A Southern Double-collared Sunbird on a hibiscus

As we have said over the last month or so, MENU has been sent to a relatively small group of weekly subscribers who specifically requested that we send them our weekly mail. The cost of our weekly bulk mailing service is crippling and we can save a lot by sending the weekly edition to a smaller list with our ordinary mail software. So this is the first monthly edition of MENU, a digest of what we have done in March, sent to our large mailing list. Goodness knows what we will tell you in April!

Lock Down
At midnight on Thursday 26th March, South Africa will join many other parts of the world and most of us will be restricted within the boundaries of our homes – effectively house arrest – initially for 21 days, but it may well be extended to a longer period, as has happened in Spain. We support the decision our President and the Government have made to keep us safe. Ours is a complex multi-layered country with many, many people who live in poverty being at huge risk of this dreadful virus. They have a huge task before them.

The ramifications are complex and frightening. Many businesses are severely threatened and many will close, with consequent loss of jobs in a country which already has an unacceptable level of unemployment. We are pensioners who own our home, so are part of a very fortunate minority. We are sheltering at home, obeying the rules and hopefully keeping well. We will spend the next weeks improving our garden and doing bits of household maintenance which have been put off for too long because producing MENU and partaking in activities to write about have taken nearly all our time. Many of you knew us as owners of a very small retail outlet. We know how difficult it is for a small business owner to keep your head above water in a difficult time and really can sympathise with anyone in that position. If that is you, we wish you good fortune and hope that you will be able to survive this and come out stronger for the experience. We must all stand together and help where we can when this is over by supporting local business. 

Most people agree that the Government has handled the organisation of this lock down well. But we have heard of one disturbing exception. We received news yesterday that the harvest has to stop at midnight tonight with some of the best grapes of this long, slow ripening season still unharvested. On several wine farms, the staff live on the farm. It makes no sense to us that they should be prevented from picking and processing the grapes. We are sure that responsible wine farm operators will ensure that all the right precautions are taken and maintained if they are allowed to. To have those staff members sitting on the farms twiddling their thumbs while the grapes rot on the vines and the fermenting juice stays unattended in tanks and fermenters is nonsensical. We are talking about thousands of tanks of wine, millions of litres being lost. The wine industry is one of the Western Cape’s biggest employers and earners. We must look after it. 

A PS to the above. It appears that the situation has been saved at the last minute. See the information in this link: 

We are sure that what we’ve planted or painted or how many weeds we’ve pulled up will not be of great interest to our readers in the coming weeks, so publishing MENU will be intermittent. Lynne will still produce helpful recipes to excite and aid you and we may describe interesting wines we’ve pulled out of our cellar. Perhaps some of our wine-producing readers might like us to review some of their wines – if they can get them to us…. In fact, one very good estate delivered some samples this morning.

A huge thank you, once again, to the subscribers who have contributed so generously to our costs. You have been a great help to our work, publishing this journal. Our new mailing list was activated last week and MENU was sent by email to the people who specifically requested the weekly mail update. The larger list, which includes the new list, will receive it at the end of the month as a monthly digest of our activities

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We were invited by the Constantia Wine Route to choose a wine farm and winemaker with whom we could spend two hours for a brief harvest experience on the farm. This was followed by a harvest lunch with all the winemakers and some other media people at Nova Zonnestraal, the newest kid on the country's oldest winemaking block. An offer like this was hard to refuse. We chose Klein Constantia, a farm with which we have had a long history, but had not visited for a while. Arriving at 10 am, we were met by winemaker Matthew Day. Read on…

A message from a friend whom Lynne has known since they were six, wishing us a Happy 17th Wedding Anniversary made us realise we had both completely forgotten about it. Embarrassing, but we did have a giggle and had to rush off to find our marriage certificate to check the date. And we always celebrate with a meal at an interesting restaurant. Lynne had read good things about Yu which is in the Heerengracht and is part of the Onyx hotel. It serves Asian food and much of it Dim Sum, which we love, so we decided to try it for lunch. Read on…

Our Wine club tasting this month was held at The Homestead on Constantia Main Road. It featured wines made by Andre Rousseau. Andre trained at Elsenberg and worked first at Twee Jonge Gezellen in Tulbagh with Nicky Krone, then at Constantia Uitsig as the Viticulturist. Read On…
Another tempting invitation to a Harvest Celebration, this time from Meerendal in Durbanville with an opportunity to pick grapes, a chance to taste some of their older Shiraz starting with one from 1987 . We arrived just before 10 and were welcomed with some canapés and coffee or tea. Read On…
An invitation to visit Plaisir de Merle in Simondium for a media function was very welcome. It is an estate which we had never visited before but meant to; there are so many wine farms that we still have to visit, new and old and some like this that we often drive past and say, “we must come soon”. Prompting had the desired effect and we do seriously regret not having visited sooner. Read On…
On a beautiful summer Saturday, we were off to Stellenbosch. We were invited by Ken Forrester to attend the 321st anniversary celebration of his farm, Scholtzenberg, and to enjoy a Harvest grape stomp competition with some lunch. Our host was the man himself, Ken Forrester. Ken is recovering well from some necessary leg surgery and has this innovative Kneecycle (he calls it a Hardly Davidson) to get around on for a few weeks until he heals. Read On…
It is always a complete delight and a reason for huge thankfulness when we receive an invitation to attend the RMB Starlight Concert at Vergelegen. It is one of our favourite annual events and we take nothing for granted. After checking in, you walk through the beautiful gardens and then walk through the Manor House to get to the concert venue. Vergelegen was settled in 1700 by Willem Adriaan van der Stel. After Sir Lionel Phillips bought the neglected Vergelegen Estate in 1917, Lady Florence Phillips transformed it into a floral and cultural treasure trove. Read On…
As it is officially Autumn and we will shortly go into lock down, I thought I would give you an uplifting salad. It is a variation on one of our favourites, which we have as an accompaniment to a main dish. Or you could increase the quantities and have it as a main. As the supermarkets will remain open, hopefully you can still get the ingredients. Read on...
As we are at home sheltering, we are using lots of ingredients from our stock cupboard. And we do feel the need for some comfort food occasionally in these trying times. We have shared this before but thought you might like to try this again. Don’t make it in advance; it does go a bit soggy but, fresh from the oven, it is completely delicious. And for those of us with milk allergies or intolerance, the lactose free milk from Woolworths or Checkers works so well. You also need your greens so do make this with a good very mixed salad to get those vitamins. We had it with a good, rich and juicy red wine. See our Wine of the Week. Read on…
We had bought free range chicken pieces and fresh spinach, so Lynne came up with this recipe for supper last night, a melange of three she found on the internet which inspired her. It doesn’t look too glamorous, but the flavour is superb and it doesn’t take very long to prepare. Enjoy! We confess that we did take a slice of bread at the end to sop up the wonderful juices. Prepared in one load shedding period in the morning and cooked immediately after the one which ended at 6.15 pm. Illegitimi non carborundumFor the full recipe, Read On…
This recipe is very quick and very delicious
Fresh figs, 3 per person – a creamy blue cheese (Gorgonzola, blue Brie or Danish blue) – prosciutto ham – rocket or other fresh salad leaves
We suggest three figs per person as a starter. Cut the stalks off the figs and then cut a cross two thirds of the way down in each fig. Open out the fig, put in about a teaspoon of crumbled blue cheese, put into the microwave for 1 or 2 minutes until the cheese has melted. Put in a pretty serving dish or individual dishes, make curls of prosciutto and arrange them around the figs, decorate with rocket or other salad leaves and serve. Perfect with a good chilled rosé wine. The figs without the ham do work well if you can’t eat ham

MENU's Wines of the Month

has incense wood from the expensive new French oak barrels used; it has quite a dark nose which leads one to expect wine with dark fruit but no, it is full of ripe plums and mulberries on the nose. Silky soft and delicious with cherry fruit in abundance, with long elegant flavours. So hard to put down! One of the best Pinot Noirs we have tasted in a while. And so different from the others. R350 on the Estate

Winemag.co.za awarded it 94 points in 2019. It is a wooded Sauvignon Blanc using Elgin grapes. Andre does a whole bunch press and then the juice goes into French 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill barrels to ferment. It has a powder puff nose, then green leaves appear with a whiff of smoke. Grapes, crisp limes, lemon, wood hints on the end; a smooth texture and long flavours. Read On…
This is the “every day” red blend in the Groote Post range, made for early, casual enjoyment. In Afrikaans, a “lekker kuier wyn”. The sort of wine you can enjoy with friends, watching the sunset from your stoep. It’s also a great wine to enjoy with this week’s recipe, a delicious macaroni cheese. Read on...

Coming events. Sadly all the events in our calendar have been cancelled because of Covid-19

Pick n Pay Wine & Food Festival Cape Town
The inaugural Pick n Pay Wine & Food Festival Cape Town will take place at the harbour’s edge of the V&A Waterfront’s glorious North Wharf from 3 to 5 April. 


For the past 335 years, Constantia has stood proud as the oldest uninterrupted wine-growing region in the Southern hemisphere, characterised by some of the finest wines in the world, iconic architecture, and a commitment to excellence.
Join us in the month of May as we peel back the patina of bygone years and unwrap Constantia as you’ve never experienced it before, through a limited edition CONSTANTIA UNWRAPPED ticket, or through one of the TEN unique events on offer. cancelled

19th March 2020

All verbal and photographic content used in this site is © John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor and Bacchus, unless otherwise specified

MENU has appeared nearly every week since March 2003, initially as a free newsletter from our shop, Main Ingredient, and has been sent to our subscribers by email. Many of our subscribing readers have followed us from our earliest days and we appreciate your support

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We keep talking about rain and the scarcity of water in our blessed, beautiful province. We are still in trouble. 2018 saw the lowest rainfall of any year since 2010 and even then we had 100 mm less in 2019 than in 2018. We still need to be careful; we don't know what the future holds. 

It is not difficult to be careful; 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 may, 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. We are planting succulents and other water-wise plants which will tolerate the conditions and still give us pleasure

So don't think that it's OK if it's raining; the trouble is that it is not raining enough. The dams are only, on average, not sufficiently full. We need to try harder. It is no use hoping that more rain will come. If it does, it will be a blessing, but the long term forecast still does not encourage optimism. Tapping into aquifers and installing desalination plants will help in the long term, but we must face up to the fact that water will always be a scarce, precious commodity in the Western Cape. The world's weather is in trouble. Europe is experiencing temperatures that we are used to here in Africa. Vineyards are being planted in England. It might be normal in Spain, but when we hear stories from chilly Scotland and often icy Norway about temperatures in the 30s.....

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