Notes from the Cape Posts


What do you think of this pictures? It is just a weed growing on the side of the road, but the pic came out quite well. I quite like the contrast between the background and foreground.

Just a simple dandelion growing out of the pavement.

Cape Town

Rory Braai Dec 2008 065The braai is probably one of South Africa’s most traditional meals. It is practised by all cultures in South Africa, and as often as possible! Probably the only thing that will prevent a South African from having a braai is a rugby game, in which case they will probably simply braai before or after the game!

If you drive through any suburb in South Africa on a summer weekend, you will smell the delicious smell of grilling meat.

Braaing is a very casual and social affair, but there it is taken quite seriously by the cook. You simply NEVER interfere with somebody else’s braai without asking them very politely first (even if the meat is burning!)

So, what exactly is a braai?

Very simple really, it is a South African BBQ. However, it is almost always cooked on wood or charcoal – very seldom on gas. A braai will typically consist of one or more of the following:

  • lamb cutlets (chops)
  • sausage (boere wors – literally farm sausage made from beef)
  • traditional pork sausages
  • beef steak
  • chicken pieces or kebabs
  • beef or pork ribs

Let’s get going

You will need a braai (in which to make the fire). Many public picnic sites have brick braai’s available, or a Weber will do. You will also need wood or charcoal – we often buy “brikettes”, which are small round compressed pieces of charcoal.

Blitz, which is a paraffin-based firelighter, helps to get the fire going, but if you are a boy scout, matches and an axe will do!

Rory Braai Dec 2008 041

Put a few pieces of the blitz (firelighter) onto the grid
Rory Braai Dec 2008 042

Light the blitz. and give the coals a few minutes to start burning. Note that with the braai, you will always use “direct heat”.
Rory Braai Dec 2008 043

Lighting the wood fire
Rory Braai Dec 2008 049

Some nice coals starting to burn – it should take about 40 minutes to get good coals.
Rory Braai Dec 2008 053

While waiting for the wood to burn, cook some garlic bread on the fire.
Rory Braai Dec 2008 054

Garlic bread ready to eat – yummy!
Rory Braai Dec 2008 057

From top to bottom – wors (beef sausage), chicken, and chicken kebabs in the front. You can also see some ostrich kebabs at the top on the far right.
Rory Braai Dec 2008 055

Braaing is thirsty work – you will need plenty of liquid refreshments
Rory Braai Dec 2008 060

When you can hold your hand above the grid for three seconds, you are ready to cook. Put the meat onto the grid, turning every few minutes or so.
Rory Braai Dec 2008 062

Looking good – almost ready to eat.
Rory Braai Dec 2008 065

After about two beers (40 minutes or so), you are ready to eat, so dig in!
Rory Braai Dec 2008 066

Ready to eat – looks great, doesn’t it?
Rory Braai Dec 2008 070

After a good braai, the plates will be empty!
Rory Braai Dec 2008 072

One more think, we often have “bring and braai’s”, in which the host supplies the fire, rolls and salads, and the guests all bring their own meat and drinks. Simple and easy.

Cape Town Food and Drink

Yesterday we celebrated Lois’ dad’s 70th birthday party at the Pomegranate restaurant at Vergenoegd wine estate. They have turned the old manor house into the restaurant.

While having lunch, I saw the most strange thing – a duck parade! The farm has about 300 Indian runner ducks living on the farm. These ducks run through the vinyards, looking for snails and small insects to eat. This novel solution to pest control keeps the vineyards pest-free in an environmentally friendly manner.

Cds 2008 12 07 13 01 03 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

So, in the middle of lunch, about 100 ducks came marching through the outside of the restaurnant, much like a class of school children out on a school outing.

Cds 2008 12 07 13 03 10 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

They marched onto the lawns, ate everything in site (at least all the snails), and left. Thinking about it, it sounds more like varsity students than school kids.

Cds 2008 12 07 15 01 56 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

Although they are both noisy and smelly, it is kind-of cute to watch. And I was really glad that I had decided to order the fish and not the duck that was on the lunch menu!

If you get the opportunity to go to the farm, do so. It is not something that you will see everyday!

Cape Town

One of the great things about summer in Cape Town, is the ample supply of fresh yellow-fin tuna.

Seared tuna

There is nothing that can beat freshly seared tuna, cooked on hot coals. It is a gloriously warm summer evening, so I decided to cook fresh tuna on my father’s old gas grille. You need to heat the grill at least 1/2 hour before cooking, and cook the tuna for about a minute MAX each side, but it is magic, tender and melting in the month. Just look at how it turned out.

The grill entered our family in the early 80’s, so it has been in the family for over 30 years. My father gave it to me in a weak moment a few years ago, and has been asking for it back ever since.

It still cooks the best beef steaks in Africa, and as you can see, the best tuna as well.

Cape Town Food and Drink

I have just got back from renewing my drivers license at the Hillstar Traffic Department in Cape Town. With visions of long queues, tedious forms, and a complicated and slow eNaTS computer system, I was dreading the experience. Well, to my utter surprise, it was nothing like that. It was a fast and painless experience.

In theory, my new license will be ready in 6-8 weeks.


So, here is the process.

What do you need to bring?

  1. 2x passport photos (preferably black and white, but colour seems to be fine)
  2. R100 fee R140 (as at July 2011)
  3. a black pen (they don’t have any there)
  4. Your old drivers license and your ID book
  5. book / magazine / ipod etc

What is the best time to renew?

I can only get there on a Friday, so all the details below relate to a Friday experience. I originally arrived at about 12:00pm, and they were very busy, it clearly was not going to get less busy in the afternoon, so I left. Yes I admit that lunch time is probably not the best time to renew.

Next time, I arrived at about 8:30am, and they were not very busy. In total, it took me about an hour from start to finish, which was not too bad. However, when I left at 9:30am, they were almost empty, so I think that about 9:30-10am would probably be the best time.

They are open from 7:45am until 3:00pm, but they did warn that if the queue’s are too long, they will close the doors earlier, so be careful.

What is the process?

  1. Stand in the reception queue – they will give you whatever forms you need (the green form for drivers license renewal)
  2. Go to the eye test/fingerprint queue. You can fill out your form while you wait. It is quite long but moves reasonably quickly. The eye test and fingerprinting is done at the same time.
  3. Pay at the cashiers desk. Keep the receipt, because it extends the validity of your current drivers license by 2 months should the new license not arrive before your old one expires.
  4. They will send you a postcard when your new license is ready – in theory in about 6-8 weeks. Update (13 Feb 2009) After three months, I was still waiting and had not received notification. So, on the off change that it was ready I went to the collections dept. Sure enough, it was ready, and I was told that they had stopped sending out notification. So, don’t hold your breath waiting for any postcard, whatever they tell you! Oh, and there was no queue at collections.

That’s it  – easy and painless.

By the way, don’t bother trying to phone them – the phone just rings.

Note: please read the comments below for feedback from people who have recently renewed their licenses.



We arrived in Calgary, Canada last night. However, we almost did not make it. We were flying out of Philadelphia airport via Toronto, but when we went to check in, it seemed that were were booked onto an earlier flight, but via Denver! There had been some miscommunication between me and the travel agent!

Thank goodness that there wa extra space available on the Toronto leg. So, 3 orchids to the very helpful lady from Air Canada that managed to sort everything out for us so that we could get onto the Toronto flight.

Calgary is a very pretty (and clean) city. Downtown has loads of great restaurants and pubs, mostly located on 8th Ave – Stevens Walk.

Cds 2008 08 08 22 34 28 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

Calgary Downtown

We had dinner at the Unicorn which was a great pub. I was told that they do the best fish and chips in the world, and they were pretty fine. We will go back later this week.

Not to be missed is the Calgary Tower, a climb of over 540 feet, with a great panoramic view from the top. They even have a section where you can stand on glass, and look straight down – an adrenalin inducing experience.

Cds 2008 08 08 18 25 55 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

A long way down…

Cds 2008 08 08 16 27 56 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

View from the top of the Calgary Tower


Cds 2008 08 07 01 05 16 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

I just had to share this picture of our supper last night – boiled artichoke with Ranch dressing.


  • artichokes
  • Ranch Dressing


  • boil artichokes for an hour
  • drain artichokes
  • smother in dressing
  • refrigerate if you like
  • eat

Cds IMG 0214

Food and Drink

We spent the day at the Baltimore Inner Harbour. I am told that the V&A Waterfront is partly based on the Baltimore Inner Harbour, and you can really see the influence; the below picture could be the V&A. There are loads of pubs and restaurants, as well as waterfront activities, such as boat trips and tours.

Cds 2008 08 06 15 43 31 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

Baltimore Inner Harbour

The Inner Harbour is popular with both locals and tourists – many people use the area for jogging. Although since it was over 30 deg, they were a bit too keen for me! It was far more leisurely to spend the afternoon sitting outside enjoying a light meal and a couple of beers, which of course we did. We ate a a great outdoors pub called J Paul. They have been going for 21 years, and the food was really great.

Cds 2008 08 06 17 16 48 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

Enjoying a drink at J Pauls

Cds 2008 08 06 16 28 29 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

Like all big cities, they had a Hard Rock cafe, and a Barns and Noble – in this case housed in an old power station.


Today, we went boating with Carlos and Cathy on Chesapeake Bay. We didn’t make it out onto the bay, but we were on one of the rivers leading into it. Cathy is Patty’s sister, and Carlos her husband.

Cds 2008 08 02 20 55 39 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

Carlos’ Boat

They have a (small) 40+ foot cruiser,  which was really fantastic. After sailing down the river for about an hour, we found a quiet cove in which to anchor, and we spent the afternoon swimming and tanning on the boat. The water was really warm – about 25 deg C. It was a very civilised way to spend the day.

What I loved about the area is how unspoiled it is – hardly any development, and no litter at all. I have also been told that property price is $3m+, so I had better start saving.

Cds 2008 08 02 16 30 05 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

Life is tough…

Cds 2008 08 02 18 13 15 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

Isabelle in her lifejacket – I think that Eccles would have jumped over the side ages ago!

Cds 2008 08 02 19 59 40 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

Two years ago, we visited a Decoy Duck Museum on the bay, here are the real ducks!

The day was finished off having dinner in a little town called Chesapeake City, drinking red wine and eating Maryland Crab Cakes, which are just the best. The crab cakes are basically what we would call fish cakes in Cape Town, but make with garlic and cream, served with garlic mashed potatoes, which were especially effective at keeping the vampires at bay!

Cds 2008 08 02 19 38 14 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

The River