Commonwealth.

The southeast gale  blew itself out on the evening of February 16, 1947, much to the relief of Cape Town organisers, whether at the docks, the Westbrooke garden party, the mountain floodlighting and fireworks – so that the HMS Vanguard sailed into a calm Table Bay to the newly completed Duncan Dock, its bugles sounding out across the water. Thus does the author set the scene for an account of an exhaustive and exhausting journey, during which the crowds, white, brown and black, flowed like a great tide to the events, to the roadside, to the railway line, in cities, villages, and deep rural regions, to catch a glimpse of the royal family.

(This was despite National party politicians playing down the importance of the tour, and Indian and black activists also advising against their followers joining the throngs to welcome the visitors)

The chapter headings lead readers north from Cape Town, across the Karoo to Bloemfotnein, on to Durban, then to the old Transvaal, with time in Pretoria and a shorter, but packed programme in Johannesburg. Special chapters are given to two teatime gatherings – one with Ouma Smuts in Irene and the other at Vergelegen at Somerset West which is worth chuckling over... Princess Elizabeth’s coming of age and speech to the Commonwealth reminds readers of the promise of dedication to service that she has so diligently lived up to.

As Rian Malan expresses succinctly “Viney’s South Africa is a country most of us will barely recognise, teetering on the brink of convulsive change and yet almost united, at least for a moment, by love for a king and queen who wen’t really ours.” It certainly managed to unearth memories of a small child, in butcher blue Rustenburg school uniform, standing on the edge of De Waal drive in scorching February sun, waiting for the royal Daimler to pass. Some of my kindergarten fellow pupils fainted in the heat, I just got redder and hotter but remember that at last the open car drove past, allowing a glimpse of the Queen’s hat and her wave...

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SHAKEN: Drinking with James Bond & Ian Fleming, published by the  Octopus Publishing Group, 2018.

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The  stylish black and gold covers of this hardback tell readers that this is 007 The Official Cocktail Book. They also reveal that extracts from Ian Fleming’s books accompany the stories behind the James Bond drinks – ranging from 10 classic cocktails to new creations that pay tribute to the people, places and plots of the 007 series.

The concept is clever and it’s well executed: Fleming wove legends around items from cars to clothes, from travel and particularly to drink, be it vodka or brandy, gin or vermouth, champagne or whisky.

Two years ago Edmund Weil, who is related to Ian Fleming, and his wife Rosie teamed up with talented mixologists Bobby Hiddleston and Mia Johansson to open Bar Swift in Soho.  The Weils, who are renowned in the London hospitality industry and their partners have seen their venture fizz into a Soho hot spot , winning several awards.

Every cocktail has a story to tell, reflecting Fleming’s vivid imagination: these are reproduced here following each. The drinks are grouped into the following categories: Straight Up, On the Rocks, Tall, Fizzy, Exotic.

After a brief practical guide to bar essentials, including recipes for syrups and sherbets, we turn the page to Bond’s dry martini. The recipe is followed by extracts from Bond novels dealing with this classic.  Next up is Pussy Galore, a cocktail with roots in Manhattan and enough ingredients to make your head whirl: Bourbon, red vermouth, white  maraschino, Angostura bitters and crème de menthe are stirred and garnished with edible snowflakes. The Refresher, suggested as a replacement for dessert, combines dark rum and fresh coffee with coffee liqueur and hazelnut orgeat.

Fast cars, especially the Aston Martin, inspired the Supercharger, a sleek twist of a cocktail made from vodka, cold-brewed coffee, vanilla  and ginger liqueurs, finished with double cream. And to add a note of romance, A Whisper of Love pays tribute to the poignancy of love and loss which “marked the lives of both Fleming and his hero.” Premium cognac is stirred with campari, crème de mure (blackberry liqueur) and parfait amour which add floral and berry notes. The addition of red vermouth and the campari add astringency, turning the drink deep red.

Not all the drinks are lethal – with the trend toward Oriental fare blooming, Tiger Tanaka makes a warming brew imbued with the delicate flavours of Japan: Japanese whisky and sake are stirred with coconut palm sugar syrup and boiling water infused with a flowering jasmine tea ball. The drink is garnished with makrut lime leaves.

Clear colour photographs of each cocktail add much to the attraction of the recipes.

Fleming and his fictional counterpart James Bond have become synonymous with style, glamour and thrilling tales. This collection of cocktail recipes and 007 stories will make a popular gift for both Bond fans and contemporary and trad cocktail enthusiasts

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WHOLE – Bowl Food for Balance by Melissa Delport. Published by Struik Lifestyle, 2018.

 

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It’s a whole new way of eating – for Occidentals, that is, while in the East Buddhists (and many others) combine diverse ingredients in bowls to make balanced meals as a matter of course.

Melissa Delport is a Cape Town-based food photographer and blogger. Having learnt to cook at an early age Melissa moved on and after a period of fad dieting discovered her path to health and well- being . Mindful consumption became an integral part of her food philosophy . Wanting to share her culinary knowledge and way of eating with others which formed the germ of this book, her first .

The title stems from Buddha bowls which contain nourishment in the form of grains, vegetables, a healthy fat, a protein and a bunch of greens.

In her introduction Delport discusses her philosophy which can be summed up as 'Eat real food, mostly plants, but not too much'. She aims at reaching umami, or yummy fare using many ingredients, but focussing on the importance of grains, beans and pulses as base food. She urges readers to shop at farmers’ markets, avoid GMO foods and items that are not free-range.

Starting with breakfast fare, there are recipes for bowls ranging from smoothies to oats, from chia seeds to Turkish poached eggs on quinoa with yoghurt and avo, baby spinach, goats cheese and more… Her avo hash has a long list of ingredients, is sustaining enough to take one through to supper

Salad bowls present some appetising combos – fig and goats cheese, salmon and edamame beans, courgettes and salmon, tomato and lentil. Many other ingredients also make the cut, adding spice, flavour, texture, crunch and dressings. Soups present an interesting selection: even in the popular classics like roasted tomato and red pepper she adds her own touch, Good use is made of coconut milk along with vegetable stock.

Bowing to the present trend of resurrecting ancient grains, a colourful collection of salads, poultry and meat one-dish creations feature quinoa, barley, millet, spelt, freekah, brown rice as well as a host of veggies and pulses.

Home bowls are comfort food , robust, several one-pot wonders while others require more time and attention, Oodles of Noodles is self-explanatory, the recipes in this chapter occasionally use wheat noodles, many more are made from other flours and grains. In the chapter on Table Bowls entertaining is the objective, sharing bowls that are made up of side dishes, dips, starters, and snacks. These dinner parties could start with tuna ceviche or guacamole or baba ganoush all served with corn chips. Among the mains you will find pasta and pesto variations, followed by a vegan honey mustard carrot bowl. Drinks are not neglected, and the sparkling lime and pomegranate looks inviting for a summery party.There are a few desserts - think dates with salted caramel truffle and popcorn or apple and pear coconut crumble with coconut ice cream, a vegan finale.

While neither solely vegan nor a vegetarian collection, many of the close to 90 recipes are sans meat, chicken or fish.  All are nourishing, offering healthy and balanced meals in a bowl, several contain a large number of ingredients, and a few will take a fair amount of time. But what Delport has done is to take the guesswork out of bowl food, having spent much time creating dishes that are tasty.

She goes further to promote healing one’s relationship with food, treating your body with respect and nourishing it with fresh food that will leave you energised. All part, she says of finding happiness with food.

Every recipe is illustrated and a detailed index concludes the text.

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