Still Life With Wooden Spoon

Sprigging Marvellous
September 27, 2010, 10:22 am
Filed under: Musing

I am beyond proud of the Avant Gardener and his brother for the success of their blog, Sprig at the SA Blog Awards. We found out on Saturday night that the boys had won in their category (Best Green Blog) and much excitement ensued. All hail the kings of the Green blogosphere!


The Joy of Surprise Sweets
September 21, 2010, 9:05 am
Filed under: Musing | Tags: , , ,

The office is a dangerous place. Temptation lies around every corner – specifically the corner outside with a rather lovely restaurant-cum-patisserie-spot. It also, however, lurks within our walls themselves in the form of a rather delightful designer named Gen, and her granny’s multitude of old-school treats. There’s something incredibly comforting about grandmotherly confectionary, and Gen’s is top notch, including something I’d completely forgotten I’d even liked… Coconut Ice…

After a stressful couple of days, finding this on my desk was a rather welcome surprise. I haven’t had coconut ice in ages, and it always reminds me of being little and learning how to cook. I’m a sucker for coconut, and since quitting smoking a couple of months ago, appreciate the kick of a sugar rush. There’s something incredibly toothsome about its texture, and it’s almost Proustian in its nostalgia-inducing qualities. Bizarrely, though, it always manages to taste as pink as it looks.

All in all, probably not something I should be eating, but considering my forays into Pilates and Yoga, combined with the panoply of virtuous meals to be had at the Avant Gardener’s house, I reckon it’s allowed.

The Musing Continues
September 10, 2010, 9:30 am
Filed under: Musing | Tags: , , ,

After stuffing myself silly on patisserie and tacos, I was treated to a rather vibey meal at Mama Africa on Long Street. I’d only ever accompanied the Mountain Princess there during the day for a stop off during retail jaunts, and could never have imagined how groovy it became in the evening. So, this in mind, the Avant Gardener and I met the Mountain Princess and her beau there on a balmy Friday evening – after a brief trip along a contour path to watch the sun set – and quickly got stuck into a bottle of red wine.

With rather spirited musical accompaniment, and superlative dinner conversation, I tucked into a perfectly done steak, done with some idiosyncratic African side dishes. The Princess and AG went veg for the evening, and the Princess’s beau was kept busy with a mammoth helping of curry. All comments on the meals were positive – as was murmured between mouthfuls – and I was quite impressed overall, I must say.

The next day we ventured to Woodstock, and my absolutely favourite part of a Cape Town trip – the Biscuit Mill. I know its hipsterish to the Nth degree, but something about all that amazing food – even if it can be a tad overpriced – makes me slightly lightheaded even at the thought. We got there good and early – as opposed to my usual 10:30 arrival time – and did the saunter around the food stalls before going back to the cooked wonders in the courtyard. The AG and I were tempted by some eggs Benedict on a rosti, and dutifully stood in line, but before we could get there we were intercepted by occupants of the French-German stall, and what is possibly one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten: Flammkuchen.

With a super-thin sourdough base, these are something like the lovechild of a pizza and galette. They’re spread generously with sour cream and crème fraiche before being sprinkled with red onion, spring onion and smoked bacon. With a quick blast in a screamingly hot oven, they come out super crispy, and morish as all hell. Ours disappeared in a matter of minutes. This will definitely be something that I try and replicate soon.

Other highlights of the Biscuit Mill pilgrimage included an earthy, punchy porchini butter (also to be replicated), some rather delicious saucisson, and a potato bread loaf that made one question the nature of divinity. A rather enjoyable outing altogether, I must say.

Various Cape Town Musings
September 8, 2010, 7:29 pm
Filed under: Musing | Tags: ,

So, I was lucky enough to go down to Cape Town last week for a long weekend jaunt in the Mother City. What does an iterant foodie do when confronted with such an opportunity? Eat out for every meal possible, of course. While I did do the traditional wander down Long Street with a marvellous mountain friend, buying myself some supremely hipster shoes and a lovely print, I spent the rest of my four days down indulging in food that only the Cape can offer. This being the case, I’m going to devote the next couple of posts to some unabashed food musing. Enjoy…

First off was a trip to San Julian, in the Green Point-ish area for some Mexican food. Now, for my sins I went to the States a while ago, and sampled what I assumed was some pretty authentic Mexican cuisine. I have done the Mexican Kitchen vibe in CT before, but I reckon you need more than a couple of margaritas to consume that much ersatz cheese in one sitting. San Julian, luckily, is a taco vendor of a very different nature. Accompanying the Avant Gardener and brothers for a quiet-ish night, we pretty much ordered the whole menu (not as intense as it sounds) and were all left mumbling in approval with full mouths. While refried beans, barbequed “meat” (no further explanation on the menu) and, of course, tacos, all featured prominently it was all rather delicious. Even the Avant Gardener, who opted for the vegetarian option, was tempted by various plates. A definite yes for this one: the tequila is varied, the tacos are made in front of you, and the waiter is supremely friendly. Do it.

After a leisurely breakfast with the AG at the Daily Deli in Tamboerskloof, I spent the afternoon book shopping and drinking lunchtime beer with the CT partner in crime. That afternoon, however, I ventured into the Gardens Centre, tempted by the promise of uniquely delicious patisserie delights at Cassis. I couldn’t have even imagined what was in store. Aside from the various bits and pieces that the AG and I ploughed through – with riffs on chocolate, praline, pistachio goodness and the like – we also got some macarons. Now, I made some recently, and ended up with a rather more rustic result, but these were truly little almond-y masterpieces on the saucer. I feel I should be doing some kind of penance for calling my creations ‘macarons’ in the face of this damning evidence, but such is life.

So – thusly ends the first instalment. Next on the agenda – a trip to Mama’s, the Biscuit Mill, pancake perfection and more. What fun…

Various Bloggings
September 6, 2010, 10:51 am
Filed under: Musing

So… another micro-post today, I’m afraid. After a whirlwind tour of Cape Town for this weekend, I do have various foodie musings to share, which will be updated in due course. Much excitement. What I did want to punt for this post, though, is the Avant Gardener’s rather lovely blog. It’s a finalist in the SA blog awards, and well worth your vote. So, head on over to Sprig, and show them some bloggy love… you know you want to.

On the Virtue of Proper Mash
August 30, 2010, 6:38 pm
Filed under: Cooking, Musing | Tags: , , ,

So, my parents returned home yesterday with a briefcase filled with artisinal, pork-based products from the Joostenberg Deli in Cape Town. Such a thing is not completely unheard of in my family; one of my earliest memories is of my father returning home from the UK with a whole wheel of stilton secreted in his suitcase. Foodiness must run in the blood. This strange, Proustian moment aside, amongst these porcine delights were some packages of rather special sausages (Toulouse and British Bangers). These were simply crying out for some proper mash tonight – a combination which rather effectively banished the Monday blues.

Now, I have mentioned previously that I am a scrambled egg fascist. Well, my totalitarian tendencies also extend to mashed potatoes. I believe that Proper Mash (note the capitalisation) is the cornerstone of western civilisation (note the lack of capitalisation) and, as such, warrants a blog post of its own.

In order to craft the ideal mash, you need to peel and boil a number of potatoes until tender. You could, alternatively, steam them, but there is something suitably Dickensian about a boiled potato. Once this is done – after about 20 minutes have passed – you strain the potatoes, and leave them to drain in a colander. While this is accomplished, you place a rather indulgent knob of butter in a saucepan with a decent splash of milk, and apply some heat until melted and combined. Then you mash the potatoes, combine with the butter and milk mix, and beat with a wooden spoon until gloriously silky. Add a generous grind of salt and some (I cannot emphasise this enough) white pepper, beat a touch more, and you’re done.

If you haven’t scrimped on the butter, and have applied a suitable amount of elbow grease to the whole process, what you should be left with is the most amazing mashed potato of your life. Even the meanest of mean reds (see Breakfast at Tiffany’s) would disappear when confronted with such a dish. Enjoy.

The Schlep to Shongweni
August 24, 2010, 9:00 am
Filed under: Musing

I’ve heard rumours of the amazingness of the Shongweni Farmers’ Market for ages. The catch is, however, that it is miles from my house. Considering that all the stallholders start packing up at 10:30, this would mean me getting up obscenely early (by Saturday standards) to make it there in time. Finally though, this weekend I was invited up by the Avant Gardener, and decided to brave the journey into the hinterland, lured by promises of foodie goodness.

Now, I have always been a bit miffed by the dearth of decent food markets in Durban. I tend to go a touch market-manic whenever I visit Cape Town to make up for it – the day I discovered the Old Biscuit Mill was the closest I’ve ever been to epiphany in my life. I would have to say though, after finally experiencing this market, that it ranks up there with any other I’ve been to.

Now, you shouldn’t expect anything even remotely fancy here. Unlike at the Biscuit Mill, I only saw a small clutch of hipsters – wayfarers and checked shirts guarding against the onslaught of normals. The lack of pretention is refreshing though, and the focus is firmly on the food. My lingering hangover was sent on its way after about the fifth stall – and fifth set of tasters – and after some initial restraint, the wallet came out and some purchases were made.

So, after a morning braving the dust and crowds I returned home bearing a packet of superlative coppa ham, a charming brown sourdough loaf, and some rather delicious blue cheese. Check my post over at The Socialite to see what became of it all. There will definitely be a repeat visit to this rather marvellous market.