When it’s time to stake a claim

It was big news in the foodie world last month when the US magazine Cook’s Source reprinted a blogger’s story about apple pie without her permission. In fact it was big news on all sorts of levels that together combine to create a rather juicy narrative: first, the discovery; then the “apology” (in which the now much-maligned editor of Cook’s Source made the mistake of suggesting that the original author ought to have compensated her for fixing a piece which was ‘in very bad need of editing‘), and finally the dramatic finale: “The Internet Has Killed Cook’s Source. Lessons learned: don’t underestimate the power of the interwebs, aka don’t believe for a second that you can get away with anything as stupid as stealing in a glass house.

(Bonus irony: apple pie is apparently one of those recipes that is not, by law, copyrightable because it’s as American as, well, apple pie, and therefore, like the blue sky, is regarded as common property).

All of which is a roundabout way of seizing my (self-appointed) title of biscotti queen, more about which shortly. But first, my adventures with “Trevor’s” infuriatingly ubiquitous moist cappuccino cake. I still can’t figure out where Cell C (yes, the mobile phone company) is going with this, but whenever I do a recipe search (never for a moist cappuccino cake, by the way), somewhere on the page is a link to “the moist cake“. Click it, and you are directed to this silly photograph, plus a recipe for…a moist cappuccino cake.

Well it looks like a pretty nice moist cake, so with the Philosophe’s birthday coming up, I thought it the perfect opportunity to get Trevor out of my system.

Except, this is of course not Trevor’s cake at all – as the recipe rightly states, it originates from BBC’s Good Food magazine (and a brief Google search will take you to that very fount). Fair and well, but half the reason I wanted to make this cake is because of what it looks like in Trevor’s hands. In real life, however, it should look more like this:

(Naturally you should never trust a mobile phone company to provide you with correctly represented recipes).

Undaunted, I forged on and got on with my own version of the Good Food cappuccino cake. Important tweaks: soak cake layers in Ponchos “tequila coffee” instead of boring old coffee; fill cake with icing of mascarpone and orange-scented dulche de leche instead of boring old mascarpone with coffee; slather cake with Lindt’s fabulous Twist of Sea Salt chocolate. And then build an android munching an apple out of marzipan:

It was moist and boozy, like a good cake should be. Thanks to Trevor and Good Food, I think this was some of my best work yet.

To the biscotti. Unlike my various misadventures down the elusive brownie hole, I’ve only ever used one biscotti recipe. I am sorry to say I don’t remember where I found it, but it was something that I photocopied and then cut out to stick in my then-little private recipe collection. I’ve used the recipe so many times that I should know it off by heart, yet I return to that grubby page every time I make them – which is doubly silly given that I think I started tweaking the recipe the second time I made them (approx. 500 batches ago).

So here it is, “my” (tweaked) recipe for the best biscotti:

– Toast a 100g of almonds, set aside to cool, then chop roughly

– In one bowl, mix 240g flour + 180g sugar + 1 tsp baking powder + pinch of salt

– In another, lightly whisk 3 eggs + 1 tsp vanilla

– Add eggs to the dry stuff, mix a bit, and then add almonds just before it all starts coming together nicely. Now take off your wedding ring and get your hands in there to knead until all the dry stuff is just incorporated (tricky timing: overknead and it will become too sticky to form into nice logs)

– Form into two nice logs and bake at 150C for 50 mins. Turn oven down to 140C. Cool logs for 5 mins, then slice horizontally into pieces that look like biscotti. Place back in the oven for 15-17 per side. Cool, store, eat.

Uhm, as a final note, it should hardly need saying that the buck obviously does not stop at almonds. Go crazy. Add aniseed. Chocolate chunks. Cocoa powder for a full chocolate monty. Caramelised ginger. Pistachio and cardamom. Cashew and coconut. Add some bran and raisins, if that’s what you need. Just don’t blame me when someone tells you they are no longer biscotti. I do think these babies need nuts. I also think they need to be thick and hard enough to deliver a satisfying mouthful of crunch.

In fact I am apparently such a snob about this that a well-known restaurateur in this city has instructed his staff not to offer me the wafer-thin, nut-free “biscotti” they offer everyone with their coffee. I think he means to punish me. That’s pretty funny.

Hello summer

Having just returned from my second swim of the year in what must be the best pool in the world


), I think it’s time to concede that summer has arrived in Cape Town.

Just as well, because we have in-laws escaping from winter visiting, and since one of them is a long lost South African, tonight’s braai (aka bbq) has been a long time in the planning – and when I say planning, I mean a very careful menu orchestration based on remembered flavours which don’t come a dime-a-dozen in the state of Maryland.

Menu: sosaties, boerewors, baked potatoes (with sour cream and chives), roosterkoek (or roosterbrood? Basically bread rolls cooked on the fire).

That all sounds easy enough, except our menu planner(s) are very particular about what each of those components mean. The sosaties – kebabs, to you and I, featuring meat, apricots and onions – have to be “mildly curried”. Typically they are also made from lamb, but at least one of our party doesn’t eat lamb, so there would have to be a beef variation. Now, as normal as sosaties are in the Cape culinary landscape, neither are they exactly on every supermarket shelf. And besides, if there was one thing I learned at cooking school, it was not to trust any pre-marinaded meat. So, given that I was put in charge of shopping, I naturally took became in charge of making the things too.

I’m generally adept at slapping together a meat marinade, but this time there is a certain pressure to get the flavours right, so a little research was in order. Mistake. There are hundreds of sosatie recipes out there. All the basics are the same (ie. lamb and apricots on a stick), but some put apricot jam in the mix. Some use beef stock. Some boil it up, some just slather it on. The philosophe routinely accuses me of being unable not to tinker with a recipe, but what the hell is a Danish-Swazi girl  (eager to please her South African-American-German in-laws) supposed to do? So I tinkered, I tweaked, I gave and I took away. And then, using my brand new firewires (thank you, mother) for the first time, I constructed some pretty damn fine-looking sosaties:

(Firewires are brilliant in concept: long, flexible metal skewers with a loopy bit to stop stuff falling off, and a long straight bit that stays off the fire, and thus cool enough to lift and flip without burning your fingers. Let’s hope they work).

Also pictured are the two requested types of boerewors: 2010 champion winners (yes, people do compete to produce the best sausages here), and the “traditional” Grabouw ones. Grabouw is a little town not so far from Cape Town, which I mainly like because that’s where they grow Golden Delicious apples, but they’re a bit famous for their boerewors too.

In a moment I have to go and concoct a sour cream and chive dressing for the potatoes. Which sounds easy enough, except I take it our sour cream (actually the proper stuff, aka creme fraiche) is not as fluffy and sweet (aargh!) as the stuff they sell in the US. I plan to combine some creamed cottage cheese and creme fraiche, and if I end up adding sugar to the “sour” cream, I will have to close my eyes while I do so. Perhaps the slightest touch of maple syrup will be enough to fool American palates that they are getting their daily dose of HFCS.

Of course it’s not only Americans who have a penchant for sweet savoury foods – that’s what sosaties are all about. And bobotie. I like sweet and savoury. But I am a little nervous about the roosterkoek tonight. Hot bread straight off the coals, slathered in butter – now that’s one version of heaven for me. But I take it we are required to put apricot jam on there too, to enjoy with our braai-ed meat. But maybe I’m just being a sissy. If I can eat dried apricots with my lamb, then why not apricot jam on bread together with meat? I know people do this: I have witnessed people enjoying bread with apricot jam and biltong right here in my own kitchen.

Yet sometimes an instinctual aversion is evidence of an actual gut in our brains, rather than just silly fear of leaving our comfort zones. Just yesterday morning, after a wonderful night in the country full of gastronomical adventures, we stopped for coffee and a simple breakfast at a little coffee shop. There were no croissants, and the only muffins available were described as “wholewheat with jam and cheese, or with cottage cheese and biltong”. We chose the latter (“we”, very loosely speaking, that is), and I dutifully took a bite of a bran muffin topped with cottage cheese and biltong. Let’s just say some things were never meant to come together. (And I can slag it, because now I have tried it).

But as all the Americans out there wake up to indigestion and the prospect of eating leftover turkey and pie for the next three days, I am glad to say that I still look forward to the coming together of sun, meat, and family this evening. With enough help, I may even come away thankful for the hairbrained idea of eating apricot jam with my boerewors (#unlikelybuttrue).

Secret ingredients

Behold the ugliest cake I’ve baked:

Yes, it looks pretty nasty. But rest assured that I doctored well it before feeding it to various people and demanding that they guess the secret ingredients. And by doctoring, I mean smothering it in icing which was admittedly too thin simply because I couldn’t bear the idea of using THREE cups of icing sugar. So then I doctored that with a good layer of toasted coconut, and no one was the wiser that the cake was full of craters caused by melted marshmallows, and also contained a fair bit of Coca Cola.

I ended up having to tell them of course, because the thing with secret ingredients is really that you can hardly ever tell what they are. You get something that is typically just some version of something normal, but hopefully a very good version. Like a chocolate cake that’s exceptionally moist (is it coke and marshmallows? Guinness? mayo? beetroot? olive oil?). After all, if you could taste what it was, then it would be a coke cake, or a guinness cake, as they are often erroneously called.

I prefer secrets. They are more honest. If you give someone a piece of cake and tell them that there’s a secret, they pay special attention (after they’ve made sure it’s nothing illegal). Then you have the whole to and fro, during which it will generally emerge whether it is actually a GOOD cake or not (if it’s crap, you’ll get things like “hmm, interesting….”). And once you’ve satisfied your certainty that is is, indeed, a good cake, then you can spill the beans, after which everyone needs to have another taste, just to make sure.

Worst is trying to capitalise on the secret before its goodness has been verified. I was offered a piece of Rooibos chocolate cake once. It was supposed to be “very good”. It was very not. Not only because it didn’t taste in the slightest like Rooibos tea – which I quite like on occasion – but because it was a crap chocolate cake trying to be more than it is.

Anyway, for those of you wondering if Coca Cola is a good thing to add to chocolate cake, it definitely is. Or maybe marshmallows are better. Getting to the bottom of that would require some serious scientific method. In the meantime, maybe it’s better not to know. This cake was good.

“If it’s green, it’s trouble. If it’s fried, get double.”

I do like that quote, which comes from a TV series called Wings – which I’ve never seen. But as it is so often, we learn by osmosis, and imagine that we know about things that we actually have no experience with. Just the other night, for instance, I had my first taste of Key Lime pie from a new joint called Knife (sister to the existing, and ever delicious, Fork). It was delicious, but I was disappointed, because it wasn’t as limey as I had expected – and I even said as much in a little online “review“. But who am I to know – maybe it was totally authentic. Then again, that probably doesn’t matter, because we are all critics now, so I apparently have the right to say whatever I goddamn choose (aah, the controversy: read all about it here, or here, or here – or right here in about a year’s time when I’ve finished writing a book about it).

Well, so the pie was good, but the smoky ribs were better, and the onion rings perhaps even better than that.

(Crunch and no-grease factor: 9/10)

I do love crunch. So imagine my pleasure when I was shopping this afternoon and stumbled on something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in this country:

No, those are not Granny Smith apples. They are the kind of thing that you see a recipe for, decide to make it, and then go into 15 different shops looking for the impossible: green tomatoes.

You can probably tell where I’m going with this (hint). And this time I even have experience. I once ate fried green tomatoes at the famous Mama Dips in North Carolina.

So if it’s green and fried, double trouble? That’s exactly how I like to roll.

The cookbook review no one asked me to write

Once, many many moons ago, I decided it would be a good idea to dye my hair red. I was always envious of dark-haired people because they could do all sorts of cool, subtle things with their hair colour. Auburn sheen, raven black… Not so if you’re a (natural!) blonde, because a) you are naturally pale, and b) blond eyebrows! Anyway, I took the plunge, and for a few days quite enjoyed looking like a freak. Besides, my flaming hair was altogether less weird than my dear nephew’s predilection for getting liquorice sprinkles on his soft-ice (pictured here, eating just that, next to his weird aunt).

Don’t get me wrong – I love liquorice. And being a Dane (when it so pleases me), I indeed have a healthy superiority complex when it comes to liquorice. Us Vikings, you see, like it strong and eye-puckeringly salty. Far from this sweet, cloying substance that goes by the name most other places. And neither of those have any rightful place near ice cream.

Well, things change. My hair is fortunately back to its natural pallor. I do enjoy Liquorice Allsorts (I will eat ALL the coconutty wheels), and I will gladly concoct almost any flavour of wacky ice cream. So when I recently borrowed a copy of Marcus Wareing’s Nutmeg and Custard, the very first recipe that caught my eye was for Liquorice Allsorts ice-cream. How delightfully tacky, from ‘Britain’s finest chef’, as the book’s cover declares.

(click on here if you dare try this at home)

And then there was of course the pork belly, looking all crispy and crunchy and meltingly tender:

So, last night, a little Wareing feast. Verdict? The belly was good, but it wasn’t “my” best. Partly because the crackling on ours got burnt to a crisp, which I’m sure I can’t blame Mr. Wareing for. But this recipe did allow me to try the low-and-slow-then-blast-the-crackling method, which is what they must do in restaurants – without blasting the crackling to carcinogenic levels of course. So if you want to cook your pig in advance, go for it. If not, then I’d still recommend Mr. Ottolenghi’s delicious blast-the-crackling-then-low-and-slow method, which always yields fantastic crackle. But the flavours here were properly righteous: think chilli, maple syrup, soya sauce, sticky sweet and sour.

The ice cream was… interesting. OK, so I tweaked it by blasting some nutella and maple syrup in the microwave for a hot fudgy sauce to go on top, and added a liberal splosh of Pernod to the mix (original recipe calls for Sambuca: same same). It was delicious, but in a decidedly weird way. In fact I’ve got no idea what the Philosophe thought of it; he didn’t say a word. But he did finish his bowl.

Still, I’ve decided that I like Marcus Wareing. Come on: tiramisu doughnuts, turkish delight cheesecake, cola jelly with vanilla ice cream… and a whole section on POPCORN, including parmesan and black pepper popcorn with prosciutto, sesame toffee popcorn bars… and a lot of one of my favourite things in the word: monkfish with chorizo crust, sweetcorn veloute with chorizo foam (!!), chorizo stuffed french toast with manchego…

Dear Santa,

You know what to do.

Today’s hairbrained baking adventures

I had wholewheat flour that needed using. And half a tin of tomato cocktail. Throw some horseradish in the mix, and I give you Bloody Mary Bagels.

OK, so my bagel rolling techniques need practice, and perhaps the colour and general appearance is a little too reminiscent of that favourite item of #TAPL. But just see how longingly the celery salt and tabasco are watching from their cage. They know I’m onto something.

(Who moved my vodka?)

Bunny chow

First, catch your rabbit.

Or get your friendly German butcher to get someone to catch it for you, and then ask him to cut it into nice little pieces that in no way resemble the Easter bunny (meaning he can keep the ears, eyes, and everything else). Then arrange them in a roasting tin with a bit of olive oil, a lot of white wine, garlic and herbs. Cover up and braise until “tender” (that was about two hours at 180C for two wabbits).

Now put the fur back on: dip in flour, then egg (mixed with a bit of mustard for good measure), then a nice coat of fresh breadcrumbs, pecorino, herbs and lemon zest. Let that sit in the fridge to firm up for a couple of hours, and when you’ve plied your guests with a suitable amount of wine, whip out the wabbit and fry that sucker till golden delicious.

I confess I had trepidations, but I was ready to blame any catastrophes on Jamie Oliver. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried, so I’ll instead take the credit myself and declare it a very fine way to chow bunny, and a delightfully crunchy way to celebrate (almost) three years of marriage. I have no doubt the next three will be even better – especially now that I no longer consider football to be a complete waste of time, which makes for a happier weekend household.

As another contribution to a happy household, I’ve also recently mastered the art of the Reuben sandwich, or at least our dear (and temporarily departed) Sailor’s version. It’s genius, really, to build a sandwich in a pan: put the rye, buttered-side down in the pan, then lay on your “Swiss” (aka Emmenthaler), followed by a lot of pastrami, followed by a lot of sauerkraut, followed by another piece of bread, buttered side up. When that’s done, it’s ready to turn and make golden brown on the other side. Serve with “Russian” sauce (mayo + ketchup), and maybe a gherkin on the side.

Of course when I say “mastered”, I really mean I understand the principle well enough to start tinkering with it. So pictured here is in fact not a Reuben, because it’s made with smoked turkey. (Wiki tells me this is in fact called a Rachel). And I think I added some sweet chilli to the “Russian” sauce. And mustard to the sandwich. Oh, and I think it’s a much better idea to put the sauerkraut on before the meat, so the bread doesn’t get soggy. I guess I’ll make a good Jewish wife yet.

Getting what you ask for

Anthony Bourdain once challenged the audience at one of his speaking gigs to “Go home and Google Sandra Lee and Kwanzaa cake and … count how long it’s going to take for your head to explode.” And in another interview: “Watch that clip and tell me your eyeballs don’t burst into flames.”

So of course you Google Sandra Lee and Kwanzaa cake, and wait for the inevitable. You have been warned. (Great publicity for Ms. Lee, Mr. Bourdain!)

Well fortunately my head hasn’t exploded, and neither have my eyeballs burst into flames, but it certainly felt like I was playing with that kind of fire as I sat through 141 minutes of that DUMB-ASS, BRAIN-DEAD, TORTUROUS, WASTE-OF-F**KING-TIME-AND-MONEY film, Sex and the City 2.

Yes, yes. I knew it would be shite. I knew it would be shite even without having read all the reviews telling me it was shite. And being the (generally) level-headed kind of woman that I am, I should have switched it off as soon as that was confirmed, which was about 3 minutes into the film where you have to sit through a god-awful wedding between two men – officiated by Liza Minelli. Call it escalation of commitment bias, or call plain stupid, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to justify saying all kinds of horrible things about the film unless I had seen the whole thing. So I saw it, and now I can’t even find the words to say all those horrible things about it. All I can say is that it was a waste of a Saturday afternoon, and also that I hope – I REALLY REALLY hope – that there are no people in the real world who resemble any of the characters in that film.

Yet I fear that may be wishful thinking. Spotted in my very own neighbourhood the day before:

This dog, by the way, is the very same dog that, with its mommy (not pictured), moved into my(ex-) office earlier this year, and that higher powers in my department expected me to welcome with open arms. I did not welcome them with open arms. Instead I stayed the hell away from my office. Which means that until I took this picture, I had not yet seen the dog in the flesh. But now that I have, and have realised it is in fact not a dog but a handbag, I hate it even more. And lest you think I’m just a grumpy bitch, let me hasten to add that all this makes it even more delightful that I am no longer in said office, or said department, which also means that if I ever have to have a conversation with this doggy’s daddy, I will not have to be politic about his silly ideas about “talk-show democracies.”

There. Now I feel better, and can report on the best part – so far – of the weekend, which was about satisfying my craving for coconut cake.

I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t had a piece of this piece of moist coconut (and a touch of cardamom) goodness warm from the oven with a Nespresso “flat white” halfway through that film, I would not have survived. And if I hadn’t had another piece for brunch just now, I might indeed be a grumpy bitch. It’s true, coconut makes everything better, and come Women’s Day tomorrow, the Philosophe can celebrate the return of his charming wife.

Things you don’t want to know – but probably should

I recently watched a new Danish film called The Woman That Dreamed About A Man (or Kvinden der drømte om en mand, if you’re a native). It’s certainly not director Per Fly’s best work, but decent enough psycho-thriller entertainment when that’s what you need. Anyway, there’s one of those typically raunchy scenes when two strangers who have been eyeing each other across various rooms finally find themselves alone on a dark road, next to a conveniently located alley that they slip into without saying a word. The air is thick with erotic tension as they silently play the yes-no game, and then finally give in to an anonymous screw against the wall.

If that last sentence came across as rather lacking in finesse, good, because that’s exactly how sex between strangers in an alley should be. But what irritated me was that when their 30 seconds of heavy breathing (anti-)climaxed into a rather awkward button-closing, zip-locking silence, they suddenly lost all credibility as characters. No remorse, no guilt, and more importantly, no mundane panics about contraception, STDs, or the possibility of having just f**ked a psychopath. Just some inevitable exchange about when they can see each other again.

Fine, you may say, films are supposed to be in la-la land. But in 2010, that just doesn’t fly, no matter how much of a psycho you turn out to be (the woman did become one of note). Good films don’t let the banal stuff go. They linger on it, like that brilliant film Japanese Story, where Toni Collette has an affair with a married Japanese man who accidentally dies when they go skinny dipping. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, and with no one around, she has to get his body into her car, and it turns out to be quite a mission to manoeuvre a dead body. The scene goes on for ages, and is admittedly a little boring, but it’s also thoroughly captivating because it is so “real”.

Too much food media suffers from the same rubbish unreality as those two strangers in the alley. Everything is “dead easy”, or even if it’s complicated but “worth the effort”, it looks fabulous and tastes “divine”. But no one ever talks about how they feel after eating all this beautiful food – and here I’m not just talking about cooking shows, but also high end restaurant reviews. Which is why I was delighted to read the bit in Anthony Bourdain’s new book, Medium Raw, where he talks about how exhausting it can be to eat poncy tasting menu after poncy tasting menu at some of the “best” restaurants in the world. He wasn’t just jaded because luxury gets boring (surprise!), but because a lot of those menus are seriously taxing on one’s digestive system. So post-prandial romance is often off the cards – to paraphrase him very liberally – because the two of you flop into a taxi trying to suppress burps and farts the whole way home, and all you really look forward to is 24 hours later when you’ve managed to get all the crap (literally) out of your system.  (A general note on the book: a fun read IF you haven’t followed Bourdain’s speaking gigs over the last year or so, in which case you will realise that he has become his own speaking puppet. He speaks in quotes rather than thoughts. I call it the Michael Pollan syndrome).

Which leads me to the actual topic of this post: stuffed steak.

Tired of plain old steak, I wanted to make beef olives. But when it came to the whole pounding, rolling and tying bit, I was overcome by laziness, so decided to just stuff the steaks instead.

Pretty simple really. Make some kind of delicious stuffing (for instance, white anchovies, capers, olives, lemon zest, breadcrumbs, garlic, rosemary, pecorino, chilli flakes: all the major foodgroups). Then use a good sharp knife to transform your steak into a meaty pita pocket into which you stuff as much of the stuffing as you can possibly cram in. Now wrap tightly tightly in cling and leave in the fridge for an hour or so (to “set) while you enjoy a spicy Bloody Mary (it being the cocktail hour of course). When you’ve slurped the last of your Mary, get a pan nice and hot, dredge the steaks in a little flour, and get frying:

Look, so they aren’t exactly pretty. In fact we joked that I had produced a Rousseau version of KFC’s Double Down “sandwich” (where chicken stands in for bread, and cheese and bacon stand in for chicken). But apart from the meat being a touch dry, it was pretty delicious. It’s like steak and puttanesca, all in one. What’s not to love?

Should you try this at home? By all means, but I have two recommendations. Don’t forget to deglaze the pan with some sherry (or something), and perhaps a touch of cream, to create a bit of a gravy which you can serve as “jus”. Secondly – and this is important – do make absolutely sure that all your ingredients are good and fresh, and particularly that you don’t use anchovies which may have passed their best-before date.

Otherwise expect to spend most of the night on the loo. Bon appetit!

Country eating..and eating…and still eating

When you are invited to spend the weekend contemplating scenery like this, it is only proper that you devote a few days to thinking about food before the fact, so that nothing can get in the way of two days of carefully planned indolence (not to mention that there are no shops, so if you don’t have it with you, you aren’t going to eat it).

The brief: four (maybe five) adults, two children. No hunger.

How could I not fall down the brownie hole once again? We needed snacks. And I needed to try two recipes that my pathetic poor willpower could not resist. “Peanut butter brownies with chocolate chunks” (you see? Though we may argue about whether they are brownies or blondies, seeing as they came out, well, “blonde”):

And continuing with the healthy theme (I had to think of the children!), there was of course the King Arthur Flour recipe for “Tasting is Believing Whole-Grain Brownies”. These I imagined turning into an adult (=boozy) dessert by topping them generously with sticky-brandy-and-coffee-prunes and a dollop of brandied mascarpone. (I tested this latter idea on the hapless Philosophe the night before we left. It worked. So, apparently, does wholewheat flour in a brownie.)

Well, we never got to that dessert (a coconut pie got in the way, as well as a box of those evil Lindt chocolate balls), but we did manage to scarf most of the brownies, and the prunes and mascarpone have been churned to a delightful (=boozy) ice cream, awaiting the attack of Signe’s sweet tooth later this evening.

More importantly, a delightful weekend in the country was the perfect opportunity to get busy with Ottolenghi’s caramelized garlic tart. Three whole heads of garlic, and a lot of goat’s cheese. I was all over it.

That was a damn fine tart/quiche/lunch, and if you like garlic and goat’s cheese you should do yourself a favour and get Plenty and get cooking.

And if you like lobster and pasta and wondered how the twain should ever meet, consider Alfred Portale’s lobster bolognese. That was our (superb) dinner on the first night, and lunch for some two days later.

In fact, after days of eating (and drinking) magnificently, no meal was perhaps more so than our final one, even though to look at the table you may have struggled to see the narrative thread. It was lunch on the stoep in the sun. There was a delicious Asian-y salmon salad. Warm crusty bread and butter. Guacamole. Salami. A slab of White Rock with Cranberries from Fairview (a most delightful little cheese, tart and sweet and cheesy all at once. And so good for your urinary tract!). There was a slice of caramelised garlic tart which no one wanted to claim but still managed to disappear, crumb by crumb. There was a small bowl of lobster bolognese which went the same way.

We first washed it down with some De Trafford Chenin, and then we carried on washing it down with the Secateurs Chenin.

For dessert there were peanut butter “brownies”. Wholewheat brownies. Some coconut pie. Sticky koeksisters brought by our travelling friend the extra adult the day before. And there was of course also a selection of “sweet shop” goodies from nowhere less than The Fat Duck in Bray (Heston is a genius).

Needless to say we were happy and full when we packed up and got into our cars to roll back to the city. And doubtless already thinking about the next occasion for cornucopia. That’s just how we roll.

We are not unlucky people.