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Myrna Robins

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Reviews

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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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THE ECHO OF A NOISE: a Memoir of Then and Now by Pieter-Dirk Uys. Published by Tafelberg, Cape Town, 2018.

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Is it perhaps because he has reached 70, that his writing – while still witty and pithy – has softened, sharing more of his persona? It took only a couple of chapters before I felt I really knew the little boy living in Pinelands, going to school, desperate to join the others wearing long pants, constantly in a state of skirmish with his unbending father.

 

The role of Sannie Abader, the Cape Malay housekeeper who ruled the Uys kitchen and doubled as a mother and friend to Pieter-Dirk, a situation replicated in so many South African domestic households during the middle of the 20th century.

For someone a few years older, who also grew up in southern suburban Cape Town with live-in maids, politically aware parents who were anti- Nat but fairly conservative followers of De Villiers Graaff, the world was white indeed.

 

This very human slice of his childhood and early career, his first trip to Europe and to Sophia Loren’s house makes enchanting reading. His student years at UCT Drama school and antics outside of it , another trip to Europe then back in Cape Town to work at the Space theatre and spend time annoying the inspectors of the Publications Control Board follows . In 1981 he performed the first of his one-man shows. As he remarks, 35 years later he is still writing, presenting and performing them...

Decades after the death of his parents, he regrets having not asked them more questions, particularly about his mother’s background. Scenarios  like this that resonate with so many of us. Today P-D still churns out so many words using, of course, Windows 10. But always, next to his laptop sits his mother’s portable Underwood typewriter in its battered box, which she brought to South Africa in 1937.

As the back cover of this softback tells us “This is Pieter-Dirk Uys unpowdered. No props, no false eyelashes, no high heels...” Indeed. His first two memoirs, Elections and Erections published in 2002 and Between the Devil and the Deep in 2005 were great reads, but in this title I felt I really got to know something of the complex, talented person that he is, perhaps underlined with vivid memories of a matinee at Evita se Perron one spring weekend last year, where he was as brilliant as ever but looking, I thought, tired.

Does he ever get tired? The text finishes with a short biography followed by a list of his plays, revues, novels, memoirs, cookbooks and documentaries, feature films and television specials. Looking at that impressive list, one concludes that he cannot ever find time to be tired.

Illustrated with a fascinating collection of black and white photographs, ranging from babyhood to the present, a diverse family album that greatly enhances his prose.

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KAROO FOOD by Gordon Wright, published by Struik Lifestyle, 2018.

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This second title from Gordon Wright is another "must-have" for every keen cook and for those aiming to become hosts whose meals are memorable and hospitality unsurpassed.

Chris Marais, who spends his life writing about the Karoo, describes Wright in his foreword as “an ambassador for the Karoo,... the life and soul of our party... as a chef who “lives, breathes, laughs, drinks with and cooks for his Karoo people...”

Wright lives up to this description with enthusiasm as he shares his expertise, starting, naturally, with Karoo lamb and mutton. Lots of advice interspersed with recipes less obvious than roast leg or shoulder, here we find roasted lamb belly, lamb sausage, roasted rump and mutton confit. On to beef, with tips on ageing, making broth and rubs preceding recipes for  oxtail, skirt steak and rib-eye with marrow bone sauce.

Venison gets special treatment with Wright presenting a friend's blueberry and sage wors, bobotie, sautéed kidneys, sosaties, fillet, biltong, even venison crisps as snacks, meaty alternatives to crisps. We also find venison meatballs, pie, tartare and skilpadjes (liver in caul fat).

His poultry and wild fowl chapter offers a creative variety, opening with homemade chicken nuggets served with black olive ratatouille dip – great for a first course while the braai is doing the main. Peanut chicken in cream is an easy oven -to- table dish with Indonesian overtones, andthere’s a delicious looking guinea fowl stew which is,  Wright says, a Karoo version of a cassoulet.

A chapter on charcuterie and curing will delight those wanting to get down to more than frying and braai-ing,  and then the scene turns to seafood (enjoyed during holidays on the coast) and a few vegetable soups and salads. The smoking and braai chapter will please outdoor cooks who are adventurous, and prepared to spend time on prepping their meat or poultry.  The book concludes with a few heritage desserts. Every item is photographed superbly by Sean Calitz, while his landscape shots add the perfect  ambience to this out -of -the- ordinary collection of modern Karoo cuisine with a nod to traditional favourites.

It’s good to see the same professional publishing team still working together to produce the most appealing cookbooks, food with flair and stories to digest, as well as  photographs to admire even as our mouths water. As always, Linda, Cecilia, Bev and others combine talents seamlessly and, for me, evoke happy memories that go back a good decade.

                                

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DEATH CUP by Irna van Zyl, published by Penguin Random House South Africa, 2018.

 

 

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How could I resist? A thriller sub-titled Murder is on the Menu, set against an Overberg background dripping with fickle foodies, on-trend restaurateurs and self-important chefs, followed by a series of deadly dishes and human corpses.

This is van Zyl’s second detective novel and is translated from the Afrikaans original, titled Gifbeker. I was impressed by the author’s culinary knowledge of gastronomic contests, trends and top restaurants. Having raced through the book, I came across pages of generous acknowledgements where she listed cookbooks that afforded her culinary knowledge both trendy and basic, chefs who shared their passion and knowledge especially with regard to foraging, both seafood and funghi and techniques like open fire cooking in the kitchens.

From page one the tension is tangible, as a well-known and not always popular food blogger keels over in a top restaurant and dies – a highly poisonous mushroom provomg responsible for her untimely death. Zebardines is one of the top restaurants in the country and is gearing up for the chef of the year and restaurant awards so timing could not be worse –Zeb the chef is celebrated, awarded, young and black – with everything going for him

Detective Storm van der Merwe is on the case, helped by a couple of colleagues, some friendly, others wary. Storm has her own problems to contend with , not least of which is Moerdyk, a former policeman who had quit the force ahead of being fired. He usually turns up at Storm’s doorstep when least wanted, such as just after the first murder. He is determined to stay, and help her find a new place to rent as the owner (also a restaurateur) has complained about her three dogs.

Tracey the waitress and seducer of Zeb is found dead in the restaurant wine cellar – victim number two and the plot thickens as Zeb is attacked by unknown men but survives and is taken to hospital. And Storm has to contend with Pistorius, her supervisor, a molester with past history and now transferred to Hermanus. Two men break into her bedroom and steal her phone and iPad, and her favourite dog Purdey disappears as they run away.

Protesters outside Zebardines, rumours of a food website takeover, a smooth property developer (and old boyfriend of Storms) add complexity to an already crowded scene. Tension reaches breaking point , as a third victim, Maria Louw Zebardine’s maitre ‘d is attacked but survives and the glitzy restaurant awards event in Cape Town take place with heightened security in place . Storm herself is in danger before the murderer is stopped – and as in all good thrillers, not many readers will guess who this is.

Topical, fast-paced, complex and accurately depicting Hermanus backgrounds, this is a well-executed and gripping crime novel.

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