I remember vividly when and how I fell in love with Butter Chicken. The month was May, the year 2011 the place a small, ramshackle restaurant in New Delhi, India. I had been in Delhi studying since early March of that year and had months to go before heading back home to Cape Town to finish off my degree. Most of the food I had been exposed to in the city until then had not been to my liking, mainly because I did not at the time have much of a palette for hot and spicy food. One day when my friend and I went out as we often did to get out of the campus, I decided to try out Butter Chicken, which I was assured was the dish with the least heat on the menu. I was immediately hooked. For me it was the creamy texture and how the spices were tempered with yoghurt and tomatoes that made this meal a winner. Fast-forward to 2021, I’ve been enjoying this meal for a decade. The recipe below is my take on this delicious meal and I hope you can use it to switch up your chicken meals once in a while.
Scones, Scones, Scones
This is my recipe for yumminess produced in under an hour. These scones are perfect for a weekend or weekday morning. All you need to do is set your alarm an hour early to make sure that you stay in your family’s good books for an entire week! My scones are light, fluffy and golden. The sugar content ensures that they are sweet enough to enjoy on their own and not too sweet that you can’t add jam and cream. I really like adding ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon for that added bit flavour. You can also add a teaspoon of nutmeg for that additional flavour pop. Go on, give this recipe a try and let me know how popular you become in your home.
COPPA – The new kid on the block in Parkhurst
I am always on the prowl for new restaurants to try out. If you enjoy eating other people’s food as much as I do, then you will understand this habit. The strange thing is that even as we’ve effectively been in lockdown for a year and a half, there are new establishments popping up all over the place. Which means I can happily feed my inner beast. So each time the country has “opened” up, my husband and I have taken to the internet or straight to the streets to check out new places that we might add to our list of favourite places to eat. Imagine my glee when one Saturday afternoon we were walking down 4th Avenue in Parkhurst and I immediately noticed a new spot. As is my nature, I abandoned all plans for what we’d actually gone to Parkhurst to do and insisted that we check it out over a cocktail. I was immediately hooked. We’ve been back to COPPA twice in the space of 3 weeks!
The French-inspired restaurant or patisserie is small and probably seats about 30 people inside at full capacity with some additional seating on the pavement for those warm sunny days. At first you’re drawn in by the clean lines, simply set tables and of course, the bakery section near the bar area which offers a wide variety of cakes, scones, cookies, baked chocolate goodies and all sorts of other delicacies that you should not even glance at if you’re counting calories. Then as your interest piques, the weekend manager, Patrick, pulls you in with his charm, interesting accent and his talkative nature. This family business is everything that you want in a warm, inviting space where you immediately feel like you’re one of the tribe. And if the ambience hasn’t encouraged you to sit, then the slight whiff of food coming from the kitchen will seal the deal.
The food…my oh my the food! The menu is expansive enough for a relatively small place though the options for mains could be expanded with a few more dishes. We sat in near silence we enjoyed our breakfast punctuated with the occasional “mmm”. I had the Creamy Scrambled Eggs with extra Avo and my handsome date had an Omelette with Salmon. Even his boyish good looks couldn’t get me to move my eyes from my plate. On our return we decided to go for lunch. I had the Prawn Risotto and hubby had the Oxtail Polenta – both dishes have the requisite French names which I dared not try pronounce. Without bias (I think), the Risotto was the best I’d had in a while. As I dug in for more spoonful I unearthed tiny bits of prawns waiting to be discovered and devoured. The gift that keeps on giving, I thought as I went in for more. I have it on good authority that the Polenta was equally amazing.
Dessert, which I hardly ever have at restaurants because I’m always much too full, was Truffles, made by the pastry chef. Who can say no to Belgian chocolate? I also got to sample the variety of cookies that are available for takeaway and the delicious fudge. I would not be exaggerating if I said that COPPA would be the single reason for me missing my weight goal for 2021. But whose complaining?
A Day at the NIROX Sculpture Park
With the cold temperatures slowly abating, giving us some energy to go out and brave the late July Winter sun, the hubby and I decided to spend a few hours at the NIROX Sculpture Park in Krugersdorp, located in the West Rand of Gauteng. I’d heard some good reviews from the more “artsy” of my friends but had strangely never visited the park. I must admit that while I quite capably navigated the Cape Town art scene while living there, I haven’t quite made my inroads into Joburg’s scene, despite everything that it has to offer. Note to self…spend less time drinking bubbly in restaurants and more time taking in culture!
Anyway, off we went on a nippy but sunny Saturday morning – the park opens to the public on weekends. The drive took us about 40 minutes making me regret not grabbing a cup of coffee before we set off but we quickly resolved that issue upon entry into the park. The entry tickets set us back R120 each just for access to the park which is not all too bad considering that management has to limit daily numbers due to Covid-19, which negatively affects revenues.
When entering the park one is greeted by a tree lined gravel road that seems to go on forever. I quickly realised that I should not have worn white sneakers. On either side of the pathway there are expansive, lush lawns and small rolling hills which hide the treasures that are about to reveal themselves. But naturally, our first order of business, as always, was coffee! So we quickly located the flagship restaurant named And then there was fire to sit down for a cuppa. The coffee was a nice enough and the restaurant itself is just lovely. It is nestled naturally in the surrounding environment and just fits perfectly into the park. It gave me a feeling of wanting to sit for hours talking, laughing and catching up with friends.
We started our walk through the park mid-morning and it took us about 90 minutes to feel like we had seen everything we wanted to see, though we could have gone for longer. The exhibitions we saw were titled The Real DMZ Project and That Hidden Thread. We also got a chance to see The Covered Space by Nicholas Hlobo. Some of the sculptures on exhibit were more alluring than others.
What made it a bit difficult to engage with some of them is that they were mostly not labelled, which took away from us fully appreciating the meaning and relevance. The leaflet we received at the entrance had some but not all descriptions which left me feeling a bit robbed of a fuller experience. Nonetheless, as a sometime art lover, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of walking through the park and experiencing the many feelings that are evoked by a world beyond my own imagining.
After our walk we sat down for cocktails and a slice of cake at the open-air Lawn Pavilion Café, which serves a small offering of pastries, drinks and breads among other light snacks you might need to replenish your energy levels. For me, The NIROX Sculpture Park is a perfect spot for a cultural experience that you can finish off with copious amounts of afternoon drinks with friends and loved ones. Of course, you can also eke out some romance with your significant other at the restaurant, which offers meals from the grill (hence the name) and a limited tapas menu. Next time I think I’ll try out a picnic set up because what could be better than sipping gin cocktails under the African sun surrounded by stunning sculptures?
Jugs, Jugs, jugs
I have a weird, inexplicable addiction to jugs. It’s the strangest thing because I can never just pass a pretty jug in a shop without stopping to consider buying it – which I usually do! It’s no secret to my friends and family that I have a general inclination towards all crockery but jugs in particular are a thing for me. I have them in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours – in glass, ceramics and stoneware. The more rustic, the better.
For me jugs are items that have multiple purposes, which means getting your money’s worth. I use them in my home as water, juice, cocktail and milk decanters. But beyond that I love to use my jugs as decorative elements in my home especially for flowers – which are another addiction. But that’s a story for another day!
Why dig through your drawer for kitchen utensils?
As you’ve probably figured (no prizes offered), I’m an avid cook. I spend a lot of my spare time in the kitchen whipping up delicious meals that contribute to my unrelenting pot-belly. For me it’s so therapeutic to end of a stressful day or week engrossed in developing or tweaking a recipe and just watching everything come together.
When I’m in the zone I don’t want any stress or irritations. I’ve tried to organise my kitchen around function to reduce possibilities frustration. Arguably my most used corner is where I store my preparation utensils. It’s a trilogy of storage containers that just brightens up my culinary experience. It also helps that I can eke out alternative uses from the containers – yes, I’m always looking for a bang for my buck!
A room without books is like a body without a soul - Marcus Tullius Cicero
I’ve always been an avid reader. Being raised by a Teacher didn’t give me much of a choice as my mother always drilled in my sisters and me the value of constant growth through reading. From the time we used to be force-fed Kathy and Mark in Grade 1 (Sub-A if you’re an ‘80s baby like me), to the unconscious choices I made to devour the Sweet Valley series of books followed by Daniel Steele’s romantic novels as I started to get increasingly curious about boys. As I navigated high school in Cape Town my intellectual and linguistic capacity grew and I slowly but excitedly entered the world of psychological thrillers and crime novels by Dan Brown and John Grisham. I was enthralled by the capability of these authors to transport me so powerfully to a world beyond that which I knew and thought was enough.
It was in Grade 10 that I had my very first encounter with South African literature which opened up the world of possibilities that I am still finding my way through today. I had won a book prize for academic performance and received an Exclusive Books voucher for a book of my choosing. I was kind of tired of the books that were readily available in our school library and yearned for something different – what that was I did not know. I went to the book shop in Cavendish Square which I passed on my daily journey from the taxi rank to school. Looking lost and excited I immediately saw a book on one of the main stands with the image of a young black boy on the cover. It took me a minute to read the summary on the back cover and decide that this was the book I was getting. It was Thirteen Cents by K. Sello Duiker.
This was the book that transformed what until then I thought was literature. In that book I recognised so much of what I knew about life in South Africa, whether through my own experience or that of others. Through Thirteen Cents I gained an avid interest in African literature which has abided to this very day. As I moved through the schooling system to varsity, my preferences shifted almost completely to yearning for an appreciation of the African condition through the written word. A part of me believes that this is part of the reason I decided to study social sciences in undergrad and international studies in post-grad – maybe also the single reason why I’m not a rich Accountant!
To his day, my bookshelf is filled more with African literature than any other genre. A close contender is African political economy writings that have shaped my journey to Pan-Africanism. For me, African writers have a unique ability to be funny, self-effacing, witty, satirical and so emotive while drawing attention to the African condition. Classics like Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe will have you giggling animatedly but in tears by the end of it as you realise the impact of colonialism and post-colonial misgovernance on the continent. I’ve also over time developed other interests including art books, cookbooks, strategy books, essays and poetry. Whenever I need to escape the hard reality that is life, I know I can just reach out to my bookshelf and find an appropriate book to sink myself into.