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BRUNCH ACROSS 11 COUNTRIES: Recipes of a private chef by Alix Verrips, published by Human & Rousseau, 2018.




With Easter round the corner and other autumn long weekends to savour, brunch comes to mind as the perfect meal . Whether on a country excursion, lazing at home, or entertaining friends and family, there’s no better time to combine breakfast and lunch into a long, langorous and relaxed meal, preferably relished outdoors.

All of which makes this new title from local publisher Human & Rousseau both timely and inspirational. Alix Verrips is an adventurous chef who now enjoys life in Knysna, raising money for children’s charities. But she has amassed a wealth of global gastronomic experience of the most delicious kind during her 15 years as chef on luxury yachts. Having cooked for celebrities, royals, rock stars, ambassadors, statesmen and politicians on the world’s largest yachts from Alaska to Australia, she presents readers with a treasury of recipes that evoke memories of cultures and countries. Special occasions and exotic ports called for fare that contribute to irresistible brunch menus.

American Independence day calls for red, white and blue parfaits and beef sliders with blue cheese followed by a berry-filled pie, all accompanied by a seriously super-charged Bloody Mary. By way of contrast, a pheasant shooting party in the British shires features bubble and squeak, toad-in-the-hole, kedgeree and currant scones. Add spice to your brunch with a Bahamian feast, starring a colourful spread of chicken souse, sweet potato fish cakes sauced with Creole aioli and chicken and sweetcorn congee.. Chinese New Year in Sydney harbour, the Monaco Grand Pri,. a Greek Isle cruise and a stay in Capri have all produced menus that are mouthwatering and recipes that I intend to try. Other exotic fare was inspired by time spent in the Emirates, Mexico and Mallorca, while the home country is celebrated with a brunch in the bush. All those longing for that nostalgic experience of a portable feast after an early morning game safari can cook up bobotie cups, biltong, mielie and cheese muffins and malva pudding cupcakes with salted caramel sauce, washed down with gin-spiked rooibos and naartjie iced tea.

Beautifully illustrated with plenty of tempting food photographs, this is a collection that will not collect dust on the kitchen shelf.


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Tagged in: Book Cookbooks Recipes

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THE PALESTINIAN TABLE by Reem Kassis, published by  Phaidon Press, London 2017


Let’s start with the author – a Palestinian professional who offers a fascinating self-portrait in her introduction, also of her family,and  follows with the complex composition of the Palestinian table

Kassis’sr mother is a Palestinian Muslim from a rural village in Palestine’s centre, her father a Palestinian Christian from a mountain village in the far north. Kassis grew up in Jerusalem, a melting pot of food and cultures, where her parents ensured that their daughter took a route other than aspiring to marriage:  So, having focussed on her schooling, Reem was accepted, at 17, at several top American universities. A decade in the USA saw her attain professional degrees, followed by glamorous jobs and a hectic lifestyle. Then  after she met and fell in love with a fellow Palestinian, the couple moved to London and married there.

As a young mother at home with a small daughter Kassis had time to enjoy cooking trad dishes from her childhood,  and shortened  and simplified some of them. She noted that British restaurants serving Middle Eastern dishes displayed little Palestinian cuisine, and decided to share with the world family recipes  and others from various villages: the collection doubles as  something of a Palestinian chronicle as she weave tales of identity. Even in this fractured land, regional culinary variations persist, from the mountains of the Galilee to the southern valleys, and from the coast of Yaffa to the West Bank.

 Kassis starts with basic recipes that she deems essential to to exploreing the cuisine. Foundational food she calls these, comprising a spice mix, a broth and fried nuts, elements that lend dishes depth of flavour. They also include labaneth, tahini sauce, vermicelli rice and a sugar syrup flavoured with orange blossom water and rosewater. It’s easy to recognise similarities with the basics of other Middle Eastern fare.

Being a cornerstone of all meals, the chapter on bakes is largely about breads: Along with  pita and taboon other flatbreads resemble pizza bases topped with  ingredients such as  cooked red bell peppers, and also used as dipping tools. Elaborate pastry bases  are filled with vegetables and cheese or used as turnovers with similar fillings. Crackers, spiced and seeded,  can be savoury or sweet.

Palestinian breakfasts are  family affairs  where eggs play a major role in some delicious dishess. They well  illustrate how Middle Eastern  spices and classics transcend borders from Syria to Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and beyond. Eggs fried in olive oil scented with za’atar and sumac perch on pita breads with a slice of  labaneh. Frittatas are spiced and herbed and served with olives, spring onion, mint and tomato. The Tunisian shakshuka is a favourite in many countries, the Palestinian version using fewer vegetables than most. The   “Middle Eastern peanut butter and jelly sandwich”  is how  Kassis describes the popular tahini and grape molasses spread  paired with warm pita bread. The Egyptians use grape molasses, the Gulf States prefer  date molasses.

The custom of a table laden with dishes, large and small, for diners to help themselves is universal in the region. We are offered recipes for several dips like hummus,  snacks like kubbeh, deep-fried cheese and za’atar parcels, pine nut rolls, which can be served either for lunch or supper,

Salads are sturdy affairs, often based on tomato, cucumber and mint around a grain base. Simple soups and substantial stews are based on vegetables and pulses and grains like freekah,  (cracked green wheat) while others star  lamb, beef or chicken.  There are a couple of intriguing seafood dishes as well.

Sweet finales in Palestine are usually seasonal or  defined by the occasion, religious or family celebration with which they are associated. Some of them are complicated and time-consuming. Think of baklawa, shredded phyllo and cheese pie, semolina cake. However their fragrant milk pud with pistachios is closely related to panna cotta and easy to make.

Attractive food photographs and a glossary of ingredients add to the attraction of this hardback which is a significant addition to the cookbooks of the region. It is delectable proof that food can transcend  divisions of religions and politics  if allowed to do so. 

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Tagged in: Book Cookbooks Food

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PLATTER’S by Diners Club International: 2018 South African Wine Guide.


Can you believe this is the 38th edition of this invaluable guide to wines, cellars, routes, restaurants and more across South Africa.  And, as remarkable, is the fact that its capable, meticulous, urbane and modest editor has seen this, his 20th edition, launched at the Waterfront in early November last year.

In his editor’s note Philip van Zyl briefly covers the scope of the guide, including recent additions to the information like GPS co-ordinates and acknowledges the efforts of his tasting team, one of whom, Dave Swingler, marks his 21st year of contributions.

Of the approximately 8 000 wines assessed, a few make it through to a second and third round tasting, and from these the five-star wines emerge, and ultimately, the Wines of the Year.  There is also a coveted award for Winery of the Year, this year presented to Raats Family wines. Highly recommended is another useful category to peruse, as are the Hidden Gems. Plenty of info for those looking for an industry overview, cultivars, competitions, as well as our wine regions, tours, restaurants and accommodation. The maps seem to be clearer this year as well. (And no, I have not acquired new spectacles).

Recommended price around R260 and of course, in addition to the print version of this comprehensive and essential companion, the guide is also available as an app and a web-based edition. 

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Overkill  by  James Clarke. Published by Struik Nature 2017




The subtitle – The Race to Save Africa’s Wildlife – sums up the conservation goal, but the scope of the book is wider, offering readers a comprehensive summary of past and present threats to Africa’s wildlife, both marine and land-based. Describing 2015 and 2016 as “the worst of years and the best of years” Clarke refers to the former as the costliest in terms of the wanton slaughter of the continent’s megafauna. But the 24 months  will  also go down , he thinks, as the time when the tide started to turn...  As he puts it, the lowest ebb is always the turn of the tide

South Africans and those who come from afar to visit our parks and reserves have been reading about and viewing the wanton destruction wrought there in the present century, often with a feeling of helplessness as well as fury.  Plenty of facts in this paperback to add to those sentiments, but also some positive data to offset the gloom as we read of  the extent of international awareness and the gradual increase in African realisation of the benefits of eco-tourism.

Africa is the only continent that survived the disappearance of the world’s megafauna, as early humans migrated from Africa to the rest of the world. Clarke sets out to describe how this happened using the term “overkill” to mean anything done to excess.

In North America the European settlers extinguished whole species as they migrated southwards while similarly humans in Europe and Asia shared in the global overkill – all comparatively recently, geologically speaking.

But in Africa – the continent from which humans originated – this did not happen, and the fauna survived because of, rather than in spite of, the hunters. This was because the big mammals had watched humans graduate from stone-throwing hunters to athletic spear throwers and on to using  more sophisticated weapons and learned to keep their distance. But in  the 19th and 20th centuries this changed as hunters practised “overkill” – slaughtering all they could for the fun of it.  Their exploits, proudly published form the mid-1800s onward, make sickening reading.

With lion populations in steep decline today, Clarke muses that the well-reported killing of Cecil , the renowned Zimbabwean black-maned lion and subject of a research project at Oxford University resulted in international disgust and the start of laws prohibiting the import of hunting trophies in both the USA and the EU. The elephant slaughter is dealt with next, followed by that of the rhino, with the huge demand from China and Vietnam for horns. The shameful story of the recent exploitation of marine life and the pollution of our oceans  presents equaly horrifying reading.

On the positive side,  a year ago, in January 2017 , China announced its reduction and gradual closing down of the ivory industry which was a huge step toward saving the surviving elephant population.Fusing protected areas into mega-parks across Africa is another hopeful sign.

Clarke has been writing articles and books with environmental themes for decades, and writing for newspapers since he was 16. He is one of the three founders of the Endangered Wildlife Trust and one of the most readable of journalists, and his new title confirms this.

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The two titles reviewed here are  publications that will delight many readers, more particularly armchair historians, battlefield enthusiasts, Overberg lovers and travellers who like researching their holiday destinations both before and after their visits.



Guide to Sieges of South Africa by Nicki von der heyde. Published by Struik, 2017.




Not only is this the perfect pocketbook for the legions of battlefiedl buffs who plan their trips around battlefields of Southern Africa, but it's written with such professional enthusiasm that it will surely draw new supporters to the fascinating  stories of the sieges that accompanied wars over two centuries.

This guide is a companion volume to van der Heyde's Field Gjuide to the Battlefields of South Africa which proved a highly successful publication. This specialist guide presents detailed descriptions of 17 sieges that occurred during the Cape Frontier, Anglo-Zulu, Basotho and Anglo-Boer wars. 

Some are well-known to most South Africans - such as the sieges of Lydenburg, Mafeking, Kimberley and Ladysmith. Others less so - I didn't know that Durban had been besieged in 1842 nor had I read about those at Mount Moorosi in what was then Basutoland or the sieges of Fort Cox and Fort Armstrong in the Eastern Cape.

As public fascination with sieges continues, it's good to have a well-qualified historian who is also a woman in the male-dominated battlefield-guiding fraternity turn to writing on her subject. Not only does she present a very readable text, but includes personal stories of heroism and heartbreak that are part of every battle and siege. As the writer points out, with sieges civilians were freqently involved, and some of them kept diaries recording their hardships and personal experiences both tragic and humorous. 

 The pages are brought to even greater life by maps, timelines, many old and some new  photographs that accompany human interest stories gleaned from diaries and letters and records of the time. 

The detailed and professional index compiled by Emsie du Plessis adds considerably to the book's usefulness as a reference tool.



HERMANUS by Beth Hunt. Published by Struik Travel & Heritage, 2017.




With a subtitle listing Whales, Wine, Fynbos and Art, readers get an immediate picture of what to expect in this appealing hardback with its front and back cover photographs of the town's iconic old harbour.

As one expects in a publication like this, the gallery of fine photographs by Johann and Kobus Kruger play a major role in illustrating both the natural and manmade beauty of the town and surroundings, its people and many attractions.

Chapters on tourist drawcards like whales and sharks are given much space, as is the art scene which thrives there in  all its diversity.The cliff path, and the equally famous Fernkloof Nature reserve and other sources of floral wealth are featured,

 as is the equally lovely Hemel-en-Aarde valley which not only stirs the aesthetic senses but also offer fine New World wines from a number of farms that form one of the most bewitching wine routes in the Cape - and the world.

The fascination of the the past is well-captured taking us back to the time when the Khoi met the first Dutch settlers and a teacher and shepherd made the clifftops near a freshwater spring the site of his summer camps for his sheep. Hermanus Pieters died  in 1837 and was destined to lend his name to the site which became known as Hermanuspietersfontein.

The stories of the shipwrecks on the coast, of the famous long-established hotels  also make fascinating reading, as does the lure of game-fishing. Current tales take in more recent developments, around new suburbs that have sprung up and new communities settled there, adding to the enormous diversity that makes the town and surrounds so attractive to both permanent residents and holiday visitors. 


Well-researched and written this is a charming and informative title for both locals, visitors and those planning to make their way to the whale capital of the world.





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