Fishing on the beach near Velddrif

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This is our first edition of MENU for 2018, after enjoying the summer and taking a well earned holiday. Our last media function was on the 12th of December and then it was time to proverbially pack up the work desks and relax. Well that was the theory but, of course, working at the pace we do, lots of things at home get neglected, so we spent a couple of weeks before Christmas cleaning, tidying and fixing. It becomes quite satisfying, seeing things you have meant to do for a long time finally finished and you do feel more organised, but we were beginning to get a bit obsessive when Christmas arrived. We got our tree up, doused the three year old Christmas pudding with more brandy and we had a very happy festive season with friends and family. 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

We did go and visit one new restaurant before Christmas, Bertus Basson's burger house in Plein Street in central Stellenbosch. Die Vrije Burger - it's a play on words, it’s named after the original Free Burgers in the Cape in the 17th Century and fits nicely into Bertus' concept! (And no, these burgers are not free). It is already popular with the students and locals and tourists, offering just one thing, a very good burger, with accompaniments, chips and a soft serve ice cream cone to finish. We do like his witty logo

After New Year, it was time to get away from the house, tidying, fixing and bemoaning the death of the garden and escape to one of our favourite places to chill out, the West Coast, a couple of hours’ drive north of Cape Town. We hired a simple self-catering cottage at the St Helena Bay Hotel for 9 nights and took with us piles of books, quite a lot of wine and some food that didn't need much preparation. We discovered two new West Coast restaurants - see the reviews below - and came back really relaxed and ready to dive right in to the 2018 media season

One of our best chefs, but largely unrecognised and unsung, Garth Almazan, who was at Catharina's Restaurant at Steenberg for many years, had left and we heard that he was opening a restaurant in Paternoster at the Strandloper Boutique Hotel. We had this on our list of things to do when we were there on holiday and were absolutely delighted when their PR agent invited us to visit and sample the food. And we were not disappointed.

This is a small 15 room boutique hotel in Port Owen, owned by Russell Foster, a British restaurateur from Durham in Sutherland in England where he and his son-in-law own and run 12 restaurants. He told us he had come here to retire, found this place on auction, saw the potential, bought it and opened just 16 months ago. It has been a success. We had recommendations from people we know in Cape Town long before we decided to come up to this area for a holiday, so when Carmen Lerm of West Coast Way asked if we would like to visit it and write a review, 

We have long wanted to visit this interesting place. Lynne studied Gemmology for the FGA in London and we are both fascinated by the environment, man. rocks, minerals and the earth's formation and history. We decided to go on our way back to Cape Town last Sunday and are so glad we did. It seems our delay played in our favour because just two months ago the brand new centre opened and it is almost as impressive as the fossils themselves. It is located on the R45 just off the R27 between Langebaan and Velddrif. And they are a National Heritage site, so they need funding


We had a dinner for friends on their annual pilgrimage from Johannesburg last night. It is rather hot and muggy in the Cape at the moment, so a cold soup is not only easy to do, but is well appreciated

This is one of our best and easiest recipes, a cold fresh tomato soup, no cooking required. It is from the second Moro cookbook, Casa Moro.

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2 garlic cloves – 1 kg ripe tomatoes (Roma or jam work well) – 5 tablespoons of olive oil - 100g white bread, no crusts, lightly crumbled - 1 or 2 tablespoons good quality sweet red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar – a pinch of caster sugar (optional) – sea salt and black pepper

Cut a small cross in the top of every tomato, this will help when peeling them Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for a couple of minutes then remove, dip in cold water briefly and allow to cool off. Then peel, remove the cores and halve them. Crush the garlic with a good pinch of salt until you have a paste. Using a food processor or an electric hand-held blender, purée the tomatoes and bread until smooth. If there are many pips, strain through a sieve. With the machine running, add the garlic and then the olive oil. (I have to confess that the original recipe says 10 tablespoons of olive oil. 5 worked for us. Use your own discretion). When the oil has combined, transfer to a large bowl and stir in the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of sugar if the tomatoes are not particularly sweet. Put into the fridge for 2 hours to chill. Just before serving, check the seasoning once more. Add some iced water if it seems too thick. Traditionally, you serve it with chopped egg and jamon Serrano (cured ham). You can also use a mild chorizo if you can't get jamon.

As they suggested in the recipe, we took all the peel, skin and pith off a large orange, sliced it and then cut it into small wedges and added three to the bottom of each bowl – it is magic and a lovely surprise. Or just open a tin of naartjies (clementines), drain and add them. Serve with crusty sour dough bread or rolls

We enjoyed this wine with this week's MENU recipe at a dinner party last night. It is a wonderful accompaniment to any dish with a tomato base and is a perfect summer wine. Light in texture with a nice mineral edge and a hint of cranberry. We buy this wine by the case; we are always surprised how well it goes with food, whether it is vegetarian, fish or fowl or meat. 

We keep talking about rain and the scarcity of water in our blessed, beautiful province. We are now at a crisis point. This week, the City Council published an interactive map on the web, from which one can look at one's own neighbourhood and see which houses are being careful and which are not or are just using water as if there were no crisis. We have neighbours who still have lovely green lawns anmd thy show up on the map as problem users. Please be careful

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! Your garden will, like ours, become a desert. Sad, but necessary and a minor sacrifice in comparison to queueing at a hose for your daily 25 litre allowance.

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 in previous years was 667mm. December and January have been very hot and dry, so we are way behind and "Day Zero" is creeping closer.

So don't think that it's OK, we might have some rain next week. 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


 In MENU Next Week

Dinner with James

Cape Point Vineyards

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

18th January 2018

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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