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A crackling way with simple pork chops

Some meats are contrary by nature. They’re the unpredictable element in the kitchen repertoire, the Mr Hyde which may suddenly show itself as a Dr Jekyll, when you least expect it, or the smiling, sweet vicar who turns out to harbour a dark secret of the kind the church hierarchy would rather ignore.

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There’s more to Cape apples than Granny Smith

I was given a charming little book about apples by the redoubtable Brian Berkman, he of the formerly impressive girth who now is hard to spot in a can of sardines. Fortunately there is still enough of him left to market certain covetable foodlike things, and numbered among these is the apples put out there by Tru-Cape, whose Buks Nel and Henk Griessel have come up with an informative little tome full of quirky facts.

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Never trust a butcher with a missing finger

I’ve learnt to trust the butcher. Look, the guy has a big, long knife. He knows how to sharpen it, and how to use it. He still has both his hands and all his fingers, which is evidence of his skill and accuracy with the blade. Ergo, never trust a butcher who is missing a finger. Or a hand.

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A spicy little spicy Christmas

The Cape of Good Hope is a spicy place, Christmas food is traditionally all about fruit and spices, and this menu embraces all of that in a way that does justice to the traditions of our own ancient spice route.

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Don the glad rags with pork tenderloin

Pork is the chicken of red meat. Like a blank canvass waiting only for the masterly ministrations of an adept chef, it shares with chicken that ability to take on all manner of flavours, from lemon, fresh herbs, honey or mustard to eastern ingredients from soy to rice wine, star anise to cardamom.

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Life’s a beech-smoked pork loin

The thing about beech-smoked pork loin is that it has a decidedly bacony flavour, if not texture. The texture of the flesh is nothing at all like bacon, and also is not much like a slow-roasted slab of pork belly, which it closely resembles. But it has far less fat than an equivalent sized piece of pork belly, and with the subtle smoking it attains a flavour more reminiscent of your end-of-year hunk of Christmas gammon than it does anything else.

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The Alcoholic Word Police strike again

There are still millions of people who continue to call sparkling wine Champagne because they really couldn’t be bothered about a silly rule imposed by the Alcoholic Word Police. What are they going to do, arrest them? And who could police it anyway? Shall we tell our already overworked police, “Sersant, just drop that murder you’re rushing to, we’ve got a serious case at a party in Sea Point of a lady offering her guests Champagne when quite clearly what she is pouring for them is South African sparkling wine, and that’s not all – it’s not even a methode Cap Classique, it’s cheap s***. Bring her in.”

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Gingerly with pork and cabbage

Cabbage is the spotty kid who sits in the corner at the back of the class and waits for the bell to ring, then dawdles out of class slinking into the shadows in the hope that the bullies-in-chief won’t shove his head in the sandpit again.

Cabbage is the quietly talented kid who composes songs in his head but never sings them, knowing – or scared – that if he does, all the other kids will laugh and teacher will frown the frown that says, “That kid write songs? Never.”

Cabbage is the kid who dreads the day in school when you all have to stand up, one by one, and walk to the front of the class to give an oral. Facing the class is the worst thing for Cabbage Kid. They stare at you willing you to mess up, so you do. You compose a clever speech in your head but the brain doesn’t send the right speech to your vocal chords and the one that comes out is some jumbled nonsense verse that you don’t even recognise yourself.

If cabbage were an athlete, it would be the one trailing at the back while the leeks, the broccoli, the organic mangetout and especially the carrots – always, always the carrots – streak ahead and across the finishing line. Cabbage just doesn’t believe in itself. And when you don’t have self-belief, you founder. The rocks call you like wreckers on the Cornish coast flashing their evil lights at night to lure you to the shore. It’s pretty dire to be a cabbage.

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Pariah parsnips and Purple Rain

Nobody could ever forget the day of the great Purple Rain when everyone – parsnips, carrots, cabbages, pears, grapes, even potatoes – was sprayed purple by the water cannon of the aparsnipheid pigs. A great expiation happened as understanding seeped into the national vegetable psyche. We are all one. Even parsnips.

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Za’atar’s the way to go

In the mountains where Syria meets Lebanon, where a tyrant annihilates his own people while his wife shops for Prada and G&B online and everybody knows the sound and smell of war, there grows wild thyme called za’atar.

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