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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


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.


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



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:




Mimetes hottentoticus on Kogelberg peak




Aspalathus costulata


Muraltie spinosa


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


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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Two family-focussed cookboks - one local, one British -  and the new edition of Platter's wine guide make a trio ideal for festive gifts - and for keeping on our own bookshelves.


FOR FRIENDS & FAMILY by Nicky Stubbs. Published by Human & Rousseau, 2016.


Visually  appetising, this hardback is a delightful addition to any cook’s bookshelf. That said, its particularly appeal lies in its trusted tried-and-tested recipes, a collection  ideal for keen, but inexperienced family caterers.

As the title tells, the focus is on delectable, do-able fare that friends and family adore, that they expect to find when turning up at Stubbs’ home, invited or just dropping in hopefully at teatime. This hospitable cook qualified with a Cordon Bleu course, has cooked professionally in London and France, run restaurants, given cookery classes and written for magazines. But her passion is catering for those who sit around the family dining table, sharing both simple  meals and elaborate celebrations. This compilation  is, she states “…a love song to the family and friends who have fed me, taught me to cook, eaten and cooked with me.”

Useful tips precede recipes which, start, naturally enough with breakfast, go on to starters, simple meals, vegetables and salads. Main courses are slotted into categories – chicken, beef and lamb are followed by pork and seafood. A few condiments (pesto, hummus, tartare sauce) give way to a substantial section of bakes, whilepuddings complete the menu with perennially popular classics, from crème brûlée to malva pud, pavlova to icecream, pears in red wine to a baked almond and lemon finale.

Recipes are illustrated in colour, and presentation is just what novices need: a brief description of the dish, clear ingredients, and step-by-step method. Small tips (eg advice on what kind of plate to use during a dipping process ) may seem old hat to many, but will be appreciated by beginners.

Were I to cook a Christmas dinner from this title, I would start with Stubbs’ gazpacho, follow with her slow-roasted chicken and lamb recipes, and add melazane for the vegetarians. Dessert  could star her Christmas icecream bombe. In place of mince pies, teatime treats would include her Squidgies, a simple, no-fail recipe if there ever was!

One of this year’s best local cookbooks, crisp and clear, with old family photos that enhance appeal and emphasise recipes designed to delight palates of all ages.  


SUPER FOOD: Family classics by Jamie Oliver. Published by Michael Joseph of the Penguin Random House group, 2016.



When one looks at the list of Jamie’s cookbooks, starting with The Naked Chef released in 1999 and including a title nearly every subsequent year, one can be forgiven for wondering what  he could still offer family cooks in the way of new and delicious fare? Last year he published his  Everyday Super Food, and in the introduction to this Super Food, Oliver states that readers requested a compilation of updated  family classics that are also balanced and healthy, rewritten to offer meals that “…fuel, revive, restore and energize…”

There’s probably a good reason why the health and happiness chapter is located at the back of the book. Here Oliver presents his tips, tricks and advice on food, nutrition and wellbeing.  Perhaps the publisher thought that some parents would not take to lessons on  balancing proportions from the five food groups,  staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, getting moving and eating more fibre! But Jamie’s preachings are easy to digest and he is renowned for having contributed to better diets for thousands of Britons and their children. He embraces organic, promotes carbohydrates (eat your heart out Banters), and empahises the importance of chewing properly. He also suggest setting aside more time for meals, at home, at school, at work. A chapter entitled Healthy gut, happy body investigates the roles of prebiotics, and probiotics,  and there’s plenty on the importance of drinking water, preferably from the tap. Limit sugar intake, cook with your children, grow food, and support farmers’ markets, he urges.

Recipes start with breakfast ideas,  including some super smoothies. Good variations on boiled eggs are followed by  interesting pancakes, used as  containers for healthy fruit, protein, grains, nuts, coconut and more. Quick snacks include 18 options for teaming avocado on rye toast with a host of other ingredients. Quick fix meals  includes a Japanese miso stew sparked with dried seaweed, mixed greens, exotic mushroom and tofu on brown rice noodles.  Adventurous creations are  balanced by classic pasta and sauces. His comfort food classics  - such as shepherds pie – are given extra veggies and pulses to increase fibre and vitamin content. Salads are equally colourful vitamin- rich meals and similar treatment is afforded to   curries and stews using Indian, Thai, African and Chinese influence.  The chapter of tray bakes  present oven-baked meal s-in- one dish – nad his   Sicilian fish  with aubergine, tomato, pinenuts and raisins on wholewheat couscous looks fabulous. There is a fair number of vegetarian dishes and, finally, recipes for batch bakes for healthy bulk cooking and freezer standbys.

This is a dessert-free cookbook that is also sans confectionery or sweet treats for coffee and teatimes!

Oliver’s talent for food photography is  evident in the appetising colour images on every other page. Add in a couple of his wife Jools, himself, and endpapers filled with snapshots of children of all ages harvesting, cooking and eating, and you have in your hands another surefire culinary success story.


PLATTER’S 2017 SOUTH AFRICAN WINE GUIDE. Published by Jean-Pierre Rossouw for Diners Club International.




Forest green, this 37th edition is, presenting 660 pages of information and  ratings on about 8 000 wines and their cellars , in an alphabetical arrangement of South African producers of wine and brandy. Starting with a pithy and well-constructed  summary of trends in SA wine, (which deserved a byline) followed by editor Philip van Zy l’s introduction, readers will find the five -star wines of the year listed and who’s who on the tasting team .

Some 520 pages of entries offer comprehensive listings of wines produced and tasted, plus facilities and attractions at the cellar door along with opening hours. This section  precedes an industry overview, information on wine bodies, wine-growing areas, grape varieties and details of competitions and awards. Styles and vintages are discussed ahead of  wine-tasting  and winemaking terms.

Wine route information  is always sought after, and this section includes details of wine tourism offices, wine tours, restaurants and accommodation in Cape Town and the winelands. The updated maps  which indicate positions of cellars are equally essential items for travellers. Information on disabled access to wineries and farms is a project in action as two disabled winelovers are in the process of assessing whether destinations that advertise themselves as disabled-friendly, are, in fact living up to this.  The initiative is being funded by Platters.

As always, this is an essential companion for locals and travellers to our winelands and is still among the best and most comprehensive in the world: It is  edited with care and  proofed diligently  with a treasury of information packed into one fat pocket book .

The guide, which sells for R215,  is also available as an app for iPhone and Android and as web-based version for desktop and mobi. See www.

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Let no one say that South African cookbook writers and publishers are not up there with the best when it comes to including current culinary trends . While some techniques that are in vogue are best left to chefs in high-tech kitchens, others can be easily practised by keen cooks and dedicated braai masters and mistresses.

Think smoking, curing, pickling, fermenting, foraging - venerable processes which have come full circle and are now trending. Add to that list the ongoing focus on healthy eating, using sustainably grown or produced ingredients, plus welcome environmental savvy by insisting on ingredients in season and we have a good summary of the current food spectrum.

From the pyramid of local cookbooks that have hit the shelves recently, five titles feature below: digest the brief round-up of their contents and decide which title(s) you would like to own.


 A Year of Seasonal dishes from Food & Home Entertaining. Published by Human & Rousseau 2016.


Food & Home Entertaining is renowned for supplying fans with imaginative recipes for every course and occasion. This substantial compilation is organised according to month, making it easy to find ideas for both seasonal meals and entertaining menus. The well-illustrated recipes comprise the best of those published over the last decade. Diversity is the keynote, with dishes that take five minutes to assemble (Parma ham, blueberry and feta salad for high summer) to a gluten-free chocolate torte that replaces wheat with an egg-rich chocolaty ground almond batter. A few vegan options, several vegetarian recipes and many with Asian influence can be found. I particularly like their combination of sustainably farmed kabeljou with a trendy achar of guava, teamed with a spring salad and ciabatta toast. Cooks have the option of braai-ing or frying the fish and toast .


Baking with Jackie Cameron, published by Penguin Books, 2016.


Chef Cameron is not only a great baker, but all-round talented cook, who opened her own internationally-recognised school of food and wine last year. In this mouthwatering collection of biscuits and breads, pies and tarts, cakes large and small and desserts and puds, the focus is less on trends and more on absolute delicious bakes, whatever course they serve.

However, Jackie is not immune to what’s in vogue and offers us gluten-free bread, and one based on   the indigenous tuber amadumbe. (Sweet potato can be substituted). Her red velvet cake adds cocoa to increase its appeal. She gives crème brulée a local twist by flavouring it with Amarula cream liqueur, and includes trad favourites like malva pud, melktert, millionaires shortbread and even an upmarket version of peppermint t crisp tart. The small selection of savoury tarts and pies is particularly appetising. This is an appealing, crisply designed compilation, that will be well used in every kitchen it finds itself.


One Pot Pan Tray by Mari-Louis Guy and Callie Maritz. Published by Human & Rousseau, 2016.


Ever since this brother and sister team burst onto the gastronomic scene with an extravagant collection of bakes back in 2011, they haven’t paused, producing several more successful titles . In this colourful compilation they assemble whole meals in a pot, a frying pan or roasting dish, saving on labour and washing-up. The contents stay with savoury fare based on red meat, chicken, seafood, bacon and ham as well as meat-free suppers, each dish balanced with both a carb and veggies.

We find traditional boerekos favourites (curried banana meatball bake, teamed with butternut chunks and quartered red onions) along with baked chicken, mushroom and leek pasta topped with cheese sauce, and a Iberian-inspired bake of sardines and potatoes, flavoured with tomatoes, peppers and paprika and sauced with lemony olive oil. There are a few soups, and the haloumi and vegetable bake offers a delectable combination of fresh asparagus, baby marrows and onion mixed with the cheese, flavoured with citrus and oregano, spiked with jalapenos and garlic. It seems to sing of spring, and is adaptable – replace pricey asparagus with spring onions, for example.


All Sorts of Salads by Chantal Lascaris. Published by Struik Lifestyle 2016.


This compact softback is both a convenient size for kitchen use and a practical and useful collection. The author came to entertaining and cooking after moving from corporate business to become a pilates instructor and developing interests in both health and salads, which feature high in her diet. The recipes tried and tweaked coincide, quite accidentally, with today’s culinary trend: Their simplicity is part of their attraction. Old favourites in new guises sees up –to- date versions of coleslaw, potato, Caesar, Waldorf and three-bean salads. The substantial vegetarian chapter includes some trendy combinations like beetroot, quinoa and rocket, and cauliflower, butter bean and feta.

Fish and seafood star in summery combinations – think grilled tuna steaks and nectarine salsa , salmon and pistachio, even a fish cake salad, complete with sweet potato chips and mixed salad. Calamari is teamed with chorizo and chickpea in an Iberian charmer. Meaty salads presents main courses packed with protein plus healthy green for all-round fare, such as the Med mini-keftedes teamed with tzatziki and salad.


Carmen’s Best Recipes by Carmen Niehaus. Published by Human & Rousseau, 2016

.b2ap3_thumbnail_CKBK-TRENDS-Banting-lasagne.jpgBanting lasagne from Carmen Niehaus

Food writer Carmen Niehaus has been supplying her many readers with flavourful, reliable family recipes for 25 years, and has developed a vast collection in the process. Having to select 100 for this cookbook, she finally settled on 10 chapters of 10 recipes, based on criteria like family favourites, recipes with reduced carb content, many starring veggies and salad ingredients. There are a few breakfast and light meal options along with those suitable for every course on the menu. Practical tips accompany every one, as do appetising colour photographs. Her fans will be pleased with this souvenir, that also caters for slimmers – see her Banting lasagna – which replaces pasta with aubergine and omits the white sauce without going overboard with weird substitutions.

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The Outsider by Frederick Forsyth, published by Bantam Press, 2015.


It’s been a long time since I galloped through an autobiography with such enthusiasm and speed. Forsyth fans who digested The Day of the Jackal, and all his  subsequent thrillers will find this, the real story, as exciting as any of his novels.

He sums up key moments in his life as follows: “I’ve barely escaped the wrath of an arms dealer in Hamburg, been strafed by a MiG during the Nigerian civil war and landed during a bloody coup in Guinea-Bissau. The Stasi arrested me, the Israelis regaled me, the IRA prompted a quick move from Ireland to England, and a certain attractive Czech secret police agent – well, her actions were a bit more intimate…”

Written in his relaxed, understated British way, Forsyth entertains with key events in an extraordinary life after an ordinary start. This only child of shopkeepers was born at the start of the second World War, and grew up in Ashford, close to the English Channel where the family grew used to the Luftwaffe bombers droning overhead on route to London. While most of his school mates were evacuated to foster homes, Frederick spent the war at home, used to solitude and eventually preferring it.

Owing to war duties his father had a petrol allowance which enabled him to take his son to a nearby base of Spitfire squadrons, a national icon then and now. From that day Frederick nursed an ambition to fly one of these planes, a dream fulfilled twice in later life.

Speaking French like a local came easily as his parents “twinned” with a family from Amiens where Frederick spent summer holidays. Later his parents sent him to German families so that by his mid-teens he could pass for a German in that country, an asset that proved useful in future sticky situations .

Before leaving school he succeeded in getting a Royal Air Force flying scholarship, and followed by joining the RAF where he got his wings. As Frederick had no intention of making this his career, he then became an apprentice journalist at a Norfolk newspaper. With a sound basic training under his belt, he headed for Fleet Street where his proficiency in languages catapaulted him into a post as foreign editor for Reuters.

From a stint shadowing De Gaulle during the 1962 clashes between Algerians and the French government, Forsyth twas assigned to East Berlin, where he was a one-man band, covering East Germany ,Czechoslovakia and Hungary for Reuters. There the first of many adventures and lucky escapes ensued but eventually his escapades made his position too precarious and he had to return to Paris.

Forsyth is particularly scathing about the actions of both the British government, the Commonwealth Office and the BBC during the Nigerian civil war. Having accepted a post with the latter, he was appalled at the incompetence of the Foreign Office and the slavishness of the famous broadcaster in following the official line, which was to deny the existence of a war in which a million children starved to death. He resigned, and went back as a freelancer, telling the story like it was.

Back in the UK he and other journos - including Winston Churchill, grandson of the war leader - were smeared by those in official quarters for writing the truth about events in Nigeria. With no job and little money Forsyth decided to write a novel. He sat down with his portable typewriter in January 1970 and 35 days later The Day of the Jackal was completed: His career as novelist was about to take off.

In susbsequent years The Firm, aka  British intelligence, asked Forsyth for occasional favours. One such assignment in 1992 involved South Africa, where - along with his two sons - Forsyth arrived, posing as an author looking for information for his next book. They booked into a Kalahari game lodge favoured by then foreign minister Pik Botha for a bit of game hunting. As they relaxed around the camp fire before settling for the night Frederick asked Pik what he planned to do with their six atom bombs once the ANC took over. Chuckling, Botha replied that Forsyth could go home and reassure his government that the plan was to destroy the lot.

My Life in Intrigue is an immensely entertaining read.

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A TASTE OF ISRAEL by Nida Degutlené, published by Penguin Random House, 2015



October means that we book reviewers can expect lists of  titles in our in-boxes to lengthen, as the seasonal harvest of new books starts arriving for the Christmas trade. I have waited until now to review this very delectable and well-produced cookbook as I didn’t want it regarded only as a book to dip into at the time of traditional Jewish holidays. It is certainly a compilation that celebrates the Israeli culinary tradition, written by a foreigner and non-Jew and perhaps this helps to make it a fascinating and tempting collection for  those cooks who savour exploring exotic cuisines.

The author is a Lithuanian businesswoman, food blogger and freelance journalist who married a diplomat who was sent to Israel in 2009 as Lithuanian ambassador. While there, Nida not only relished unearthing Jewish culinary traditions, but found that dishes from her childhood are based on Jewish recipes that have become part of Lithunanian fare. She started sharing her discoveries on her blog, and now has 30 000 followers.

Meze and appetizers make a colourful start to the recipes and between the well-known chopped herring and watermelon and feta salad, there are interesting bites like Muhammara, walnut and sweet pepper paste, courtesy Syrian Jews who spread it on pita breads and an Israeli take on Peruvian ceviche, paired with cubed mango. Among the breakfast ideas I honed in on a frittata with baby marrows, leek and walnuts – although I will use local pecans instead. The characteristic carmelised onions favoured by Sephardis feature in a baked fish recipe that includes a layer of tahini sauce and that is finished with toasted pine nuts. A chicken recipe enjoyed in winter when its citrus season adds orange and lemon juice and zest to chicken quarters, along with honey, Arak, garlic, chilli and cardamom – definitely worth trying,.

The chapter on street food is an enjoyable trip - celebrating classics like burekas,knish,shawarma and falafel. And lesser-known creations such as Sabich, a vegetarian sandwich of pita bread filled with tahini, aubergine, egg, and onion, made by Iraqi Jews.

Talking of meat-free fare, there is a great selection in the vegetarian section, from sweet peppers filled with cheese, through a selection of patties – leek, pumpkin, peanut - , and a Turkish phyllo cheese pie. From one of Jerusalem’s most popular restaurants  comes Machane Yehuda, polenta with mushroom, asparagus and poached eggs,   a favourite with diners that cannot be removed from the menu,

Bakes include a latkes selection – I rather fancy the potato and beetroot ones with onion and feta, that are baked rather than fried. An interesting article on kosher wine precedes the final chapter of “Extras” that includes a fiery spice paste called Zhug, a contribution to Israeli street food from Yemeni Jews.

Nida Degutiené is a publisher’s dream – not only does she write well and compile an enticing collection of recipes, but she does her own styling and food photography as well – this book has been well translated from Lithuanian by Medeine Tribinevičius and will make a popular addition to many a well-used cookbook collection this summer.

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NOTE: This review was first submitted to the Argus newspaper in late August for possible use during Woman's month. It was published on the Life pages of Saturday Weekend Argus on September 19 as a heritage month contribution.

BITTER + SWEET: A Heritage Cookbook by Mietha Klaaste as told by Niël Stemmet, published by Human & Rousseau 2015.





Traditional country food meets a soul-stirring story of a rural woman, a domestic worker and nanny, who tells her life story to Stemmet in 29 chapters, reminiscences that start with her childhood on a farm near Robertson and finish as her charge, the adolescent son of her employers, leaves the Cape to head to a new life in the Transvaal.


Mietha Klaaste was also a keen and talented cook who regarded preparing meals a privilege rather than a chore. So it seems only right that between the events that coloured her humble life, she also shares her recipes, wonderful, honest fare where the simplicity of farm ingredients is never overshadowed by surplus ingredients or fancy garnishing.


A third element is Stemmet’s inclusion of carefully selected poems and excerpts that emphasise the content, physical and spiritual, of the preceding chapter. They come from diverse sources ranging from the Bible to Lewis Carroll, from Adam Small to Ingrid Jonker, from Antjie Krog to timeless nursery rhymes.


The food covers every occasion from breakfast to supper, including special occasions like tea parties and weddings. Breakfast highlight of baked sweetcorn offers a variation on rusks and porridge, while tea was likely to be Clanwilliam rooibos with condensed milk. To accompany it, over weekend, were scones or crumpets or delicious ginger biscuits. Weekday fare ranged from bully beef and rice when freat meat was not available, to warming bredies, served with snow white rice. Desserts were comforting and substantial, with buttermilk pud and melktert high on the favourites lists. Vegetables were always present, usually sweetened, and lightly spiced. One recipe I would have liked to have seen included in this collection is for a savoury dish using 'oukos', the buds of a Gasteria that folk in the Breede river valley used in place of waterblommetjies, which were not always easy to find.


Most of the recipes are illustrated with gentle colour photographs that are in harmony with the printed instructions.


Mietha’s childhood was happy, living in a house on the farm of her parents’ employers: her mother worked in the big farmhouse, her father was the foreman on the farm. It was the period in South African history when the apartheid laws were in full force, but this did not affect Mietha’s early days: this child of nature enjoyed school as much as she loved wandering along the banks of farm streams, looking for tadpoles and crabs.


There are also family stories that illustrate the hardship endured by those living further north, in arid Namaqualand, where real poverty invaded every aspect of life. Miethe longed to go there, and take them huge supplies of food to lighten their burden.


Life’s hard knocks started when Mietha was told she could not go to high school but had to start work for the farmer’s son Johan and his new wife Susan. Not long after this Susan gave birth to her first son Daniël, and, as his nanny, Mietha replaced her hurt about missing her education with a fierce love for this blue-eyed baby, a love that thrived and blossomed as she nurtured him from babyhood through to adolescence.


As a young teenager she was raped by a member of the employer’s family, an episode which affected her permanently, and resulted in attempted suicide. These low points were countered to some extent by a busy schedule of domestic duties, and always, the joy she felt when Daniël arrived home from school. He was a loner, as was she, he enjoyed nature, as she did and they both loved to cook and to eat, so the bonds between them were unusually strong.


This all came to an abrupt end when Daniël’s parents decided to move to Gauteng, or the Transvaal as it was then to look for more lucrative jobs. Mietha was told she could not join them, and was given a new radio, the furniture in her servant’s room and a box of chocolates as thanks for 16 years of dedicated service.


But, thanks to an innate strength, Mietha used the parting to return to school, going to evening classes, while working in a Robertson bakery during the day. She used the local library extensively, reading widely, listening to gramophone records, and studying recipes in cookbooks. She cooked them, first at home, then as the hotel cook at the Majestic hotel. She also entered – and usually won – competitions for jams and baked good at the local agricultural shows. She was, as she says, “known as a top-class cook.”


Of course a story like this ends with as many questions as answers, and we are left to ponder on many a subject even as we glance through Mietha’s method of roasting chickens which were sold in aid of funds for the local orphanage. This is a book that is probably best absorbed in Afrikaans, but Marietjie Delport is to be commended for a great translation. And all strength to Stemmet for choosing not to omit the parts that some readers would prefer not to find in a recipe collection!


In one of the weekend newspapers, Prue Leith is quoted as complaining that much of the culinary literature being published can be classed as ‘food porn’ – either featuring a celebrity of some kind, or consisting of numerous photographs of glamorous landscapes, such as Tuscany, with little or no real writing on the cuisines. Bitter+Sweet offers a striking contrast: Perhaps the publishers should forward her a copy.


Postscript: Niel has just told me that the publisher is going to forward Leith this book - I do hope she replies.




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Isn't this a great way to start the summer season in Cape Town? Alexander McCall Smith's delicious detective novels, starring the irresistible Mma Ramotswe who sorts out numerous problems from her No 1 Detective Ladies Agency in Botswana is about to be celebrated in a theatrical musical  on stage at Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, with its premiere on  October 8.


Expect issues of morality, humour and love  intertwined in the cases of fake fathers, beauty pageants and muti, which our beloved Mma Ramotswe solves, whilst building up her business with her friend and secretary Mma Makutsi–as well as falling for the comforts of motor mechanic JLB Makatini. With the back drop of the Botswana bush, the local villages, the traditional people and the great animals that live beneath Africa’s vastness, the story is brought to theatrical life by award -winning director Nicholas Ellenbogen. The music score is composed by Scotsman Tom Cunningham and Cape Town’s very own Josh Hawks (of Freshlyground).

The show runs until mid-December 2015.

Cost: R250 Booking: Webticket

For further info contact Gabrielle Palmer, Public Relations Manager, Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, ph: +27 21 483-1593 or e-mail:

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Bonellos-road-tripping-cover.jpgROAD TRIPPING WITH JUSTIN BONELLO by Justin Bonello and Helena Lombard. Published by Penguin Random House SA, 2015.


Hard to believe, but this is Bonello’s ninth title, and its nine years since he burst onto the local culinary scene with his first television show, Cooked, also the title of his first book. Helena Lombard joined the Cooked in Africa Film team in 2011, and has travelled with them, cooked and researched and written four of his subsequent titles.

The positive symbiosis between the popular TV series and these titles is a given, as the book reflects highlights of the journey undertaken. Along with photographs the content - in this case route and destinations. This does not detract from the book’s appeal, rather the opposite: both readers who have seen the filmed series of the braai contest and those who haven’t are likely to relish this gastronomic adventure across some of southern Africa’s little frequented parts.

The foreword offers a good idea of just what such an undertaking entails when it consists of a diverse group of more than 70 crew being on the road together for more than two months. They covered almost 9 000km on dirt roads, and endured long working hours to complete a 13-part reality TV series . Bonello offers would-be travellers a list of important items to pack and recommends planning the route in advance, while also staying flexible and finding the roads off the beaten track. In their case they started at Noordhoek, where Bonello lives, moved east to Witsand, then west to Paternoster before heading inland to the Cederberg. The mighty Orange river was a popular destination, then it was off to Namibia where they spent time in Luderitz, Sossusvlei and the Fish River canyon. The Tankwa Karoo was another isolated stop, followed by Oudtshoorn and the journey finished at a lodge on the Breede river.

Justin is not the only source of the recipes in this collection: a few were offered by members of the crew, who included a couple of top chefs, and some were the creations of top contestants in the series they were filming. The trip started with a fiery Durban fish and prawn curry, presumably made on the braai at Noordhoek, before a convoy of cars and trucks left for a lengthy nomadic lifestyle. The Breede river lodge at Witsand was their first stop so a recipe for fishhead soup is appropriate, followed by braaied brandy banana splits. With KWV as one of their (presumed) sponsors, cooks could jazz up their recipes with wine and brandy, and frequently did. Doughnuts, cooked in a flat-bottomed potjie over coals provided welcome padkos for the trip to Paternoster, where they camped at Tietiesbaai in wintry weather. One of the professional chefs on the team, Bertus Basson, produced whole braaied fish with pesto, tapenade and ash tomatoes, dished up with sauvignon blanc, which makes mouthwatering reading while Justin and others made the most of the region’s black mussels. In the Cederberg various potjies were prepared and the crew were warmed by spiced and spirited rooibos tea.

One of the most isolated destinations visited was the Diamond Diver Cottages at Noup near the Namaqua National Park, the name being self-explanatory. There some robust salads were on the menu and we learn about games they played after work was done and on the road.

The three team photographers provide some fantastic scenic shots , as well as many of the crew in action and great food images, all of which enhance the text hugely. The book designer must have had great fun in the production of this title, a colourful and appealing mix of mod and retro, that adds up to an invitation to get up and take the open road – along with a good store of ingredients and imagination.

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BAKING FOR PLEASURE & PROFIT by Christine Capendale. Published by Human & Rousseau, 2015.


Given the renaissance of home baking that has flourished since cupcakes became the flavour of the month, a spate of cookbooks devoted to the joys of producing delectable home-baked goodies has flowed from local and overseas publishers. Some of the earlier ones were both useful and enjoyable, but most of the recent titles I have received have been potboilers, to use a mixed metaphor.

However, Christine Capendale’s compilation is an exception – a well produced collection of sweet and savoury treats including confectionery, with recipes clearly set out and well illustrated,  each accompanied by tips under the heading ‘Sell more! ‘Capendale suggests eye-catching decorations and packaging to add eye candy to those wanting to market their goodies successfully.

In fact the book begins with a fund of information for those aiming to make money from their hobby, with details on everything from licences and permits to equipment and supplies. She tells us how to work out the cost of ingredients (with tables), to add in equipment and operating costs,marketing expenses, and  how to calculate selling prices. General baking tips follow and, by the time one reaches the first recipe – for red velvet cake – one feels that the benefits of a whole cooking course have been presented by a teacher eager to share her passion and expertise.

So, its unsurprising to learn that Capendale ran successful cookery classes in Langebaan, where she still spends some of her time, and has a food studio in Pretoria where she teaches and writes about cooking.

The recipes start with cakes, go on to tea breads, cupcakes and biscuits. Bars and squares fill another chapter, while the following, Sweet Treats, presents a range of confectionery, which always sells well. Traditional bakes includes classics like milk tart and mosbolletjies, and there are plenty of sweet tarts and pies to try as wwell. Breads, rusks and muffin and savoury quiches and bites are also given their share of space.

The oh-so-trendy macaroons, white and dark chocolate and raspberry or coconut – are there for the more experienced baker to attempt – and threaded onto coloured ribbon and dangled en masse -  make for irresistible displays.

Well indexed, with beautiful images by photographer Myburgh du Plessis, the R250 price of this title is certain to inspire a whole bunch of keen bakers to make their passion pay! And when the present cult of home baking is replaced by some other pastime, this collection will continue to pay its way. The Afrikaans version is called Bak vir Pret and Profyt.

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EMPIRE, WAR & CRICKET IN South Africa: Logan of Matjiesfontein, by Dean Allen. Published by Zebra Press, 2015.


Appropriately dedicated to the late David Rawdon and the people of Matiesfontein, this multi-faceted book combines a biography of James Logan, founder of that fascinating Victorian pile alongside the railway line in the Karoo, with the story of cricket’s origins in South Africa. As the events take place in the last decade of the 19th century and the first of the 20th  - thus encompassing the Anglo-Boer War and developments that led to the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910 – this is also a political history of the country during turbulent times.

James Logan was a particularly successful example of an entrepreneur who left his native Scotland intent on making his fortune in farflung parts of the British Empire, holding aloft, as Andre Odendaal states in the foreword, “the flag of fair play, civilisation and empire.” Together with better-known contemporaries like Cecil John Rhodes, Logan became prosperous at a period when Britain expanded her empire to the point when she occupied nearly a quarter of the world’s areas.

And then there was cricket, a game the British believed expressed a distinctively English morality, which developed in South Africa with Logan as one of its most enthusiastic patrons.

A son of a railwayman from a working class background, Logan arrived at South Africa in 1877. He got a job as a porter at Cape Town station, just as the railway infrstructure was expanding. Through hard work and diligence he was promoted rapidly and often – from station master to superintendent of the railway between Hex River and Prince Albert. Happily married to Emma Haylett, his fortune was founded when he took over as caterer for railway station refreshments, laying the foundation of his business empire which stretched eventually to Bulawayo from Cape Town.

In 1883 he bought about 7 700 acres of land around a little railway siding not far from Touws River, went on to acquire neighbouring farms and set about   building Matjiesfontein . The finished village was an impressive achievement that also became a fashionable health resort.

Logan entered politics in 1888 , winning a seat in the Cape legislative assembly six years later and by 1890 was being compared to his friend and political ally Cecil John Rhodes. Logan entertained on a grand scale, associated with dignitaries, politicians and sportsmen , which all helped his transformation from railway worker to Victorian aristocrat. His promotion and funding of cricket tours also went down well. He also built up his own estate Tweedside, a neighbouring farm where he hosted guests, making sure that these events were given coverage in the Cape Town newspapers. During the Anglo-Boer war Logan offered Matjiesfontein as a centre for the British forces. Logan was, like Rhodes, a man of his time, but his influence and fortune waned after his retirement from politics and he died at Matjiesfontein in 1920.

The book is based on a PhD that Dean Allen completed seven years ago, and publication was made possible by the Rupert Foundation. Wonderful old photographs enhance the text throughout . Tighter editing would have eliminated frequent repetition, but the parallel stories of Matjiesfontein, Logan, politics and cricket are timely and well told. It’s a pity that David Rawdon did not live to see this title: His wish that Matjiesfontein be preserved and its future assured is well supported by this story. As Liz McGrath who took over after Rawdon’s death has also since died, it is a question that needs to be answered.

Myrna Robins

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