Category Archives: Student Life

I made bread…

…and it was wonderful!

Perfect buttered bread

This time last year, I was baking brownies. Brownies upon brownies upon brownies! It was definitely my thing.

This year, I am at home, with my own oven, my “own” (mother’s) kitchen, and I don’t need to borrow a kitchen from someone, where I would have to take all my own ingredients that were stored in the top of my cupboard above my clothes and linen in my bedroom… Yeah, it’s definitely good to be home!

It’s both a blessing and a curse though. Now I get to cook all the time. Which I love but which is also really bad, especially now that I am writing my final honours exams (from Monday. OMG I’m going to die! Wish me all the luck!). So, in between all the studying, and sometimes even instead of all the studying, I bake. And that is how this loaf came about.

I love cookery books. Aren’t they pretty? I really should use them since I have so many! It’s my “post-exams resolution”. That, and tidying up all the clutter in my room that has accumulated since I have had more pressing things to do (like “study”, which can be seen here and here). I have all these exciting cooking plans for the end of exams, it is so difficult to actually wait until they are over to start! Hence, procrastibaking.

Procrastibaking

 

So cookbook number 1 is a really cool baking book which I will share with you soon, once I have tried and tested a few more of its recipes. It is very educational, which, of course, is the whole point of me baking and sharing my lessons and experiences with you here on my blog! It doesn’t have enough pictures though, but I feel like complaining about that makes me sound like a child complaining over the quality of their picture book (or why grown up book are so boring). Time to grow up and get this honours degree I guess. Real world next year, bring it on!

 

Simple white bread loaf

Ingredients

  • 400g white bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 300ml warmish water

Method

  1. Place flour in a bowl. Place the salt in on the one side of the bowl and the yeast in on the other (don’t let them touch just yet)
  2. Add the water and mix well. Don’t be afraid to get your hands in there!
  3. When all the ingredients are well-combined (but don’t over-mix!), place the ball of dough in the bowl, cover with a cloth and leave for 10 minutes
  4. Remove dough from bowl, place on an oiled surface (not floured), and knead, 6-8 turns (not too long)
  5. Replace dough in bowl, and leave for 10 minutes. Repeat twice more
  6. On final kneading, leave the dough in the bowl for 45 minutes to increase in size (still with a cloth over the bowl)
  7. Remove the dough, and place onto a floured surface. Shape into an oval, or a weird circle, or whatever shape you manage to get out of it, no one will judge you if it’s not perfectly oblong
  8. Place almost-loaf onto the pre-floured pan that the bread will cook on, cover with a cloth, and leave to prove (increase in size) for around 45 minutes
  9. Preheat oven to 220ºC, dust loaf with a bit of extra bread flour, slash it down the length, not too deep, and place in the oven for 35-40minutes. Mine took 35 minutes, but ovens may vary
  10. Remove from oven, allow to cool a bit, then lather with butter and devour, making sure you save some for soup later (there is still a springy nip in the air at the moment after all!)

 

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Good ol’ G-Spot, EC

It’s been nearly a year since I finished up in Grahamstown. I was rather keen to leave, when the time came, but I miss it now. It’s the same as missing school though. You know, best days of your life and all that.

Now, I wasn’t particularly fond of Grahamstown. I was a city girl, from Johannesburg, and I somehow ended up in one of the most poorly run provinces of the country, in a town that didn’t even have a McDonald’s. Or a Woolworths Food. When people asked me if I was enjoying it, I would tell them how much I like the University, my course and the overall student life. I would explain how convenient being in a small town was because you can literally walk to any destination worth your while in the town. You hardly needed to worry about having a designated driver, the only time you really wanted a car was when it was raining or when you had to carry your 5L water up the hill (which is closer to 25L by the time you get to the top!). And this is where I would start talking about the problems.

We had no water. We would go for weeks with no running water. In my residence, we had 73 girls all sharing 2 toilets. There were minimal washing facilities – you could go to the gym, but that was so busy and eventually dirty and they ran out of water pressure too from trying to meet the demand. One benefit: the university paid for 2L of bottled drinking water every day. If you were smart, you would let this accumulate so you didn’t have to drink the tap water, which was sometimes brown, sometimes smelled like a chlorine factory blew up.

Water protest gif

One of the water outages was so bad, we held a march in protest. The truck that was meant to come fix the situation went missing, and then was found to have not even left Johannesburg yet. When they got to Grahamstown, they could not install the pump because there was no electricity. The electricity problem was another bad one. Slightly more liveable, because you don’t have to live in each other’s filth, but not cool when you are trying to study. Most of the power failures happened during exam time, naturally. Sometimes even in the middle of your exam. It was tedious, but I guess we all learned to live with it.

High street

The High Street, one of the most lovely views of the Cathedral and the quaintness of Grahamstown. Along this road you will find most of the restaurants, plenty of pharmacies, and plenty of dodgy car guards

I suppose, if anything, it taught us to be grateful. We learned to appreciate when we did have certain things, like water and lights on at home, because after all, these are luxuries that many people do not have access to at all, obviously in Grahamstown, but even in South Africa in general. But, you know, perspective only comes after the hard times… I’m very glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore, but I have new problems that have come about with living back in the city. Now I can just reminisce about the beauty and quaintness that was Grahamstown. I learnt a lot from being there, I had a fabulous experience, met the most amazing people, and met a lot of different people with different backgrounds and different opinions. We were all shoved into one teeny backwards town, forced to live alongside each other, and that is why Rhodents are generally so open minded and fun (but also well-rounded and responsible individuals).

IMG_7000

Once you get over the gnawing absence of things that were once a staple sight in a civilized town, you start to notice the beauty of the old buildings, and the heritage that came along with them. You eventually realise why people would want to keep making the trip down every year for the National Arts Fest (apart from general art-appreciation, of course).

Cnr High Street and Cuyler Cathedral with Jacarandas

Grocott's

Grahamstown is home to some lovely old buildings and some significant South African Heritage. The old newspaper buildings could have something to do with the Rhodes School of Journalism’s reputation perhaps?

High street court

Provost

Provost coffee shop was established here shortly before I left. While I wasn’t a massive fan of their coffee, their location was great – set in an old battalion-related building (or something like that), as were their delicious freshly-baked croissants

Grahamstown grows on you. But that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to stay there forever. I had an awesome time while I was there, great memories, but I am happy to be moving onto other things as well now in my life. For now, I think I will go have a reminiscent mare up in Northam.

Hidden South African Gems – Port Alfred

I officially graduated from Rhodes University. I am no longer a Rhodent, I now part of the upper echelon of Old Rhodians. Supposedly. But #Rhodent4Life!

My gran was supposed to come down to South Africa from the UK to celebrate my grad, but her goat attacked her. How’s that for an excuse? It was a pretty bad injury, and I’m glad she stayed home and rested and recovered, though it did make some of our “grad-weekend” plans seem a bit dull…

Port Alfred

We figured we could make a beach weekend out of a weekend in Grahamstown, so we booked in a B&B in Port Alfred that was absolutely stunning, right on the beach front. PA is only 40 minutes away (30 if you’re one of the students I tutored last year who did the trip daily), so it seemed convenient at the time. It wasn’t really, because we spent most of our time in GHT, so it was a little bit wasted. But gorgeous nonetheless.

I know my mom will probably hate me for putting this up, but she is beautiful and it's her birthday on Saturday, so all my love to her, lying on some super comfy bed in a really neatly and perfectly finished B&B bedroom

I know my mom will probably hate me for putting this up, but she is beautiful and it’s her birthday on Saturday, so all my love to her, lying on some super comfy bed in a really neatly and perfectly finished B&B bedroom

I was glad to have the opportunity to visit PA again, as beach trips were seriously under-utilized in my time at Rhodes. It made for a great day trip, though one that was difficult to over do, because it was just that little bit too far away. I do regret not spending more time checking out Bathurst as well, which is a quaint little place.

Taught mom how to take a selfie. Not sure if it was a mistake to have done that or not...?

Taught mom how to take a selfie. Not sure if it was a mistake to have done that or not…?

Port Alfred is basically just another one of those gorgeous small towns along the South African coast. It is especially beautiful because it is situated in the Eastern Cape, and somehow most places there are beautiful. It’s a stunning coastal visit that still holds it’s small-town simplicity.

Rock pools

The kind of place that makes you want to attempt to capture each crashing wave and the incredible rows of shells, and the crystal clarity of the water, but its just too beautiful to ever adequately do it justice

We got a local’s recommendation to check out the Three Sisters rock formation just up the coast from Port Alfred, about a 15 minute drive. We were about 45 minutes too late, but if you ever get the chance, make sure to go just before and for the duration of low tide. It truly is a wonder to behold.

This seemed like a good idea in the time before I did it. Then I realised that I am pathetic and spider webs can be icky but it was too late to turn back...

This seemed like a good idea in the time before I did it. Then I realised that I am pathetic and spider webs can be icky but it was too late to turn back… I promise I didn’t Photoshop that sky either.

Port Alfred is just another one of those places that reminds you just how beautiful South Africa is, and how lucky we are to have such simple yet breathtaking places right on our doorstep, and a reminder to take advantage of it before we as humans do the inevitable.

“Kendra” brownies

That is, “Kendra” after me, not the Playboy bunny, in which case these brownies might be more appropriate..

Just: chocolate <3

Just: chocolate ❤

These brownies are SO me – can you say 4 (FOUR!) different types of chocolate in these babies?! It’s no wonder they came out tops at my brownie bake-off last year, even though they got a bit burnt in a dodgy oven (thankfully, Pam has since had that fixed).

White chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. And of course, a whole load of cocoa powder.

White chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. And of course, a whole load of cocoa powder.

I made these for my classmates because I promised I’d make them these peanut butter brownies from Yammie’s Gluten Freedom. They looked incredible in the photo, but in all honesty, they are not to everyone’s taste, since they have basically no sugar in them. They are healthy (well, healthier) though, so I want to rework the recipe a bit, then I’ll be sharing it away with them. In the meantime, I had kept them waiting far too long, and it was time to deliver some baked goods to my class of Biokineticists (people who are supposed to promote health and wellbeing… Good job, guys!).

This recipe is from BBC Good Food, but their instructions are so detailed, it’s a bit difficult to follow. So I have simplified it for you, because everyone needs this much chocolate overload every now and then (/as often as possible).

 

Best Chocolate Brownies ever! 

Ingredients

  • 185g dark chocolate (Bournville works pretty well
  • 185g salted butter
  • 275g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 85g flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 50g milk chocolate chunks
  • 50g white chocolate chunks

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees (or 160 degrees in a fan-assisted oven)
  2. Melt butter and dark chocolate together in the microwave (stirring often) or over a pot of simmering water. Leave to cool.
  3. Sift flour and cocoa powder together into a large mixing bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat sugar and eggs together until thick and creamy – mixture must be pale and will have doubled in volume.
  5. Fold the chocolate-butter mixture into the egg-sugar mixture, until it the two become a mottled brown colour. Careful not to over-mix and lose the air you just beat into the eggs.
  6. Resift the flour-cocoa mix into the wet ingredients mixture, and fold in until just combined with no dry patches.
  7. Stir in the milk and white chocolate chunks.
  8. Spread mixture out evenly into a 20cm square tin that has been prepared with non-stick spray or baking parchment.
  9. Set on middle shelf of the oven for 25 minutes. If the brownies wobble in the middle when you try take them out, put them back in for a few minutes, though take care not to overdo them.
  10. Once removed, leave to cool for as long as you can bear it, and then devour them as gracefully as you can manage (that’s a challenge!)

Grahamstown’s special blend

Hand Made Coffees in Grahamstown is hands down the best coffee shop in town. It is probably the smallest, but they have the best staff, a cute and convenient location, and they focus on what’s important: the coffee.Garvey McConnell, the owner, explained how his addiction to coffee has benefited the students and citizens of Grahamstown, and much of the rest of the Eastern Cape.

cap art .jpg

Garvey himself has travelled the world, living and working in big cities from America to Europe, to Hong Kong, and finally decided to settle down in the small dorp of Hamburg. The assumption that the nearby city of East London would be able to the coffee needs he developed in his First World life, was futile, as many may have guessed – it is better to never expect Slummies to have much, that way you can be pleasantly surprised when they do.

Garvey needed freshly roasted beans in order to get his true fix. Anything less was a waste of his time. He started his little private roastary in his home, sourcing small bags of beans that he could prepare as he needed. Locals heard (smelled too, perhaps?) of his amazing blends, and he became the supplier for the area. This put a lot of pressure on his personal roaster, which eventually gave in, and Garvey was permitted (by the missus) to invest in a commercial roaster to support his booming business.

***

Hand Made Coffees was started because Garvey believes there is no point in having a roastary if you don’t get to taste the product you are buying, an error that other roastaries in the Eastern Cape have apparently made. The Grahamstown branch is located in a nook under the arch in front of the clock tower on Rhodes campus, which makes it perfectly situated for the students, and also easily accessible to the rest of the Grahamstown community.

Rhodes clocktower .jpg

They offer a good selection of brewed beverages, from cappuccinos to mochas, but their ultimate has got to be their iced coffee. They use a “secret ingredient” – which Sisa, the barista, unfortunately refused to divulge with me – and it makes for a refreshing Grahamstown Summer caffeine hit.

Sisa the barista.jpg

The coffee itself is also always an experience. Garvey likes to experiment with different flavours and bean combinations (blends) in his roasting, and if you’re a real coffee fundi, you will be able to taste the subtle differences. Incredibly, Garvey always gets that flavour right, so you will always get an incredible coffee flavour. He bases his coffee flavour on what he likes to drink. Most of his patrons would agree that he has good taste.

clock hmc.jpg

On a good day, and if you’re nice enough to Sisa, you will be able to buy chocolate croissants (pain au chocolat), hot out of the oven. If you’re mean, you may only be able to buy a normal croissant (which is delicious too, but if you know me, you know you can’t EVER beat chocolate…)

hand made coffee.jpg

Hand Made Coffees is a real character in Grahamstown, and it takes after the character that is Garvey. If you don’t like coffee, they offer hot chocolate too. If you still feel like being difficult, go to Hand Made Coffees just for the awesome company and interesting conversation – you might be inspired to travel the big cities of the world, or it may make you fall in love with Grahamstown and develop an even deeper fondness for small towns.

Darren clock hmc.jpg

A bright idea – Revelations Grahamstown

It’s amazing what new management can do. In my first year at Grahamstown there was this random little coffee shop at the only shopping centre in town. Sometimes you’d hear of people going there, but mostly it felt like walking past some long-forgotten church, or the University library at the start of the New Year (when people have forgotten how much work they could actually be getting done in there). Now, Revelations Café is a go-to food-spot, especially if you like your cakes.

eat coffee tea signageThey had a great revamp and gained popularity again in 2012, with all sorts of wonderful specials to draw in the crowds. Not only were the prices reasonable and competitive, but also the quality of the food was really above the common Grahamstown standard.

Cake

Their cakes would be one of their major draw factors: they are made perfectly every time and they have a really nice wide variety. I was disappointed to learn that they don’t actually make these on site, however. The cakes are supplied by Chateaux Gateaux. Since learning this, it appears that a huge number of coffee shops have their cakes supplied by them too. So Revelations’ cakes aren’t all that special, though they are really delicious (and you can’t beat mass-produced consistency sometimes, can you?).

Breakfast specials are great on a student budget, but a real omelette is a nice and wholesome break away from res food

Breakfast specials are great on a student budget, but a real omelette is a nice and wholesome break away from res food

Their breakfasts are definitely winners. Sometimes they offer a breakfast special, though their breakfast menu options are worth spending the extra money on. They are generous with their portions, particularly in their omelettes.

Waffles are good for breakfast too... Revelations knows how to maximise on the Bar One too, which is great!

Waffles are good for breakfast too… Revelations knows how to maximise on the Bar One too, which is great!

Revelations offers lunch and dinner options as well. On a student budget a lot of the dinner choices are a bit excessive, though they are around the same price as you would expect to pay in other larger towns and cities, and the quality is good (think café burgers rather than steakhouse burgers though). Their wide range can cater for a number of dietary requirements (healthier options and vegetarian options, for example), but it does make decisions really hard.

Chicken and bacon wrap with a berry smoothie, a wholesome healthy lunch (that is also delicious)

Chicken and bacon wrap with a berry smoothie, a wholesome healthy lunch (that is also delicious)

Chicken , bacon, apple and blue cheese salad with a Mango smoothie. This was a half portion too, so they are really generous

Chicken , bacon, apple and blue cheese salad with a Mango smoothie. This was a half portion too, so they are really generous

You can enjoy their delicious smoothies out under the trees or you can cuddle up under cover on the couch with a decadent hot chocolate (complete with marshmallows, whipped cream and a flake), which makes it ideal for summer or winter treats.

Banana and almond smoothie and a vanilla milkshake. The smoothie was delicious, but it could have done well with a bigger straw because the nuts were not too finely chopped

Banana and almond smoothie and a vanilla milkshake. The smoothie was delicious, but it could have done well with a bigger straw because the nuts were not too finely chopped

Generally their service is very friendly, though relaxed enough that you remember you are not in a large town where waiters are there to pander immediately to your every whim.

They have a larger than average tea selection, and great options for teatime accompaniments

They have a larger than average tea selection, and great options for teatime accompaniments

This café is definitely worth a visit when in Grahamstown, and also good for regular treats with friends (just not on a Sunday, unfortunately).

Added bonus: they have free wifi.

Sisa the Barista

“I did a course and then I fell in love with this once I started go into roastary; the fragrance took me and I fell in love with everything about coffee.”

Sisa likes to experiment. These were a sample of a particularly interesting test involving mint and vanilla (among other secret things...)

Sisa likes to experiment. These were a sample of a particularly interesting test involving mint and vanilla (among other secret things…)

Three years ago, Sisa Mapetu started a journey that he probably never saw leading to a new life in Grahamstown. From initially working as a waiter, to potentially working for a logistics company, to ending up as the friendliest barista on our little campus in Grahamstown, his journey sounds like one of true love.

Since he did his barista course three years ago, Sisa has been developing his skills and competing in barrister competitions. The competitions involve demonstrating a thorough knowledge of coffee and its subtle flavours, as well as a demonstration of your coffee skills, requiring competitors to produce 12 espresso drinks in 15 minutes.

In his first attempt three years ago, Sisa placed second. He hopes to outperform everyone in next year’s competition by developing his signature drink early on, and ensuring he does not underestimate his competition, as he has done in the past. “I just have to know that everyone is a tough competitor, I have to respect that. The guys that are competing for the first time, I must treat them as the same level as me.” From an outsider’s perspective, his drive and enthusiasm for the coffee definitely make him winner material. We shall see what the July competition holds for him.

Sisa has filled in a wonderful niche on campus. Handmade Coffees is a great little shop, perfectly positioned, but Sisa really adds a wonderful element to the cosy nook. He is friendly, always welcoming passers by, and he really seems to connect with his regulars. His appreciation of the bean is contagious.

“What gets me about it is that there’s always something new comes out, something new motivating me.” Sisa likes to experiment with new flavours, which can be quite an experience for the testers. Mint with my coffee was definitely a first…

Another test turned out like a cookies and cream iced coffee - do you get any better?  That friendly smile, and that loving touch when working on his creations really makes him a truly super local Barista.

Another test turned out like a cookies and cream iced coffee – do you get any better?
That friendly smile, and that loving touch when working on his creations really makes him a truly super local Barista.

Sisa also likes to cook, experimenting with different food flavours as well. He hopes to open his own restaurant one day. “This barrister profession is opening a lot of doors for me to achieve that, because, especially in this company, there are a lot of opportunities where I can actually expand in future.”

“What actually motivates me more, is that every time I get to work at the machine, it’s just it’s just the fragrance just (chuckles) brings me into loving it.”

His favourite coffee drink: Espresso and Macchiato.

“Those are my best because I achieve what I want very quick into it because they are quite short and then they go straight where I want them. I get bored when I drink the cappuccinos and the lattes because I only drink them half and then I’ve achieved what I want but the espressos, the combination hits the spot.

The reason I like the espresso is because I understand every coffee that I make and how it must taste. So I’m looking for those flavours of the espresso in the coffee that I’m making. If you can perfect an espresso, then you can perfect any other drink.”

His view on latte art: It’s good.

“Latte art is good, it’s a lovely cherry on top. But when you get to understand the profession you get to know that the taste is more important. Latte art is good as there, but good coffee doesn’t need good latte art. You can make a good coffee without good latte art, but it’s there to grab the attention of the drinker.”