Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

Owl hooting at first light. Sunrise walk in the vineyard.

My painting not playing nicely. Canvas size a bother. Composition problematic. Head all over the place.

Cottage full of people as the holidays start. The easy familiarity of long standing friendships where we laugh more. Three hour, slow roasted pork belly in the weber grill worked perfectly. Didn’t manage the overnight salting that was recommended. The meat tender, crackling crunchy.

In the cottage garden, filled with bird song, the first of the summer flowers are almost at an end. White agapanthus still creating a show, punctuated by the odd purple flower. The Shasta daisies are over and the agora is almost ready to be trimmed. The lawn has survived the searing temperatures of the past month and the fertilizer and additional watering will hopefully ensure it makes it through the rest of summer.

Eons ago, we had a holiday that included the farm that belonged to some distant relations. The sort of farm where bales of hay were tossed in abandon by the giant who was a cousin, onto the back of the trailer, and a sofa hid the hole in the living room wall. Nostalgia kindled by our visit for lunch with Dad and Mary at the Dam Fine Cafe in Slanghoek.

Amidst the outside seating, under ancient oak trees. Two old, comfortable chairs, on which the owners sit. Their focus not to the distant mountains, a patch of pink Watsonia’s vibrant against the black, fire ravaged, mountain slopes, but the giant TV screen. Honest and authentic, reflected in the food.

Terry’s dinner menu started with her Terrine de Campagne, with blueberry jus. Followed by Chèvre wrapped in Parma ham, panfried on baby lettuce leaves with toasted pine nuts and a citrus gorgonzola sauce. Main course of baby chickens (which I stole from the oven and did on the weber) rubbed with Karoo salt and Mediterranean herbs, served with green vegetable bouquets. Quite amazing.

My painting ‘Forgotten’, of a women in the Konya-Konya market of Juba won an Honourable Mention in the 2014 London International Creative Art Competition.

Christmas Day, wet and unsettled. Candle light dancing on silver, turning champagne bubbles into twinkling lights.

Green Vegetable Bouquets with Citrus Gorgonzola Sauce
Recipe By: Siba Mtongana
Prep Time : 10 minutes
Cooking Time : 5 minutes

250 g green beans
200 g asparagus spears, rinsed
230 g tenderstem broccoli
12 rashers streaky bacon
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbls cold butter
1 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 to 1 tsp chilli flakes
2 juiced and zested orange
150 g Gorgonzola cheese
Cooking Instructions

Wrap 3 green beans, 1 asparagus spear and 1 broccoli spear in 2 rashers of bacon, securing one side with toothpicks. Repeat with the remaining beans, asparagus, broccoli and bacon. Rub the bundles with the sugar.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan and cook the bundles for 5 minutes, turning often. Drain on kitchen paper.
To make the sauce, heat the butter in a pan and sauté the garlic for 1 minute. Add the chilli flakes, orange or naartjie juice and zest and bring to the boil. Stir in half the Gorgonzola, then set aside to cool slightly.
Arrange the bundles on a platter, top with the remaining cheese and drizzle over the sauce.

Slow Roast Pork Belly
Serves: 6 to 8
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hours
This is one of the best ways to cook pork belly. The skin becomes crisp and crackly and the meat melts in your mouth. You don’t need to salt the belly overnight but it enhances the flavour, which is why I always do it.
You need
a handful of coarse salt
2–3kg pork belly with the skin, scored
a bunch of fresh thyme (or 4 tablespoons, dried)
a bunch of fresh rosemary (or 4 tablespoons, dried)
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup olive oil
1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine
coarse salt and pepper
Here’s how
Rub the coarse salt all over the pork belly. Wrap it in cling film and leave overnight in the fridge.
Rinse the meat and pat it dry. Finely chop the herbs and garlic and mix together with the olive oil (you can use a food processor if you like).
With the meat lying on its skin side, cover the meat side with the herbmix to form a crust.
a) Braai the meat, skin down, over warm coals for about 1 hour or until the skin is crisp and crackly. Be careful not to burn the meat. b)If you’re using an oven, roast with the skin side up at 200 °C, also for 1 hour. Getting the skin crisp is key.
Get the coals ready in a kettle braai like aWeber. Place a metal or foil dish in the middle of the grid. Add the wine and put the pork inside, skin side up. Put the lid on and leave it for about 2 hours until the skin is completely dry and the meat tender and juicy. You’ll probably have to add a briquette or two to keep the heat up. Don’t overdo it, though. You should be able to hold your hand over the coals for about 15 seconds before pulling it away. If you decide on the oven route, roast at 160 °C for the first hour and at 120 °C for the second hour. The slower the roasting time, the juicier the pork.
Use a sharp knife to loosen the skin from the meat. Chop it into pieces. Slice the pork belly into portions and serve with crispy skin, cauliflower mash and roasted garlic.
Aletta says: For a quicker alternative, use about 2kg pork loin with the skin still on. Braai it like the belly, but for only 10 minutes with the skin side down. Roast or braai in the Weber for 30 minutes.

Messing About with Paint

London International Creative Competition Honourable Mention

My painting ‘Forgotten’, of a women in the Konya-Konya market of Juba won an Honourable Mention at the 2014 London International Creative Art Competition, in the category for Professional Artists.


This follows awards in 2011 (Beach Kanga) and 2009 (Baby You Can Drive my Car).

The original painting has been sold, however limited edition, signed prints on canvas are available at $500.00 each.

Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

Trees, dusted with the pink and red eucalyptus flowers. Yellow-orcha, stone filed earth, shimmering in the heat of summer. Farm dam, relief in which children play with the freedom of summer holidays.

The summer menu at Clos Malverne intriguing. Litchi, wrapped in ostrich and stuffed with gorgonzola. Overshadowed by the simple salmon with avo that was sensational. Succulent venison, delicately supported by the cranberry jus. Dark chocolate creme brûlée (‘crime-brute’ in the auto spell, probably more accurate) with its summer berries, excellent.

An abundance of pink and blue hydrangeas. Purple agapanthus and yellow day-lilies, between emerald lawns. The gardens of La Petite Dauphine in Franschhoek. Our surprise anniversary stop. Red chairs, emphatic beneath ancient oaks. No less attention seeking, than the red dress of a women walking through Grand Central station in the early morning. A French urn, artfully placed, a balance to mountain peaks.

A courier truck loaded with cardboard boxes containing new canvases arrived at the studio. Larger ones than I have been using for awhile, which is a bother as the studio is full of the reneged covered furniture waiting to be moved up to Knysna. That, and the holiday wine stock doesn’t leave much room for paintings. Particularly wet ones!

Survived the spa evening, which certainly worked out the travel kinks. The wind, impatient, full of enthusiastic holiday spirit. Knocking at windows, a ceaseless invitation.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Anticipated craziness as South Sudan moves towards the first year anniversary of its crisis forcing travel changes. Fortunately I could get flights!

On the Way Home, a painting from a photo by Elke taken on the sand road that leads to UN House. Taxi, at speed, against an orange, dust filled sky. The multistory building, incomplete and open to the sky, a glimmer of what might be in this new nation.

Coughing and spluttering easing, allowing me to get out onto the road again. If only for a walk.

The Juba fashion police have decreed that I need to ditch the blue and wear wine red colour shirts, based on a shirt I have from World AiDS day. Red wine is never a bad option!

Fuel queues, blocking the roads with the black market price now 15 times the normal price. Increasingly agitated drivers a new security hazard, compounding the increased presence of soldiers in speeding vehicles. A worry.

A Study in Purple. Painting of a women in the market that has sprung up next to the road we have built. The access provided by the road allowing women to run market stalls for travelers heading between South Sudan and the DRC. Tangible results of our food security program.

Maasai objects of prestige given to me by the staff of our Kenyans catering company. The cowhide cowboy hat and beautifully crafted walking stick aging me a gazillion years.

Christmas party at the office, with dancing and year end festive relief after a traumatic year.

Paints sorted. Draws cleaned. Clothing tossed. Last week in Juba Town.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Red skies at first light, with the call of a coucal on my jog. An extra loop tagged onto my long route, to take me back past the pond where water lilies are flowering.

Singing and drumming from the PoC. The background thump of a donkey generator. Very special. Even after another twenty hour day.

At the traffics lights, which continue to cause traffic mayhem, we now have street kids selling boxes of tissues and withered old crones clutching sticks for support, ruthlessly exploiting the vehicle jams. Petrol queues forming again, with some enterprising soul running a car wash service.

On the easel, a painting of rural South Sudan, Eastern Equitoria countryside, reminiscent of a Thomas Baines landscape.

Using the amazing skies over Juba to create the movement his paintings are known for, as well as colours that mimic his palette to communicate the harshness of the light over Africa. Prussian blue, Venetian red, crimson, emerald green and chrome yellow. “I only wish I could deem myself able to paint nature as bright as she is,” he wrote.

A touch of Cezanne in the sky and lightness of the trees.

‘Thought-storm’ mayhem getting me up in the early hours as I contemplate the next phase of adventures. The morning cool for my, almost, run. Troops from the contingent in a formation run at a pace that was manageable, enabling me to tag along. My legs hurting as they charged over the undulations. Drumming and singing from the PoC, an unrelenting cadence.

In Juba Town, police are removing the license plates from vehicles that are illegally parked. Not sure what the process is to get them back!

Woke to an emphysema type cough, without the TB style rattle that isn’t, thankfully, simultaneous with cracked ribs! My head a tad more vacant than it normally is, and my reaction times are almost at Knysna pace.

Tea, rather than wine. Tragic state.