Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

‘Pushing the Oars’

Oil on canvas 120cmx40cm

Water. Hills shrouded in cloud and welcome rain falling. Heart stopping phone call about water cascading out of the apartment. An open tap on the patio following a day of of water outages due to pipe burst in Town.

Not the best news after earlier finding a leak in the painting storage area. Fortunately wine boxes the only casualty. Especially with the delivery of a few large canvases on the floor and not in the storage racks.

‘Pushing the oars’. Sampans on the busy waters of the Mekong Delta, searching for the slowest part of the river flow. The brown waters not what I wanted to dominate the painting, and while acknowledging the strength of the women who ply the eight foot oars of the boats, it was the delicate butterflies of the Delta the feeling I wanted.

Sweet potato gratin, with ribs on the Weber and a zucchini and pesto salad (Taste magazine), with a touch of Pinot on a beautiful evening.

Beach. Prince the reluctant follower, skirting the scary waves, before deciding that his mobs-kennel was the safest place. Progress of sorts.

Cast off Terry’s arm and she is starting to try out her new wing. Still going around in circles a bit as it’s a tad weak after the six weeks in plaster. The ‘transact’ a reminder not to do too much.

Very special to have Lesa and Alan visiting for a few days.

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Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

A New Year, full of promise and mystery.

Madelaine’s, or petit Madelaine, those delicious, delicate, golden crumbed, cookies, local to the Lorraine region of France, that have launched a thousand memories. With a classy, literary reputation, having served as Proust’s muse in his famous Remembrance of Things Past (À la recherche du temps perdu) Hence, perfect for New Year’s Day. Best served, as fresh as possible.

Of course, they needed to be diabetic-sensitive. Fortunately, the one Banting sponge cake recipe worked well, resulting in light, fluffy Madelaine’s. Excellent with bubbles, red wine or coffee.

Wind howling, after storms overnight blessed us with New Year rain. Prince bouncing off the walls at being confined.

Fabulous ride through the Forest at first light. The Forest quiet after the rain. The Jeep track a perfect surface, so you can go that touch quicker and be a tad more daring into the corners. Legs, hammered after the steep climb, fading before I could get into any real trouble. Even did the tree blockage removal thing.

Not impressed with needing to deal with an new complication to my diabetes. ‘Dawn phenomenon’, or Somogyi Effect. High morning blood sugars from the liver dumping glucose during the night. It does make exercising early much easier as I’m not running into the low blood sugar zone I was having to watch earlier, but trying to identify what is causing it is an added nuisance. (Could be poor sleeping given the holiday noise levels and a one year old Border Collie puppy going nuts as a result) Frustrating my goal of eliminating the diabetic meds, through lifestyle management and playing havoc with my eye sight.

‘Works on Paper’, my January challenge, to paint the everyday of Knysna, using the illustration technique I developed in Vietnam.

‘Woodmill Lane Artist’, Acrylic and marker pen on 350gram paper, the first such painting. A familiar sight in Knysna, he stands daily in Woodmill Lane with his brushes, pallet of paint and canvases that never seem to progress.

‘St George’s’, the beautiful old small Anglican Church in Knysna, built with sandstone that turns golden in the morning and afternoon light. Mystical on mornings when the mist swirls down from the forests.

Madelaine mix

ingredients

125g butter

125g cream cheese

2 Tablespoons of xylitol

5 eggs

1Tablespoon lemon juice

1t vanilla essence

1 3/4 cups almond flour

1t baking powder

METHOD (easy)

Mix the butter and cream cheese together

In a separate bowl whisk the eggs until fluffy

Add the rest of the ingredients to the butter and cream cheese mix and gently mix together

Add the eggs and mix, without over mixing

Cover and store overnight in the fridge

-Bake at 180 C for 8 minutes. Turn the pan and bake for 5minutes. Leave to rest in the pan for 2 minutes before turning out onto a tea towel

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Cold fingers, despite higher than usual blood sugars after a Christmas lunch of pâté de compagne and Il de Pain bread, with trifle as a dessert.

Black, mud-stained feet from playing with Prince at low tide. The noise of the waves still too much for him.

Vietnamese flavours for the Christmas Eve dinner. Fresh spring rolls with pork and prawns. Duck breast with Asian salad. Fish simmered in ginger and caramel sauce. My spring rolls, defined as ‘clumsy’. The wooded Chardonnay the best wine for the various flavours in the Vietnamese food. Minimizing the sugar used in the caramel sauce did mean that there was none of the ‘stickiness’ that we had in the meal inHanoi, but it didn’t kick my sugar levels out of kilter either. Another three weeks before Terry’s cast comes off!

The end of a quiet day, with the street outside the studio busy with holiday traffic and the alcohol fueled chatter of people walking home. Oodles of pink flesh on display after a perfect, sun filled day.

‘Crumpled’, my portrait of a 92 year old women in Hoi An, Vietnam. The simplicity I was striving for being lost in the contours and crumpledness of her face. The complexity of the years driving the painting? Raw Sienna, permanent magenta, Ultramarine blue and Naples Yellow with Alizarin crimson the key colours. I did include touches of Cerulean and Cobalt blue.

Became part of the ‘mechanical’ mountain bike family, managing to trash the crank assembly on the way up Phantom Pass. Did find another reason to be ‘flat-pedal’ cyclist, in that wearing trail shoes you can jog with your bicycle. However, I was glad it wasn’t too far before Coreta rescued me.

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Boug blossoms.jpgSundowner open evening at the studio, as the holiday season gets underway. Terry organized a large bowl of olives and hunk of cheese, their own focal point in the studio and excellent with our sponsored Steenberg Chardonnay. During the evening, I did a small painting of bougainvillea flowers that will be auctioned for charity.
Pestle and mortar for grinding pepper corns for the Vietnamese Steak au Poivre. The steak sauce, scrumptious. Mayonnaise dressing for the salad, a tad too rich for the dish and it didn’t have the clean, crispness of Vietnamese dressings. Will try again using the classic Vietnamese dressing. Carbonara, with spinach and cauliflower noodles and the leftover Vietnamese Steak au Poivre.
7km jog around Thesen on the time-trial route that Craig has set up, with Prince in a cool overcast day. His first run on the lead, managing cars, other dogs, kids, bicycles and my lack of coordination. The water bowls along the route helping him to cool down.

studiosteenbergbanner

Blue-black agapanthus flowering on the back patio garden. Indigo blue from Van Dyk the tonal colour with Ultramarine blue and permanent Megenta. Light lemon yellow against the pale grey background. Fighting to achieve lightness.

Orthopod happy with how Terry’s wrist is healing. No change to the cast, which will stay on until the 16th January. Christmas dinner could be a test of my dubious cooking skills!

Vietnamese Steak au Poivre

This fish sauce–spiked steak au poivre is chef Chris Shepherd’s nod to the French influences in Vietnamese cooking.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •  1 large onion, thinly sliced
  •  2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  •  One 1 1/2-inch cinnamon stick
  •  1 star anise
  •  2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  •  1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  •  2 cups beef stock or low-sodium broth
  •  1/2 cup heavy cream
  •  2 teaspoons black peppercorns, crushed
  •  Kosher salt Pepper
  •  1 1/2 pounds small heads of broccoli, cauliflower
    and/or Romanesco
  •  3 tablespoons canola oil
  •  1 cup mayonnaise
  •  1/4 cup yellow mustard
  •  1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  •  1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, preferably Tabasco
  •  1/2 medium red onion,
    thinly sliced (1 cup)
  •  2 tablespoons roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
  •  Four 6-ounce center-cut beef tenderloin steaks

How to Make It

Step 1

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.

Add the cinnamon stick and star anise and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the fish sauce and sugar and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and simmer over moderately high heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes.

Add  the cream and simmer until the sauce is thickened and reduced by half, about 10 minutes longer. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl; discard the solids. Return the sauce to the saucepan and stir in the crushed peppercorns. Season with salt and keep warm.

Step 2

Heat a large cast-iron skillet. In a large bowl, toss the broccoli, cauliflower and Romanesco with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Working in batches, cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred all over and crisp-
tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and let cool. Cut into bite-size pieces and wipe out the bowl. In the bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the mustard, vinegar and hot sauce until smooth. Fold in the charred vegetables, the red onion and sunflower seeds and season the salad with salt. Wipe out the skillet.

Step 3

In the skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Season the steaks with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 125° for medium-rare, 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a work surface and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the peppercorn sauce and the charred-vegetable salad.

studiosundown

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Terry out of action with a broken wrist after being knocked off her feet by over exuberant playing dogs at Steenbok Park. My schedule now around ensuring Prince gets his exercise and we have easy to eat, one handed, meals.

Dorado with a basil-pesto crust on the weber grill. An almond flower diabetic-sensitive substitute for bread-crumbs. The fillets were a tad thin, which I cooked for 3 minutes too long, despite the fire not reaching the recommended temperature. Fortunately they were full of flavour and weren’t too dry.

Moving trucks, full-moon, owls, holiday makers, mozzies, dog patrols. All driving Prince a tad crazy. Making for disrupted nights.

Paint smeared across the canvas. A couple of studies for a larger commissioned piece. The agapanthus on the patio garden coming into flower. The most amazing shades of purple-black petals. A painting that I have had in mind for awhile, waiting for the plants to come into flower. The shadow. A mixture of Titanium white, Magenta, Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna.

“I feel such a creative force in me: I am convinced that there will be a time when, let us say, I will make something good every day , on a regular basis….I am doing my very best to make every effort because I am longing so much to make beautiful things. But beautiful things mean painstaking work, disappointment, and perseverance.”

Vincent Van Gogh

Porchetta. Or rather, a suggestion of porchetta-style from a pork belly, basil pesto and basil leaves, rolled and cooked on the Weber. Silver-oak wood pieces on the coals to add that slight smokiness. Served with a hint of blue-cheese and basil leaves. ‘Gorgeous, melting pork belly and blue cheese is a genius combination invented by Iain Graham of Urban Caprice to go with Mumm champagne’. No Mumm, but Kleine Zalze Vintage MCC, probably better!

Porchetta-Style Roast Pork

Like many traditional Italian foods, porchetta is prepared differently from region to region but is generally defined as a dish of boneless roast pork stuffed with filling and then rolled and roasted, usually over wood. In the town of Ariccia in the Lazio region of Italy, porchetta restaurants abound, leading to a close association with the dish, though variations of it are made across the country.

Add, a twist with the melting pork belly and blue cheese combination invented by Iain Graham of Urban Caprice to go with Mumm champagne.

Pork Belly and Pork Loin

• 1 piece pork belly with skin, about 10-by-20 inches

• boneless pork loin

Pork Roast

• 1 Tbsp kosher salt, plus more

• 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more

• Pesto

• 12 smashed garlic cloves

• 12 fresh sage leaves

• Herbs (recipe below)

• Blue cheese

| Preparation – Pork Belly and Loin |

With the pork belly skin-side down, score meat in a cross-hatch pattern. Turn pork belly over, and using a sharp knife, score skin deep in a cross-hatch pattern. Turn, skin-side down, and set aside.

Place the pork loin skin-side down. On the tapered side of the loin, make a cut about 1-inch deep and then cut straight across to butterfly, continuing to make 1-inch cuts until the loin folds open like a book. Set aside.

| Preparation – Pork Roast | Season skin side of prepared pork belly with salt. Turn belly skin-side down and place flat on a cutting board with the short end facing you. Season with pepper and more salt.

Spread half of the pesto over the belly, leaving a 1-inch border around the sides.

Lay butterflied pork loin in the center of the pork belly and spread remaining pesto over loin. Arrange garlic and sage on top of loin. Season with salt and pepper.

To roll the roast, begin at the end of the pork loin where you finished the initial cut, slowly rolling and packing ingredients in tightly. When finished rolling the roast, use butcher’s twine to tie roast at 1-inch increments so it will cook evenly. Set roast on a platter and refrigerate overnight.

| To Cook | Remove roast from refrigerator 2 hours before cooking.

To estimate the cooking time, measure the roast through its thickest part, and cook for 1minute per millimeter. Hence if it’s 90mm thick, cook for 90 minutes.

An indirect fire (two equal piles of coal on either side of the charcoal grate, with a drip pan in the middle to catch the rendering fat), topped with a couple of pieces of hard wood.

Place roast on the grill, turning every 10 minutes until the skin is browned and crisp.

Reduce the temperature (325ºF) by closing the vents halfway and leave until the loin reaches 140 degrees. (1½ to 2½ hours)

Remove and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Just before serving, top with a sliver of blue cheese and a tiny button of redcurrant jelly.


Herbs

• 2 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh thyme leaves

• 1 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh rosemary leaves

• ½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

• 3 tsp roughly chopped fennel fronds

Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam Adventures

HCM

Our time in Vietnam rapidly shrinking. Particularly, time for painting, as even acrylic paints need time to harden before the canvases are rolled to travel. With the Mekong Delta taking a couple of days and the last day needed to pack and hand back the apartment, I’m down to a handful of painting days. Afternoon thunderstorms reduce the light levels so that even with the good light in the apartment, by mid afternoon it’s too dark for my lousy eyes. I want to get the larger canvases I brought painted, as I have carried them around for almost a month!

The flowers sellers in Hoi An old town, one of the subjects on my painting list that I wanted to do on the larger canvas. The hotel room in Hoi An too small to work in. Here, I have a table which is also a tad small but workable, if messy. The last of the cadmium yellow deep squeezed from the tube and a last gasp from the Naples yellow.

A new dinner adventure: hot pot of Lau ga la giang all in Vietnamese and a picture menu. Essentially- a piece of chicken, a spicy broth, banana flowers and other unknown greens all cooked over a little table-top stove. A frustrating process.

Our corner restaurant has proved to be an excellent spot to sit and capture candid street photo’s. Particularly interesting portraits to add to my painting list.

Squeezing through the tiny alleys of the market, and trashing display piles of plastic containers in turning to avoid an impatient Granny. Shopping with gesture and the remarkable power of smartphone photos and translate, searching for elusive kitchen bits and cashew nuts.

Lightning, flashing across the sky. The instantaneous transformation of those on scooters into ponchos. Rain turning the streets into knee deep rivers. A drowned rat seemingly the only casualty of the ferocity of the storm as restaurants, shops and commuters carry on as normal.

In one of the corner gardens, a small yellow iris flower. Delicate. Perfect.

Diary of an Adventure

Traveling diabetic #18

Hi,

Jan here.

HCM

Terry has figured out that Pho, without noodles, is on the menu as ‘Chen them’ and when ordered with ‘Tai’, it comes with small pieces of beef. The only problem being that they serve it in a ramekin type dish, which means that I’m not only perched on a tiny chair at a low table, but trying to eat soup from what feels like a thimble! Etiquette being that you do not lift the Pho dish from the table. It gets messy.

Our default salad of bamboo stalk with sea food has been removed from the menu. Shredded chicken with cabbage (not that daw cabbage strip is anything to get excited about) the next best option. Or rather it would be if they didn’t drown it in a dressing loaded with sugar. 

Back to cashew nuts.

Blood sugars

High 10.7 mmol/L
Low 4.5 mmol/L

Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam Adventures

Saigon

Back where our adventure started, but different. Embedded amongst the chaos of the inner city, District 1, rather than the gentle District 7, with its Bentleys and French delicatessens. Here, in our apartment for the next ten days, we are surrounded by tattoo parlours, hooters and spots where drug use is tolerated.

Stairs wind up at the rear of a ‘coffee’ shop, between gaps left in the concrete pillars made for children. Each step a different size to the previous one. Landings between flights, broom cupboards and outdoor yards. Shoes are be left at the door! 

Our studio apartment, on the top floor has a balcony garden with a gardenia adding its magic. A tiny shower room. Sort of kitchen. Bed on the loft landing, behind bamboo screens. A table for painting and a comfortable sitting area (adult size chairs and sofa). No wardrobe.

A quick, directed excursion in the humidity to find artist supplies took us past a laundry, a local market and what looked like a good food place. With assistance, we found the right ally and the fabulous Taipoz art shop. South Korean and Japanese professional grade paint to supplement what I have left. The wide range available ensuring that paint will not be a limitation in my time left here.

Phui, our new favourite spot. Iced beer (beer mug with an iceberg in it, any remaining space filled with beer), excellent Hanoi spring rolls and a fiery salad of prawns, cuttlefish and bamboo. Couldn’t do the pigeon embryo and testicles!

One of the horrors of traveling is finding, and the state of, toilets. Particularly at short notice when your system rebels at something you ate that it doesn’t agree with, or is simply a diabetic mess. Made worse with street food and the humidity in the tropics. In this regard, Vietnam should be top of everyone’s travel list, as the toilet and bathroom facilities are clean, plentiful and accessible. Phew! 

Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam Adventures

Flower Seller

Acrylic on Linen 40cmx50cm

Hoi An
My list of paintings waiting for canvas, paper, fingers and paint grows ever longer. The pad of paper for illustrations is finished, and tube of white (should have brought the additional tube I had planned to bring) almost, creating a new bother as I either need to make a trip to Danang, which isn’t appealing, particularly with the APEC conference on the go, or wait until Shanghai, which is a week away. I can use the light Naples yellow for some of the mixes rather than white and I have the linen pad as well as three large canvases to paint on.

No end of puddles to stomp through. Mud splattered legs. The arrival of Typhoon Damery, with flooding in the old town. Chaos with the market having to relocate, and be squeezed into one of the only streets not covered in water. We criss-crossed alleys dodging the boats, scooters, pedestrians, bicycles and the horde of rain-poncho sellers who seem to materialize out of every puddle. 

Miss Ly’s recommended as the place to have the best unwrapped fried wanton’s, a speciality of Hoi An. Dodging through the market stalls, we found ‘Cafe 62’, and a seat that allowed us to get fresh air. The wanton, made from rice flower with a topping of tomatoes, carrot, cilantro, pineapple, garlic, chilli, and spring onions. Messy but tasty and minimal impact on my sugar levels.

Amongst the stressed boat evacuations, and the ferrying of fresh water onto the islands, it’s a bit like a carnival with people laughing as they wade through the waters, or huddle under bits of cover drinking rocket fuel coffee waiting for shuttles or deciding how to manage a day with so much closed or flooded. 

Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam Adventures

Hoi An

Yellow flowers, for the full moon honoring of ancestors, everywhere you look. Bunches in the baskets of scooters and bicycles. Bunches for sale on street corners and the entrance to the market a yellow carpet. Striking against the golden-yellow walls of the old town.

There are Buddhist temples all over the old city, with their intriguing architecture and sculptural elements. I made sure that for my painting of the temple detail, I included nine beam circles, 9 being an auspicious number. Cadmium yellow deep, raw Sienna and Naples yellow light used for the golden-yellow walls. 

Lantern festival, with clear skies over the old city. In Hoi An the particular tradition of lanterns developed during the 16th and 17th centuries when the port city was an important trading post. Hoi An bustled with merchants from around the world, including the Japanese who brought with them various shaped lanterns that they would hang in front of their homes. The locals began to imitate this in similar hopes of bringing good luck to their households.

The Nocturnal Artist, a small restaurant held together with garlic. Unpretentious Vietnamese cooking. Pumpkin soup and a shared stuffed calamari our lunch choice, with nominal added sugar keeping my blood meter in the green zone.

Cua Dai beach not exciting, even under blue skies. Notions of sunrise beach walks nor realistic next to these grey brown waters washing into a beach reinforced with plastic sandbags. Coconut palms creating an illusionary perfect tropical beach scene. The walk along the road to Cua Dai between coils of the brown river.

Storm blowing in, reminiscent of a puppy at play. A lot of noise as anything loose is gratefully picked up by the mischievous wind, shaken about a bit, and then hurtled against an object to create as much noise as possible.