Friday 20 June 2014

A Golden Bowl.

I have written about Jacques Erasmus and Hemelhuijs before. Here and here. He is a close friend so it may be that I am biased but I am compelled to write about him again.
Hemelhuijs is one of my Happy Places. It is also a place that my mother adored and so I go there when I miss her. And I missed her on Thursday. As I do every day.
And so I ordered the mieliepap, served simply with orange blossom honey and salted butter. 
When it arrived, I saw that my pap was served in a gold bowl from Jacques's latest homewear collection. 
There are few things in this world more beautiful than mieliepap served in a gold bowl. 
The warm porridge caused both the butter and the honey to melt in tiny rivulets that ran around the edges of the bowl. 
Small gold streams were circling my porridge. 
The taste was as I remembered: the mielipap of my childhood. 
Warm sweet and salty.
I cried. Because of its familiar comfort. Because I longed for the one who had first made it for me. And because the dish was both opulent and honest. Complex in it's simplicity. Because this particular bowl of pap was both/and. As the most important things in my life most often are.

It is a sign of a great chef when the ingredients are more important than his ego. 
It is a sign of a great artist when he sees the beauty of plain porridge and honours it with his gold. 
It takes a great man to recognize the value of heritage and to love it so beautifully.
My friend Jacques is all three.

71 Waterkant Street, Cape Town
Telephone: 021 418 2042
Monday to Friday 9:00 – 16:00
Saturday 9:00 – 15:00

(I hesitated before posting this photo. It doesn't do the dish justice. Believe me, in real it surpasses anything you could imagine or see on a photo)

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Banana Balm - In which I revisit an old column and an old hurt...

I wrote this for the August 2013 issue of Taste magazine. The events relate to May earlier that year. I want to put it in a blog post because it goes some way in explaining why I neglected my blog for so long but also because I am living proof that the heart can heal. Even from unimaginable hurts… 
During the month of May this year I was acutely aware of Jack Adriaan, but I was also holding our son Sebastiaan in my arms (much more about him later!) and all I felt was gratitude and love for a small boy who entered our life for 14 days and then left to be with his biological mother, making way for our son Sebastiaan to enter our lives and hearts. My Aunty Janet who passed away this month visited me during those months of devastation, she held me tight, called me 'dear heart' and told me she thought that the reason Jack Adriaan left was that he didn't need us as much as another boy would. I found some solace in her words. It gave me some measure of hope And like in most matters Aunty Jan was right. And so I send this column out into the universe again, all the while wishing the boy who now belongs to others so much love and happiness. May his life be blessed. 
Jack Adriaan, it was our privilege to look after you until you could be reunited with your mommy and daddy. And thank you for bringing us the joy that you did. We have no regrets.


A lot can happen in two weeks. You can go from being sublimely, deliriously happy to having your heart broken. You can become a mother to a baby boy on Day 1 and on Day14 you have to hand him back to his birth mother. You can find your faith and then lose it again. Two weeks is a long time.
I was a mother when I started to write this column on bananas. I wanted to write about them because they are boys’ fruit. I have watched small boys peel bananas the way monkeys do and derive enormous joy from eating them while the peel hangs in strips over their small, almost-always-dirty hands.  I have known boys to weep with laughter when watching cartoons where someone slips on a banana peel. I wanted to write about the healthy banana-fool-the-kids-ice-cream, the one where you place peeled banana pieces on a plate in the freezer for a couple of hours and then blitz them furiously in a blender, being sure to scrape the sides of the bowl when they stick to it and blend it again. The result is a smooth, creamy, deliciously natural banana ‘ice-cream’ which I fully intended giving to our son as soon as he could eat solids and the summer sun came out to celebrate his arrival with us. However long that took.

Having been told to sing to my baby, I started singing the familiar childhood hymn ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ as it was one of the few songs I knew the words to. But soon both he and I tired of that and so I sang John Lennon’s ‘Beautiful Boy’ to him instead. Now it appears that those lyrics were both a premonition and a promise of comfort. I know that my heart will heal, know that I will be happy again. I also know that while I will not carry our beautiful son in my arms, I will forever carry him in my heart.  But in the meantime, life does go on. And the bananas ripen.  And a column must be written. I briefly contemplated celebrating the decadence of  bananas fried in butter and served with bacon and maple syrup on mornings-after the-night-before. But I battle to recall those sensual, self-indulgent times. I thought about reminiscing about the deep fried bananas in rum sauce which we ate in the Caribbean but those memories were obscenely carefree. And the thought of indulgently whipping up a caramel-laden banoffee pie seemed too quick a fix, too sweet a thing for so bitter a time. So I asked my mom about the banana bread recipe she used to make for us as a special after-school treat when my brother and I were young because I didn’t know what else to make with the now rapidly over-ripening bananas  on my kitchen counter. It wasn’t a recipe she had written down anywhere, so we cobbled this one together from various sources, making sure to add the cinnamon-sugar-buttered pecans which were always her thing. This was the sweetness I remembered from my childhood. And I was grateful that on that stormy Sunday, with tears running down my cheeks, I could still bake banana bread with my mom, who, while also mourning the loss of her third grandchild, was being so strong for me. Later, sharing thick slices of warm banana bread with hot tea, I understood that you can be grateful and angry at the same time; be both distraught and comforted; that you can hold both joy and sorrow in your heart. But only when you are surrounded by the love and strength of others…

Banana Bread with Cinnamon-Sugared Pecans

1 cup of roughly chopped pecans
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of melted butter
 cups of cake flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon of salt
125g of softened, unsalted butter
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 medium, ripe, bananas (the riper the better) mashed well with a fork
½ cup of buttermilk

Preheat over to 170 degrees. Grease a 23 x 13cm loaf tin with butter and line with baking paper.
Mix the chopped pecans, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter together and keep separate.
Sift the cake flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together.
In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and the sugar for about 4 minutes until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Then add the eggs, beating well after each egg has been added.
Add the mashed, well-ripened bananas  to the butter mixture and stir well.
Now slowly add the flour mixture gradually to the wet mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat well after each addition.
Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and top with the pecan, cinnamon-sugar mix (the nuts will sink to the middle of the loaf in cinnamon-sugar-pecan-buttery deliciousness)
Bake for 55 minutes or until the top of the bread is firm and a warm brown colour and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in a tin for 15 minutes before serving.

Monday 16 June 2014

A Little Italian Flavour

In this month's Taste magazine I wrote about my longing for Venice and the almost-desperate need I have for a long-haul flight that would take me straight to Italy. Well that's not going to happen any time soon despite my spending the morning obsessing over glorious Venetian canal-facing apartments on a Home Exchange website. 
For various reasons we're very much stuck in beautiful Cape Town for the forseeeable future. And I'm ok with that I really am, but a girl can dream. And she can eat plenty of pasta. And while the universe doesn't magically give her exactly what she wants, it does send a kind consolation prize every now and then. Which I like to think is what happened when I got an email from Woolworths asking me if I wanted to participate in this months Italian-inspired Flavour Society. And of course I said yes. Who would refuse a generous bag of Italian goodies? Pasta, Gnocchi, olive oil, salami, Grana Padana, pine nuts, Balsamic vinegar - all those delicious flavours which remind me of a country I have have grown to love so much. The nutty saltiness of the Grana Padana and the tart sweetness of the Balsamic vinegar reminded me of that trip to Italy when I was first told to dip small chunks of Parmigianna Reggiano  into well-aged Balsamic vinegar. I was hesitant at first but once I'd tasted it I was hooked. The pine nuts made me long to make a fresh basil pesto which would be scooped over swirls of pasta. The tomato paste made me long for the simplicity of a thin- based Margharita pizza bought in the backstreets of Naples. These were the flavours of the Italy I had come to know, flavours which I could use here in Cape Town and which brought back all those memorable Italian travel moments. At this stage on our lives, this is probably as good as it gets. So I played around with some flavours and finally decided on roast pumpkin drizzled with sage butter and served with generous amounts of Grana Padano and pine nuts. It was the perfect weekday lunch whether here in Cape Town or in Rome.  (The recipe will appear on sometime soon)

I've also had an enormous amount of fun pinning to the Woolies Flavour Society Italian Pinterest board. I've posted a really easy Limoncello recipe, a couple of great gremolata recipes as well as several fabulous ways to work magic with cauliflower. And of course I pinned pastries and cake because I have an insatiably sweet tooth. Pinning is addictive and I think I've come to love Pinterest almost as much as pasta. Head on over and drool over some Italian inspiration.

So while we're all feeling the Italian love, make that pasta, rent any one of the great Italian movies and get into the Italian spirit. See if you can find the wonderful documentary Italy - Love it or Leave it. It's about two Italians who go on a roadtrip through Italy before they make up their minds whether to move to Germany or not, because, apparently, things in Italy are not quite as good as they appear in the movies. As a South African I could really relate to their angst and their love for their country.

Best way to know what the buzz is surrounding the WW Flavour Society is to check in online on the Woolworths website and to follow both @WOOLWORTHS_SA  and the #wwflavoursociety on Twitter. you want to be part of this online community that promises some real life events as well. It's a great idea. The first month the Flavour Inspiration was coffee, last month was chocolate (oh yes!) and this month's Italian, of course. I'm excited to see what next month brings. Really I am. you should be too.

Dare I say it? Of course I do…. Buon Appetito!

(The Italian Flavour Drop. I ate the salami right away. To help me think more creatively of course.)

(My creation (such as it is) - I just mixed some great ingredients together. An easy recipe. Just the way I like them. So here it is in all its glory: Roast pumpkin, Sage butter, Grana Padana and Pine nuts. Easy perfection.)

Thursday 12 June 2014

Youdidnoteatthat? No, I didn't think so. (but I'm smiling anyway.)

My latest obsession is the Instagram account youdidnoteatthat . I derive enormous pleasure from it. It's pure silliness. Macarons and doughnuts, manicures and toned tummies are exposed as having very little to do with one another, another than being hugely desirable. Everyone featured (without their permission of course) is sexy with fabulous bodies. Only when you have body issues, such as I do, would you  DREAD being photographed eating something fattening and would you NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS post a selfie doing said eating on Instagram. Which begs the question,  'Did they really eat that?' 
Some contributers to the Huffington post have their knickers in a knot about it claiming that the account is picking on thin people.  Policy Mic took it all rather seriously and weighed in on the matter. New York Magazine interviewed the anonymous person behind the account and I think she came across as quite sane, not a thin-shamer at all. 
It's not meant to be taken seriously. And really I don't think it's mean. If I looked that good and could do so while eating a dozen doughnuts, then I'd also post it on my Instagram account. And if someone wanted to pick up on it and show that same gorgeous image to 97K other followers that would also be ok. In fact, I think I'd be quite pleased with myself. And if they laughed at me? Well honestly I'd still be the one with the fabulous legs who could eat carbs without fear. And if those featured didn't eat that, well then they shouldn't have been playing with their food in the first place.  Not so?

(youdidnoteatthat when I last checked in this morning)

(Oh, look, they're picking on the boys as well.  Just look at that six-pack? It's tough choosing which one you'd like to go to bed with, that or just double up and go for the dozen doughnuts. Erm having said that, he's not my type, so I'd take the doughnuts.)

(Ok seriously? The lid is still on the Nutella jar…)

(Nope. No eating done here. Teeth are barely touching the doughnut glaze. But I wish I had her body and her self-restraint.)

(Weirdly enough. I really like this image.)

(And I love this one as well. So she's not really taking a bite of that Big Mac, but she's rocking those bling rings.)