Thursday, January 08, 2015

Chef'Ease: How do you like your jam, ma'am?

* Chef'Ease products supplied for review purposes.

The blog heads to Wellington again this month, but this time, Wellington in South Africa - home of Chef'Ease products.

I agreed to taste test and (honestly) review the line of jams, so a day on which I baked bread (today) seemed like the perfect opportunity to do a bit of smearing (pun not intended).

Being the South African girl that I am, thick slices of bread straight out of the oven call mos for apricot jam.

Packaging: I'm a big fan of squeezy bag packaging when it comes to allergies and products that are usually easily cross contaminated. Let me set the scene: 

Daddy, mommy, boetie and sussie live in a house. One jar of jam. But sussie is allergic to wheat. Now boetie spreads strawberry jam on his wheaty toast, dipping the crumby knife into the jar of strawberry jam multiple times. Sussie unsuspectingly comes to breakfast and dips her clean knife into the cross-contaminated jar of jam, innocently spreading it (and all the wheaty toast crumbs) on her rice cake. Two minutes later: anaphylactic shock. 

What a way to start the day.

Solution? Squeezy bags of jam! 

(Someone please just teach boetie not to drag the plastic rim of the squeezy bag along his wheaty toast, for goodness sake!)

One point of contention: The lid. It is easy to open but those little twisty plastic bits on the lid are sharp and don't come off easily.

Deployment: I didn't think to shake the packet before opening it, so when I squeezed some jam onto my slice of bread, some sugary water spurted out before the really thick jam could be squeezed out.

Visual appeal: Good. Judging by the colour, it looks like apricots were involved in this jam's origin.

Spreadability: Excellent. Spreads easily and doesn't break my gluten-free bread (gluten does a sticky but important job when it comes to bread, so this was a big plus for me).

Texture: SUPER smooth! No lumpy or textured bits at all. 

Flavour: Excellent. Not overly sweet with a good hit of fruity tartness (just the way I love my apricot jam). No lingering aftertaste of anything other than apricots either. 

Since fresh, locally grown blackberries have (finally) made an appearance in Woolworths stores this December, I've been eating these pricey gems by the half punnet full (a girl has to share). May I just interject (in my own post) and say a hearty: "Thank you!" to whichever South African farmer decided to grow blackberries and not export them all! My taste buds and antioxidant levels are much obliged.

Anyway, the point of my verbal meander is to say that I was anxious to try the blackberry jam, since the only other blackberry jam I usually eat is St. Dalfour.

Deployment: I remembered to shake it before opening it. This jam is more runny than the apricot, so it shakes easier and you don't get "sugary water spurt" (now a technical term).

Visual appeal: Not great. It's true, blackberries are called BLACKberries, but when you view them up close in all their globular glory, they have hues of purple and reds. They are pretty berries. This jam has the visual appeal of primordial sludge.

Spreadability: Excellent. Spreads easily.

Texture: Very smooth.

Flavour: Really not my flavour at all. This was reminiscent of childhood pseudo-flavoured cough syrups with a distinct medicinal aftertaste. IMHO this doesn't do blackberries any justice. None of the fresh, sweet, tart flavours are imparted. I couldn't take more than one bite. To quote my friend Carolina's grandad: "Something is wrong here that should be right."

Third and final flavour: guava jam. Another South African staple (mos).

Deployment: Same as for the blackberry jam.

Visual appeal: Okay - a bit uneven but, again, it looks like it comes from guavas (or more like dried guava rolls, really).

Spreadability: Excellent. Spreads easily.

Texture: Very smooth. No teeth cracking on guava seeds in this jam.

Flavour: Tastes like guavas initially but then something ever so slightly bitter lingers in the aftertaste. Sweeter than the apricot jam with less tartness. I miss some tartness.

Winner, winner chicken dinner?

Apricot jam - hands down! In fact, I would actually now stop using other apricot jams and start using this as my first choice, that's how perfect the balance of sweetness to tartness is!

I can't comment on cost, since I don't now how much these products cost, but I'm guessing that it wont be anywhere in the region of imported Bonne Maman and St. Dalfour prices (i.e. pricey).

But you know, the thing about jam is that you use so little of it (comparatively speaking) and expect it to impart a big flavour punch in that small amount as well (I mean, I don't hear many people admitting to standing with a spoon in a jar of jam the way you would with, say, Nutella), so forking out money for the perfect tasting jam that is going to last you a while seems like money well spent.

So, what's your jam?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wellington Chocolate Factory

Tucked up an inconspicuous alley (the type you might otherwise try and avoid), in 5 Eva Street, is Wellington's answer to chocolate done right.

A veritable cornucopia of delights, this bean to bar chocolaterie in the centre of Wellington's CBD is a treat.

Beans are processed, magic is made, chocolate emerges.

What more could a chocoholic ask for?

The hot chocolate (NZ $5) can be made with either cow's milk or soya milk, and you have a choice between 70% Peruvian or Dominican chocolate.

If you like a fruity, sweet taste, Peruvian is your thing.
If you prefer rich and malty (which I recommend), try the Dominican.

Believe me when I say, this might be the best hot chocolate you might ever taste.

Each cup is filled half-way with chocolate, and then steamed/frothed milk is poured over that, bringing it up to the brim of the cup. Your chocolate of choice is then sprinkled on top.

It is outrageously good. So good, in fact, that we went back for both consecutive weekends of the two weekends we were in Wellington to seek it out.

Each slab (NZ $13.50) is hand wrapped in both foil and an artistic thick paper cover, and sealed with a sticker.

We tried both the 70% hazelnut and the coconut milk chocolate (52% cocoa solids + dairy free + made with coconut sugar). Both were excellent.

It is wonderful to see the craftsmanship behind this artisanal chocolate.

If you ever find yourself in Wellington, New Zealand - find yourself in the Wellington Chocolate Factory.


Address: 5 Eva Street, Te Aro, Wellington.

By Bus: Wellington's bus system is hard to beat in terms of cost and convenience. Safe, friendly and clean (especially in comparison to Melbourne's disgustingly dirty trams), buy yourself a Snapper card, load money on it and tag on/off wherever you feel like going. 

Catch any bus which runs past Courtenay Place. Alight at Manners Street, close to Arty Bees Books, Walk up Cuba Street, take a left at Dixon and a right into Eva Street. Look closely to find the sign for WCF. It's worth the trip.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

FOOD: Coconut Yoghurt + A Tasty Recipe

Yellow Split Peas with Coconut Yoghurt and Wile Rocket Leaves

Fierce Wellington Winds A Blowin'...
Wellington winds gust strong.
Damn strong.

All well and fine if you can stay in doors, and watch the view above from the safety and comfort of an insulated studio apartment with heating. 

Not so great if you have to head out to walk around, catch buses, etc.

This weather calls for a hearty meal.
The kind that warms the cockles of your thawing bones and is healthy to boot.

Enter coconut yoghurt.
And may I say: GENIUS idea!

Dairy-free. Gluten-free. Lactose-free.
Probiotics = affirmative.
No added sugar.
Tastes? Excellent!

Picked up a tub of this beauty at Commonsense Organics in Wakefield Street, Wellington City.

Boy-oh-boy, is that a fun place to visit!

For those working at a rather extreme exchange rate disadvantage (*cough*), watch yourself in this place. You will burn through a whole lotta cash before you even blink!

Yellow Split Peas with Coconut Yoghurt and Wild Rocket

This is really more about assembly than a "recipe" per se.

Substitute a thick, creamy yoghurt for the coconut yoghurt if it isn't available in your location.  

The tangy tartness of yoghurt balances the richer flavours of the split peas, while the peppery textured crunch of wild rocket seals the deal on a hearty meal. 

Step 1: Rocket (arugula).
Step 2: Warm, soft, freshly cooked yellow split peas seasoned with salt.
Step 3: Dollop of creamy (coconut) yoghurt to finish off a delightful dish.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

TRAVEL: Epic Adventures - Te Anau and Doubtful Sound

Shores of Lake Te Anau at the start of the 67km Kepler Track on New Zealand's South Island.

I'm one of those people who used to cry as a child when holidays were over because I didn't want the fun to end.

I still don't.

And sometimes I still cry at the end of holidays.

When undertaking an epic nine week adventure, as I currently am, one has to shift one's perspective on leaving places slightly, because you are doing it (a lot).

Of course, leavings are juxtaposed with arrivings, so things even out.

But still, I found myself on the deck of a boat, cruising one of the most remote and inaccessible locations of New Zealand's South Island on the weekend - Doubtful Sound.

Accessed only by a boat ride across lake Manapouri, a bus ride along a private road (owned and maintained by Meridian Energy) through a treacherous (snow covered!!!) pass, down to the water's edge of Doubtful Sound.

Doubtful Sound was, apparently, shrouded in doubt when Captain Cook was't sure if his ship's sails would fit through the Sound.

This place is remote. And magical.

It is not often in one's life when one feels one is truly in a wild place, with a hint of OMG freedom attached to the thought of being at such a remote and southern location that the inevitable thought arises:
Is this the most remote and isolated place I will ever be in my life? Is this it in terms of experiences like this?

I am OCD that way. Way too much forward thinking.

Enter a case of the feels.

Boo hoo. I am having this amazing life experience that has a time frame attached. Call the Waaaambulance.

Ag, anyway. That's the way I roll.

It was epic. The moment(s) were epic. 

This trip is epic.

And hopefully, I will get to see some more cool and remote and wild and free shit still as long as I am riding this merry-go-round.

After all, if you're here, you already won the genetic lottery ticket.

May as well ride that horsey till it wears out (or you do). 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

FOOD: Chia Pods

Love this sugar-free, dairy-free, high fibre, energy boosting little snack I came across in a Woolworths in Newcastle, AU.

While they might not be available in South Africa (yet), the ingredients are simple enough that you could make them at home quite easily (and probably a whole lot cheaper per portion as well).

These would be perfect for a quick brekkie, lunchbox snack or anytime you were craving a little something for flagging (jet lagging) energy levels.

Homemade version: 
Soak chia seeds in coconut milk overnight. Add vanilla seeds and cinnamon to taste. A little natural sweetner like coconut sugar or honey wouldn't go amiss either. Store in the fridge.

Did you know?
Chia seeds are the super food referred to in Christopher McDougall's book Born to Run.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

FOOD: By Nature (preservative free)

Dried olives, mangoes, raisins and raw walnuts.
I have been adoring medjool dates of late, which have turned my tastebuds up to full volume in craving dried fruits.

Cue the search for preservative-free dried fruits that don't cost a ton.

Enter By Nature and Tierhoek.

Tierhoek I've known and loved for a while now (OMG their dark chocolate covered apricots!), but By Nature is new to me (maybe not so much to Capetonians). 

I just got my stash delivered from the online shop Faithful-to-Nature and called the supplier to make 100% sure there are no preservatives in the fruits. Peter assured me that they cater for the preservative-free demographic (aka. those people who hack and cough-up their pleura/turn red/whose throats close-up/who have asthma/etc. who are allergic to preservatives). In addition, most of their products are organic as well. Bonza!

Honest to goodness preservative free dried fruits!

I've started-in on the dried mangoes. I don't know if I will be able to stop. Deeeeelish!

Nature's sweeties :)

Dried plums and mixed fruit (apples, peaches, apricots and such).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


You know when you read something and your brain just goes WHOOSH in an Eli Cash - Royal Tenenbaums "Pew....wildcat" kind of way?

"Getting rid of the clutter, excess, and all the things that were distracting me, made room to figure out what I wanted. I wanted freedom. Freedom from the things that weighed me down, and freedom to want what I wanted and time to do what it took to get it, and enjoy and appreciate it."

Well, that was my brain a while ago which helped a closet overflowing and chock-a-block with 15 years worth of this:

Take it ALL out, try it ALL on...
transition via many, many, many loads of these:

Donate it ALL...
and fuelled by lots of this:

Nigiro's Ceylon Pettiagalla tea...
and saying goodbye to these (which were so pretty but I had never worn):

These held the promise of an (un)fashionably broken ankle...
to this:

That is IT
Summer and Winter. 
Nothing hidden (shoes live separately - a post for another day). Nothing in the wash.


  1. The TOP top shelf holds a bag with my swimming gear. Next to that, a bag with a few Winter hats (my ears protest wind) and a pair of gloves. To the right of that, my "I'm not ready to let go of these/maybe I will wear these sometime" pile.
  2. The top shelf holds a bag with two woolen Winter jerseys, and another bag with some transition season lighter cardigans.
  3. The first of the smaller shelves holds my yoga teaching gear and workout wear.
  4. One shelf down holds undies and pyjama sets.
  5. The 2nd last shelf holds my basics: 2 pairs of jeans, 2 denim skirts (1 midi + 1 maxi), 2 pairs of denim shorts and 4 good-quality t-shirts that can be dressed up or dressed down with accessories (1 in red + black + blue + white).
  6. The bottom shelf holds socks and slippers in a basket.
  7. Hanging: 2 heavy Winter coats + 2 fitted blazers + 1 linen jacket + 1 soft-shell + some scarves/pashminas + 4 dresses + 2 cotton skirts + 3 collared cotton shirts.
Realisations so far:
  • I used to wear only a small portion of my clothes over and over again. Boring.
  • I hung on to clothing for far too long - items I had worn in my teens and twenties (I have been the same dress size since the 10th grade). Although the size still fits, the style no longer does. Honesty in this regard is vital for this process to work. People change. Roll with it.
  • I cared less about the quality of the garments, and wore my favourites (that were actually LESS my favourites and more just sloppy convenience), even when the quality had deteriorated with fading/piling/small holes in the fabric. I am now aspiring to Jennifer L. Scott's lesson from Madame Chic about using only your best, and I am liking the results.
  • I am far less overwhelmed when opening my cupboard because I have so much less to go through. Part of trying EVERYTHING on during the paring down phase was also making matching outfits. I now know what goes with what, thereby putting an end to the: "I have nothing to wear" in a closet FULL of clothes conundrum.
Highly recommended resources:

Tips for decluttering and paring down minimalist-style.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fashion: Body Shop Make-Up

The Body Shop is having a fabulous 3 for 2 sale. Can I get a "woot"?

I just happened to mosey on in to the Brooklyn branch to pick-up a new tube of BB cream when I happened upon the sale. 

Since I also wanted to try their new Extra Virgin Minerals Loose Powder Foundation, I thought I'd throw in a new puffy make-up brush for said foundation powder, and cash-in on the 3 for 2 offer.

I haven't used loose powder foundation since finding out about my corn allergy and realising that a large number of the varieties available in South Africa are talc-based, which may or may not include corn starch (which, in retrospect, certainly explains the years of skin rashes and itching after applying powder foundation).

So the great thing about this Extra Virgin Minerals Loose Powder Foundation is the distinctive lack of talc. It contains:
Mica (Opacifier), Titanium Dioxide (Sunscreen), Kaolin (Absorbent), Illite (Anticaking Agent). [+/- CI 77492 (Colour), CI 77491 (Colour), CI 77499 (Colour), CI 77891 (Colour)].

On the subject of great Body Shop products, their Hemp Hand Protector has been a staple in my Winter toiletry kit since 2000. Nothing overcomes the Highveld's dry-skin cracking tendencies like this stuff does (especially for obsessive hand washers such as myself).

I love this video where Carrie Peterson explains her daily make-up routine and how she makes her own powder foundation powder using arrow root powder and cocoa powder. Clever!

I love wearing a hint of mascara on my upper lashes but had to throw my new Yardley one out after it made my eyes sting and burn and tear-up.

If you know of a great mascara that is particularly good for sensitive eyes, please tweet me. I'd appreciate it!