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A BITE OF LATIN AMERICA by Susie Chatz-Anderson. Published by Human& Rousseau, Cape Town, 2017.

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A collection delectable in every aspect, and one that fills a gap in culinary literature as well. There has been little in the way of comprehensive cookbooks covering Latin America on our bookshop shelves for years, and none, as far as I know, written by a local..

Now we have Susie’s delightful gastronimic diary , a very readable account of the year she and husband  Mike spent travelling through Mexico and South America, in a quest for the best taste trips. Or rather that’s what she wanted, while he  spent the time hunting down the best kite-surfing sites.

They resigned their office jobs, stored their possessions and bought two air tickets, waving goodbye to Susie’s mother who, we are told, feared for her daughter’s life every day!

In choosing Latin America, they embraced cuisines where Maya, Aztec, Inca, Spanish and Portuguese contributions mix and meld, followed by more recent influence from Africa, Caribbean, Asia and Europe.

Mexico was the first destination, and a good choice seeing that their fare is rated as one of the finest peasant cuisines in the world. They found more meat in the north, seafood at the coast, spicy vegetable and chicken in the south.  Favourite Mexican meals were breakfasts, which included rice, beans and avocado with their morning eggs. Her chorizo omelette is a dish that’s perfect for a winter brunch, and tortilla-wrapped fish with salsas is  an appetising informal lunch suggestion. Gorditas – corn pockets with saucy fillings – make a great alternative to pitas,  add some Margaritas and you have an easy way to feed guests.

They headed south to, Guatemala,  a country whose cuisine is not well-pubicised. Plantains, rice and beans and salads are featured, while Nicaraguan more pork chops -  well laced with rum and finished with cream and green peppercorns  - are starred along with a saucy chicken pie that looks worth a try. I also like the Atolillo, described as a chilled rum custard, and it reminds me of melktert filling garnished with boozy sultanas.

More rice with beans, this time cooked in coconut milk, from Costa Rica and a similar version, without the beans, sweetened  and spiked, for dessert. From Columbia, chilli salsas,  Spanish-style omelettes and green apple and mint lemonade. On to Ecuador, where our adventurous couple savoured prawns ceviche and a potato and peanut stew with tofu and discovered countless varieties of Andean potatoes.

The author’s description of places and people in Peru are fascinating, the cuisine – indigenous dishes of Inca origin touched by Spanish influence, equally so. Her version of Causa  Limena illustrates this well – Peruvian potato, avocado, tomato and tuna layered stack – and makes a summery lunch.  For wintry days, their vegetable and quinoa soup  makes a colourful and nutritious meal. Husband  Mike’s favourite dish was Peru’s signature beef stir-fry, Lomo Saltado.

By way of contrast, the sophistication and diversity of Brazil’s fare was absorbed and relished  with delight. Recipes include cheese bites,prawn pie,upside-down banana cake (a breakfast special)  and Caipirinha, the  country’s signature cocktail.

From their final destination, Argentina,  Susie brought home recipes for Empanadas (beef and onion pies), a leek, sage and bacon bake, layered vegetable  tart,  the famous Chimichurri salsa and the Argentinian version of Dulce de Leche, caramel which is used in cakes, puds and cookies such as Alfajores, recipe given. The recipes finish with some good coffees, followed by a detailed index. Susie’s great travel photos add much interest, while the food shots are sumptuous, and beautifully styled.

What’s really appealing is the way the author suggests substitutes for exotic ingredients and alternatives and additions to the original dishes. Just the sort of helpful advice that every cook, beginner and experienced, appreciates. That and a down-to-earth modesty, an attractive trait that is by no means guaranteed in current cookbook-cum-diaries.

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Emily Hobhouse: Beloved Traitor by Elsabe Brits, published by Tafelberg, Cape Town, 2016.

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That this masterful life story is set to become the definitive biography of one of South Africa’s most famous women is not in doubt. Brits has produced an in-depth, scholarly, well-researched work that is also very readable, enlivened with numerous fascinating photographs.  The 27 pages of endnotes, bibliography, index and acknowledgements are good indications of the lengths to which she went to, to do justice to the life and work of this extraordinary pacifist, feminist and deeply compassionate person – who died alone and unsung in her home country.

As the back cover tell us, Brits retraced Hobhouse’s footsteps across three continents, but, as she is the first to acknowledge, it was her exciting discovery of Emily’s great-niece that was the cherry on the top:  Jennifer  Hobhouse Balme invited the author into her home in a fishing village on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island  and shared her treasury of documents, diaries, scrapbooks, letters and photographs, enabling this biography to far transcend any previous attempt to record her life.

Born in 1860 into a Victorian upper-class family Emily grew up in the hamlet of St Ive in Somerset, where she and her sisters were educated at home, which she found frustrating. Her first visit abroad took her to the USA where she experienced love, was jilted by her fiancé, and was back in England in 1899. This was the year the Anglo-Boer War broke out, and Emily became involved in  the SA Conciliation Committee in London, which opposed the war.

 After the OFS and the Transvaal were annexed by Britain thhe Boer forces resorted to guerrilla warfare. The scorched-earth policy instigated by Britain saw farmhouses, barns and outbuildings burnt, farm animals slaughtered, veld set alight, and in some cases whole towns destroyed.  In London and Cornwall  Emily protested in vain about the policy then decided to go to SA to help: she  and started fund-raising to feed clothe and rescue women and children rendered destitute by the war.  Arriving in Cape Town in Dec 1900  she met the governor Lord Milner the governor who granted  permission to visit the concentratios/refugee camps where Boer women were kept provided Kitchener agree, which he did, with conditions. After shopping for clothes, blankets and food she travelled north  in January 1901.

What she found was more distressing than she had imagined – “...truckloads of women and children unsheltered and... flocks and herds of frightened animals bellowing and baaing for food and drink... In the camps exposure, starvation, illness, pain – no candle or, soap, no mortuary tent, flies thick on everything, no schooling, no wood or coal to boil water and typhoid  rife.  She kept diaries, recorded women’s stories, saw children dying as she travelled from camp to camp. She sent letters to friends, family members  and government sources in England  reporting on conditions. She took photographs and sent those as well, decided to retrun to the UK  to bring the horrors of the concentration camps to the British public.

She endured much resentment from Britons who regarded here as unpatriotic at best, a traitor at worst. In turn she pointed out that in September 1901 the number of people in the white camps had risen from 85 000 to 105 000,  that 1878 had died in August,  1545 of whom were children. When she returned to Cape Town in October she was ill and weak, but was arrested by the British on arrival. Detained on board, she was returned to England in a troop ship.

But her efforts  had some effect as conditions gradually improved, at least  in the white camps. Peace was declared  in May 1902 –the  news reached her as she sat alone in France writing her book, whereupon  she “started crying uncontrollably.”

Back in SA Emily visited the former camp sites where locals told her that they had not received any of the ‘reconstruction money of three million pounds’ that was supposed to be apportioned to the Boers. In communication with General Jan Smuts she travelled widely, reporting to the UK regularly on conditions. She then set in motion her ploughing project: newspaper appeals for funds to buy oxen and donkeys were well received, and not only Cape colonists but British donors sent funds to the bank in Pretoria.

Her plans for establishing home industries  revolved around teaching young girls spinning and weaving and  the first school opened in Philippolis in March 1905 using wool donated by farmers.  Soon there were two schools and proceeds helped many survive.

Back in the UK Emily  (predictably) got involved with the suffrage movement, yet stayed in constant touch with South Africa, where a committee was formed to erect a monument to Boer women and children in Bloemfontein. Her health did not allow her to attend the unveiling on December  16 1913, but her speech was read both in English and Afrikaans.

World War 1 saw Emily trying to alleviate the living conditions of civilians in Germany  and Belgium and of Britons interned in German camps. She was  regarded by many as a propagandist, spy and a traitor. Undeterred, 1918 saw Emily co-founding the Swiss Relief Fund for Starving Children, as children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia nad Hungary were sent to Switzerland to regain their health.   South Africa helped fund Emily ‘s purchase of a cottage in St Ives, Cornwall, in 1921. She died in London in June 1926, still hoping for justice to prevail with regard to her work . Her ashes were sent to Bloemfontein and here she was revered  with a funeral service attended by hundred,s with thousands lining the streets at the first and, to date only, state funeral in this country for a foreigner.

My only criticism is that the book design, while attractive and contemporary, is impractical as the use of bold colour backgrounds on many pages render the print virtually illegible.  

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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. wineonaplatter.com.

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YEOMEN OF THE KAROO:  The Story of the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein by Rose Willis, Arnold van Dyk and JC ‘Kay’ de Villiers. Published by Firefly Publications, Brandfort, Free State, 2016.

 

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I wonder how many of Rose Willis’s fans have waited  for this story to come to light, to be properly unearthed and recorded?  Reading through the  names in the Acknowledgements, one soon  realises that  the list of friends,  geologists, ecologists, heritage experts,  farmers, researchers, archivists  and family members   who contributed in some way is extensive .  Rose Willis, known to many readers as the founder and compiler of the monthly Rose’s Round-up, found time between teaching and writing  to dig  deep into intercontinental events that are woven into the tapestry of this extraordinary tale.

She discovered Deelfontein when she was living outside Beaufort West and promoting tourism in the Central Karoo, and she was helped in her research by Dr van Dyk , an authority on the Boer War with a library of pictures on the subject, while Prof Kay de Villiers,  a Cape Town neuro-surgeon and expert on both the war and its medical aspects also supplied valuable input.

As the 19th century drew to a close a war raged across South Africa and, on the desolate plains of the Great Karoo, a unique hospital sprang up…

In 1899 the British realised that this war against “a bunch of farmers” was not going well for them, and the government appealed for volunteers. This succeeded as many men, including newly qualified doctors, enlisted and ships sailed for South Africa almost daily. In England two high society women scrapped their social calendars and set out to raise funds for a private hospital to care for the men who would be wounded.

The results were nothing short of  extraordinary –  from conception  in England to erection in the Karoo,  a little less than three months passed before  the Imperial Yeomanry hospital opened at Deelfontein, a narrow valley between a row of koppies and a railway siding, 46km south of De Aar and 77km north of Richmond. The date was March 17 1900.

Stating that it was a place ahead of its time is something of an understatement . I  quote liberally from the press release:  The huge tent hospital that mushroomed in this desolate region was unique… along with operating theatres, treatment and convalescent wards, it boasted specialist units for dentistry, ophthalmology and radiology – all firsts  in a military hospital.  There was a fire station, a dispensary, electricity and a telephone system. It had its own stables and dairy, which supplied sterilised milk. Steam-driven disinfection and waste disposal units helped in the war against typhoid, and ensured hygienic conditions. The laundry washed and sterilised more than 2 000 sheets a week. Drinking water was filtered and running water was piped through the grounds.  There were luxurious touches as well –such as a comfortable officers’ mess with its own mineral water plant and ice-making machine. A chapel, a theatre, sports fields, tennis courts, a shooting range, and, (can you believe) a horse-racing track provided recreational facilities.

How did this happen?  The credit must go to two aristocratic English women – Lady Georgina Spencer-Churchill and Lady Beatrice Chesham, second daughter of the first Duke of Westminster, whose husband Lord Chesham was commander of the Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa. The former focussed on liaison with the War Office and other institutions in the UK while the latter spent much time at Deelfontein supervising affairs. The two women, with help from friends,  raised a substantial sum – 174 000 pounds – more than enough to equip and staff a hospital. The goal was conceived in December  1899, and over the next couple of months tons of equipment was dispatched from England by ship, to be transported to Deelfontein by oxwagon, horse and slow train.

During its year of operation  the hospital treated more than 6 000 patients, and lost just 134, of whom 112 succumbed to typhoid.

In order to cover all aspects of the story, events and people are grouped  into chapters chronologically. Not only  professional men enlisted but  women from all walks of life also volunteered as nurses.  The staff of 200 personnel was not only highly skilled, but their services produced many tales of bravery, dedication and lasting friendship . Boer commandos operated in the vicinity on several occasions, and skirmishes  outside  the  gates caused casualties:  Both British and enemy soldiers were treated in the hospital.

We learn about the many individuals who contributed in some way to the success of Deelfontein’s hospital through s series of cameos – brief biographies of soldiers, doctors, surgeons, donors, nurses, and more.  The final chapter covers those who are buried at the Deelfontein cemetery, today almost the only remaining sign that a hospital ever existed.  Most of these perished from disease rather than bullets.

Other stories  - and mysteries – are interwoven with medical history: the Adamstein family emigrated to South Africa and ended up at Deelfontein where they established a trading store and went on to build a luxurious hotel complete with walled gardens in which peacocks and cranes strutted. The story of the post office that never was provides light relief, its ruins  alongside modern cemeteries which are reasonably well maintained.  Visitors to this forlorn spot report they have the feeling of being watched  in spite of it being  deserted , while the local railway siding attendant takes it for granted that his surroundings are haunted.

The stories are further brought to life with a fascinating collection of old and a few contemporary  photographs scattered liberally through the book:  Portraits of many of the role players are there along with pictures of huts and rows of tents below a koppie which sports its identifying IYH in giant letters.  Interior scenes of the chapel, wards, operating theatre (and an operation in progress) offer proof of just how well organised and equipped the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital was. Sad pictures of a pathetic  informal settlement near the hospital and another of  carcasses of horses – the “true losers” as Willis labels them – remind readers of the many miseries that  war brings.  

This fine volume of Africana combines military with medical history alongside lesser-known aspects of the Anglo-Boer war.  It’s a treasury to dip into frequently, and to accompany all who choose to visit the site where cemeteries and the ruins of the Adamstein’s hotel rub eerie shoulders  in the heart of the Great Karoo.

 

This is my choice as Book of the Year for 2016 as I congratulate  Rose for fulfilling her dream of publishing a story she shared with me back in the mid- 1980s. .

 

The standard edition costs R390 and the limited collectors’ edition R1 400. Postage and packaging come to an additional R100. Order the book from Firefly Publications, make an EFT payment to their bank account at FNB, Preller Plein branch, Acct no 62138779642.. For more information  fax 0865809189 or email palberts@telkomsa.net or Rose Willis at karootour@telkomsa.net.

 

 

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They say it does us the world of good to wallow in luxury occasionally. Certainly I woke fresh and raring to go after a great night’s sleep in my inviting, soothing, bedroom, its stylish pastel décor livened by bedside lights doubling as branches of a ‘tree’, upon which lifelike birds perched, and a china hound-dog that kept watch over me from an adjacent desk.

Experiencing DB&B at Leeu House, BAS Singh’s enchanting boutique hotel in Franschhoek’s main road, ticked all the boxes and then some. Getting there stressed and chilly, first pleasure is finding that staff miraculously keep a couple of parking places outside the front gate empty – seemingly always! My car was whisked away while I greeted both Nelson Mandela on the left lawn and Ghandi on the right before going inside to register.

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Spaciousness is usually synonomous with luxury, and certainly my huge bedroom with its sitting area and large bathroom added to the pampered feel as I explored. The cabinet containing crockery, glasses, bar fridge and snacks invited ransacking – for the purposes of reporting, of course! Well, the snacks are mostly frightfully healthy (dried fruit and veggie crisps etc) but I did find a packet of little chocolate –coated biscuit balls to go with my tea. Guests also get a 375ml bottle of both the red and white house wines – BAS white and BAS rooi, both approachable, enjoyable aperitifs.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_Leeu-House-2.JPGI fell in love with the hotel dining area – both inside and out – at first sight,  with its black and white tiled floor and soaring glass conservatory-feel. The other guests dining there were Americans – one couple from North Carolina and the other family party from further north up the coast. As they communicated and discussed the state of the Western Cape roads (good) and Chapmans Peak drive (stupendous) I dithered between a first course of local smoked salmon with brown bread, capers and lemon crème fraîche or  a Waldorf salad. The former won, and I went on to a delectable mushroom risotto seasoned with three-year-aged Parmesan. Other main courses included local fish, chips, peas and tartar sauce, rigatoni topped with Toulouse sausage and tomato ragout or beef and mushroom ragout with roasted carrot mash. As with the savoury courses, there is a choice of four desserts, one being a savoury option of local artisanal cheese and preserves. All in all, delicious cuisine that doesn’t try to be too grand or  gourmet, looks good and tastes even better.

This opinion was confirmed next morning when pondering on the two breakfast menus:  – One was available from the buffet – from croissants and pastries through berries and fruits to double thick yoghurt and honey-roasted nuts. Healthy items like oat granola bars and caramelised coconut were alongside muesli and tea-dried fruits while carnivores could protein-pack with the local charcuterie selection.

The a la carte choices include duck egg Benedict, folded omelettes with Swiss Gruyere and foraged mushrooms and smoked salmon with truffled scrambled eggs. Traditionalists and Scots can start the day with oats, malted sugar and single malt whisky or an old-fashioned pork sausage sandwich and brown sauce, which, I think, may hark back to the chef’s roots…

The previous evening I had walked next door to to visit Le Quartier Francais’s new renovated bar and lounge, which is now a vibrant, contemporary venue, as up to date as tomorrow’s weather. The walls are lined with a rough weave fabric, the roundback chairs sport blue suede upholstery and the long, long bar is fronted with a row of high stools dressed in blue and white. The lighting is dim, but its easy to enjoy the giant prints on some walls of everyday items like a pair of scissors and a bunch of screws. There’s also a cosy side room with nests of sofas for intimate fireside gatherings. Soft background jazz is teamed with black and white photos of the artistes, whether Jozi-style or New Orleans, I am not sure.

Everywhere at these exceptional venues now owned by Mr BAS Singh, the service is, as expected, swift and efficient. But it is also charming, friendly and concerned, with both the genial GM (who doubles up managing both Leeu House and LQF) and the receptionists and restaurant staff coming across as wanting to do their very best to make you happy. In this, they certainly succeeded.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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 I am deliberately pairing these two fine cap classiques in one blog as as several winelovers have been confused about their provenance.

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Not only bubbly fans but winelovers everywhere were sad to hear that the Krone family – who had been dedicated and caring custodians of the historic Twee Jonge Gezellen estate in Tulbagh since 1712 –had to sell their farm 300 years later. The estate was renowned for its fine cap classiques, and the Krone family as pioneers of night harvesting, cold fermentation and late disgorgement, along with innovative approaches to employer-worker relationships.

Twelfth generation winemaker Matthew Krone swore at first he would never make wine again after leaving the farm, but, happily for consumers and the local industry, was persuaded by friends to return to what he is best at. As a consultant he made fine MCC’s for various Cape cellars then graduated toward his own label. Alexandra de la Marque 2010 was launched, with suitable fanfare, at the Societi Bistro on February 29 this year. It’s a highly acclaimed classic, comprising 80% chardonnay and 20% pinot noir and limited to 6 000 bottles. It is apposite that its name has a patrician ring, being a combination of that of his first child, and of his maternal grandmother. Future vintages will only appear in leap years, evidence that this is a cap classique for those who want bubblies with complexity and structural depth, only obtainable when they are left to develop for up to five years or more. Rich flavours of peach, citrus, crusty newly-baked loaves enveloped in tiny bubbles are followed by a savoury finish. It sells for around R220. See www.matthewkronewines.co.za for more info.

 

Twee Jonge Gezellen farm and estate is now owned by Vinimark, a major wine company, who has invested in renovation and expansion of the sparkling wine cellar and vines. They have also retained the Krone family name as brand name of the cap classique range, a decision both sensible and sensitive. Along with a classic and rosé brut, they have launched The Phoenix, a non-vintage bubbly that blends the 2004, 2005 and 2006 vintages and that has enjoyed nine years maturation. Biscuity aromas lead to wafts of apple, lemon and almond, all melding into a zesty whole with a fine mousse. The imported bottle in its matching black box adds an air of luxury to this impressive MCC which sells for around R280.

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Winemaker Henry Kotze, Giulio Bertrand and consultant Pierre Lurton

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It always seems to be a beautiful day when its time to head to Morgenster, and this was no exception. A group of wine media and trade representatives filled the tasting room then filed into the cellar where tables, dressed in white, sported enough glasses to indicate a tasting of some magnitude. In front, courteous host Giulio Bertrand, winemaker Henry Kotze and Gallic consultant Pierre Lurton from Chateau Cheval Blanc introduced the lineup which comprised the release of the Bordeaux-style flagship wine and the 2013 vintages of his Italian Collection. Starting with what was, for me, an outstanding wine,the Morgenster White 2015 is a blend of 55% sauvignon blanc and 45% semillon, satiny, yet frisky, exhibiting both herbaceous notes, a touch of oiliness, and a whiff of fruit, in an elegant, irresistible combination. Bottled just two months ago after 10 months in oak, this was produced from bought-in grapes from vineyards close to the estate. Their own white grape vines will be ready to produce fine wines soon, but this wine, due for release in September at around R150, is worth waiting for.

On to the Italian cultivars, starting with the Caruso rosé, made from sangiovese, with its low- alcohol level of 12,5% makes a great introduction to Morgenster, with discernible backbone, plenty of berry fruit balanced with savoury notes, selling at around R80.

Tosca 2013 is a blend of 76% sangiovese, 12% each of cabernet and merlot, selling at just under R200, is an enjoyable meld, a great food wine, and probably more popular with locals than the Nabucco – the 2013 vintage of which is 100% nebbiolo, This cultivar has its fair share of fans, and is distinctly different from our reds, and should be paired with Italian fare.

The Lourens Valley 2012 may be regarded as a second fiddle red blend to the Morgenster, but is usually one that I have enjoyed hugely in the past. No change here – from its aromatic nose to a palate with fruit balanced with smooth tannins in an elegant and approachable combination, I would choose this for winter fireside sipping . It sells for around R145.

From the prelude to the main course, the release of the Morgenster 2012, the Bordeaux-style flagship of the estate, comprising, unusually, 72% merlot, along with 16% petit verdot and 12% cabernet. With alcohol levels of 14,5% ,this fresh and enjoyable wine elicited much discussion among wine writers who queried the choice of merlot as the lead cultivar, (one being regarded with some disdain by many a fundi.) Henry’s answer was simply that this combination proved to be the best when he and Pierre took decisions on the components and proportions of the blend. Expect to pay around R370.

Back in the tasting room a team had produced a wide selection of delectable Italian snacks, each one matched to one of the wines we had tasted. From parmesan risotto to tiny meatballs, from quality smoked salmon to veal tongues on ciabatta, the visitors tucked in, savouring the pairings with relish.

As the noise levels grew, our host moved among friends and colleagues, surely pleased that both his ambitions have been realised – to produce great Bordeaux-style blends at Morgenster and to make fine wines from Italian varietals on his very lovely, historic Cape farm. His olive oils are also rewarding his sizeable investment very well.

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It’s always a pleasure to sample the elegant reds of Constantia Glen, (although I routinely seem to miss out on their two whites – the sauvignon blanc and their highly-rated Bordeaux-style white blend, called, appropriately, Constantia Glen Two.)

This week I tried the latest vintage, 2011, of their Five, which was released six months ago, and sells at R330 from the farm. This is their flagship blend, comprising 31% cab, 27% merlot, 17% petit verdot, 15%, finished with 10% malbec. The vineyards are sited high on the Constantiaberg, the cool climate lending characteristic expression and structure, while winemaker Justin van Wyk maintains that the extra hours of sunlight enjoyed by the lofty site adds optimal tannins and well rounded ripe flavours. Cassis and dark cherry evident along with substantial but subtle tannins and a delicious mouthfeel.

It matured in new French oak for 18 months, and although rich and complex already, is certain to evolve into a spectacular companion to fine fare five years down the line. An investment that promises rewards for patience.

The distinctive Constantia 1685 bottle sports a 4and half star Platter sticker and a 92% score from Tim Atkin MW.

Their tasting room is open seven days a week .                        

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Papkuilsfontein-11.jpgPapkuilsfontein where organic vines yield berries for the Earthbound range, produced at Nederburg.

 

Hard to believe it's three years since I wrote about young winemaker Heinrich Kulsen being chosen for the Cape Winemakers' Guild's mentorship programme, along with other three other equally competent Elsenburg students. His  three-year programme  saw him spend time as an intern in Burgundy, and back home, gain experience in the cellars of Villiera, Ernie Els Wines and Hermanuspietersfontein.

Kulsen joined Nederburg in 2014 as assistant white winemaker, moved on to make red and has recently been appointed winemaker of the Earthbound organic wines, taking over from Samuel Viljoen. This new challenge involves the production of accessible wines of good quality in an environment with strict limits including  minimal use of sulphur . Papkuilsfontein vineyards in the Darling West Coast district supply the grapes, grown of course sans herbicides, fungicides, synthetic fertilizers.  Heinrich's  time at Villiera has proved good experience in the upholding of organic principles.

Under the Fairtrade programme, workers at Papkuilsfontein Vineyards benefit directly from a portion of profit from wine sales. Funds raised are administered by a trust where workers have a majority share and dispensed according to community needs they identify. The Earthbound wines are a joint empowerment venture between Distell, a consortium of taverners in Gauteng, and a local community trust.

There are two whites in the range, chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc.

The unirrigated  chenin vineyards at Papkuilsfontein, 25km from the Atlantic, were planted 22 years ago.The 2015 chenin is refreshing and fruity, augmented by some minerality.  .Equally pleasing on its own, well-chilled, or teamed with warm weather salads, fish, chicken, picnic and light Asian fare.

 

The 2015 sauvignon blanc was produced from bush vines planted in '98 and '99. This is a wine with wide appeal, as there is grassiness for those looking for verdancy , balanced by tropical fruit,  litchi in particular. Good with grilled and fried fish, and will offset richness of chicken with cream sauces.

Both wines have14% alcohol levels, while low sulphur levels will be appreciated by many  whosuffer from standard  use of this basic preservative

The Earthbound duo are easy summery sippers , offering  affordability in a field where the demands of organic viti and viniculture usually result in  substantial retail prices. At  around R46 they are good value for budget-conscious consumers wanting wines that are sustainably produced and marketed with integrity.

The range can be tasted by appointment at Trinity Lodge in Darling.

If indeed these 2015 wines are Heinrich Kulsen’s maiden vintages, they are products of which he can be proud.

 

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We all knew that Kleine Zalze's new cellarmaster had big boots to fill, as he took over from Johan Joubert. Alastair Rimmer's maiden chenin blanc and chardonnay are both ample, enjoyable proof that he will be carrying on the cellar's impressive reputation for over-delivery on quality and pure enjoyment with a range of wines that have attracted strings of awards both here and internationally.

The farm's Vineyard Selection chenin blanc 2015 follows in the tradition of a beautifully balanced meld of fruit with structure lent from subtle oak. Enough acidity to keep everything fresh, ideal late summer wine for both aperitifs and al fresco fare, but can safely be kept for a few years as well. A very good buy at R77.

In similar style, the Vineyard Selection chardonnay 2015, selling for R80 from cellar door is a fine example of Rimmer's talent: both Stellenbosch and Robertson grapes were sourced for this wine, which spent seven months in oak before blending and bottling. The citrus, pear and stone fruit, with apple providing a floral note, fulfil chardonnay fans' expectations, there's a mineral core, and overall elegance which combines to make this a classic with complexity that should develop further if cellared.

In best Kleine Zalze tradition, these constitute another pair of winners.

 

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_La-Motte-2011_Hanneli-R.jpg HANNELI R 2011

 

This flagship shiraz-based blend from La Motte is an extraordinary wine that deserves to complement a momentous occasion or celebration, such as, in our case, the arrival of a new addition to the family. There can be few cellarmasters more dedicated, diligent and talented than Edmund Terblanche - and with this wine, only made when the vintage is regarded as exceptional -  he applies these qualilties to ensure inspired results, blending 80% of shiraz  with equal quantities of petit syrah and tempranillo. The shiraz for the 2011 vintages was sourced mostly from Elim and a litte from Bot river, the other components from Franschhoek.

 Maturation in oak for three years has contributed complexity and structure that is balanced by minerality but there's welcome freshness as well. Spiciness and berry flavours confirm syrah dominance, adding to a full-bodied, intense, elegant whole. All in all a worthy tribute to La Motte's Hanneli Rupert.

 

WEBERSBURG CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013

 

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_webersburg-5.jpgMany knowledgeable winemakers regard the Helderberg cab vineyards as offering the best berries in the entire Stellenbosch stretch with its various sub-regions. Difficult to argue when one comes across such a stylish expression of the grape as this one. Viticulturist-cum-winemaker Matthew van Heerden followed harvesting with berry sorting before vinification in open fermenters. He used a variety of French barrels for maturation and regards the result, with justification, as a true expression of exceptional terroir. Classic aromas precede finely balanced tannins and fruit on the palate alongside freshness and moderate alcohol levels.

 

ZONNEBLOEM LAUREAT 2013

 

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This historic Stellenbosch cellar has long been renowned for consistency - of quality and affordability - across the ranges of its many reds and a handful of whites. The Laureat is their flagship red blend, traditionally cab and merlot, although the 2012 contained small quantities of shiraz, mourvedre and petit verdot to the mix and the 2013, which we savoured, has shiraz and petit verdot to complete the cab/merlot components.  This in the stylish tradition of its predecessors, offering loads of fruit, smooth tannins, and accessibility which is a well -established trademark. Presented in a smart box, the Laureat is the first example of Zonnebloem's new generation look, with other wines to follow.

 

 

 

 

 


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MY FAIR LADY AT WAHNFRIED – CATCH ONE OF THE JANUARY PERFORMANCES.

Howzat! A theatrical hat-trick plus one as Atholl Hay and his impressive cast present the fourth consecutive end-of-year triumph to locals and visitors from near and far. A brilliant adaptation of the timeless classic that is My Fair Lady exploded onto the little Wahnfried stage last week, and, after a short break over the New Year holiday, will resume behind the footlights for a scintillating start to 2016.

As Jean van Elden of Durban Theatre Awards has already put up a brief review of the musical on Facebook – one with which we all agree enthusiastically – I am going to quote some of it here, and then focus on a more intimate villagy write-up to pay tribute to a bunch of talented, dedicated, hard-working McGregor locals.

Van Elden: “An impressive well-crafted piece of theatre by an extremely talented cast of performers… A cleverly adapted, succinct script retained the essence of George Bernard Shaw's writing and delivered the charm of a full-length stage production… Beautiful voices, great energy and sincere polished performances were delivered by all.”

Hear, hear – or should that be “ear, ear.”

Mary Corpe is a wonderful Eliza, which we expected her to be, and impresses as she subtly changes accents from London cockney to queen’s English. John Hargreaves is a natural for Professor Higgins, and fulfils a demanding singing and talking role with his usual professional sang-froid. David Magner is a welcome addition to the core of McGregor players, lessening his military aloofness as he warms to his role in support of Eliza. Mrs Pearce, Professor Higgins’ housekeeper, is beautifully portrayed by Barbara Jacobs, while Atholl Hay manages to include a convincing picture of a lovelorn Freddy Eynsford-Hill in spite of demands as director. Gentle Lisa van Zyl-Jones comes across as a delightfully querulous mother to Henry Higgins, while the trio - which constitute the roles of chorus, flower-sellers, maids and race-goers – presents an admirable example of multi-faceted talent: singers, dancers and quick-change artistes. Heidi Muller, Corli van Wyk and Ilana van der Colff , take a bow.

I would like to comment on the impressive quality of costumes – no mention of a wardrobe mistress, but someone (or maybe more than one) deserves applause, while Debbie Mosca does sterling work on the cast’s hair and makeup. As usual, Pieter Holloway sits quietly on one side, ensuring the lighting is faultless, while Michael MacKenzie fulfils the nail-biting post of sound operator – of course he and Freddie are generous hosts as well, welcoming audiences to their charming theatrical venue Wahnfried, which, thanks to a programme of continuous and classy entertainment, has made a difference to many McGregor lives.

As the Worst End Theatre Company’s January production comes to an end, it’s possible to hear My Fair Lady’s classic tunes being whistled and hummed all over McGregor. Perhaps we can get some of that rain on the Spanish plain diverted south as well.

Myrna Robins. Dec 31, 2015.

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Worthy winners, fantastic fund-raisers, winning wines and a new club – as 2015 draws to a close, this Paarl-based couple and their many friends (and pack members) have an impressive count to celebrate.

 

 

Let’s start with this week’ announcement that the annual EWT Cheetah Awards for advancing conservation efforts in South Africa have been bestowed on Jeremy Borg of Painted Wolf Wines and Angus Burns of WWF SA. In the photo above Jeremy, right poses with EWT's Dirk Ackerman and Kelly Marnewich.

This award goes to individuals who have “ gone beyond the call of duty and extended themselves over a prolonged period of time in support of …the Endangered Wildlife Trust…”

That description certainly applies to Jeremy who, together with wife Emma, have been dedicated in their determination to save the African wild dog, one of our most endangered animals, being hunted to near extinction and with shrinking habitat.

From the date of the launch of their Painted Wolf wines in 2007, they have supported the cause with a donation from every bottle sold. Jeremy works with the Tusk Trust in the UK, which was set up to save elephants in Kenya, but now supports more than 100 wildlife projects in Africa.

Just this year alone, the Borgs have donated just over R300 000 to conservation in the past 12 months, to Tusk and to EWT here to support wild dog conservaron and to Childlren in the Wilderness, which undertakes projects with rural children.

Earlier this year Borg set out on a gruelling 850 mile cycle race from Padstowe to Edinburgh, which he dubbed Pedals 4 Paws, A Celebration of Painted Wolves, raising four thousand British pounds for Tusk. Charity wine tastings, dinner and a pop-up art auction featuring renowned wildlife photographers relieved the cycling monotony..

Earlier this month Jeremy heard that he was shortlisted for Diners’ Club Winemaker of the year for his 2012 Guillermo Pinotage…b2ap3_thumbnail_Painted-wolf-Guillerm.jpg

 

Which brings us to the exuberant, enjoyable, characterful wines of the Painted Wolf ranges.

The entry level Den comfort wines embrace a cab, pinotage, a pinotage rosé, chenin and sauvignon blanc, none of which I have sampled recently. But I was more than charmed by the twin blends in the Cape Hunting range : the screwcapped Peloton Blanc 2014 , (also labelled Lekanyane which is Tswana for wild dog) is an intense partially wooded meld of viognier, chenin, roussanne, chardonnay and marsanne: bold, fruity, complex with a minerally backbone, while its partner, Peloton rouge 2012 is mostly pinotage, finished with 8% Grenache and 6% cinsaut. It’s drinking well, both juicy and savoury, with some oak on the palate. Earlier vintages have scooped awards in Cape blends contests.

The Pack range includes the distinctive Guillermo pinotage, an impressive 4-star example of our indigenous grape, sourced from organically grown Swartland bush vines. Fragrant, fruity, and sophisticated,

The Penny viognier - also from organically grown grapes, wild yeast fermented - is a joyful wine, very moreish, offering a feast of fruit and a dash of vanilla. Citrus and summer stone fruit merge seamlessly with a little spice to a lengthy finish.

Wooded, rich and somewhat elegant describes the 4-star Roussanne 2014 , from Paarl grapes, recently released, this well balanced niche white can take on any competitor.

The Borgs use friends or “pack members” as sources for their grapes in several regions, from Darling to the Swartland, Paarl and Stellenbosch, acknowledging their input, even naming two of their wines after Billy and Penny Hughes, who make their own distinctive wines as well as supplying the Borgs.

Emma and Jeremy met at a bush camp in Botswana which where they came to admire the wild dog teamwork and sociable nurturing, and proved their admiration by structuring their new wine company using a similar hierarchy.

If you are new to these wines, with their appealing hand-drawn labels from artist friends, you are in for a treat. Those who are already fans can now join the new wine club where members can access the rarer labels or attend special events like wild dog safaris. E-mail wineclub@paintedwolfwines.com.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Perdeberg-cellarmaster-Albertus-L-ouw.jpgPerdeberg cellarmaster Albertus Louw

Any cellar that releases 22 million litres of wine a year and still maintains a reputation for consistent quality - along with regularly attracting awards - deserves both attention and pats on the back, no matter what geeks may pronounce about their ranges.

Perdeberg Winery is the giant producer in the Voor Paardeberg ward, a former co-operative, now a limited company,that has been going strong for more than 70 years. Some 60-plus producers, most of whom are in the ward, are contracted to grow grapes of all kinds, although it is chenin blanc for which the winery is best known.

Visit the site at harvest time and you will have to negotiate your way around the queue of trucks carrying bins piled high with grapes that snakes around the yard and out of the gate. If you get to look inside the large cellar, you will see rows of giant stainless steel tanks in the gloom.

Along with its very affordable standard range, there is the Vineyard Collection and, more recently, the Dry Land range, which have upped the quality and choice considerably. Fine chenin, wooded and unwooded, leads the whites, which include chardonnay/viognier and pinot noir/chardonnay blends. Chenin is also used for two bubblies, a maiden four-star Cap Classique and sparkling chenin in the standard range.

The cellar is celebrating a pleasing total  from 2015 Veritas at present, having scooped 24 awards from 29 entries, including double gold for its Dry Land sauvignon blanc 2014 and gold for the Dry Land chenin 2014. I would have reversed these two.

A recent sampling of half a dozen of the newly-relased vintages confirms Perdeberg’s ongoing commitment to value for money. Starting at the top, the star of the show for me was the Dry Land 2014 unwooded chenin, a prime example of how the Cinderella cultivar has blossomed into princess garb, offering delicious aromas of citrus and tropical fruit followed by more on the palate, encased in a crisp summery wine, selling at R70. The chenin from the Vineyard range (R55) is less intense, but presents plenty of stone and tropical fruit, while the Vineyard sauvignon blanc (R55) should please most fans, as it offers a spectrum of flavours along with some grassiness.

I find the whites a step ahead of the reds when it comes to quality: that said, the Vineyard Collection 2013 shiraz is a very acceptable example, medium-bodied, offering classic white pepper, and plum on the palate,(R65) and the 2013 pinotage at the same price will satisfy many fans. The Dry Land 2012 cab (R82) is a typical example of contemporary ready-to-drink red with some backbone and spice along with berry fruit. And that really is what sums up Perdeberg products – if you choose to keep them they will surely improve, but the vast majority of consumers will open them soon after purchase, to toast the sunset, to sip ahead of the weekend braai or to enhance al fresco fare, whether salad, seafood or good Karoo lamb.

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

 

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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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It's still cool enough to appreciate two recently-released classics from La Motte - in fact the weather this week has called for good reds and substantial suppers. The 2012 cab already boasts a winning sticker from the 2015 Sommeliers Selection and its easy to see why, as this beautifully balanced wine satisfies on every level, with juicy fruit offering berry and herby flavours, firm tannins adding structure and a slight earthiness in the long finish. Grapes from Stellenbosch, Paarl, Durbanville, Walker Bay and Franschhoek contribute complexity from assorted terroirs. Open and serve with confidence to enhance good red meat or squirrel away for a couple of years.

Also from the 2012 vintage is an intriguing syrah, enjoyable now with its savoury flavours, but will benefit from cellaring. Fruit is partnered by berry flavours along with a hint of both aniseed and mint. The winemaker has added splashes of grenache, tempranillo, cinsaut and durif, the last-named being also known as Petite Sirah and is a cross between syrah and peloursin. Fascinating sipping...

 

A little earlier I tried the Pierneef 2014 sauvignon blanc and found what I expected: a fresh, green, wine with mineral notes complemented by wafts of apple, green fig and grassiness that reflects the terroir, which, I guess, is a vineyard within spitting distance from Cape Agulhas. A wine to relish as temperatures soar and the yellowtail move into the Southern Cape waters. It sports gold from this year's Mundu Vini, while its companion wine, the Pierneef 2013 syrah-viognier is gilded with stickers from the Old Mutual Trophy show, Concours International, and Top  100. As with previous vintages, an elegant, gently spicy, silky classic that will complement good fare, but is a solo wine of distinction.

 

 

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It’s seldom that I write a blog devoted to a single wine, however much I admire it. But there’s always an exception to any rule: one such is Jane and Basil Landau’s brilliant Landau du Val semillon, the recently released vintage 2013. There are two reasons for this, firstly it is superb, presenting a fine balance between a minerally backbone from venerable vines and the wonderful bouquet of citrus and apple, followed by rich flavours of honey, butterscotch and cream. I don’t detect much in the way of lanolin that typifies semillon, and neither do I miss it in this dry, full-flavoured aristocrat with a lingering finish. Its press release suggests pairing with chicken curry, roast pork, seafood and “even paella.” After much thought I decided that an elegant Normandy-inspired dish of duck, (free-range, of course) baked slowly in semillon with green apple, fnished with a little cream and good Cape brandy could fit the bill.

On the other hand – just sitting on the stoep, watching the guinea-fowl getting broody among the olive trees as the distant Langeberge darkens from soft blue to purple is enough accompaniment to my glass of Landau , it really requires no food at all.

The second reason for celebrating this distinctive wine at the start of Heritage Week, is naturally, its impressive ancestry – made from bush vines that mark their 110th birthday this year, surviving for more than a century on an historic farm off the Robertsvlei road in Franschhoek. La Brie (also known in the past as Laborie) was granted to Huguenot Jacques de Villiers in 1712, although he had been living there since 1694 – this enterprising immigrant also bought Boschendal some years later. Basil and Jane Landau live in the 18th century farmstead which they restored after buying the farm in 1986.

When the semillon vines were planted in 1905, Franschhoek was a small, but reasonably self-sufficient village, although telephones were only installed in 1911 and electricity arrived 23 years later. Winelovers can be grateful that the vines escaped uprooting, even though their yield ranges from small to minute.

The Landaus chose their winemaker wisely – Wynand Grobler is a sensitive and talented craftsman who whole-bunch presses the harvest, natural fermentation taking place in French oak, old and new, followed by 12 months maturation. The wine should last well for at least a decade, if you can resist your purchase for that long. Selling from the farm and at La Cotte boutique in Franschhoek for R250.

 

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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.

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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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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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