Chocolate sandwich biscuits

 
So today I am grateful for two things. 1.) That I managed to get a blog post together for this week, and 2.) that I am able to string a coherent sentence together. It has been a rough couple of days you see, with the entire family being struck down with an assortment of germs and lurgies. Currently my kitchen counter looks more like a pharmacy than anything else and we are all lacking in the sleep department which is less than ideal. The timing was also unlucky as we had planned to go away this past weekend for a wedding. We did manage one night away in the end but we were not on best form. Never mind, grumble grumble.
 

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Out & About: Food Photography Workshop

Last week I had dinner with two of my oldest and best friends, and while we were catching up on family, work, the usual stuff, I mentioned that I had attended a food photography workshop the previous weekend. It was then that one of my friends rehashed a story about how the two of us had been sitting in our high school French class one day and how I had mentioned that I would love to be a food photographer one day. I always knew I would be involved in the food world one day, but it was amazing to hear her story as I had completely forgotten saying it! Life is a funny thing eh?



When I look at photographs from some of my earliest blog posts two things usually happen. Firstly – I cringe! (And then I cringe some more.) Then the second thing happens, which is that I am reminded of how much I have learnt in two and half years. I see my food photography as a journey, one where I am continuously learning and (hopefully) improving.




Feeling in need of some inspiration and new knowledge I did not hesitate to sign up for a workshop hosted recently by blogger and photographer Hein Van Tonder of Heinstirred, photographer Francois Pistorius and stylist Isabella Niehaus. The venue was Isabella’s stunning Langebaan beach home with the waves crashing just metres away and no shortage of beautiful surfaces and props to experiment with. 





The workshop started with a few short talks on lighting, composition and styling, and then it was time to get shooting! I loved being able to take my time and experiment with different camera settings to get the best shot, and as a result I feel much more confident with shooting manually which is something I have not done much of (oh the shame!). After a delicious lunch we moved onto sweet dishes in the afternoon, and practised some movement shots – so much fun!



I quite literally took hundreds of photos at the workshop, but here are a few of my favourites from the day. I am so glad I went along and look forward to putting what I learnt into practice and really using my camera to its full potential. Being a perfectionist I do not think I will ever feel as though I am “there” when it come to my photography, but I will resist the urge to delete my early blog photos and keep working at it! 

If you are interested in attending a workshop keep an eye on Heinstirred for details of future dates.

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Pumpkin spice cookies

While there is no denying that the arrival of summer is highly anticipated at the end of each year, I have to admit that I rather look forward to the autumn season. A welcome respite from the heat, beautiful red and brown leaves dotting the trees and an excuse to start enjoying some favourite comfort foods are just a few of the things that come to mind.

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Out & About: Sedgefield and Wild Oats Market

The last few weeks have flown by and I have found myself up to my ears in all sorts of preparation – organising the nursery, stocking up on newborn nappies and cooking extra meals for the freezer. Are you noticing a theme here? Last week though we managed to escape for a long weekend in Sedgefield with the family, just the relaxing, sun-kissed and sand-coated short break we needed! 

One of the places we visited whilst there was the Wild Oats Market, on every Saturday morning. This was my second visit and we arrived on a mission to find breakfast. I was amazed to see how many people were there – considering how quiet the town of Sedgefield seemed! The place was buzzing and there were a large number of stalls selling all kinds of hand made produce. 

The Farmer’s Breakfast stand seemed to be the most popular spot, judging by the long queue (which did move quickly actually!). There was a good selection of food and drinks to choose from, which we enjoyed at one of the tree stump tables with the sounds of classic Elton John in the background, nice. We sampled some very tasty pancakes, an indulgent chocolate waffle, cooked breakfasts and delicious coffees. And in our shopping bag to take home we had a spinach and feta quiche, decadent fudge, Russian sausages and steak pie.


Other products that caught my eye were fresh juices, rusks and biscuits, dried fruit and nuts, fresh flowers and herbs, biltong and preserves. It was lovely to see visitors and members of the community meeting up for a bite to eat or bumping into each other by chance. The market has a very rustic feel and the atmosphere was lively but relaxed. Being a recycling enthusiast I was also impressed to see recycling stations dotted around the market for refuse. 


 
A short walk from the market you will find the Mosaic Outdoor Market, with various crafts and more food on offer. My husband and I picked up two beautiful framed photographs by Keith Moore and I found some excellent deals at a new book stand. Right next door is the Scarab craft market so allow lots of time to peruse the area! 

Just out of interest and completely unrelated to food, if you find yourself in the Plettenberg Bay area near to Sedgefield do visit Birds of Eden and Monkeyland for a chance to get up close and personal with some beautiful creatures. We had a fabulous day visiting the parks, well worth it. 


For more market details you can visit the Wild Oats Market website. The market is open every Saturday morning from 7.30am to 12pm in summer, 8am to 12pm in winter and is situated on the N2 a stones throw from the town of Sedgefield – look out for the big green sign! 

Weekend at Birkenhead House, Hermanus

Recently I was lucky enough to enjoy the weekend of a lifetime when my husband and I stayed at the luxurious Birkenhead House &Villa in Voelklip, Hermanus. This was the prize that I received after winning the Two Oceans Simple Snacking Challenge last year. And before I forget, let me also just quickly apologise for the lack of recipe this week – will some pretty pictures do instead? 

Situated in Voelklip overlooking the sea, Birkenhead House and Villa was officially opened in June of 2003. It is situated on the same site as the Birkenhead Hotel which was demolished in 1989. From this prime spot visitors can enjoy fantastic sea views and join the coastal walkway that links Voelklip with the centre of town and many nearby beautiful beaches.  
We arrived on a Friday evening, weary from the week to a very warm welcome and glasses of bubbly. Our bags were whisked to our room and friendly manager Cristi took us on a quick tour of the hotel before showing us to our room. The hotel boasts three swimming pools, a gym, a spa, indoor and outdoor seating areas and a luxurious but homely lounge area with a fireplace for those chilly evenings. 

Our room was gorgeous and we arrived to find that the bed had been decorated with flowers, champagne on ice next to the very generous bathtub in the exquisite bathroom, as well as gifts from Birkenhead House and Two Oceans.

Let’s talk about the food, probably the part I was looking forward to the most. Breakfast was a sumptuous buffet of cereals (the most delicious homemade muesli I have ever tasted), muffins and pastries, fruit, cheese, yoghurt and cold meats, as well as the option of a hot breakfast – eggs done “your way” or omelette with a choice of fillings. All served on the front terrace with a side order of fresh sea air, now that’s how to do a breakfast! 

Lunch was a 3 course affair starting with warm, fresh bread. We enjoyed miso soup with exotic mushrooms, smoked salmon nachos, roasted vegetable tortillas, salmon tempura, fishcakes and dhall, not to mention a selection of desserts, cakes and tarts that were on offer. Fortunately the team is flexible when it comes to mealtimes, and lunch carries on until late in the afternoon. I don’t think we would have managed another big meal too soon after breakfast! 

The dinners were outstanding, a choice of 4 courses preceded by an amuse-bouche. On the first night I enjoyed prawn tempura, tomato soup and a fantastic butternut and chickpea curry (my favourite dish of the weekend). This was followed by a coffee panna cotta with chocolate sauce and macadamia nut brittle. On the second night I enjoyed cauliflower and blue cheese soup, the most tender and delicious lamb shank with green beans and a creamy baked cheesecake. I just about managed to fit it in before retiring to the super-comfy bed with the sound of the waves crashing outside. Torture, pure torture I tell you. Did I mention that we returned to our room to find the bed turned down, candles lit, sweets on our pillow and a hand-written weather report for the following day? These guys think of everything!
If you can bear to tear yourself away from the hotel there are many different activities in the area to keep you busy. There are a range of walks and hikes and some whale watching to be done if you find yourself there at the right time of the year. (We saw a dolphin – does that count?) Surfing, wine tasting, horse-riding, shark cage diving or even a spot of shopping are just some of the activities you can enjoy in Hermanus. On the Saturday we decided to visit the food market at Hermanuspietersfontein a short drive from the Birkenhead. The market is small but offers a great range of products and seems to be a popular lunch time haunt for locals and visitors. Here you are encouraged to “take a plate” and fill it up with goodies like hamburgers, artisan breads, cheeses, homemade quiches, koeksisters, brownies and rusks. There is live music, a play area for the kids and you can even watch the winery staff as they sort grapes for their next batch of wine. 
We also did a bit of walking along the beautiful coastline – it was only right what with all of the feasting that was happening inbetween! 


I cannot say enough about Birkenhead House and what a fantastic weekend we had – this is a real gem! I think what I loved most was that despite the opulant surroundings and lavish finishes there is nothing pretentious about this place. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, and this is reflected mostly in the service of the staff (the Birkenhead family as they like to be known) who strive to make their guests feel as though nothing is too much trouble and that they are right at home. My thanks go to them and to Two Oceans for this wonderful prize!

For more information on Birkenhead House, you can visit their website here.

Everyday double chocolate chip cookies

These days I think that most of us feel as though we are running around like headless chickens much of the time, just trying to keep our heads above water and get everything done. I try not to use words like “exhausted” or “stressed” too much as I think they only compound the situation, but if I’m truthful they very aptly describe how I have been feeling for most of this month! I knew it would be a busy time, but goodness me – I feel as though I haven’t had 5 minutes to myself at all!

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Tapas à la Miro

Just over a week ago I received the details of the 8th challenge in the Freshly Blogged competition which I have been participating in since June. Each week the contestants are given a list of ingredients and a few days to create, cook and photograph a dish using these ingredients. The public have a chance to view the recipes online and vote for their favourites, and each week a panel of judges send a few of the contestants to the chopping block, as it were.

Week 8’s challenge entitled “Eat Your Art Out” had me scratching my head for a while. The ingredients we were given were superb and well suited – a whole chicken, chorizo sausage, potatoes, onion, garlic, lemon and sherry. We were told, however, that the recipe and styling had to be inspired by art – an interesting twist!

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Sweet and sour pork with pineapple

 

A beach in Grand Baie Mauritius
Grand Baie, Mauritius

My husband and I were lucky enough to enjoy a trip to Mauritius for our honeymoon. The minute you land on this small island in the Indian Ocean you really feel as though you have reached tropical territory – stifling heat, humidity, sugar cane fields and leafy green vegetation as far as the eye can see.

Mauritian cuisine is as diverse as its people, with influences from France, China and India to name a few. We enjoyed incredible curries, seafood, beef chop suey and samoosas. Whatever it is that your tastebuds fancy you are likely to find it here!
 

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