Blog

5 Herbs That Need to Survive the Plague

Bananas are apparently under attack again. I say again because back in the 1950s the Gros Michel banana supply was devastated by Panama disease and so the world switched to the Cavendish cultivar. The Cavendish is now under threat from a new strain of Panama disease called TR4 as well as something called Black Sigatoka. Don’t panic banana lovers! Scientists are making a GMO plan and besides, there are over 2000 banana cultivars out there. Some are very tasty but they may have spots on. I’m sure we can live with that.

Ok, so what do bananas have to do with my favourite herbs? Well, the crisis made me think about what I would do if my favourite herbs suddenly disappeared because of a fungus or nuclear war. If it was because of nuclear war I’d have to put both my heads together and think really hard about it. But for today this is my list, in no particular order, because I tend to cook with clusters of my favourite herbs.

First up is coriander; also known as cilantro in some parts of the world and dhania in others. It’s all very confusing but here’s the simple explanation. The Latin name for the herb is Coriandrum sativum, hence it being called coriander in the UK and many other countries. Cilantro is the Spanish translation of coriander and this is what it’s called in the US. I bet Donald is already tweeting how he loves coriander but hates cilantro even though he doesn’t eat it and that cilantro farmers must “send it back”.

In India and South Africa (except in the supermarkets) it’s called Dhania and tastes just wonderful. To me. I add it to everything. I steam my curries with fresh coriander and add it to salads and rice dishes and omelettes and… It’s not for everyone though. I thought my friend was just being weird and picky when she said she hates coriander. Turns out that some people have taste buds which make coriander taste like soap. We all know what soap tastes like. Fu@!&#ing hate the taste of soap! So it’s sad for my friend, but she wouldn’t care if coriander was wiped out. I have a secret stash of seeds just in case. Well, they’re not really coriander seeds but we’ll need those seeds in the event of nuclear war.

My next herb is garlic. I cook pretty much everything with garlic as well. As a natural antibiotic, garlic is a handy herb to keep illness at bay, and apparently vampires too. For the same reason. Russian folklore has it that vampires are created by a blood infection, which garlic would obviously kill. A shortage of garlic could therefore open us up to a vampire invasion. If this is something that worries you, here’s a kit that might help:

Vampire Repellent Kit

  • 1 wooden stake (sharpened)
  • Holy water (enough to sprinkle)   Tip – store this in something hard (not plastic) so that you can throw it at the vampire if you run out of the water.
  • 2 silver crosses
  • 15 garlic cloves (peeled but not chopped)

Right, on to my 3rd herb – Thyme. Now, some of you may claim that Thyme is a man-made construct and that it bends around itself so that yesterday is today and tomorrow all at once. Firstly, I think you are confusing Thyme with one of my other favourite foods – shrooms. And secondly, maybe you planted it in the wrong spot in the garden? Perhaps it’s just following the sun? And now you’re going to tell me that the sun doesn’t move around us and that the earth rotates around the sun. Which brings me back to my first point and another simple recipe.

Argumentitus Remedy

Ingredients:

  • 1 shroom (not finely chopped)
  • 1 corner (rondavels won’t do)

Method

  1. Pop shroom into mouth
  2. Go sit in the corner
  3. Contemplate the true meaning of being (do not look at navel)   

I’m not a huge fan of rosemary, but can you say the words rosemary and thyme without starting to sing about the unlikely possibility of going to a Scarborough fair? Which brings me to Parsley. Not a fan of that either. Sage? Meh….Mint! I do love mint. I chop fresh mint into baked beans and add a teaspoon of mayonnaise… I’m weirdly English about baked beans. Oh and mint on ice-cream and of course in a jug of sangria. I love mint! Can you say mojitos?

Mega Mojitos Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 bucket of lime juice
  • 1 jug of sugar
  • 4 buckets of white rum
  • 4 bushes of mint leaves
  • 1 bucket of club soda
  • 1 small Alaskan iceberg (roughly chopped)

Method

  1. Throw lime juice, mint leaves and sugar into a tin tub
  2. Stomp around in the tub until you start giggling with joy
  3. Add rum while giggling with joy
  4. Get out of tub and add ice and club soda
  5. Drink with friends while confirming the thyme theory

Finally. My last favourite herb. No, not the newly legalised dooby herb. It’s fennel. I love liquorice and fennel has a similar taste. One can’t add too much to a dish. It’s a trick to get the subtleness. My favourite fennel dish is the fennel and leek pasta with smoky cheese sauce and caramelised walnuts that Analize and I created. I won’t joke about fennel. It’s a seriously important herb that I would struggle to live without. Fennel and the big four.

And that’s my list. Which 5 herbs would you not want to live without, and can you tell us why?                                   

Le Pommier Self-Service Wine Farm

Le Pommier Wine farm

Le Pommier Wine Farm

We arrived at Le Pommier Wine Farm in the afternoon, just after the lunch rush. Bev and I met our other friend Lenie there and we were looking forward to a nice, light lunch at a spot that won awards for the best country lodge in the area.  We didn’t know it was self-service.  Well, technically it was not supposed to be, but it was.

There was no-one around to receive us, so we picked a table with an umbrella in the charming outdoor area, and sat down.  About 5 minutes later, after saying our hellos and how-are-yous to each other, someone came to ask if we had been helped.  We asked for menus and said no we haven’t ordered drinks yet.  After another five minutes or so of nothing happening, I slowly started to realise that it was self-service. I spotted a pile of menus near the entrance and I went to get us three of them.

By now we were really thirsty. I went inside, to the bar, and ordered our drinks.  The guys at the bar did look a little bit confused but they handed over the drinks without questions. I put it on a tray and took it to the table.  Apparently, that part was not self-service anymore, because a waitress rushed to take the tray from me and serve our drinks.  Then she even took our food order, and brought our food to the table!

The sandwiches were really good and hit the spot.  After our lunch, Lenie went to fetch the bill for us, and we decided not to tip the waitress.  I mean, it would have been a bit weird if my friends gave me 10% of their bill at that point. We resisted the urge to go and wash our own dishes and instead walked Lenie to her 800GS.  After a long day on the bike, she wanted to get home.  Bev and I were sticking around a bit longer, to do wine tasting.

There was nobody in the tasting room, except for 4 people sitting at a table outside. They were enjoying the beautiful view of the mountains and the vineyards with no glasses in their hands. Le Pommier Wine Farm also offers accommodation in the form of cozy, idyllic cottages overlooking the winelands.  I didn’t inquire, but I am guessing they are self-catering units.

A couple came in behind us, and we were all wondering – now what?

The four people informed us that they also didn’t know it was self-service. They were actually waiting for someone to pour them some wine!

There were tasting glasses and there were open bottles of wine from Le Pommier Wine Farm in the fridge.

I said, “Well, we normally start with Sauvignon Blanc, so let’s do it!  According to the list on the counter, the tasting is R40 –  we will leave it at the cash register on our way out.”

I started pouring a tasting round of Sauvignon Blanc for everyone and explained that Sauvignon Blanc is an easy-drinking wine with tropical fruit on the nose. It is most often a wine that is great to enjoy on a summer’s day with light lunches, salads, cheese, and snacks.  Then someone came and spoiled my fun by taking over and even telling us all about the wines!  He was friendly and we enjoyed chatting and making jokes with him. I might write about the wine in another post, or I might just leave it to Le Pommier to write about their own wines.

Damn, I just realised I forgot to clock out at the end of my shift!

The Red Wine Reduction Maths of Gravy

 

As a vegetarian, making gravy for a traditional roast with only veg can be tricky. Usually I’d use Ina Perlman’s gravy powder, but this week I decided to try a red wine reduction instead. I googled to find a recipe, but straight away hit a huge, insurmountable problem! The recipe called for leftover wine. So, I googled Leftover Wine, thinking it was the brand name of some special red wine reduction ingredient. Turns out it’s the wine that people don’t drink the night before. Obviously, I had to give up on my plan to make a red wine reduction right there!

red wine reductionBut then Analize explained to me that I could also use the horrible box wine that’s been in my cupboard forever. A while back someone told me that Woolies dry red box wine is the best kept secret in town, and so I decided to try it and see for myself. It’s not a secret. Nobody’s talking about it because it’s not true. That particular box wine was undrinkable. At least for me. But it would do for a reduction.

So…what is a red wine reduction anyway? It’s basically red wine that’s been heated until the volume of the liquid has been reduced by approximately half. It’s tasty because it keeps the red wine flavours without tasting overwhelmingly alcoholic.

The science behind it is interesting and a tad confusing. We know that wine contains both ethyl alcohol and water molecules. Alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water (78 degrees Celsius for alcohol vs 100 degrees Celsius for water), so strictly speaking, when the wine is heated, all the alcohol should evaporate long before the water starts to boil and evaporate. Because of this, we would expect that once reduced to half its volume, the wine reduction would contain no alcohol at all. But it does! The good news is that it retains up to 10% of the alcohol.

But why is this? Apparently, this happy phenomenon is due to something called hydrogen bonding, which involves weak electrostatic forces. In the world of molecular bonding this can be compared to the vague attraction you may have to a fling as opposed to the lifelong connection to your soulmate. hydrogen bondingNobody would waste a good Shiraz getting dronk verdriet over the breakup of two hydrogen bonded molecules. I’ve just finished watching season 6 of Sex and the City. Can you tell? So…these forces form weak bonds between the molecules of the two liquids in the wine, to create a uniform mixture known as an azeotropic mixture. When the mixture is heated, the hydrogen bonding ensures that some water molecules evaporate along with the alcohol, while equally ensuring that some of the alcohol molecules remain bonded to unevaporated water molecules. Remember that red wine on average contains not more than 14% alcohol to begin with, so the final reduction percentage makes sense. Does it? Or is it just that handy wine maths thing again?

The recipe is not rocket science, once you get around the leftover wine conundrum. You fry onions in olive oil or butter then add the wine, rosemary and vegetable stock. Simmer until the volume is reduced by about half. If you want less alcohol in your reduction, reduce the wine to half its volume first, before adding the vegetable stock and reducing it further.

I just love being a vegetarian!! So many reasons and ways to “drink” wine. Anyone for lunch?

Disobedience to the Patriarchal Society

Imagine there were hardly any movies that show a love story you can relate to. Regardless of the genre.  Whether it is a drama about a great love, like The English Patient and Breathe, or a classic like Gone with the Wind, and Pride and Prejudice. A romantic comedy, a coming of age story –  actually, any movie about love or romance.  Imagine no movie about love was about how love is for you. Or every role in a love story was played by an unknown actor – some good and some not – but never one of your favourite well-known actors.

Let me take it even further.  Imagine all love stories were about gay people and their stories.  Never a single love story or date movie or romcom, about straight people in love.  And if there is one, the church tries to get it banned and fundamental activists picket against it or start Facebook groups about how evil this film is. Or everyone is talking about the straight love scene but never the brilliant acting, or the script writing or whatever else. While for you, it is simply a story about two people in love.

Can you imagine it?  That is how it is for gay people.  I started by talking about movies, but it goes so much deeper. We are taught and conditioned from the moment we are born, that love is for heterosexual people.  We (lgbtqi people) grow up with no role models for relationships, only the forced role fulfillment we see under straight people. Almost no beautiful love stories to dream about like any normal teenager. No media that states that the way you love is something normal. There are plenty to tell you you are wrong though.  Abnormal, sinful, wrong, you name it. If you don’t fit into the “normal” box, you have to find your own way, and don’t you dare make a mistake!

Now I can almost hear a bunch of straight people mumbling that they don’t even like love stories. Chick-flicks. Great.  Then don’t watch them.  Just recognise that you are privileged to have the option that you could if you wanted to, and you would have thousands of titles to choose from, with all your favourite actors in them. Be aware that if you wanted to take your date to a romantic movie, there would most probably be one showing at a cinema near you.

Speaking of it, let’s think of the word chick-flick!  That word belongs in a museum for patriarchy.  You know, something from the time when everything to do with how women saw the world, reacted to it and responded with so-called soft emotion, was wrong. In other words, the last few thousand years. Because women are over-emotional, and we can’t have that!  All that love and romance and softness and nurturing are really sick things – so bad for society! Yes, I am sarcastic.

Only hyper-masculine emotion, in any quantity, is acceptable. The emotions men have when they declare wars, create gods to control people, kill for sports or honour, oppress women and treat them like lesser human beings. Still sarcastic. Even the movies about those things are categorised in positive-sounding genres like action, historical period pieces, drama, and war. Yup, patriarchal society can make war sound more positive and honourable than love.  When it is something that speaks to women, and all the gods forbid – teenage girls – it has to be demeaned and belittled.

Yes, it is all changing.  Slowly, and by that I mean, much too slowly.  It all started with Brokeback Mountain, and there are gay films and books these days. One of those, the one that prompted me to start writing about it, is Disobedience, starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams.  What a love story!  Maybe it got to me because it is very close to home for me, but it is not just that.  It is Rachel Weisz, to begin with.  One of my favourite actors.  It was wonderfully acted, and the script was written with respect and sensitivity regarding more than just the gay thing.

Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz in Disobedience

And there is this love scene that is simply beautiful.  Yes, i am going to talk about it, for a reason. First there is a kiss, and then later a realistic love scene between two women, the way women would do it, instead of the way men want women to do it in movies.  The most amazing thing though, was that neither of the women turn straight in the end, the way it normally happens in American movies.

So yes, finally there are two or three gay themed movies per year, but just when I started feeling more hopeful about seeing more of it in future, my bubble burst.  I was chatting to a friend who is an award-winning author in SA, and she mentioned that her last book didn’t sell well.

“Everybody  wants to hear a lesbian story, but not a fuck would they actually buy it.”  It is true for books, and maybe a little less true for movies, but still true.  What we can’t get away from though – at the risk of stating the obvious – is the fact that artistic media still mirrors society.  A society where women and the LGBTQI community  (among others) figuratively walk a few steps behind the big, strong, sword-wielding straight men. Phallic symbolism a hundred percent intended…  Killing is taken more seriously than loving.  Killing is drama and action, love is just fluff that women like, so it has to be something less worthy.

Just look at the list of the top 100 movies of the last 20 years.  Not that many love stories there – and I am by no means suggesting that the movies there are not good; they are!  I am just saying there are many love stories that are also good.  Love stories, straight gay and everything in-between, that also belong on lists like that.  I want to see them there! We still have a long way to go…

 

 

 

Sex and the City with Wine

I started watching Sex and the City this week. Not for the series itself but because I wanted to watch New York. I have a love affair with New York. My heart was broken in New York. I have a need to return to New York to heal this brokenness, but until I make it there… I watch Sex and the City.

So as you probably know, the series is about four New York women struggling with all things to do with sex and relationships and occasionally friendships. It’s a bit retro. There are scenes with the twin towers and all four of them are straight. If it was more contemporary, at least one of them would be a gay woman. Ironically, one of the actresses is a gay woman. Why am I going on and on about this? Oh yes…

I have a mixed bunch of friends here in Cape Town, a city where you’re not supposed to be able to make friends at all. I have tons. So do my friends. And just like the four women from Sex in the City, when life gets tough I reach for my besties, and when I do they always carry me across those stormy waters. And that journey is always accompanied by a particular wine. It’s a ritual. A different ritual with every friend.

My oldest friend in Cape Town is a school friend who I met when I was about 13 years old. We were hooligans as teenagers and nothing has changed. Except now she knows that I’m gay and I know she doesn’t give a damn that I am. That closet door has been in splinters for a long, long time now. So once a week we get together at the Wild Fig near Observatory for girl talk. We always order their house Shiraz and chilli poppers. The house Shiraz apparently is from an estate in Paarl which is one of the black owned wine farms in the area. Why does that matter? It doesn’t. Except perhaps to break the stereotypical notion that wine making is exclusively in the white domain. It’s not. And who cares anyway. The point is – this wine has become the centre point for hours of sharing about family, lovers, work and growing as well as dying dreams. There is a certain comfort that I feel when I think of the Wild Fig house Shiraz. It has become part of our friendship ritual. Without it, my life would be less. (Cue the violins please). I’m labouring the point here, but the wine… and the chilli poppers… they represent part of the glue of my life that keeps me sane.

And just up the road from the Wild Fig and my home is another group of crazy friends. They live in this huge house in Rosebank owned by the most generous person I’ve ever met. Pretty much once a week we get together for a dinner party, which inevitably ends up being an evening of fierce debates and wild dancing. The first time I was invited for dinner and ended up dancing on her dining room table, I felt the need the next day to message the host and apologise for being such a hooligan. What a laugh. I didn’t realise that that is just an average Friday night for them. Now this friend has good taste in everything…friends especially! But also, in food and wine. She can whip up a gourmet meal for twenty people without breaking a sweat. I often find myself staring at the spread and saying, “I’ll never invite anyone to my place for dinner, ever!”

She only drinks one wine though. She has settled on the Haute Cabriere  pinot noir and nothing else will do. It’s a truly awesome wine, described as reflecting the feel of a forest floor and with hints of tobacco and truffle. I enjoy a pinot noir in summer, but it’s not for everyone. One party goer bluntly said she didn’t care for it, and when I asked her what wines she preferred, she very confidently said “I don’t have a favourite wine. I either like the wine when I taste it, or I don’t”. We will be good friends! Because, with at least 5000 wines in the Western Cape alone, it seems a shame to limit oneself to just one. How did I come to that figure? Well, upwards of four-hundred and fifty wine farms with possibly more than five wines per farm and then the different vintages. It’s a lot of different wines! Five thousand adventures just waiting to be experienced.

Occasionally someone will bring another wine, but it sits in the cupboard forever. I play around with the Haute Cabriere when I’m there. I’m irreverent like that. She has one of those aerators that are all the rage now. I just love the sound the wine makes as it pours through the aerator. I tend to pour more than I should because of that sound. Uber makes money off me because of that sound. It’s a wonderful gurgling of promise. I love it! And when new people come to dinner I pour them Haute Cabriere through the aerator. They all have the same confused expression when I do and they all ask why I’m doing it. I explain about the aerating of the wine to soften the tannins and how it foregoes the need to let the wine breathe, but actually for me it’s just to hear that gurgling, ssshhhhlurping sound as it swirls through the vortex and into the glass. Evil I know. Especially since one is not supposed to aerate a pinot noir. But wine is an adventure and we make the adventure up as we go along. The joy of wine is not always just in the tasting.

Analize is a different wine friend. With her anything goes! We have tasted wine that she used for cooking and I simply threw down the drain. That’s rare though. Even the dodgiest of wines have something about them that is interesting. And that’s the fun of our wine blog adventure. For us we’re always looking for that wine that will make us go “oh my God!”. And on those days when the wine isn’t all that, we make sure that we’re having fun in some outlandish, and often slightly illegal way.

Blomme steel in Potch

Byna ‘n kwart-eeu gelede, in Potchefstroom, was dit ons ding om blomme te gaan steel.  Dis pret, en blomme is mooi. Daardie tyd was dit kattekwaad, nie ‘n stuk of drie kriminele oortredings soos wat dit vandag sal wees nie. Een somersaand was dit weer sulke tyd.  Gewapen met ‘n skêr en ‘n emmer ry ons bo-dorp toe, waar die ou tuine was met die meeste, en mooiste blomme. Ek het daai tyd klas gekry by Prof Theuns Botha, wat behalwe vir bekendheid in die radiobedryf, ook bekend was vir die feit dat hy wen-irisse gekweek het. Nou kan julle al klaar sien waar die storie heen oppad is, al moet ek nou ook bysê dat ek nie geweet het waar hy woon nie.

Nou ja, so ry ons toe stadig deur die strate en steel hier en daar ‘n paar rose, angeliere en whatnots.  By een huis, in die lig van die straatlamp sien ek toe ‘n tuin met die mooiste irisse, en ek sluip daar in.  Ek kan sien hierdie is nie sommer net sulke irisse nie, so ek gaan sit op my hurke, versigtig om nie die plante seer te maak nie, en ek sny ‘n paar van die mooi pers blomme af.  Die volgende oomblik staan daar twee skoene en bene in ‘n donker broek voor my.  Ek kyk stadig op en in Prof Theuns se oë vas.  Ek wil my vandag half verbeel daar was ‘n sweempie van ‘n amusante glimlag op sy gesig, maar dit is waarskynlik net dit – my verbeelding.

Nie een van ons sê ‘n woord nie.  Ek staan op, met die irisse in my hand.  Prof Theuns stap in die tuinpaadjie af tot by die hekkie, maak dit oop en staan opsy dat ek kan uitkom.  Ek mompel iets in die lyn van jammer prof koenaait prof en spring in die wagtende getaway-car met die blomme steeds in my hand. Ek beveel my vriendin om met skreeuende bande weg te trek soos in die moewies. Wat sy natuurlik nie gedoen het nie, maar die blomme stelery vir die aand was oor.

Die volgende dag sit ek redelik verleë in prof Theuns se klas, maar hy gaan aan net soos altyd, asof niks gebeur het nie. Nie ‘n woord oor die irisse nie. Op ‘n stadium begin ek ontspan en myself selfs so half oortuig dat hy my dalk nie herken het in die donker nie. Teen die middel van die periode is ek oortuig hy het nie.  Dis toe dat hy so terloops opmerk dat hy bly is om te sien mense wat sy irisse steel gebruik ‘n skêr en vernietig nie sy plante nie.  Sonder om vir my spesifiek te kyk of enige so-iets.  Net die een sinnetjie wat oor al die ander studente se koppe is, maar nie oor myne nie, en toe gaan hy aan met sy les.

Hy het geweet ek het myne baie deeglik geleer…

Avontuur Wines

Avontuur Cabernet Merlot

50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

12 months in French Oak

Fruity, easy drinking wine that you can have on its own. A good blend of the red berries often found in the Cabernet Sauvignon, and the trendy, spiciness of the new merlots.

Brut MCC Rose

70% Chardonnay, 30 Pinot Noir

The word “brut” means that this MCC is extra dry. It is a crisp, MCC with a beautiful pink colour coming from 3 hours of skin contact. Probably not the MCC you would serve at your wedding to a mixed crowd of people.  This one is more for the discerning drinker that worked his or her way up from the sweeter bubblies to the drier ones. It is the one you can whip out when you are celebrating with a few people who appreciate a dry bubbly.

It has a distinct acidity that leaves a pleasant sting on the tongue. I tasted hints of orange and orange blossom and maybe a bit of slightly sour strawberries.  I think this MCC will go well with a fruit salad full of different melons because they have a sweetness that will complement it. I can also imagine it with fresh oysters on ice and maybe starters and hors d’oeuvres with seared tuna, smoked salmon and shrimps.

I also tasted the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Blend of Avontuur wine, and preferred it to the MCC, but that is only personal taste.

Pinot Noir 2016

A good, layered Pinot Noir made from grapes grown on the Avontuur farm, where the warmer climate brings more of a richness than you would normally find in a Pinot Noir.

Kate had a rather funny, but spot-on description of this wine, saying that Pinot Noirs can be “thin, like flat Coke” but this one was not!

Avontuur’s Pinot Noir lives in 2nd and 3rd fill French oak barrels for two and a half years.

It has a smokiness in the taste with red fruit, like cherries, that makes for a dry, full flavoured Pinot Noir.  It will also age well for 3 to 4 years, for those who can wait that long.

Chardonnay Luna de Miel

Avontuur’s flagship white wine was named after the first racehorse on the farm – Luna de Miel.

This blend of 88% Chardonnay and 12% Viognier is my favourite wine in the Avontuur collection.

It tastes like coconut and citrus, with a woodiness that is at the same time subtle yet undeniable.

I would pair this wine with many things, but definitely with my “Wrong Curry” – a unique full-flavoured curry that I invented one day by doing everything “wrong”.  Follow this link to find out how to make a wrong curry…

Cabernet Franc 2014

I can’t say that I have had many 100% Cabernet Francs, and it is unusual to find one. Avontuur has been making Cabernet Franc since 1996, so they know what they are doing when it comes to this cultivar.

It has amazing floral notes; definitive violet, teaming up with sour cherry, and a whisper of mocha.

This wine is great with food or on its own. It will pair well with lamb and tomato.  I can just imagine how well it will go with a lamb shank, slowly braised in tomatoes and Old Brown…

For vegetarians, I would say it will go very well with a rich tomato dish, like a pasta with sundried tomato pesto, or something with heavy cream. Another dish that will get a thumbs up with  the Cab Franc is a melanzane, because  I think the mozzarella cheese and brinjal will bring it a slight sweetness that will work well.

I promised Bev I would make her a great ratatouille and pair it with this beautiful Cab Franc, and after giving it a lot of thought, I know just the way I am going to do this. More about that later…

 Dominion Royale – Shiraz Reserve

The best selling wine from the Avontuur Estate spends 16 months in barrels.

It is fruity and spicy as a good Shiraz should be. Where Shiraz normally has black pepper in the taste, this one surprises with white pepper.

Bev tasted quite a few sips, and I could see her thinking carefully before giving an opinion. Finally, she said that it falls short, and Kate and I had to agree. To me, it is amazing on the nose, and promises a lot. However, the promises are broken when it does not quite pull through to the taste.

Maybe it needs to age a bit…

Cabernet Sauvignon  2013

Awarded Best African Wine of 2017.

Not a wine in the traditional cab sav style. I picked up no thick blackcurrant, but rather more red fruits. It is lighter and reminds of strawberry jam. There is also an earthiness and a tiny bouquet of herbs when you swallow.

It was kept in oak barrels for 18 months, and can mature for a further 5 to 7 years. There are tannins that you can’t miss, and if you, like me, prefer softer tannins, we would have to wait half a decade or so.

As Bev said, these days she is more likely to go for the “road less traveled,” like the Cab Franc.  Having said that, this is a wine that holds a lot of potential, and I would not mind having it again when it has reached maturity.

http://www.avontuurestate.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Cabernet-Sauvignon2014.pdf

Dessert Wine 2009

A port-style dessert wine blended from 85% Shiraz and 15% Pinotage, fortified with Avontuur’s estate brandy. It is sweet, but ends drier, like a red wine. There is strong dark chocolate and flowers on the nose, and with the first sip, it was like walking into the rain… I love rain, and I love the petricor smell of rain on dust, and this wine has exactly that, bottled.  It is served cold, and tastes like cold rain, hitting a dirt road.  Needless to say, I loved it!

Spookfontein Wine Farm

We don’t do “wine farming” to give bad “reviews.”  On the other hand, I also have to describe a wine farm experience as it happened, to stay authentic.  So, unfortunately, the post about Spookfontein Wine Farm in the Hemel and Aarde Valley won’t say much, because it was kind of a non-experience. It is possible that we caught them on a bad day, so when I am in the area again, I might want to pop in and see if things are different this time around.

We got there late-ish, with about 35/40 minutes to go before closing time.  The setting was very nice, and we were happy to discover what we thought was a hidden gem.  They have a beautiful tasting room with stylish, creative decor that was arty without being over the top. We were on our way back to Cape Town and sat down for the last tasting of the day.

Three Wines from the Spookfontein Wine Farm

Bev asked what they offered, and we were told we could taste 3 wines. The three Spookfontein wines were preselected and they didn’t really tickle the imagination.  We asked if we could taste some of the others, and were told no, only those three were available for tasting.  The good thing about it was that it was a free tasting.  We even offered to pay to taste some of the other wines, but it was not an option. They said their license didn’t allow them.

The information we got about the wines were delivered unenthusiastically in the time it took to pour the wine into two tasting glasses. It was very generic; things we could probably have read on the bottle.  Questions were answered with a bland, “I don’t know.” I think it was around there that we really lost interest in the tasting. We didn’t discuss the wines much nor did we make any notes. We tasted our three wines – I don’t remember what they were – and left.  I don’t’ think anyone noticed – good thing we didn’t have to pay!

As we drove away, I tasted the name “spookfontein” in my mind, like I would roll an interesting wine around on my tongue.  I wondered about the story behind the name and I wanted the spook to jump out an haunt me.  The name Spookfontein Wine Farm, other than the wines, just sparks a rush of mystery coursing through the imagination.  I kept thinking – there is so much you can do with a name like “spookfontein…” So why don’t they?

Click here to visit Spookfontein Wine Farm’s website:  http://www.spookfontein.co.za

 

Onderkloof Wine Estate

Our pictures of Onderkloof Wine Estate

 

We tried going to Onderkloof Wine Estate in Somerset West once before, following the signs up from Old Sir Lowrys Road, but got to a closed gate.  A few weeks later I happened to drive past, and saw a sign saying that they were open that Saturday for wine tasting.  I let Bev know, because Onderkloof is a stone’s throw from my shack, and we were excited to check in on the Saturday morning.

They are now open for wine tasting every first Saturday of the month, from 11 am to 3 pm.  On weekdays you can visit the tasting room from 11 am to 4 pm.

To visit Onderkloof Wine Estate’s website, click here.

It was busy and the people from the estate had their hands full, but they were friendly and welcoming and served us promptly.  We started asking questions about the Onderkloof wines, but the guy helping us admitted that he was only helping out for the day and couldn’t answer all our questions.  Mindful of the situation, and it being a relaxed Saturday morning, we didn’t mind.  Especially since he promised to send the winemaker, Yves from Switzerland, to us as soon as he got a gap.  I always love speaking to the winemakers themselves!

Yves and his wife, Luanne, came to talk to us, and it was a very informative morning, in which I learned quite a bit about the wines of the unique Schapenberg wine region. They also took us for a quick cellar tour, which was an added bonus. Yves and Luanne were married in the cellar, lending a romantic nuance to the whole Onderkloof experience.

Onderkloof Sir Lowry Classic Blend 2014

Sir Lowry Classic Blend

I bought some of their Sir Lowry Classic Blend 2014 to bring home, and I am enjoying it as I write this post.  It is easily my favourite red from the Schapenberg.  It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, 50% of each.  I have to be honest that I don’t know much about Cabernet Francs, but I am making a point of tasting them when possible, and I am liking it more and more.  In fact, I have become a big fan of red blends, and although I can’t always identify a Cab Franc yet, I am noticing that whenever I love a blend, there is some Cab Franc in it, which says a lot.

Tasting Notes

This particular one is smooth, with soft tannins.  It seems like a light, easy drinking wine when you take the first sip, but then you realise, it is not. When you swirl it on your tongue it starts teasing you with a subtle complexity that dares you to try and put it into words. There are chocolate and coffee that hit you first.  and then, for me, just a tiny bit of caramel in the mocha.  I also get a fleeting hint of lavender that disappears just before you can say, yes, there it is. Yet, it is there – or not quite there – with every sip, so I can’t ignore it.  The description on the bottle promises blueberry and cranberry.

I don’t really get the blueberry. Maybe very vaguely, only because I was told it should be there, but the cranberry jumps out with great enthusiasm! I also taste other red berries like strawberry and maybe even cherry.

Now I am going to stick my neck out! I think it finishes with a hint of black pepper, that I can’t ignore. It is subtle, and maybe it is just me tasting it, but I got it in every sip.

All in all, it is a wine that you just can’t go wrong with.

It is the one I will take to a dinner party when I don’t know what is on the menu, and who will be there, because it will satisfy the wine fundi who wants to think about what they drink, as well as the casual wine drinker who just knows that it is going down well.  It is independent enough not to be overwhelmed by most flavourful foods, but also versatile enough to complement many dishes. By that, I mean even dishes that have a unique flavour, and would normally be paired with a specific type of wine.

Paring the Onderkloof Sir Lowry Classic Blend 2014

Crispy fried tofu

Crispy fried tofu

I would pair the Sir Lowry Classic Blend with any beef dish, but tonight I had it with a rather plain, home-cooked vegetarian meal. It worked, and it was more than just enjoyable!  We had crispy fried tofu, savoury rice, a tomato and pesto based stew with onions and green beans, and a green salad with black pepper feta cheese, and it paired perfectly. I would also not hesitate to pair this wine with something like a Chinese or Asian chicken or pork dish; perhaps something in a sweet and sour sauce, or a soya based basting.

I think I need to get back to Onderkloof very soon, and stock up on this wine.  I really could have it every day!

Read more about Onderkloof Wines here.

Find Onderkloof Wine Estate on Google Maps:

Singapore Noodles

 

Singapore Noodles

Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese, Malaysian, Singaporean
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 2

Ingredients

Ramen or Egg Noodles - 2 - 3 servings

  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander - chopped

Stir fry

  • 2 - 3 Cups Chinese Cabbage - chopped
  • 1 medium Onion
  • 2 cloves Garlic - chopped
  • 2 -3 Carrots - cut into strips (sometimes when in a hurry, I slice them into thin wheels)
  • 1 medium Red Pepper - chopped
  • 1 Red Chillie - finely chopped
  • Peanut or sunflower oil for frying
  • 1 tbsp Sesame Oil - (most of the flavour in this dish comes from the sesame oil, so it is not an ingredient you can leave out)

Sauce

  • 1 tsp Tamarind in 50ml boiling water If you don't have tamarind, you can use a tablespoon of lemon juice.
  • 1 Chinese vegetable or mushroom stock cube Add to the hot water, with the tamarind. Any other vegetable or chicken stock cube will also work.
  • 2 - 3 tbs Light Soya Sauce
  • 1 tsp Brown Sugar
  • 5ml Curry Powder - hot or not is up to you.
  • 5 ml Lime juice - I use lemon when I don't have lime.
  • 150 ml Luke warm water
  • 1 heaped tbsp All purpose flour
  • A bit of extra, cold water.

Instructions

NB: Mix the sauce ingredients before you start the stir-fry because you will add it while the pan or wok is still hot. Cook the noodles first, or while you are making the stir-fry.

Noodles:

Add the noodles to fast boiling water. Cook for 2 - 5 min, (until al dente) drain and set aside.

To make the stir-fry:

  1. In a wok or heavy skillet - heat the peanut/sunflower oil and sesame oil.  

  2. This dish is prepared on a very hot plate; stir constantly to avoid burning. 

    When the wok is very hot, add carrots, onions and garlic and stir-fry for about 1 min.

  3. Add the rest of the veggies, mix everything and stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook it and keep residual cooking in mind; the veggies must be crispy in the end.

  4. After about 3 min, pour the sauce over, cook through, and immediately remove from the heat.

To make the sauce:

  1. Put the tamarind in 50ml hot water. Let it stand for a few minutes, then strain, You will only use the juicy extraction; discard the tamarind skin and pips.

  2. Combine all the ingredients except flour, and stir well.  

  3. Add a little bit of cold water to the flour, and stir until it is a smooth paste, free of any lumps.

  4. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to the flour paste and stir through.

  5. Pour over the cooked stir-fried veggies on the hot plate, and stir well.  It will start bubbling and cooking almost immediately. If the sauce is too thick, you can add a small amount of water.

  6. Cook for 30 seconds to 1 min only, and remove from heat.

  7. Add the cooked noodles and mix well, making sure the sauce coats all the noodles.  Garnish with chopped coriander and serve in Chinese bowls.

Recipe Notes

My Singapore Noodles recipe was created by speaking to many street food vendors in Singapore and Malaysia, and watching even more of them doing what they do best, for 3 years. It is not a served-upside-down-pretty-fancy-restaurant version. It is the real thing; street food, served in little square folded wax paper packets and eaten for breakfast, lunch or supper.  I have served it to Singaporeans, and they loved it, so I know it is authentic!