After the first three weeks of spring were cold, wet and miserable, this week arrived with plenty of sunshine, slightly balmy days and the sensation that beach days are back. We were elated! So elated that we (finally!) bought garden chairs and lots of white wine and soda water to enjoy with dinner out on the balcony again.

But we awoke this morning at 5:30AM (to climb Lion’s Head again) to an overcast city. Despite a slight crispness in the air that was not there yesterday we went ahead with our climbing, enjoying the mist that enveloped us on the way up and down and the new flowers in bloom all over the mountain. The weather would clear as soon as the sun is out, I told myself.

Well, it’s much later in the day, I’ve checked the weather forecast for the weekend and I have shut all windows to keep the chill out. Spring has been taken from us! And this on the day my northern sister is coming to visit us from Gauteng. I’ve been so excited to show her what she’s missing by not moving here; lazing at the beach, picnics in the Gardens, sunshine shopping sprees at Milnerton Market and a lazy cheese and wine tasting at Fairview.

I wish I had one or three of these to enjoy now… 

salted cashew cupcakes

…salted cashew cupcakes.

I made these a while ago, tweaking a recipe from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook for maple walnut cupcakes. They tasted incredible, especially after Alexander decided to throw pinches of sea salt on each to balance the decadently rich frosting. They were incredibly good, so much so, we had to give some away as we were risking eating the whole giant batch ourselves.

Yes, one of those would make me feel better now. But instead I’ll be baking banana and strawberry muffins for sis’s arrival and prepare cookie dough for Saturday nights dessert with friends. Hopefully all of that will lift my spirits and I’ll be sharing the recipes with you in sunnier weather.

trou soen

I gave myself a month to do an entry about our wedding, but now it’s been about two months and something tells me if I delay it any longer it’s only going to happen around the time of our paper anniversary.

From the start we decided it was going to be a small and simple affair. A few family members and some friends, an informal lunch and just a laid back afternoon. Our guest list, including the guy who married us, came to 21. So altogether there were only 23 people attending our wedding. Which made things very easy for us.

We decided to do almost everything ourselves and to host it at our apartment. With some borrowed furniture and the bedroom turned into a serving room it worked out perfectly. And since the weather played along and we had a gloriously warm winter’s day we could open up our balcony so guests could hang out there as well.

trou pret

Our theme was South African with a lot of Karoo in it. On the road trip we took with Alexander’s family prior to our wedding we passed through the Karoo and picked up lots of local preserves, cheese and two lovely legs of lamb (thanks Abe!). My parents brought some produce from Limpopo province like butternut and more preserves. On the morning of the wedding we all went for breakfast at the Neighbourgoods Market and picked up some bread, more preserves, mini-milktarts and were given a couple of fresh sprigs of flowering rosemary by another vendor.

trou blomme

We rushed home to get everything in order, giving our families (who helped in preparing the lamb and doing the flowers as well as arranging the house the previous day) strict orders to stay away until just before noon. I finally started feeling nervous (for some very strange reason I was extremely calm and relaxed the day before- very unlike me!) and was worried about flipping out in front of everybody moments before I get married. A shot of gin when we got home helped steady the nerves though! Together we prepared some salads and laid out the table. We were just in time for the arrival of our guests.

trou kostafel

Next thing we were wedded. A strange feeling, yet really sweet and nice. I enjoyed every moment of standing there with Alexander, knowing we are taking such a huge step in our relationship and feeling totally at ease about it.

After the ceremony the feasting began. Guests helped themselves to the spread of roast leg of lamb, butternut salads, curried bean salad, pickled onions, bread, cheese and preserved figs. There were not a lot of seats so everybody just found a spot and made themselves comfortable. If I may say so myself, I think the food was excellent and all really delicious.

trou kos skep

We set out a variety of desserts in the kitchen for after, some heart-shaped milk tarts from the market, koesisters (spiced and deep-fried balls of dough rolled in coconut) from the Bo-Kaap and boeremeisies (farm-girls, peaches preserved in brandy).

trou nagereg

We had a relaxed lunch and afternoon, enjoying the food and great company. At around 3:30 I was beat and we left our families and two friends (thank you!) with the mess to go spend the night at a nearby hotel.

When I look at the pictures of our wedding I want to do it again, exactly as it was. The only thing I wish I could change would be the guests attending- there were a few people, family and friends, who live too far and could not make it, so if we could do it again I’d wish for them to be here too.

trou gaste eet

Thanks to all of our families and our friends for all the help and lending and being here to celebrate our very special day with us. It was fantastic!

trou familie

downtown

Whoa! I’m neglecting my blog again. I gave myself a deadline for doing a wedding entry, which came and went and still no sign of it. Oh well.

I’ve been busy missing Taiwan. It’s my home, even though I’m neither Taiwanese nor was I born there. I only spent about 6 years of my life there, and during that time it grew into me and became the place I miss. I’ve never missed South Africa the same way I miss Taiwan.

This does not mean I do not like SA. I think it is a pretty neat country. I feel great pride when our athletes and sports teams win international competitions or when a great movie or book comes out of the country. I get angry when people diss on South Africa or make ignorant statements about us. I am South Africa. But I miss Taiwan the way Alexander misses the US. I cannot explain it, it just is. Since I left for good in 2006 I’ve been back once a year except for this year.

A friend offered me the opportunity to go back and teach there for two months in October and November. In my head I went over the numbers and figured that it might make financial sense to go back. But it would have meant leaving Alexander behind for the whole time as someone would have had to stay and keep the Piesang market stand going. And it would also have stalled any potential plans for us to open up a place if I’m not here to help with that. And having done long-term in the past there was just no way I was going to leave Alexander here and be on my own for two months. I would have been much too miserable without him always close by my side.

temple wishes

Sad sigh. I console myself with the knowledge that both of us are missing home. He the US, me Taiwan.

Luckily we could still approximate some things from Taiwan in the form of food and drinks. So when I recently saw this post and recipe for this soupy tomato and egg dish I often had for lunch at school on EatingAsia I decided to make it. I tried to follow the recipe as well as I could, but the tomatoes were not nearly as juicy as they should have been, so my attempt was not exactly great. But it helped with the homesick. The cucumber salad was near perfect though.

tomatoe egg soup

We also heard about a store in the Northern Suburbs owned by a Taiwanese couple, so we decided to go check it out. We chatted a bit to the owners who are from Chiayi and Tainan in the south and reminisced about home. I found they sold the little balls found in pearl milk tea. Of course, the way you get it in Taiwan is mostly from scratch and not from bags with the words ‘starch balls’ on them. It was not right, but it made me feel good having some milky tea with tapioca pearls again!

pearl milk tea

I miss you Taiwan, I miss you all of my friends in Taiwan.

sundown beach

For more about the amazing food in Taiwan and other things Taiwan, go check out these posts on EatingAsia and Primitive Culture.

The last night of our trip we stayed in the Karoo town of Prince Albert. The Karoo is one of my favourite parts of South Africa, it is a pretty dry part of the country, with whole lots of nothing between each little town. Here and there you see trees around a farmhouse in the distance, giving the impression of an oasis in the desert, but otherwise it’s just hills and shrubs, road and dust. I fondly remember childhood visits to my paternal grandmother in one of these old Karoo towns, and Prince Albert refreshed the atmosphere of my memories.

The town is basically one main road, with a couple more running off to the sides. Most of the homes are in the old Victorian or Karoo Victorian style, with a few more modern ones from the fifties. On both sides of the road old irrigation canals run alongside the pavement, still supplying water to the gardens of resident gardens and fruit orchards.

Prince Albert PM1

Despite the fact that we saw very few travellers, most places in town were fully booked, luckily we got rooms at this old house that is almost two-hundred years old, with many of the original fixtures still in place.

Prince Albert GH

Prince Albert has become quite a popular destination over recent years, with many of the homes neatly restored and now housing guest houses, restaurants and stores selling locally produced food and wines. Despite the town’s popularity it still seems like a sleepy hamlet, with the residents some of the friendliest people I have encountered in South Africa.

We picked up a lot of the preserves for our wedding here, as well as the leg of lamb we served, at the small and pleasant butchery below, bottom right corner.

Prince Albert Scenes

We spent a very short amount of time here, arriving late in the afternoon and leaving the next morning, but we did get to take in the local scenery, like the historic Moederkerk or Mother Church.

Prince Albert Moederkerk

Some very Karoo details.

Prince Albert Details

Pretty gates.

Prince Alber Gates

And local cats enjoying the warming morning sun.

Karoo Sunny Cats

coastal alloes

After our two nights in Addo we headed west on the N2 in the direction of Knysna where we were to spend our the third night of our trip. The N2 runs through some beautiful country with the ocean to one side for much of the road and spectacular mountains on the other.

We made a stop along the way at this bridge crossing the Storms River. Looking down the lush canyon it was almost disappointing to see this small river at the bottom called Storms River, but the clouds overhead and the steep cliffs overgrown with greenery added to an eerily stormy atmosphere.

storms river bridge

storms river

We also pulled into the Tsitisikama National Park, set along the coast. We wandered around, gazing at the the incredible waves crashing onto the rocks…

3 waves crashing

…and taking in a stroll through some dense foliage to a rickety suspension bridge over the mouth of the Storms River into the ocean.

storms river mouth

It was an incredibly beautiful stretch of coastline and I hope to revisit it for longer some other time, spending a couple of nights in the wooden bungalows with views of forest and ocean.

waves and rocks

birthday slut brownies

It’s Alexander’s first birthday as a married man. I baked him brownies for breakfast dessert.  I used Lindt 85% Cocoa chocolate, of course. And the reason for my being so crass is reading too much Dlisted. Here are some other birthday sluts.

addodam

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.

addorondawelallopath

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.