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In search of biltong and music in the Hantam Karoo

A greying manageress sauntered over, sensing my distress, and asked what was going on. Between sobs I managed to tell her the whole sorry story.
“My dear,” she said, “this is Calvinia, we don’t go in for music here.”

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Meal in a hurry, not to worry

This is not the side of food column writing that you normally get to see. You probably imagine it to be all fine dinner parties and genteel patter while cool music wafts in the air and things gently simmer and bubble in gorgeous little pots and the expectant hordes drool imperceptibly into their bibs at the sheer wonder of the impeccable repast shortly to be set before them.

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Coconut, cardamom and cauliflower in a soup

This is something that Gautengers do not seem able to understand. To many from north of the mighty Vaal, where weather is presumed to be as regular as the daily afternoon thunderstorm, there are thought to be two Cape seasons – one constantly windy, the other constantly wet.

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Onions put a spanner in the works

I would sooner leap off a cliff backwards singing Climb Every Mountain than lie under a car in Table View on a Saturday afternoon with a rugby commentary plugged into my ears, a spanner in my hand and the knowledge that if the jack dislodges itself, my beer boep will keep the car up. I have more understanding of cooking, because it makes more sense to me, techno-challenged as I am.

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Fennel, spice and fruit for the chop

Cape of spice. Cape of fruit. At the Cape, we have an abundance of both, so when faced with neatly trimmed organic pork chops and an empty frying pan, it’s time to raid the spice rack. But don’t get carried away. Pork, despite coming from such a huge beast, has a delicate flavour, and does not benefit from spices being chucked at it with wild abandon.

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A fennel bulb and biltong starter? Elemental, my dears

It’s culinary showtime, kitchen kabarett. It’s the chef as artist, the chopping board as palette. Elemental cuisine is about assembling a plate of small things that complement one another but in which each item is an element in its own right. A sliver of something, a jellied something else, perhaps. A curl of a third thing, a swirl of a sauce, a slice of an ingredient that just looks damn pretty with all the rest of the stuff.

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Cool starters and endings and a French-trimmed rack

The racks had been given a French trim. (Calm yourself, Daisy, it has nothing to do with a Brazilian. It means the bones have been trimmed and excess fat removed.)

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Christmas Menu on a brandy theme

The tang of liquor is as much a part of the Christmas spirit as fruit, nuts and those silly costumes Santa Claus wears. Flame brandy or whisky over a pudding, add a glass to yourself along the way a la Keith Floyd, and the headier side of the yuletide is ignited.

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Terrine makes a first impression count

Making a good first impression is often the most important moment in a relationship, or even the difference between a relationship and none at all. I remember one of my first dates as a 16-year-old. She was a farm girl from the Northern Cape and I was a fidgety youth who’d been paired with her for her family’s visit to the Douglas agricultural show. Why? I have no idea why. You’re 16, you’re visiting your sister in some cement making town even the people living there have never heard of, and next thing you’re in the back of a car with a plump farm girl who thinks you’re a big city catch, on your way to a whole lot of humiliation.

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A little help from online friends

I discovered an online source of help for people in this quandary at www.dishfoodmarket.com which is a Cape Town-based service that will deliver the makings of a dinner party to your front door. You make your choices of quick and easy quick-fix dinner party solutions, pop them in your ‘trolley’, pay, and wait for your delivery. I tried this, sitting at work and ordering online, and within an hour of getting home I was serving up a three-course dinner.

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