Monthly Archives: December 2011

Aside

I seem to attract people who share the same passions as I do.  I have an Indian friend who is passionate about food.  One morning, we stumbled on the topic of food, I must say that he surprised me when he told me about his love for cooking as typically in the Indian culture it is the woman who are always in the kitchen.  He started talking about various Indian dishes and how fresh spices were the secret to an excellent Indian dish.   As he passionately started explaining how to test the freshness of the spices, I embarrassingly admit that I drifted away to a loving memory of my Mother. 

 My Mother was an eccentric woman and loved all things bright, bold and beautiful, especially her food.  She loved any Indian dish and was always in the kitchen trying to replicate one of the many Indian dishes, she was always keen to taste. Never one to ask for much in life, she often sacrificed her time to ensure that all of our needs were met.

She did however have one delight, which she would religiously do week after week.  A visit to the local Indian bazaar was a necessity for her and not just a treat.  It was during these weekly visits that I would go along with her and she would always make it crystal clear ,that this was her time and she was not to be disturbed.

I followed her wherever she went, in and out of every shop.  My senses were overloaded, seeing brightly colored saris made from the finest materials, adorning stall after stall, sounds of lively Indian percussions would put a spring in your step as you wandered through the bazaar and the mixture of spices and incense left you ravenous, alluring you to sample some of the finest freshest dishes.

 With her remarkable warm personality and her ability to read a person’s character in an instant, it came as no surprise that my Mother made friends easily.  She befriended an elderly Indian woman, who had a small spice stall.  She would be at the spice stall for what seemed liked hours, seeking advice on how to perfect her dishes.  Asking what spices were the best and how to apply them to her dishes to produce the finest results.  The kind elderly lady would always tell my Mother that the secret was in the correct amount of fresh spices.  In a flash, she would be scooping away at the spices, making a “secret” blend for her.  My Mother, being inquisitive and determined to find out what spices were being blended together would be trying to write down the names, but only managed to get a few.  It was fun to watch this game of cat and mouse, as both woman knew what the other was doing. Finally after much persuasion and persistence, my Mother had earned the trust of the lady and we were invited to tea. It was during this time, that my Mother was taught how to identify fresh spices and was given the secret blend. 

Not that my Mother needed any further motivation, but having learnt about her spices , my Father and I were in for a treat and I can’t begin to tell you how many Indian dishes we sampled after this encounter.

 It was through my Mother’s Love for Indian food, that I became interested in finding out more about how to prepare various dishes and befriended a chef at a hotel I was working for.  It wasn’t long before She would educate me on the know how’s on preparing various Indian dishes.   Soon I became acquainted with her family and was invited to dinner.   I remember calling my Mother and telling her that I was going for dinner with my friend and her family and I really cannot remember who was more excited – myself or her!!!!  

The evening of the dinner arrived and I was warmly welcomed into my friend’s home, immediately the kaleidoscope of colors caught my eye and the familiar smell of spices and incense made me feel at home.

I was introduced to other family members and friends and was told to take a seat and relax as I was their dinner guest.  It was only after much debate with my friend and her family that I was allowed to enter her kitchen.  I was offered a warm spicy tea before dinner and as I took a sip, I realized how fortunate I was to be able to have dinner with this family. A wave of emotion rushed over me as I could not thank them enough for their generosity and kindness. I stood in the warmth of her humble kitchen, feeling awestruck, unbeknown to myself that I would be momentarily culture shocked.  Remembering my manners, I offered to help lay the dinner table and my friend laughed at me.  She looked at me in amazement, as if I should have known the words that were about to come out of her mouth, as she said that it would not be necessary to lay any table, as we would be having our dinner on the floor.  I looked at her bewildered and was led into the next room, only to find a beautiful circle of scattered cushions on the floor, candles lit, incense burning and light music playing  in the background.  While I stood staring, the food had been brought in and I was told to take a seat on any cushion.  Lovingly the dishes were placed in the middle and we joined hands and thanks for the food was given. I watched as bowl of water was passed around.  Following everybody else’s lead, I washed my hands and then dinner was served – BY HAND.  I could not believe my eyes.  I really did not want to look rude as I stared at the sight before me.  I knew that my shock reflected on my face and so I pretended as if this were the norm and joined in.  Going against the culture that I was brought up with, I wearingly put my hand into a bowl of rice and then dipped my hand into a bowl of mutton korma.  As I sat, on the floor, eating my dinner with my hands I was overcome by the sensation of this amazing experience.  I don’t know if it was because I felt as if I was rebelling against the “norms of society” that I was brought up with, or whether it was the texture of the food, as I delicately lifted it from the bowl.  Feeling the warm soft sticky rice, pushing it together to form a sealant so that the sauces of the korma dish would not seep through, I savored each bite as the robust flavors of spices married with the meat  teased my palate.  Bite after bite, the sharpness of the fresh spices shocked my taste buds and left me in a spice induced craze, making me want more.

Dinner was definitely a social get together and I joined in on the conversation and the laughter and smiled graciously at my host, knowing that she knew that I could not find the words to thank her for this experience.

With yellow stained hands, a full belly and an overflowing heart, filled with joy I thanked everyone for a moveable feast and returned home. 

I recall calling my Mother and trying to express my emotions.  Explaining each detail of my dinner and leaving nothing out.   The experience must have captivated her because I can still remember that she did not have much to say, only questions that would make me elaborate more on my experience. 

The reflection of this memory leaves me with a smile on my face and wanting to share the joy of friendship, especially over the festive season. It is certainly the simple things in life, that makes the most lasting impressions. 

I believe that it is important over this season to take time to reflect on pleasant memories and build lasting ones. No matter what culture you are from, eat drink and be Merry, wishing you all a fantastic festive season!

A moveable feast

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Bobotie and yellow rice with dried fruit

 

I would like to share a delicious recipe that is unique and traditional to South Africa.   This dish consisting of minced meat with an egg-based topping , has a combination of sweet and spicy flavors that will tantalize your taste buds and will certainly intrigue your dinner guests.

The delicate blend of spices used in this dish, create a harmonious aroma in your kitchen and as you slowly simmer these spices, you will be transported into the heart of the vibrant and colorful Cape Malay community.

The Cape Malay community can be found in the Western Cape, South Africa.               They are descendants of  Indian, Indonesian and Afro-Indo origins and where brought to the Cape of Good Hope as slaves in the 1600’s by the Dutch East India Company.

Handed down from generation to generation, Cape Malay style cuisine is best known for its rich and intense spices and flavors.

Although prevalent to the Western Cape, this style of cuisine is highly regarded throughout South Africa and most families will have their own favorite recipe that is a star feature on the dinner table.

BOBOTIE

Serves 8 people

INGREDIENTS

1 Thick crustless slice white bread

2 Tablespoons Olive oil

2 Garlic cloves crushed

2 Large finely chopped onions

1Kg Minced Beef

½ Cup Raisins

6 Almonds, flaked

2 Teaspoons smooth apricot jam

½ Cup Fresh Lemon juice

1 Teaspoon Brown sugar

Pinch of salt

3 Bay Leaves

SPICE MIX

2 Tablespoons Masala Curry powder

½ Teaspoon Turmeric

½ Teaspoon Nutmeg

½ Teaspoons Ground cumin

½  Teaspoons Ground coriander seed

½ Teaspoon Clove powder

Freshly ground pepper

TOPPING LIQUID

3 Eggs

375ml Milk

METHOD 

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Soak the bread in the milk.

Heat the Olive oil in a large frying pan on a moderate heat.  Add the crushed garlic and chopped onion and simmer, taking care not to burn the garlic as it will leave a bitter taste.

Add the spice mix to the garlic and onions and continue to simmer for 2-3 minutes.  This allows for the spices to be cooked, releasing more flavor to the dish.

Remove the bread from the milk.  Squeeze out the excess milk from the bread and gently break into small pieces.  Keep the milk to one side as it will be for the topping liquid for the final step on the dish.

Mix together the minced meat, bread, raisins, almonds, apricot jam, lemon juice, brown sugar and pinch of salt.

Add to the garlic, onion and spice mix.

Stir using a fork, this helps the minced meat to break into finer pieces and allows it to brown evenly.

Gently simmer over a moderate heat for about 10 minutes, until the minced meat is brown.

Add the meat mixture into a greased, medium-sized oven proof dish.

Add the eggs to the milk and whisk together.  Pour over the meat mixture, ensuring that it is distributed evenly throughout the entire dish.

Place the bay leaves on top of the dish.

Bake, uncovered at 180 degrees Celsius for 45-50 minutes or until set.

Once done, the Bobotie should be firm and there should be no excess liquid in the dish.  To test this, tilt the dish gently to the side, to ensure that the topping liquid has cooked through properly.

Bobotie is best served with yellow rice, fruit chutney, sliced banana, and a mixture of finely chopped onion and tomato, together with a sprinkle of desiccated coconut and a glass of red wine.

Yellow rice is made by cooking your rice as usual and at the boiling stage; a teaspoon of turmeric is added to give it a rich yellow color.

Enjoy this traditional taste of South Africa!

 

 

Bobotie

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Modern Art in Flinders Lane

There is something about a city’s energy that captivates me.  It is an energy that leaves me bewitched.  I feel my eccentric persona being drawn into the vortex of multiculturalism, leaving me wanting to throw caution to the wind and rebel in the urban frenzy that only a city can offer.

Every city has a tale to tell and it is true that every city’s history is expressed through its architecture, developments and style.   Always open to learning more about different cultures and their history, I enjoy taking time to visit local museums, places of interest and major tourist attractions.  But I believe that if it history that you are after, the society of a city is truly a living history lesson.   Walking through a city you will be astonished by all of the history and culture that surrounds you, if only you open your eyes to sights that surround you and listen to the whispers of the locals.

While the majority of tourists flock to fight their way into entrance queues at major sites, I would much rather be getting lost in the heart of a city’s downtown district with old Victorian-era architecture, representing times gone by.  While trying to find my way around, accidentally stumbling upon lightly dimmed lanes, only to find an explosion of expression of history and current times showcased on street walls through the eyes of graffiti artist.

Walking through the streets of Melbourne it does not take long to realize that this vibrant city caters for all walks of life.   Wandering in and out of the side streets of the central city district, the warm windy breeze is refreshing and the sun, shyly sneaking through the high rise buildings, reflecting on glass windows luminating the city, reassures you that the city is slowing waking and soon it will be open for the enjoyment of one and all.

It is early Saturday morning, my friend and I find a 24 hour eatery and settle down for a hearty breakfast and a spot of people watching.   A bubbly brunette waitress comes over to our table and takes our order and I am pleasantly surprised by her jolliness, as this usually is hard to come by in a city.  Sitting back watching people is an art to itself; it is at this moment when we realize that we do not want to see Melbourne and all of its major attractions and high-street shopping havens.  After much discussion, we decide that our plan of action is to explore alluring alleyways and hunt down hidden unusual shops.

With high spirits we wander through the city, absorbing every sign and street, waiting to find that something extraordinary.  As we swerve to avoid oncoming footfall, we turn up a side street and find ourselves in China town.  Ecstatic explorers that we are, we meander through the streets like a floating Chinese dragon, constantly moving and bobbing in and out of every store we come across. The colors are bold and vibrant and the smile of a toothless, elderly Chinese man welcomes us and makes us feel at peace that we have such inquisitive minds.   With time, not on our side we decide that our trip to China town must be cut short if we are looking for that something extraordinary and we realize that leaving without a fortune cookie is worthless.  We scurry into the nearest corner restaurant and purchase our cookie, which reveals that fortune is fair to us and it is foretold to explore further.

A few blocks away we stumble across what could be described as Little Greece, an array of Greek restaurants and shops.  The aromas are alluring and the smells coming from the little kitchens are heavenly.  Blue and white décor and Greek symbols lovingly adorn shops and restaurants. We peak into each window to see what is inside.  At one local restaurant a Mother is engrossed in conversation with what seems to be a close friend behind the counter and we stop to watch her purchase what looks like a tray of Baklava.  She displays a remarkable skill that Mother’s usually have,  as she bids farewell to her friend and balances her purchase in one arm, a baby in another and a swarm of children buzzing around her.  Momentarily we forget that we are in Melbourne and are transported to a local restaurant somewhere in Greece.

Engrossed by our surroundings, we decided to continue and walk on only to find a street that is home to a second hand book store.  So well hidden, if you were not vigilant, you would walk straight past it.   Walking down the stairs into this sea of words, we notice that this store is unlike any other bookstore and is home to row after row of second hand books with every imaginable topic.  Although not a library people are quiet out of respect for others. As we quietly tiptoe through each isle we notice that some of the books are so old, they are falling apart.  Taking one off from the shelf we carefully open it to find an old inspiring inscription dated from the 1920’s and we are mesmerized and begin to wonder how different the lifestyle must have been back then.  Soon we realize that this little secondhand bookstore is truly a gem and safely harbors literature and knowledge from years gone by to that of the present day.   Scanning the shelves arouses a feeling of excitement and makes us feel as if we are going to get lucky and find a rare autographed first edition from a famous writer that might be worth a small fortune.  Truth be told, if we had the time and patience, I am sure that we would probably discover one or two hidden in between the thousands of books in the store.  Truly any collectors dream!

With starry eyes and a renewed passion we leave the bookstore to wander off and end up in a vintage clothing store.  The average signage does not do justice to this little piece of history and as we enter, we notice a ground floor that is dedicated to the gentlemen and here you would find anything and everything.  The ladies section is upstairs and as we enter, we are stunned with the vast array of polka dot petticoats, casual cardigans, pencils skirts and vintage accessories from birdcage veils to pretty pearls.  It is as if we entered a time warp.  The staff is warm and friendly and makes you feel as if you have popped in to visit old friends, in actual fact you feel slightly inclined to put on a frock and veil and start dancing away to the soft background music.

Accidentally finding these unique little stores and experiencing the hospitality that was bestowed upon us, we ask one of the locals for a bit of advice on where to find more places that might suit our taste and where the locals enjoy going to escape the clutches of the city center.  Immediately we are given directions to what is known as Flinders Lane.  Amazingly enough we manage to find this mecca of lavish eateries, vintage chic boutiques and interesting people.  Victorian style buildings radiate warmth, welcoming you to wander into the lane.  You are immediately drawn to how busy everything is.  Here you will find the creamiest cappuccinos, gourmet noodles, gluten free fresh soups with soft taco shells and deli decadences to die for.  Taking the time to stop and read the menu’s from each eatery is an accomplishment on its own, as you walk away with your mind full of wonder for the gastronomical geniuses who created them, one can tell that this little lane is bursting with pride and passion.

What makes this lane so interesting is the fact that everywhere you look you will notice graffiti.  It is entwined with the local businesses signage and it makes one feel as if this little community has reached a compromise with the Graffiti Artists, who are often misunderstood.  Their work shunned by many as society feel that this form of art is degrading, they have seemed to reach out with locals in the lane and together they have created a fusion of art that leaves one astonished.

This eclectic blend is breathtaking and as you walk through you are captivated by almost everything you look at and long after you leave, you still have vivid images in your mind and you will remember the names of the eateries and boutiques that you saw.

If you take a moment to stop you will notice old friends meeting up with one another and locals coming out into the lane to talk to tourists that have stumbled upon it, giving advice and directions to all.  It is through this warmth and hospitality that was portrayed during our brief visit into this lane that an immediate mutual decision was made and we realized that we had accomplished our mission.  We found that something extraordinary in the city that we were looking for.

Of all the places that you can visit during your stay in Melbourne, we felt that this little lane, bursting with locals and a culture of its own, was a truly unique experience.  Escaping from all of the high street stores and over advertised jargons was tremendous.  Having had the opportunity to talk with the locals without being rushed was an experience that will not be forgotten.

I am sure that I speak on behalf of my friend when I say that it truly has been a long time since I have been as attracted to a city, as I am attracted to Melbourne.  It is a unique city, a city with a beating pulse of diversity that is often hard to come by.

As individuals our tastes all differ and that is what makes life so interesting.

I know that the memories from our decision to seek out the extraordinary  will be treasured and for once it is not the major attractions that will draw me back into this vibrant city, but the humble and friendly nature of the locals that we met along our way,  which will ensure another visit back.

Mesmerizing Melbourne

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Churros are crunchy deep-fried sweet pastries that are certainly not for weight watchers.  These delights are usually rolled in a cinnamon sugar and have a distinctive crunch on your first bite with a soft warm center.

It is believed that the charming Churro was invented by Spanish shepherds centuries ago.  These humble people knew that freshly baked goods were impossible to come by as they were high up in the mountains and through many trials and errors, the Churro was born.

Churro paste was simple enough to make and easy to cook over an open fire.  Soon this pastry like wonder became a daily staple for them.

Churro making is a specialized skill in Spain and has been passed down from generation to generation.  The Churro is almost a national symbol in Spain and therefore it comes as no surprise that a Churrero (a person who specializes in the art of Churro making) is held in high regard.

Often sold by street vendors in Spain, who fry them fresh on the street and sell them hot, Churros are also widely available in cafes for breakfast, although they can and are eaten throughout the day as a snack.

These delightful decadency’s can be eaten either plain or rolled in cinnamon sugar and the perfect accompaniment for them is a hot chocolate sauce.

It is a fact that Churros are simply divine, but I find myself asking what it is that draws me to them. I believe that it is the combination of the sugary crunch that is smothered in warm chocolate sauce that sends my taste buds over the edge.  One bite after another leaves me longing for the essence and excitement that is synonymous of the Spanish Culture and makes me want more and more.

With the Festive Season upon us, why not treat yourself and those close to you, with this sweet sensation.  Whether served as a dessert or as a snack with a freshly brewed cup of coffee, this recipe is easy to follow and it will soon become a favorite!

Typically the chocolate sauce is made with plain chocolate, but if you are like myself and enjoy a little spice and experiencing new sensations, this chili chocolate is a taste sensation not to be missed!

INGREDIENTS

For the Churros:

Makes 16 delicious Churros

200g Plain Flour

60g Caster sugar

1 Tsp. Baking powder

1 ½ Tbsp. Olive oil

250ml Boiled water

1 Liter Sunflower oil for frying

For the Cinnamon Sugar:

90g Caster sugar

1 Tsp. Ground cinnamon

For the Chocolate sauce:

200g Good quality dark chocolate, roughly broken into pieces

50g Milk chocolate, roughly broken into pieces

2 Tablespoons golden syrup

300ml Double cream

½ Tsp. Cayenne pepper

½ Tsp. Chili powder

METHOD

Prepare your Cinnamon-Sugar first by mixing the cinnamon and caster sugar together and set to one side.

Prepare your chocolate sauce by adding the roughly broken chocolate into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the golden syrup, cream, cayenne and chili powder.  Stir continuously over a low heat to melt the chocolate, making sure that it does not burn.  Once it has all melted and is silky smooth put the saucepan to one side to reheat after the Churros are done.

In a metal bowl, sift together the flour, caster sugar and baking powder. Make a well in the center of the bowl.

Mix the olive oil and boiling water together.  Pour this into the dry ingredients in the well that you made in the center of the bowl. Beat the mixture with a fork to ensure that the dough is smooth with no lumps.  It should have a soft and sticky consistency to the touch.  Let it rest while you heat the oil.

Fill a large, heavy bottomed saucepan with the sunflower oil.  The saucepan should be one-third full.  Heat the oil to 170C.  If you do not have a thermometer, test the oil temperature by gently dropping a small piece of bread into the oil.  If the bread turns golden brown within 30 seconds, the oil is ready.

With the dough mixture, fill a piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle.  Gently squeeze out the Churros directly into the hot oil, snipping the dough off at the nozzle with a kitchen scissors. The Churros can be any length you want, but a guideline of 10cm length is usually recommended.

Be careful not to put too many Churros into the hot oil, as they will stick together.

Fry the Churros for 3 to 4 minutes, occasionally turning them with a metal slotted spoon.  When golden brown and crispy, remove them and place on a baking sheet lined with kitchen paper to drain.

Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture and be sure to cover the entire Churro.

While your last batch of Churros are busy frying, start reheating your chili chocolate sauce, keeping a close eye that it does not burn, by giving it a good stir every now and then.

Once all of your Churros are complete and your chili chocolate sauce has been reheated, it is time to serve up!

On a large serving plate, place a bowl in the middle and fill it to the brim with the smooth chili chocolate sauce. Stack your Churros around the sauce.

Dunk the crunchy Churros into the warm chili chocolate sauce, sit back and allow your taste buds to enjoy the sensation whilst your imagination allows you to drift off.

ENJOY!!

Churros with Chili Chocolate Sauce

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Spaghetti Bolognese

No matter what your cultural background is everybody enjoys the connection and comfort of friends and family and gorgeous simple home cooked food.

I find nothing more therapeutic than getting together with a bunch of girlfriends, cooking dinner and catching up on all the gossip and events.

Have you ever walked into the kitchen while women are cooking?  There is always background music playing, granted you would not be able to hear what it is because everyone is talking and not about the same subject!  The corkscrew is never too far from the next bottle of wine and a nibble is always nearby, just in case the dinner takes longer to cook due to operational reasons.  There are always readily available hands to dice and slice and you will always find the prankster amongst the girls, leading to copious amounts of amusement and giggles. If you were an outsider, looking at this sight you would be wondering how on earth dinner would ever be done!

Yes there is nothing like the electricity that sparks the air, when a group of girlfriends are in the kitchen.  It is the very essence of womanhood and fills the kitchen with radiance, warmth and love.

With today’s fast modern society, people are becoming more distant from each other and are losing that comforting connection of love and friendship.  It is not done purposefully, but with work and family commitments it simply becomes so much easier to send a fast Facebook message from the office or a quick text from your blackberry on the daily commute home, just to say hello and let your girlfriends know that you are thinking of them.  It is due to all of these commitments that one can so quickly lose track with the ones you love. I am guilty as charged and it is due to my constant work commitments that I have had the urge to dedicate this piece to my girlfriends. There are some of you that I have not seen in years and some that I might have seen in the last few hours.  I believe that time spent together should be quality above quantity and if I were at home I would Love nothing more than a girls night in with all of you  and what better way to do it,  than over a few bottles of red wine and a decant dish.

This classic dish is so simple to make, with a cooking time of roughly 35-40 minutes.  Leaving you time to focus and get back in touch with the most important people in your life – your girlfriends.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Serves 6 glorious girls

INGREDIENTS

500g Dried spaghetti

50g Parmesan cheese, grated

BOLOGNESE SAUCE

2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Finely chopped onion

2 Crushed garlic cloves

450g Minced beef meat

125g Smoked chopped bacon

2 Tbsp Tomato puree

300ml and a dash for good luck Red wine (readily available from the bottle already opened)

400g Chopped tin tomatoes

125g Mushrooms sliced

2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Salt & Pepper to taste

Sprinkle of mixed herbs

Make your Bolognese sauce first, allowing more time for the flavours to enhance.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan, then add the onion and fry over medium heat for +- 10 min or until soft and golden.

Add the garlic and cook for +- 1 minute, be careful not to burn the garlic or it will produce a bitter taste.

Stir in the minced beef.  Use the back of a fork to break up the minced meat in pieces.  Add the chopped smoked bacon and allow to brown evenly.

Stir in the tomato puree and red wine.  Bring this to the boil; add the tomatoes, mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, a sprinkle of mixed herbs and salt & pepper.

Bring back to the boil, cover and simmer for +- 20 minutes.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add your spaghetti.  Cook according to instructions on the packet.

Drain the pasta and add to the Bolognese pan.

Toss all together, taste and add more seasoning if needed.

Take the pan to the table and let everyone help themselves.

Lovingly sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top of your helping.

There you go, a quick and satisfying meal that can be made while discussing the latest fashion craze, your newly sprouting grey hairs, crows feet or the wonders of baby’s first tooth!

Make sure to fill up everyone’s glasses with some seriously good red wine and sit back and watch your girlfriends, slurp back this delicious dish and give thanks to your glorious girlfriends.

Sisters & Spaghetti

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Solms-Delta

South Africa boasts many magnificent wine estates and it comes as no surprise, that as I am Proudly South African I have decided to share my secret, seasonally influenced fizz with you all.

It is that time of the year were friends and family gather together and toast to a year’s memories that have passed, but will never be forgotten.  Being a firm believer that these memories should be treasured and celebrated, what better way to do so, than to serve only the best wine.

It is my fond memories that have inspired me to invite you to enter one of the most beautiful wine estates I have visited.

Situated 15km outside the village of Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa in the heart of the Cape Winelands is Solms-Delta.  This 320 year old picturesque Franschhoek farm with breathtaking scenery and warm hospitality is a true legacy to the Cape.  Driven by his South African roots, world-renowned neuroscientist, Professor Mark Solms revitalized this Delta wine estate, nurturing and cultivating Cape wine-making traditions and captivating the very essence of the Old Cape.

With all of the passion, initiative, dedication and hospitality on this estate, it comes as no surprise that a joyous and celebratory wine was created.

Cape Jazz Shiraz, a Petillant style wine, with a 100% Shiraz grape variety is a fusion of fun and liveliness. Low in alcohol, it is the perfect accompaniment to any celebration. Whether it’s a get together of fabulous friends over the weekend or the anticipation of ringing in the New Year, this refreshing sparkler will most certainly steal the spotlight and you will be praised for your wonderful wine taste!

Opening a bottle of Cape Jazz Shiraz makes me feel as if I were tapping into a fountain of youth, festivity and a lust for life and is therefore my reason why I choose to share this red-coloured fizzy with friends and family for any reason to celebrate.

This well-priced wine upholds the Solms-Delta quality and is reasonably priced. It is available for purchase not only in South Africa, but in the UK, Europe and the US.  For further information please visit the Solms-Delta website at the bottom of this page.

Not just a wine estate, Solms-Delta boasts decadent dining. You will be enraptured by the impeccable quality of a very unique and modern take on traditional Cape cuisine.  With a unique name from the Afrikaans language which is untranslatable.   Fyndraai is a fine Cape kitchen boasting culinary heritage.   Built into the site of the farm’s original wine cellar, you will step onto a glass floor which exposes the original foundations that were uncovered during extensive archaeological diggings. The interior of the restaurant is elegant and walls are adorned with 19th Century restored photographs of people of the region, together with colour shots of today’s farm workers.

With a menu as rich in diversity as the South African culture itself, it will tantalize your taste buds and there is a little something for all palates.

Why not try the combo of Cape tempura fried black prawns and pan-fried sea scallops served with lemon flavored pear puree, enhanced with rooibos (red bush tea) and citrus balsamic syrup. Looking for a more meaty meal?    Award winning Karoo loin coated in wild herbs, combined with its own marinated grilled fillet, accompanied by fennel and rosemary braised onions and vanilla potato custard with wild mint flavoring.  Something sweet? Try the Banana and maple pudding with wild sage indigenous herb syrup and nutty ice cream.

The food is made with much attention to detail, one can almost taste the chef’s loving hand with each bite.  All meals are served by smiling and eager waitrons that have all been recruited from the resident farm worker families or from the Franschhoek area and have undergone intensive training, which reflects in the top-notch service you receive.

Catering for all walks of life, Solms-Delta offers perfect picnic baskets for that family outing, right along the estates lush riverside forest. With plenty of space for the kids to run around, while Mom and Dad enjoy one of the many wines available for purchase on site.

Why not gather friends and family and sit back and enjoy a wine tasting and food pairing while listening to the sounds of the on site musical heritage programme – Music van de Caab, who deliver mesmerizing sounds with affluent music traditions from the Cape winelands.

Wine Pairing at Solms-Delta

Whether you live in South Africa or if you are planning a holiday to this Culture Rich Country with an abundance of natural beauty, Solms-Delta is a must visit if you are in the Franschhoek area.

Looking back at my memories this year, I will most definitely raise my glass of Cape Jazz Shiraz and toast to a wonderful wine and an amazing wine estate.  Cheers!

For more information on this magnificent wine estate, please visit their website:

www.solms-delta.co.za and all of your questions are guaranteed to be answered.  If not feel free to contact one of the many helpful staff members who are always available to assist.

All that Cape Shiraz Jazz at Solms-Delta Wine Estate

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Gliding down the calm waters of the Bosphorus strait, enroute to one of the world’s oldest cities, I feel a sense of excitement rise within me.  The soft glow of the morning sun reflecting on the mirror like water and the soft sea breeze blowing, makes me drift away a few thousand years ago. I imagine a city, filled with treasures and tales of the ancient world.

When I think of Istanbul, I am captivated by old world splendour, empires, Sultans and their great palaces, harems filled with belly dancers and much more for my imagination to run away with.

Research shows that Istanbul’s first inhabitants date back as far as the second millennia BC.  They settled on what is known as the Asian side of the city under the rulership of a Megara King Byzas who duly named his colony the Byzantium’s, which is a Greek name for a city on the Bosphorus.

Having undergone constant sieges and battles of power, this city; steeped in history has been ruled by many. It was however the Ottoman Turks who took over the last rule in 1453 and their reign lasted until after World War 1, where allied troops occupied. After years of struggles between occupying forces, The Republic of Turkey was born and Istanbul has grown into a unique modern city.

Today Istanbul caters for every individuals need.  Whether you are interested in culture, music, sport, business or education, Istanbul has got it and believe you me if they don’t have it, they will get it for you.  The business-like mentally of the Turkish always seems to amaze me. The currency is Turkish Lira and generally you will be able to get good value for your money.

With so much to do in this sensational city, I would highly recommend that you diarize all of the activities that you want to do and the sights that you want to visit.  Major sights can get extremely busy and it would be wise to start your morning early as the queues of people move so slowly, it reminds me of a snake charmer trying to lure his lazy snake and watching it unwind slowly before your eyes.

I have been fortunate enough to visit Istanbul on numerous occasions and have been able to see sights on a leisurely pace.

Transportation, whether it be public or private is fairly inexpensive and readily available.  Whether you are driving on the roads or are in a taxi, buckle up and take a sedative because these Turks don’t mess around!  I couldn’t help but notice that on my first taxi ride into the city, my white knuckles, pounding heart and sweating forehead were definitely signs on anxiety.  Be prepared to have an advanced driving course behind your name or to be as tough as nails and not bat an eyelid as you can count the grey hairs on the taxi driver in the car ahead of you, because time is money in Istanbul and you’ll get to your destination as fast as the taxi is able to push over the car in front of you, out of the road.

Now I LOVE to shop and it will come as no surprise that the very first place I ever visited in Istanbul was the one and only, glorious Grand Bazaar.  With vibrant colors draped throughout this bazaar, gold glistening from every nook and cranny, the hustle and bustle of buyers and sellers, this is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world.

Being located on the crossroads of trade routes, since the beginning Istanbul had a thriving commerce, and bazaars were stocked to the brim with worldly items and traders ready on hand to bargain.

The Grand Bazaar includes more than 3 thousand shops and is visited by approximately 250 – 400 thousand people every day! The bazaar has an almost grid plan layout with shops that sell similar products grouped together.   There are approximately 61 streets, 4 fountains, 2 mosques, several cafes and a police station inside the bazaar and it will come as no surprise that on your first visit, you are guaranteed to get lost in this labyrinth.   Whether you are merely taking a leisurely stroll through the bazaar, absorbing the Turkish hospitality or trying your hand at the old-fashioned art of bargaining, it is certain that there is a little something for everyone inside!  If you are looking for the latest genuine fake Gucci handbag, tremendous Turkish carpets, hand carved chess boards elegantly decorated with Ottoman Turk history or gold jewelry, variety is vast.  Shop owners or their assistants will stand outside and lure you into their shop, telling you that they have something special for you to see and that the price would be just right for you.  They will amazingly speak your language, even if it is just the basic greeting phrase.

Another Bazaar that I frequented during my visits to Istanbul was the Egyptian Bazaar, also known as the Spice Market.  As per the namesake, the Spice Market is home to approximately 86 shops, row after row of spices, dried fruits, nuts, teas, essences and sweets.   This is certainly a sensory seduction as your eyes behold mountains of spices.  This is no lie; the colors are breathtaking and the spices are displayed in front of the entrance to each shop.  You simply cannot walk past each shop without having to stop and look at the spices on display and smell them.  If you want to purchase, you are allowed to scoop away at the Spice Mountains and sample them.  The quality is second to none, spices available for purchase range from golden cinnamon, robust red curry powders, mixed herbs and the sultans’ saffron.

The aroma of mixed spices, teas and food stalls inside this little bazaar leave you ravenous and if you do not succumb to the tempting treats inside, you will be pleased to learn that just outside you will find a food market with all of the Turkish delicacies you could wish for.

This is truly an unforgettable experience.

Shopping is a culture in this city and there are many other smaller bazaars and old shopping sites that you can visit during your stay, as well as ultra-modern shopping malls that carry some of the finest brand names.

After a tiresome shopping marathon, why not indulge at a local Hammam.  A traditional Turkish bath was an everyday ritual and a social gathering.  Men and Woman have separate sections and a basic Turkish bath would have a cold section or otherwise known as a dressing room, a hot area with washing basins and large heated marble platforms in the middle and private bathing cubicles around the room.

Be sure to experience a soap massage and you will be exfoliated, scrubbed and massaged from head to toe.  A real treat, only for fans of deep tissue massages!

Looking for a bit more history?  Why not visit the Blue Mosque.   Well known among tourists for its bluish interior decoration, it is the most important mosque in Istanbul.  It stands next to the Byzantine Hippodrome in the old city center and faces another well-known structure, namely The Hagia Sophia.   The Blue Mosque was built by Ottoman Sultan Ahmed between 1609 and 1616. When mosques were built in this ancient city, they were not only designed for worshipping but to serve the community.  This mosque was built as a complex, to include a theological school, a kitchen for the poor and bazaar shops to raise money for maintenance purposes. What makes this mosque so spectacular is the architectural design.  Boasting 6 minarets, four of which have 3 balconies each and the remaining 2 have two balconies on each, making that a total of 16 in all.  These are reached by spiral staircases not for public use and these balconies are used to call Muslims to prayer five times a day by the Muezzin.

The exterior and interior of this mosque could only be described as one of a kind and I feel that even if copied no-one could claim the elegance it holds.  Whether you enter the mosque for  religious purposes or simply for having it checked off your places to see list,, entering this mosque leaves you feeling over-whelmed as this massive interior with one central dome which is surrounded by smaller domes and semi domes, supported by four huge pillars, will soon leave you in awe as you notice the exquisite walls, which are decorated with traditional handmade Iznik tiles, stained glass windows and calligraphy art of Koranic verses and Turkish rugs which cover the entire mosque floor.  One of the most spectacular sights is the Sultans lodge where he used to pray in private away from the general crowd.  This is lavishly decorated fit for only a Sultan, with the finest gold and marble.  Seeing such sights truly captivates me.

A stone throw away leads you to what I think is a much underrated architectural beauty.  What once was an Orthodox Church and later a Mosque is today a Museum.  The Hagia Sophia is truly a preserved diamond in the rough and has been recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO.

The Hagia Sophia is a fine example of how two different cultures have been blended to form true beauty. The main attraction is the magnificent dome, which boasts another two half domes. The interior, which is richly adorned with verses and images from the Orthodox Christians and Muslims.  Here you will find images depicting the Virgin Mary, Jesus, Saints and Emperors and Empresses, together with traditional handmade mosaic and verses from the Koran.  The merge of the two religions set in an ancient building is prominent and peaceful.  As you wonder throughout this dome, you pick up an aura of a mystical sense, the richly adorned interior, marbled mosaic balconies and hidden staircases certainly attribute to this. But what adds to this sense of mystery are the 4 painted Seraphim’s (God’s Protector Angels with 6 wings) inside the dome.  During the reign of the Orthodox Church, these Seraphim’s faces were displayed for worshippers to see.  It was during the Ottoman Turk rule these faces were covered with 6-7 layers of plaster.    160 years of being covered, only one of the Seraphim’s faces has been revealed.  Restoration to the Hagia Sophia is constantly underway and one can only wait with bated breath for the remaining 3 Seraphim’s faces to be revealed.

There is much more to the Hagia Sophia than just the astonishing interior of the dome, once you enter you will be mesmerized by the sections she hold.

Last but certainly not least, one of the splendors of Istanbul has got to be the Grand Palace.  Guided tours of the palace are recommended and so is the audio tour which you can purchase on the palace grounds.  Having used the audio guide, I felt as if I was transported into the realm of Sultans, Emperors and concubines.    Not enough praise can be given to the Turkish tourism board for a job well done, as this audio guide explains each section of the palace with such detail it truly does leave you feeling as if you are part of the history.  The palace entrance is arched and leads you through to the palace gardens.  Kindly note that there are metal detectors and strict security to pass through before you can walk through these gardens.  With the aid of numbered sections, you are able to punch in your section and receive full commentary wherever you choose to start.  Throughout your tour, you will notice how influential the Sultans and hierarchy were.  Walls and domes covered in the finest mosaic, spectacular stained glass, larger than life gold mirrors hang on the walls and crystal chandeliers leave you breathless. Marbled courtyards leave you imagining how ladies would gather in the afternoon sun and talk.  Walking through the one of the many long hallways, leaves me imagining that I am a bellydancer, shimmying my way through this mighty palace.   Here you will learn more about a Harem and it will leave you feeling pleasantly surprised, revealing how unfortunate young girls were taken or given away from their families.  Overwhelming your senses with nothing but compassion and rage for these young girls, as your mind thinks only the worst. The twist in this story and how you are educated on this tour, teaches you how these young girls lives were saved and through education they were schooled in various subjects and raised to be upstanding young woman who were chosen to be either one of the Sultans wives or to be given away to a highly respected men of power and promised a life of well living.

As a visitor to this mighty city there is so much more to discover and it comes highly recommend to those of you with an active, thirsty mind for knowledge.   I simply cannot find enough words to describe this vibrant versatile old world city.

One of my favorite treats would be to sit and enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee and a piece of locum.  After all of the sightseeing and information overload, I enjoy watching and absorbing the Turkish culture.  The locals claim that by not drinking all of the coffee in your cup and by leaving the coffee bean residue at the bottom, turning it upside down onto your saucer and turning it clockwise, you are able to tell your future by the picture the residue leaves.  I’m almost certain that I saw a world map like figure and I am hoping that is an indication of many more travels to come.

I believe that it is through education and travel that are minds are liberated and this can set one free and breakaway from the average train of thought.  Allowing you to be thankful and admirable for being able to absorb history and culture that is presented to you through travel.

Ladies and Gentlemen I only hope that you can appreciate the Immortal Istanbul that I have had the pleasure to experience.

The Jewel of the Bosphorus