Archive | February, 2012

Ile de Pan – a Knysna Epidemic

29 Feb

Arriving in Knysna on a quiet Tuesday morning and driving over the bridge to Thesen Island we wondered where all the people were. It looked like a bit of a ghost town to be honest. We wandered around for a while thinking that there had been some sort of viral epidemic that had claimed the lives of all the inhabitants overnight.

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Then we spotted Ile de Pain, our main reason for visiting Knysna. It was packed with people eating at the wooden tables or queueing to buy the fabulous bread and cakes. It was like the whole of the town and a fair few tourists were sharing in the joy that the the Ile de Pain experience brings.

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We had reservations for lunch and it was only 11 am. You have no idea how much I wish we had booked for breakfast too. I had to get a blow dry just to waste some time before lunch. We also had a look around a new boutique hotel called The Turbine which is a converted wood fired electricity power station. Its industrial past combines with chic comfortable design pieces to create a contemporary space with a relaxed vibe.

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But back to the food. We arrived at Ile de Pain hungry and excited. For lunch the vegetarian choices are excellent. I went for the Butternut Squash and Chickpea Cakes with tomato salsa, tzatziki and fruit chutney. The Washer Up ordered the Halloumi Bruschetta with rocket and a lemon caper vinaigrette. Other options that looked equally good were the Wild Mushroom Tart with roast tomatoes, leeks and a shitake mushroom pesto or The IDP Pissaldiere, a thin crust french style pizza topped with caramelised onions, mozzarella, olives and rocket.

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Both dishes were delicious. The squash & chickpeas cakes were light and spiced with cinnamon. Too often any cakes made with pureed chickpeas can be dense and heavy. The bruschetta was amazing – I can see why their Companio bread is so popular. It’s chewy, crunchy, airy and has fantastic flavour. The dressing was zingy to contrast with the salty Halloumi and the heirloom tomatoes and peppadew peppers were sweet and spicy.

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Stuffed as we were from cleaning our plates, I was still powerless to resist when they brought around a two tiered cake stand filled with all the different cakes and pastries they had on offer that day. The difficult thing was which ones to choose.

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We made our decisions though. A sticky, chewy walnut slice and a peach and blueberry cake.

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Both stunning…..

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They very cleverly put the lunch and breakfast menus on the same sheet so you get to see both. I couldn’t think of leaving Knysna without trying out the breakfasts too so we decided to come back the following day.

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I ordered the Green Envy, scrambled eggs, basil pesto, rocket and parmesan on wholegrain toast which was lovely but The Washer Up made me green with envy when his choice arrived at the table. “Como” is delicious steamed vegetables, mushrooms, poached egg and tomato shitake pesto. It has a slightly Asian flavour from the vegetables and is the best breakfast dish I have ever eaten. Yes I had to help him eat it, for research purposes only, you understand. The poached egg was perfect too.

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We were meeting up with my Dad on the next leg of our tour later that day so I thought it was only right that we buy some of the beautiful tarts as a gift. He has never been to Ile de Pain and loves a little cake with his afternoon coffee. We chose the Portuguese custard tarts Pasteis de Nata (pictured above) which also happen to be The Washer Up’s favourite, a creme brulee tart…..

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And a mini lemon and passion fruit meringue pie……

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They were all beautiful, even though everything got a little bit squashed in the box on the back seat of the car when my suitcase slid along the seat on a sharp bend. We saved them though. It was hard to chose a winner, but I think the custard tarts just made it. Not eggy or bouncy at all, just creamy and ever so slightly burnt, which is a good thing. And that pastry…..

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Ile de Pain is a must on any trip to Knysna or Plettenberg Bay. They only open for breakfast and lunch and you will want to try both. It gets very busy especially at weekends so make sure you book. You really wouldn’t want to miss out believe me, this place is special and so is the food.

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Oh and Liezie very kindly gave me the recipe for the Butternut & Chickpea Cakes so I will be making them soon. Watch this space…

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Sorry for the lack of posts…..

21 Feb

We have been eating lunch and dinner every day in different restaurants but I have not had the time or the WiFi to post anything. What I have to give you is a coming soon, a little teaser of what’s to come. Enjoy….
Tempting cakes at Voila in the new Cape Quarter…

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The Washer Up feeding the elephants in an attractive green poncho and bandana combination…

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Stunning cakes at Ile de Pain in Knysna….

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A delicous pink sparkling on Valentines Day….

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A stunning tomato risotto at Sand at The Plettenberg….

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Startled monkeys….

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Baked Camembert with green fig preserve, honey and almonds amongst the vines at Bramon Wine Estate Plettenberg.

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Exotic birds…

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Beautiful hotels…

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The best Portuguese custard tarts in the world…

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Meet Piccolo, the cutest dog in Montagu….

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A sweet potato brûlée tart with asparagus at Haute Cabriere…..

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An amazing tomato and boconcini salad at Reuben’s…..

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A gorgeous fig and frangipane tart with goats yoghurt ice cream from Bread & Wine…..

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And much more to come…..

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Rumbullion at The Roundhouse

15 Feb

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A gourmet picnic hamper filled with your choice of goodies enjoyed while taking in the breathtaking views over Camps Bay.

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Order a bottle of your favourite wine and unwind while the chickens wander around on the lawn and under your feet.

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Your picnic basket arrives with cutlery, plates and napkins and you will be handed a checklist with all the available food. Just tick the boxes next to the items and return it to the waiter.
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My dad ordered the Caesar Salad with a soft poached egg, how could he resist with all those chickens running around, you don’t get much fresher than that.
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We chose a loaf of fresh ciabatta to go with the three dips that we ordered. Jalapeño hummus, feta and herb dip and caramelised onion pâté.

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We also decided on some Fairview goat’s cheese that was accompanied by a delicious watermelon chutney. There is a good selection of charcuterie items and salads as well.

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There are hot dishes too like enormous burgers and their extremely popular pizzas. The Gorgonzola, caramelised onion, fig, rocket and walnut was very tempting. Matt the manager was also very proud of the roasted bone marrow with oxtail marmalade, so much so that he insisted that The Washer Up and my dad tried it.

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They loved it, I enjoyed the salad that came with it!

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This is a relaxed and informal lunch experience, definitely book, it gets busy, especially at weekends. Apparently they do a picnic breakfast at the weekends too. I’ll be back for that, no doubt about it.

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The Garden of Eden at Babylonstoren

12 Feb

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You have to see this place to believe it. It is heaven on earth. An eight acre fruit and vegetable farm growing over 300 varieties of plants, each one edible and grown as biologically as possible. The picture below is of an heirloom variety of pumpkin called Turkish Turban.
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Fruit and veg are harvested year round for use in their restaurant, Babel. The garden is divided into fifteen areas for vegetables, fruits, berries, bees, indigenous plants, ducks and chickens. Gravity feeds water into waterways from a stream into the garden as it has done for 300 years.

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You can take a guided tour of the farm, as we did, before enjoying a lunch made from freshly picked fruit and vegetables you have just seen growing. Don't forget to stop off for a fresh herb tea in the beautiful greenhouse before lunch.

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You can pick your own blend of fresh herbs from the garden. I chose lemon verbena, pineapple sage and mint which was refreshing and light and made up for the beautiful rose water and strawberry cupcake we couldn’t resist to go with it.

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Lunch at Babel is a joyful celebration of fresh local produce served in a natural and generous way.
The maxim of the restaurant’s creator, Maranda Engelbrecht Cape Town’s food and style guru, is that the food should be served as naturally as possible, not messed about with or chopped into oblivion. Pick, clean and serve is her approach and it works. You really get that “fresh from the garden to the table” feeling.

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The restaurant is in a converted cow shed with floor to ceiling glass walls and white painted original brick. It is light, informal and incredibly chic. The menu reflects the seasons and what has been harvested that day. The salads are either red, green or yellow and abundant with beautiful produce in that colour. Speaking to Maranda she told me that she wanted the fruit and vegetables to be the main ingredients and the meat and fish to be additional. We chose the yellow which included edible lilies, passion fruit and carrot, papaya, tamarillo, pineapple, nectarines, yellow heirloom tomatoes, roasted corn and melon. You could add smoked trout, chicken or yoghurt cheese but it was perfect without.

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It is the attention to detail that makes this such a memorable experience. The freshly made bread was served with a herb oil made from a mixture of herbs from the garden.

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We were given an aperitif of chenin grapes and cheesecake mouse which was stunning.

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I ordered the Artichoke & Goats Cheese Tart with caramelised onion, tamarillo & basil for my main.

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The pastry was so crumbly and light and the filling creamy and delicious. All the main courses come with chips and vegetables. Now about those chips….

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They were the best I’ve ever tasted. The Washer Up (who makes amazing chips) was not pleased to be knocked off the top spot but these were special. Thick and chunky,hand cut, very crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy in the middle. The perfect chip served with course sea salt, cracked pepper and fresh lemon to squeeze over. The Washer Up insists it must be a superior potato to the one he uses. Something about the workman always blaming his tools comes to mind.

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After lunch we had the absolute pleasure of meeting with Maranda Engelbrecht one of the driving forces behind this incredible concept. She let us have a look around her new venture there that is almost ready to launch. Another converted barn being made into a delicatessen and bakery selling freshly baked breads, homemade charcuterie and cheeses as well as a wine tasting area. Is there no end to this woman’s talents? She is leading the food revolution in South Africa and I, for one, am definitely on board.

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Thanks Maranda, it was a pleasure….

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Out of This World at Planet

11 Feb

The Planet restaurant at The Mount Nelson Hotel has a 5 course vegan tasting menu. This was one of the places that I was most looking forward to experiencing.

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It is a beautiful hotel with an amazing reputation and I was surprised (in a good way) that the chef Rudi Leibenberg had decided to go with the very risky idea of offering a vegan tasting menu in such a traditional hotel.

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Turns out it was one the best decisions he ever made. Apparently everyone is pleasantly surprised with the success of the menu. It seems that this forward thinking, open minded chef is leading the way. There is a definite change happening. Diners are moving towards a more health conscious, lighter way of eating.

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On the night we were there, he had a “chef’s table” of ten people all eating a specially designed vegan and raw tasting menu. And most of them were men!

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Apparently the chef’s idea was to challenge his team, to stop them being complacent. I, for one, am so glad he did this. Each of the six courses can be accompanied by a wine pairing that is vegan too. Who knew that there was vegan wine? I certainly didn’t.

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The fabulous sommelier and restaurant manager Carl informed us that he had actually embarrassed himself by laughing when a group of vegans asked if the wines were vegan too. He thought they were joking. It turns out they weren’t laughing.

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The highlight for me was the raw beetroot ravioli (above) stuffed with a cashew nut “cheese” purée and served with a tomato consommé. But all of it was gorgeous and all vegan. Thank you Rudi for being brave enough to go there. The rest are following, I can’t wait….

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The Culinary Journey Begins….

9 Feb

Lunch at Harbour House…

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At The Waterfront. We shared the Vegetable Tian with Tempura Prawns, delicious. The Washer Up ate the prawns… The tian was layers of avocado, tomato and roasted vegetables with a sweet chilli sauce.

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I had the Butternut Squash & Feta Salad as my main course, it had lovely crunchy butternut crisps. Forgot to get the recipe…..

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The Washer Up was also happy with the beer..

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Pretty bleached wood interior and fantastic views of the harbour…

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Hasta mañana

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We Have Arrived….

9 Feb

After nearly 24 hours of traveling we have arrived in Cape Town. We are staying in de Waterkant also known as The Cape Quarter.

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The houses are all painted in beautiful chalky bright colours and the smell in the air alternates between freshly roasted coffee and ground roasted spices. My idea of heaven.

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This is the apartment we are staying in. I could seriously live like this.

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Homemade Aloe Vera Moisturising Gel and Some Exciting News!

4 Feb Aloe Vera Moisturising gel

The aloe vera plants on our roof terrace are out of control. They are in fairly small pots and they seem to produce new leaves overnight. So many leaves that the pots are actually splitting. The Washer Up decided to cut them back today which meant we had carrier bags full of aloe vera leaves.

It seemed such a shame to throw them all away so I did a google search to see how difficult it would be to make some aloe vera moisturiser. After all I buy aloe vera face cream from Mercadona. It turns out that it is really easy (if a little messy). All you do is blend the fresh aloe gel with some sweet almond oil (that you can get from the pharmacy) and there you have it. Your own 100% natural aloe vera  moisturising gel.

It admitedly looks a little bit like snot but disappears into your skin really quickly and leaves it feeling, soft, smooth and nourished. The Washer Up’s hands are reaping the benefits and I can defintely see the difference in my face.

Homemade Aloe Vera Moisturising Gel

Makes 1 jam jar.

  • about 200 gr aloe vera gel  (I used about 4 big leaves)
  • 1 or 2 tsp sweet almond oil
  • a few drops of your favourite essential oil if you want it to be scented (optional)

You  may want to use gloves and protect the worksurface with a plastic bag or something.

The aloe starts to oxidise (turn red) quickly once it is cut so you have to do it straight away.

Split the aloe leaves down the middle, open them out and scrape the slimy gel out onto the scales with a teaspoon.

When you have about 200 gr tip into a bowl or blender with 1 or 2 teaspoons of almond oil and blend until smooth and slimy.

Tip into a sterilised jar and keep in a cool place (my bathroom is freezing) or in the fridge in summer.

This can be used as a face, hand and body moisturiser but it is also excellent for burns, sunburn, skin irritations and mosquito bites.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…….

The almond blossom is really early this year because of the mild weather we have been having up until this weekend which has been freezing cold. I love the candy floss trees with their barely pink delicate blooms. It is one of my favourite things about living here, it signifies that spring is not too far away.

I have some very exciting news to tell you. Next week we will be going to Cape Town. As many of you will already know, my Dad lives there so we are primarily going to see him but also….

We are going for three weeks, during which time I will be travelling around the Cape eating in some of the best and most popular restaurants the region has to offer.

I am a contributor to Getaway Magazine which has won South African Travel Blog of the year for two years running. They recently held an award ceremony of their own in Cape Town (which my dad attended on my behalf) and to my complete surprise I won the award for best food blog!!

I will be compiling a list of the best restaurants for vegetarian food (not vegetarian restaurants) in the area with reviews, recommendations, and a Vegetarian Culinary Journey Route.

We  start the tour in Cape Town then move on to Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Montagu, Robertson, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and then back to Cape Town again.

We have lunch and dinner booked in a different restaurant every day. Such is the quality and choice of fabulous restaurants out there, there are still quite a few that I won’t have time to get to unfortunately.

I will be taking my camera to photograph the restaurants and food and will hopefully be posting a quick photo daily just to let you know where we are and what we’ve eaten.

I have also asked if the chefs in these gorgeous restaurants would be willing to share the recipe for one of  their favourite vegetarian dishes for me to recreate when I return home.

I have already received some fantastic recipes for such delights as, Goats Cheese & Beetroot Lollipops from Peter Tempelhoff, winner of award for Best Chef 2011. Peter is Executive Chef for three of the best restaurants in South Africa including The Greenhouse, winner of the award for Best Restaurant 2011.

As you can probably tell I can’t wait to get started. We leave on Tuesday, arrive on Wednesday morning and have lunch booked at Harbour House at The Waterfront in Cape Town.

For dinner we have reservations at The Mount Nelson Hotel’s restaurant Planet. The Mount Nelson (or Nellies as it is affectionately known) is a local institution famous for their afternoon tea. The Planet chef, Rudi Leibenberg has had the foresight and invention to create a four and six course vegan tasting menu. Yes, a vegan tasting menu! It must be the first one ever.

I will let you know the rest of our itinerary when we get there. But until then I’ve got some ironing and packing to be getting on with…

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