Monday, December 28, 2009

Anton's birthday cake

This is the cake I baked for my friend on his birthday last month. A layered cake with rich chocolate frosting, layers held together with a whole can of caramel. It's the cake I always wanted my mother to bake for me, but which she refused. My mother was never a great baker. I can say this without feeling like a bad son because it is the truth. She'll readily admit it. She rarely baked our cakes when I was very young, always leaving it up to the neighbor's maid who was a champion baker.

What my mother was great at though was decorating cakes. She had these picture books of party cakes, and when birthday time comes around we could pick whichever cake we wanted. A cake (or cakes) would be ordered from next door and the day before our birthday she would spend the entire day making frosting, cutting cake and decorating. Between my siblings and I we had an owl cake, a locomotive with carriages, a maypole with dancing girls cake, a sunflower, rugby field with players and many more. I should actually scan pictures of those sometime and share. Her cake decorating skills were incredible.

Still, my favorite that she refused to make. I never requested it for my birthday because it was not elaborate enough, perhaps I should have. I think she thought it sounded much too rich. Whenever she baked chocolate cake she always used strawberry or apricot jam between the two layers. Yuck! So when we decided to have a birthday dinner for Anton at our place this year I decided that he I would bake him this one for dessert.

I used Jamie Oliver's sponge cake recipes for the cake and Martha Stewart's Swiss meringue buttercream for the frosting and a can of caramel in the center, of course there was way too much frosting as usual. But we did not let any of it get to waist, Alexander did a great job of using all of it on the cake, adding almost an inch thick layer on top!

If I may say so myself, I think it was my most successful cake ever. It was the first cake I baked in our oven that did not fall, but was perfectly baked and stayed that way after I removed it from the oven. The frosting came out great, just the right texture and consistency, and of course the caramel made it as decadent as I wanted it to be. Everybody enjoyed a slice, the rest was sent home with guests. It was incredibly rich, not even I could do more than one slice, but it sure was great!

For the sponge cake you'll need:
450g unsalted butter, softened
450g selfraising flour
450g caster sugar
8 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease the bottom and sides of two cake tins, dust with flour and shake out the excess flour. Mix the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition to incorporate, finally add the flour and fold in. Divide between the two cake tins and bake for about 20 minutes or until a wooden skewer come sout clean. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly then turn out onto a cooling rakc and allow to cool completely.

For the chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream (makes about 4 cups):

4 large egg whites
1 and cup sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
225g melted best quality bittersweet chocolate, slightly cooled before mixing in

It helps to use a standing mixer for this, but you can do it without as well. In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, whisk together the egg whites and sugar until sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and whisk on high speed until it holds stiff but not dry peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and slightly cooled, about 6 minutes. Swithc to the paddle attachement if you have one. Add the butter several tablespoons at a time with mixer on medium low spead. Beat well after each addition until smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate. Beat onlow spead to eliminate air bubbles and then stir with a spatula until smooth.

When your cakes are cooled and the frosting done, spread a whole can of caramel on top of one cake, pop the other one on top, lather in frosting and the let the decadence begin!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Another week on the web

Just one thing this week. It will forever be the week in which Brittany Murphy passed away. Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, that was sad. But nothing is as sad as this. Here's a clip of Brittany as my favorite character from Clueless, Ty.

Goodbye Brittany, you'll be missed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I desire- good bookstores

This bookstore review by Jonathan in China reminded me just how much I miss good bookstores. They don't really exist in South Africa. In Cape Town we have a couple of good bookstores, there is the Book Lounge on Roeland Street and Clarke's on Long. Both are owned and managed by people who clearly love a good book. But those are the exceptions and both are pretty small.

Then there is Exclusive Books, a countrywide retail bookstore chain, but there is nothing Exclusive about them. Their biggest store is still the size of a large open-plan living room and the book selections are never that great. And their gay and lesbian section (if the store even has one) is always grouped with hetero sex advice, meaning together with one or two dull homosexual romance novels there are loads of books explaining to straight people how to get off.

To make matters worse books in South Africa are ridiculously expensive. Ridiculously. Not exaggerating. We were looking at a Borneo guide book here and then compared the price to ordering from Amazon and having it shipped here. It was still more than US$10 less than buying it here. A friend explained it's because South Africa taxes books as a luxury item. WTF? We're a country with terribly high illiteracy levels and books are considered a luxury?

Why is it that in the giant bookstores in countries like China, Taiwan, Thailand, and Malaysia you can find bigger English language books than in South Africa, and at better prices? Not fair.

I am looking forward to going back East and visiting Kinokuniya in Bangkok and Page One in Taipei, but sad about the fact that my friends here will still have to deal with pricey reading material from Exclusive Books.

* The image is from the blog Stephanie's Written Word, entry titled Vacation Spots.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Season's Greetings

We're flying to Pretoria tomorrow to go spend Christmas with my family. I can honestly say that I don't really like Christmas, the last time I got excited about this holiday was when I was a kid. Too many forced family Christmases during our hot summers kind of ruined the experience for me. And since popular world culture dictates that it should be a time of snowy winter during the holidays I've always felt kind of cheated.

I discovered this book online while searching for 'African Christmas.' I was trying to see if there are any images that related what Christmas is like here, this was the closest I came. The other option was a Santa on a surfboard. Sad.

This will probably be my last summertime Christmas for a while. Next year we'll probably be in Taiwan and the year after that potentially the States, who knows. Although I am a little nervous about spending a whole week with my family in a house on a wildlife estate outside of a city I am also looking forward to spending time with them again. I have not actually spent any real time with them in 3 years. And luckily there is a pool and I am planning to start my mornings with bloody mary's or mojitos and progress from there!

So to you and all your family. Happy holidays, enjoy the togetherness, all the food and all the drink. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Catering for Cameo #2

Some more images from the gallery opening we catered for a while ago. The show was titled Cameo and took place at Salon 99 Contemporary Art Collection on Kloof street, the artist was our friend Francesco Nassimbeni.

The Spread at the gallery

Black and white cupcakes with white and dark chocolate ganache frosting on top

Pink strawberry flavored meringues

Pink meringues dipped in white chocolate with a strawberry flavored ganache on top

Chocolate wafer cookies with decorative cameo design

Some of Frankie’s art at the show

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy Together

I watched Wong Kar Wai’s Happy Together for the first time earlier this year. It became an instant favorite. Don’t let the title mislead you though, there is very little happiness in being together for Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) and Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung). But the yearning to be happy, to love and be loved, is just so incredibly beautifully portrayed in this tragic love story, set in Argentina.

The movie came out in 1997, years before Brokeback Mountain, starring two major Hong Kong hunks, with movie posters that did not hide the fact that the movie had a gay theme (unlike this one) and started out with a sex scene between the two main leads. I wonder why the movie did not make the same impact as Brokeback? I suppose partly it was because it did not have any mainstream appeal, it was not a Hollywood production with actors who are not really known in the ‘West.’

I really loved the story, the cinematography, excellent acting and the brutal honesty in portraying two lost men in love. The movie ended in a night market in Taipei, which also struck a chord with me.

For the past few weeks The Turtles’ song from which the movie took its title has been playing over and over in my head. Maybe I should go rent it again soon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another week on the web

1) Absolutely adorable pets at Skunkboy Creatures
2) A nutella tart would be perfect right now- Happygrub
3) Make this spiced clementine sherbet and then invite me over, please- Endive Chronicles
4) Feel free to do some Christmas shopping for me at Making it Lovely
5) I want this sandwich for lunch today- Eating Asia
6) Neat kitchen ideas- Design Sponge
7) Priscilla Presley's face scares me just a little (actually a lot)- Dlisted
8) Now this is seriously fucked-up, what was the BBC even thinking turning this into a debate?- BBC
9) Fun styles in Australia- The Sartorialist
10) I like the lung sculpture here- Hibernian Homme

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Take me back to your house- Hanlie and Henk's light house

Finally, the promised Take me back to your house of a local home. I first visited Henk and Hanlie place when we were doing the catering for her birthday party. We were introduced to her through one of our friends, her brother Louis. We arrived with platters of food before the guests started arriving and I almost ended up moving in. It was love at first sight.

When Henk bought a house in Hartlevale, a suburb of sweet Victorian homes bordering Observatory, they were still living in a house with a view in Higgovale in Cape Town's City Bowl. Hanlie was not to keen on giving up the comfort of living in the city and a view to boot for a house in a neighborhood that is notorious for no views and almost zero natural light. But thanks to clever planning and months of rennovation they now live in possibly the lightest house I have ever encountered in this part of the city.

The walls separating the kitchen from the living room and dining room came down, skylights came in and a wide glass accordian door leads from the dining area into the back garden, resulting in an abundance of natural light streaming into their house, giving it a pleasing and inviting feel.

Rooms that should have been dark (clockwise from top left)- the dining room leading to the garden, the Victorian-style en-suite bathroom lit up by ceiling windows and the skylight in the master bedroom, the skylight over the sink in the kitchen allows for maximum sunlight, and the living room whcih woud have been hulled in darkness is everything but (the armchair and puzzle coffee table was inherited from her grandmother's farmhouse).

The kitchen is a fun reflection of a retro farmhouse kitchen, but with some modern conveniences. Separating it from the dining room is a cooking island with gas stove and electric oven and plenty of workspace.

Hanlie, who likes surfaces clean and tidy had four drying racks installed above the sink for items she uses regularly like plates, glasses and cups. The bottom row of kitchen drawers were fitted with screens and are used as vegetable drawers, keeping kitchen clutter to a minimum.

Hanlie's love of vintage and antique furniture, nostalgia harking back to her grandparent’s family farm in the Freestate they used to visit on school holidays as kids, is evident in the furniture and display items in the house. The hutch above was picked up at a second-hand store and now proudly displays other items she inherited from her grandmother like this coffee and tea set. The air vents on the hutch was repeated on the cabinet doors in the kitchen.

The master bedroom, sunny and warm thanks to the skylight, is a fun mix of old and new. The modern headboard and bedside tables are playfully paired with an antique store find bead spread and dresser. The closets, covered with textured floral wallpaper, form the entrance to the en-suite Victorian style bathroom, which compliments the house's original style. The ceramic frog prince is one of two froggie paraphernalia still in her home. Hanlie loves these amphibians and has boxes full of them in storage. She's still debating whether she should allow them into the new home. I say yes! She is also planning a small frog pond in the backyard, which will happen as soon as she convinces Henk to start digging.

Art pieces decorate walls throughout the house and are all from friends like the Marlise Keith above the bed in the master bedroom, the Norman O'Flynn prints (above top-right and bottom-left) and works by Liza Grobler (above top-left and bottom-right).

Looking over the pictures Alexander took of Henk and Hanlie's place I could almost feel the light playing on my skin and the love that went into remodeling and decorating this house. Hanlie said that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but the house we visited seemed pretty much perfect to me.

Asked aboutt he house with the view in Higgovale they gave up Hanlie just shakes her head and says she doesn't miss it for a moment. She has definitely found her home.

You have got be kidding

To quote from a song by the Sugarcubes, 'Oh my god and Jesus as well' and then in the words of the rest of the world, 'Say it isn't so.'

I was just guided by Dlisted to the website of the Lohan family (minus daddy Michael of course). Up to this point I was not aware of this site and my life was better for it, but now I've discovered it and I'm feeling a bit shaky as a result. WTF?!

Not only are you updated on the latest sadness in their lives but you can buy their second hand shit! Again, WTFFFF?? This takes fame-whoring to a whole new level. Then again I suppose they do need the cash. They do pretty high living (interpret 'high' anyway you like), and despite Lindsey there is no talent in that house. Yes I think Lindsey could have been a great actress but she's snorted all of that talent away it seems. When was the last time she did anything worth watching?

So if you feel like a pair of Dina Lohan's old skank boots you know where to go. You can pick up a whole wardrobe there. Don't wait too long though because I am sitting here with my Visa card ready to max it out on Lohan crap as Michael K pointed out, there might be some great recreational goodies still hidden in the pockets of those old Lohan purses.

Monday, December 14, 2009

About me

Lord I have been neglecting this blog. I did not even get to a weekly update on Friday. Skandaal! Mainly I've been procrastinating on one entry for weeks now, I'll try to get my behind in gear and post this week. It's one I'm pretty excited about. I've also been kind of busy with sewing again, markets, and packing up our Cape life.

In the meantime, here's a 'meme'. I was tagged by Jeanne of Cooksister a while ago. One-word answers to the following questions. Let's see:

1. Where is your cell phone? Chair
2. Your hair? Short
3. Your mother? Nuts
4. Your father? Difficult
5. Your favorite food? Can't
6. Your dream last night? Forget
7. Your favorite drink? Coffee
8. Your dream/goal? Travel
9. What room are you in? Living
10. Your hobby? Food
11. Your fear? Death?
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Can't
13. Where were you last night? Home
14. Something you aren’t? Heterosexual
15. Muffins? Banana
16. Wish list item? Airfare
17. Where did you grow up? Limpopo
18. Last thing you did? Lasagna
19. What are you wearing? T-shirt
20. Your TV? Without
21. Your pets? Cat
22. Friends? Life
23. Your life? Rootless
24. Your mood? Fine
25. Missing someone? Maddie
26. Vehicle? Pick-up
27. Something you’re not wearing? Watch
28. Your favorite store? Uhm?
29.Your favorite color? Few
30. When was the last time you laughed? Today
31. Last time you cried? Forget
32. Your best friend? Christel
33. One place you go to over and over again? Taiwan
34. One person who e-mails you regularly? :(
35. Favorite place to eat? Balcony

There you go. Insightful isn't it? Bet you feel like you know me intimately now. Thanks Jeanne, that was fun! And to the rest of you I hope I'll have more fascinating and deeply intriguing posts for you to pore over soon, I know you all live for this here blog.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Just don't say gay

I was searching for information about Tom Ford’s film A Single Man, his directorial debut, when I happened on this entry on Towleroad. In short, the promotional material for the film including the American trailers and the one-sheets make absolutely no reference to the fact that the lead character is gay.

Now, I don’t think every movie with a gay lead character needs to have billboards and trailers screaming GAY to the world. In the end it is going to be just a movie covering various themes and issues, amongst them homosexuality. But from what I could gather the gay theme of the movie is completely hidden in this promotional material, and I have an issue with that.

What really got to me was Tom Ford’s reaction to questions about this, one of them at a private viewing party was “But this is not a gay film. I don’t even think about that. There are so many gay characters on TV that it’s almost become a cliché.” Okay, I kind of get that, but then he went on to say this in an interview with Kevin Sessums in Advocate “I don’t think of myself as gay. That doesn’t mean that I’m not gay. I just don’t define myself by my sexuality.”

That really irks, me. I get that he is trying to say he’s moved beyond labels and all that, but we, the world at large, have not. And for a public figure like him to ignore this fact by saying he does not view himself as gay is sad and problematic. It’s like saying you don’t see race and it’s not an issue. If you don’t you need a seeing-eye dog and you need to wake up to reality, just come take a look in South Africa, race still matters a lot. And so does sexuality.

I think Tom Ford is a brilliant man, pretty smart and very creative. I do admire him, but this sounds dumb and ignorant. Perhaps he moves in circles where it is easy for him to say “I don’t think of myself as gay.” Because it does not matter, but to most of us being gay is still a pretty big deal, and not something we can ignore.

We get stares when we hold hands in public, someone recently reminded us that judgment day is coming in a shopping center. In New York State gay marriage won’t be legalized, both Democratic and Republican senators voted against it. Adam Lambert is being dissed by ABC because he shoved a guys head into his crotch onstage. Something Janet Jackson has done way back in the nineties and no one batted an eyelid. Here in South Africa where same-sex marriage is legal there was a huge outcry over a male-on-male kiss in a soap earlier this year. A Facebook group opposing the show was created, 18000 people joined. In Burundi homosexuality was criminalized this year resulting in an increase in discrimination against gay men and women, Uganda is set to pass a bill making homosexuality illegal with harsh punishments for perpetrators. 

Now, is not a time to say you don’t see yourself is gay. For whatever reason.

Another week on the web

1) A different kind of shepherd's pie. I am a Viking
2) An anniversary endive salad- congratulations Erin! The Endive Chronicles
3) Why I want to go back to Hanoi. Hanoi Scratchpad
4) A lasagna story (in Afrikaans). Voer
5) Help pick a homemade rug. Dreamesh
6) A wish list. Skunkboy Creatures
7) Support if you can the Scalabrini Refugee Centre here in Cape Town. Blog here and website here.
8) Make popicon portraits! Dos Family
9) Now this is how you sell a house (NOT!). Dlisted
10) Jeeze, not a good week to be gay in America, this sucks. CNN and LA Times

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I desire- Onitsuka Tigers

I love Onitsuka Tigers. They are just the funnest footwear around. I fell in love the first time I laid my eyes upon a pair back in Taiwan, but oddly enough I've never owned any. I almost bought some last year on vacation in Kaohsiung, but I went back to the store the next morning they hadn't opened yet and so I missed my chance as we had to catch a train.

With my next paycheck (whenever that may be) I'm not risking anything and grabbing myself a pair of these Mexico 66 Onitsuka Tigers. They were the first Tigers to be introduced with the iconic stripes and were worn at the 1966 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Since it might be a while before my next proper paycheck I will not hold it against anyone who feel like splurging on a pair for me. I'm a UK size 8, thanks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thanksgiving Feast

As a South African Thanksgiving holiday was something I never celebrated or cared for. I did enjoy the occasional dinner back in Taiwan with American friends, but on the whole I couldn’t be bothered. After I started dating an American things didn’t really change, Alexander not being one for this particular holiday, he’s more into his Halloween and Christmas.

Last year would have been the first time for us spending Thanksgiving together in the States and I actually became quite excited about experiencing this major vacation (most of my US friends wax more lyrical about Thanksgiving than Christmas) in the US. Alexander’s sister was going to cook a proper holiday meal for us and we were going to celebrate it on the day of our arrival in LA with some of her friends. This never happened due to that unpleasant little situation at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Thailand. We spent Thanksgiving at Incheon International.

We were going to give it a skip again this year, until I got it in me that I wanted to try making turkey. Next thing I knew Alexander was inviting people, Marie was making her house available for the feast and I was standing in the kitchen with an enormous poultry cadaver while pumpkin as being roasted for pie. Fun!

Alexander suggested making a South African stuffing, so I decided to use the very SA boerewors sausage as stuffing, mixed with loads of rosemary, sautéed onion and garlic, breadcrumbs, grated carrot and dried peaches soaked overnight in brandy. I heard that one should get some of the stuffing between the skin and the breast to keep them from drying out, which is what I did. A gross process, but it made all the difference. And I even made a brandied gravy using the giblets! Yes, I cooked with giblets (flaming brandy in the kitchen and all). And it was good.

Alexander made pumpkin pie from scratch. And from scratch I mean he roasted his own pumpkins (white pumpkin and some green gem squash) and made his own pie crust. None of this store-bought nonsense for our Thanksgiving pie thank you! Don’t they look great? He used the squash seeds and all which added a beautiful texture to the pies.

Our friend Marie (who’s house I’m in love with) invited us to host it over there. She has a massive open kitchen and she pulled together two tables and all the chairs in the house to accommodate all the guests. Thanks Marie!

All the guests were asked to bring something to the Thanksgiving feast. We had peas and bacon, a potato dish, fresh beetroot and feta salad, turkey and stuffing and, my absolute favorite part of the evening, sweet potatoes and marshmallows, decadence! I had loads of the latter and took lots more home, which I stood eating in front of the fridge with a spoon the next day.

We also had lots of dessert- Alexander’s pumpkin pie, pecan pies and homemade chocolate mousse tartlets with mulberries. I forced myself to have some of all the desserts, which I guess is not very healthy but Thanksgiving only happens once so don’t judge.

We had an excellent evening and I think a very successful Thanksgiving. I think I’m going to make a habit of this, celebrating Thanksgiving every year. As long as there is an oven and turkey I’ll be having fun with this one. After all, I did marry into an American family and as a devoted husband it’s the least I could do to make their customs my own. I want to insert a smiley face here, but I won't.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Catering for Cameo

We were asked to do the catering for the opening of a friend's gallery opening yesterday. The title of his exhibit is cameo and here's what we made:

Black and white cupcakes with white and dark ganache frosting, strawberry flavored meringues- some pink and some dipped in white ganache and then topped with pink ganache, cameo chocolate wafer cookies which Alexander created, my favorites. More pictures soon.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I like the shape of this

We are currently figuring out our plans for next February/March. We decided to spend February in Taiwan again, visiting some friends, doing a bit of work and celebrating Chinese New Year there. It will be a first for Alexander. While working out the cheapest and most convenient route between South African and Taiwan Alexander discovered the following:

If we fly from Johannesburg to Bangkok and on to Taiwan, then to Kota Kinabalu on Borneo, followed by Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and then Bangkok again and back to Joburg, it would cost less than flying direct to Taiwan and back. I know, I married a flight-plan genius. So after a year of non-travel we'll be making up for lost time very early in the New Year. We haven't made up our minds 100% yet, but we're basically doing this. Like the arrow shape this plan follows too.

Cities, jungles, beaches here I come!

Another week on the web

1) A clutch won't do in Hanoi- Medusa se Blog
2) Beautiful images from a trip to Charleston- Hibernian Homme
3) Delicious Tangerine Vanilla Bean Marmalade- Prudent Baby
4) How to make fantastic nut butters- A Life (Time) of Cooking
5) Musings on Thanksgiving- Primitive Culture
6) I agree, could not care for Adam Lambert before but beginning to like him- OMG
7) Art gift ideas- Bloesem
8) Pret a Voyager's Color as Communication class project using one of my favorite films, Amelie- Pret a Voyager
9) White chocolate cake with mango and pomegranate syrup- Winos and Foodies
10) A contest for something beautiful- Mon Petit Fantome

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I've been busy this week preparing for our first Thanksgiving as a married couple and the first time we actually have a Thanksgiving dinner. We are hosting it at a friend's home, with us bringing the turkey, stuffing, gravy and pumpkin pie. I've never made turkey before, ever, so this is a huge deal. I was terribly nervous making the stuffing, stuffing the turkey and now getting ready to make gravy. But once the stuffing was done and the bird ready to go into the oven I decided I have reason to be proud of my first effort and I'm certain it's going to taste great.

We've decided to go South African for the stuffing, with boerewors (South African style sausage) meat and dried peaches soaked in brandy with lots and lots of rosemary. For the gravy I'm making brandied giblets, another thing I've never worked with before!

Alexander made some beautiful pumpkin pies with a mixture of local squash. Yum!

Will post more after the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You desire: BloggerAid Cookbook

Here’s something we should all desire, The BloggerAid Cookbook. It’s the fruit of a lot of work on the part of a couple of kindly bloggers who decided to publish a cookbook to help alleviate hunger in the world.

Food bloggers from around the world were asked to submit recipes to the project. These were compiled into one impressive cookbook to be sold online, with the proceeds benefiting the UN’s World Food School Meal's Program.

Here’s more:

“Food does not simply nourish the body; food also celebrates what makes the world diverse, as well as, what unites us. The BloggerAid Cook Book is a collection of international recipes illustrating that we can work together and unite for a greater cause. The authors of this cookbook are food bloggers from around the world who have endeavored to make a difference by raising funds for the World Food Programme and encompassing their passion for "all things foodie" at the same time. Through these recipes they share their traditions and insatiable curiosity about new flavours. They pay tribute to the home cooking of our grandmothers, while celebrating the exoticism and richness of a world brought closer together by their hopes to make a difference. With recipes such as Tomato-Cheese Ravioli with Eggplant Sauce, Spicy Serundeng Tuna and Peanuts, Serrano Ham Paella with Oyster Mushrooms, Raspberry Mascarpone Bites and Triple Layer Orange-Passion Fruit Tart we are doing our part to say that bloggers can change the face of famine.

We chose the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) to receive the funds generated by the cookbook because of the wonderful work this organization does. The WFP has touched the lives of our members, many of whom are from countries where poverty is often a way of life. More specifically, 100% of BloggerAid's proceeds from the cookbook will benefit the WFP's School Meals Programme, which benefits an average of 22 million hungry children each year. School meals are important on many levels. In countries where school attendance is low, the promise of at least one nutritious meal each day boosts enrollment and promotes regular attendance.
This book is a virtual way for all of us, wherever we may be and however rich or poor we may be, to pull up a chair at the same table and share what we have.” *

So hop on over to and order your copy and order a couple more for the rest of the family, and enjoy the fact that you contributed to keeping someone fed and educated.

* Paraphrased from review on

Monday, November 23, 2009

Homemade egg noodles

A few weeks ago I tried my hand at homemade pasta in the form of ravioli. I swore high and low that I was never undertaking anything like that ever again. But when it comes to saying ‘never’ I am a big old liar. I once said I’ll never live in Taiwan again, just to go back and live there for 5 more years and loving it, I also said I’ll never teach again and now I am making plans to study Education. So of course I was not going to stay away from pasta making for two long.

After my pasta attempt I decided to try making Chinese egg noodles. Which is basically what pasta is seeing as how you use egg and wheat flour to make both. In Taiwan western style pasta is called Italian noodles or idali mien. I’m sure my spelling of that is all wrong.

Alexander nicked a really old Chinese cookbook from his parent’s home on our last visit and it has been coming in very handy for cooking Chinese and it was from this book, Regional Cooking of China by Margaret Gin and Alfred E. Castle, that I got the recipe for the noodles.

1.5 cups flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
cornstarch for dusting

Pour the flour out onto a clean surface and form a well in the center, pour the egg mixture in and gently incorporate the two. Knead for about 10 minutes into a smooth ball. Cover in a bowl with a damp tea towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Knead again and break off pieces to be rolled out, always making sure to cover the balls you are not rolling out with the towel. Roll out the balls as thinly as possible. Dust with cornstarch, set aside and cover with a damp tea towel. Continue until all the dough has been rolled out.

Take a sheet of rolled out dough and begin rolling it up away from you until you get to the center of the sheet, roll from the other side towards you until the two rolls meet. Use a sharp knife and slice into desired widths (about an 1/8th of an inch). With the blunt edge of the knife, lift up the pieces and shake them free, or use your hands. Continue to do so with all the sheets, dust well with cornstarch to prevent them from sticking. Place in a covered container or plastic bag and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 2 days) or freeze them. If you freeze you can defrost it in the fridge before using.

To cook your noodles, bring a pot of slightly salted water to a boil with a tablespoon of oil and add the noodles. Boil for about 3 minutes until tender, make sure the strands don’t stick.

It’s a bit of work, but it was actually much easier now that I knew what I was getting myself into and I loved the whole process, besides, it’s helping me gain some muscle in these scrawny arms of mine.

We had ours the same evening with a Szechwan beef stew I made from the same book. Yum! I did slice the noodles a bit too wide I think, but it came out great and we had a fun dinner.

* Thanks Alexander for the photos.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I desire- Butt calendar 2010

This is exciting news! Butt magazine is coming out with their first ever calendar for 2010. 54 Weeks of the hot, the cute and the naughty from all over the world on Butt's signature pink gracing a wall in our home(s) sounds like the perfect gift that gives on giving to me!

The images are mostly reader submitted which I love. Real people, not models, will be welcoming you into each week of the year, and they are from all over; from Syria and Argentina to the US and Norway. A new guy to develop a crush on every week! There are also a couple of extra pictures by amazing photographers like Wolfgang Tillmans and Alisdair McLellan.

You can order them online here, just email me for address details. Thanks!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Take me back to your house- NOT

I scanned this from the home decor section of a local magazine I like, but which will remain unnamed here. What the? This reeks of nouveau rich taste which for some reason is very often celebrated in home and decor magazines in this part of the world. God it stinks. And that tacky pillow underneath the word. Ugh!

In better news, I'll be visiting the very adorable home of a friend tomorrow for a very local Take me back to your house!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another week on the web

1) Style Guide Cape Town is enjoying London style.
2) I think I know the feeling, Asia does this to you.
3) Naan!
4) Kind of preppy equestrian style in this week's Living In.
5) Brett's getting lost in Melbourne and spotting koalas.
6) Shop-shop-shop at Skinny laminx and while you're at it get some for me too. Thanks.
7) Dreaming of seeing the aurora.
8) I want to eat these chocolate cranberry rolls now.
9) Some lady slapped the mayor of Cape Town this week after he suggested there squatter camp was not so bad. I can't find an article online, but I love this kind of stuff. Hope she got an award!
10) I think it's safe to say summer's here and this is what we've been doing every day this week.

Anise seed beskuit

I have this one recipe that I always use when I bake beskuit (rusks in English, don’t like that word either). It is my mom’s and she’s been baking it since forever. I think it is my favorite kind of beskuit, but I decided that it was time I give something new a try, browsing through some old recipes I found one for anise seed beskuit. Really simple and great with coffee or tea with a great anise taste.

For these you need the following ingredients:
1kg self-raising flour
2 teaspoons anise seeds (or more)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
150gr margarine, melted (I suppose you can use butter as well)
2 cups milk
2 eggs, beaten

The process:
Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare a deep oven dish. Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside. Mix the rest of the ingredients together and add to the dry mixture. Mix until you have a stiff dough. With your hands, roll bits of dough into little balls, a bit bigger than golf ball size and pack them tightly into your oven dish. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully turn it out and separate the pieces and place on a rack. Dry out in the oven at 100C until dried out. Make a pot of coffee or tea, dip and eat.

These are also great fresh out of the oven after the first 45 minutes with a bit of butter. Yum! I’m glad I tried a new recipe, although I still like my others best these are really great, especially with the anise.

For those who don’t know, beskuit is a South African take on biscotti. They’re usually higher than biscotti and cut into chunks rather than slices. And it tastes better and less hard than biscotti. Sorry, but it’s the truth!

The oven mitt in this picture was made by my maternal grandmother from the kitchen drapes that hung in my paternal grandmother’s kitchen years and years ago. We have four in total with blue and red birds on them. I totally adore them. Thanks grans! Oh, and the tin was a Milnerton market find. Cool hey?

* Thanks Alexander for the pics.

Entertaining with pizza

Last week we had a couple of friends over for a pizza dinner. I spent the afternoon preparing my trusty pizza dough with the help of the oven, since it was very wintry I needed a different heat source for the dough, and asked each guest to bring some toppings for their own pizza.

At around 8 in the evening our friends arrived and after enjoying some lovely bruschetta with spicy Khmer mushroom topping that Alexander made we started on making dinner.

Leslie brought loads of blue cheese that she crumbled all over hers, Tanya made a veggie version with mushrooms while Ryan prepared one with salami and olives and Alexander made one with green pepper and mushrooms and another also with salami and tomato sauce. Alexander covered a table with crappy baking paper, sliced the pizzas and placed them one the table where they were snapped up and enjoyed with great company and warming red wine while the wind was blowing rain against our window. It was a very cozy dinner.

Thanks for the toppings and the great evening guys!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A good week in the kitchen

I've been rather busy in the kitchen last week. Experimenting with Chinese cuisine, baking again and making use of the unexpected wintry to just play around in the kitchen.

We enjoyed green chili fiesta rolls, baked chicken, fried greenpepper and beef, an evening with pizza, Szechwan beef noodle soup, and anise seed rusks (beskuit). Some recipes will soon follow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I love Kate!

I have been in love with Kate moss since foreeeeever. Ms Kate can do no wrong. When everybody was saying she's too skinny I said skinny on. When people pointed fingers and said 'Bad model!" when she was snorting lines I hollered snort on! Kate Moss is totally awesome.

So of course I love this motto of her quoted to WWD recently, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."

Classic. Love it. No I am not into size 0 models, I think that's a lot of BS. Except when it comes ot Kate. She's prefection.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Another week on the web

1) Flavorful Asian style meatballs from the Philippines compliments of 80 Breakfasts.
2) All things Danish at the re-purposed I am a Viking.
3) Dreaming of Lapland at Hibernian Homme.
4) Hear what Dorothy Black has to say on prostitution in South Africa.
5) And something about homosexuality in China and Taiwan from Jonathan in China.
6) Someone should stop Ashlee Simpson- see why on Dlisted.
7) More reason to go back to Taiwan- Pho restaurant review at A Hungry Girl's Guide to Taipei.
8) Think its possible for me to live inside Dosfamily?
9) Hot guy to the rescue!
10) A salad resulting in pink feta at Voer. I like!

Cambodia 2001- my Preah Khan guide

I also visited Cambodia for the first time in 2001. Back then guidebooks made it sound like a nightmare for travel with terrible roads, a dangerous capital and landmines everywhere. We decided to just fly in and out of Siem Reap and spend a couple of days there, exploring the temples.

Upon arrival in the dusty town it seemed the guidebooks were correct. Siem Reap was a backwater with virtually no properly paved roads, massive moon crater potholes in the town, and only a couple of places where backpackers like us could get some burgers or pizza. There was no sign of the food scene Siem Reap boasts these days and the town was not nearly as attractive as it is nowadays. I did not like it one bit and we spent most of our time either among Khmer ruins or cooped up in our AC-d room.

Back then there was nothing around the ruins, not a soul selling fresh coconut juice or stands where you could get a tasty Cambodian curry. There was the odd souvenir peddler, but other than that nothing. We bought fruit, water and sandwiches in town and took it with us for lunch and snacks. We also did not take any cash with us, it would have been totally useless to us.

One particularly hot day we had Preah Khan on our list of sights, one of the ruins that has seen a lot of destruction by the environment over the centuries. It was used as a monastery and university at one time, later becoming an inter-denominational temple for devotees of Vishnu, Shiva and Buddha. My friend Jodi had enough of the heat and decided to wait for me in the shade of a massive tree while I wander around the site.

As I entered a skinny kid of about 11 or so approached me and offered to be my tour guide. They were everywhere those days, following professional guides around and picking up the English, German, French, Japanese and Korean versions of the various temples’ history. I told him that I was fine on my own and kept on walking, but he was not about to take ‘no’ for an answer.

He kept on following me, pointing out features of the temples and sharing bits of information. I knew he was doing this in return for a tip, something I could not give him because I had absolutely no money on me, only my camera, notebook, guidebook, pen and half a bottle of water. I explained to him that I did not need a guide, that I seriously had nothing to offer him and asked him kindly to just leave me alone. He did not budge, so I decided to hang out in one spot until he gave up. No such luck, he just kept on insisting that he did not want any money and that he’d like to be my guide just for fun.

In the end I relented and we strolled through the ruined corridors and clambered over massive banyan roots. Besides being very informative he was also highly entertaining, trying to scare me from time to time by calling out ‘Tiger! Tiger!’ I enjoyed his company, and as we neared the entrance again I started feeling terrible that I did not have anything to offer him.

Before saying goodbye I asked if I could take his picture and he gladly obliged. For some reason his expression in this picture is much more serious than the rest of the time. I reached into my bag and repeated what I said earlier, that I had no money and that I could not pay him, but I decided to give him my pen. Hopefully he could use it at school, it was a miserable tip, but I thought it would be something. I thought oh so wrong.

He’s kind eyes turned into rage as he chanted in a raised voice, ‘Dollar! Dollar!” I reminded him how if warned him I had no cash, but he refused to comprehend. In all likelihood he did not even understand the first time. He refused my pen and started screaming at me in Khmer, causing a bit of a scene. Under the shameful glares of elderly tourists I turned away from him and rejoined Jodi and our driver, him still cursing me in the background.

I remember that day so well; I can still hear his voice, guiding me through the ruins. Whenever I look at this picture I feel a terrible sense of guilt for not being able to give him more. Every time I’ve been back to Siem Reap and Angkor since then I always wonder, what happened to him?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I desire- Torilla lime & salt chocolate

Tequila shots like cigarettes is something I sometimes miss, but I think if I ever smelled it again that night will come back in one awful rush and it would be the end of me.

Most of us have been there. Young, out on a Saturday night (or any other night) and uncontrollably doing mad tequila shots. It used to be my favorite pastime whenever I went to a bar, which was regularly during the entire duration of my twenties; lick the salt, shoot the tequila, bite down on the lime. Everything with one hand. Later on I quit the lime and salt and just shot it back in one clean go.

And then it all went wrong one night as it always does and I never touched it again. Except once in margarita form in Mexico.

But this morning I discovered that Blair from Wise Craft and her husband came up with brilliance. They have be working on their own chocolate bar range called Komforte Chockolates, and came up with three very innovative and awesome flavors; French Toast, Ramen Noodles and… Tortilla Lime & Salt!
Now this I can do. So it's like having the parts of the tequila shot without the stuff that's going to give you a headache and lots of other unpleasantries. Milk chocolate mixed with lime infused tortilla chips. Yes, please! I think I can almost taste it and it tastes damn good. Now get me to Seattle ASAP so I can pick up a few of these bars and some of the others too, very curious to try the ramen noodles. Sounds crunchy!

My family is not big on Christmas so there probably won’t be any stockings, but I will sew one special if someone decides to place one (or six) of these and the others in a stocking for moi.

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