Creamy Cashew Tomato Pasta

The creamiest, most divine pasta that comes together in less than half an hour! This is a weekly favourite at our house because it requires almost no time at all and EVERYONE loves it. Feel free to add any toppings too - baby spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms are all delicious additions!

Serves 4

Time: 20 minutes

1 lb / 450 gr pasta of choice, such as brown rice pasta

1 cup (250ml) raw cashews

3/4 cup (180ml) boiling water

1/2 cup (125ml) canned diced tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)

1 tsp maple syrup 

1 tbsp onion powder

Sea salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

1 tsp dried thyme

1-2 tbsp lemon juice (optional)

Large handful basil leaves, roughly chopped, to serve

 
  1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

  2. While the pasta is cooking, add the cashews, water, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, onion powder, dried thyme, garlic, nutritional yeast (if using), lemon juice (if using), sea salt and black pepper to a high-speed blender and blend until very smooth. If you don’t have a high-speed blender then soak the cashews in hot water for at least 1 hour before blending.

  3. Add the sauce to the cooked pasta and stir until coated.

  4. Divide between bowls and top with chopped basil and a sprinkle of black pepper. Enjoy!

Easy Vegan Ratatouille

This is one of the easiest dishes you can make, full of flavour and nutrition! I make a big batch and eat the leftovers for days with pasta or rice or just as is. Drizzle a bit of pesto on top for some extra deliciousness!

Check the video for instructions!

Time: 60 minutes

Serves: 4-6

2 tbsp refined coconut oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups (750 ml) diced (canned) tomatoes

2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme

Sea salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste 

Large handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped

2 medium-sized eggplants, thinly sliced

2 zucchinis, thinly sliced

2 yellow squashes, thinly sliced

2-3 red bell peppers, thinly sliced

 

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

  2. Add the tomatoes, oregano and thyme. Lower the heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, until thickened.

  3. Add the sea salt, black pepper and basil. Remove from heat and ladle into a round baking dish.

  4. Arrange the vegetable slices on top in any pattern you wish. Sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper.

  5. Cover with foil and bake for 50-60 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

  6. Let cool a bit and serve.

ratatouille-2.jpg

2-Ingredient V/GF Sweet Potato Pizza

I have been ultimately slack in updating this blog, so I’m finally posting another recipe! A vegan and gluten-free pizza dough that is FULL of goodness and only takes 2 ingredients. Kinda hard to believe, I know! This dough can also be rolled out and cooked on a non-stick frying pan for excellent flatbreads. Eating these with hummus is heavenly!

So without further ado, here’s the recipe that we’ve been making on repeat for the past two weeks!

Sweet Potato Pizza

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Make the dough by mixing together the sweet potato puree, oat flour, sea salt and oregano until you get a firm dough. The dough should not be sticky at all - if it is then add a bit more oat flour.

  3. Divide the dough into 2 or 3 depending on how many pizzas you want and roll out on a floured surface, the transfer to the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

  4. Remove the dough from the oven and add the marinara and your toppings of choice. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the dough is crisp an slightly browned and the toppings are cooked through.

  5. Best served immediately.

Ingredients

this makes 2-3 pizzas

2 cups (500 ml) sweet potato puree

2 cups (500ml) wholegrain (gluten-free) oat flour

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp dried oregano (optional)

Toppings:

1 cup (250ml) marinara sauce

3-4 mushrooms, thinly sliced

4-5 cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced

handful of fresh basil, for serving

other topping options: red peppers, zucchini,

olives, capers, vegan cheese, etc.

This dough keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days and is excellent for flatbreads too!

Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Muffins have always been my favourite go-to, quick baked treat. These ones come together so quickly and they have a wonderful tangy flavour. Combine that with poppy seeds and you've got yourself a real winner! 

When I was growing up the poppy seed rolls were one of my favourite baked treats. I haven't eaten one in years now but baking anything with poppy seeds reminds me of a simpler time when young Anett could easily eat one or two of those pastries a day straight from the bakery. Those where the days, eh?

Lemon poppyseed muffins

If you want more delicious vegan baked treats and other recipes then check out the Deliciously Vegan App - there's over 200 recipes there already and counting! Over the past months I've put most of my emphasis on creating more recipes for the app, and to be completely honest, this blog as been left a bit on wayside. But I am working on new recipes for you my blog peeps now, so hold tight!

Ingredients

makes 6 big or 9 small muffins

  • 2 cups plain flour

  • 2 tsp baking powder

  • ¼ tsp baking soda

  • 3 tbsp poppy seeds

  • 1/2 tsp powdered vanilla (sub vanilla extract)

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp organic brown sugar or coconut sugar

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/3 cup melted vegan butter or avocado oil

  • zest & juice of 1 lemon

  • 1 cup soy milk

  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

for the glaze:

  • ¾ cups powdered sugar

  • 1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Method

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a cupcake tray with muffin liners.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, soda, poppy seeds, vanilla, sugar and salt. Mix well.

In another bowl, combine the melted butter, lemon juice, soy milk and apple cider vinegar. 

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones by folding the batter gently until smooth and incorporated. Spoon into cupcake liners and bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely before icing.

To make the icing, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice until you reach the desired consistency. Pour over muffins. Enjoy!

vegan muffins

Cape Town's Hidden Gems

After nearly 3 years of living in Cape Town, I've finally gathered an appropriate amount of information to write a 'Things To Do' list. I've chosen to avoid the regular tourist hotspots (Camps Bay, Lion's Head, Promenade, V&A Waterfront, Cape Point, Boulder's Beach etc etc) and bring to you some of the perhaps less well-known but in my mind, even more amazing sights. And although I feel that there is way more still to discover, here are some of my favourite things to do! 

  • Table Mountain

Although I said that I wouldn't include any of the ones that are on everyone else's list, this is the one exception. Whether you hike up there or take the cable car, this is definitely one of the must-dos in Cape Town. I've been up there a number of times and can safely say that the view never ceases to amaze me.

The best way to see the mountain is by hiking up - take the Skeleton Gorge route from Kirstenbosch. You get to see some of the most amazing nature going up - from waterfalls to rivers on the top with orchids growing around them - as well as getting a nice workout! The start of the hike is pretty steep so consider taking it slow, especially in the heat (thankfully the path is shaded most of the way). Once you reach the top however, it is quite an easy trek to the other side where you can catch a cable car down (or hike down if you legs can still carry you). The trip up takes about 3-4 hours, walking at a medium pace. If you are thinking that a hike may be too much for you then I can safely say that once you are on top of the mountain, you will absolutely not regret taking the long way up.

I should also mention here that hikes around Cape Town should ideally have their very own section on my blog - it is my favourite way to spend Sundays and see the beauty that this area has to offer! If you are interested in hikes in and around Cape Town, then this is quite a good article to browse through.

  • Chapman's Peak drive

Although this isn't a 'thing to do' per se, it would be really sad if somebody came to Cape Town and missed this beautiful drive. It starts from Noordhoek and ends in Hout Bay (or the other way around) and has some of the most beautiful views in the area. I love taking snacks with me and sitting on the edge of the rocks while watching the sun go down  -  truly magical!

The Chapman's Peak hike is also worth doing - it is moderately difficult but has the most superb 360 degree views on the top!

Chapman's Peak

This gorgeous nature reserve has a huge dam that you can hop into to cool down and is encompassed by one of my favourite hikes in the area - the path to the Elephant's Eye Cave. It is an easy walk/hike with only the final bit up to the cave being a bit more tricky but the views are absolutely worth it! The cave is huge and it is the perfect place to have a picnic and enjoy the views. 

Elephant's Eye Cave

  • Clarence drive/R44 from Gordon's Bay to Hermanus

This is one of the most gorgeous scenic drives in the Cape and is dotted with many beautiful beaches, whale-viewing sites (it is the start of the Whale Route!) and a penguin colony at Betty's Bay that is much better in terms of non-smelliness and tourist-trapness than its companion Boulder's Colony in Simon's Town. Not to mention that the route ends with Hermanus which is a beautiful town in its own right, with amazing whale watching opportunities and really beautiful wine estates!

  • Kalk Bay

Kalk Bay and the neighbouring St. James are lovely little seaside villages. We often go there for a slow stroll on weekends - there are street stalls, quaint boutiques, colourful boats, good food and an abundantly welcoming atmosphere all round!

Seal Island is definitely something that needs to be seen to be appreciated - home to over 60 000 cape fur seals, big ones and babies alike, it isn't as much an island as it is a big rock. The ferry costs around R100 and starts from Hout Bay Harbor - there are lots of boats to choose from, all working around the clock (daylight hours), and the trip lasts about an hour. You're guaranteed to see so many cute seals and if you're lucky you might even spot some whales or dolphins too!

Seal Island

There are quite a lot of markets in the general Cape Town area all through the week, so I've chosen to highlight my favourite, The Oranjezicht Market, which takes place every Saturday, rain or shine, from around 8:30am to 2pm near the V&A Waterfront. They've got amazingly fresh local produce for sale, really nice food for vegans and non-vegans alike, and a really nice atmosphere for just taking it slow on a Saturday morning. 

Be sure to get one of the olive sticks from Woodstock bakery and the red lentil hummus from Aramoun!

  • Llandudno beach

You can't get around coming to Cape Town without seeing and spending some time at one of its numerous beaches. There are quite a few really nice ones, but our favourite is Llandudno beach. It's just a short drive away from Camps Bay towards Hout Bay, and is the perfect amount of hidden while still playing host for enough people to not feel too secluded.

Llandudno
  • Wine tasting

If you know anything about Cape Town, it wont come as a surprise that there are some excellent wines to be had in the Western Cape. There are so many places in the area that the list could very easily go on for pages, so I've narrowed it down to three:

- Uva Mira Mountain Vineyards - Set on the high slopes of the Helderberg Mountain Range, about a 15 minute drive from Stellenbosch, Uva Mira's grapes are grown at quite a high altitude compared to other places in the region, giving their wine an outstanding taste - in my humble option at least. I've been there too many times to count over the past years, enjoying their amazing wines and equally spectacular views.

- Cape Point Vineyards - This wine estate has really good wines, nice views and a lovely atmosphere, given that the restaurant and tasting area is situated around their very own reservoir. Get some wine and pull up a blanket on the grass for an impromptu picnic.

- Beau Constantia - Another really lovely setting, this vineyard estate has amazing wines and exceptional views. They've also got a top-notch restaurant there - Chef's Warehouse Beau Constantia - that is well worth a visit! Be sure to make a booking ahead of time though, as they're often full. 

Babylonstoren is an Old Dutch farm with amazing restaurants, a huge garden in which they grow all of their own fruits and veggies, highly respected wines, a beautiful farm stall and luxury accommodation. I feel like this paragraph is not nearly enough to put in words how much I love this place - you can read more about it in the blogpost that I wrote here

Finally, you absolutely must pay a visit to this awesome deli shop run by an effortlessly astute and always-smiling sister/brother duo. They have an exquisite selection of both South African and international goods, all hand-picked by them, including lots of vegan stuff! They've even got vegan croissants and donuts there if you are lucky (although they sell out really fast!).

 

There is definitely lots more to see and do around Cape Town that isn't on this list. I feel like I should write down everything, while at the same time keep it compact and readable. Is it even possible to do both? In any case, check back here soon to see if I've added another not-to-miss activity to this list!

Vegan blueberry latte

A beautiful, fruity latte, perfect for winter and summer alike. 

Summertime in Nordic countries means two things - slightly warmer weather than the rest of the year and an abundance of things to forage in the forests. Mushrooms and berries, most importantly. 

This recipe highlights my favourites - wild blueberries or bilberries. They've got so much flavour and punch packed into a small round package, it's impossible not to love them! In summer we usually freeze as much as we can for the winter ahead, perfect for making these lattes later in the year!

If you can't find bilberries then regular blueberries will work just as well! Living in South Africa means that there are no bilberries here, which is why I've used regular blueberries for these pictures too. It tastes really amazing!

10 minutes

for 1-2 people

Ingredients

3 heaped tbsp blueberries, fresh or frozen

1 1/2 cup plant milk (oat/almond milk is best) + more for foaming

1/2 cup water (optional)

1-2 berry tea bags (rooibos works well too)

1 tsp powdered vanilla (sub with vanilla extract)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom

 Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat off and let infuse for 5 minutes, then remove the tea bag and pour into cups. Foam the milk by placing a few tbsp in a French press and moving the handle up and down. Pour on top of the latte and sprinkle cinnamon on top. 

Oyster mushroom maki rolls

Every Saturday there is an organic market in Cape Town called the Oranjezicht City Farm Market. We go there as often as we can, stocking up on vegetables and fruits of the season as well as some of the most beautiful mushrooms our eyes have ever seen - including the beautiful pink oyster mushrooms used in these rolls.

They have a wonderfully delicate flavour, ready to be enhanced by whatever you with to cook it with. My favourite additions are simple - a bit of tamari, a bit of mirin, and sesame oil. Wonderful with noodles and rice alike!

We often sautee the oysters, julienne a variety of vegetables, and put the combination into wonderfully textured vegan maki rolls (as you might have heard, my husband loves anything and everything Japanese, including copious amounts of sushi rice each week).

As with any of my recipes - use the filling as more of a guideline and substitute the vegetables and mushrooms with whatever you have in your pantry. 

Ingredients

For the rice:

3 cups/555 gr of sushi rice

700 ml water

1 ribbon of kombu (optional)

 

For the sushi seasoning:

90 ml sushi rice vinegar (Mizkan works very well)

2 tbsp of sugar

2 tsp of salt

 

For the mushrooms:

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 tbsp mirin

1 1/2 tbsp tamari

1/2 tbsp maple syrup

200 gr oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped

 

for the filling:

1 carrot, julienned

50 gr of purple cabbage, julienned

3-4 pieces of tenderstem broccolini (optional)

1 large avocado, thinly sliced

 

Extras: 

4 nori sheets, more if needed

black and white sesame seeds, for garnish

tamari or soy sauce, for dipping

 

 

Method

Wash the rice in a sieve under cold water until the water runs clear. Place the rice in a pot with the water and soak it for 30 minutes. 

Put the pot, lid off, on a high heat until it starts to boil, stirring gently every 2-3 minutes with a wooden spoon. Once it starts boiling, cover the pot with a lid and turn the heat down to the lowest. Cook covered for 8-10 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed and rice grains fat shiny. Turn the heat off and place a towel over the top of the pot so that no steam escapes. Leave to steam for 15 minutes.

 While the rice is steaming, make the sushi seasoning. Heat all the ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Be careful not to boil. Let cool once once. 

When the rice is ready, gently spoon it into a wide bowl (wood or plastic, not metal) with a wooden spoon/spatula and pour the sushi seasoning over it evenly. Fold the rice gently to incorporate the seasoning and cool the rice. 

For the mushrooms, combine the sesame oil, garlic, mirin, tamari and maple syrup in a bowl and add the chopped mushrooms. Let marinate for 5 minutes, then cook on a medium heat until soft and caramelised, 5-7 minutes. Leave aside.

To make the rolls, place a nori sheet on a bamboo rolling mat, shiny side on top. Cover the nori with rice, using wet hands, leaving 2 cm empty on the top.  I keep a bowl of cold water near as I roll to make the process easier. 

Arrange the vegetables and mushrooms in a line near the bottom of the sheet and roll up tightly, wetting the empty nori at the top so that it sticks together. Repeat with rest of nori sheets and vegetables, then cut the rolls into pieces and sprinkle sesame seeds over. Serve with tamari for dipping. 

 

Vegan banana chocolate chunk muffins

Fluffy muffins, sweet banana & slightly bitter chocolate chips. Ready in next to no time and perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.

This muffin recipe is another one made with the magic of aquafaba aka chickpea water. It is best to use a can of good quality organic chickpeas (make hummus from those!), drain into a jar and keep in the fridge. You can also freeze it in ice cube trays to use whenever you need it!

I find that the combination of banana and aquafaba creates the most perfect moist muffins, which is why I come back to these again and again. I've also added walnuts and blueberries to the mix and it tastes amazing! So feel free to play around. 

Vegan banana muffins

Vegan banana muffins

Ingredients

2 small ripe bananas

3 tbsp aquafaba

3 tbsp almond milk 

3 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp almond butter

1/2 tsp salt 

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1 cup plain flour

1,5 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla powder

40 gr dark chocolate, roughly chopped or dark chocolate chips

Method

Preheat oven to 180C. 

Combine the bananas, aquafaba, almond milk, almond butter, salt and coconut oil in the jug of a blender and blend until smooth. 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, vanilla and and dark chocolate chunks/chips. Fold in the wet ingredients until you get a smooth consistency. Line a muffin tray with cupcake liners and scoop the batter into the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until browned on top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 

 

The Sunny Side - The Fairmont Zimbali's Never-Ending Bounty

Our first impression of the deservedly well-renowned Fairmont Zimbali Resort came in the form of a long, paved road, cutting through luscious greenery as it ploughed towards the lobby of the 5-star establishment. As we curved along the circumference of a palm-packed roundabout, the hotel’s majestic glass entrance finally came into view and it was then, before attending our custom-planned welcome lunch service, or entering our ocean-view suite, or traipsing across the resort’s private beach, that my husband and I realised the once-in-a-lifetime value of what we were about to experience.

As we would come to realise over the course of our 3-night stay at Durban’s finest resort, the Fairmont Zimbali is so much more than a hotel, and no less than a standalone world, where life is lived to the finest degree, with a most effortless sense of elegance.

The view from our suite

The view from our suite

The Resort

A mere 30-minute drive from central Durban, set on a property almost too vast to imagine, the resort includes a number of restaurants (each of them top-class, but I digress), 5 beautiful outdoor pools, a private beach long enough to walk for hours, a gym, a wonderfully decadent spa and a handful of bars. Basically, a weekend away at Fairmont Zimbali Resort puts you in touch with everything that you could wish to do outside the bounds of the hotel, and then some. And from the shallow end of the main pool, right through to the bicycle rental gazebo, we were greeted with smiles and a special warmth of character, the likes of which is a rarity in today’s busy world.

Zimbali Lodge

Zimbali Lodge

Further into the thick of the property lies the Fairmont Zimbali lodge, a vestige of an older time, and although it’s much smaller than its sister resort, it is certainly not short of character. While venturing through the lodge’s grounds we caught sight of a rare Crown Eagle that has nested just next to the Lodge’s dining area.

 

The Food

Aside from the extensive breakfast buffet, smoothie bar and obligatory (ahem) Bloody Mary station, the resort boasts a number of restaurants and cafes, each more exquisite than the other. We started our food journey at the cafe/cocktail bar 31 Degrees with a wonderful pair of light meals accompanied by fresh sushi. 31 Degrees would turn out to be our most frequently-visited haunt during the duration of our stay, but it was certainly not our favourite (although the cocktails there were nothing short of phenomenal). The title of best food venue, in my humble opinion, would have to be shared by the North-Indian fine dining restaurant, OSA, and the Mexican eatery, Ayoba!. While OSA’s depth of flavour and authentic North-Indian dishes forced us to push ourselves to uncomfortable levels of fullness, Ayoba! proved to be the light-bite eatery that an early dinner calls for, serving up beautifully-rendered and flavour-packed favourites from the land of Tequila and Tacos. If I were to recommend one dish from each, I would say that OSA’s vegetarian Thali, and the Black Bean Nachos, with chips and guac, from Ayoba! are the most tasty options. Just make sure that you go into the restaurants at Zimbali with an empty stomach, and a lot of time to spare, because you’ll need it.

Breakfast at Coral Tree

Breakfast at Coral Tree

As if the service and quality of food at any one of the restaurants weren’t enough, we had an immaculately prepared and beautifully presented in-room three-course dinner on our final night at Fairmont Zimbali Resort that was on par with any of the other meals we had during our time there. Plus, there’s something super romantic about eating dinner in the comfort of your ocean-view hotel room!

 

The Extras

During our all-too-brief stay, we were treated by the hotel to - amongst other things - a few really amazing activities. After settling in and getting the lay of the land, so to speak, we were given a couple of bicycles and encouraged to explore the property. A short while later, we found ourselves in the middle of a barely-developed cul-de-sac, having pushed our holiday bodies as hard as we could over hills and through shallow valleys. In this small enclave it only took us a few moments before we realised that the relative silence that had surrounded us for the duration of our ride had been broken by some very inquisitive visitors - Vervet Monkeys. Family groups slowly surrounded us from every angle, chewing on unnamed shrubs and keeping a keen collective eye on us, the new arrivals, while generally going about their rather cute, rather monkey-ish business. While they can be a little bit forward when food is involved, the Vervet Monkeys are absolutely harmless and are a must-see for guests at the resort. A short cycle back to the hotel took us across the path of a young grazing bush buck which, amazingly enough, allowed us to get up close without running off. Such close encounters are simply magical and have to be experienced to be appreciated.

The following day, shortly after breakfast, we were excitedly ushered into what appeared to be a brand new car, with our own private driver, Anthony, and driven to central Durban. There we got the chance to visit Victoria Market place, where we browsed through souvenirs, spices and South African crafts before heading over to Durban’s world famous Botanic Garden, which is home to some of the rarest and most interesting plant species on the planet, including an Orchid house and a specific type of cycad that is last remaining plant of its kind and therefore, an utterly priceless specimen.

Aside from being a kind and pleasant guide during our tour, Anthony was also remarkably knowledgeable on the history and culture of Durban and its surrounds, painting a vivid picture of the city.

Durban Botanical Gardens

Durban Botanical Gardens

To end the day, we took to the beach with a blanket, two baskets full of finger-food, a couple of towels, and a bottle of crisp white wine, to see in the late afternoon on the shores of the Indian Ocean. There’s nothing like a beach picnic next to slow, crashing waves, underneath a pale blue sky.

 

For more information, please check out:

http://www.fairmont.com/zimbali-resort/

or email zimconciergedl@fairmont.com 

Travelling in Africa's most luxurious train: Rovos Rail

It has taken me quite a while to gather my thoughts on what I have come to realise was one of the greatest experiences of my life to date. I am, of course, referring to our magical 3-day-long journey on the Rovos Rail, the most luxurious train in Africa.

The Pride of Africa

The Pride of Africa

After finishing our complimentary champagne, my husband and I were led from the private departure lounge of Durban’s central train station onto a pedantically-restored train where, along with the other guests, we meandered towards our room whilst marvelling at the interior finishings of the carriages. Once the nostalgia began to ease off enough for us to find our cabin, we settled in and took a moment to admire what would be our room for the next 72 hours. 

Our ample-sized and excessively cosy en-suite bedroom consisted of a surprisingly large double bed, a writing desk with a full outlay of stationary, storage and cupboard space, and a beautifully designed bathroom. All this, lit up by huge windows that make you feel as though you’re outside, among the passing wildlife, was overwhelming enough for the two of us. As with everything on the Rovos Rail though, the sense of comfort alone was not enough - each carriage is assigned its own caretaker, who waits on guests to no end. Every time we returned to our cabin, we slid open our hardwood door to find that the mini fridge had been restocked and re-organised, our bed had been made up in the most lavish fashion, and our small desk had been adorned with a number of quaint little surprises. We knew after our first lunch that this train ride wasn't just a trip, but a carefully-crafted, personalised journey, thanks to the amazing staff onboard.

After getting to grips with our amazing room we moved towards the end of the train and settled in the observation car, which is unsurprisingly the most highly sought-after section of the moving compound. Here, guests meet and mingle in the open air lounge section while washing down icy drinks and admiring the incomparable South African landscape. Trays full of nuts, fruit and crunchy vegetable chips are always full to the brim for those who need a snack between any one of the three meals that are offered onboard.

Views from the observation car

Views from the observation car

G&Ts and snacks at the observation car

G&Ts and snacks at the observation car

The meals were served across two dining cars, furnished with tufted leather chairs and period-piece design elements. Lunch and dinner both comprised of 4 courses - starter, main, cheese and dessert, with wine paired with each of the courses. The food was, as one would expect, impeccable, and the waiting staff were friendly, efficient and all very knowledgeable with regards to the train, its route and the general history of this beautiful country.

Dessert served in the restaurant car

Dessert served in the restaurant car

The journey itself was one of near-mythical status. Starting with the sub-tropical, rolling hills of Durban and ending with the vast urban plains of Pretoria, with a series of stops in between, each one more interesting and exhilarating than the last. The first stop was the fabled Ardmore ceramics gallery, a privately-owned and locally-run creative hub full of beautiful hand-made and carefully painted one-off pieces. After an extensive tour of the workshops, we settled in for tea under ancient overhanging trees before ambling back towards the bus at the end of the afternoon.

Lady painting her vase at Ardmore ceramics

Lady painting her vase at Ardmore ceramics

Tea and cake overlooking the river

Tea and cake overlooking the river

The next morning we ushered in the sunrise on the back of a safari Land Rover as we made our way through the crisp morning air in the Nambiti private game reserve. Our apprehension over the possibility of not seeing any wildlife was soon quelled by the arrival of a friendly and inquisitive elephant who was grazing through bushes at the roadside, helping himself to nature’s breakfast buffet. The remainder of our drive was highlighted by sightings of hippos, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, warthogs, and various buck. Safe to say, by the time we got back to the train, we felt as though we knew South Africa - and its beautiful animal residents - so much better.

Our ride

Our ride

A dazzle of zebras and a giraffe. 

A dazzle of zebras and a giraffe. 

That evening, between lunch and dinner, guests on the train were invited to Spionkop Lodge, where they were given a choice between a second game drive (and the chance to see any animals they may not have seen earlier in the day), or a historical journey in words, told by one of the world’s most well-respected voices on the subject, Raymond Heron. My husband and I opted for the latter and thoroughly enjoyed the retelling of that particular chapter of South Africa’s storied past from a perfect vantage point above the hills and valleys of the region.

The views from Spionkop Mountain

The views from Spionkop Mountain

We finished up at Spoinkop lodge itself, overlooking the thunder-stricken surrounds while sipping on a crisp white wine. The perfect end to an amazing journey.

The next day, we all rolled into Rovos Rail’s very own colonial-style train station in Pretoria, powered by a steam locomotive the likes of which is rarely seen anywhere in the world these days, let alone in South Africa. A quick and slightly emotional departure left us longing for just one more evening on Rohan Vos’s dream train. Until next time, we’ll be waiting with bated breath.

 

If you want extra information on the trip, please check the Rovos Rail website, or contact them via reservations@rovos.co.zaThey have so many amazing trips with various lengths, something for everybody. And if I haven't made it clear yet - it is one of the most amazing journeys you will ever get to experience!

DELICIOUSLY VEGAN - recipes by Anett

I've been quietly working on something for the past few months, getting up early in the morning to start recipe testing, and going to sleep very very late, writing down my last thoughts and ideas for the next day. All for this app - Deliciously Vegan, a collection of my favourite healthy, delicious recipes by yours truly. 

To be honest, I never imagined creating a recipe app, but once I'd thought about it more then it seemed like the best option of all. An endless canvas for me, and endless amount of recipes for you. 

At this point in time there are 150+ (!!) recipes, divided into categories and more sub-categories for ease of use. And, to tell you in secret, I've got loads more planned. Just need to find the time to take pictures and test the recipes. There may even be a video category in the works, but Shhhhh...

A couple of my favourites from the app:

 

If you are interested in the app then you can find the download link here - https://appsto.re/us/fikFhb.i. There is currently just the iOS version, but we are working on getting the Android one out there too.

I appreciate each and every one of you who take the time to download the app and test the recipes, lots of love to you all! 

Don't forget to tag your recreations with #deliciouslyveganapp, I'll be reposting them on my page too!

x A

Peanut lentil curry

I had a small victory the other day. I made a curry for my little brother (also known as the pickiest eater of 2016) and he loved it. Sooo much! He even said: ''It's better than 'Little India' '' (his favourite take-out). 

If you've ever had to cook for a picky eater then you know what a victory that was. But to be completely honest, this curry is pretty amazing. It requires so little effort yet is so delicious and wonderfully filling. I urge you to try this at home!

Vegan peanut lentil curry

Vegan peanut lentil curry

Ingredients

2 tbsp coconut oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp curry powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp curry leaves

1 cup red lentils

2 cups vegetable stock

1 can crushed tomatoes (400g)

1 can coconut milk

2 tbsp peanut butter

Juice from 1/4 lime

Salt, to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

 

To serve:

Jasmine rice

Kale salad

Freshly baked flatbread

Method

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil and add the garlic, ginger and spices. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the the curry leaves, lentils stock and crushed tomatoes. Stir and place the lid on. Cook on a low heat for 20 minutes or until the lentils are soft.

Add the coconut milk and peanut butter. Mix well. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then season with lime juice, salt and black pepper.  Serve with rice, kale salads and flatbreads. Enjoy!

 

Almond butter caramel puffed rice bars

Who would have thought that combining almond butter, water, maple syrup and dates would result in such an amazingly delicious caramel sauce that I just want to keep it in my fridge forever and ever and eat with pretty much everything (pro tip: apple slices + this is heaven). And, that adding puffed rice to it and topping it with melted chocolate would turn it into such a delicious crispy treat that I can't stop myself from finishing the whole batch in a couple of days. All with the magic of almond butter

Safe to say I'm pretty much obsessed with almond butter right now, and for a good reason. Not only is it delicious, creamy and flavourful but also packs such a nutritional punch and tastes amazing in both sweet and savoury dishes (almond butter satay sauce, yes please!).

Getting back to these bars - they are crispy, sweet and utterly indulgent. They also take you right back to your childhood, munching one one of those crispy treats that we used to love. Writing reminds me that I have some puffed rice still in the cupboards, so see ya laterz, I'mma go make another batch!

Ingredients

3/4 cups MyProtein almond butter

1/3 cups coconut oil

1/4 cups maple syrup

1/4 cups fresh dates (or dried and soaked until soft)

pinch of flaky sea salt

3 1/4 cups puffed brown rice

50 gr raw almonds, roughly chopped

100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method

Combine the almond butter, coconut oil, maple syrup, dates and salt in a blender or food processor and blend until creamy. Add a bit more water if needed. 

Place the puffed rice and almonds in a big bowl and mix. Add the almond butter caramel and stir so that everything is coated. Place in a 20cm x 20 cm tray lined with baking paper and push down evenly.

Melt the chocolate in a tight-fitting bowl over boiling water. Pour on top of the puffed rice mixture and place in the freezer for 30 minutes or until hardened. Cut into bars and store in the fridge. Enjoy!

Easy potato dahl

Dahl is the Indian word for lentils, and that’s what this dish is all about. Red split lentils, simmered and spiced to perfection.

The best way to make use of this recipe is by using whatever curry powder you have. When I first made this I had exactly two tablespoons of Korma curry powder and it worked like a treat. Next time it was just a medium curry paste and it was still absolutely amazing.

I like to play around with the additions to this – sometimes add potato, other times sweet potato or butternut. It all depends on what you have in the pantry. But always, always top with some fresh coriander!

 

Ingredients

2 tbsp cooking oil

1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 inch piece of ginger, minced

1 small red chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tbsp medium curry powder/curry paste of your liking

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tbsp dried curry leaves

juice from 1/2 medium-sized lime, more if needed

2 potatoes, roughly chopped

1 can chopped tomatoes (400g)

200 ml coconut cream

1 cup water

1 cup red lentils

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

fresh coriander (cilantro) for garnish

2 cups cooked  basmati rice, to serve

freshly baked flatbreads, to serve

 

 

 

Method

Heat oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, chilli, ginger and all the spices and curry leaves. Fry until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add the potatoes and fry for 3 more minutes, until slightly golden.

Add the coconut milk, chopped tomatoes, water and lentils and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 30 minutes, until the potatoes and lentils are soft.

Season with salt, pepper and lime juice. Serve over cooked rice with flatbreads and garnish with fresh coriander. Enjoy!

Overnight fig & blueberry bircher muesli

Summertime in Cape Town can be described in one word - hot. So anything warm is a serious no-go for breakfast. And while smoothies are always going to be a winner for me, this simple bircher muesli is creeping up there too. 

It is so simple to whip up and I love having it in the fridge. Add what ever fruits & berries you currently have and breakfast is served! Couldn't be more easy. 

Now, a lot of people have asked me what camera I shoot with over the years. I recently upgraded to a Canon EOS 5D Mark iv, and lemme tell you. This camera is phenomenal. It is on the pricier side, but it is well worth it. The quality of images and sharpness is exquisite. If this is out of your price range then I also looked into Canon EOS 6D and there's supposed to be a new version of it out in spring 2017. It will be a lot cheaper than the 5D but still a full-frame, which is what you want because otherwise you must take into consideration a crop-factor when purchasing a lens. If this is all a bit confusing for you then read up on full-frame cameras vs cropped frame. It's actually pretty simple but worth knowing!

I used to shoot with a Sony Nex 7, and whist I do recommend it as a good camera for beginners, if you are serious about taking your (food) photography to the next level, invest in a full-frame DSLR. 

A now a bit about lenses - I must tell you that I still don't know much about them, except for the basic ones that are recommended for food photography which are 50mm, 35mm and Macro lenses. I am currently shooting with the Sigma 50mm f1/4 Art lens and the photos it produces take my breath away every time. If that also is out of your budget then the Canon 50mm is a really good buy too! I might invest in a 35mm soon, to achieve wider angles but for now I'm really happy. 

(Btw - I receive no money for this talk. Just me tryna help you guys out. Love x )

Back to the food - try this bircher muesli. I love it. You wont regret it. 

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats

2 tbsp chia seeds

2 tbsp coconut flakes

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 ripe banana, mashed

2 tbsp blueberries + more to serve

400 ml almond milk 

1 fig, thinly sliced, to serve

2 tbsp raspberries, to serve

 

 

 

Method

Combine the oats, chia seeds, coconut flakes, maple syrup, banana, blueberries and almond milk in a bowl and mix to combine. Place in the fridge over night. 

The next day, serve the muesli with figs, blueberries and raspberries. Enjoy!

 

Blueboost collab: Roasted blueberry & almond butter dark chocolate cups

These bite-sized treats are pretty much the epitome of deliciousness – sweet, creamy and chocolatey. The roasted blueberries add a wonderful fruity aspect, as well as a good nutritional punch. Combine it with the protein from almonds and the antioxidants from dark chocolate and we have a sweet treat that is pretty much a nutritional powerhouse whilst still remaining utterly decadent. 

Best of all – these are ready is less than an hour and can last in the fridge/freezer for a couple of weeks. That is if you don’t finish them before.

To make these delicious treats I teamed up with Blueboost, who not only supply South Africa with the BEST blueberries but also publish a truly inspiring blog of all things good. You can find a couple more my recipes on there too!

Now, to get back to the chocolate cups, you can make these in any size cupcake liners – small ones work really well too! Also, then you might not eat an entire chocolate cup at once and they might last you for longer. 

I was smitten by these from the first bite – I’m sure you will be too!

Total time 1 hour
Makes 8 big or 12-14 small ones

Ingredients
1,5 cups blueberries
0,5 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
2/3 cup natural (unsweetened/salted) almond butter
170g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Extras:
Non-stick cupcake liners, small or large

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the blueberries, honey and lemon juice. Mix well. Place in a single layer on an oven-tray and roast for 10-15 minutes, until the blueberries have released some of their juices. Let cool at room temperature.

While the blueberries are roasting, melt the chocolate in a tight-fitting bowl over a pot of boiling water. When the chocolate is melted, place a tablespoon of it into a cupcake liner and swirl it around to coat the sides about 2-3 cm high. Repeat with the rest of the liners and place in the freezer to solidify for 15-30 minutes. 

When the chocolate has solidified, place a teaspoon of almond butter in each and top with a tablespoon of roasted blueberries and their juices. Top with a tablespoon of melted chocolate (if it has solidified then place in back over boiling water, slowly heat it up again). Place the cups in the freezer for 30 minutes or until solidified. Keep in the fridge or freezer. Enjoy!

Lanzerac - A Moment in Time Defined by Taste And Style

From mountains to forests and vineyards to fields, the quiet Lanzerac oasis has it all. Situated in the charismatic and dainty old town of Stellenbosch, the hotel captures the essence of countryside stillness while remaining close enough to all of the most attractive aspects of the surrounding town.


We arrived in the late afternoon of a cool summer’s day, just a few hours before sunset, which allowed us to expedite our warm-hearted greeting service and head out on a tour of the magnificent property. Unassuming from the outside, the Lanzerac grounds unfold into something truly awe inspiring once explored beyond the surface; mountains encircle 150 hectares of luscious greenery, 50 hectares of which are used to grow the vines that create Lanzerac's distinct award–winning wines, all of which can be tasted at a complimentary wine-tasting for guests of the resort.

Dotted around the property are buildings that imbue the perfect balance between old styles and new sensibilities, combining architecture that harkens back to the 1690s with clean, distinct design aspects that speak for a more modern approach. The simple fact that they have pulled this off so undeniably well makes Lanzerac a sight to be seen, and all this before we had even stepped into our quarters!

 

After an extensive and informative tour, we were shown to our room, which was exceptional, to say the least – part of a newly renovated block and boasting original, centuries old bare–brick walls, dark wood floors and a lavishly large bathroom, the whole room said one thing: Luxury. Decorative accents came from old vintage pieces collected from a multitude of private dealers and antique warehouses. After getting to grips with our abode for the night, we eventually slipped into our dinner wear, had a glass of the estate’s signature Pinotage, and headed out to dinner.

 

Upon entering the old colonial dining area, we were cordially greeted by the Maitre d’, led to our table, and walked through the extensive menu before being left to our own devices. Needless to say, we had a hard time choosing what to eat, eventually deciding on a set of starters, mains and desserts that absolutely blew us away. The highlight of the night was almost certainly the Patagonian squid that my husband ordered (it came highly recommended by our waiter), which he claims is one of the best meals he has ever eaten! Coupled with the immaculate wine pairings created by our amazing waiter, the dinner went from something rather casual, to an all-ōut taste sensation. Hyperbole aside, I can safely say that the dining experience at Lanzerac was definitely in my top 5 in South Africa, and I don’t say that lightly!

After dinner, we retired to our bedroom, full–bellied and ready to sleep. The comfort of the room, aided by a rather large bath and a few more glasses of Lanzerac’s own made our rest deep and uninterrupted.

 

Awoken the next morning, in true Hollywood fashion, by the chirping of birds, we slowly got into gear and headed out for a breakfast that almost trumped our dinner; oysters, pastries, nuts, fresh juices, champagne, granola and great coffee are just some of the things that make up the breakfast spread at Lanzerac. As I'm sure you can imagine, we took our time and left our outdoor breakfast table feeling fresh and very, very satisfied.

With that, it was time to bid farewell to Lanzerac, the welcoming staff and the amazing grounds, but not without first grabbing a bottle of their unparalleled Pinotage to take home with us. On the drive back to the city we couldn't help but reminisce over how amazing the past two days had been, and concluded that one way or another we would have to go back, but next time for much longer. 

Find out more about Lanzerac here.

Crunchy baked potato chips & a an avocado-lime dip

This is my quick potato wedge recipe that is perfect for lunch, dinner as just as a snack. It takes so little time and prep and the results are divine every single time!

Ingredients

500g roasting potatoes, quartered lengthwise

2 tablespoons avocado oil

2 garlic cloves, finely grated (I use a microplane)

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp dried thyme

1½ teaspoons sea salt flakes

for the dip:

2 large ripe avocados

juice from 1/2 lime

1/2 cup unsweetened plantbased milk, more if needed

salt, to taste

white pepper, to taste

 

Method

Preheat oven to 200C. Place potato wedges in a bowl and toss with oil, spices, herbs, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and spread them apart in a single layer. Place in the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes until crispy, turning half way.

To make the sauce, place everything in a blender and whizz to until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. 

Babylonstoren: A Self-Sustaining Paradise In The Winelands

Babylonstoren is a Cape Dutch Farm Hotel, located about an hour’s drive from Cape Town (45 minutes if you hurry). Built in 1692, it is one of the oldest establishments in the area, with a rich history of farming and trading. It is essentially South African, boasting all the very best that Western Cape has to offer, with a hint of the old Dutch days shining through in the architecture and layout of the compound. Vines, orchards, plants and bushes cover the land as far as the eye can see, surrounded by a border of picturesque mountains in every direction.

We found ourselves there on a day that was too hot for a South African spring and too cold for summer (read: the perfect kind of weather) with a single backpack for the two of us, holding everything we might need for the night.  

As we parked the car we were greeted by Warren, a smiling concierge, who gave us a brief overview of the area while walking us to our cottage, which looked like a very well kept old Dutch manor from the outside. As we stepped in, however, we encountered an astonishing interior; the open-plan living area tastefully blurs the line between old and new, with glass walls all around the kitchen, a small library separating the living room from the dining space, high ceilings, lots of light, marble bathroom flooring and an enormous fireplace to keep us cozy after nightfall. All finished with incredible attention to detail and style. Safe to say, we took the tour of the cottage with our mouths slightly open, and our eyes wider than usual.

Once Warren finished up and left us to our own devices, we cracked open one of the two complimentary bottles of Babylonstoren’s own wine that came with the cottage, peeled a couple of the farm-grown blood oranges, and soaked it all up. Needless to say, we were absolutely smitten and could not wait to see what the surrounding areas had to offer.

Once we’d finished our chardonnay and gathered our senses, we headed out to the cellars, where an informative young lady gave us an extensive tour through the production process and storage methods of the vineyard. From there we were shown into the new wine tasting room, a beautiful class cuboid surrounded by the very vines used to make the wine that they serve. We were pleasantly surprised by the arrival of a vegetable platter made up of everything that was currently in season in the garden and, to my husband’s great delight, freshly baked bread from the bakery.

Drinks started with the sommelier bringing us each a glass of Babylonstoren’s Sprankler – a sparkling wine that is produced using the old champagne method, carrying a sultry apple aroma and a crisp, refreshing taste. Next up, a light Viognier, followed by a Rose and a couple of the extremely bold house reds. We sat and nibbled until there was nothing left, except for an empty platter and two very satisfied, albeit slightly tipsy guests.

We spent the next hour and a half on bikes provided by the hotel, riding down endless roads between vines, olive trees and orange trees. There is beauty everywhere you look and it felt as though we could get lost in that moment forever, peeking at each other between trees and admiring the vastness of the surrounding land.

We returned to our cottage as the sun dipped below the horizon, freshened up and made our way straight back out, setting our trajectory for Babel, the fine-dining establishment on the grounds.  Four courses, all made from the freshest ingredients in the garden, took us on yet another adventure – one of olfactory and textural bewilderment. I enjoyed a salad as my starter, which was made up of incredible ingredients such as waterblommetjies (water lilies), fresh pear, pak choi and more, all doused in an aromatic Thai green curry vinaigrette. This was followed by a mushroom risotto (easily the most flavorful risotto I’ve ever had), and finished off by and elaborate dessert featuring a chocolate fondant, coconut and lavender ice cream and gloriously sweet shards of meringue. As if it couldn’t get any better, all of the meals were perfectly paired with exquisite wines straight from the grounds. With heavy eyes and full bellies, we said goodnight to our waitress and walked back to our cottage under the starry African sky.

My husband made a fire as I filled the bathtub with water, sprinkling in bits of the bouquet of fragrant plants, which sat next to the tub. I picked a book from the shelf, took a nice long bath, and dried off in front of the fire before hopping into our bed.

The next day we woke up and went to breakfast where we were greeted by an amazing array of granola, yogurts, fruit, vegetables and juices. I was so excited by the incredible spread that I took pictures for the first 10 minutes, whilst the husband impatiently nibbled at his selection.  We filled our stomachs and headed to the main building where we met with the guide who was to give us a garden tour. We walked through the vast gardens, smelling an orange leaf here and tasting nectar from a flower there.

From there we headed to the farm stall to get freshly baked roasted garlic ciabattas and sparkling grape juice for the road. We packed our bags in the car, and said goodbye to the lovely people and place that had won our heart in such a short time. As we checked out, the concierge sent us off by saying “We’re looking forward to having you back here! You’re family now. You will always be welcome”. The last thing I said to my husband before we drove away was something along the lines of ”I really can’t wait to go back there!”

If this hasn't convinced you to visit Babylonstoren yet, here are some more amazing facts:

  • Hotel guests are free to explore 200 hectares (almost 500 acres) of the property. In addition to walking between the orchards, guests can canoe on the dam, cycle through the vineyards, birdwatch, pick fruit and veg with the chefs, have a wine tasting, relax at the Spa, have a dip in the pool or just relax.

  • At its heart lies the 3,5 hectare (8 acre) garden, which has 15 sections that include fruit, berries, bees for pollinating, indigenous plants, fragrant lawns, a prickly pear maze, a clivia tunnel and a plethora of trees of historical and botanical import.

  • If you don't stay the night, you can visit the farm with an entrance of of R10 per person and marvel at the gardens, have a wine tasting, go to one of the restaurants or the farm shop. You can easily spend the whole day there!

  • There are two restaurants on the property: Babel, the intimate signature restaurant, and the Greenhouse tea garden, where visitors to the garden can enjoy tea under the majestic old oaks. Guests can also enjoy wine tasting and delicious platters at the Tasting Room.

  • All the fresh produce used in the restaurant dishes are planted and harvested in the garden. The things that aren't produced at the farm are sourced locally.

You can find more information regarding the farm and hotel on their website.

CREAMY VANILLA OATS with almond butter and blueberries

Oats are a daily visitor to our house, no matter the season. To be honest, basically my whole food regimen outside of photography/recipe creation times consists of oats, smoothies and avo toasts. So basic, I know. 

This oat porridge however, is far from basic. The creamy almond butter, fresh bluebs and swirls of dark chocolate make it so divine that you wish you had more in your bowl even though you are completely full. 

Ingredients

100g quick-cooking oats

500 ml almond milk

2 tbsp chia seeds

2-3 tbsp sweetener (I use maple), more if needed

1 tsp vanilla essence 

pinch of salt

2 tbsp almond butter

handful of fresh blueberries

1 tbsp almond, roughly chopped

2 slabs of dark chocolate, finely chopped

 

 

 

Method

Place the oats and almond milk in a pot over medium heat and add the salt, vanilla and sweetener. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes, then stir in the chia seeds and remove from heat. Keep the lid on for another 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and top with almond butter, blueberries, chopped almonds and dark chocolate.