The water lilies in our fish pond are thriving, fed by the fertiliser provided by the fish

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This week, busy as it has been, sees us looking at a quieter time in the remaining weeks of the year. The heat wave has hit us with temperatures in the Boland hitting the 50s. Not good in drought conditions, but we have a suggestion for cool, refreshing beverages

We will continue to publish MENU for another two weeks, but it will be a shorter edition with very few events. It will have more suggestions for festive foods and wines. MENU will then take a break until about the third week of January. We will spend some quiet time up the West Coast, looking at the cool Atlantic and reading books and then come back, hopefully renewed and girding the proverbial loins for the new year’s activities. We hope you’ll like this week’s stories, photographs and food and drink ideas. Click on these links to see them:

Click any of the headings, photographs or green buttons below to look at a complete story. When you reach the end of a story, click on RETURN TO MENU to come back to MENU

We have been producing MENU for many years, in which we have written about many interesting things. You can find them all in the Blog Archive in the right hand column of our blog page and in the Previous MENUs page on our websiteEntering a word in the “Search this Blog” window on the blog site should bring up everything we have ever written which relates

To celebrate John's recent birthday, we were taken to Overture by our friend Angela, who was visiting from London. We wrote a week or so ago that both John’s SD card on his camera was corrupted and the photos on Lynne's phone also disappeared, so we had no photographs - technology! Angela has now sent us her pictures, we so wanted to tell you about our excellent lunch

Overture is on Hidden Valley wine estate, high up in the Helderberg mountains in Stellenbosch. You turn up the Annandale Road and follow the signs after Peter Falke Wines. The views of the Cape are sensational. The restaurant has a large terrace with see-through screens if the wind is blowing or the weather is inclement. In the winter you can eat inside. It is owned and run by renowned top 10 award winning chef Bertus Basson,

We went to Giulio’s on the corner of Loop and Riebeek Street for breakfast several months ago and told you how good it was in our article then. He serves breakfast and also lunches, as well as his baking. We were informed that he is now going to be open for dinner every Friday and Saturday night from now on and we were invited to the media preview of some of the food he will be serving. The invitation was for 6.30 pm and we were told it would be over by 8.30. Not a chance! Media, especially the young and inexperienced bloggers are often late and many guests arrived more than an hour late. There were many dishes to try 

How could we resist an invitation from Mark le Roux, Waterford's wine maker, to come, with other media members, to a tasting on the farm of recent releases and some of his special selections from the Waterford cellar. We were also to do a short vineyard visit which would be followed by lunch. And they organised a pick up from everyone's home, so no problems with drinking and driving. Thank you Waterford

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Usually the main course at Christmas is big, like a turkey or a roast and is accompanied by many vegetables, stuffing, gravy and roast potatoes. Even if you are being South African and doing it on the braai, you can expect to be super full after the main event as most people do 'go to town'. So starters need to be something light and luxurious and delicious.

These recipes are two of our all time summer favourites and would be perfect for a hot summer day. 

Ajo Blanco - White Gazpacho

225g whole blanched almonds - 750 ml iced water - 75g stale white bread, crusts removed, soak in cold water - 3 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with 1 level teaspoon of sea salt - 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil - 3 Tablespoons dry sherry vinegar - 200g white seedless grapes, preferable muscatel, cut in half - sea salt and white pepper - Balsamic reduction

If you can only find raw almonds with their skins on, start with 250g and soak them in boiling water until the water is cold. Then sip off the shells and use the skinned nuts. In a food processor grind the almonds as fine as you can, they should stick to the wall of the machine. Turn off the machine and loosen the nuts, then add 5 Tablespoons of iced water and blitz until the almond paste is fluid enough to turn back on itself. Squeeze the water out of the bread and add it to the almonds, along with the garlic, combine till smooth. Add the olive oil and then the rest of the iced water until you have the consistency of single cream. Add the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. You need a nice balance of almond, garlic and sherry. Chill for at least an hour or longer. Just before serving, check the seasoning again. Ladle into bowls and distribute the grapes evenly. Dot with a little olive oil and the balsamic reduction. 

If you are doing a non-traditional Christmas, how about another refreshing cold soup as a starter? Tomatoes and peppers are in season and really good at the moment

Tomato and yellow pepper cold soup

500g very ripe tomatoes, core removed – 1 sliced yellow pepper, seeds removed - half a red chilli, seeds removed – 1 peeled clove of garlic – juice of one large orange - 1 t sherry vinegar – 1 sesame hamburger bun – sea salt – freshly ground black pepper

Put everything in your liquidiser and blend till smooth. Put in the fridge till the next day then adjust the seasoning. Add just a little sugar if it is too tart. Serve chilled with sliced peppadews, black olives, torn basil leaves and a few toasted flaked almonds. You can add crushed ice at the last minute as well if you want it colder and less thick. Serves 4

Our wine pairing suggestion for the starter is some of the best and most interesting rosé wines of the week which we have recommended this year

Summer is with us and so is the holiday season. We'll all be eating and drinking special meals and the variety will probably be almost infinite, so we've chosen a few of our favourite Rosés to go with that delicious festive food, Rosés being the most versatile of wines

Buitenverwachting Blanc de Noir - Summer has arrived with this wine. Well, if you are not convinced, all you have to do is open a bottle and you will feel the sun on your face. It is so reminiscent of the rosés of Southern France. A Merlot led blend of noble varieties, it is full to bursting with strawberries, raspberries, a good bite of juicy white peach and sunshine. So good with food. If you tasted this blind you might think it was a serious red, but its light, fruity floral nose and beautiful lipstick pink will convince you otherwise. Makro is advertising it at R49, a real bargain

L'Avenir Glen Rosé - This sophisticated Pinotage rosé really impressed us. From the first mouthful, you get perfumed raspberries and mulberries. It is seductively silky on the palate, the soft juiciness has a background of structural chalky tannin to support it and the wine develops in layers on the tongue. It took us right to the South of France, imagining what it might be like with a Salade Niçoise or a rich fish soup. A food wine of note. We also have to mention the special bottle which has the punt carved out to look like a protea and a glass Vinolok stopper. At the luxury end, R200 from the farm, but they also have entry level Rosé de Pinotage at R65

Bartho Eksteen Wijnskool Blom Rosé –This palest of pale rosé wines is made from Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and a dash of Viognier. Bartho took a risk. He says the grapes were producing such beautiful juice this year that he blended the juice first and then made the wine. It's a risk, and very hard to repeat. The wine was so pale that he had to add a dash of red to give it some colour and it still very pale. It has produced a delicate wine, with a floral perfume of rose geranium on the nose and the palate. If you close your eyes, it smells and tastes like a gentle Rhône red wine, but it is so pale. Pure gorgeousness, how all rosé's should be. We cannot wait for summer holiday lunches on the deck. R98 a bottle from the farm

Newton Johnson Felicité Rosé – We’re always looking for something easy to drink with our lunch choices, which are always varied. What better than Newton Johnson's Felicité Rosé, made from Shiraz? Fresh pomegranate and cherry aromas with a touch of spice. Crunchy palate, delightful fruit sweetness, and juicy acidity to finish, such a good wine to share over a Sunday lunch. Expect to pay about R65

We keep talking about rain and the scarcity of water in our blessed, beautiful province. We are now being told to expect water rationing. We, and others whom we know, are consistently using less than 2000 litres per month in our homes but we keep hearing of people who complain that they cannot possibly use less than 20000 litres per month. When they are forced to by our lack of resource, we hope that they will regret their profligate, selfish attitude, realise how foolish they were and not just blame the politicians

It is not difficult, just be aware of what you do with water and look after this precious resource. Don't leave the shower running while you soap, use grey water to flush, don't run the dishwasher until it is full..... We're in crisis. Think about it!

This July, we received 56mm, August 86mm of rain (a slight relief), 31mm in September and 12 mm to date in October. Last July, 247mm, August 74mmSeptember 62mm (double last year), and October 37mm, which was more typical of average Cape Town rainfall. At the end of November last year we had received 577mm for the the year to date. This year, 473mm. The annual average at our home in Sea Point at the end of November was 667mm, so we are way behind

So don't think that it's OK, we've had some rain. This is close to Kalahari desert level. We need to try harder. It is no use hoping that rain will come. If it does, it will be a blessing, but the forecast does not encourage optimism

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 In MENU Next Week

Street Smart Awards

Diners Club Winemaker of the Year

Jordan's 25th Birthday

Lunch at Overture

We are planning to use wine barrel staves as the covering of a pergola. If any of our wine maker readers have old barrels which have outlived their original purpose, we’d love to have them. Please let us know

We receive a lot of enquiries from people who want to learn more about wineCathy Marston and The Cape Wine Academy both run wine education courses, some very serious and others more geared to fun. You can see details of Cathy’s WSET and other courses here and here and the CWA courses here. Karen Glanfield has taken over the UnWined wine appreciation courses from Cathy. See the details here

The Hurst Campusan accredited school for people who want to become professional chefs, has a variety of courses. See the details here

In addition to his Sense of Taste Culinary Arts School, Chef Peter Ayub runs a four module course for keen home cooks at his Maitland complex. Details here

14th December 2017

We write about our experiences in MENU, not only to entertain you, but to encourage you to visit the places and events that we do. We know you will enjoy them and we try to make each write up as graphic as we can, so you get a good picture of what is on offer at each place, restaurant, wine farm, festival we visit. 

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