Welcome to my blog, these are the ramblings and musings of an (upper) middle aged biker and if you enjoy braais, (barbeques) beers and motorbikes then hopefully you will enjoy what Janet and I do; we do lots of braais, we drink lots of beer and we tour South Africa on our motorbike, which at the moment is a BMW R1200RT. Join us, read about what we do and please leave us your comments.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Food blog? At last we go for a ride

This is becoming a bit of a food blog! Because the weather has been so bad lately we haven't been able to braai and we haven't ridden the bike for quite a while, however I assure you that I have still been drinking quite a lot of beers. I have been suffering from biking withdrawal symptoms lately and luckily we were able to take the big red machine out of the garage this past weekend.
Before I get into that though I feel that I really must tell you about our Saturday lunch, a team effort which really turned out very well and which is very easy to do, I don't know if it can be called a beef stroganoff, but it's a real good beef meal;
This was more than 800g of good quality Sirloin steak and although it was way too much for two people, the left-overs were great late on Sunday. First I sliced the beef up thinly and gave it a good sprinkle of my favourite Aromat.
 The next part was to heat up a heavy pan and once it was good and hot we flash fried the meat in the dry pan just to brown it, we then removed the meat and set it aside.
Next we de-glazed the pan with red wine into which Janet mixed two table spoons of soup powder, two tablespoons of Hot English mustard and then a good splash of fresh cream.
Heat the sauce through, let it simmer nicely and then add some mixed herbs, keep stirring to loosen all of the bits of meat that are stuck to the pan.
It doesn't need much time now, keep stirring to make sure it doesn't get lumpy and then you chuck the meat back in and stir it around to warm through. A this stage I added my "special ingredient."
At the recent Wacky wine festival in Robertson I bought this jar of Marinated, dried olives in chili and garlic from Rhebokskraal in McGregor, this is absolutely fantastic and I have been using it in just about everything I eat - delicious! I'm sorry I only bought one jar but I can easily go back and get some more up there. They advertise that all of their products are 100 per cent organic, check them out at www.rhebokskraalolives.co.za cell 0828960429, I'll definitely be getting more.
Obviously this dish will stand on its own without the olives and after just a minute or two it is ready to serve. I had already made some mashed potatoes and we warmed up some peas.
What a delicious lunch that was! About an hour later Janet went for a kip so I got the big red machine out of the garage and went for a local cruise, it was cold; 15,5c which is about 42f but still it was good to be out, I did a local blast just to clear the cobwebs and charge the battery and ended up at the Phoenix bar.
The sky was still ominously grey and it was bloody cold but there were seven bikes outside the pub, when the sun comes out so do the bikes!
 On Sunday we were able to go for a ride together, I managed to convince Janet that it was warm enough! We ended up at the "Vaatjie Taphuis" in Port Owen.
I had the seafood platter which consisted of a lovely fresh Hake fillet, mussels, prawns, calamari and rice for R95, Janet opted for crispy Eisbein and mash at R98 which she declared delicious but which could have done with a gravy.
I can vouch for the fact that it was delicious because I had her left-overs in my sandwich at work on Monday. After a nice relaxed lunch we mounted up and rode through to the Phoenix again, I played a couple of games of pool but it was still cold and after a short while I took Janet home.
I caught her trying to warm her....self in the sunlight by the door, isn't that a good picture of my two babes? It was a good weekend.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oyster Extravaganza; four different oyster dishes

Still no chance of a ride! We are going through a terrible weather patch at the moment; gale force northerly winds and lots of rain, I am getting some serious withdrawal symptoms, I went into the garage yesterday and just started the big red machine up to see if the battery was alright, it started but after a bit of a struggle! Apparently the coming weekend is not going to be good so I'll just have to look out for a gap.
Tonight we had my old buddy Frank over for dinner as is our usual Wednesday night custom, he comes over for a nice home-cooked meal and tonight he was spoiled with Janet's famous oyster soup. This is probably Janet's "signature" dish, you can only make it if you have access to fresh oysters and if you were to buy a whole batch of fresh oysters, why the hell would you bother to make soup out of them? Rather just eat them fresh!
I opened 18 oysters for the soup and while Janet was busy with that I opened another 12 for me and Frank to enjoy;
The four on the top left I left fresh, sprinkled with lemon juice, a couple of drops of tobasco sauce and some ground black pepper, in the centre I did the same recipe as the other evening; a dribble of brandy, a teaspoon of cream and some blue cheese and top right, also brandy and cream but with crumbled feta cheese and some dried olives sprinkled over. These last two batches I baked under the grill for about fifteen minutes until the cheese was melted and the oysters had cooked.
Frank was to be my guinea pig, I have only done these for myself before although many people have had Janet's oyster soup and have raved over it, he was to be the first to taste my version of "Oysters Rockerfeller" which I had in an East London restaurant many years ago.
The moment of truth, he's a finnicky old bugger and it wasn't so long ago that he didn't even eat oysters, I introduced him to that gastronomic pleasure. Here he slips one of the baked oysters from the shell.
Need I say more? He actually said that both varieties of the cooked oysters were better than the fresh! I must say that the brandy, cream, feta cheese and olives worked particularly well and Janet's oyster soup was again to die for, what an evening!
If you fancy some of that let me know, come on over and I'll cook some oysters for you. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Food occasions - just the two of us

Normally when I get the urge to do some cooking I suggest to Janet that we invite a few friends around on a Saturday or a Sunday, I have to do this well in advance so that she can get used to the idea and get her head around it, she then starts to plan things and gradually gets into it, if I leave it to short notice I get all sorts of up-hill! Believe me I have been a beneficial influence on Janet over the years, if it wasn't for me she probably would have been a recluse, she would have been happy living on some remote trading station in the middle of nowhere, content with a book and a bottle of wine whereas I need people, I love to entertain. Janet is a really good cook and entertainer but she has to be gradually talked into it, I know that the best place to bring this up is while we are in the spa bath sipping our bubbly on a Saturday or Sunday morning, her initial refusal I ignore and wait while she sips her bubbly and after a couple of minutes she says something like; "I could always do the creamy aromat potatoes with the lamb." then I know I've got her!
These past two food occasions, however, were just for the two of us so that she could have a break. We were at my friend Steve's "Weskus Vleismark" (West Coast Meat Market) in Saldanha the other day and I bought some lovely beef shin, I love a potjie made with beef shin and marrow so I decided to do a pot.
I have access to fresh oysters so I brought six home for a starter, I opened them and cut them loose but kept them in the bottom shell into which I poured a teaspoonful of brandy, a teaspoon of cream, I then added a thin slice of blue cheese and a sprinkle of ground black pepper and placed them under the grill;
I left them until the cheese melted and started to brown, Janet doesn't eat this sort of thing so they were all mine and they were delicious! I have another idea involving feta cheese and sundried olives which I am going to try next time.
In the meantime I was busy with my beef-shin potjie; I first browned the meat in some olive oil after which I removed it and then fried up some onions mixed with green and red bell peppers and a good spoonful of garlic. When they were all nicely sweated down I put the meat back in and gave it a good stir.
I then mixed a beef soup powder into a cup of red wine and poured that into the pot, gave it all a good sprinkle of Aromat and then added the potatoes and butternut squash which I had previously peeled and chopped. This was then left to simmer for an hour with the lid on.
After tasting the gravy to see if it needed salt and pepper I then added some peas and left it to simmer for another half an hour. I test the potatoes and butternut to see that they are soft, if they are then it's time to dish up.
Damn that was a good beef-shin pot! We sat and ate in front of the TV, happily sucking the marrow out of the shin bones, delicious!
Our next special meal was on Saturday (yesterday), I had bought some lovely prawns at the supermarket and wanted to try something different so I first steamed them for just a minute
 in our stainless steel steamer and left them to rest while Janet cooked some pasta rice, a particular favourite of mine.
In the meantime Janet put a lovely salad of cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, avocado, peppers and olives together.
I then quick fried the prawns in butter and olive oil in a hot pan, removed them and deglazed the pan with "Triple Sec", orange liqueur.
I then stirred in some cream and a good sprinkle of mixed herbs.
and quickly put the prawns back into the pan and stirred them around. It is very important not to over cook the prawns or you will ruin them.
Stir them around to absorb the lovely juices, melt a good pat of butter in and serve over pasta rice with a fresh salad;
It was a very tasty meal, the triple sec added a lovely, quite sweet orange flavour to the prawns which was contrasted by the fresh salad. Janet said that it was better than any restaurant meal that we had for a long time, I must say that I had to agree with her.
We still haven't been able to go for a ride! The weather has been terrible but maybe the coming week will give us a break.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stormy weather and a classic Kawa

'Twas a dark and stormy night......actually it was a dark and stormy week! We have had some seriously bad weather moving across the Cape Peninsula this past week, on Wednesday we couldn't work because of northerly winds blowing up to 30 knots. In those conditions it just becomes too dangerous for us and I have to call things off, I am proud of our safety record; in the 21 years of the farm's existence we have had only one death and injuries, very few, have only been minor.
The wind blew all day, bringing with it heavy grey clouds that unleashed hundreds of litres of water over our little town on their way south and east. I stayed at home, cleaned up my desk - which badly needed the attention and chilled in front of the tv, it was an excellent day full of serious relaxation.
Today was a public holiday, Youth Day, commemorating the Soweto uprising of 1976 - we were going to work but again the wind was pumping and I called it off, another day off! How to celebrate Youth Day? Dilemma, White people in South Africa normally celebrate public holidays by staying at home and having a braai instead of attending public rallies but today was no day for a braai, raining like mad so we went and had lunch at the Slipway Restaurant.
After our excellent lunch we drove through to Vredenburg and went to the Phoenix for a beer or two, Danny and I played a good few games of pool and this time I didn't do too badly. I am only an average player, I have my moments when I can pull off some pretty good shots so when I win games I am very chuffed but I really enjoy playing pool, it is a fun game characterised by bullshit and cameraderie and is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Hans Holtzhausen arrived on his very neat 1978 Kawasaki Z1000 and we went outside for a look, bikers cannot resist an older bike, and here Danny discusses the finer points with Hans.
Original chromed front mudguard, the exhaust has been modified and the mini fairing is aftermarket but apart from that it's original. The '77 model had spoked wheels, this was the first one to come out with mags.
The side cover below the saddle does not have the usual branding on it, this is because on the way to a rally it blew off. On their way back from the rally two days later they did a search of the area where they thought it might be and actually found it! Hans had to have it resprayed because of the damage but at least they got it back.
Hans is a very nice guy, 70 something and still riding his motorbike, he rides for the Christian Motorcycle Association and seeing someone his age still riding gives me confidence.
I need to go for a ride, I started the big red machine up in the garage yesterday just to make sure it was going to start because I haven't ridden for a while, it started but struggled a bit. I hope the weather gives us a break on the weekend.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mussel farming and a Chopper

I haven't had an opportunity to ride my motorbike for a couple of weeks now, and I feel terrible! It's winter but we still have wonderful calm days in amongst the bad ones but various things apart from the weather have been conspiring against me.
Friday was one of those days, beautiful and calm, the rain that we had experienced earlier in the week was gone and the weekend promised to be a good one, the only thing was we were going to Linda's for a braai and a get together with some old friends and I wanted to take mussels and oysters for everyone, no good on the bike so it was a trip in the bakkie - damn!
At the moment sunrise is just before 08h00 and we get out there by 07h00 so we have a while in the cold before the sun starts to warm us up, that is the Pilot vessel heading back in through the early morning gold.
A bit later the "Mussel Cat" comes back alongside the barge after harvesting at another raft, by then the sun was starting to do its work.
It's lovely when the bay is like a mill pond, we can get on with our work - in winter it's not often this calm.
I keep forgetting the cream crackers! This one is a perfect size for a morning snack. Just kidding, I throw them back to grow a bit more, we may need them.
I had my usual afternoon at the Phoenix Bar but things have not been going my way lately; virtually everyone has been beating me at pool lately (even Joe beat me in Capetown!) and Don managed to "white-wash" me, that's the third time at the Phoenix and I threatened to stay away from Don's restaurant in protest but he bought me a beer so we're good. It may take a while but I'll get my mojo back, you watch!
Saturday morning after the spa bath and bottle of bubbly we headed down to Capetown, we were having a braai with Linda and some friends but we popped into the Viper lounge on the way for a beer or two as usual and there I saw this chopper in the showroom;
I am not a fan of this sort of motorcycle but you really do have to admire the workmanship, it is quite literally a rolling work of art.
According to Dieter the price may be negotiable around R350,000 so if you're into that kind of a ride go and take a look, the build quality and attention to detail is fantastic and it is quite literally a work of art, just not my cup of tea.
It has air suspension which raises the back once the engine has been running and I'm sure that exhaust is incredibly loud, very interesting and we all know that loud pipes save lives.
It's not long until the fourth annual Polar Bear run, the last weekend in July and we are going to "Louriesfontein" up in the mountains. Des has been trying to tie the run in with really crap weather so that we can live up to the name but so far every year the weather has been great! Maybe this year he'll get it right because it's generally very cold up there and the end of July is right in the middle of winter.........maybe it'll be warm, you never can tell with South African winter!
Ride safe.  

Friday, June 10, 2011

Death of an old family friend

This is a tribute to an old family friend, I'm very sad to write this post and I don't want to be too morbid about this but my old friend "Fatcat" died yesterday. My son Simon brought him home many years ago while he was still at school and we have never been really sure about how old he was but it must have been very close to eighteen which is a ripe old age for a cat.
He was a wonderful cat with a lovely way about him, he was so well fed that he never bothered about chasing birds. He had no problem with coming to get his own food if we were cooking something that he liked.
He particularly liked to eat mussels and I would often bring a few home for the two of us to share, he would have absolutely no compunction about stealing those!
He was definitely attached to me and would spend a lot of time close by, either on my lap in front of the tv or next to me while I was on the computer.
We also had a couple of games that he would enjoy playing, especially in the evening when I got home from work.
He deteriorated very rapidly, his kidneys packed up and when I took him to the Vet there was nothing they could do for him, he had to be put down. I am not ashamed to say that I cried for my old friend and I will miss him.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Wacky wine festival, Robertson 2011

This year the Wacky wine festival in Robertson was great fun, it wasn't as busy as last year's because there were not as many students around, last year schools, colleges and universities closed early for the soccer world cup which left thousands of students with nothing to do except converge on the Wacky wine festival and ruin it with lousy music.
There was quite a lot of lousy music this year too and that is one of my bugbears, had there been a place selling beer and food and playing music from the 70's and 80's with some country and classic rock they would have made a killing! I must look for a forum or somewhere to voice my opinion. Friday and Saturday night we were in the mood for a party but couldn't find one!
We got away from home just after 2pm on Friday and drove through to Robertson, a long three hour trip but we had to go in the bakkie (pronounced bucky - meaning pick-up or ute) because I buy wines at the festival and also because after a day's wine tasting it's more difficult to fall off a bakkie than it is a bike!
I must say that I found the trip very frustrating, I am not used to having to stay in a slow queue of vehicles but this time I had to and the road was very busy. In any event we made it and by 17h30 we were sitting in the hotel bar having our first beer.
We had a very good meal in the hotel and then drove around looking for a party, we had a couple of drinks in a couple of places but none of them created an atmosphere that invited us to stay and we were in our accommodation quite early.
After a good breakfast on Saturday morning we visited one of the shops in town and then headed out on our wine tasting trip, most of the estates are incredibly picturesque like Springfield pictured here, the only problem is that they were already getting busy and the young ladies at the tasting tables were only prepared to splash a small puddle of wine into my glass, time to move on.

From there we went to Bon Courage, we normally don't bother with this place because it gets so incredibly crowded but we supplied 9000 oysters to them for the festival and I wanted to see how it was going, the place was hugely busy already, there was a queue for the wine tasting and I could see that the oysters were very popular, time to move on.
We prefer to visit the smaller, less popular estates that are "off the beaten track" so we headed for "Wolvendrift", and sure enough we could sit and relax in a place where they poured a more generous taste of their wines.

We sat for a while and tasted the various wines on offer and I bought six bottles of their very good Sauvignon Blanc. By then it was almost lunchtime and we decided to head back to Fraai Uitsigt Estate where we had had the fabulous gourmet lunch last year, on the way we passed Bon Courage again and it was amazing to see how crowded that place had become, the cars were literally parked alongside the road for up to a kilometre either side!
As we were driving across to Fraai Uitsigt it started to rain, just a light rain at first but as we were sitting down to our lunch it began to rain heavily, did we care? Hell NO we were about to indulge in a gastronomic experience, six food courses paired with the most expensive wines produced in the Robertson valley;
Graham Beck Wines Brut Rose 2006  
Teriyaki Salmon and Smoked Tuna Pate'

Springfield Estate Methode Ancienne Chardonnay 2006
Beetroot ravioli and Mini double baked cheese souffle'

De Wetshof Estate Chardonnay Bateleur 2006
Vanilla Prawn and Marinated Pork fillet with spicy marinade
Fraai Uitzicht Merlot 2003
Marinated olives with rosemary and fennel and beef carpaccio with lemon dressing
Zandvliet Estate French Oak Matured Kalkveld Shiraz 2002
Chicken fillet and bay leaf wrapped in Parma ham on Lentil salad and Breaded Springbok fillet
It all looks like small portions but over the hour or so that it takes to eat the meal and drink all of the fabulous wines you realise that you have eaten quite a lot of food and the variety of tastes is fascinating. Then it was time for the dessert;
This was an Arendsig Viognier 2009,  a sweet dessert wine  and I was told that the shape of the flute makes you purse your lips perfectly so that the wine arrives at the correct taste buds! Hey I'm a biker who normally wraps his lips around a Castle bottle neck but what the hell, I'll try anything once.
The dessert was a lovely buttermilk mousse on a berry jus, it was a wonderful experience and at R325 per person it is not cheap but just for the six different wines it is probably worth it apart from the food and we will do it again next year.
The rain stopped and after bidding our host and the chef farewell, after they had taken a major bite out of my credit card, we moved on - there were more places to see and more wines to taste and time was fleeting!
We drove through verdant wineyards freshly washed by the recent rains, gold and green colours against the mountain backdrop and at Kranskop Janet made friends with some huge beast. Here I bought some more delightful Sauvignon Blanc.
From there further along muddly roads through gorgeous mountain passes which would have been terrible on the big red machine we wound our way to Rosendal;
There we were invited to taste wines paired with various Lindt chocolates! We needed no second bidding, "Bring it on!" we shouted in eager anticipation and whilst other visitors delicately nibbled their chocolate and sipped their wines we crunched and slurped our way through all four glasses.
I normally prefer to pair my chocolate with a decent whisky but this was great, milk chocolate with a Colombar, sea salt chocolate with a Sauvignon Blanc, chili with a merlot and dark with a Cabernet Sauvignon - very interesting!
Even biker scum can appear sophisticated sometimes! Chocolate and wine, good stuff. We headed back to the town after that, we visited various venues in search of a party but there was nothing on the go, we sat in Sopranos for a while drinking beer and watching the people while we listened to horrible music. At the Spur restaurant later that evening whilst eating chicken wings I got involved in a dance with the staff, who instead of cooking and serving the hundreds of customers, took time out to do a line dance in the aisles ..... it's a bit of a blur.
Sunday morning on the way home we visited the last of the estates; Rooiberg where I bought some red wines to top up my racks; six bottles of Pinotage Reserve and six 2008 Merlot Reserve which we were tasting at 09h30! It had been a wonderful weekend and we have already secured our accommodation for next year.
We arrived back in Saldanha in the early afternoon and of course headed for the Phoenix Bar to end the weekend off, there were quite a few people there and it was good to see some friends again, Malcolm's really good looking Yamaha Tenere was parked outside and I immediately noticed the rim tape, a nice touch.
So there we are, credit card seriously dented but wine racks full and a great weekend - life is good.