June 2009


milnerton market

Heading out of the city on Marine Drive, in the direction of the West Coast, lies the industrial neighbourhood of Paarden Eiland. As with most such areas, this one is not terribly attractive by any stretch of the imagination. It lies sandwiched between the breakwater; that hides a perfect view of the ocean, and the N1 heading to the northern suburbs. It’s the kind of place that I try my utmost to avoid.

It is here on a stretch of open land between the ocean and Marine Drive that somewhat informal market sets up on Saturdays and Sundays. It fits the locale, a motley congregation of scruffy cars, rusty trailers, faded gazebos and large sheets of tarp spread out on the ground. The trunks of cars stand open to reveal home-baked goods or old LP’s, from trailers are sold boerewors rolls, cinnamon pancakes and dried fruit and nuts, anything from fresh fruit to fake Rolexes can be found under the gazebos, and on the tarps are displayed pieces of second hand furniture, kitsch old bits of home décor and battered power tools.

Though it does not sound like the kind of place one would want to visit on a grey and miserable Sunday morning, it is exactly what we did this past Sunday. Although the market sounds miserable, it is a bit of a treasure chest of old South African style and antique pieces if you know what you are looking for. And most of it available for a steal. It is here we picked up an old piano stool I re-upholstered (something for another entry), two camp stools and some retro kitchenware.

Only a couple of traders decided to weather the chilly wind and wet earth to set up their stands, and so the market was sadly pretty empty. But not without some great finds. While stepping over muddy puddles we spotted a set of teacups and saucers. The saucers actually match a plate we picked up at the market months ago. We asked about the price, it was not much, and decided to walk around a bit more and think about it when the trader called us back with a lower offer, the equivalent of US$5. It would have been rude to say no.

cup & saucer

On the way out we picked up a non-descript, yet funky, metal teapot for brewing the leaf tea our friend James left us before heading back to the UK and a little side table. As soon as we got home and washed our new tea items I brewed us a pot of hot Earl Gray, settled down in the living room and enjoyed our new treasures from Paarden Eiland.

xander & teacups* Thanks to X for the pictures of the market, taken on a much more pleasant day earlier this year.

Steamed egg is something I used to associate with bland school lunches at my bushi-ban in Taiwan. It never looked very appealing and was consistently bland. It was not until a friend took me for dinner to a very attractive Japanese restaurant in downtown Hsinchu that I appreciated the dish.

In between gossiping about her husband and my boss she ordered me a serving of steamed egg. I was a bit apprehensive I have to admit, but when the waitress placed the dish in front of me I knew it was going to be far superior to any other steamed egg dish I’ve ever had before. The color was a lovely pale yellow, with a silky texture, like perfect soft tofu. It tasted supreme.

I have since attempted to recreate this perfect steamed egg dish several times, but sadly my efforts have not come near the one I had that day. So instead of trying for a perfect and simple variety I started experimenting with adding some additional ingredients to create a small breakfast or lunch, resulting in this, my tuna steamed egg.

steamedegg2

For tuna steamed egg you need to find:
a steamer
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
¼ cup water
green part of one spring onion, sliced thinly and some reserved for garnish
1 small chili, sliced thinly and some reserved for garnish
pinch of white pepper
1/2 tin of tuna, drained and shredded

The process:
Bring some water to a gentle simmer in a pot and cover with a steamer. While the water is coming to a simmer, mix the eggs, soy, oil, water, spring onion, chili and white pepper in a bowl. Divide the tuna between two ramekins or heat proof cups and pour the egg mixture evenly over the tuna. Lightly mix the two together, place in the steamer and cover, allowing it to steam for about 15 minutes, or until a fork inserted comes out clean.

Enjoy as is or serve with some fingers of toasted bread, dipping the bread in the steamed egg.

steamedegg1The fun thing about steamed egg is that the varieties are almost limitless. Instead of tuna, try bits of fried bacon, or strips of shredded chicken, or slices of plum tomatoes. Use some white wine instead of water, olive oil instead of sesame and so forth. have fun and do share your attempts!

whole toast

I suspect that this dish may be called a ‘toad in a hole.’ Why a toad I do not know and quite honestly it sounds a little gross. Nothing against toads of course, they are quite sweet if you see them lurking around streams and ponds and in jungles, like the enormous one we saw in Kao Sok in Southern Thailand, a real brut that one. But I do not want to associate them with my lunch.

So I will call this ‘fried egg in toast’, simple and terribly unoriginal but at least Alexander will know exactly what I am serving him when I say “We’re having fried egg in toast for lunch today”.

For our fried egg in toast I took out:

2 slices of toast
2 eggs
2 tablespoons crumbed feta
bits of chopped dried meat (I used South African biltong)
a small bunch of fresh thyme leaves
some butter for frying

Prepare it by:

Cutting a hole in the toast with a cookie cutter. Fry the circle briefly in some butter and set aside. Put the slices of toast in the pan and briefly fry on each side carefully breaking an egg into each hole. Let it cook until the bottom has set and then carefully flip the toast over, allowing it to cook for a bit to set the yolk and flip it round again. Sprinkle with the cheese and thyme leaves and serve with the circle.

broken toast

I left the eggs slightly runny so we could dip bits of toast into the yolk, cheese and thyme mixture. But if that is not your cup of tea you can cover the pan briefly to speed up the cooking process, it usually helps with setting the egg. Slide the toast onto plates and sprinkle the feta, thyme and meat over top, serving it all with cut out circle on the side. If you enjoy your eggs slightly runny you can dip the circle into the yolk.

Preparing this is real easy and the variations on what you can put on top is endless. Have fun!

It has not been mere weeks, but two months since my last entry. A shameful record. And in those two months I did not even read any blogs, followed any events or made any comments. The thought makes me sad. I’m blaming the dark ages of internet that South Africa finds itself in mostly. I believe we had better connectivity in Laos than here in my home country. So without being online at home I never find the time to read blogs or update my own and inspiration has completely left me.

But I’m sure you, my last reader, do not want to hear excuses, so I’ll just hop into other news. When we were still living in Thailand we started dreaming about opening a café serving some of the food we came to love from the region. A café inspired by the cafes we frequented in Hanoi, Bangkok, Siem Reap, Vientiane, Phnom Penh, Chiang Mai, Saigon and Penang, something that would bring together the food, drinks, atmosphere, style and tropical feel of our home region for the past two years. And so, Piesang was born.

piesang tropic asian

Pisang, as I’m sure many of you already know, is the Malay and Indonesian word for banana, a fruit tree whose image almost epitomizes the region. The Afrikaans word for banana came from the Malay-Indo term, with a slight change in spelling. And as Piesang conjures up thoughts of Southeast-Asia combined with a retro South African feel, we thought it would be perfect as our name.

We have not yet opened a café. But we have made our first steps into the local food scene by getting into the Neighbourgoods Market. THE hottest place to be on a Saturday. It is a fantastic market where you can buy fresh breads, cheese, spreads, wine, chocolate, baked goods and more and also enjoy freshly prepared food from a variety of vendors. When we learned about it we knew we had to get in and we were lucky to have been offered a spot there so soon.

So besides not having the web we have also been busy setting this up, preparing food, thinking of new recipes and things to try and getting people familiar with us. If you find yourself in Cape Town on a Saturday, rainy or sunny, head over to the Biscuit Mill’s Neighbourgoods Market and come say hello.

piesang bordeaux

For more on Piesang, check out our Piesang blog.