Saturday, January 30, 2010

En route

We arrived in Bangkok on Wednesday and have been non-stop eating ever since. Arriving back in Asia was like a homecoming. A very strange homecoming in a way. The fact that we left South Africa and was back in Asia only hit me once we passed a night market on the way to the guesthouse.

I thought I'd be overwhelmed by everything, but instead everything just feels so natural and similar. Almost as if I have never left. I realized again that I might be happiest in Asia.

We also got to see our friend Paul just before he left on a trip to Hong Kong and Shanghai and we got to hang out with our friend and former colleague Sarah a few times and celebrating her birthday with

We are departing for Taiwan in a couple of hours where we will spend the next month. I'll blog about our short trip in Bangkok from there and of course about our stay in my home island.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Entertaining visitors from afar

We leave today for the East. Everything is pretty chaotic on this side, but getting to a point. Our flight is this afternoon and I cannot wait to be on it and start relaxing again. But before that a quick entry.

Two college friends of Alexander who are on a world tour at the moment came to visit us over the last week and we've been having a great time hanging out with them again, going out for last meals at favorite spots and showing them around. We also had to cook them a South African meal of course and decided to make a bobotie and malva pudding.

The evening started with Alexander's new cocktail, the Capetonian, paying homage to the city that's been our home for the past year. It's a brandy-based drink and was the perfect way to start of the evening.

I started the bobotie earlier during the day so the spices could have time to develop their flavor. For those unfamiliar with this dish, it is a popular Cape Malay baked meatloaf with subtle hints of curry, turmeric and bay leaf with an egg custard on top. It often contains raisins, but we used chopped up dried Cape peaches which worked just as well. Also usually served with yellow rice, I used brown instead.

Thanks to Cape Town's late summer sun we took it out on the balcony enjoying the view of the setting sun over Lion's Head for one of the last times.

For dessert Alexander made a malva pudding, a local baked bread-like pudding with a sweet syrup poured over, usually served with cream or sometimes ice-cream. Alexander added an extra South African touch by using Amarula cream for the syrup and he baked the puddings in individual muffin tins. It looked great and tasted spectacular!

And so our year in South Africa has drawn to a close. The next time we entertain it will be in Taiwan! We fly to Bangkok now for a couple of days, then on to Taiwan for a month, followed by a couple of days in Malaysian Borneo, a quick visit to friends in Kuala Lumpur and then back here for a short visit to family before heading back to the US in April. Adventure! I will try to post often.

* Brett, one of our visitors, is keeping track of her travels at Around the World with Brett.
* For more of Alexander's cocktail hour endeavours go check out his section cocktail hour with primitives.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Corne's birthday cake

A cake ere I go. Two weeks ago we celebrated the birthday of our friend Corne. It was a big birthday, and her girlfriend decided we should bake a big cake for the occasion. After paging through my Martha Stewart book she picked Martha's Birthday Cake. An elaborate affair involving cake, butter cream, syrup, meringue and a kitchen torch.

I was hesitant at first and tried to pull out of the deal, but in the end I decided to give it a go. It is by far the most tricky cake I have ever attempted with several steps and a really long process, but it paid off. The cake looked great (not perfect but hey!) and it tasted even better.

The original recipe called for almond essence and Amaretto simple syrup, but I used coconut essence and Amarula in the syrup instead, giving it a more South Africa taste.

Birthday girl cutting the cake.

Things got a little out of hand later that night. Below is the very looooong recipe. It involves several steps and a lot of washing up if you have a small kitchen with minimal supplies. But is is absolutely worth the effort. A great cake indeed.

The cake:


4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup self-rising flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 vanilla beans split lengthwise with seeds scraped
1 cup whole milk
8 large egg whites
Amarula syrup (recipe follows)
Coconut buttercream (recipe follows)
Swiss Meringue (recipe follows)


Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and butter a stainless steel bowl (4.5 to 6 inches deep, I used a stainless steel wok, hence the flat-ish shape). Dust with flour and set aside. Sift the 2 flours, baking powder and salt together and set aside.

Beat butter, 2 cups sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy (here’s where the stand mixer would have been handy). With mixer on low speed, add flour and milk in four parts beginning and ending with the flour, don’t over mix. Transfer the batter to a larger bowl and set aside.

Beat egg whites and a pinch of salt on high speed until soft peaks form. Add the tablespoon of sugar and beat until medium-stiff peaks form. Whisk a third of this mixture into the batter, add the rest by gently folding it in until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared bowl and bake for 1hour and 20 minutes (or more depending on the size of your oven), until a cake tester inserted comes out clean. Remember to rotate halfway.

When ready, transfer bowl to a wire rack, let cool for forty minutes, invert onto rack and allow to cool completely.

Using a serrated knife carefully cut the cake into two or three layers. I made two, as my cake was not round enough. Brush the Amarula syrup onto the top of each layer, followed by spreading the butter cream over it as you reassemble the cake. Once you’ve put it all back together again, spread the remaining butter cream evenly over the cake. Fill a pastry bag or strong bag with tip cut off with the meringue and pipe the entire surface of the cake with the meringue. Use a small kitchen torch to slightly brown the meringue all over.

Let the cake at stand at room temperature until ready to serve.

The rest:

Amarula syrup:
Combine half a cup of sugar with half a cup of water in a saucepan over medium-high heat and cook while stirring until sugar dissolved. Stop stirring and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened. Remove from heat, stir in 3 tablespoons of Amarula and allow to cool.

Coconut butter cream:
3 egg whites
2/3 cups sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into tablespoons
½ teaspoon coconut extract

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water, combine egg whites and sugar, whisking constantly until sugar dissolved and it is very warm to the touch.

Remove from heat and beat with electric mixer starting on low and increasing to high until stiff glossy peaks form. Switch to paddle attachment (if using, otherwise use beaters on medium) and add tablespoons a few at a time, beating until smooth. Add the extract and continue beating until incorporated and smooth.

Swiss Meringue:

8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
pinch of salt

Combine egg whites, sugar and salt in mixing bowl of simmering water and whisk until sugar dissolved and the mixture is hot to the touch. Remove from heat and beat with electric beaters on medium high for about 2 minutes, then raise the speed to high and beat until stiff glossy peaks form. Use immediately.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Call me names, but Qwelane is not okay...

"They want to appoint that fucknut Jon Qwelane as ambassador to Uganada!" read an SMS from my friend Christel the other morning.

Jon Qwelane is a well-known South African journalist, commentator, future ambassador and all-round homophobe. Capital H. In 2008 he wrote an editorial for the Sunday Sun on the rift that was growing in the Anglican Church over the ordaining of homosexual men and women as bishops. You can download a pdf with the original article here.

In the article he rants on about 'the rapid degradation of values and traditions by the so-called liberal influences' and 'There could be a few things I could take issue with Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, but his unflinching stance over homosexuals is definietely not amongst those.' He oncludes his homophobic rant with 'at this rate, how soon before some idiot demands to "marry" an animal and argues that this constitution "allows" it.'

Now the South African government is considering sending this man to Uganda, who is considering passing a bill that could mean the death penalty for homosexuals in certain instances. WTF? What kind of a message is the president sending into the world? He has been known to make homophobic statements and there has been rumours of some interfaith leagues trying to get on his side in an attempt to put an end to same-sex marriages and abortian amongst other things.

As if the South African government's silence on the Uganda issue is not enough, appointing Jon Qwelane would basically come down to condoning the Uganadan government's plans and also send a clear message to homosexuals in South Africa and the rest of the world- 'We do not like what you are getting up to and the days of toleration are drawing to an end.'

I stated a long time ago that my reasons for leaving South Africa again were not social or political, but I am taking that back. If this is the way we are going then I can now check political as a reason for going. If President Zuma okays this my country is taking a gigantic leap backward and I am not going to stay put for that. I struggled enough with homophobia growing up and I am not going to stay around for the next round. I do sincerely hope this does not happen.

*Update- When asked about the potential appointment of Jon Qwelane as SA ambassador to Uganda the ANC's spokesperson had the following to say "Do you have any scientific evidence that [Qwelane] is a homophobe?" Read the full article at the Mail & Guardian.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sewing projects: a bag for Christel

And here's another project. A messenger bag for my friend Christel. At some point while she was still working in Madagascar she started going by the name Speedhakoo, 'hakoo' is Malagassy for chicken (I think), so I thought the rooster would be appropriate. The bag can be turned inside out if she gets bored of the rooster as demonstrated in the picture to the right. The bag was modelled after a similar one I made for myself, but I still have to take some pictures of it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sewing projects: a bag for Dorothy Black

I recently went on a sewing spree, before giving up my darling sewing machine and overlocker. I am going to miss the terribly. Here is one of the last things I made. A bag/purse for my friend going by the pseudonym of Dorothy Black, lady columnist and friend extroadinaire. Some starry shweshe with fabric circles for an almost flowery effect.

I'll post some more things as soon as I come around to taking pictures. Which should happen soon, we have less than two weeks before we leave!

* Dorothy Black also has a blog where she discusses everything.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I don't like your dog

I don’t like your dog and there is a good chance I’m not going to like your kid either. At first anyways, unless your dog is very well-behaved and chill and the same goes for children. I know, it’s not even the middle of January yet and already I’m complaining your ears off (or eyes). But please allow me to get my bitch on early in the new year, perhaps I will get it all out of my system and be a bundle of joy for the rest of the year! (Not going to happen)

I don’t understand why so many (not all!) owners of dogs and parents of children feel that there is absolutely no need for them to restrain them or teach them good manners. People take their dogs everywhere them and obviously their children too, so why not make sure they are not going to make life miserable for other people?

I’m talking about unleashed dogs that are allowed to run amuck in cafes, restaurants and shops, sniffing at fresh breads, knocking over displays, running underneath diners’ feet at tables and slobbering all over the show. The owners completely ignore unfriendly stares from managers and other patrons while happily going about their business. When someone reprimands their dog the animal is called over and consoled, sometimes whispering to the mutt that the other people are just grouchy. I’ve witnessed this kind of behavior several times.

Same goes for kids. They run around stores and malls, wheeling about on everything from shoes with wheels to skateboards, they scream and shout at restaurant tables so no one can have a conversation, they knock stuff over and the most any parent ever does is call out to the kid to calm down. A call that pretty much always goes unheard, so the child just continues on its rampage. Leaving the movies the other night some kid ruined my reverie my screaming bloody murder (it was past 10, should he not have been in bed?) while running around and then knocking over a huge movie poster that almost fell on us. What did the mother do? Call out his name in a bored voice and then continued her conversation with her friend.

Not on, people, not on at all. I have friends who have dogs and friends who have kids and most of them, I am happy to say, are in control of both. And I love their children and most of the time I enjoy their dogs too. I’ve even come to love some of these dogs very much because they are well-behaved and pretty well adjusted. Because their parents/owners understand the concept of respecting other people and raise their kids/dogs accordingly. And for that I am grateful to them, they give me hope.

Here’s Choppy (white) and Suey (black). Two dogs I did not like at all when I first met them because they are dogs, but over the year I have grown to love them so much that I even taught Suey to come sit on my lap while I massage her back. A treatment only cats enjoyed before. So see, I am not a terrible dog hater, I just need to be eased into them and they need to be well-behaved. Same goes for children.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

'Where the Wild Things Are' finally made its way to South Africa and we went to see it last night. I guess I knew all along I would not be disappointed, since hearing about it the first time I have been totally excited for its release, I have faith in Spike Jonze. And he did not disappoint.

It was mesmerizing and so incredibly beautiful from perfect start to finish. It was brilliant. I feel like seeing it again today. If you grew up loving the book go see the movie (if you have not already done so). It is fantastic.

Alexander was reading up about the movie this morning, and how Maurice Sendak went off about people saying it is not a movie for children and should have an age restriction, also about how the book was originally banned in some countries, along with some other works by him like 'In the Midnight Kitchen'. It is strange how parents are totally fine with their children watching 'Star Wars' and 'Transformers', movies that are blatantly violent and aggressive, but when it comes to suggestion and emotions they rear up in protest. People are stupid.

I included this image of Spike Jonze with Max Records who played Max in the movie, just because I have the tiniest crush on Mr Jonze. Kind of dorky handsome, don't you think. Blush-blush.

Friday, January 1, 2010

And a happy new year to you too

Judging by everybody's Facebook status, including my own, 2009 was one crap year. We all went into it with so much expectation, despite the recession. Maybe we were all still on an Obama high? There were highlights, of course, Alexander and I got married, we baked a lot, ate well, lived a pretty active lifestyle here in Cape Town, but on the whole, it was rough.

After much debate we decided to sleep in the New Year. We catered for a party, came home and made dinner, watched a DVD and by 11:10 my tired behind was in bed. I woke up to neighbours stomping and shouting at midnight and all I could think was, good bloody riddance.

Maybe sleeping into 2010 was a good thing. I woke up this morning feeling cautiously optimistic. Maybe 2010 will be better. We have many destinations to look forward to, seeing our family in the US again, welcoming a new baby into our family here, seeing dear old friends again. I'm sure there will be lots of stressful events as well and things won't always go as planned. But after last year I think I can deal with it.

To welcome you into the New Year, here's a picture from that made me giggle this morning. I know, very immature of me, but it made me happy. Happy 2010!

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