July 2009


A while ago I promised that I was going to venture more into the kind of cooking I grew up with. After years of living abroad, and through Alexander’s encouragement and curiosity, I felt it was time I started enjoying and rediscovering my culinary heritage. In planning meals for our trip to Addo Elephant Park with Alexander’s family we thought that we should prepare some traditional food for our two nights in the park.

Now, before I continue on with the food, a word about Addo. The park was established in 1931, when the elephant population of the region was virtually exterminated. An overzealous major of the time succeeded in killing 120 elephants in 11 months! The park started out small, with only about 15 elephants, but over the years more land was added to the park and animals that have been exterminated in the area were re-introduced- lions, hyenas, eland, buffalo, black rhino and more elephants. During our stay we were lucky enough to see most of these, except for the rhino and eland, on several occasions. The park’s existence and continual growth (it is being expanded to include some coastline soon) is an encouraging sign that the environmental damage past generations inflicted on this planet can and should be rectified.


Back to our meals now. For our first evening we were to have barbecued chicken and braai broodjies (barbecue sandwiches) on the menu, and for the second evening grilled snoek (South African barracuda) and aartappel koekies (potato cakes). Sadly, things did not work out quite as planned. The barbeque fire I made was way too hot and everything ended up slightly charred. I do not barbecue often and when I do I suppose I generally mess it up.

The second evening’s dinner also did not work out as planned because I could not find any fresh snoek in Port Elizabeth (city nearest to Addo) on a Sunday. Which did not make sense to me as it is a coastal city. But we could make the aartappel koekies and at least they came out perfect with a slightly fluffy and crisp potato texture and flavoured with onion and dried herbs.

To make enough potato cakes for 5 you will need:

1 onion, grated

4 potatoes, peeled and grated

100ml all-purpose flour

salt, pepper and other dry herbs to taste

oil for cooking

To make: Squeeze out as much of the potato and onion juices as possible and mix together. Add the flour, salt, pepper and herbs and mix well. Heat a little oil in a pan over medium high heat and spoon tablespoons full of the potato mixture in and flatten them into little cakes. Cook until they are golden brown on both sides. Drain them on paper towels and serve warm, either with some sour cream or jus as is.

aartappel koekies

We served ours with some hake (frozen was all I could get) wrapped in aluminium foil together with some lemon juice, apricot jam, salt and pepper and grilled in the oven. The cheese gets added before serving. It was not snoek exactly, but it worked well enough.


I am a husband!

many cupcakes

I got reprimanded by Alexander one evening last week for not using one of my birthday gifts often enough. Since he gave me the book cupcakes back in March I have, admittedly, only made one of the recipes in the book. I have used it as inspiration for a couple of other ideas. None of which I ever, unfortunately, took pictures of.

So I decided that instead of going to bed at 8:30 we should bake. He picked a recipe for peanut butter cupcakes and suggested we add some apricot jam (inspired by another recipe for jam cupcakes) to make peanut butter and jam cupcakes. Clever fiancé I have.

By the time they came out the oven I was seriously in the mood to crawl in (I’ve been waking up in increments of 30 minutes earlier each day this week and then feel beat pretty early) and so we decided to leave them to cool and do the frosting the next morning.

unfrosted cupcakes
It does not take a genius to notice something seriously wrong with these cupcakes, both frosted and unfrosted. They are decidedly dark. This is because our apartment’s oven has issues. I think the owners skimped out on quality, so it does not heat up really well and it is always a bit of a mission getting the temperature just right. I had more success with our tiny oven in Bangkok. Lately almost everything I bake comes out a little too dry around the edges and too moist in the center. Oh well, it all still tastes good and hopefully I’ll figure out the heat settings soon. Perhaps being out of cupcake liners was part of the problem in this case.

If you felt like attempting these you should have:
1 cup self-raising flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon apricot jam
150g butter at room temperature and cut into cubes
½ cup soft brown sugar
2 eggs
½ cup peanut butter (I used crunchy)

And for the frosting:
¼ cup peanut butter
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons apricot jam

And to make them:

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a muffin baking tray with cupcake liners, I made about 12 large ones. Sift the two flours together and set aside. Measure the tablespoon apricot jam into a quarter cup and fill the rest with milk, set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the peanut butter and beat until combined. Add the flour and milk alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Fill the cupcake liners with spoons full of the batter and bake for about 12 minutes until ready. Let them cool while you whip up the frosting.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, peanut butter and apricot jam until smooth. Spread over the cupcakes and serve with some tea on a sunny lazy morning.

two cupcakes

breakfast crumble

While paging through a magazine or reading over blogs I often spot a recipe I want to make right then and there. But the problem is that I usually do not have all the ingredients on hand to do it right away or I am simply not at home and in no position to rush home and start cooking. So it was with great joy that I read this recipe for Nectarine Crumble on 80Breakfasts a few nights ago.

I’ve mentioned how we’re struggling without decent internet here in SA, we really are in dark ages when it comes to that kind of technology, so I often open up a few pages at the internet café and then come home and read them. Last night, after dinner, I opened the notebook to check out what Joey’s been within minutes I was in the kitchen, preparing for the next morning’s breakfast.

Now I would never have considered eating crumble for breakfast. The mere idea is even too decadent for even me, but when I read her reasoning, “When it comes to breakfast, I see no reason why we need to limit ourselves to what is traditionally considered to be breakfast food. What is one country’s dessert, or another country’s lunch (Filipino breakfasts have rice and meat and egg and condiments!), may be your country’s breakfast.” I enjoyed rice porridge for breakfast in Thailand, so why not a sweet and rich crumble for breakfast in Cape Town?

I still did not have all the ingredients that Joey used in hers, but I had most of it and I decided to wing the rest. Instead of nectarines, I used pears. I did not have any wheat pastry flour so I used regular and instead of nuts I pulsed some of our homemade muesli and worked that into the crumble. I prepared the crumble the night before and left it in the refrigerator.

The next morning I prepared my fruits as per her recipe, adding a little of the ginger candy we made, and let it stand for a bit while preheating the oven. By the time Alexander was awake I had a lovely dark pear crumble ready for dessert.

Now I have to admit that mine did not come out perfect. I think I used a tad too much butter, so it was a little gooey, but it tasted superb! Rich and dark from the muscovado, with an almost granola-like taste and texture to the crumble and sweet pears and sharp ginger candy underneath. We topped it with some Bulgarian yogurt which provided the perfect level of sour to counter all the richness and sweetness.

breakfast crumble and xander

Thanks Joey for the inspiration and for proving that when it comes to breakfast, anything goes, as long as it tastes good. And this sure did!

resepte boek

We were browsing through a bookstore a while ago when I noticed a small recipe book with the title in Afrikaans on the spine 50 van die Beste Tradisionele Suid-Afrikaanse Resepte or 50 of the Best Traditional South African Recipes. With an air of scepticism I picked it up and looked at the cover, not because I have a poor impression of South African food, the little book just seemed a tad bland due to a dull cover design. And I judge a book by its cover.

But this one proved me very wrong. As I flipped through it I was taken back to my youth through 50 recipes that were staples at dining room tables several years ago. Gortsop (gord soup), waterblommetjie bredie (water lilly stew), melkkos (milk-soup), kerrie perskeslaai (curried peach slaw), and of course desserts like asynpoeding (vinegar pudding) and souskluitjies (sauce dumplings). And it was all beautifully illustrated in full-color pictures of the food in seriously retro serving dishes.

I had to admit that I was very wrong for being so sceptical at first. It is really a neat little recipe book that pays homage to the rich cultural traditions of South African cuisine which the dishes themselves highlights. Our food is, after all, a unique blend of African, European, Malay, and Indian culinary traditions.


Alexander decided to pick it up immediately so I can start cooking Suid-Afrikaans for him. I have tried my hands at a few of the recipes and they came out with varying degrees of success. I will try to blog about my successes and so be able to not only rediscover for myself but also share with you my gastronomic past with you.


An announcement I have wanted to make forever but kept on forgetting to. It feels a little unreal, like when you know something is real between you and someone else, why even bother with tradition. But it won’t be traditional…


…it will be special, intimate, and it will be our wedding. And deep down I actually know it is a very big deal, and that makes me very happy and very excited!