On Sunday I did something new. I got up at 6.00am, had a coffee and set out into the heavy fog that was leering damply over Cape Town. My destination was Langebaan and a Food Photography Workshop I had been looking forward to for a month. Despite the fact that I couldn’t see more than 5-feet in front of me, and that Jack was performing his usual whining soundtrack to our travels, I was bright, breezy and optimistic as I negotiated my way through the soup and headed up the West Coast Highway.
Big mistake: I should have been on the West Coast Road – not the highway. Usually I roll with mistakes like this – but we’ve had a rough couple weeks in sofaland and I wasn’t in any mood for my foolishness. As I got more and more het-up, Jack’s endless yelping and jumping around worked my nerves and I became so frazzled that I ended up screaming in the car park of a local supermarket. It was the kind of bellow I used to hear at Metallica concerts coming out of singer James Hatfield. It gave me a sick feeling then, it did so now.
I looked up and saw a terrified furry face in the rear-view mirror. My poor hound had never heard anything like it. He was beside himself. Despite his fright, he jumped over the seat into my lap – nuzzling at my face to try and make me feel better. I could feel his little heart beating through my jumper.
Oh, my poor boy.
So, we got out of the car and walked around the clammy parking lot for 10 minutes. Jack frisked around, christened some weeds, kept checking back with me and then shook the whole screaming thing off – ears flying. It was forgotten. Forgiven. As I watched him, I calmed down. And then, with the assistance of a sweet petrol attendant (I was out of gas too), I eventually found my way to Isabella Nieuhaus‘ stylish all-concrete house. Everyone was sweet to me when I arrived and I got all teary and emotional – hugging my host so fiercely I heard him go “ooomph”.
What an entrance – still makes me shudder. But… I was there.
The rest of the day was fabulous. That little bit of primal scream therapy got rid of my stress and I felt like I was floating. We had a brilliant time – playing around with food, taking photos, learning tricks of the trade from Photographer/Foodie bloggers Hein van Tonder and Francois Pistorius and slurping oysters … oh man those oysters. Creamy, fresh and briny and very accommodating when it came to being photographed. We had glasses of champers and wine and good strong coffee – and to top it all Bella made us the most divine lunch.
As to the photos – well, let’s just say I have a lot to learn. The one I took of Hein’s pancakes came out the best of the day. So I thought I would use it to illustrate a ‘most requested’ family recipe. When the Nans are with us on a Saturday morning, I usually whip up a batch of these for breakfast. The batter is quite thick – so I make flapjacks – similar idea but smaller, thicker and springier than a French crepe or classic pancake.
The recipe is Jamie Oliver’s and these really are the easiest pancakes you will ever make. No scales, no precise measurements. All you need is a cup or mug and you are set. Remember to use the same cup/mug to measure both flour and milk and all will be well. I sometimes substitute buttermilk for the regular milk – and it gives the pancake a bit of extra rise and substance. There is no sugar in them, so you could also use this recipe as a savoury too – think blinis for caviar or smoked salmon. If you do, make sure you have a glass of vodka nearby. And as you sip it – raise a toast to the West Coast Highway and the dog that teaches this girl a lesson about life, every day.
(makes about 10 teacup sized pancakes)
1 large free-range egg
1 cup of self-raising flour
1 cup of milk
1. Crack the egg into a large mixing bowl.
2. Add the flour, milk and a tiny pinch of sea salt.
3. Whisk everything together until you have a lovely, smooth batter.
4. Grab a frying pan (non-stick is best) and plonk it on your gas ring over a medium heat. Add a half tablespoon of light vegetable oil (don’t use butter – it burns too quickly)and tilt the pan to spread the oil evenly.
5. When oil is hot (spoon a drop of the mix in to check), add a few ladles of batter to the pan, leaving enough space between each one so they have room to spread out slightly. Don’t let the oil get too hot though. You don’t want french fries.
6. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until little bubbles appear on the surface and the bases are golden, then flip them over.
7. When the pancakes are golden on both sides, transfer the pancakes to a plate.
Serve any which way you like – I sometimes add thin slices of banana to mine before I flip them over. Or I caramelize the banana first. The kids like them smothered variously in syrup, cinnamon sugar and lemon or just plain – but always topped with vanilla ice-cream. The pancakes take all comers though – berries,, chocolate chips … you name it. Just drop them into the mix as you ladle it into the pan.