You know springtime is around the corner in the Western Cape when the arum lilies come out

You know springtime is around the corner in the Western Cape when the arum lilies come out. Here they are flourishing next to the sea in Hermanus.

Hermanus has been given the reputation as the “Riviera of the South”, but away from the glitz and glamour (?), there is plenty to do to please the eco tourist. One such pursuit is enjoying the many walking trails.

We decided to sample the cliff top walk from near the town centre, into town and then on towards the suburbs.

A kilometre long boardwalk kicks off the cliff walk

A kilometre long boardwalk kicks off the cliff walk

We came across this fat dassie (rock rabbit)

We came across this fat dassie (rock rabbit)

The sea crashes down on to the cliffs

The sea crashes down on to the cliffs – local fisherman

 

At one of the spots there is a restaurant - Bientang se Grot. Unusual placing of a table!

At one of the spots there is a restaurant – Bientang se Grot. Unusual placing of a table!

 

Looking over towards Voelklip and the suburbs of Hermanus

Looking over towards Voelklip and the suburbs of Hermanus

 

 

Sunset on Atlantic Drive, Onrus

Sunset on Atlantic Drive, Onrus

We have three road trips this 2015 sjourn in South Africa. The first one commenced in Onrus.

Onrusrivier is a settlement in Overberg District Municipality in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

The name Onrus means ‘restless’, referring to the pounding of the surf on the rocky coast. It is a predominantly residential area close to the coastline.

Onrus is part of Hermanus and showcases the peaceful ambience and holiday vibe of the little town.

The town comes alive every year between about October and January, thanks to the whales that frequent the coastline at this time. These include Southern Right, Humpback and killer whales, which stage wonderfully dramatic performances for those on the shore and on whale watching tours to enjoy. Every year, between 60 and 100 of these marine giants make their way past the coast; spyhopping, breaching and lobtailing playfully, which gives the impression that they are as interested in their audience as we are of them.

The entire area is surrounded by the impressive mountains of the Cape Overberg, as well as hundreds of species of the spectacular fynbos that is endemic to this country. This means that, no matter where in Onrus or the greater Overberg region one stays, the views are almost always breath-taking, and access to the wonders of the South African landscape are only a short drive or walk away.

The tiny Greek Orthodox Church in Onrus. Nobel Peace Prize winner and former RSA President FW de Klerk was married here.

The tiny Greek Orthodox Church in Onrus. Nobel Peace Prize winner and former RSA President FW de Klerk was married here.

Onrus is the ideal holiday spot for visitors that want to enjoy a real South African beach holiday. These ocean waters are chilly, making them refreshing in the hot summer months. The nearby lagoon is warmer, and is also ideal for swimming (particularly for little ones that are not accustomed to the colder sea water). The beaches boast long stretches of pristine sandy shores, inviting families and friends to play Frisbee, picnic, suntan or take a dip in the cool Atlantic Ocean waters. Sailing, kiting and kayaking are also popular sports in the area.

Because of the beautiful countryside that defines Onrus and its surrounds, this part of the Cape Overberg is also a much loved destination for those that have a passion for the outdoors. There are a number of walking, hiking, horse riding and cycling trails within very close proximity to Onrus, each of which shows off exquisite views, as well as the fauna and flora of the South African landscapes. Breathe in the fresh air of the countryside, feel the warm African sun on your back and take pictures that will capture these memories for a lifetime when you explore the immediate surrounds of this suburb.

We did!

Signature fish stew

Signature fish stew

Rated Number 1 restaurant in Stellenbosch by Trip Advisor, we went back to Clos Malvern in the Devon Valley region of Stellenbosch – for the fourth time in four years!

During winter, Clos Malvern has a reasonable tasting menu which we opt for…

Here are some of the dishes..

salmon a la difference

Salmon a la difference

Springbok loin - for the squeamish that is not blood, but a port jus!

Springbok loin – for the squeamish that is not blood, but a port jus!

Lamb wantons

Lamb wantons

Pork belly with an Asian twist

Pork belly with an Asian twist

Lemon meringues to finish off

Lemon meringues to finish off

For more information, go to www.closmalverne.co.za.

 

Madame's new purchase - veldskoene from Freestyle.

Madame’s new purchase – veldskoene from Freestyle.

Veldskoen (or vellie, colloquial, veldskoene plural, alternately velskoens or velskoene plural; pronounced “FELL-skoons”) are Southern African walking shoes made from vegetable-tanned leather or soft rawhide uppers attached to a leather footbed and rubber sole without tacks or nails.

The name comes from Afrikaans vel (“skin”) (later assimilated to veld (“field”)) and skoen (“shoe”). They were first made by the Dutch East India Co. in the 1600s by the first Dutch settlers in South Africa. Their design is believed to be based on the traditional Khoisan footwear observed by these settlers. The footwear was later embedded into the Afrikaans psyche when the velskoen was used as the footwear of the Great Trek. Easy to make, lightweight and extremely tough, the vellie could withstand the harsh conditions of the great migration north. The vellie has become part of South African, Zimbabwean (previously Rhodesian) and Namibian society, worn by all classes and professions but favoured by farmers and safari guides. Nathan Clark’s company, C&J Clark, made the desert boot famous but Clark’s design is modeled after the same round toe and style last used to manufacture velskoen. Clark was inspired by the shape and design of the velskoen he discovered for sale in the bazaars of Cairo, which were imported to Egypt from South Africa.

They are sometimes considered light boots, and can essentially be considered a subset of chukka boots or desert boots although vellies tend to have a lower topline.Veldskoen soles are sometimes cut from old car tyres rather than crepe rubber.

Veldskoene saw considerable use by the Rhodesian Army during the Rhodesian Bush War as tough light-weight boot. Vellies along with canvas “Takkies” were also favourites of the Selous Scouts as the creped sole made going untracked easier than the heavy lugs normally found on infantry boots.

Well, with all the heritage is it no wonder that the humble veldskoen is now a fashion item?

If you’re in Cape Town, you can buy veldskoens in many colours at Blaauwklippen Market (Sundays); Hout Bay market (Saturdays and Sundays); or Oh So BoHo in Kloof Street. The manufacturer is Freestyle and they will make to order and ship world wide. Their website is here.

The La Gratitude building - home to The Big Easy

The La Gratitude building – home to The Big Easy

Harking back to one of those good old-fashioned Stellenbosch lunches? Atmospheric lunch under the oak trees or in one of those wonderful Dorpstraat buildings?

Industrialist Johann Rupert and multi-major winner Ernie Els have teamed up with others in a venture called “The Big Easy” in the old La Gratitude wines head office. A substantial conversion has seen an Els signature pub (along with some of his trophies), a lounge complete with leather arm chairs and a well stocked easy reading library (nothing cerebral here), comfy restaurant furniture, dappled light, running water, wood decking, extensive menu and superbly trained staff. All of this wraps up into a package that hits the spot, time after time.

Satisfied customers leave with bigger smiles than the ones they had when they arrived hungry.

The atrium where we sat. There are numerous other places in the garden and adjoining rooms.

The atrium where we sat. There are numerous other places in the garden and adjoining rooms.

My whole roast baby chicken - deliciously moist.

My whole roast baby chicken – deliciously moist.

Madame's mushroom risotto. Even though feeling a bit poorly, she pronounced it superb.

Madame’s mushroom risotto. Even though feeling a bit poorly, she pronounced it superb.

Some of the blurb – and it doesn’t exaggerate:

La Gratitude was built in 1798 by the first Reverend of Stellenbosch. It boasts a blend of Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture and is known as “The Grand Old Lady”. The building has been gently and tastefully renovated to provide the home for Ernie Els’s new signature wine bar and restaurant.

We serve a wide selection of more than 170 wines, some of which you can sample from the cellars of the owners. Our proprietors own Rupert wines with L’Ormarins and Anthonij Rupert wines; Rust en Vrede; Guardian Peak; Ernie Els Wines and Audacia Wines. The fifth partner owns Villa di Buona Speranza olive oil from Lucca in Italy which is especially imported for using at The Big Easy

If the finest cuisine prepared with the freshest ingredients whets your appetite, then plan to enjoy the delicious taste of laid-back luxury served with a hint of history.

For more information, click here.

 

Finished roosterkoek in Blaauwklippen

Finished roosterkoek in Blaauwklippen

Another stall at the Blaauklippen Country Market sells roosterkoek. A firm South African favourite.

As ‘Cook sister’ says…

Roosterkoek (literally grill cake – say “roor-stir-cook” and try to roll those r’s!) is the traditional bread to accompany a braai or BBQ. The roosterkoek are simply balls of bread dough cooked on a grid over the coals, and are best eaten piping hot and straight off the grill. There are other traditional braai breads (e.g. potbread), but these require a cast iron three-legged pot with a flat base, whereas all you need for roosterkoek is some dough and a fire! My earliest delicious memory of roosterkoek is eating it at a now-defunct restaurant in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. 

To read more, click here.

Making roosterkoek?

The raw dough is placed on the grid

The raw dough is placed on the grid

Remember your roosterkoek is cooked on open coals, so once you start making the dough, also light your fire, or use the warm coals after you have braaied your meat. You must be able to hold your hands over the coals for 10 seconds without burning, then the coals are ready! Any warmer than that and you will end up with charcoal offerings. Also make sure your grid is very clean and I spray my grid with Spray ‘n Cook! You can also make roosterkoek on a griddle pan if you yearn for them and there is a gale force storm outside!

 

The all important braaing on the side stage

The all important braaing on the side stage

One of the many recipes – this time from Cook Sister:

The recipe below is a slightly adapted version of the one passed along to me via my dear friend Donald, from Tannie Joan – thanks Tannie! For those of you who want to perfect your roosterkoek skills, it may also be helpful to bear in mind the following hints and tips:

make sure the dough is on the stiff side (reduce the liquid if necessary). If it is too runny, the dough is going to drip through the grid before the rolls have a chance to bake!
get your braai grid as clean as possible if you are going to make roosterkoek – blackened reminders of the Ghosts of Braais Past clinging to your roosterkoek is not pretty or clever.
to stop the rolls from sticking to the grid, lightly oil your grid. Also make sure the rolls are shaped on a floured board so that they have a little some flour clinging to the outside.
be very careful with the fire you plan to cook these on. It should be neither too large (i.e flames licking the rolls!), nor too hot (black outside + runny inside = “No thanks, not really hungry today!”). Use the hand-over-the-coals endurance test as described  – if you can hold your hand there for 10 seconds or more, you are probably OK. Also make sure that the coals are distributed as evenly as possible before putting the roosterkoek on the grid.

ROOSTERKOEK (makes about 12)

Ingredients:

300g plain flour

10ml instant yeast

5ml salt

15ml sugar

30ml sunflower oil

180-200ml warm water

Method:

Mix the yeast and sugar together in a small cup together with a little of the warm water and stir. The mixture should foam after a minute or two. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and salt, then add the oil and water while mixing continuously. When the mixture comes together to form a dough, add the yeast and sugar and mix well.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased plastic bag or in a lightly greased bowl covered with a damp tea towel and allow to rise for about an hour, or until it has doubled in volume.

Divide the dough into 12 roughly equal pieces and shape into slightly flattened balls on a floured surface. Place on a baking sheet and cover with clingfilm. Leave to rise for another 15 minutes.

Place the braai grid over evenly distributed direct coals and allow to heat for 5 minutes. Lightly grease the grid and place the rolls directly on it for about 15-20 minutes. Alternatively, place the baking sheet in an oven at about 180C/350F for 15-20 minutes.

When half the cooking time has elapsed, turn the roosterkoek over. The roosterkoek are done when they are lightly browned, crispy on the outside and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from the fire/oven, split open and serve hot with butter.

Good luck!

 

A bunny chow ready to be devoured

A bunny chow ready to be devoured – in the background traditional Cape Malay samosas.

The R44 national road bisects the northern Cape Peninsula region and runs from Somerset West to Stellenbosch. All along this road you’ll find wine estates; restaurants; nurseries’ strawberry farms; farm stalls and closer to Stellenbosch upmarket housing estates and some office blocks.

One ofthe major wine estates along the R44 is the 300 year old Blaauwklippen Wine Estate. Apart from its core function of producing award-winning wines, Blaauwklippen plays host to  great Sunday country market. Clothing stalls mingle with food outlets, picnic spots and farm animals. It’s great for kids and for adults too.

We came across one of the stall holders doing aroaring trade selling ‘bunny chows’.

The bunny chow was created in Durban, home to a large community of people of Indian origin. The precise origins of the food are disputed, although its creation has been dated to the 1940s. It was also sold in Gwelo, Rhodesia (now Gweru) during World War II and is still sold in the nearby town of Kadoma, formerly known as Gatooma in Zimbabwe.

Stories of the origin of bunny chow date as far back as the migrant Indian workers arrival in South Africa. One account suggests that migrant workers from India who were brought to South Africa to work the sugar cane plantations of Kwazulu-Natal (Port Natal) required a way of carrying their lunches to the field; a hollowed out loaf of bread was a convenient way to transport their vegetarian curries. Meat based fillings came later. The use of a loaf of bread can also be ascribed to the lack of the traditional roti bread, in the absence of which a loaf of bread would be acceptable as an accompaniment to curry.

Now the Bunny is a bit more upmarket and trendy. We’ll live with that!

 

The Hemel-en-Aarde Valey. Home to many fine wine estates

The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Home to many fine wine estates

 

Our pilot surveys the surrounding countryside.

Our pilot surveys the surrounding countryside.

 

The Bot River lagoon, prior to cliimbing to 4,000 feet to traverse Sir Lowry's Pass

The Bot River lagoon, prior to cliimbing to 4,000 feet to traverse Sir Lowry’s Pass

Somerset West blends into Stellenbosch and home we come for a perfect landing.

Somerset West blends into Stellenbosch and home we come for a perfect landing.

Our flying journey continues –

Steenbras dam - on the way to Pringle Bay

Steenbras dam – on the way to Pringle Bay

 

Part of the holiday homes at Pringle Bay

Part of the holiday homes at Pringle Bay

 

Heading over Buffels Bay and Bot River lagoon in the distance

Heading over Buffels Bay and Bot River lagoon in the distance

"The Rivera of the South" Hermanus down below. Unfortinately the water was very churned up so we could not see and whales or Great White sharks

“The Rivera of the South” Hermanus down below. Unfortinately the water was very churned up so we could not see and whales or Great White sharks

The Klein River Mountains after waving to 'Granny' in her Stanford garden

The Klein River Mountains after waving to ‘Granny’ in her Stanford garden

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