Beach walk at Sedgefield before a quick stop at the market for blue skies organic salt. Studio busy with holiday tourists and the canvas for the Etosha commission on the easel. An underpainting of two blue-grey mixtures. Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber, as well as Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. Dashes of Cerulean Blue adding depth.
Via’s are hosting my art and painting demonstration as part of the Greyton Art Walk. I have a collection of my small paintings, as well as a few of the silk scarf wearable art range for something different.
Acrylic on canvas 20cmx20cm
Small Cape-sugarbird painting and two new scarf designs based on the Irises and Foxgloves and the abstract seascape from Pringle Bay. Hours grappling with the enforced software changes as Apple eliminate third party software.
Studio busy with tourists and a new banner up against the black of the building site next door giving some visibility for the studio.
Resupply of paint a tad extreme. Cyan, an unknown ‘primary’ colour. Both in acrylic and oil paint.
‘Princesses for a day’, oil on canvas 60cmx90cm in its new home.
The wonder of cortisone that enabled me to run at times that were maddingly quick. Scary. Blood sugars surging into the stratosphere. For now, sticking with the low insulation dosage, with copious amounts of water and exercise to bring them down into something mangeable.
A small study of a Springbok, the scale of the Etosha commission. If not quite the abstract effect I had in my head. Also managed to get the painting of Hana on Onrus beach finished, before head into Jozie to see my Mum.
Jenny did a delicious diabetic-friendly zucchini noodle and halloumi stroganoff, with a spicy cream sauce, cashews for that bit of crunch, and served with a green salad. A light Italian style wine ‘Bella Vino’ perfect on a warm evening.
Modderfontein hills run with the sunrise glinting off the hurtling Gautrain. A carpet of purple Jacaranda blossoms. My shoulder a tad unhappy with the effort of getting me up the hills to say nothing of my wobbly legs.
The ‘Cornerdeli’ in Modderfontein definitely worth a stop. You do have to get past the tempting pastries that showcase their Portuguese heritage to get to the mouthwatering cheese and charcuterie selection.
Learned that the wax bit of the Parmesan cheese should be included in the food dish and the wax falls a small lump that can be removed while the cheese melts into the dish.
Oil on canvas
Decided I wanted to do a companion painting for the Irises and Foxgloves. A square format, so not a traditional diptych. A tad concerned that the square canvas i was able to get is a tad small.
Unexpectedly the painting of the nature garden in Montagu that has been in our kitchen for years is off to its new home in Port Elizabeth.
From the ‘Plate’ cooking book, a lemongrass, sesame oil, chili, soya sauce and spring onion marinade for rump steak. Amazingly, I found all the bits amongst the various shops in our small town. Cooked over a hot fire, the flavours were subtle and delicious.
Suddenly. It’s my birthday. Incredible that 365 days have past. The wind howling, with a few spatters of rain that make the fire, and a glass of red-wine, that tad special. Of course my sister and Dad Sterley are no longer with us.
Carpets and rugs, filled with magical stories of Afghanistan. The rich madder red vibrancy of the rug from the carpet bazaar in Angoy, on the Tajikistan border. Delicate silks from Turkistan weavers. The luxurious pile of the sheep wool carpet from the market in our Kabul compound. That magical prayer-rug (that I’m sure I paid too much for) from our favorite carpet shop in Shahre-naw, Kabul. This while surrounded by my paintings from that incredible time.
From my diary …
Today the world is white! Snow is falling and this part of the world is beautiful.
Landing in Kabul through thinning cloud produced a landscape of brown and white. Snow drifts piled against buildings uniform in their drabness of the city much larger than I expected. It has some 2 million residents, 30 000 taxi’s, 200 000 cars and zillions of bicycles! Twisted aircraft wreckage lines the runway and it was with some apprehension that I stood in line to confront the fierce olive fatigued immigration officials. Certainly I did not expect the smile that greeted my announcement that I had no Visa, nor the friendliness of the driver that brought me here to my home for the next while.
The Great Masud road leaves the airport, a double lane highway along which you rocket at speeds constrained only by the fearlessness of the driver. Lanes don’t exist and where necessary the other side of the road becomes additional lanes. On one side, a single row of shops in various state of ruin run alongside the road with cultivated fields behind them. The other side has more elaborate structures long abandoned by groups such as Hoechst. There are obvious signs of repair with beautiful stone walls, interspersed with high security compounds. Unexpected colour from massive brightly painted trucks. Works of art in this mono chromatic landscape, laden with goods from Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Iran.
The UNOPS offices are in a run down apartment block. Inside, they have been renovated providing comfort enough when the electricity is working, but outside they look appalling. There is a new compound being built, the first phase of which will be ready for occupation in a few weeks. This will not include me as I take up responsibility for the rehabilitation of the University woman’s residence building. Well, that’s today’s story! From this table I can see children skating on the ice, and a few hardy people are flying kites. A landmark I was told I would find here.
The UNDP guest house (where I will stay this week) is a massive house, built on four levels with marble floors, chandeliers, a sweeping staircase and décor that jars my every sense. My room is comfortable, too hot with the heater and freezing without it, but there is a common lounge and dining room looking out to the garden.
Builders, and my shoulder being out of action, turned the patio garden into a sad, neglected, forlorn bunch of pots. Water pond cleaned out. Jasmine balls pruned into shape. Old plants replaced with new herbs. Transformed.
Acrylic on canvas 20cmx20cm
In the studio, a canvas for the larger painting of irises and foxgloves. A peach colour underpainting of Indian Yellow and Quinacrine Rose, with touches of Permanent Carmine, in bold sweeps. The blue of the Iris flowers seemingly beyond grasp. In my box of magic paints, Indigo Blue. (Van Dyk Ferrario No. 57) and Mineral Violet Deep (No 47) that touch of inspiration. For the foxgloves, I used a mixture of Alizarin Crimson (Winsor&Newton Artists) and Violet Rose Madder (Ferrario No 48)
Some dishes are surprisingly tasty. Certainly, the Yotam Ottolenghi Eggplant, Lamb and Yogurt Casserole is one such meal. ‘ … noisy yet peaceful, lip-smacking yet warm, simple yet daring.’ The flavours, definitely moreish. Particularly on a chilly evening, with the wind still howling. The heavily wooded Chardonnay from Constantia Uitsig a much better food companion than the young red I had.
With the sunrise, first 10km run after the collar-bone surgery. Nothing too crazy.
Yotam Ottolenghi Eggplant, Lamb and Yogurt Casserole
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 2 hours
For the eggplant and lamb mixture:
2 or 3 eggplants (aubergines) (about 1 1/2 pounds/680 grams), cut into 1-inch/3-centimeter cubes
1 pound/450 grams ground lamb (lamb mince)
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup/15 grams fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped
1/3 cup/80 milliliters olive oil
1/4 cup/65 grams tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 (14-ounce/400-gram) can whole, peeled plum tomatoes with their juices
3 cups/700 milliliters chicken stock
1/3 cup/20 grams roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
For the topping:
2 cups/450 grams plain Greek yogurt
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 lightly packed cups/70 grams finely grated Parmesan
1 cup/100 grams roughly crumbled feta
Scant 1/3 cup/40 grams pine nuts
2 packed tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit/240 degrees Celsius.
2. Add the eggplant, lamb, onion, oregano, oil, tomato paste, garlic, cinnamon, allspice, red-pepper flakes, 1 3/4 teaspoons salt and a good grind of pepper to a 10-by-13-inch/26-by-34-centimeter (or similar) roasting pan (tin) and mix well to combine. Bake until the mixture is well browned, stirring twice throughout and breaking apart the meat with a spoon, 30 to 35 minutes.
3. Remove from the oven and continue to break apart the meat very well (don’t worry if you break apart some of the eggplant, too). Add the canned tomatoes with their juices, lightly crushing the tomatoes by hand. Stir in the chicken stock and parsley then return to the oven and bake for another 35 minutes, stirring twice throughout, until the sauce is thick and rich and the eggplant is very soft. Remove from the oven and turn the oven temperature up to 475 degrees Fahrenheit/250 degrees Celsius.
4. While the casserole is in the oven, prepare the topping: Whisk together the yogurt, yolks, flour, garlic and half the Parmesan with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper. Once ready, spoon the yogurt mixture over the lamb and eggplant, gently spreading to cover. Top evenly with the remaining Parmesan, feta, pine nuts, parsley and red-pepper flakes.
5. Bake until golden and bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
And to Drink …
This variation on moussaka calls for a lively red wine that won’t be drowned out by the dish’s assertive flavors. Why not a Greek red, like a xinomavro, if it’s not made in too oaky and tannic a style? Limniona is a rare red grape that’s been resurrected; from a producer like Zafeirakis, it would be ideal. You could try a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from the Adriatic coast of Italy, or a frappato or Cerasuolo di Vittoria from Sicily. If you happen to have an older Château Musar around, from the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, this may be an ideal time to serve it. Or, if you want to be bold, why not try one of the new wave of retsinas, Greece’s traditional white infused with pine resin?