rhubarb apple cake

21 Aug 2017

Just looking through the archives will tell you I have a thing for rhubarb, plums and raspberries. Rhubarb is looking good at the moment so a few weeks ago I decided to make a rhubarb and apple cake.

I'd been marooned at the doctors for an hour and saw some photos of a rhubarb and apple cake whilst looking through a magazine. The cake looked pretty good but when I went to get the recipe, someone had torn out the page. Who does that in this day and age, I thought, when you can photograph the recipe with your mobile phone? I will not be defeated so I decided to work with one of my old favourites, the country apple cake, adding a batch of oven baked rhubarb to the filling.

The cake itself doesn't take long to put together but the oven baked rhubarb is probably best prepared the day before making the cake so it has time to cool. 

The pastry base is patted into the tin though I think it's easier to roll out the top than patting it out. 

Those apples you see came directly from a tin. If you want to cook the apples from scratch you'd need to lightly stew 4-6 large green apples.

You never know how these things are going to work out but on this occasion the rhubarb and apple combination was a brilliant success and a combination I will use again in the future.

Here's the recipe for you, which makes an 17cm cake. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. If you'd like to make a bigger version, use a whole egg in the cake batter and double everything else to make a 23cm cake. The baking time will remain the same.

Rhubarb and Apple Cake
1 quantity of drained oven roasted rhubarb
1 tin pie apple (400g)
2 tbs caster (superfine) sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Oven Roasted Rhubarb
1 bunch rhubarb, stalks washed and trimmed.
4 tablespoons caster sugar
The juice of half an orange
2 strips of orange rind, each strip ~ 5cm long
1 cinnamon stick

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cut the rhubarb stalks into 5cm lengths and place into a baking dish with the orange rind and the cinnamon stick. Sprinkle with the sugar and drizzle the rhubarb with the orange juice. Cover the dish with foil or a lid and bake for ~ 20-30 minutes or until the rhubarb is cooked but still holds its shape. Remove the dish from the oven and allow the rhubarb to cool, still covered. When cool, remove the cinnamon stick (it can be washed and used again) and store the rhubarb in a sealed container in the fridge.

Filling method
Gently combine the apple, the drained rhubarb, sugar and cinnamon. Stir to combine then taste for sweetness and adjust as necessary.

1 cup self-raising flour
⅓ cup cornflour (corn starch)
2 tbs cup caster (superfine) sugar
100 gm unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tbs milk
Extra milk and caster sugar
Icing sugar and cream to serve

Cake method
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly grease a 17cm spring form tin and line the base of the tin with baking paper

Sift the self raising flour with the cornflour. Put the sifted flours, the sugar and the butter into the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. In a small bowl combine the egg yolk, the vanilla and the milk.

With the food processor running, gradually pour in enough of the milk mixture and process until the mixture wraps around the blades. Using floured hands, press ⅔ of the mixture into the base and up the sides of the tin. Spoon in the apple and rhubarb mixture, which won’t completely fill the tin. Fold over any overhang of pastry from the sides of the tin, then using floured hands, flatten the remaining mixture into a disc (or you can roll this out with a rolling pin between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper) and cover the top of the cake. Don’t worry if there are a few holes. They’ll close over as the cake bakes. Brush the top of the cake with milk then sprinkle with a little extra caster sugar.

Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes at 180°C/350°F. If the cake is browning too quickly, cover the top with a piece of grease proof paper. Don’t be tempted to take the cake out too early as the cake mixture won’t have cooked through.

When cool dust with icing sugar and serve with cream.

I've been working on my photos from Etosha National Park, so when I get a chance I'll put together a post.

See you again soonish,

Bye for now,


namibia part II

16 Aug 2017

I'm back again with some more of my travel photos from Namibia. Looking through my black and white photos I found a few I'd taken at the Bush Camp but hadn't shared with you. If you look really closely, some of the little beasts in the photos are wearing striped pajamas, the elusive mountain zebras.

We made a brief detour to Walvis Bay to drop off one of our travellers and to see the flamingos before driving the short distance to Swakopmund.

When we arrived in Swakopmund, evening had fallen and it was really, really cold. After a few days in the heat of the desert we were all unprepared for the change in temperature. I know because I was wearing shorts. We stayed for 2 nights in Swakopmund so it gave us time to get some laundry done, always a problem when you're on the road. Swakopmund is styled as an adventure destination but I chose not to undertake any of the options on offer instead spending my time exploring the town. After a few days in the desert I couldn't resist the lure of paved roads, restaurants, shops and traffic lights.

We woke the next day to foggy skies. I could see a patch of blue out the window so I was confident the skies would clear. I packed up my stuff and started the walk into town. After a few steps, the Namibian predilection for old cars was evident.

The streets of Swakopmund were eerily quiet. Most of the houses appeared unoccupied and those houses that were inhabited took their security very carefully. Think high fences/electric fences/guard dogs and loads of warning signs.

Swakopmund is a beach resort with more than a nod to Namibia's period of German colonisation. I found half-timbered houses; sturdy government buildings; street signs in German and when I greeted some locals, our conversation was conducted in a combination of German and English.

I headed straight to the beach. I've always lived near water so I feel at home there. The water was cold and it certainly wasn't swimming weather but I enjoyed my walk along the beachfront.

The pier at Swakopmund.

After quite a few days of heat and red sand, I was thrilled to find patches of green all over the city.

The colourful Swakopmund Sea Rescue Initiative, sponsored by a paint company!

The old light house.

After our time in Swakopmund we returned to Mike, the truck, and drove along the Skeleton Coast to Khorixas. The sea was rough and it was easy to imagine how this boat met it's fate.

Our activity for the day was a visit to Spitzkoppe, also known as the Matterhorn of Namibia. I quipped that I was a bit disappointed at the lack of snow on the peak and one of our group members took my comment seriously! I've not been to Uluru but I've been to North West Western Australia and have travelled along the Gibb River Road. The scenery and the colours were so similar.

I kept taking photos. 

Cave paintings of rhinos and the bush men.

The Giant Arch

One of my favourite scenes.

We spent one night in Khorixas before making our way to Outjo. We had a few stops that day, and the first one was at the Petrified Forest. Without an internet connection I hadn't been able to check our itinerary for the day so I didn't even know there was a Petrified Forest in Namibia let alone that we were to visit it.

I can't remember if I'd seen petrified wood before. In the forest, there were whole trees and some of the trees had opalised.

This desert flower, the Welwitschiawas seen all over the forest.

Our visits for the day weren't over. We returned to Khorixas to refuel before heading to a Himba village. I'd seen some photos of Himba women and I was so looking forward to the visit.

I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but a visit to a tribe who'd been relocated to a block of land behind a cultural centre probably wasn't what I had in mind. I think the place we visited was the 
Otjikandero Himba Orphan Village. Yes the men still tended their cattle but when the ladies ran short of maize flour for pap, they went up to the centre and restocked, often wearing western clothing.

The ceremonies and ritual behind the ladies dress and head gear was interesting as was their unique way of bathing without water.

The red colour is from a paste of ochre applied to the skin.

We we actively encouraged to take photographs of the rituals. I learnt little about the men, who don't wear traditional dress.

The unique himba head dress.

There were lots of little ones who attended the local school when old enough.

The ladies make and sell craft at a small market. 

We left the visit feeling a bit discomforted.

Our last stop on the tour before the tour ended in Windhoek was the Etosha National Park, where we spent 2 days on safari. Please don't expect loads of close-up photos of animals in the wild because I wasn't able to hire a telephoto lens for the safari. I tried a number of places including Fujifilm South Africa and a camera store in Cape Town and found there were too many hurdles to over come.

When I get some spare time I'll be back with part III, the final chapter, of my trip to Namibia.

Bye for now,


chocolate crumpets with honeycomb butter

14 Aug 2017

A few months ago, I saw a photo of chocolate crumpets on instagram. I was immediately intrigued and decided I needed to make some. I didn't have a recipe so I hunted online but in the end decided to go it alone, adapting my regular crumpet recipe. In a moment of inspired genius I decided to make a small quantity of Bill Granger's honeycomb butter with which to top the finished product.

I kept my fingers crossed that all would go well. The chocolate crumpets weren't as bubbly as the regular crumpets but topped with the honeycomb butter were still mighty fine.

I promptly scoffed two and stored the rest in the freezer for later. J
ust in case you were wondering, these crumpets are not sweet, just chocolately.

If you'd like to make some of these chocolate crumpets at home, here's the recipe. If you don't feel like making the honeycomb butter, then I'm sure a chocolate crumpet topped with butter and maple syrup would be just as nice.

Chocolate Crumpets - makes 18 8.5cm crumpets

1½ cups of milk
50g dark chocolate (70%)
15 gm milk chocolate
1½ tsp sugar
7g dried yeast
355g plain flour
3 tbs cocoa
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
200ml water

Coarsely chop the chocolates. Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat until just warm. Transfer into a bowl and add the chopped chocolate and sugar. Stir until the chocolate melts before adding the yeast. Make sure the milk is lukewarm because you don't want to kill the yeast. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes or until the milk starts to bubble.

Sift the flour, cocoa and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the chocolate milk/yeast mixture to the flour and beat until completely smooth. The mixture will be quite thick at this stage. Cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place for 1- 1½ hours until doubled in volume and full of air bubbles.

Mix the baking soda with the water and combine this with the crumpet mixture to make a kind of gloopy batter. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.

Heat a heavy based frying pan or griddle over a medium heat and grease with a little butter. Thoroughly grease the crumpet moulds and regrease them between batches. Place the crumpet rings on the hot surface and place 2 tbs of mixture inside the ring. Don’t overfill as the mixture will rise in the rings whilst cooking.

Within a short period of time your crumpets should get small bubbles all over the surface that begin to break. Cook for about 10 minutes until the surface is covered in broken bubbles and the top is dry.  Remove the crumpet rings, turn gently and cook on the other side until lightly browned. They normally take another 5 or so minutes to cook through. Remove from the pan and wrap the crumpets in a clean tea towel while you cook the rest. Any leftovers can be frozen for later; defrosted and toasted.

To serve, top with a slice of Bill Granger’s honeycomb butter

Bill Granger's Honeycomb Butter
250g unsalted butter, softened
100g sugar honeycomb, crushed with a rolling pin
2 tbs honey

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Shape into a log on plastic wrap, roll, seal and chill in a refrigerator for 2 hours.

Store any leftover honeycomb butter in the freezer, it's great on toast.

btw, no need to thank me, just head into the kitchen and make some of these!

See you all again soon,


namiba part I

7 Aug 2017

Once the Cape Town conference was over I took 2 weeks annual leave. I knew I wanted to go on my little wine tour but thereafter I wasn't sure where to go or what to do until one of my work colleagues suggested I travel to Namibia. I found a trip with African Budget Safaris that matched my dates and booked the trip, pretty much sight unseen.

The trip was run by Nomad and as I was so busy at work in the lead-up to the trip, I admit to not reading the trip notes. All I knew of Namibia were the red sand dunes of Sossusvlei so when my travel agent mentioned I was going on safari, I hadn't realised that was part of my trip.

The trip began very early one morning in Cape Town. We boarded Mike the truck, and from Cape Town we headed north. Our first night was spent on a citrus farm in chilly Citrusdal in the Cederberg Mountains.

We were promised long driving days in the truck followed by an activity day.

Once we crossed the border into Namibia, we noticed a vast difference in the quality of the highway. South African highway on the left; Nambian highway on the right. It was a bumpy ride and for someone who doesn't travel well, the long driving days were challenging.

Namibia is a vast place but sparsely populated so yes I was standing in the middle of the highway taking this photo.

Our first stop in Namibia was the Orange River, where I arrived a little worse for wear so went to bed without any supper. We stayed in little cabins overlooking the river and my cabin was called Meerkat Manor. The next day we went on a canoe ride down the Orange River. We paddled for just over 2 hours along a stretch of the river. We negotiated some gentle rapids and even though I was knackered, I enjoyed the bird song. Someone (that would be me) fell over while bringing in the canoe so spent the next few hours sitting in very damp jeans.

As we drove towards our next destination, so we were surprised to see grapes being grown commercially.

As we drove on we passed a grape pickers camp, where the workers huts were covered in local reeds sourced from the Orange River.

We were heading to the hot springs of Ai-Ais until an accommodation glitch saw us relocate to the Fish River Canyon. The hot springs of Ai-Ais were not as romantic as they sounded and instead looked more like a municipal swimming pool so I didn't mind the accommodation switch all.

We drove to the Fish River Canyon, the 2nd largest canyon in the world, arriving in time for sunset.

The canyon was transformed into a great golden bowl of light.

I saw plants I'd never seen before, so had to stop to take a few photographs.

We drove to our accommodation, the Canyon Lodge, in darkness. It wasn't until the following day we could appreciate the beauty of our surroundings.

I stole a few moments to capture the sunrise.

The bougainvillea clad terrace,

and the delightful donkeys.

The next day we stopped for diesel at the roadhouse.

We discovered Namibians have a thing for old cars.

More bird life in unexpected places.

We drove on to Bethanie spying the first of many weaver birds nests.

The old stone church in the town of Bethanie, where copies of the bible were on sale at the petrol station.

We were told we had a long drive ahead before arriving at our accommodation at Sossusvlei so we were all surprised when we drove into the main street of Maltahohe mid afternoon.  As we'd arrived earlier than expected, I went for a walk around the town. The best way to describe Maltahohe is a town that time forgot and yes that is a goat wandering down the main street. We presumed we were in Maltahohe due to another accommodation glitch.

The local roadhouse.

Our accommodation for the night was the Maltahohe Hotel, where the kitchen staff treated us to an impromptu after dinner concert.

The next day we still had quite a drive to reach Sossusvlei, so we left our hotel before sunrise.

We stopped to take pictures of the spectacular sunrise before returning to Mike the truck for the drive to the National Park.

We were aiming to climb Dune 45 before the heat of the day. Thankfully it was mid winter so the temperature was in the early to mid 20's unlike summer time highs of mid 40's.

The dunes were awe inspiring.

There was some amazing light going on that day.

The only way is up. The climb was hard and at times seemed never ending.

The views from the top were spectacular and the scramble down the dune way more fun than the climb.

We'd just unloaded the red dirt from our shoes when we refilled them on the walk to the aptly named Dead Vlei, where absolutely nothing grows.

We had another late night due to a last minute change in our accommodation. The next day we were heading to Swakopmund on the coast but first the truck stopped at the Solitaire Road House, as all travellers do, for some of their famous apple pie.

Someone has a sense of humour.

We had one scheduled stop that day at the Bush Camp where our guide Frans took us on a tour.

Frans was an excellent guide as he introduced us to some of the wildlife and plant life of the region.

Those tiny little figures are mountain zebras. Each time we'd stop to photograph one, they'd head for the hills.

Some of the amazing bush ants, up close.

We stopped en route at this canyon.

I tracked it down on the internet and I think it might be Kuisberg Canyon.

I have plenty more images to share with you so there'll be a Part II of the trip to Namibia and just a warning, there may even be a Part III.

See you all again soon,


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