Tag Archives: Grahamstown

Eastern Cape life – Grahamstown Flower Festival

Who doesn't love a goodie bag of free stuff?

Who doesn’t love a goodie bag of free stuff?

My gran lives on a farm. My mom seems to love the farm. My brother wants to live on my gran’s farm in England because it is so clean. And I’m over here like, “Ooh look! A plant!” Meanwhile it’s actually a weed, not even part of the flower show.

All the pretty flowers

All the pretty flowers

Ok, I am exaggerating, but I consider myself to be very much a city girl, and this farm-life is not one that I am used to. I went to the flower festival motivated by the fact that I knew that a certain coffee company was coming to town, and their coffee is pretty amazing. I figured that if they were going to be there, there was bound to be other delicious goodies and interesting stalls selling loads of useless things that I will fall for and spend far too much money on. I was not disappointed, but I was also pleasantly surprised by some of the things that I found.

Some girls were selling some hippie pants

Some girls were selling some hippie pants

There were flowers, of course, and a number of other plants that I won’t even try begin to name. In short: plants. Some local Eastern Cape greenery in celebration of summer (the first day of the festival was a real stunner) as well as some flowers that I do actually recognise.

This is an example of the types of sales-folk surrounding the local Botanical Gardens

This is an example of the types of sales-folk surrounding the local Botanical Gardens

Gorgeous sunflowers being sold out of the sun...

Gorgeous sunflowers being sold out of the sun…

There were getups that I know would look great in my house… My house that I don’t have… So I settled for a cute succulent in a teacup and saucer. It now belongs on my windowsill, and is the closest thing to a pet that I have ever had to look after independently. Writing that just reminded me that I have yet to water it. Clearly it’s not looking too good. It is cute, nonetheless.

My new plant!

My new plant!

There were R5 pancakes (sold by a dear bunch of women), bacon and egg butties [‘rolls’ for those of you who need the translation] (that I purchased from the Dean of Students, and they were amazing!), and a Chip’n’Dip too (which I thought was majorly out of place, but hey). And then there was the coffee of course, truly splendid coffee.

Unfortunately I did not buy another bag of their coffee because I haven't opened my first one - their sample sachets were great, though, and they also supplied Lindie's brownies, which can be seen on my Instagram feed

Unfortunately I did not buy another bag of their coffee because I haven’t opened my first one – their sample sachets were great, though, and they also supplied Lindie’s brownies, which can be seen on my Instagram feed

I also ended up buying myself a few necklaces, and a gift for a bestie back in Jo’burg.

New jewellery! Because I basically have none

New jewellery! Because I basically have none

I did not attend any of the talks because I do not own a farm and I don’t garden just yet. I probably won’t for a while, and whatever I need to know when I do decide to make my plants all pretty (and keep them alive) will probably be available on the Internet. I do think the presentations most likely went down a treat in this little town of Grahamstown, because there is quite a substantial farming culture in the Eastern Cape, from what I have gathered.

Lovely water feature and plants for my house of the distant future

Lovely water feature and plants for my house of the distant future

These are just adorable to look at

These are just adorable to look at

Overall it was a lovely day. Day 2 was a bit wet and rainy, but a decent event overall. Farmers’ markets are quaint, but I look forward to returning home to my Metropolitan Johannesburg in the next seven weeks.

Finally made Slutty Brownies

Holidays are a tough (yet wonderful) time for me because I tend to overindulge in all the wonderful things that I don’t generally have access to in the little isolated town of Grahamstown. You may also be aware that I don’t have easy access to a kitchen, which makes baking and cooking pretty difficult. However, I was recently lucky enough to be offered kitchen facilities in my Warden’s flat, and I took the opportunity to make something so wonderful and delicious, that I will most certainly be baking them again within the next two weeks.

The name is interesting, but they’re just so delicious and indulgent, that everyone wants a piece. Slutty brownies have been on my “To-make” list for a while, and I now see that I was not mistaken in choosing this recipe.

The Slutty Brownie is made up of a base layer of chocolate chip cookies, a layer of Oreos, and topped off with a fudgey brownie layer. Those are basically the three most wonderful treats in the world, right?

I chose to stick with simple box mixes, which made it cheaper and fail-proof. I didn’t want to end up with a dud layer of choc chip cookies and a perfect brownie on top, that would have been such a waste!

Just some casual ingredients waiting to become something awesome!

Just some casual ingredients waiting to become something awesome!

The three main components: cookie dough (delicious as is, by the way, who cares about Salmonella...?)

The three main components: cookie dough (delicious as is, by the way, who cares about Salmonella…?)

Place the cookies into neat rows to make sure you get evenly distributed Oreo-goodness

Place the cookies into neat rows to make sure you get evenly distributed Oreo-goodness

Try not to notice the fact that I was 1 Oreo short...

Try not to notice the fact that I was 1 Oreo short…

Add your brownie layer

Add your brownie layer

Pop it into the oven

Pop it into the oven

I would advise that you bake for a few minutes longer than the recommended time to cook the brownies, because they are quite thick, and all that baking heat needs to get deep down through to the cookie layer. Your cookies are not that likely to burn, just beware if you are using a metal cooking dish.

See the lovely layers, so inviting and tempting

See the lovely layers, so inviting and tempting

Ooey gooey delicious finished product

Ooey gooey delicious finished product

They could possibly have stayed in the oven a little longer, but then the ooey gooey-ness of the brownies would have been lost. The softer brownie also offsets a crispier cookie layer, so you really get to enjoy the textures. The Oreo layer is like a small burst of happy in your mouth, a pleasant surprise each time you come across one with that characteristic sweet frosting inside.

Cake day inspiration

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I don’t know who they are, but the person that decided National Sponge Cake Day should be a thing, had to be one of the brightest people ever. I am very happy right now because of them.

Today the local Indoor Cycling studio is hosting a 12 hour cycle marathon. I am instructing two 1hour sessions. After my first one, I decided I would come celebrate this fine day. On the menu this morning (yes, it was my breakfast, don’t judge me), was a Bar One cake slice accompanied by a Bar One milkshake.

My tummy is in heaven, and my brain has been inspired. Basically this post is just to share this wonderful day with you and warn you that Bar One is likely to permeate my recipes in the near future.

Beach day with Demarte Pena

You’ve really got to love spontaneity: this past weekend it took me to the beach in Port Alfred, a mere 45 minute drive from where I live. I had a charming ocean stroll, then went for some lovely fish lunch on the Kowie river where we casually bumped into friends. And the featherweight EFC Africa champion, Demarte Pena. It really isn’t every day you get to hang out with the top MMA fighter in Africa, is it?

MMA beach soccer team, Demarte Pena is the third from the left in the back row

MMA beach soccer team, Demarte Pena is the third from the left in the back row

I met Demarte recently through his trip to Grahamstown to train up the Rhodes University MMA (mixed martial arts) club. We have a mutual friend, and I was fortunate enough to get to interview Pena for the student newspaper, Activate. Apart from being an incredible athlete, he is also a really nice guy, and I really enjoyed interviewing him, and had a jam partying with him in one of Grahamstown finest establishments that is Friar Tucks. On his last day of his visit, he and the rest of the MMA club went through to Port Alfred, where they had lunch and a casual game of beach soccer.

Beach soccer in Port Alfred

Beach soccer on East Beach in Port Alfred

Here are some of the interesting things Pena had to say in our interview:

Demarte Pena, EFC Africa Featherweight Champion, with me, Kendra Dykman at Haricots, Grahamstown

Demarte Pena, EFC Africa Featherweight Champion, with me, Kendra Dykman, at Haricots, Grahamstown. (Photo by Sekata Ramokgopa)

On his evening at Friars: “It was different. Normally just so restricted because of my training through the year, so hardly have time to really go out, so, it was good.”

Pena trains in Sunninghill, Johannesburg, with Richard Quan as his head coach. Because of the multiple disciplines involved in MMA, he also works with a number of other trainers. He has been a professional fighter for two years. “It’s been great. I started fighting when I was back in Pretoria, and I eventually moved to Jo’burg where I joined my current team.”

Pena started with Judo and Karate back in his home country of Angola, but didn’t fight as much when he came over to South Africa. “I lost a little bit of that love and passion for it for a while, but when I was in high school, I met a few other guys who were training as well. At that time when I started training again I was doing Muay Thai and a little bit of Kung Fu. We would mess around after school, train together. We learned about UFC.”

“I didn’t actually want to be a professional fighter. But one thing led to another: the opportunity came to fight for EFC Africa, the promotors here. They called my trainer and said there was a chance for me to fight. I was like ‘alright, let’s do it’.” Pena weighed in the 62-66kg category, and won his first fight, even though he hadn’t been training for the fight. After a second fight, Pena was granted the opportunity to fight for the title, where he beat the top contender in his division. “It’s been quite a speedy journey to the title. After I became champion, I decided to work on my training.”

At that time, Pena was studying towards a BComm in Entrepreneurship, at Tuks University, which he gave up and moved to Jo’burg, in order to pursue his his fighting career. When he moved to Johannesburg, he didn’t have a place to stay, so he stayed at the gym from Monday to Saturday, where he says he needed to stay and train.

He defended his title for the first time, and managed to “hustle” a place to stay. “The more you win, the more you get paid. You still get paid if you lose, but it’s half, so it’s a b****.”

“I became the third guy in history to defend his title for the third time, and recently, on the 19th of July, I fought and I defended my title. I am the only guy to defend his title for the fourth time in the history of African MMA.”

“It’s getting better as the sport grows. The fights are shown live in, I think, 111 countries worldwide.”

“For now I just want to establish myself more as an African fighter, but maybe in two more years time, hopefully, I can fight overseas. Just get more fights in. I train very hard and I put so much work in, in two more years I think I will be able to fight overseas and be more competitive there. So, just keep fighting and just keep pushing hard.”

“Guys normally retire around 35/36. You can open your own gym, or you can coach, but for me, right now, I do other things as well, like businesses as well. So I don’t need to rely on my fighting. I’m young still now, and I have a lot of time, so the cash you make from the sponsorships and the fights, you can do other things. So when I stop fighting I can live off the businesses and other things.”

On the things he enjoys most about being a fighter: “For me, the biggest thing is self-progress as a man and as an athlete,” said Pena. “It doesn’t just build you as a fighter, it builds your character; it makes you a stronger person. Not to be able to bully someone to enforce your own will, but self-confidence as well and the way you conduct yourself.”

“It’s not a sport for me, it’s something that I do, that I love and that I enjoy.”

“It is painful, but obviously you need to put in the hours. It’s rough but it’s not as bad as it looks. You want to make sure that you’re so well-conditioned that your body is ready to take that punishment.”

“We train Mondays to Saturdays, roughly four or five hours every day, and we train in many disciplines. So we train in the ground game, train in the kickboxing, training in wrestling, you’re doing lifting, general conditioning, sprints, jogging. So it’s so many things you’re training in together so you can compete at a high level of the sport. It’s not that just anybody can do it, this type of sport you have to really like what you’re doing. Because once you’re in there and you’re getting hit, it has to be something that you actually enjoy doing.”

“For me, I’d rather take the guy down and control the guy. It’s easier because you get hit less.” This comes from Pena’s past wrestling experience, but he makes sure that he’s not predictable as a fighter by utilising other fighting styles as well.

“Ever since I became champion I’ve tried to promote the sport a lot.” Pena coaches kids in Joburg as well. The sport is still relatively new in South Africa. Even at Rhodes it has only really starting to take off in the most recent years, however Rhodes is the only University with a club like this. “There’s still that stigma that it’s cage fighting, that it’s brutal, that it’s violent.”

He came to Grahamstown to promote the sport and share his knowledge and get a few more people excited about the sport here. “Who knows, in a few more years, or less, we can get a champion coming from here.”

Alex Awolaja, a member of the club described his experience. “The fact that the number one fighter in the EFC is here and willing to teach us is such a learning experience. I’ve trained alongside him in Jo’burg, but being coached by him is way better: I’ve learned a great deal more. Also going out and chilling with him is great.”

Pena worked with the Rhodes club over a training weekend over this long weekend past. “Just getting back to basics, showing them a lot more grappling and wrestling techniques. If you have a good base then everything you build on gets better. The guys are very motivated and they want to learn. I’m pushing them very hard. They’re not just giving up, they’re actually appreciating my time here. It’s exciting when you go somewhere and the people are passionate for the sport that you love as well as you are. It makes everything worth it. I don’t want to go to a place where the guys are slacking and you can see they don’t really want to do it. So I’m really impressed with the people who have been coming to the seminars.”

“The world is so unpredictable, and if I can play a little part for someone else, maybe they can mention me and they can say that I was one of the factors for them becoming champion or succeeded in the sport, then I’ll be happy.”

“For me, the biggest thing is to leave a legacy, just to be remembered you know, because we’re just passengers in this world: you don’t know when your last day is. This sport is so great because it gives me the opportunity to be an inspiration for someone else, not just specifically in Mixed Martial Arts, but anything in life. It’s a challenge to train that hard. You also get criticised a lot, obviously, when you’re fighting a guy, and his fans are swearing at you at times, and a lot of people don’t believe that you can accomplish something. So it’s not just a physical battle in itself, but very mental. It’s the challenge that I love.”

“The thing that I enjoy the most, is when someone has been underestimated and they overcome, that’s the thing that I live for in life. I was once watching a show, America’s Got Talent or something like that, and this one guy walks up on stage, and he was a chicken farmer. Like a rough-looking kind of guy, and as soon as he started talking with his funny accent, everyone started laughing and judging him like a trailer-trash kind of guy. So when the judges see him, already in their minds they were like, ‘This guy can’t sing, he can’t do anything.’ Obviously everybody would expect him to fail. And then when he started to sing, it was so brilliant that every single person that had doubted him before just stood up and applauded him for that. That’s the thing I live for: when people say you can’t do it, and you’re not good enough, and you’re this or that, and you overcome.

“When people underestimate you, that’s when you must do everything possible that to show them that you can.”

Dining Hall dinners can’t be all that bad… Can they?

Dining hall dinners are the biggest challenge for the fussy eaters in Res. You can have chicken, or something whose name you don’t recognise… And more often than not, people will order anything, and just grab slices of bread to make a sandwich, or they will organise something in their room, like microwave pasta, 2 minute noodles, or take-aways. At least the lunches aren’t quite this bad.

This is a collection of most of the dinners I experience on our two week meal cycle.

Week 1

Chicken stew and dumpling (but actually it's just a ball of flavourless dough that apparently tastes ok if you add stuff to it)

Chicken stew and dumpling (but actually it’s just a ball of flavourless dough that apparently tastes ok if you add stuff to it)

Tuesday: Bean wrap (vegetarian option)

Tuesday: Bean wrap (vegetarian option)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday: One of the good ones: Grilled sirloin with cheesecake (some of the best we could know)

Wednesday: One of the good ones: Grilled sirloin with cheesecake (some of the best we could know)

Thursday: "Grilled chicken strips" with health bread (pretty darn good bread)

Thursday: “Grilled chicken strips” with health bread (pretty darn good bread)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday: roast chicken again

Friday: roast chicken again

Saturday: Chicken schnitzel. One of those meals that reminds me of home. Generally the rice is also done quite nicely as well

Saturday: Chicken schnitzel. One of those meals that reminds me of home. Generally the rice is also done quite nicely as well

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday: tuna wraps with tomato and mozzarella cheese. This one is quite delicious if you like tuna

Sunday: tuna wraps with tomato and mozzarella cheese. This one is quite delicious if you like tuna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 2

Monday: chicken stirfry (looks just like the grilled chicken strips, but ok) with a wrap and an apple crumble-type dessert

Monday: chicken stirfry (looks just like the grilled chicken strips, but ok) with a wrap and an apple crumble-type dessert

Tuesday: chicken curry. This was definitely on a bad day, not the most appetising piece of chicken I've seen

Tuesday: chicken curry. This was definitely on a bad day, not the most appetising piece of chicken I’ve seen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday: Sweet potatoes with grilled soya sausages (yes vegetarian option). It comes with chocolate mousse. This one is a good one, especially because you score some cheese with those protein-packed viennas

Wednesday: Sweet potatoes with grilled soya sausages (yes vegetarian option). It comes with chocolate mousse. This one is a good one, especially because you score some cheese with those protein-packed viennas

Saturday: Cape Malay style mutton curry. This can be a good meal, but one can be put off sometimes by the fatty or gristly bits that occasionally put a dampener on the meal

Saturday: Cape Malay style mutton curry. This can be a good meal, but one can be put off sometimes by the fatty or gristly bits that occasionally put a dampener on the meal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday: Mexican enchiladas. Basically another vegetarian bean wrap. But hey: cheese is always a win

Sunday: Mexican enchiladas. Basically another vegetarian bean wrap. But hey: cheese is always a win

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 2

I suppose when I look at it like this it really isn’t that bad… But the lunches are definitely better. I also feel that they really skimp on the vegetables. When I ask for lots of vegetables, I get a normal sized serving. When I ask for less rice, or a small amount of rice, they halve it, and I still end up getting served more than I would if I had dished it up myself. I only have a few more weeks in this town, not many more dinner cycles left. I will enjoy my last days here! The food isn’t bad enough to change that.

Also be warned that I need to review just about every restaurant in this town before that time is up, so much delicious content is on its way.

Twing – the only real sushi restaurant in town

Bear with me on the title as it is not the only place in Grahamstown that one can buy sushi from, but it is the only restaurant where sushi is their key dish, their initial reason for existing. That is, until I discovered their deep fried ice cream with is heaven in a bowl, drizzled with condensed milk. It is the best desert I have ever had, end of story. And then there are a couple prologues where I go into pecan nut tarts and cheesecakes and other puddings that blow me away, but we won’t go into that just yet.

Chop sticks are great, aren't they?

Chop sticks are great, aren’t they?

We will return to the sushi. I was never a fan of sushi, up until about a year ago, when I decided that I needed to get over my allergy to fish, and broaden my culinary horizons. My first sushi sample was average. My second followed suit. It was only on my third attempt that I really started to appreciate the delicacy, now that I was over the really weird texture and rather fishy flavour that I just wasn’t used to in general. But from that day, I was sold, a true fan. Condemned to a town where the only place worth buying sushi from (where I have not heard reports of people falling ill from eating the sushi) is Twing.

Maki Monday: an assortment of Maki as a special

Maki Monday: an assortment of Maki as a special

Twing has a great look about it. It has expanded into a separate upstairs and downstairs, where the latter hosts the cool green sushi bar, and the upstairs provides a comfortable setting for other Eastern delights, such as dim sum, soups, and noodles. I absolutely love noodles, and Twing Wok (the upstairs section) offers a wide range of noodle and rice dishes, with a number of different sauce options as well; one is truly spoiled for choice. And it tastes pretty wonderful too, as long as bitter taste of the price doesn’t ruin your appetite.

Noodles are the greatest! Here is a sample of chicken noodles in "Japanese" (soy) sauce (left) alongside the pork with fried rice (right)

Noodles are the greatest! Here is a sample of chicken noodles in “Japanese” (soy) sauce (left) alongside the pork with fried rice (right)

A similar thing can be said for the sushi: they most certainly have the monopoly for sushi suppliers in Grahamstown, and they exploit that extensively: it is nearly double the price of most sushi in Johannesburg, and about two thirds of the size. This is disappointing, but when you need your sushi fix, and if you can afford it, it really is worth it.

Teeny fix of sushi goodness

Teeny fix of sushi goodness

What is also really great about Twing, is that they deliver. They do free delivery, and they even bring their card machine, which makes it really easy and convenient to buy lots of delicious sushi. It’s a great service.

Salmon California rolls are probably my favourite

Salmon California rolls are probably my favourite

Sushi in general is an expensive venture, wherever you decide to enjoy it, and if you happen to be in Grahamstown, then Twing is a good idea if you need that fix. If you aren’t a fan of sushi, their noodles and rice dishes are also really delicious, so treat yourself to some prawns with udon noodles and Chinese sweet and sour sauce – totally worth it.

Lovely assortment of salmon samples: fashion sandwiches, California rolls, and Delux rainbox rolls

Lovely assortment of salmon samples: fashion sandwiches, California rolls, and Delux rainbow rolls

Classiest treats in Grahamstown

Haricot’s deli and bistro is definitely one of the classiest little cafés in town. Situated very near campus, right across the road from The Rat & Parrot, a local drinking hangout that makes truly fabulous pizza, Haricot’s provides the quaintest little treats and meals. However, for “sophistication” such as this, you really do pay rather heftily in some cases. I went there for a “first date” last year, and (apart from the school children who were out with their families) it was a really romantic venue to take someone for that kind of thing (where it really is a treat) It’s not all expensive, though, so a student can really make it work out for them.

Their cookies are delicious: chocolate and white chocolate chip. They go really well with the hot chocolate

Their cookies are delicious: chocolate and white chocolate chip. They go really well with the hot chocolate

Haricot’s makes the best hot chocolate in town, as far as I’ve had (and I have had quite a few). It’s really cosy in there, and I’ve decided that that’s where I like to get work done, if I feel like working in a coffee shop (which I do, of course). It is also a competitively priced hot chocolate.

I could really sit there all day working, so long as I had a steady stream of that fluffy, creamy goodness

I could really sit there all day working, so long as I had a steady stream of that fluffy, creamy goodness

I went there for breakfast with a friend of mine over the weekend. I had French toast, she had a croissant with jam and cheese. While her croissant was a fair bit smaller than my meal, it was about a third of the price.

More hot chocolate as we try decide from the numerous great options

More hot chocolate as we try decide from the numerous great options

Croissant with jam and cheese - note: it is smaller than it looks in the photo, but big enough

Croissant with jam and cheese – note: it is smaller than it looks in the photo, but big enough

They are also makers of wonderful different breads, which explains the unusual choice of bread in this French toast meal. It was also the first time I had maple syrup: I can't say I'm a fan as it tasted too much like plant (like tree bark or something)

They are also makers of wonderful different breads, which explains the unusual choice of bread in this French toast meal. It was also the first time I had maple syrup: I can’t say I’m a fan as it tasted too much like plant (like tree bark or something)

They do cake, of course. The cakes are pretty, sometimes they are extravagant, but all the time they are  really pricey. Granted, they are large slices, so maybe it works out well if you go there and share a slice with a friend. But when you’re paying the same price for one piece of cake as you are for a full take-away burger with large chips and a drink, you have to question your sweet tooth. I tend to stick to their cupcakes, which are more reasonably priced, and which are also really delicious.

Cutest and fluffiest little chocolate cupcakes

Cutest and fluffiest little chocolate cupcakes

The cupcake they have a solid reputation for, of course, is the red velvet cupcake, and it really is amazing. Make sure you get it fresh, otherwise the buttercream frosting (it tasted like buttercream more than cream cheese frosting, but I could possibly be wrong) will go a bit too hard, and their fresh frosting is light and fluffy and delicious, so don’t miss out.

This cupcake cheered me up after a very bleak morning today. Thank you, Red Velvet Cupcake, I love your fluffy sweetness

This cupcake cheered me up after a very bleak morning today. Thank you, Red Velvet Cupcake, I love your fluffy sweetness